Entries to Win Afghan

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cooper Creek

Ellen had to go out of town, so already our weekly hike plan has a kink. But today was wonderful, with a temperature in the high 40s, and sunshine! Tomorrow it's supposed to rain, so I HAD to go out today. I decided to do some more exploring for the Adventure Loop I'm researching. I knew that it is easy to hike NE from Cooper Creek out to Forest Trail Road, but I wasn't sure how easy the route was to follow in the other direction. So I decided to do that. I drove out to the corner in the picture at Exporing Like a 10-Year-Old. Then I began hiking down the road.

After about a mile I came to a dead-end turnaround. Uh-oh! I indicated what the road does with the yellow line. I didn't remember this!

turnaround at end of forest road

Don't worry, it wasn't a serious problem. The real problem was that it was so long ago that I hiked through from the other direction that I couldn't remember quite how I got out to this road from the creek. I poked around a little bit off the end of the road. Here's a lesson... I noted a large red oak tree to keep my eye on as I left the end of the road. It was amazing to me how instantaneously that oak disappeared in a screen of saplings. I was paying attention, though, and had also noted that I could see a line of snow at the edge of the road berm. It turned out that was the feature to keep track of. My point is... anyone who wanders in the woods off trail knows enough to keep track of where you have come from. The lesson is that you can't always count on one particular feature being a good landmark.

Off the end of the road the land quickly fell off into wetlands. I suspected that it was the headwaters of Cooper Creek, but it didn't look familiar. I followed a faint, very old two-track for a ways. It had enough snow that I could follow my own footprints back. But the track and the snow petered out, and the creek still wasn't looking familiar. So I turned back. I had one other idea.

turnoff of forest road

About a quarter-mile back I had noticed this grassy track going off to the right, as I was hiking in. Since this whole walk wasn't overly long, and the road was mostly clear of snow, there was plenty of time and energy for exploring side tracks. I don't want to overdo the pictures, but there were some areas still snow-covered, and some that were completely flooded, forcing us off into the woods to get around the "ponds." But, this is Michigan, and people will take trucks anywhere that isn't fenced off, so all of these places had been driven since our last dump of snow last week.

So we turned down that side track and it immediately headed off to the SW, so that was promising.

Cooper Creek

And, in about a quarter mile, there we were- right where I wanted to be. Maggie is standing on the near bank of Cooper Creek. It looks like the road continues, and it does, but the vehicular bridge is long gone. It might even have been removed on purpose when this all became National Forest. I hadn't been on this side of the creek since 2008. So how does one get across?

Cooper Creek bridge

Well, there is a bridge. It's downstream about 200 feet. The first time I was here in 2008 I didn't even see the bridge. It was August, and I just waded the creek. Actually, I was on my bike, so also had to carry it across.

I discovered the bridge the second time I came to the creek. But the bridge wasn't much use. There was a tree that had fallen on an angle across it, and it no longer quite connected to the north bank. It could be used in a pinch, but was pretty difficult. It was in the same condition last April when I hiked in from the other side again.

As you can see, it's now clear and solidly placed. Can you see the scrapes in the middle? I'm attributing the work to snowmobilers. I'm sure this would be a popular winter route, since it uses all old roads. The Forest has just clamped down hard on taking motorized vehicles anywhere one pleases, but it will take years to get even reasonable compliance. I'll have to look up whether this is one of the approved routes.

So, to sort of quote Rose... "that's what I did today!"

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Cocoon Mystery

photo label

Here's my little gray mystery. This cocoon has been hanging on the end of my kitchen steps' handrail all winter. It appears similar to a bagworm (no, I'm not making that up), but they usually look "twiggier" and are a bit fatter. I spent a couple of hours last night hunting on line, but couldn't match it. It's soft, and the only attachment is at the tip, so it sways in the breeze. It's only about 1.25 inches long.

Cocoons and chrysalises can be really challenging. If I happen to see when the moth appears, I'll be sure to let you know. If any of you have any further insight, please let me know!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

While I Was There

knots on barn wood

While I was at the barn yesterday I took a bit of a look, other than just the usual sighs over the fact that it's falling down and we can't afford to do anything about it. Old wood has such character!

gable of weathered barn

Didn't realize how colorful this one was until I looked at it on the computer.

knots on barn wood

And this one has color, shape, texture... whatever you want.

I have a mystery cocoon. With or without an ID... come back tomorrow to see.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cold and Sparkling

It's hard to believe that it's the last few days of March and we are having single-digit temperatures at night. In fact, it was still only 5 degrees at 9 am. Those are Fahrenheit degrees, for those of you readers who use Celsius. Maggie and I took a little walk beside the road. As we came back up the driveway something was flashing and sparkling beside our decrepit barn. Do you know where?

weathered barn wall

See that grass in the area where the foundation is falling out?

ice on grass

Just ordinary icicles?

ice on grass


ice on grass
How about a long-billed bird, dipping for water? Or does he want an icy fish?

See Ice on the Pine

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Who Went to Hackert Lake?

squirrel tracks
The squirrel went to Hackert Lake. Remember, the squirrel is a "hopper," with the large back feet landing in front of the front feet. I think this might have been a fox squirrel because the prints were fairly large, but there's no way to be sure. It could have been a large gray squirrel.

deer tracks
The deer went to Hackert Lake. This deer was just walking along, not even worrying about picking up her feet. I'm guessing a doe... medium-sized prints. Look deep in the lowest print and you will see the two definite hoof marks.

fox tracks
The fox went to Hackert Lake. Why do I think this was a fox and not just some neighborhood dog? The primary reason is that I could smell it. Foxes tend to leave a very pungent scent trail and if you are there on the same day as they were it's very distinctive. Also, notice how the tracks are very much in a straight line, with each foot placed almost straight ahead of the last one? That's more typical of a wild canine rather than a domestic dog.

Hackert Lake

Maggie and I went to Hackert Lake. I'm guessing that you figured that out! This is a small lake only about four miles from my house. We drove over there and were pleased to discover that although the road wasn't plowed it had been driven enough that I could get through. There is a tiny park and a boat launch site.

Then, we walked down Quarterline Road the other way until it dead-ends. I'd never walked to the end of it. Actually, I still haven't because there was deep snow at the south end, and the road continued for at least another quarter mile. So, I'm assured of an adventure for another day. (Just in case you thought I might run out!)

So, we saw nothing new or exciting, but we had a lovely walk in the bright sunshine!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ducks of the Day

I'm not so great at recognizing waterfowl, but I'm trying to improve that. Ellen and I recognized a few yesterday that I'm not even showing you today. We saw mallards, and buffleheads. It's not that they aren't nice ducks, but we are both trying to sort out some of the ones we don't know. Thanks to binoculars and the zoom lens, I can identify some of them now. I'll show the poorest picture first.
Lesser Scaup

On the left is a male Scaup, the question is... Greater or Lesser. I guessed Lesser, but local bird expert Dave Dister things Greater, so that works for me! So it's Aythya marila. Notice its pointy head. Behind it, the other duck in profile, is the female with that white patch behind her bill. Sorry the pictures are fuzzy, but I had the lens all the way out, including optical zoom, and was just holding the camera by hand. These were on Pere Marquette Lake, the deep lake that connects with Lake Michigan. It's where the carferries dock.

ring-neck duck

Here's a duck that I saw last spring on Nordhouse Lake. However, the ducks decided to be confusing. They were swimming in "unmatched" pairs. The duck in front is a female ring-necked duck, Aythya Collaris. The duck behind her is a female common merganser, Mergus merganser. Maybe they are enjoying a bit of conversation without the boys around.

ring-neck duck

Here is Mr. ring-neck. I know... the ring is around his beak. But the books say that the neck is cinnamon color, but is hard to see in the field. So you just have to do some mental gymnastics with the name.

male common merganser

This is the best picture I got. This is the male common merganser. Yes, this stunning guy goes with the lady with the brown crest. He can raise his crest too when he wants to. There's a link below to the post where I captured one flying in to Pentwater Lake. The ones today are on Lincoln Lake, a wide place just before Lincoln River empties into Lake Michigan.

male common merganser

However, this is the "best" find of the day. The duck in front of that male ring-neck is a merganser that I've never seen before. At least, I didn't know it if I did. At first, I wasn't paying attention. It was swimming with the ring-necked pair and the female common merganser. But it's not a common merganser, it's a red-breasted merganser. Look how different it is- the white stripe around its neck, the brown spotted breast and that row of spots at the base of the wing. Very cool. And if it's really common... I don't care. It's new for me.

See Bird Days for the ring-necked duck last spring
See A Waterfowl Puzzle for another merganser

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ellen and Joan's Urban Walk

Fruits of Farming sculpture

Ellen and I are going to be taking a hike every Friday for a few weeks. She has a Smoky Mountain adventure scheduled with friends in May, and she wants to get in shape. You might think that our choice of a hike local is odd, but I can explain. We hiked through Ludington, along the waterfront, and out of town to "First Curve" a parking location on the way to the state park. It was almost all on pavement, 5.3 miles.

The one off-pavement section was on-snow. One piece of the Ludington Waterfront Walkway goes through the Waterfront Park, which the city is also trying to establish as a sculpture park. There was a new one added last summer, named "Fruits of Farming." We had to fool around and take our pictures with it. Ellen is trying to steal a carrot, and I guess Maggie is attacking that flat of cherries at my feet. I'll need to go back in summer. The rest of the display was covered in snow.

Want a better look at what's in the girl's basket?

Fruits of Farming sculpture

One part of our hike took us along some former industrial buildings. They are rather sad memorials to the fact that small factories rarely survive in this day and age. This nifty logo was on the front of the decaying Thompson Cabinet Company.

Thompson Cabinet Company Logo

We also walked by the marina. It's so empty and desolate at this time of year! But from this perspective you can see both of the Queens at the same time. The Queens? If you were here a couple of weeks ago, you know that they are the carferries the Spartan and the Badger.

Badger and Spartan carferries

So, we continued through the edge of town, and saw lots of blue water. At least the sun was shining! And this will be the segue and tease for tomorrow's post. I think you'll find it ducky.

Oh, and the reason we were doing this pavement hike? It's a piece of a dream of mine for a trail that encircles about 80 miles in Mason and Lake Counties. There's a link below to a very early post about some exploring for it.

See Twin Queens of the Lakes
See Exploring Like a 10-Year-Old

Thursday, March 24, 2011

One Last Hurrah?

snow and long shadows

Sorry to do this to you. However, it's really defining our lives this week. Winter just had to have one last laugh. I had to run the snowblower yesterday, I skied today. But Ellen and I are going for an urban hike tomorrow. Hopefully the existing snow won't affect that.

Anyway... the shadows ARE pretty. I think this has to become a part of my "Moods of my Backyard" series.

Actually, that leads me to a blog housekeeping topic- organization. I have figured out a way to better organize past posts so that you, and I, can find things you might recall and want to see again. I've got a lot of projects going on, but I hope to start working on it soon. The tag cloud will go away and hopefully the alternative will be more useful.

Meanwhile, I'm going to bring the first "mood" photo over to this blog. At least it wasn't on a snowy day, so that should cheer us all a bit. This one was taken August 5, 2008.

fog on hills

If you want to see all the "Moods of My Backyard" posts, here's the link: Moods of My Backyard

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Catching the Sun- Sort of Kitchenhenge - Spring Equinox 2011


It's been a while since we've visited Kitchenhenge. The sun may always be there, but the clouds don't cooperate very well. I rarely manage to get a picture on the actual mornings of the solstices or equinoxes. This year was no exception; so I bring you the sunrise of March 19.

vernal equinox

Remember that the red line is just to help you line up the pictures. It always goes through the same tree. The next picture is last spring, taken on March 18

vernal equinox

In 2009, I was a few days later, March 23, and the sun was higher too. It angles off toward the right as it rises.

vernal equinox

And now it's another March 23, but there's no sun here... everything is buried in white again. I guessing you don't want to see that right now. So, I'm glad that I captured that elusive sun the other morning. I carried its joy and warmth with me all day.

holding the sun

But, don't worry. I remembered to put it back in the evening.

holding the sun

See Kitchenhenge- Spring Equinox 2010

Just a Tweak

I have succeeded in making the main section of this blog wider so that I can make some of the pictures larger. The new background is made from delphiniums and tulips seen at the Philadelphia Flower Show, and I also made a new avatar for spring.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I'm Green

The landscape outside has turned white again for one (?) last laugh. Thanks to many blogging friends, chief among them Carol of Duxbury Ramblers, I'm green with envy for green. Rather than fly into a green rage, I'll just overload you with green from the Philadelphia Flower Show. Enjoy the variations in shade and texture!


Foxtail Asparagus Fern


Croton (some variety)


Euphorbia x martinii 'Tiny Tim' spurge


Asplenium antiquum 'Victoria' - curly bird's nest fern


Bowiea volubilis

Perhaps, tomorrow, I'll be able to think of another color.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Roads- Old and Older

I see a lot of local roads on my new job. That's OK with me. One of my "hobbies" is to drive around back roads just for the heck of it. I try not to waste gas, but if I'm somewhere and can work my way home by taking a different route, I try to do so. That means that I know a lot more back roads than most people.

But not enough of them! I still have to look up a lot of the addresses I'm visiting. (It's amazing how many of them Google gets wrong.) At any rate, I was taking a back route from one site to another, and thankfully it was dry today, and the snow is off the back roads. I passed a sign that said "Road Narrows," went down a hill and around a curve, and found myself on Baseline Road.

narrow, wooded Baseline Road

You can probably guess that I like those kinds of signs and these kinds of roads! It makes me want to go back in the summer with my bicycle. But, even so, this was not the best road of the day.

I probably can't show you the nifty house I had to picture... conflict of interest, or confidentiality, or something. But I can show you a picture that I didn't have to turn in for work. You'll have no idea where it is anyway. The "real" road ended at an old farmhouse, painted quite colorfully. As I was doing my survey, I realized that the front of the house was on the opposite side... with only woods in front of it. The owner then showed up, and she pointed out the "old carriage road," as she called it, which did, indeed come right up the edge of a hill to the front of the house.

old carriage road

Now, that section of road is abandoned, and the trees have created a shield at the edge of the hill. The house overlooks a field in the valley with just a glimpse of a paved county road in the distance. It was a beautiful spot!

Now we are going to have a couple more days of winter! Ice and snow on the way.

See The Wagon Road for another abandoned route