Entries to Win Afghan

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Friday, January 31, 2020

West Side Allegan State Game Area

I promised more pictures from yesterday, and here you are. After I did the beautiful walk beside Swan Creek, I went to the west side of Allegan State Game Area and did a piece of the Wakazoo Trail there. It was much more level, and also more clear. This is why I concluded after the fact that I probably could have done the loop in two days.

trail through snow

I was planning to go as far as the campground, but came to this section where the trail was completely flooded. I'm sure I could have found a way around it if I had to. But I didn't have to, so I turned around and went the other way for a distance.

flooded trail

Here's a rough map of where the Wakazoo Trail goes in red. It's not laid over the base layer precisely, but it's close. And I'm confused as to where the trail leaves the southeast corner, going west. The map shows it south of 116th Ave, but there was a trail going west that is north of 116th. Since all their trails are blazed with yellow splotches, I'd need to do more exploring on the ground to be sure of where to go. That may have been a ski trail, although their info says ski trails are marked in blue.

Wakazoo Trail map

Nevertheless, this is certainly a place I want to come hike in nicer weather. With the purple Swan Creek Trails, and ~10 miles of ski trails that can probably be hiked in the summer as well, you could easily spend two or three days here hiking and camping. There are also equestrian trails, but they probably don't want hikers on those since horses can get spooked. I couldn't get a map of those.

It is a State Game Area so dispersed camping is only allowed from Sept 10 to May 15, and with a permit. However, there are several inexpensive campgrounds for summer use. Ely Lake is rustic and open all year- latrines, tables and fire rings only, 75 sites, but you can drive in. There is supposedly one other campground, family and equestrian camp. I could not find it, but I think it was at the end of an unplowed road.

Some bright moss.

moss in snow

And I especially liked this mossy bank that looks like it's floating in the whiteness.

mossy bank

In other news: I chilled, and also I worked on the plot for the next Dubois Files book.

See Take the Adventure You Are Given

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Take the Adventure You are Given

Today was wonderful but it wasn't exactly the adventure I had planned. But it turned out fine. I wanted to walk all 14.6 miles of the loop Wakazoo Trail in the Allegan State Game Area. I had monitored the snow cover on two websites with that information, and the general weather for over a week. It was looking good. There was supposed to be a trace to 1" of snow on the ground. Ha!

Then, it took me a lot longer to get there from Ester's than I thought. I needed all the daylight I could have to do that many miles. But it didn't matter anyway, because there was way too much snow and ice to try to do the whole loop. I considered breaking it up at a campground that is open all year, but wasn't even sure I could do 10 miles.

So, I stopped at the DNR office for more maps, and found out they have other trails as well, so I devised plan B. First I did the south leg of the Swan Creek Loop trail, which was gorgeous. You can see Swan Creek Pond through these big hemlocks. Yellow spot on the tree is a trail marker. Messy but plenty of them.

Swan Creek Trail

It was also pretty difficult walking where the trail was a narrow shelf at the edge of the hill that dropped down to Swan Creek Pond or the creek. I needed to take some of that quite slowly because it was treacherous. The first half of this loop is also part of the Wakazoo Loop.

Here's the south end of the Pond where it begins to back up into the creek.

Swan Creek

Some swans and geese.

geese and swans

The east side of the loop doesn't have as many nice views of the water, but it was pretty woods trail. To close this loop at the north end you walk back across the bridge where you get a nice open view of the pond.

Swan Creek Pond

Here were the conditions. In a few places it was pretty clear and walking was easy

Swan Creek Trail

In most places it was icy lumpy frozen footprints and the walking was tough. No complaints, it's just the way it was.

Swan Creek Trail

After I did this, I went to the west side and did some of the Wakazoo loop there. I'll show you that tomorrow. All in all, I hiked about 8 miles. I probably could have done the whole loop today and tomorrow by breaking it up at the campground, but everywhere I looked at trailheads, the walking was tough. So I decided not to chance it. That's OK, I had a great time.

Tomorrow I'll show you some more pictures from the hike. I'll be writing about this area in my newspaper column this week.

Swan Creek Loop Trail, Allegan State Game Area, Michigan, 5 miles on the loop and 3 more.

See Miles and Pie

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Ester Cooks!

I hadn't seen Ester since September. So I took a fast trip to visit with her. Her house is slowly getting put back together. She is pretty much living in one room, her lovely new kitchen, but at least she's indoors. You may recall she was still camping on her property when I last visited.

cooking dinner

It's getting close to being finished, but there are still a lot of small jobs to complete, and she's really tired of having workers in her house at any given moment. I don't envy this process. A lot of the things she asked for and even had exact sources for what she wanted were simply ignored, and the contractor apparently just did what he wanted instead. Infuriating.

We had a fun day of doing not very much, but just jawing. She cooked pork chops and lima beans for dinner, with a little salad, and then some ice cream for dessert.

It was a wonderful restful day for me. Tomorrow I'm hiking. Stay tuned.

See Thrilling Prospect

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Keepin' an Eye on Me

Early and fast blog post. I'm leaving right after bell choir to go to Ester's!

As I was reading today, I discovered there was a bandana shark watching me.

shark face

In other news: I've redone the cover file twice today, trying to get it exactly right for the printer. But I'll get there.

See Squirrel, Shark, Sun
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Monday, January 27, 2020

Miles and Pie

The best part of the day was breaking up a long walk to have lunch with Sue. We had key lime pie for dessert. Yummy! She just retired, so we hope to be able to hike or do whatever together more.

friends at a restaurant

Then I continued on to finish my 8.5 miles that I set for myself today. It wasn't too exciting, but basically, I just wanted to do the miles without driving somewhere.

The blue sky was pretty.

blue sky

The ice is off the dirt roads. Now they are just mud pits. Really sloppy walking, but not treacherous like the ice was.

muddy road

I thought maybe I'd get to show you a pretty picture where Black Creek goes under the road, but it's been channelized into a drainage ditch. Oh well.

Black Creek

My hips and knees are a little sore, but no real problems.

In other news: I'm just doing the final tweaks requested by the printer, but the process is begun.

See New Year's Day Hike

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Six Miles with Cathy

The book is awaiting a couple of answers from the printer in the morning, but it's essentially done. Cathy and I did a 6-mile walk, mostly on roads, but the last mile was through Cartier Park in Ludington. No icy surfaces to contend with.

Cartier Park

Best was some Common Goldeneye ducks on Lincoln Lake, but they were too far away for me to get really good pictures.

Common Goldeneye ducks

Another couple of miles and we were close enough to Lake Michigan that it was just barely visible beyond the sand. Look right in the middle of the picture and you can see a lens that is a slightly darker blue-gray than the sky.

Lake Michigan

Did we have a good time? We did. It was lightly snowing and wet, but not enough to be a big problem. And, it was mostly a roadwalk. It's nice to have someone to chat with when the scenery isn't too exciting.


In other news: There is no other news. Once I finished the book cover I quit being productive for the day. Yippie! But I'm getting in shape for Thursday.

See Cartier Park

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Five Mile Loop- Bad and Good

Got out to walk the five mile loop I like that isn't too far from my house. The bad news is that I forgot two miles of it are dirt which means there is ice on the road. This made the walking difficult. The good news is that there was ice on the road and I got more of a workout than I would have with five clear miles. A lot of this loop is straight and flat, but there are a few interesting dips.

winter road

It was foggy, and that made it a great day to get silhouettes of trees. I like these black willow tops.

black willow trees winter

Cattails often appeal to me, too. I liked how the ice was stained somewhat tan. It made a monochromatic background for the cattail stalks.


In other news: I finished up the interior of the book today. Just need to correct one trail name tomorrow in the text and index and add the credits for the cover photos. Spent the rest of the time on the cover. It will be very similar to North Country Cache, but with different pictures. They are all chosen and put in place. Now I just have to do the correct text for this volume.

Now I just need to do a longish walk each day until I head to Ester's on Wednesday.

See Five Mile Route

Friday, January 24, 2020

Blue Trailer

I really don't have anything too interesting to share. The quality in the day for me was that I'm really closing in on having this book formatted. My goal is to get it to the printer on Tuesday, and then I'm going for a mini trip on Wednesday and Thursday.

No, the trailer isn't going with me. It's blue, waiting for more work to be done on it. I've been planning my next steps for it in my head. Can't stop myself from doing that. But it's good that it's the season to NOT work on it, because this book is the only priority right now.

covered travel trailer in blue dusk

I got the index all finished today. I got the Geographical Listing of Hikes all finished too- triple checked because I left out four chapters on the first pass!!

Rainy day, so I didn't get the exercise I was hoping for, but maybe tomorrow.

See Dusky Pastels

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Hiking Gear - Gaiters

I've never really wanted gaiters before, but I've decided to try them. The good thing about trail runners is that they keep my feet cool. The bad thing about them is that they practically guarantee wet feet.

I found Outdoor Research Huron low gaiters for only $10 at Sierra Trading Post. I was skeptical that they would even fit, but at that price it was worth a try.


My first pleasant surprise is that they do actually fit. Sure, they are labeled small, but you've heard my woes about what companies think small feet are. Bigger than mine, usually. They have a sturdy zipper, velcro zipper cover, and adjustable elastic tops (although it's light elastic that won't last).

You'd never be able to put them on balancing on one foot. They require a place to sit down so you can use both hands. I suspect if you were trying to get them on some cold morning at camp they would be frustrating. But when they are on, there is a nice smooth fit. Here's the inner side.


And the outer side. Let's talk about the under-shoe strap. It's plastic. Probably terrible. It was annoying to walk on for 3 miles. I think for 10 miles it would approach intolerable. However, I'm sure it won't last long, and I can replace it with more typical flat elastic.


It's was just the kind of day to test them. On about one mile of my three-mile walk there was soggy snow about 1-2" deep. My goal is to see if these would be OK instead of winter boots when the snow isn't really deep enough to posthole, or to need snowshoes.

After 2 miles, the left toe box was working its way up over the shoe. Right after I took this picture, it popped off. But it was easy enough to slip it back on.


Did they keep my feet any drier than without them? I don't think so. If you look carefully, you can see that my feet are wet about halfway from the toes to the arch.

wet socks

However, they did keep the bottoms of my pant legs from getting all soggy, so that it a plus. I'll need to be out longer to decide if they provide any marginal warmth to my feet. In general, I prefer to have my feet cold, even wet and cold. However, this may not be a wise idea if you are going to be out all day, for multiple days, in the winter.

Socks? I wore my capilene liners with a pair of the No Nonsense socks. They did not slip.

In other news: I have finished the final edit on the book. Have a few more tweaks on the index, and then formatting of that. That's tomorrow's project.

See Socks

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Another Day of Tracks

Today, I went three times as far on the snowshoes, maybe 1.5 miles. The snow is starting to get thin. We'll see how many days I can continue. However, I have a "carrot on a stick" to keep me working on the book project and finish it completely, turned in, done by Tuesday. That reward involves being in pretty good shape for an adventure, so I'll be out doing something every day, even if it's not on snowshoes. This will also help me focus on the book again when I come back in. Too many brain-crunching hours.

I love everything about snowshoeing. Even the symmetry of the tracks through the snow.

snowshoe tracks

While I was out, I found a cute little line of mouse tracks going directly horizontally across the picture. You can just see the tip of one snowshoe for a bit of scale. That's a deer track going up the left side.

mouse tracks

The shadows weren't strong, so I played with the picture a bit. Now you can see the tail drag mark in the middle. The back footprints obliterate the front prints.

mouse tracks

And when I got back to the kitchen door... my tracks had followed me.

snowshoe tracks

In other news: I worked on the book all day. Finished the geographical index and am up to page 268 on the final edit.

See Of Mice and Mice

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Stamina Up

Today, I went at least twice as far as yesterday and was less tired when I finished. Still not far, but an improvement.

snowy landscape through a pine

And... this is the second day in a row I could see my shadow. Seems like we've had a nice amount of sun this winter. Michigan is usually very gray.


In other news: Bell choir practice and working on the book. I'm on the last pass through for final errors of any type. 160 pages are done.

See First Snowshoe in a While
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Monday, January 20, 2020

First Snowshoe in a While

I think I didn't snowshoe at all last year. It didn't snow before I went east. I took the snowshoes with me, but all they did was slide around in the car. The snow then came to Michigan where I wasn't.

snowshoe tracks

So, I got out for a short walk today. Maybe half a mile. My stamina is still not good after that cold. Dang.

But the sky was lovely.

winter sky

Remember the letter B? It's still growing. It's lost it's shape and is more fuzzy,

white pines

And the baby pines that clump spawned are now big enough to easily find.

white pines

Hopefully, tomorrow I'll be able to walk longer.

In other news: I hunkered down and made myself finish the first pass on the index. It just needs a couple of tweaks, but the bulk of that project is done. Wowser!

See Surprises in My Kingdom
See It's B-b-b-back
See First Snowshoe Winter 2017