My First Thru-Hike Part 2/Day 2

Thank you all for sticking around for Part Two/Day 2 of my first backpacking trip! If you have not read it, check it out here! When we left off my fiancé had woken up from rain on a night that we did not set up our rain tarps over our hammocks. I was untouched by the rain and overall too tired and sore to wake up…so I didn’t!

The next day we slept in and left camp late (11am). I was still very sore and alarmed at our dwindling supply of toilet paper. Fortunately the day ahead was shorter than the day previous at 6.9 miles to the Cliffs campground…or just 5 miles to Miner’s Castle where Rachel’s car was parked…? We had pep in our steps as we left camp after an oatmeal breakfast. We quickly came upon Mosquito Falls and even pondered a water crossing. However, Charlie and I decided to find a bridge we were sure was around the well manicured trail while Rachel continued down to the water. 

Once across the bridge we waited for Rachel. Worried, we eventually started to walk down river to find her, and to my dismay she was walking away from the trail. Annoyed I yelled to here and she told us about how she fell on her butt in the water. Poor luck, but I did not feel remorse with her accidental fall off of trail. I was reacting too harshly in the moment and should have had more consideration for her sense of adventure. After all she was quickly corrected and we were back off on trail!

This section of the trail was mostly under the forest canopy with small outlets to overlooks. The leaves in the trees where lush and light peaked through like little  beams from heaven. I looked eagerly to see critters in the forest, maybe even a bear in the distance, but had to settle for the less dangerous forest chipmunks. The views were different from seeing the spectacular cliffs, but the beauty was still aw inspiring.

We started to go down a steep hill, telling each other that we were happy we were not going up it. After descending the monstrous hill we passed the Potato Patch campsite and made it a parking lot where kayak tours were being dropped off and  the van driver told us that the ladies he’s seen on the trail ran the 42 miles in one day.  We even got to talking to another backpacker that gave us the last of their bug repellent and told us to make sure we hit up Picture Rocks Pizza after our hike.

At the terminus of the steep hill!

It was great to talk to new people that had interest in our hike, however the best part was what was in the parking lot…a port-a-potty. I was sooo excited to not have to dig a hole to relieve myself. Besides, since I smelled so bad already there was nothing in that small building that could bother me. This was a bit of trail magic in my mind.

Then we headed for the 1 mile walk to Miner’s beach ahead of the kayakers. It felt like a short mile but I was relieved to take my backpack off again and sit on the sand. Mind you, this break was only a mile after my “port-a-potty break,” but there is nothing like a beach break. After we watched the kayak instructor show the kayakers how to paddle we got back onto the trail. 

This part of the trail was different from the cliffs and canopy we had previously trekked. On our right there was the beach and to the left a million blueberry bushes. We reached a busier part of the beach and the sign that got us together to decide the future of our hike. “1.0 [mile] Miners Castle.” At this point we were out of TP, Rachel’s monster backpack and sandals were taking their toll, and I was just tired. Note; while Rachel and I were reaching our limits, I think Charlie was in the zone and experiencing his own hiker’s high! This is where we brought up just getting to the car and ending our hike. We were not thru hikers yet but just getting our toes soaked in backpacking, but we all agreed. We had one mile to go. Just. One. More. Mile.

The beloved 1 mile sign!

THE HARDEST MILE. Remember when we were so vocal about how nice it was to be going downhill? After twisting and turning around water sources we made it to the final boss of our hike. There rest of the hike was plagued by hills and roots so exposed that they created abstract stairways. To me Charlie appeared to ascend these obstacles with ease. I was pushing myself to a physical limit, stopping for a few breathes after I felt myself deserving. Poor Rachel was being held-back by her huge pack. 

The pain of each heavy step felt never ending until we finally saw the Miner’s Castle visitors center. I almost lost it when I saw Rachel’s car and was excited to get to it but was stopped a little early when Rachel stopped at the first bench she came to. I begged her to give me her keys from the depths of her pack. I wanted to ditch my backpack into her car and find a T-shirt that was not saturated in the day’s determination.  This was the hardest thing I have done to date. The best thing I have done to date.

This hike was a turning point in my life. The accomplishment I felt was intoxicating. The peace I was granted in giving myself permission to feel so many different emotions on this hike was something I had never done before and now I was hooked. As cliché as it may be, my first backpacking trip has made such an impression on how I live my life now and was a turning point in my life. I hope I can convey that to everyone as this blog goes on. That you can see how happy I am since I fell in love with hiking. Thank you.




  1. Adam says:

    Hi Sara! This is a great blog about your Pictured Rocks trip. Much like you I will be doing this trip the first week of July this year as my first backpacking trip myself. I am nervously excited about it and have most of my equipment gotten and I’m going to practice with it on day hikes once the weather gets better here. I plan on going from 12 Mile Beach to Miner’s Castle over 3 days (Pine Bluff-Night 1 and Chapel Beach-Night 2). I didn’t want to do a huge number of miles each day to allow for time to stop and enjoy the scenery. When did you go and how were the flies/mosquitos? I was up there last year towards the end of August and tried hiking to Chapel Beach from the parking lot on a spur of a moment with shorts on while I didn’t get completely ate alive I did get bit up quite a bit and was just wondering what your experience was with them?

    1. Sara says:

      I am so excited for you, Adam! We will be going again this summer as well and I will make sure to share my gear list this spring! Bring mosquito spray for sure! I have also heard treating the exterior of your hiking clothes with permethrin helps a lot…I wanna try that this year!

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