Monday, September 21, 2009

Bridge Out

It was Sunday September 19th and I was looking for a reason to get out. Oh yeah I had to take my son Jack to see the US 131 bridge project. So we combined a short 1.5 mile hike to the bridge via the spur trail from the Old US 131 SFCG to the current US131 bridge. It was and has been warm for September. The weather has been beautiful. I was a bit leary of the woods along the river because Friday the 16th bear season had opened up. But we went and just made sure we had our priorities in order and made ourselves aware of things around us.

When we arrived at the 131 SFCG we were the only ones there. We went to the east on a spur trail that once was the NCT before being rerouted north along the tracks a mile west of the campground. It is now a nicer trail. The trail connects to the campground via a connector trail .9 miles in length. Very nice forests here. The trail follows low along the river to the east and weaves in and out of cedar trees for the first ten minutes or so.
In the direction we were traveling we heard some dogs barking and
when we got to them, sure enough there were a couple of guys running there dogs and I am sure I knew what they were running. We went on our way and didn't see them again. Although later in the hike we heard gunshots from a big gun. It was about 30 minutes into the hike that we came to US 131 and there was no traffic at all. The road has been closed until Memorial Day 2010 due to the rep[lacement of the bridge on US131.

Enclosed are some pictures from that day. What a sight it was. It is nice sometimes to see something new on the trail or at least something new near the trail.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Old Baldy

It was the officially the last weekend of the summer. The weather was gorgeous and it was Sunday before Labor Day. We had tossed around the idea of going to

the beach or going on a hike. The children wanted to go to the beach so we decided to head towards Arcadia and combine a dune hike at Old Baldy and the beach on Lake Michigan afterwards. The drive from Kingsley is just a long half hour. The road we take to Old Baldy is lined with apple orchards and has some elevation and some beautiful views. The drive alone is well worth it and then add the short Old Baldy hike and it makes for a dandy day.

We packed all the neccessary things for a hike and picnic. We arrived at the trailhead to find only a few cars there. The day was warm and we had brought extra water. It is only about a mile walk to the top of the dunes. The trail starts off on an old two-track and turns into a single track
that goes through an old apple grove. The trail was filled with blackberry bushes.
At about half way the trail enters a wooded section with monster beech trees. They are such a beautiful tree. Kids had fun on one rather large one. Photo opportunties were many. The trail stayed mostly level until it went straight up. It turned to beach sand right as we started to climb. And as we reached the top of the hill there it was Old Baldy.
A land conservancy bought this property few years back and what a great thing. These lands are so rare to come across publicly. What a gem. It is here for us to respect and enjoy. It surrounds us today, and on this day it welcomed us. The folks we
ran into all seemed to have the same smiles on. It was a day to enjoy living. We had fun with our kids and enjoyed being with them in such a nice setting. I enjoyed seeing the looks on there faces as they played on a big pile of sand. Big big sand. Big big smiles. I enjoyed walking with magnificent views of Lake Michigan below. There were those people who chose to run down
the dune and struggle to get back up on all fours. It must have taken them a half hour at least to climb back up. What an incredible place.
There are so many places like this one here in Northern Michigan. The opportunities to get out and enjoy are countless. But you have to first go to get there.
From Old Baldy we drove north on M-22 to Elberta to a nice park . We were at a park where the Ann Arbor used to be docked. It was a ferry. Actually there were three ferries here and over a hundred years they were in motion. The views included old buildings and across the bay, Frankfort. We finished the day up with a hot dog roast and soda pop. We enjoyed today and all that had been. Memories are awesome, when they are memories like these.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

NCT MI-05 Old 131 Bridge Canoe camp to Townline Rd.

It is the first Wednesday after Labor day. That means a couple of things, the kids are back in school ,my wife is back driving school bus, and I am hitting the trail. With the season starting to turn to fall, I had to do some trail cleanup and blue-blaze painting. My section is along the Manistee River, near the newly closed US131 bridge. I start at the Old 131 Campground and walk a short 1 mile spur trail to get to the NCT. Today I will walk west towards Townline Rd. The spur trail follows the river closely until the train track crossing, and then works away from it for a few minutes. There is a train bridge that crosses the river here and it is quite a nice visual feature on the trail. The day is quite nice. The trail moves very well once on the NCT. There are deer here. I like hiking where there are deer because you can really almost walk within 25 to 50 feet of them, before they turn to go. I don't like intruding or feeling like I am intruding so I give ample space. Anyone who has been grunted at and stared down by a deer knows what I am saying.
The trail is mostly flat and the rivers comes in and out of sight often. There is a nice campsite overlooking the train bridge. There are a few nice streams on this stretch of the trail. Cedars surround the gulleys and valleys in which the streams run through. I stop frequently to apply fresh blazes to the trees. The NCT and the NCTA are incredible as are all the volunteers who put in countless hours to keep in so nice. Our trails here are as good as anywhere as far as up keep and pleseantness. I enjoy the trail so much, I can't say that it is working. What a way to enjoy a Wednesday.
As I walk back towards my start point, I hear faint noises like chainsaws
and heavy equipment. I soon realized it was the work crews starting to take
out the bridge on US131 and over the Manistee River. And since it was still early and I was not really feeling like I was done hiking, I walked further east on the spur trail through the campground, to an area known as the spur overlook. The spur trail ends at the spur overlook, but a short walk to the east produces views of the Manistee River Bridge and the Hiwghway US131. Today was different on US131, I was able to walk right down the middle of the road because it was closed. I was able to walk up toi the work sight and look on to all the goings on. There is a roadside park with picnic tables and bathrooms here, and I was able to enjoy them all to myself. It felt odd to have crossed US 131 on foot. I was geeked though. What a day.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Old Indian Trail

A few weeks back while hiking the North Country Trail a few miles south and west of Kingsley, along the Manistee River, I came across a concrete marker that read"old Indian trail, Cadillac to Traverse City" with a number 16 on it. Seeing these thing along a trail is pure excitement. This marker is the last thing I would have thought I would have come across out here. But now it does make sense to me. After that hike I returned home and one night that week, I was talking with my neighbor and mentioned that stone and she knew all about it and a fair amount about the trail. My neighbors are the Bowdens. They are incredible. Phil is 92ish and Betty is 88ish. They have lived here all their lives and Phil worked the rivers in this area way back when. We are so lucky and blessed to have them as neighbors, they truly are the best. So with the story from Betty and making mention of it to a co-worker the next day, a plan was put in motion. I will call my co-worker Dan.

It took a few weeks to arrange a day and Saturday August 22nd was to be the day. The forecast was for rain, but it had been rainy and cloudy and cold for days anyway, so that surely was not going to stop us. I run at the chance. And you know what happens when it rains on the trail, you simply just get wet. We met at my place mid-day. Upon arriving at the trailhead we noticed the sky starting to clear slightly, things are already going our way. We had just shoulder our packs and I was making sure the van was secure, I heard Dan shout out, "Hey man look at this", It was a $10 dollar bill. It was right in the middle of the NCT. We had to hike west on the NCT for a few minutes to get to the marker. It appears that the the indian trail headed north and south, whereas the NCT heads east and west. The plan was to go south and towards the Manistee River and try to find a place called Indian Crossings. We started on a faint path and eventually that faint path disappeared and with our compass we tried to stay mostly south and west a litlle. The trail dropped quickly from the highbanks and within five minutes we were in low lying lush hardwoods not disturbed by anything. Just green and the perfect shade all around us. It was evident the deer liked this area. Mushrooms were everywhere. Nothing was dry like with summers past. Everything was just enjoying the wet somewhat cool summer. I felt invited as I am sure Dan did too. It felt like we were supposed to be here. We didn't really have to bushwhack our way through the woods everything was very open and very comfortable walking. At least for now it was. Not long after we got comfortable walking throught the open part of the woods we came to a transition from hardwoods to Redpines and then eventually to Cedars. Monster Cedars all around us. We knew our direction and we knew the Manistee River was close. We did not really have anything else to go on other than a guess of where the indians may have crossed. I did research it a little and the most I could find was an article saying that it took 800 pounds of dynamite to unplug a log jam created somewhere near the point of crossing. We walked west and could see that the river was just ahead a few minutes and walked upon a county marker. It was a corner marker marking the four corners of public land. Marker was intact and legible. At this point we stopped for a break and I pulled out my Wexford county map and we were able to pinpoint our location. This was helpful because the Manistee River is incredible by the way in which it flows.
It is a river in which it flows every direction and should not be relied on as point in a certain direction. We saw some canoeists and it appeared they were camping. We had reached the river and we decided to follow it upstream or to the east and north a bit. We came across some locust trees and thornapple trees and along with the briars and Bull thistle this made for a picky walk. We seen some amazing Bull thistle plants. We came upon some more canoeist that actually had already put up camp along the banks of the river. They looked to be Indo Chinese. They welcomed us into their camp and allowed us to walk through. The nodding of the head always works well when there is a language barrier. They certainly had some nice equipment and they seemed very cheery and happy. It is nice to see happy people. We continued on and up ahead in the distance,
there it was, our first sign of the idian trail. It was a tree that had been elbowed. I don't think it could have been more than 50 years old, so that is kind of puzzling but it was definetly an elbow.

Today was not going to be the day we found Indian Crossings. We did though get out and scout and search a little bit. We did though get out and enjoy the richness of our resources right here. We had laughter and we had fun. This was a most enjoyable hike. We actually made money this trip out. Cannot ever really say that last line. The trip back to the van was quick and to the point. We had an uphill pull and came out exactly where we needed to. We will continue this search another day and maybe try to find more of the trail. Wouldn't it be neat to follow an "old indian trail".

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Turtle Lake Campground

As part of our stay somewhere close to home summer
vacation, we didn't have to travel very far, although we had two very full vans. We decided to camp with our kids and our niece at Turtle Lake Campground near Honor and Beulah here in Northern Michigan. We had four children, three tents, six bikes and enough supplies to last a week. This trip included no reason to unload either van and attempt to lower spare tire from its carrier while enroute to the campground. I was to meet my family there when I was down with work. I rushed home and loaded bikes and of course my poles and backpack. My drive was 23 miles to the campground. When I arrived my wife and kids and niece already had all three tents up. It was going to be an easy night I could see. The weather was gorgeous and the campground is a hidden gem of a place run by a gal whose owned it for 43 years now. My wife is a great planner and the kids are awesome helpers when it come to a trip like this one. We were all giddy. The lot size was plenty large enough for our tents and bikes and vans and stuff. The ammenities were flushing toilets and real hot showers. Along with the canoes and kayaks and rowboats that came included in the $19 dollars a night fee. It was an unreal bargain and the people we were able to meet and the new friends the kids made was just splendid. My pack was ready to hit a nearby trail, but believe it our not I didn't even shoulder my pack this trip. I did run to it often to get things like fire starter, bug spray and you know all the things one keeps in his pack.

The lake was a small inland lake and was very calm. We were on it often and did ride our bikes alot. It was a good trade to taking a hike as I was able to do it with my family. We usually eat well and stay in tune with our normal fare. We even made a nice beef stew one night.

We figured out why it was called Turle Lake pretty quickly and the wildlife was all around us literally. We canoed out to a small cove on the north end of the lake and nestled ourselves in to an area of lushness. The hummingbirds were everywhere. We seen many birds as well with deer and again turtles.

The evenings fell and fires were started and at quiet time it got quiet, very quiet. Two of the nights I lay awake listening to the embers in the fire pit crack and snap as they cooled. It was incredible really. Lost in thought and not really lost at the same time. Morning coffee was cooked over an open fire and was very much welcomed.

Our kids made some friends and played and shared with other kids in the campground. It is nice to see them in action. We enjoyed them as well.

We had a grand time. We like people and we learn from people. Turtle Lake Campground had a lot of good people in it. Mrs Scott runs a great campground. If you ever get the chance it truly is a gem you do not come across very often.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

NCT MI-05 19 mile Rd. to M-37

Today's forecast called for rain. I had to work only half a day and that meant one thing.... I was hitting the trail as soon as possible. It was nice and sunny, not to hot and not very wet. It didn't rain at all. Just another reason to never change plans because of rain in the forecast. I found the best thing to do when it's raining is to just let it rain. It has been about a week since being on the trail and I start to get ancy. My wife would probably agree with that statement. Today I would be hiking with my oldest boy Brandon. He hikes well. He is a "point me in the right direction" and he is gone, type of hiker. We hike well together because we keep the same pace. We are able to take breaks at the same time also.
Today we started at the 19 Mile Rd. trailhead on the north side of the Manistee River. We were planning on hiking west to M-37 just north of Mesick. Since we would be hiking out and back I really didn't know how close to M-37 we would get. Starting out on a highbank, the trail heads west and within 5 minutes it takes a nice climb. The surface is soft as it is made up of decomposed leaves. Within 15 minutes of starting point the there is an old concrete marker near the trail with the number 16 on it. As we get closer it has a plaque on it that reads "OLD INDIAN TRAIL CADILLAC TO TRAVERSE CITY" I will have to research that one. The trail stays along the highbank and continues west for 15 more minutes. So far the views along the trail to the south are incredible. The forest has been mostly hardwood. It is the best shade of green though. We can see for miles and miles over the river down below us. The clouds hide the sun every now and then, and shades the treetops in the distance. I record the images in my mind. These features are what make the hike so interesting to me. I will always be able to recall that view. I can't wait to see what is around the next bend. I walk down the trail wide eyed. In the distance there is a couple of tents set up on the edge of the highbanks. Didn't see anyone around and really we didn't see anyone else on the trail today either. Just past the campsites the trail turns to the right and north and heads into a red pine forest. It is soft and tall. The trail weaves in and out of the straight rows for only a few minutes. It starts to turn west again but still out of sight of the river and drops down into a cedar forest. Soon we come to a road crossing. It is 17 Mile Rd. This road goes north and south and to the south of the trail 17 Mile Rd. crosses the Manistee River at Harvey Bridge. We continue west on the trail and left of trail is shadowed from the light by a dense growth of big cedars. The trail does not feel like it has much elevation change thus far. It has that very familiar smell. We have been on a single track since 17 Mile Rd. crossing. The trail has been well blazed and follows a very nice path. Hiking is so much more enjoyable when the path can be found. I can say that all the volunteers do such a great job keeping the trail perfect around here. I hope that one day more people will want to get out and see what they are missing. This here trail does wonders. It is like a poison. It is all around me. It surrounds me. It comforts me.
We continue just another 20 minutes or so and we reached 15 Mile Rd. It is here we decide to have our snacks. We find the shade of a giant maple tree and sit in the cool grass and enjoy each others company. Brandon does the talking on our hikes together and I do the listening. He talks about many interesting things, mostly history and he goes into great detail. He is good.
We decide that this is as far as we will go today. His grandma came up to visit this weekend and we will go back and spend time with her. At least today we have been able to get out for a short one anyway. Sometimes that is all it takes, just a five or six mile wander on this path that is provided for us. It is right here for us.
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Sunday, July 19, 2009

NCT MI-05 Baxter Bridge Rd. to High Rollaways(Feb).

It was Sunday, February 8th, it was clear and it was cold. It was a perfect day to go snowshoeing on the North Country Trail. In the winter time the trail has such a different look and feel about it. Today I was to start my hike at Baxter Bridge Rd. and go towards the High Rollaways. The hike is just less than 3 miles each way and has some really nice climbs going towards the west. This hike has so many incredible views and is very much accessible from a few different directions. I have found it nice to move east to west and conquer the uphill pulls in the first part of this hike. The hike starts in just north of the Baxter Bridge crossing of the Manistee River. From the trailhead you immediately enter a mixture of beech and oak trees. There are many new growth beech in here. The bark is so smooth and almost looks blue. Within five minutes you walk out of the woods and see some hemlock shrubs on the banks overlooking the Manistee River. You can't help but look ahead at the incredible highbank in the distance. It always reminds me of Diamondhead on Oahu. It sticks out like a sore thumb in the distance ahead and to the south. It takes about 40 minutes to reach the tip of it. And off to your left and south you overlook the area Mewatauka lies in. The river has an immpressive bend right from the start on this hike. The bends only get better. From most places on this hike the river is in full view as there are no leaves to block the view. The trail drops after just a few minutes on the lowbanks. It dips down to the low land where a stream comes in and a nice wooden footbridge crosses it. It the spring with the melt off and the thaw this area becomes part of the Manistee in most years past. The trail starts to come out of the valley and the Manistee River comes into full view again, this bend is a nice one also.
Because it has been so cold the river banks are frozen towards the center.
It makes for a nice picture. I take advantage of this opportunity and have a seat on a log and listen to the ice move down the river. It is impressive and sounds slushy. It breaks the silence. You can't here these noises and see this beauty unless you are here. I also see deer tracks out on the ice here. The trail now turns north and away from the river and won't be seen until you reach the high peak further on in the hike. You start to lose the sound of the river and it gets incredibly silent. You start to climb a small hill and about half way up all I hear is my heartbeat and my breathing. I was very warm at this point. I learned something on this hike also, not to overdress. I always make sure I have plenty of water and snacks for any length of hike I take. The trail starts to move into a long valley that you walk along, not up or down. In the spring and summer this is an incredible valley. The perfect green all around you and I have pictures to prove it! But right now it is fluffy and white and silent. No bugs,no bears. I do see deer every now and again here. The trail starts to climb up, up and up. The sun is peaking through and really making it bright. I am excited and giddy to be here. It seems I can't get enough of this.

From the high point the trail again leaves the sight of the river and heads back into the woods and through a few small up and downs. This area has been mostly hardwoods. At about two and a half miles into this trek they trail and woods ahead are silohuetted by the sun in the distance. The trail walks to the edge of the highbanks and off to the right or north is the platform at the Highbanks Rollaways overlook area. I pause for a minute and almost start running to the platform. I arrive and look down at the river and believe it or not it is completely frozen over. It looked like a highway. I could not believe my eyes. This is something you will not

see unless you get out to see it. It is amazing. It is here I build a small warming fire and have my lunch. It is peaceful here. I see an eagle following the river here. I finish up and my hike ends when I walk to the roadway on County Line Rd. and my wife picks me up and drops me back at my van. She is a grand woman. I am the lucky one.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The rest of the story

O K here goes, it was June 8th and the aroma of coffee was moving through the house. The brew must have hit the Nomad before I, as he beat me to the pot. This was going to be a quick interesting morning. It was probably about 6:15a.m. The kids had school and my wife drives the school bus and I had to work early. Nomad was to be on the trail early and I was going to drop him off on my way. We said our goodbyes to and I loaded him and his gear into the van about 7:00a.m. We needed to stop at a quick mart so he could get enough food for two to three days, as he would not pass another town, nor a store for at least two. The trail he would be taking was all off road and mostly along the Manistee River. He would be starting his day at the Valley of the Giants east of Hodge Rd. It is a glorious place. I sat in my van at the quick mart waiting and watching. I was still in awe to be in the presence of this man. I continued pinching myself. He would pass by the window and put something on the counter and then disappear for a few more minutes. I wanted to give him a little bit of money, knowing he didn't neccessarily need it, but he would do right with it. I got into my wallet and grab a bill and held it in my hand until it was almost wet. I was trying to figure out how to pass it to him. The thought passed through my head to put it in his backpack, but it would be wrong to touch it. So I put it besides my seat in the small garbage can, and you probably can guess what he said when he seen the money in the can. He said,"so what, you throw money away?" I told him no and what my intentions were and he accepted it. He offered me a breakfast sandwich and I declined. He looked right into my eyes and said,"you expect me to accept your gift and you can't accept mine."It seemed he could have slapped me. I made up the story that he would be needing the sandwich more than I. But really the butterflies in my stomach would not have allowed me to even eat a bite!
So off to the trail we go. It was only a ten minute drive to the trailhead. it was pourng down rain. It was the kind of rain you do not stay dry in. I think both of us knew he was going to be bone wet in the first 20 minutes of his 25 mile day. The trail he would be walking today was mostly single track with lots of foliage. I helped him out of the van, helped pull his rain poncho over his pack, shook his hand and gave him a big hug and that was goodbye for today. I watched him disappear into the woods not before he turned around and gave a goodbye wave. I know he was sad and so was I, but this saddness would not of come if we hadn't be able to spend some very nice time together. I didn't cry on my way to work, but I almost felt like I needed to. I had a lump in my throat, but it was a great drive into work. I was floating on air. Noone would believe what kind of the story I would be telling this day. He did make mention of the poison I may have after today. It is the Nomad's Poison and yes I do believe I have caught it. His passion is his poison, and yes it is contagious. And really by reading this little bit I have written here doesn't even begin to explain this individual known as the Nimblewill Nomad. I call him Eb.

NCT MI-05 19 mile Rd. to Highbanks Rollaways

The forecast was for rain this day. It was a Wednesday, which
meant at least two things, it was my day off and I was hiking
somewhere. Waking up this morning to my wife and coffee waiting for me was grand. I am truly spoiled and blessed when it comes to my wife and children.
I probably don't always deserve the kindness, but maybe. What I do know is, it is a great place to be in.
Today had all the makings of a fine trail day. I had a few things to do with the family and then off to the trail it was. My wife dropped me off and was going to pick me up at my final destination, which would be determined while on the trail. Today I would be hiking from 19 mile Rd. to Highbanks rollaways or Baxter Bridge Rd. Because of timing I chose the Highbanks. It ended up being between 8 and 9 miles and followed closely along the banks of the Manistee River.
The hike starts off on a high bank and starts to descend to the river in the first ten minutes of the hike to the east. Many mixed trees and lots of pines. The ferns are very showy as they have reached waist heighth and perfect green. About 30 minutes into the hike the trail descends into a creek valley, it is in that valley that the trail crosses Anderson Creek. It just a few yards to the right the creek empties into the Mnaistee River. It has been dry and the creek still flows pretty well here. It looks like it could handle quite a bit of water. Walking east still there are some bonfire campsites within a few minutes of Anderson Creek. The trail follows along the low banks for a good 45 minutes and then the trail turns to the north and feels like practically straight up. You are rewarded with beautiful views if you make the climb. Incredible are the sights to the south. You can see Mesick and Cadillac and beyond , all from this viewpoint. This view in the winter time is worth the snowshoe walk in. Most don't see this view. It is here for a fortunate few. The trail follows along the ridge for just about five minutes and the turns left and north into a stand of red pine. The trail is soft as it is carpeted by pine needles. Seems that the feet work better on certain trail surfaces. I pay attention to these things. That statement is always true. The trail turns east or left and drop in and out of a valley and continues along the highbanks of the river. There is a beautiful orange flower out in the woods here. I can't say
that I remember them last year. Very bright are they. On this hike was a large sandy bank high above the sharpest hairpin turn I have seen on the Manistee River. That sight alone is worth the hike in. It was cloudy this day and I can imagine what a sight it would be on a sunny winter day. At about two hours and twenty minutes into the hike I come across a bench on the right side of the trail overlooking the river. I know this bench and know that it is not far now to the High Rollaways trailhead. The trail here also follows along the highbank but the woods are mostly older, large hard woods. Lots of massive oaks. Big and strong and powerful is what they feel like here. The largest of the trees almost stand as if they are sticking out there chests. Big and proud. It is healthy here. My wife and I watched the sunrise here one year. I remember that walk. We were without children that morning. The remainder of the hike only takes eight minutes and total time for today's hike is two and a half hours. Wildlife today were many birds a doe and her fawn up close. Two canoes passed by and zero hikers were met on the trail. It was a no passing zone all the way today.