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In Birdland, we’ve had deliciously (and unseasonably) cool days. The black-eyed Susans are bursting, and the ghost lilies are fading.

I got some letters from readers who wanted to hear more about our backpacking trip in the Porkies, so I’ll continue the story.

We were careful on the drive up, wearing our masks and sanitizing every time we stopped for gas. We felt pretty safe camping, with our nearest campsite neighbors within hollering distance, but no closer. When we met folks on the trail, everyone stepped carefully, recognizing our 6-foot bubble.

The trail was well marked with blue metal tags pounded into the trees, and sometimes dots of blue spray paint. We hiked out from the parking lot to Lake Superior — about 3½ miles.

We did a lot of cooking before the trip, drying homemade split pea soup and tomato sauce, so we only had to throw together our meals at the campsite.

After dinner our first night, Michael wanted to rinse out the laundry in Lake Superior, and Mary said let’s bring our chairs out and sit in the lake and do the laundry. So we did.

The lake is shallow right there with big rocks slippery with brown algae. Tiny little fish were milling around in the shallows. Then Michael wanted to do the dishes in the lake, and Mary said let’s use your chair for a sink. So Mary sat in her chair and used Michael’s chair for a sink. Our new camp chairs added a little weight to the pack but were worth it.

Our second campsite was quite nice, beachfront property, but really not worth the walk. It was rough terrain and sometimes treacherous. We hiked through long, muddy swamps, and the dogs did not like the mud. I thought it would cool their paws, but Ursula tried to avoid mud even at the cost of tangling her leash in the trees.

Just as we arrived at the site, it started to sprinkle. We set up camp quickly, and then it poured. But in the morning, we had sunny skies and spent the day just trying to dry out our clothes.

We had neighbors the first night, and when they left, we commandeered their platform — a bed of 4x4 posts laid across some planks, which was quite nice for sitting in the sun on our camping chairs.

We had oatmeal, coffee and bacon for breakfast, and I set the rice with dried tomato sauce and veggies to soak so it wouldn’t take much to cook for lunch. My big goal was to get some dry socks someway, somehow.

We spent the day just hanging out at the camp while the dog slept. The next morning was my dad’s birthday, and he would’ve loved this.

I swept out the tent and thought of him and a little whisk broom we used to have. Dad would say, “OK gang, roll out the tent.”

Our big canvas tent was dusty and smelt like camping. It was very heavy and stiff, painted with wax to waterproof it. He would take down the tent and fold it into quarters and lengthwise, then have all five kids roll, roll, roll down the tent over and over until we were dizzy and the air was all out. Happy birthday, Daddy!

Here in the Porkies, we broke camp and set off. We had walked for half an hour when I realized I forgot my walking stick. Michael went back to get it while I waited with the packs and two dogs.

Ursula was very nervous that Michael walked back the way we came without his pack, and she stared down the path giving little yips. He was gone for half an hour, and she grew more and more frantic, her barking growing more frenzied with each minute. I couldn’t calm her until she caught a whiff of Michael coming back. She knew about five minutes before I caught sight of him down the trail.

The next day while we rested on the trail, I put down my pack and walked back down the path the way we came, just to see if she would miss me. Nothing. I guess we know whose dog she is.

Hike in Beauty; Roll in Peace; Blessed Be

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. If you’d like to read my future guide to select campsites in the Porkies, let me know. I’ll need encouragement to finish this project. You can see pictures about this week’s post on Instagram @BirdlandLetters. Mary can be reached at or via snail mail care of the Journal Republican, 118 E. Washington St., Monticello, IL 81856. She wants to thank her friends for writing and will answer you all soon.

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