Entries to Win Afghan

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Monday, October 31, 2016

Hike 100 Challenge- 85.7 and Still Walking

Today was a lovely hike, but the mileage was disappointing, only 7.4 according to the maps. Something seems wrong about that. If I hiked 12.8 miles in 4 hours and 10 minutes yesterday, and only 7.4 in 3 hours and 40 minutes today, when my pace felt about the same, either something drastically changed with me or one of those mileages is off. I could have walked farther before turning around, but didn't want to be out more than four hours, so I could be home in time to do some things.

Anyway... I won't be finishing the North Country Trail Hike 100 tomorrow because I'm not going to try to do 14+ miles and get home in time to clean up and go to bell practice. We'll see what the weather is. Now they are saying rain in the morning. I was hoping to hang out laundry. Options not looking so good right now. Maybe I can do a short walk close to home which would leave me with one do-able piece for another day.

I drove an hour each way to do this hike. Long, yes, but I "killed two birds." I had a box of stuff that needed to be delivered to someone, and I got that done, and hiked, seeing trail I hadn't been on for quite a while.

I started at Hodenpyl Dam, the northern end of the section our chapter maintains, and hiked south (and then back) more or less along the Manistee River. To put this in context, here's the view east. The shiny spot in the lower middle is the Manistee River below the dam. The big flat plain area across the middle of the picture is the dam. The bright line above that is Hodenpyl Dam Pond. The trail continues east and north from there. Most recently I hiked that with Dan and Ruth Dorrough. See Two Awesome Days.

Hodenpyl Dam Pond

Just below this is the Little Mac, the second largest suspension bridge in Michigan, which spans the river. It's not actually on the North Country Trail, but is on the connector with the Manistee River Trail. I didn't cross it today.

Little Mac Bridge

I'm not sure I'd actually ever done all of the first mile of trail I was on today. This section was completely re-routed since my hike that counted for my NCT E2E, and I think perhaps I hadn't seen this piece. It's on the rail bed of the former Manistee and North Eastern RR.

Manistee and NE RR bed

As soon as you leave the rail bed, the trail drops to Eddington Creek and Eddington Bridge, a lovely spot, and one of the first hikes I ever took on the NCT.

Eddington Bridge

Eddington Creek

Then begins a long climb along the side of a valley, until you reach the bluffs above the Manistee River.

benched trail

I pulled this view in with the telephoto to try to capture the colors on the far bank of the Manistee, and the blue hazy hill top beyond. It looks much farther away when you are there. On the far side is the Manistee River Trail which forms a 20 mile loop with the NCT. This is one of the most popular weekend hikes in the state, which is why I went on a Monday, not the weekend. I didn't see a single person. Yay!

Manistee River

This section of trail is characterized by several long gentle climbs and descents. Even with these hills, I can't account for my apparent lack of speed. The trail yesterday was rolling hilly, so I was going up and down all the time, just not for such long stretches.

Here are some fun finds. A really large red oak leaf.

red oak leaf

The sun came out toward the end of my walk. That always perks up the fall colors.

fall colors

I end with a question. Did you ever wonder why so many aspen leaves keep one streak of green in the next to the lowest space between veins? I see this all the time. I made a whole collection of them. I have no guesses as to why this happens.
EDIT: I did find out why this happens. See why at Yellow Memories
streaked aspen leaves

Total miles on the Hike 100 Challenge 85.7, with 14.3 to go. Chance of finishing tomorrow- zero. I'm just not going to push that hard. But today was a great hike!

See Marilla to Suspension Bridge
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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Hike 100 Challenge- 78.3 and Walking

The weather is supposed to be great for the next couple of days. I thought about making another backpacking trip, but decided that the 14 hours of darkness in the tent is not all that much fun alone. And I didn't really have time to get three days of food prepared.

But day hikes work great- they just require more driving. And hiking both directions unless someone spots you. But for the Hike 100 Challenge the miles on the North Country Trail do not have to be different, so both directions count.

Today I did a section that I may have seen less often than some others. Or maybe not. I've hiked all of our chapter's miles multiple times.

These are just some of the good pictures from today. My favorite thing about this section of trail is the small lake known as McCarthy Lake. It's a beautiful gem tucked into the middle of nowhere. It can be reached by car, and those who know how to do that (unmarked two-track roads) fill the campsites each summer weekend. This afternoon there was only one man there, fishing.

McCarthy Lake

Lots of people have been posting fungus and mushroom photos. With good reason- this has been a great year for them. Most are now past prime or have disappeared completely. But this polypore will march along dead logs all winter. I liked the leaf decoration.


I almost didn't see this little black fungus hiding in the leaves. I don't think it's a Chanterelle. It might be a tooth jelly. I've not seen them in black, but that doesn't mean anything. It could have been a different color when it was new. The shape is right, so I'll stick with my guess. I've seen these in some pretty amazing colors.

tooth jelly

This was kind of fun. A Hawthorne (Thornapple) had dropped its load of tiny apples right in the trail. I sampled one. Sure enough they are really sour (as I had been told). One could eat them if very hungry. Historically, they were used for pies and jellies, and even medicine. If combined with some sweeter fruit they are fine.

hawthorne apples

Witch Hazel's funky fall blossoms were looking good.

witch hazel

And, as I entered the flood plain for the Big Sable River, the fall colors presented nice contrasts. The yellow tamarack against the pines with a maple in the foreground.

autumn color

And this was my goal- my turnaround point- the NEW Vince Smith Bridge over the Big Sable River. This was a recent huge work project of the Forest Service and the local NCTA chapter. Unfortunately, I was working or sleeping every day they had volunteers helping, so I didn't do a darned thing. But today I got to see it. The Forest Service wanted a clear span bridge, with no footings in the river, so that's why it's so big.

new Vince Smith Bridge

The miles for the day were a couple more than I had desired, but I finished them with no problem. Total for the day, 12.8 miles. Total for the Hike 100 Challenge, 78.3 miles.

Yes, I'm going out again tomorrow.

North Country Trail Centerline Road to Big Sable River and back

See similar Spirit of the Woods Hike
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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Salvage and Recycle or Just Plain Cheap?

I will easily confess to all of the above. Other than being lazy today, I mended a cotton thermal blanket.

thermal blanket

While it's true that I could order a brand new one for under $20, I had this one. It was my mom's, part of her home medical equipment from her last years. I wanted a blanket that doesn't itch. I've become very sensitive to almost all synthetics.

This blanket had a major problem along one edge. The other damage made me think mice got in it, but this looks more like it got caught on something that also stained it. So I simply cut 14" off the side that had that big hole. Still leaves it plenty large enough for where I want to use it.

thermal blanket

It required four patches made from the salvaged good parts of the edge I cut off. Those holes were 2-3" on a side.

thermal blanket

Also machine darned seven other holes of about 1" diameter.

thermal blanket

Is it like new? Heck no. Is it serviceable for 10-20 years for me? Absolutely. And there's $20 I saved!

See How the Queen Packrat saved $35 and Made the Dog Sad
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Friday, October 28, 2016

Puppy Fix!

It was a party day at work today, and the boss brought in her two 7-week-old sister (mostly)-chocolate lab puppies. I was SO overdue for a puppy fix!


This one is Athena. I think she'll be the Alpha dog.

The smaller and lighter one is Venus. She's going to be the slightly timid sweetie.


Work has been challenging this week... lots of mechanical issues requiring extra human effort to get the job done. Seven hours today and I'm headed back for 7-8 more in a little while. Sleep tomorrow!

See A previous puppy fix
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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Red Sky Warning

The red sky in the morning warning sure was real today! I caught this on the way out of the driveway, heading to work.

red sunrise

Although it mostly happened while I was at work and I didn't get a picture, we had the first snowstorm of the winter! Wet, slushy stuff that stuck a little bit and then melted away.

However, have you seen the forecast for the weekend? It's going to be nice again! You know what I'm thinking...

See Sunrise - Sunset
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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Backpacking- Day Two

The second night was much warmer. It was 49 degrees in the tent when I woke up, and I slept toasty warm.

I find it interesting that whether it is cold or warm, bright sun or cloudy, wet or dry, it seems to take the same amount of time to get ready to hike in the morning. I suppose if it was really difficult to get the stove going it would take longer. Anyway.... it's an hour and a half for me from rolling out to putting feet on the trail. Of course, I'm not a morning person. At all.

It was still 49 when I started walking at 9:15. A heavy cloud bank hung in the southeast, even though the forecast had been for sun and temperatures in the 50s.

cloud bank

But off to the west, blue sky and puffy clouds prevailed, so I had hopes of a clear day. Still 49 degrees.

blue sky behind trees

I walked through this area that had been logged, or blown down and the timber salvaged. I liked the openness and desolate feel of the space. A light breeze rustled the drying leaves and made it somehow lonelier. The look of this space has changed completely since the last time I walked here.

open hillside

open hillside

Some portions of the space had been shaped by fire.

burnt tree

Still 49 degrees at noon. By one pm the thermometer had squeaked up to 50, but it didn't feel warmer.

This next picture shows how important it is to have good blazing on the trail, especially in fall. If it weren't for that blue mark, you might have a hard time figuring out where the treadway is in this section of woods.

autumn forest

A little bit of sun after lunch made the ferns golden behind the trees.

golden ferns

My final 1.7 miles were on roads to get back to the car at the NCTA Schoolhouse Hostel. Even so, that was also a pretty walk. I reached the car at 2:05 pm. Still 50 degrees.

5 Mile Road

There it is, safe and sound. For which I praise the Lord. (No joking, I did a really stupid thing and was very happy to find the car where I left it.)

NCTA Schoolhouse

So, what are the statistics? 24.2 total miles walked. 22.5 of them count for my Hike 100, which brings that total to 65.5.

Wildlife seen or heard? Squirrels, several barred owls, woodpeckers, a blue jay, chickadees, the garter snake, a chipmunk, tiny fish in Nichols Lake, crows, deer and a slug. I scared up a large bird that I never saw, but it made a huge racket taking off from the tree next to me. The pine plantation was full of spiders. I cleared three fat ones out of my tent and I only had the screen open a short while. Also had to chase out several small flying things and a housefly! Even though the night before had frosted, the insect population was alive and well.

The second day always feels worse than the first. In some ways this was true, but not in one respect. I lengthened the time between rests to 45 minutes, and that went fine. Toward the end of the day one heel was feeling a little sore, but nothing awful. I was pretty stiff last night after I got home, but that's because I stopped moving. If the hike had gone on, I know today I would have felt even better. Two or three-day hikes will nearly convince you to give it up because you always end when you feel the worst.

Two people have asked where these hikes fit into the chapters of my book, North Country Cache. In general I knew who I had hiked portions of this with, but I had to look up the actual beginning and end points. This spans parts of two short hikes and all of two others recorded in the book.

North Country Cache

From 96th St to 16 Mile Road is in the chapter "Rain First, Umbrellas Last," first hiked with three strangers in June 1999.

From 16 Mile Road to 11 Mile Road is in the chapter "White Lace and a Million Fireflies," first hiked with a brave friend in March 1998 in a huge snowstorm. The trail sure looks different without a foot of snow on the ground. The man who helped me put my car in place for this hike is pretty sure that he is the woodcutter we passed and greeted on that wintry day!

From 11 Mile Road to Pierce Rd is "Lightning and the Snail," first hiked in November 1999. Ginny Wunsch, early volunteer for the North Country Trail, the person who brokered the deal to acquire the schoolhouse pictured above which served as the first HQ, spotted me for that hike. She has now passed away.

From Pierce Rd to 5 Mile Road was covered in "Rocky and the Rock," first hiked in June 1997 with a friend and her two daughters. They were being homeschooled and Roxanne (Rocky) wanted them to have a backpacking experience. We camped near Minnie Creek and I found our exact campsite and the place where we drew water to treat. We were serenaded that night by a whole chorus of barred owls! Both girls are now grown with families of their own.

See Beginning and Day One
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Monday, October 24, 2016

Backpacking- Beginning and Day One

This is going to be a WAY longer than usual blog post just because I feel like giving you more than the highlights. It's almost going to be a trail journal, which are mostly boring, but someone might be interested. I'll try not to get bogged down in trivia.

I made the effort to get myself and my gear organized to go on a two-day backpacking trip. I was highly motivated by the North Country Trail Hike 100 Challenge (hike 100 NCT miles in 2016). I'm in danger of not completing it unless I get busy. That just won't do! Although I've hiked 250 Buckeye Trail miles this year, they are not miles that are concurrent with the NCT, and I'm way behind.

This is a cheater pic. I did take it on this hike on Sunday, but I'm presenting it out of sequence, just because it's so beautiful, and it pretty much shows how I feel about the North Country Trail at any given moment. It just calls to me.

trail in sun

So I left Saturday late afternoon (it gets dark about 7 pm), and was dropped off at 96th St just after 5 o'clock by trail friends Michael and Michelle Sweet. That's the Lake/Newaygo County line.


My goal for Saturday was to get just far enough in that I could call it a start and get camp set up before dark. I walked a half hour and started looking for a place. Dispersed camping is allowed in the Manistee National Forest, but you are supposed to be 200 feet off the trail. I found this nice little spot to tuck in. I'd already eaten, so just had an apple for a snack (my one weighty piece of food and I knew I was going to eat it right away), and read for a while.

The temperature got down to 36 where I was, and I was mighty glad I did take the extra thermal blanket or I would have been cold. My sleeping bag doesn't have the insulating power it did 25 years ago. Ha! I'm thinking of replacing it with a very expensive one.

The campsite picture was taken in the morning as I was heating water for breakfast.


Here's the same spot just a few minutes later, just as I was getting ready to leave. This is called "Leave No Trace." You want to leave a dispersed site so that no one will be able to tell you were there. Sometimes the grass might be flattened a bit, but you should make no permanent changes. In the fall it's easy to fluff up the leaves and your presence becomes invisible.


The temperature was up to 39 degrees F when I began hiking. I was only a few minutes down the trail when I realized that there had been frost in low areas.

frosty marsh

Even though it was still really chilly, I stopped at Cedar Creek, the first stream, to fill my water. I have a couple of different purification systems, but I took the Steripen to treat my water with UV light, and because there was a fair amount of debris in the water I also filtered it through a plain old coffee filter.

purifying water

I did make one concession to the fact that I haven't actually backpacked in a couple of years. I took a short break every half hour. That seemed to work well. I didn't get sore at all, anywhere. And my planned mileages weren't long enough that I needed to push really hard.

This section of trail passes by a series of lovely small lakes. Most of my pictures are blurry though. I kept clearing the lens, but I guess it just kept fogging up. Anyway, these two closeups are a nifty trick of the morning light. No post-editing done.

blue reflection

blue lilies

The day continued to warm until it reached a high of 63 degrees with sun. I met several other hikers, and saw a fair amount of wildlife. I'll give you the whole list tomorrow, but the treat of the day was this slim little garter snake.

garter snake

You know I love to put polka dots and stripes together, and I even got the leaves to cooperate.

dotted and striped leaves

At one of my breaks I looked down at a fallen tree and saw this blue nail sticking out. A mystery? Nah. Not if you do trail work. This tree used to have an old nail-up blaze that got painted over with North Country blue, and then the blaze fell off and the tree fell down! But it was good for a chuckle.

blue nail

My pack (Shamu) was riding well, and feeling like an old friend. 35 pounds in a well-fitting pack with a hip band isn't much worse than 20 pounds hanging on your shoulders. Better, really, it doesn't make your arms go numb. Nevertheless, I had passed my self-prescribed goal for the day and told myself that I'd start looking for a place to camp in 30 minutes (at 3:45). However, in 20 minutes, I came to an unexpected stream with clear flowing water.


There's nothing so secure as having water near your campsite. Done deal. I nosed around and found this red pine plantation just a little bit upstream. Talk about a cushy place to make your bed!


The camp chores all have to do with basic needs. Above you can see that my tent is already set up (bed made up inside, most gear put in its nighttime location). Next I fixed dinner. Beef stew with dumplings. Yum.

camp dinner

I cook with a little Sierra Zip stove. It uses wood in a firebox with a fan. It's dirty and sometimes smokey, but I like it a lot. No worries or weight with fuel.

Sierra Zip Stove

Firewood collection? Yup. All gathered and protected so it will be dry in the morning. That's it. This amazing little stove will boil 2 cups of water with just those few twigs.


Next chore- hang the food (and trash) well away from the tent so the critters won't bother you and won't get the food.

hanging food cache

Cleanup is done, everything is stowed for the night. Now I'm ready for comforts. My chair. Cushy socks and sandals. A chocolate for dessert, cup of hot tea, and a book. Life is good! About 12 miles for the day.

camp chair

Come back tomorrow for part two unless you were totally bored! If you were, I can't help you. Haha. Because this is real living to me.

See Vermont - the last time I backpacked
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