It looked like today was going to be a questionable day for a hike. High winds and rain began last night. Things were still blustery and wet this morning. Several people cancelled. Those of us who did not cancel drove in real rain all the way to the trailhead. Even so, we ended up with ten hikers
Every single one of these hikes has had good weather. The worst we could complain of were a couple of days that were pretty hot. So we figured we were due to get wet. But.
We did not get wet! The rain stopped, and the sun even showed up intermittently. Enough to make a shadow. The temperature was in the 50s, which I consider perfect for hiking.
The colors are still not happening where I live. But this is an hour north. It was great to see that we might still have autumn color here.
This sassafras even produced an odd-colored Michigan leaf. They are usually almost all yellow.
Of our whole series, this was the hike with the most topography. Most of the trail hills are well-designed, though, so they aren't painful to hike. Some of the switchbacks also present nice photo ops.
One of the neat things about this section is that you can look across to the opposite side of the Manistee River. The views of fall color over there are always appealing, but very hard for the camera to capture. This isn't too bad.
In this case, the color is on our side of the river.
We knew there were only 1.5 miles to go when we reached Eddington Creek. We stopped for a snack break then climbed to reach the final mile which was on a railroad bed. Easy ending!
We had an interesting people encounter in this last bit of trail. More on that in a minute.
The ending was at Hodenpyl Dam, and Hodenpyl Dam Pond. It's pretty large- a lake, but the name is pond. Three of our group were camping out and hiking on northward for two more days.
It was a good ending for a good series of hikes, and lots of new friendships made. About 120 miles total hiked over the season- all the North Country Trail in the Manistee National Forest.
Now for the people we met. There was a group of six young people who asked us if we'd seen another couple (defined as a guy and girl- I do not mean to imply a relationship, since I have no knowledge on this topic), whom they described. We had not seen them. They gave one of our group a cell phone number in case we did see them. Then they split up and continued jogging down trails, hunting for the missing hikers.
We got to the end of our hike and one car was already on the way back to the start point to take someone to a car. I was also going there, and left just a few minutes later. As I came up to that vehicle, they were stopped in the road (narrow dirt- not a highway) talking to this missing couple. But they did not have either the cell number of the group leader or the number of the guy in our group who did take that number. I did have our guy's number. I told the kids to get in the car (their English wasn't too good), and made the call. He called the group leader. I took the kids back to the trailhead where their group leader came to get them.
The couple was lost. They had walked for four extra hours in full packs, not knowing where they were. I will say that they were neither cold (they had rain gear and hats) nor hungry, but the girl said she was starting to get scared.
I can't begin to tell you how many things are wrong with this scenario! Oh wait. Yes I can. And I will.
The couple did not have the cell number of their leader. They did not know where the group was going to be camping. They had a map, but apparently couldn't read it. They were unable to show us on the map where they had been or where they were. Somehow the group let this obviously inexperienced couple get separated from the rest of them. Apparently no one in the main group had the cell phone number of these kids (who said they did have a phone).
Since the kids had full packs on, I assume they had tent or tents. But it was starting to rain again by then, and it wasn't going to be long before dusk set in. I don't know if they had ever spent a night in the woods, let alone lost and by themselves. I don't know if they had the ability to start a fire, or if they had food with them (perhaps someone else had all the group food).
Plan, people. Communicate, people. There was no reason this became a near crisis. Make sure everyone in the group knows the destination and contact numbers. Keep track of your group members. If there are places where the trail splits or turns make sure everyone knows what to do at these junctions.
Well, I'm glad we were able to help, and keep this from becoming something serious. I hope they aren't deterred from going on another overnight hike, but that all of them learn some lessons from this.
North Country Trail, Upper River Road TH north to Hodenpyl Dam TH, 10.5 miles
|See MNF Hike #12|
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