We all woke up this morning around 0600 without the need for an alarm clock. It was a slow kind of morning as our bodies adjusted to the pains of a first day on trail. As far as federal campsites go, “Government Lansing” (awkward name), was a great place to end a 13 total mile day. The night was filled with party music, boats floating around out there until 0200 or 0300. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a free getaway, $0 camping fee, though I suspect it fills up quickly in the non-COVID world.
The plan for the day was to do another relatively short one, about another 10 miles from Government Landing over to the Blacksmith Bayou campgrounds. Planning where to go has been challenging. Federal websites are not updated regularly and the Rangers are only available M-F 0800 – 4pm. These kind of business hours are not super helpful when stay-at-home orders have recently been updated. The best we have really been able to do is plan the hike, checkout the posted signs, camp if possible.
10-13 mile days is lower than we are capable of, but the first couple days of this NCT section are the steepest and 10 miles can feel like 15. I took the hiking lead shortly after our 1030 lunch break just outside of Sawdust Hole campground, pushing a fast pace for no other reason than it’s what my body felt like doing. About 20 minutes passed before I thought to myself, “slow down, enjoy nature”. I slowed down and looked around, what was the first thing I saw? A large beautiful black bear! Excitement gripped me as I slowly walked backwards, motioning to her in what I thought a cheerleading squad might call a “b”. Confused, she shrugged and kept walking. I tried again, whispering, “a bear!”.
It didn’t take eagle eyes very long to spot the bear, and then a second one. The bears took off in the other direction just as soon as they noticed our presence, always the preferred end result. I knew that Michigan had some bears, but I had always been under the impression that they are smaller than most. These bears were large, as large as any I’ve seen in Tennessee.
We landed at Blacksmith Bayou campgrounds after punching in another 11 or so trail miles, around 3 or 4pm-ish. The road was blocked off and the campsites were deserted. A sign just past the entrance said, “No Fees, No Service. Practice safe social distancing,” or something to that effect. Translation: camp where you want, dig a hole if you need to poop. Blacksmith Bayou was pretty cool as a whole. All the campsites were on a peninsula, marsh on the East and west sides, a boatably sized river on the north. I had to hike 1/4 mile from our campsite down to the river a couple times for our water, not bad for an enjoyable walk.
Plan is for an early day tomorrow. We have our first long stretch of road walking and are going to try and knock it our early.