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Thursday, March 31, 2011
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!
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.
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.
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?
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!"