Entries to Win Afghan

Sign up to receive the Books Leaving Footprints Newsletter. Comes out occasionally. No spam. No list swapping. Just email me! jhyshark@gmail.com Previous gifts include a short story, a poem, and coupons. Add your name, and don't miss out!

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Across the Road Update

In early February, I showed you some construction that was happening across the road. Things began to move quickly. They put up a sign that verified what I thought it is going to be. This will be a larger version of the Amish store that is down the road from me, called West Shore Market.

Here it is on March 7.

West Shore Market construction

March 11. I had to remember to take pictures because things were happening fast.

West Shore Market construction

March 17

West Shore Market construction

And then... well. Everything got shut down. And there it all sat until after the Governor's directive on April 24. Non-essential construction still isn't supposed to happen. But I'm thinking they needed that heavy equipment somewhere that was essential. At any rate, they spread those dirt piles and took away the machines.


West Shore Market construction

And there it will continue to sit until work is allowed once again. I'm sure the owners of the market will be happy when things can go forward.

In other news: I created another promotional video in the morning, and finished preparations for an on-line author event in a Facebook mystery group yet this evening. I was so good, I let myself start another puzzle.

See What's Happening?

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Wet and Miscellaneous

It rained all day. Things will start to green up now!

rain on a window

The Crabapple tree is starting to get leaves.

tiny apple leaves

I finished the first of the puzzles Sue brought me. This one is called "Bless This Mess." It was fairly hard.

jigsaw puzzle

In other news: It would be great if I would use my time to better advantage, but I didn't. I did some stuff, but I certainly could have done more. I did some planning for my big hike. I mailed some books. I did some other promotional stuff. But I goofed off a lot too. It's just so tempting to think that I should be taking it easy because the rest of the world is in slow motion.

See Monsoon Day

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Finally Flowers

A few of my flowers are tolerant of the fact that I've given up pretending to be a gardener. However, the first picture is the biggest surprise of all. This is a Windflower, or Anemone. I haven't seen one of these come up in quite a few years. I really love them (blue of course), and was always disappointed that they didn't do well for me. But this year, I get a smile!

blue windflower

Here is my multi-color daffodil that I believe is Narcissus delnashaugh. These just opened today. I was thinking everything was late this year, but I see they were in full bloom on May 4 last year, so maybe not so far behind.

Narcissus delnashaugh

The little purple corydalis that Ester gave me seems to hang in there.

purple corydalis

And the forsythia bush began to bloom today too.


Now we are supposed to go back to rain for a couple of days, and then warm. I think we'll be looking at mowing the grass if that happens!

In other news: I actually managed to finish a promotional video I've been working on for my mystery books. And, friend Sue dropped off some jigsaw puzzles for me to do. We chatted a bit from a nice safe distance. That visit I got a nifty puppy fix from Sophie and Annabelle too! Sorry, but I did not keep a social distance from the furries.

Oh yeah, and I made apple bread.

See Spring Tease

Monday, April 27, 2020

My Experience with the Enlightened Equipment Revelation Sleep System

I promised you my opinion of the Enlightened Equipment Revelation Sleep System. The bottom line is that I'm not happy, but I hope I can fix it without adding much weight, because when you consider the cost, weight and temperature rating, it's the only good choice.

The first picture is from right after I got it. It shows the basics. This is basically a quilt, which is what all the manufacturers are pushing now. The narrow end (top of the pic) is the foot box (which you can open out to be perfectly flat), and the head end is at the bottom of the picture. The corner of my orange sleeping mat (3/4 length) is sticking out, and the blanket underneath it was just to keep it from snagging on the deck flooring while I showed it to you.

Enlightened Equipment Revelation

I got the medium length (so I can pull it over my head), rated to 20 degree quilt. Here's the deal. I've now slept with it several night in temps that were in the 40s. Fall of 2018, I thought I just hadn't figured out how to make it work for me. Now I've decided that it just has issues that need fixing.

This past Thursday night it got down to 42. I checked my new thermometer against a known one, and they agree. Maybe not to the tenth of a degree, but close enough. This is a bag that's rated to 20. Now, I totally understand that only means you won't die at 20 degrees. But hey, 42 is quite a bit warmer than 20, and I should have been able to keep warm.

Keep in mind that I also bought a cotton-silk blend liner to go with this bag. If I didn't have the liner I would have been really cold. And I am a warm sleeper. I even had on a long-sleeved thermal underwear top. Almost unheard of for me to need that at night. I usually need less covering than almost anyone else. This is not acceptable.

The issue is that quilts are drafty and I wiggle a lot. If I can keep completely covered, the bag keeps me warm. But every single time I move something shifts and a spot gets cold. And I can't seem to keep my feet in the foot box. When I curl up the bag doesn't come with me, I just slide out of the foot box. Sliding back in while asleep doesn't happen.

This is just not workable. For starters, to consider options, I clipped the strap clips together (without the straps) to sort of close up the quilt to see if it's big enough to actually turn it into a bag. I do like that the straps keep the quilt, and me, on the sleeping pad, and I'll lose that feature if I put in a zipper, but I think it has to be done.

This next picture is goofy, but it is taken the length of my body (in my shark pjs!) with the clips clipped. I let the bag gap just to show how it doesn't really close up even if you want to use it as a bag. I'm small enough that I can turn it into a true bag with a nylon coil zipper.

Enlightened Equipment Revelation

That will add a couple of ounces, and maybe I need to put on a draft baffle too. But if a couple of ounces will keep me warm, it will be worth it.

The other thing that is poorly designed on this is that the top drawstring pulls up right in the middle of the top edge. In other words, if you have the opening under you (as you do when you are using it the way it's designed as a quilt) the cord is right in your face. What the heck?

It is taking me a while to get used to the fact that you basically feel no weight of the covering at all. Turns out that I guess I like having the feel of something over me. But I'm adjusting to that.

I'm happy to tell you that my attached pillow idea worked great. Stay tuned. I'm ordering a zipper.

Another option to increase the warmth is that on longer trips I carry a small nylon tarp. On nights that it's cold and I don't have the tarp deployed, I could wrap it around myself to add another layer without compressing the down. It I add a couple of spots of velcro I can turn it into a tube so it doesn't unwrap.

In other news: I worked on projects in the morning, some author promo stuff in the afternoon, and went grocery shopping which I don't like doing even when the world isn't nuts. But I wore a mask like a good little sheeple and got enough stuff for another 10 days or so. Wish Goodwill were open so I could get a couple of really cheap jigsaw puzzles. Can't really buy more new ones! But I have several I'm willing to do again, I think. Just have to find them.

See New Gear- Sleeping System
See the pillow fix
if you like this blog, click

Like This!

Sunday, April 26, 2020

I Couldn't Stay Inside

Today was supposed to be nice, and the rest of the week not so much, so I just had to go out again.

Most of what I hiked is North Country Trail in Wexford County, but then I did a few more miles that connect with what Teeny and I just did a couple days ago.

This is an unnamed creek just east of 12 Road where the trail goes into the Pere Marquette State Forest. I'm not sure if I've seen this exact location before or not. Most of this entire section of trail was re-routed when the wonderful right-of-way along Hodenpyl Dam Pond was made possible by Consumers Energy. I think this is different, and I'm too lazy to get out the maps and really look it up right now.

creek in dappled sun

This is another piece along the Manistee River. Actually, from the time the North Country Trail first crosses the Manistee, at Highbridge, it more or less follows it for about 60 trail miles. Here, the trail undulates between river level and the bluff (which isn't as high above the water as where I was a couple of days ago). There are lots of great views.

Manistee River

If this is not exactly where I hiked with Angie (see chapter "Sneaky Valley" in North Country Cache), it looks very similar with lots of White Cedar growing beside the river.

white cedar

Here is one of many, many oxbows along this old river.

oxbow on Manistee River

I was looking forward to a 60 degree day, and it actually hit 70! Wow. Sun, warmth, my favorite trail. Here is a clump of marsh marigolds.

marsh marigolds

And a nice perky Trout Lily.

trout lily

A Yellow-bellied sapsucker had been busy on this fallen tree.

yellow-bellied sapsucker holes

This walk was 6 miles (out and back), but I really wanted to connect with Eddington Creek from the other direction. I know, I've hiked it a gazillion times, but that is the northernmost piece of trail our chapter maintains, and I've been trying to get condition reports to the president, so I didn't want to leave this piece out. Anyway, this is the old rail bed of the Michigan and Northeastern RR, which we now follow for over a mile.

old rail bed

That added a total of just over 3 more miles, so I ended up walking 9 miles today. North Country Trail total for 2020 is at 177.

In other news: hmmm... I did something else this morning, but I have no idea what at the moment.

North Country Trail, Wexford County, MI, 12 Road to Harvey Bridge and back. Manistee County, MI, Hodenpyl Dam to Eddington Creek and back.

See Teeny's First Overnight- Day 2

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Teeny's First Overnight - Day 2

Day two was warmer, although it still felt raw enough that I kept a jacket on until about the last hour. I'm going to start with the very last picture I took before arriving back at the car. The sun had just come out. This is the same place where I took the picture that was the first on yesterday's post. However, the sunshine makes the view across Leitch Bayou come alive.

Leitch Bayou

The trailing arbutus finally got its act together and agreed to open! Such a delicate little blossom.

trailing arbutus

Here's another lycopodium. I saw three kinds on this hike. This one is Shining Clubmoss, Lycopodium lucidulum. There are two that look something like this, with downward pointing leaves, but this one is shiny. It looks like it's made of plastic.

shining clubmoss

This was a neat surprise for day 2, because I hadn't noticed it poking through on the first day. I saw two clumps of this. It's Lousewort or Wood Betony. Leaves can be this beautiful maroon or dark green. And the flowers can be either yellow or maroon. The leaves will get much larger, of course, about 6-8" long.

Wood Betony

I see this every once in a while, but now I know what to call it. I haven't really gotten into studying mosses. But I believe this is Common Fern Moss, Thuidium delicatulum. At any rate, it's nifty looking.

Common Fern Moss

On this piece of trail, the views across the Manistee River are always hiding behind branches. It's really hard to get a clear view of anything. However, I did find one place where you can really see the twin peaks of Caberfae Ski Resort. And the lingering snow on the slopes verifies that's what it is. They are about 7 miles away. I have hiked here on late winter afternoons when you could see the lights for night skiing. Then you can really identify it!

You can also see Briar Hill, the highest point in the Lower Peninsula, but I could not find a single place where you could get a clear shot of it through the branches. I'll have to keep hunting. Now that I know what to look for, I keep seeing it from "everywhere." This is the third place.

Caberfae Ski slopes

And this is a nifty find, sort of hiding in plain sight. I'd noticed it before, but then I was with a group. This time, I got up there (only a few feet off the trail, but above it, so it's easy to miss). This is the foundations for the Red Bridge Fire Tower. I haven't yet found any more information about it, except that it existed.

Red Bridge Fire Tower foundations

There are 10 good hills in this section. The biggest one climbs about 200 feet. There is one picture I regret not taking. And this is the time of year you'd need to do it. Makes me want to go back before the leaves come out. On a lot of those hills, moss has grown on the vertical part of where the trail is benched into the hill, so as you wind in and out of the crenelated bluffs you can see the green line of the trail tracking and climbing or falling around the head the valley ahead of you. The grade is quite uniform. I'm really impressed with the planning and execution of the trail building accomplished here. A lot of people don't like this side of the loop- the Manistee River Trail is on the other side of the river. There are more open views of the river, to be sure. But I like this side just as much. It's very quiet. The hills are a challenge. The valleys and folds of the sandy hills are pretty amazing. Some of them seem steeper than one might expect of their natural "angle of repose." There are old roads that wander through the valleys. I like to wonder who built those and what was their use.

Teeny did great- She didn't rub any raw spots. I did get a tiny "stich" in my left supraspinatus muscle. I think this can be cured by me getting in better shape. Since I had plenty of time, I made myself take a longer lunch break and read a chapter in the book I had with me. That was a good idea. I usually take a short rest (5-7 minutes) every hour. Marie and I have found this to be a great way to keep from over-taxing joints and muscles. I'm trying to stretch the walks out to 1.5 hours. Each of these two days I did 3 walks of 1.5 hours, and then two of one hour or less in the afternoon as I got more tired. I'm satisfied with my stamina in this regard.

Anyway... I had a great time. I met 6 hikers in the two days. I'm sure there are more over the weekend. This is a very popular section.

Total NCT Miles in 2020 - 168

In other news: Today I worked mostly on some of my many projects.

North Country Trail, Manistee County, Michigan, Sawdust Hole to Eddington Creek and back, 28 miles

See Teeny's First Overnight - Day 1

Friday, April 24, 2020

Teeny's First Overnight - Day 1

Yesterday, Teeny and I left Sawdust Hole, headed for Eddington Creek. Dispersed camping is still allowed in the Manistee National Forest, so our trip was completely legal.

It was cloudy all day (and never warmed up, either). The gray skies made this reflection in Leitch Bayou more of a monotone study.

reflections of aspen gray

Eddington Creek is 14 miles from the parking at Sawdust Hole. And those are the 14 hilliest miles in all of the Manistee NF on the North Country Trail. So this was another challenge- to do that many miles for two days in a row, and have them be tough miles. But I love how the trail tracks along the edges of the hills. The trail is on the far left of this picture, benched into the hillside. The farthest blue line of horizon on the right is on the other side of the river.

brown hills with trail

It was so gray this picture is hardly worth showing you, but you can see the Manistee River down in the valley, and the line of blue hills on the other side.

Manistee River

There were a few neat details. Last year's turkey tail fungus.

turkey tail fungus

And some patches of moss are almost fluorescent green.

green moss

This was my destination, Eddington Creek Bridge. That's because it's the only water source in that entire stretch of trail. I arrived there a couple of minutes before 6 pm. That was perfect. I didn't want to get there very early because I knew it wasn't going to be a pleasant evening to be sitting outside.

Eddington Creek

Set up camp, cooked dinner, hung my food bag, filtered water. Not only was it cold, it started raining! Not very much but enough to send me scurrying into the tent. I read a book until it got too dark to see. Didn't get very much sleep. I am not very happy with my "new" (1 year old) sleeping bag. More on that in another post. I had a lot of trouble staying warm.

tent in the woods

Teeny did her job well. I'm getting used to the pockets and what to keep where. The biggest glitch was that I didn't get one snack bar in the food cache. It was hiding in a pocket and spent the night in the tent with me. But I had no midnight visitors.

And now, we'll jump ahead to tonight. Obviously, I made it home safely, and we had Birthday Pizza! Thanks, Om!


I think early bed is going to be a thing. 28 miles in 2 days with little sleep is giving me the nods. Tomorrow I'll show you day two. Sure it was a return over the same miles, but it was a different day, and I saw different things.

See Birthday Shenanigans

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Earth Day and Birthday Shenanigans

For starters, this was the scene this morning. OK, it didn't last, but snow is getting a little old. I do remember snow on my birthday a few times in my life.

snow on the ground and cars

It's Earth Day! I remember the very first one. Somewhere, I have a patch of the flag that was designed 50 years ago. It got separated from my patch collection somewhere along the line. I hope it eventually resurfaces. It looks like this one.

earth day patch

It's almost my Birthday! The big news of the day is that tomorrow and Friday are supposed to be fairly nice. Since Friday is my birthday, and I've gone on a hike for as many of my birthdays as I could manage since about 1990, I'm heading for the woods. All the gear had to be checked. That takes just as long for an overnight as it does for a two-week trip. And I wanted to do at least one tweak.

Last time I saw Marie, she had just purchased a new sleeping pad. She let me try it, because she likes it a lot. I don't care for it very much, but what it did have was an attached pillow. Now that feature caught my attention. I've always used my sweatshirt for a pillow, but it isn't too satisfactory because it slides away or unfolds and gets too flat. So, I designed a solution. I made a little pillowcase that attaches to my pad.

sleeping mat with attached pillow

My new sweatshirt/ jacket slips inside it, and two spots of velcro hold it to back of the pad. I think I'm going to like this a lot. My very first concession to getting older was to start using a sleeping mat. My hip bones were getting sore. And you really need one when camping in the cold, for insulation. I'm calling this pillow fix my next concession to my age. My neck does not like it if it doesn't have just a little bit of pillow- it doesn't need much, but when I'm camping and the "pillow" disappears and my head thumps down even lower than the surface of the mat, I end up with a stiff neck. I think I'm going to like this.

pillow attached to sleeping mat

Then I had to rustle up enough food for two days on the trail. No big deal, and I managed it without a trip to the store. Packed up Teeny, and weighed in. Total weight with food, water and everything is 24 pounds. That is great! Of course, the more days you add to a trip, the more food weight there will be to start with. But this is very manageable.

I could have chosen a better background, but there was too much light when I tried to do it with the view off the deck in the background, so you get what you get. (Taken with timer.) It looks like the load is poorly balanced, but it feels fine and the weight is on my hips (those pants come up really high). These newer lightweight packs just don't have much shape to them. And I've got my jackets stuffed in the back pocket so it sticks way out but there's hardly any weight there.

woman in backpack
I'm heading out in the morning, and won't be home till Friday afternoon. Not a big deal, just one overnight. But it's likely there won't be a blog post tomorrow. I also placed an order with Amazon. Mostly some stuff for around home, but two backpacking items that will add a little weight, but lots of functionality if they work.

See you!

See A Test Along the Manistee