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.