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.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Not just another day(continued)

Lets see where was I.... Oh yeah, It was Sunday June 7th, the phone rang, it was the Nimblewill Nomad. He said he would be leaving Kalkaska at 8:30 a.m. and hiking towards Kingsley. He thought he would be to the Cedar Creek trailhead around 6:00 p.m. I took down his phone number and gave him my cell number and told him I would hike towards him. So off to church went my wife and my kids and I started hammering away at things I felt I needed to do before the Nomad came. The house was already prepared, as was his room thanks to my lovely wife. Everything was planned just in case he called. My wife even washed and lined dried the bedding he was to sleep on. The fact that it was Sunday was great because I didn't have to work. Anyway wife and kids off to church, me I went to the grocery store and bought some final items to add to our dinner fit for a through hiker.
My initial idea was to leave the Cedar Creek trailhead about 4:00 p.m. It ended up that I left the trailhead at 1:30p.m. because I was an absolute basket case and I could not control my feet any longer. I packed the usual and was going to meet him somewhere near Supply Rd. I had guessed. I waited for my wife to return and when she did I said I would return about 6:00 p.m. with the Nomad and she was going to have everything ready as far as dinner and things. So off I went north on the trail. I passed throught the Valley of the Giants and it was there that I told myself that I would have to make sure i did not side step the trail in fear of actually missing him by passing him by. So now I am calming myself and always looking for pole marks. I meet up with a couple of fellas on the trail just south of Sheck's Place and ask them if they had heard that the Nomad would be coming through this part of the trail today and I was very surprised when the had not even heard of him.

So I pass Sheck's Place and see no one at all. I was wanting to tell everyone the Nomad was coming. But I raced on. I call it raced because that was the pace I was keeping. Or at least it felt that way. About one and a half hours into it I forced myself to take a breather and sit for a few minutes. I had a quick snack and off I went. It was now that I was really starting to pay attention to the trail and the lack of footprints and pole marks. I knew that he hadn't come this far yet. It was now that I started to wonder if he was on schedule. I was near Dollar Lake and decided to call the Nomad's number and he answered and said he was sitting at the bench at Dollar Lake eating some trail magic left in a bag for him by Dick Naperala. My heart was now pounding. Believe it or not we were withing five minutes of each other. I continued towards him and I had no idea what I was going to say to him. I felt like a... I don't know what i felt like, all I know is that I had butterflies in my stomach and it felt like I was floating on the trail I was walking. Then it happened his first words, "you got yourself a nice set of poles there". I had to let him lead, there was no way he was going to walk in my footsteps. We had the best time walking back to my van. It was incredible. All those days and nights up thinking of this day. It was here and so was he.

We exchanged camera poses at the Boardman River near Sheck's Place. From there it was a short half-hour walk to the van. I had gone 12 miles and he had probably doubled that. I called my wife and said we would be there in a few minutes.

We arrived at our home and Jack needed to feel his beard. He met the family and got cleaned up before dinner. The house smelled like Thanksgiving Day. My wife had created an unbelievable feast for us. We had coffee and than before dinner our neighbors Betty and Phil Bowden came over and Betty presented Nomad with a Petoskey stone. Betty and Phil have walked the trail many a year from the start of it. Phil is 91. They are incredible people and we are the lucky ones to have them as neighbors. So they left and we sat down and Nomad said the blessing and we all ate big. We were in the presence of some awesome company. He retired to his room and caught up on his journals and needed to study his maps for the next leg of his hike. I had to work the next morning, but I was going to drop him off at the trail where we got to the van. To be continued....

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Not just another day

About the end of the month of March this year, I learned of a thru hiker starting out in North Dakota on the NCT and heading east to New York. I learned of his web page journals and started to follow them daily. I knew that he would be coming through Kingsley mid June. I had an idea.Wouldn't it be nice if I could hike a few miles with him, or better yet hike a few miles with him and have dinner with him and put him up for the night? It took no more than a quick e-mail to an address that I wasn't really sure he was keeping track of. I left him all the neccessary info and hoped that when he got close he would call. The thought of him coming to this area went in and out of my head so many times I couldn't even begin to count. It was four weeks since I had e-mailed him, that he called. It was a Wednesday eve., 6:05 pm. I must have turned white. He said this is the Nomad and explained if the offer was still on he would be coming through our area in about two weeks. I was now a basket case. I called my wife in and told her and the next two weeks were a blur. I suddenly had all these things I had to get done.

I knew that trail days was coming up and wanted to be there. Our local celebration was at Guernsey Lake Campground for a ribbon cutting ceremony. I had learned that the Nomad was going to be part of it. My two boys and I went out to that area and hiked before the crowd gathered and then left mid way through the celebration. Too much hoopla for me. I did'nt even get to meet the Nomad. So home we came. I was at this point besides myself not knowing when or if he would even call. I did not know the exact day he would be calling. So I just told myself if it happens it happens. Went to bed Saturday June 6th. Got up Sunday June 7th, phone rang at 8:02 a.m. Never guess who it was. The rest of this story will have to be written in another post, because it is quite a story. Let me give you a hint... There is Life before Nomad, and Life after Nomad.....

Friday, July 10, 2009

NCT MI-05 Mayfield Rd to 131 SFCG(Manistee River)

I am trying to cover as much as the NCT in my area as I can. I have the MI-04,MI-05 and MI-06 NCT maps and I am the type that needs to walk the trail to really find out where it actually goes. The maps are pretty close aside from some minor changes here and there. I am a time person. I need to know how long and how far in real steps.

On Father's Day this year, I started at the Mayfield Rd trailhead and wanted to hike south to the Manistee River. I had never hiked this section of the trail before. I had all I needed for a four hour hike. It was 9:30 am when I started out. It was already getting warm and muggy. I always pack to much water and on this day it would end up being a good thing. The terrain started out fairly flat and very green. The trail moved due south along a sand two track. About five minutes into the hike there is a small pond on the right. Ten minutes later there is a stream crossing the trail from left to right and off to the left there is a swampy looking area. Very green and the sun is rising above it. Trail moves out of the swamp and into some mixed hardwoods. See a deer and some turkeys just before the trail passes a gas well/ gas holding area. Has the smell of sour gas. About twenty minutes in the trail crosses a cycle single track. Just a few minutes later the trail crosses Cedar Creek Rd. Trais now a single track. Thirty minutes in the trail crosses Barker Creek and water is flowing well. Trail opens into a pretty meadow lined with oak and maple trees. Blazes have been in tact and with the fern heighth I need to pay attention to the blazes. Trail turns right and goes due west for about five minutes until it turns south again and a few minutes later I see a power pole and a house. Trail now turns into a gravel road. Road walk for about fifteen minutes until I come to Vans Lane. Before long I am back on a single track and moving right along.

The hike thus far has been interesting as are most of them. Rarely do I feel bored at any time on the trail. It seems very adventurous most of the time. I usually hike alone if I am going to cover eight or more miles. I usually do not really stop for the first few hours. I can't wait to hit the trail. That statement is always true. It does a body good. And is great for the mind.
Soon the trail crosses M-186 just west of Fife Lake and heads south still. I encounter my first elevation change of the hike it is a steep drop down into a bog/marsh area and the perfect shade of green. the trail has been very well maintained and I move right along to a strong uphill out of the marsh. The next three miles come and go and I arrive at the M-113 crossing and stop to have a bite. I am only about forty minutes from the Manistee River at this point, or so I thought. The plan was for my wife to pick me up at the 131 SFCG and I called her to let her know it was going as planned. I continued south and crossed a set of train tracks and moved right along and suddenly I looked up and I not only didn't see the trail but the blazes were gone also. I backtracked and spent a few minutes looking and instead of bushwhacking I returned to M-113 and my wife picked me up there. I do not like to chance anything. It was at the end of my hike and I really did not want to get mixed up in the woods. It was a great day and good walk. I will walk the return route from the Manistee River and find where the trail meets.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

NCT MI-05 Mayfield Rd. to Valley of the Giants

On one rainy Wednesday in June, my son Jack and I had decided to go for a hike on the NCT north from Mayfield Rd trailhead to the Valley of the Giants, along
Twenty-two Mile creek. The trailhead was very easily accessible and as with the section of trail we had hiked,very well blazed. I have found it is much nicer walking along a trail that you can see, than trying to
bushwack one that really isn't there. We started out on a two-track heading north about 11:30 am. It was a cool day,about 60 degrees and we knew we were going to get wet. The rain did not matter though, I had this day off and we had a hike planned. As soon as we got started, we walked upon a doe and her fawn. We paused a moment and watched the deer eat along the trail. Never
would have seen that from the couch!
Our plan was to make it to Twenty-two mile creek in about an hour. That left no real time for lolly-gagging. We usually stretch a few minutes into our hikes. The trail followed a g
as pipeline on and off for about fifteen minutes. The ferns were waist high and the best shade of green. The trail turns into a single track and soon crosses a motorcycle single track. The section o
f the trail hiked today had crossed the cycle trail about five times.
There was evidence of the cycle trail being rode and the NCT had absolutely no cycle tracks on it. It is nice when those rules are followed.
The elevation did not change much until we dropped into the Valley of the Giants. We were now surrounded by the most beautiful cedars, not only for the visual enjoyment,
but the smell of the cedars overpowered all. We walked along the creek and had to cross it to a campsite that we had planned to have our lunch at. After about ten minutes we had a fire started and we were protected from the rain by the cedar brances. After lunch we walked along the creek to a beaver dam and we walked along the top of it. This was a very nice hike. The trail was in very nice shape. Hats off to all the volunteers who help support the trail. The trail really is in our big backyard.