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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bushwhacking & Butterflies...

... and Mosquitoes

two hikers

Today was one of our challenge days, but first let me tell you about the picture above. While in Marquette we are staying with a trail friend named Lorana. She has let us stay at her house and helped us find the trailheads and given us lots and lots of information about the local trail. Today was our last day of day hiking, and tomorrow we put on the full backpacks. So this morning Lorana drove out to the trailhead with us and hiked with us for about an hour, then drove Marie's car back to Marquette. As you can see, everyone is in full mosquito gear! The river beside them is the Little Garlic River which we more or less followed almost all day.

bridge made from rail car

We followed lovely trail for the first three miles, then the rest of the day was more or less a bushwhack. It began with following a bunch of sand roads, none of which were marked. However, Lorana's NCT Chapter has the way GPSed, and she is letting us borrow her unit for the rest of this hike. So we just needed to check at any junctions we weren't sure about, since the roads are on the base maps. (If you are curious about which GPS we had, it's pretty much the same as this one that I borrowed two years ago, the Garmin 76Cx) This was the most interesting feature of the road walking- a bridge over a stream made from an old railroad flat car!

tiger swallowtail butterflies

While we were still on the road we came upon this interesting scene. Try not to be grossed out. The flies and the butterflies were attracted to this dung pile. The butterflies like the moisture. These are Tiger Swallowtails.

using GPS

After the road section however, there was a real challenge. We had to find the beginning point of a blue line on the GPS map that showed where the chapter had scouted out potential trail. If we followed the blue line it would lead us to brand new (last fall) trail built by a volunteer crew for the final mile of the day. (We had put my car at the end point last night.)

We found the end of the blue line without much trouble and ranged back and forth across it, but couldn't find any blazes at all. We were working our way through thick forest with lots of hemlock (nasty to push through) with a very steep incline down to the Little Garlic River. At one point we managed to swing a bit too far north and got over on the next ridge, so we had to cut back across a gully to get back on the blue line. You can see me here studying the GPS, no trail in sight! While we were working our way back we came across a very old logging road that was going the correct direction. We took it, with a cliff on our left. I said, "I think whoever scouted this line was up on that cliff." Pretty soon the cliff came down and there was a break to the left. We ranged over that way to cross the blue line in a wide enough swing to take in the margin of error for a handheld GPS, and sure enough we found some blue blazes.

At that point there still wasn't really a treadway. The crew had been working from the other direction, and this was really close to the farthest point they had reached, where only minimal clearing, and some blaze painting had been done. Nevertheless, this was lots easier than total bushwhacking. The farther we went the better the trail got, with nice benching and rock work. We reached the car at 2:30, with the temperature at 86 degrees. We were not sad to go find a cold drink!

We came back to Lorana's and cleaned up, then re-organized the gear into the full backpacks. After that we put one car out at the place where we will end Tuesday night, and ate out on the way "home." Tomorrow is all road walking (dirt roads), then the next day is some possibly serious bushwhacking (with the GPS), and on Tuesday we'll be in the McCormick Wilderness, again with GPS help. It's really like shooting fish in a barrel with technology, but I have to admit that I did not turn down Lorana's offer to borrow hers!

See you Tuesday night with more "live action!" But I do have a post scheduled for every day in between.


Ann said...

It sounds like a great day. I wouldn't have noticed the flies in that picture if you hadn't mentioned it. I was too busy checking out the butterflies :)

betchai said...

oh, i should have learned about mosquito gears for hiking, we would have not suffered a lot when we hiked at Crater Lake in Oregon last summer, have been so used to almost mosquito less in the trails here that we were not prepared when we take the trail at Crater lake and we all ended up with tons of mosquito bites :( the butterfly shots.

Duxbury Ramblers said...

Fantastic!! I love the bridge (I must admit to being a waste not want not person so that is big on my recycling list)
The butterflies are beautiful.
As for the garmin GPS I keep being told we have to move with the times, today no one seems to understand maps and compass but all my girl guide training can be useful when the batteries fail :)
I have to own up to owning a basic garmin for recording locations of certain plants, it means I can locate them easily the next time I look for them but don't ask me to get you home with one :)

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