After meeting at the trailhead in Tahawus, we began The Trip. In my eagerness to prove the worthiness of hiring a guide, I offered to carry the necessary supplies. I instructed the ladies, “Just toss it all in my packbasket.”
As directed, they stuffed gear into the old basket, and as a group, we happily set off. Almost immediately, I was surprised by their pace of travel.
After hiking several miles along an old road, we turned off onto the hiking trail to Bradley Pond. None of the ladies appeared to be the slightest bit winded, and they seemed to all have a noticeable bounce to their step.
In contrast, I was already reeling from the weight of the pack, as sweat dripped off my nose like a leaky faucet.
Soon, the trail narrowed, but after transitioning to single file, they returned to their steady, ground-eating pace. In short order, we reached the turnoff for the herd path, which is located a short distance from the Santanoni Lean-to. Glancing at my watch, I was shocked to realize we covered the distance so swiftly.
I simply couldn't understand how the ladies managed such a pace. I was in good shape, and nearly half their age, and yet, I was already spent.
After leaving the marked trail, we crossed a beaver dam and began a steep bushwack along an old ore bed. The route was direct, and it often required hand-over-hand climbing, and rock hopping along the streambed.
Previous travelers had created tunnels through the spruce thickets, and these paths often dead ended, or led to further intricate and intertwined labyrinths which went nowhere.
Finally, we reached the level ground between Panther and Santanoni, known as Times Square. The area provides an intersection for the routes connecting the three peaks. We decided to head straight on to Couchsaraga, and double back before enjoying some lunch.