Entries to Win Afghan

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Winners are: 3rd place- e-book of your choice: Wendy Nystrom. 2nd place- book of your choice, paper or e-book: Sue Ann Crawford. Winner of the afghan: Elaine Hull.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Ward Hills Fire Tower Again

Today I had several adventures. I'll tell you about the one I planned. Maybe you'll hear about the others later. (Maybe not!)

I had to go to Irons to interview someone for my newspaper column. On the way home, about the closest place to take a little hike was to go up to the old Ward Hills fire tower. You can still drive up there, but it makes a nice walk if you don't.

Here are the footings for the tower. It's easy to see three of them, but the fourth one is there. People now drive right up there and camp.

Ward Hills fire tower site

It looks like the last time I blogged about it was in 2010, so it's time you saw it again!

You would need a tower to get a view there any more. Although the site is a hill that drops away steeply on three sides (you can pretty much tell that in the above picture) and more gently on the road side, the trees have grown up all around. Here's the only bit of a view you have to the west now. You can just see some blue hills in the distance.

Ward Hills view

Actually, the most interesting thing is the foundation of the old tower keeper's house. I sure thought I had blogged about that before, but I can't find it, so you do get something new. It was small, but I always stand there and imagine what the house would have been like. I think it would have been a perfect place to live.

Ward Hills fire tower keeper's house foundation

The other interesting feature is the benchmark from the 1980 Geodetic Survey.

Ward Hills benchmark

The temperatures were cool today, only in the high 50's. Hey, I like it. You'll get no complaints from me. I had a nice interview, an interesting walk, and learned several new things (the other adventures you may hear about). I wrote this month's newspaper column. I feel refreshed to face another work week.

See Walking at Ward Hills
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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Manistee National Forest Challenge Hike #5

Today was the fifth hike in the series to walk the entire Manistee National Forest this season. Ten hikers this time.

group photo hikers

We started at Nichols Lake. The weather was absolutely perfect for hiking. Mid 60's temperature, mostly cloudy, but with some blue sky showing through. The mosquitoes weren't bad at all.

Nichols Lake

For the first few miles north of Nichols Lake the trail winds between a series of small lakes. Leaf Lake is my favorite because it has so many little bays and wetland areas.

Leaf Lake

Every bit of the hike today is included in what I backpacked, solo, last fall. But this time the travel was south to north, and of course this is summer. It looked so different! The first time I ever hiked this piece, it was winter.

We have one sub-group that moves really fast down the trail. As I said last week, I'm happy enough to stay in the rear. Stopping to take pictures of the little joys I find is one of the best parts of hiking for me.

This week I found a hawk feather. I also heard a scarlet tanager, but couldn't find the bird to go with the song.

hawk feather

Cedar Creek is always a favorite spot. It never seems to change the way it looks; the water level and color always seem about the same.

Cedar Creek

Here's one of the mysterious purple mushrooms. I'm pretty sure this is Blewit, but there was only the one, and I didn't want to pull it up to look at the gills. That doesn't kill the mushrooom (most of the organism is underground), but it would ruin it for other hikers to see.

Blewit mushroom

We've seen Indian Pipes on almost every one of these hikes, but most of the clumps haven't really been photo worthy. This one isn't bad.

Indian Pipes

Eleven miles. The leaders did it in 3 hours and 25 minutes. I was sweep, bringing up the rear, and my time was 4 hours 15 minutes (inclusive of 3 rest stops). I don't know why I'm even telling you this. These hikes are not supposed to be races. We have several people who just want to do them fast, and they seem to be driving the group only because they don't like to wait for us to get to the cars at the end. Unfortunately, both of the vehicles at the end belonged to the "slower" hikers. At least the two people who like waiting the least got their car in place at the end, so they could leave as soon as they finished.

Anyway, I did one of my favorite activities on the way home. Pick a dirt road going in the right direction and follow it till I have to take another. Made it to within 2 miles of my house by this method (not all dirt, but quite a lot) before having to get on the highway (river crossings on bridges are recommended in vehicles).

16 Mile Road

Food, shower, jammies. A little rain outside to end the evening. A really nice day.

North Country Trail, Newaygo County, Nichols Lake north to 96th St

See MNF Challenge Hike #4
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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Johnson Road Wetland- Two Seasons

The afternoon was absolutely beautiful! About 70 degrees, sunny with a breeze, blue sky and clouds. I slept as late as I wanted to today (12:30) then woke up slowly. Result: I did not feel awful. So I went for a walk- my standard road loop plus a little spur to check out the wetland on Johnson Road. It's pretty big- at least 5 acres.


It looks like a meadow that you could just walk through, doesn't it? Not so. This is the same wetland, same view, I showed you in April.


You can certainly tell in early spring that it has open water over much of the area.

Here's the same view in March. Pretty much the same as April, but the sky looks more wintry.


I'm liking this spot quite a bit. It adds about a half mile to my walk, so it makes a nice occasional diversion (and a small hill). I also think it's interesting that there is no inlet or outlet from this wetland. (Note later- I found another basemap that shows an intermittent stream connecting to my cemetery creek. This makes more sense.) Perhaps I'll try to walk across it some winter when things are really frozen solid.

The base of the "V" shows where I was standing and the direction of view for the picture.

wetland map

See Spring- Auto Load in Slow Mode
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Friday, June 23, 2017

Flowering Plant, No Flower

This is a case of me simply procrastinating about looking something up. These grow throughout our field. I've known it was one of the wild garlics (hey, it smells and tastes like garlic- I've even cut up some stems to cook with), but I didn't know which one. I could never seem to find it in flower. You'd think after ten years or so I might catch on.

field garlic

Anyway, this week I tried to look it up, even without a flower. Well, guess what! Although it's a flowering plant, it often has no flower at all, just those little green tails growing from the bulblets. So I'm not totally unobservant. It can have flowers, little white ones, but mine apparently don't like to expend that much energy. It propagates by dropping the bulblets.

It's field garlic, Allium vineale.

field garlic

Here's the bad news. It's alien. Here's the really bad news. It's considered an invasive problem species because when livestock eat it, it taints the milk and meat with garlic flavor. Bummer. I had thought it was kinda cool-looking. Now I'll have to learn to not like it. I can keep on eating it, but I can't eat fast enough to get rid of it.

See Ramps (another Allium)
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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Peony Surprise

I've apparently never showed you my peony before. That's not the surprise. It doesn't usually bloom.


In fact, in the 46 years we've lived on this property (and the peony was there when we moved in) it has only bloomed in the years I remembered to fertilize it just when the leaves were coming up. You know me well enough to guess that was not very often. I did pretty well the few years I worked hard at flower gardens, but that's not too recent.

The big surprise is that I did not fertilize it this year and got three blossoms anyway. Not bad for no effort.


That said, of all the peonies there are in the world, the double pink ones are my least favored. When I was a kid we had a long strip bed of them that were alternated white and deep red. That I liked. In fact, I went back to that house once between owners and "stole" a dark red one. Guess what. When it came up and bloomed it had reverted to pink. I didn't know they would do that. Needless to say, that was a bummer.

So, I played with the picture. This peony I could almost like.


If I ever get back to Ann Arbor at the right time of year, Nichols Arboretum has a spectacular peony garden. That would be a photo op, for sure.

See Single Peony
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