Some of my Instagram followers may have noticed that Pawel and myself have taken liking to being outside quite frequently and for good reason. A couple months ago we were talking about where to go for my 30th birthday there were so many great ideas but one stood out more than the rest.. Isle Royale National Park. Just talking about it seems mystical, unknown, and sometimes a little scary.
PLUS!! I’ve only ever day hiked! So what makes a day hiker want to carry 30 pounds or so on their back for 8 to 10 days? According to Travel + Leisure : “This gorgeous park near Thunder Bay, Canada, is the largest island in the world’s largest freshwater body (by surface area), Lake Superior. Though it ranks as the fifth least-visited park (14,000 annual visitors) in the nation, it has the highest backcountry use.” Now who isn’t intrigued by that?! After researching the biodiversity, back country challenge, and overall under documentation of the park by travelers it has sparked our curiosity.
We made a list of important tasks, equipment, and travel planning we must complete before we leave on this backwoods adventure. In this post I’ll share what our physical training has looked like and how this will effect the enjoyability of the trip. Not to mention the healthy side effects of training and how it’s positively effecting our lives.
When we decided to take this challenge on we were working out possibly 3 or 4 days a week. I love the feeling after a workout but prior to I could be a couch potato at best when we first started taking this on. My favorite workouts come from FitnessBlender, Kelli and Daniel Segars a husband/wife duo that makes simple, easy to follow along, and FREE workout videos on YouTube. Currently, we are ripping it up with 4 to 5 half hour workouts a week. It’s becoming addictive to reach that “Workout Complete” and treating yourself to a tasty snack afterwards. I’ve embedded one of my recent favorite workouts below, this is such a fun way to get moving and feel accomplished in a short amount of time.
Trail Running and Day Hikes
Pawel and I started our fitness experiment over a year ago when we decided to take a vacation down to Big South Fork. We spent many days out hiking and playing on the trails. It was such a great time to be moving around then we went back to our daily routine missing out on all that hiking and exploring. We purchased our recreation pass renewal this spring and have made a promise to ourselves to use it as much as possible and see as much of the state as we can this year.
Trail running is a fun way to get your cardio in while outside. We both started out claiming we couldn’t run and hated it… now a couple months into our training it’s starting to become fun and a little more of a payoff at the end. In terms of long term backpacking this activity helps to build agility and balance while out on the trails with your pack.
Our go-to places for trail running in the south-western corner of Michigan have been Warren Dunes State Park, T.K. Lawless County Park, and Russ Forest. These varying terrains help prep for soggy trails, elevation climbs, and extended periods on dirt surfaces. Dunes are a great exercise to mimic long uphills and uneasy terrain since the sand is slippery and can have varying textures from wet to very dry.
This is from Big South Fork from last year, we were averaging 12 miles a day and carrying a 28 liter pack
Pick a Pack
Since deciding to go to Isle Royale the most important thing besides for training is a pack, this is our opinion at least. Getting a pack that your comfortable with is important and can be a daunting task since there are so many brands and gimmicks out there in the camping/packing industry.
One thing I would caution other newbies about is don’t go cheap. When shopping there are plenty of 100 USD options, be aware that many of these bags lack proper fittings and back support which is important once you start carrying weight. To pick out a bag that I would love the fit, durability, and look of I went to Lee’s Adventure Sports located in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I love their staff and the products stocked within the store. Fitting a bag at Lee’s is fun and insightful since the staff is well trained in what to look for in various outdoor activities. Another great thing about Lee’s is they offer free classes about all sorts of sports!
I found a Gregory Amber 60 liter bag for myself. The benefits of this bag for someone with a skinner frame is the waist straps are a little more flexible than the Osprey Bag, and the frame can carry more weight than the new trampoline system Osprey came out with a couple years ago. This bag has plenty of space for all sorts of goodies not to mention the included rainfly, this option was a selling point since Isle Royale is known for surprise storms and soggy days.
Once you find the pack you love you need to put it on and get out there.
Buying the bag is the first battle the second is using it. I have now carried by pack on a dozen or so 5 to 8 mile hikes with 20 pounds in the bag. It took the first couple hikes to get the straps dialed in and the back comfortable enough that I now longer think about wearing it. Training with your pack is imperative since it helps build core strength, leg strength, and endurance for your longer days of hiking.
Pawel and I have been out on a daily basis with our packs working on a variety of surfaces and lengths of hiking. We are training for an average of 12 to 16 miles a day during our travels on the island. When looking for areas to train we are looking for rolling terrain with elevation changes to mirror what we’ll be seeing in Isle Royale.
When using my pack one thing I’m conscious about it over tightening the load adjusters and chest strap since this has in the past given me a sore arm or shoulder. I think working on small improvements continuously has led to the most comfortable fit and ride. I enjoy the longer trips since it gives your body time to get the bag dialed in and the walk turns into a journey.
So… What’s Next?
As we continue on our journey of planning, packing, and training we have much ground to cover including gear, meal plans, and more. The one thing I am most excited about researching is backpacking diets and food de-hydration. I have found “Fork in the Trail” by Laurie March. I’m so excited to get this book and dig into the details of cooking.
As we continue this journey what would you guys like to read about? Gear, Meal-Planning, or Trip Planning. I’d love to hear your suggestions or tips from the trail!!