Fife Lake: Some of the Best Trips Don’t Go as Planned

Author: SOLAR Member Kristina Perhach

Over the course of 2017 and 2018, I completed both the beginner and intermediate SOLAR backpacking classes. In addition to learning a great deal, I also formed friendships with some of the best people I could ever imagine spending time within the woods. After the completion of the program, I didn’t want the relationships to end, even after my move 7-hours north of Detroit to Marquette, Michigan. I wanted to keep backpacking with my SOLAR friends, and the move was a catalyst to start planning my own trips to bring people together.

A Daunting Task with Many Details to Consider

Trip planning, for many, seems like a daunting task with many aspects to think about from picking dates, location, determining water resources, camping restrictions, permit requirements, potential dangers, how many people should go, and who to invite. In addition to figuring out the logistics, you also start to worry about if people will like the trail, will they have fun, is too many miles for some people, or will anyone even want to come. I hike solo 95% of the time and my solo trips, day hikes, and backpacking, rarely have an itinerary figured out completely. This approach doesn’t work when you plan for a group because people want details. I decided it was time to get over my anxiety of planning for others, use the skills I learned from SOLAR, and plan a trip to meet my friends somewhere in the middle of Michigan.

Naturally, the non-planner in me wanted to pick a place that was familiar and already had a trip plan made by someone else. I selected the Jordan River Pathway loop and solicited interest from fellow SOLAR members on Facebook. Instantly people wanted in! Of the interested parties, some I had backpacked with before, and others were new faces to me.  I threw some dates out for a vote and we picked the first weekend of May. Afterward, to my surprise, the NCT association had picked the very same section of trail, the section that crosses the 45th parallel, out of 4,600 miles to hold their annual celebration and the trail would be busy that weekend.

Luckily, the intermediate backpacking class had taught me even the best-laid plans can change at the last moment and I was no stranger to revising my backpacking itinerary. I talked to my planning buddy, Dave Warnecke, and he recommended the Fife Lake Loop.  I informed the group of the situation and gave three options: maintain course, go another weekend, or pick a new location (Fife Lake being an option) for that weekend. The group unanimously decided to change location to the Fife Lake loop.

Adapting the Plan and Personal Goals

Sometimes when plans change you also change your personal goals for a trip. Since the Fife Lake loop is a few miles longer than Jordan River Pathway and we had the option to have a car at the midpoint, I decided it was more important to me to finish the 22 miles vs carrying a full pack. This was my first long trip of the year and I was concerned about the mileage. I put my car with all of my camping gear at the midpoint and carried a day pack. This was a training hike for many of us on the trip but we were all at different fitness and skill levels. I realized my personal goals should reflect my own ability and not someone else’s. Being able to finish the loop was the most satisfying feeling.

One thing not in the original plan was making a trip to town for “provisions”. About halfway through on Day 1, I mentioned getting beer from town when we arrived at camp. Then I joked about how much better pizza would be over our dehydrated meals for dinner. Guess what we got for dinner? Pizza and beer. Thank goodness I had a car at the midpoint! Why not camp in luxury if you have the opportunity, right?! Once I altered my goals to complete the loop versus carrying a full pack and truly treating this as if I was backpacking in a remote wilderness, all the rules went out the window.

Lessons Learned and Lots of Laughs

Every trip I have been on, solo or with a group, I have learned something new about myself, about backpacking, or about nature. This trip was no different. I learned to not be afraid to plan trips for others, to set personal goals for yourself to gain an even greater feeling of accomplishment at the end of the adventure, and most importantly, that when your plans go awry, you may end up with a better trip that includes pizza, beer and many laughs with friends, new and old.

If you are interested to learn more about the Fife Lake Loop, check out Dave Warnecke’s blog from his trip in 2018.

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