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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Day Four on the Knobstone

Day four was the worst. I questioned what I was doing. I wondered if I'd outgrown my need for hiking. All I wanted to do was get home and sit down with my computer game and a glass of iced tea. I wondered who this new person was. It's not like I was out there doing something unprecedented for me.

I did see the second vista of the trip, at a power line crossing.

Knobstone Trail vista

I found another new plant. I knew it was a Viburnum because of the opposite leaves, but I did not know which one. I'm pretty sure it's Viburnum dentatum, Arrow-wood. Yes, there are varieties grown as ornamentals. This one was quite ornamental, as it was growing from a fallen log at eye level.


The biggest disappointment of the day was passing by Elk Creek Lake. On a trail that has a severe water problem, the trail never went down to the water edge so you could access it. What? You were only teased by glimpses through the trees. On the east end, I think if the water were higher you could reach it, but in mid June it was just a muddy plain that looked iffy to walk across (wade in mud).

When I reached the trail junction at the west end I asked a hiker how far to the water access (down a side trail to the trailhead). Half a mile. Nope. I walked back a quarter mile to the last puddle I'd seen to fill my water.

Elk Creek Lake

The temperature hit 91 degrees. I lay on the damp stones in one of the dry creek beds for half an hour before I thought I could go any farther. I crossed a busy highway and climbed to the top of a ridge. There was a small campsite, and it was a little sooner than I wanted to stop. But there was a slight breeze and I had no assurance there was either water or a space clear of poison ivy at the next stream crossing where I had thought to hike to. So I stopped. The tradeoff was that the traffic noise came right up the hill. But I decided that the breeze more than made up for that. I'd given up on the ideal hike long before this point.

Knobstone Trail campsite

I had no signal at all on my phone, so did not blog from the trail that night. However, after a few hours of rest, I decided I might be able to eat, so I cooked up "Pizza Bowl," a yummy dinner.

backpacker food

As the afternoon light shifted, it highlighted some moss sporangia. I did not even have to get up. I reached for my camera and zoomed in for a few pictures.

moss sporangia

I knew I had 8 more miles to go, which was more than I'd managed either Friday or today (6.5 each of those, plus the extra half mile for water on this day), but I could tell from the map that there would be fewer hills on the morrow, and I had the car- meaning cold drinks and multiple options- at the end to look forward to.

In current news: Today was pretty much a waste. After the power outage last night which was fixed at midnight, I did not wake up as early this morning. and I could not get my head in gear. It's going to be tough because I have much to do in the next two weeks and we're supposed to hit sustained high temps through this whole time. So I'm trying to get moving early. It did not happen today. I worked on the trailer a little bit and then went to get some supplies, none of which I was able to find. I got a hankering for a cold macaroni salad, so I bought the stuff for that and made it. My one success of the day! Developed a headache after lunch, so I've mostly sat still with a good book and an iced tea! My hot day ideal. But it's not going to get my tasks done. I made some calls and think I've now located my two items locally, so will try again tomorrow. And once again tomorrow, I'm going to try to buck my natural rhythms and get up early to take advantage of the cooler morning. We shall see.

See Day Three

Monday, June 29, 2020

Day Three- Even Slower

Day three of my Knobstone Trail hike (Friday, June 19) I got a late start. I'd been managing to get up pretty early for me, and was hiking by 7:30 to get a couple of miles in before the air heated up. However, it had rained in the night this morning. I didn't wake up, and it just takes longer to pack up wet, and so I didn't get on the trail until 9 am. Then, I had to stop almost immediately to fill my water bottles. It was already 74 degrees at 9, and it only went up from there.

Mostly more ups and downs, but there was a short stretch through a nice valley. Except of course, the full sun...

valley on the Knobstone Trail

I saw lots and lots of toads on my hike. This one was so red, I had to take his picture.

red toad

Love the symmetry of an unfurling fern.

unfurling fern

This may be the biggest burl I've ever seen.

large burl on tree

But, I was really dragging. By 3 pm it was 87 degrees, and my brain was totally non-functional. I only hiked 6.5 miles in all those hours. I had enough water, so I took over a large campsite, pulled out my camp chair, and just sat still until I was able to even contemplate doing camp chores. I did them slowly, one at a time.

campsite on the Knobstone Trail

I made myself eat dinner. It was good. I had Dirty rice and beans. But I could only get half of it down, so I saved the rest for breakfast.

camp meal dirty beans and rice

The best thing about the site was an absolutely perfect tree to hang the food cache. I got the rope over it on the first try (amazing).

hanging food cache

The sky looked clear, so I left the rain fly off the tent. It did not rain, and that way I had a little more air. Very disappointing mileage, but I just could not go in in the heat and humidity.

The blog post from the trail is linked below, but it was very short because I could only get one picture to upload and then I lost connectivity.

In current news: I was really productive today. Got up early to beat the heat here, and worked on my trailer until it got too hot. Will tell more about that in future days. Also, the lawnmower is fixed! I dug up about 20 autumn olive bushes that got too big a start in the lawn. About that many more to go and then I can mow. Woo hoo!

See Dreaming of a Cold Diet Coke

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Day Two on the Knobstone Trail

Here is my after-the-fact, better account of the second day (Thursday, June 18) of hiking on the Knobstone Trail. I made it 10 miles before I was again way overheated. It didn't feel as bad as day one, but clearly I was not going to make up the "lost" miles, so I switched to a more leisurely hike. This decision is recounted in the post from the trail, linked below.

The highlight of the day was lunch and a rest at Big Oxbow Creek. This was one of only two creeks where there was still flowing water in the entire 44 miles. The most interesting feature was the tall shale wall. There were some low shale walls in other creeks, but most of the rock in the area was red, and eroded into rounded cobbles and pebbles. This cliff provided shade and a nice growing surface for plants that like that kind of place. There's a longer shot in the linked post.

Big Oxbow Creek on the Knobstone Trail

The reliable water meant that fish were able to survive. These guys were about 4 inches long. I have no idea what kind they are.

fingerling fish swimming

One of the best parts of the entire hike was that the forest was almost always filled with Wood Thrush song. They make such beautiful music! I'm pretty sure that's what this is. It flew down to the water and took a bath. So by the time I got the camera ready it was soaking wet. And I didn't get any pictures with sharp focus. But I'm pretty happy to have gotten a picture at all. The breast spots don't seem round enough, but that might be because it's wet.

wet wood thrush

And I found another new plant that day. I may have seen this one before, but not to actually identify it. This is Large Yellow Wood Sorrel, Oxalis grandis. It looks pretty much like the ones that grow in everybody's lawn or on the roadsides, but it's much larger, and notice how the leaves are slightly edged in purple. What caught my eye is that the seed pods stick straight up. Look at the ones in your yard and it's most likely that the seed stalk will have a bend in it. There are several species.

large yellow wood sorrel

I chose a hilltop campsite. Those tended to have a slight breeze. Anything of that nature was welcome. High 80s for the temperatures again. I did manage to cook a dinner and eat it. It's hard for me to care about food when I'm hot. I also showed you that meal when I blogged from the trail, so it's in the post linked below.

campsite on the Knobstone Trail

The biggest challenge of the evening was ants. Big ants, little ants, red biting ants. Ants. The orange food bag is not hung for the night yet, but I did temporarily hang it from that tree just to get it off the ground. The ants were crawling all over the food bags (but mostly not getting in). They did get in my dinner, and I spent some quality time drowning them and removing them from my meal.

So, day 2, with the 2.5 miles I did the first evening, 10.5 and 10, I was at 23 miles- over halfway. But the temperatures continued to climb. Stay tuned.

In other current news: I spent most of the day sitting with ice packs on my feet and legs, trying to get the swelling from the poison ivy to go down. I think it's getting better, but this is the worst I've had it in a while. I did manage to do laundry and make yogurt. And some good news on the writing front: I outlined all the rest of the next children's book, The Lonely Donkey.

See Plan B

Saturday, June 27, 2020

A Better Account of the First Day on the Knobstone Trail

I'm going back and taking the Knobstone Trail hike one day at a time. When I was trying to blog from the trail I wasn't able to include many pictures, and I was too tired to explain much. I'm home now, and will take the time to go day by day.

My first full day out was Wednesday, June 17. My goal was to do 12.5 miles. We already know I didn't make that. I made almost 11 before the heat did me in, but along the way there were neat things to see.

There were only two real vistas on this trail, but one of them was going up a hill on that first day. I looked back, and wow! I particularly like the two little sawteeth on the very end of that ridge.

vista on the Knobstone Trail

You know any trip is good when I find new plants. Got two new ones for sure on this trip. This is American Ipecac, Gillenia stipulata. Notice that it looks like there are five leaves in each group. Actually, there are only three leaves and two stipules, but the stipules are big. A similar species has very small stipules.

American Ipecac

This one is also new for me. I'm pretty sure it is Smooth Hedge Nettle, Stachys tenuifolia. It would have been good if I followed my own advice and taken better pictures. Truth is, I was so hot and zombified that it's a wonder I took any pictures! (For Hyssop Hedge Nettle see Two New Plants.)

smooth hedge nettle

I live just a little farther north than the Zebra Swallowtail butterflies roam, but they were the species most often seen on this hike. They are very nervous, and I didn't get any really great pics. This will have to do. They are huge and gorgeous!

zebra swallowtail

This was also the day I saw the box turtle (link below).

After camping the first night in true dispersed fashion, I knew I'd be using the semi-developed sites for the rest of the trip. There are a lot more well-used camp areas than are mentioned in the paperwork. Their primary appeal to me was the lack of poison ivy. They've been trampled enough to beat it back.


Silly me. I was thinking that even though I was whipped perhaps I'd be able to catch up to my original mileage goal the next day. You already know that didn't happen. I was so hot and tired that I slept for 12 hours.

See Under 2 mph

Friday, June 26, 2020

Softshell Turtle

I stopped on the way north today and did some more checking of the North Country Trail between Albion and Battle Creek. This includes some nice riverwalk sections in Albion and Marshall. The river is the Kalamazoo River.

Kalamazoo River

Some of it was a really nice raised boardwalk.

Marshall Riverwalk

But the really best part was this sight. Can you tell what it is? Two logs with turtles on them. For right now, just look at the big ones.

logs with turtles

I think this is the biggest softshell turtle I've ever seen. It's about 16-18 inches long.

softshell turtle

For perspective look at the closer log. There are two painted turtles on the front of it- about 6 inches long. Then there are two softshells in the middle that are maybe a foot long. Then one of the monsters on the far end.

logs with turtles

This is the closest look I've ever gotten at these guys! What do you think it's thinking?

softshell turtle

I'm back at Chuck & Sylvia's tonight. Probably home tomorrow.

Total NCT miles for 2020- 205

See True Blue Gumby II

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Restful Day #2

I may be getting rested; I'm starting to feel a little antsy to be doing something. Nevertheless, we managed to avoid doing much again today. We cleared a few fallen branches off the drive to Ester's shop, and I took a different 4 mile walk. There was only a half-mile of overlap with yesterday's route.

She lives in some serious farm country. Farms in full summer can make lovely scenes.

farm scene

And one of the roads was picture perfect.

road with trees shading it

I'm pretty sure this is a juvenile red-tail hawk. It flew into the tree, and I tried to snap a picture. Caught it, but not a great shot!

juvenile red-tail hawk

Passed by Thompson Lake. Lots of cottages on the side where I was.

Thompson Lake

And in that final overlap from yesterday, I saw the same pony. No longer hitched to the cart, it trotted over to the fence and wanted to say hello, but I wasn't going into the poison ivy to pet it. I just talked to it. Lovely temperature, slight breeze.


I think we have a plan for tomorrow. Ester and I, not the pony and I!

See Just Chillin'

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Just Chillin'

I'm still with Ester, and we mostly concentrated on not doing very much. That was perfect for me! I did take a little 4-mile walk around her country block. A lovely pastoral scene

pastoral scene

I hope the kids are coming back to put the pony away. Meanwhile, it was waiting patiently.

pony cart

And this smallish woodchuck was keeping an eye on me.

photo label

I have more pictures from the trail for you, but may need to get home with my books to nail down some identifications first. I think there is another day of chillin' ahead.

However, I am sort of beginning to think about it being time to get my head back into author mode. Sort of. I read the first five chapters of The Lonely Donkey to Ester, and she likes it. That may motivate me.

See Super Quality Days

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Super Quality Days

I was with friends Rick and Ellen until this morning. Ellen and I took a walk on the Pennsy Rail Trail which is very near her house. It's not continuous yet, but as I mentioned, we didn't need a long walk yesterday! It's a former route of the Pennsylvania RR, which also roughly parallels the National Road.

Pennsy Trail mile marker

Today I drove to Ester's, and we did some of the things we love doing together. We went out exploring back roads. We looked at plants and trees and were momentarily stumped by a young buckeye tree. It may be an ornamental hybrid of some kind. It doesn't look quite right for the common one. But we like to try to figured out things like this.

Mostly we enjoyed old houses. All three of these are in a little town in Indiana called Wolcottville. It's really old! Founded in 1836. We don't know anything about the first two except that we hope they are saved. This one seems to have been worked on. It has a completely new roof, but it needs a lot of work. I know it's not fancy, but it appeals to me. I've sort of wanted to start an occasional feature called "houses I'd like to save." This one makes the list.

old brick house

A lot of the buildings in that town were very old. Most of them had little architectural appeal, but they spoke to the fact that the road through that town must have been very important, early on. It seems to have been on a trail that went from Fort Wayne, IN, to White Pigeon, MI. But I haven't been able to find out much about that route yet.

This house is probably not as old, but it sure has character! I really hope this one gets fixed up. It appears to be empty but isn't in bad shape yet.

stone house

However, this was the gem! While trying to find out about the historic trail, we learned that George Wolcott, the founder of the town, built a Greek Revival style house in 1840. We went hunting for it, and we found it. It is being restored by his great-great-great grandson. And even better... see that little lump in the lawn in front of the central part? Legend said that was an Indian Mound, but the idea was mostly poo-poohed. But students from Ball State examined it with ground-penetrating radar and discovered it to be a ceremonial mound probably used more than 1000 years ago!

George Wolcott house

We also poked around the Kneipp Sanitarium in Rome City, Indiana. It was a resort for curative purposes, founded in 1895.

Kneipp Sanitarium

We also had ice cream, went to an Amish produce stand, and then brought take-out dinner back to her house. Fun, fun fun!