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Monday, August 31, 2020

It Was a Round Trip

  I spent the last few days enjoying the hospitality of good friends Chuck and Sylvia. We met through blogging, but have become real life buddies. They are pictured in front of their bountiful vegetable garden. I've base-camped there in their driveway while I've been hiking the rest of Calhoun County on the North Country Trail friends But now I am home- the circle to NY and back is complete. Sunny is parked in his spot. My backing-up skills have improved on this trip, and I got him in his appointed slot on the first try. You might notice that the back rack is gone. I had Dick remove it. No regrets, and it tows a little better for not having 100 pounds of useless metal on the back. The leak fixes all held- no water inside. I probably don't have time to do any more work on it this fall. Big home projects to get cracking on. However, I won't cover it just yet. Maybe I could sneak in a weekend trip somewhere. fiberglass trailer I got to have my favorite dinner, a big salad (with tomato from Chuck and Sylvia's garden). I'm airing out the house and working on unpacking. I haven't started going through the mail yet. salad Tonight I'm pretty motivated to work on the things I should be doing. We'll see what happens tomorrow. I've been gone almost 5 weeks. "They" say it feels good to come home, but I think I could have happily stayed on the road. Sunny is truly homey, and he's not even finished yet. Life is much simpler when there are only a couple hundred items in your entire space to deal with. Each one has a place, and if it's not in its place it's in the way. When I'm home the mess just explodes.
See Finishing Calhoun County
See On the Road

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Finishing Calhoun County

  Another 8 mile day, but it was really easy. I finished Calhoun County and did just a little of Kalamazoo County. From where I started, the first thing I did was to cross the Kalamazoo River. Kalamazoo River A lot of the western part of the Battle Creek Linear Pathway isn't terribly scenic, but it's level and fast walking. Still much better than roadwalks. urban trail One little tilt of the head and no more traffic or industry, just the beauty of a blue and white sky. clouds in a blue sky On the corner of the road where the trail leaves the Pathway is this lovely planter built into a sign. I enjoy this kind of scenery as much as the fully natural features. Both have merit. large planter A little north from there, the trail goes onto the propery of the Fort Custer National Cemetery. This is a real privilege, to be allowed on the property. It also gives the trail 3 miles of lovely walking through woods and freshwater marshes. freshwater marsh You know I'm a sucker for interesting patterns on the water. pattern in water surface Tomorrow, I really have to go home. Sigh. I'm sure I'll live. Lots of projects awaiting me there! I'll have the Calhoun County Data Book on line in a couple of days.

Total NCT miles hiked 2020: 234

North Country Trail from Bedford Road in Battle Creek to Augusta, Michigan. 8 miles
See Truth is Stranger

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Truth is Stranger

  Today I was hiking a section of the North Country Trail. I was on a small piece of sidewalk that connects a couple of prettier segments. A woman came up to me and asked my name. Well! It turns out that she is Gail "Chosen" Lowe, who has hiked the entire North Country Trail. This is still a pretty small group (only 19 people). She thought she recognized me. It took me a minute to recognize her. We hadn't actually met before, and last I knew she did not live in Battle Creek, so I was very surprised. She picked me up at the end of my hike to take me back to my car, and also treated me to dessert and a cold drink. Trail magic! Gail Lowe and Joan Young The temperatures today were wonderful, and most of the trail was lovely. I started where I ended on Thursday, at the Ott Biological Preserve. trail at Ott Biological Preserve Next was a bit more on the Calhoun County Trailway, where a four-legged hiker was sharing the space with me. cat on a gravel trail Then the short sidewalk connection, including a bridge over the rail yard of the Canadian National line. That is where Gail spotted me. Canadian National railroad Very shortly after that the trail joins the Battle Creek Linear Pathway which winds through the city along the Kalamazoo River. Except that it's a lot of miles of pavement, this is mostly a beautiful walk. Battle Creek Linear Pathway One really neat sculpture commemorates the Underground Railroad. On one side of the wall are the people walking away from the south toward freedom. Underground Railroad sculpture As they are passing through the "secret" door, they enter the north and meet those who will help them along the way. Underground Railroad sculpture Gail is going to spot me again tomorrow, so I'll not only be able to finish Calhoun County, but I'll get a start on Kalamazoo County.

Total NCT miles hiked in 2020: 226

North Country Trail, Ott Biological Preserve to Battle Creek Bedford Road parking, 8 miles
See Four NCT End to Enders
See Meet James
See Luke Jordan
See Dan & Ruth Dorrough

Friday, August 28, 2020

Stillwell Passenger Car

  There was one other train car I wanted to show you from the visit to Irene's railroad club. Since today was a rain day, and I just chilled with Chuck & Sylvia, I'm going to go back and share this.

This is a passenger car, known as a Stillwell Car. Of hundreds that were in service, about 15 are known to still exist. Stillwell Passenger railroad car These were designed by a man named Arthur Stillwell, who was something of a manic genius. He heard voices in his head and built railroad empires and designed equipment in response. He died of an "apoplecitc fit" when he was 69. He founded what became the Kansas City Southern RR, and established over 40 towns and cities. He invented the car we usually call a Pullman, because that was the company that manufactured them. He also designed a car for transporting oysters, which was a huge moneymaker beccause rich people who lived far from the coasts still demanded oysters. Despite his successes, he died a poor man.

Now, of the few remaining passenger cars of this design, the interiors are badly damaged. Most were converted to "camp cars," cars for workmen to sleep in after passenger service declined. The railroad club is working to strip the interior to see what repairs must be made before they attempt to restore it. Stillwell Passenger railroad car One of the reasons for the great success of these cars is that the frame of the car is built like a truss bridge, making them very sturdy. You can see the triangular framing where the interior walls have been removed. Stillwell Passenger railroad car If you look at the first picture again, you can see curved archways above the windows. These were covered with sheet metal when they were made into camp cars, but when they were new, these had beautiful glass panels. The club discovered that nine of them were still in place behind the metal. They hope to be able to acquire two more, which will give them enough to put them back on one side of the car. Here's what those moon shaped pieces look like, stacked on a table. Really beautiful.
Stillwell Passenger railroad car window transom glass
It will be a lot of work to bring this car back to life. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to see it again in progress.

Tomorrow, I have plans to be back out checking out some trail sections.
See R & GV Rail Club

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Historic Bridge Park to Ott

  Almost home, but I'm stopping for a few days with Chuck and Sylvia to work on my North Country Trail project. Today, I started at Historic Bridge Park in Battle Creek. This is on the Kalamazoo River. A nice place for a rest on the trail. Kalamazoo River The bridges are historic, not necessarily the park. Instead of scrapping old road bridges throughout the county, they were brought here and installed across the creek, and in one case, over the park road. This is the largest one they moved, and it used to be near the city of Charlotte. It was built in 1886 by the Buckeye Bridge works of Cleveland. Charlotte Highway bridge This overpass of the (I believe- my RR atlas is home) Norfolk Southern is still in use. The small arch at the left is over a creek. railroad overpass As part of the displays in the park this construction defining the walls of a "bridge shop" is an interesting addition. It fit perfectly with the theme and the openness of the walls didn't detract from the natural setting. artistic rendition of a bridge shop The trail mostly followed the Calhoun County Trail to the Ott Biological Preserve. Along the way there were many late summer wildflowers in bloom. Ironweed is one of my favorites. ironweed But in some places there were mixed patches. This is Black-eyed Susan with Boneset and Lobelia. mixed wildflowers It was blistering hot- got to 87 degrees I think. A lot of trail in the sun. I managed to walk 7 miles (total out and back), and required ice cream for rescusitation following that.

North Country Trail miles hiked in 2020: 218

North Country Trail, Calhoun County, MI, Historic Bridge Park, through Kimball Pines, to Ott Biological Preserve and back, 7 miles
See Softshell Turtle

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Two Trails and a New Friend

  So, last night I stayed with a trail person near Toledo that I had sort of met previously, but didn't really know her at all. As it turns out, Marianne and I have an awful lot in common, and we talked forever.

This morning, we had time to catch a couple of short hikes. One of the trails is the Juliet Gordon Low Trail. She is the lady who started the American Girl Scouts in 1912. In 1917, Toledo, Ohio, was chartered as the very first Girl Scout Council.
Juliet Gordon Low trail
In the past few years, a local troop took on the project of creating a trail through a local metropark. It's about a mile long, and Marianne took me there to walk it. Juliet Gordon Low trail Marianne also told me some really good news- that Girl Scouting is starting to come back to its roots and is including more outdoor activities again. Juliet Gordon Low trail Then we just had time for a really short walk on the North Country Trail, which goes right past her house. Hikers are welcome to camp! North Country Trail We saw a really big walking stick! walking stick Drove on to Chuck and Sylvia's for tonight. Catch you tomorrow.
See On the Road Again

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

On the Road Again

  Sunny plays with the big boys and girls! Most of today was spent in the car. I think it's a hoot having to park with the big rigs. Driving with the trailer is a little more tiring than the car alone, so eight hours was plenty enough for one day. small trailer parked with big rigs I left New York, and crossed Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania state sign Into Ohio. The mottoes on the signs oddly match up. Ohio State sign There were a few glimpses of Lake Erie. This is from a rest stop. The lake is hazy out there, but it's a little different color than the sky. lake Erie And where did I end up? With a trail person I hadn't previously met. We haven't stopped talking since I arrived! Tomorrow I'll have pictures and will tell all. OK, not ALL. But I'll tell you where I am.
See Catching Up

Monday, August 24, 2020

Catching Up

  Three days with no electricity (not so much of a problem). Three days with almost no internet service (impossible to blog).

Anyway, what I did was go to the Adirondacks to particpate in a trail work day. The North Country Trail didn't have a route across the Adirondack Park for almost 30 years. Little by little, now, agreements are being made which is giving the trail an actual treadway. It has been a dream of mine to help build that, even in some small way. But I live 15 hours away.

So when Mary Coffin, who has spearheaded this effort, posted that there was a work day this past Saturday, I had to go. It was a few hours drive back to the east, but nothing near 15. I camped near Mason Lake. Mason Lake A rainbow welcomed me that first evening. rainbow Next morning, I drove to town and met the other people who also came to volunteer. Of course, I knew Mary, but I also knew one other woman who came. Mary's husband Bill was there as well, but he isn't able to do the physical work any more.

A ski resort named Oak Mountain has given permission to build trail across their property, which will eliminate a road walk. A tentative route had been flagged. We checked and adjusted that, and began defining the treadway. We raked, cut branches and some roots, and put up blazes. We completed almost a mile. "Completed" isn't really the correct word, because there is a lot of benching to do to level the trail and remove rocks. But it is able to be walked and followed by a hiker. trail work crew Going back to the campsite that afternoon, a mother bear and three cubs crossed the road in front of us. I was only fast enough with the camera to catch the last cub scooting under the guardrail. black bear cub Mary and I went out again the next morning. Our goal was to follow a snowmobile route which would connect the trail we built on Saturday with the next road. This is not ideal, but for right now, our trail has been given permission to use that established route. We crossed Whiskey Brook near where we began our walk. Despite many junctions, we managed to make all the correct decisions, and connected with the work we'd already done. Mary took GPS readings, and we flagged it with tape. Hopefully we'll soon have permission to put up the blue blazes. Whiskey Brook When we got back to Oak Mountain, we did do some more of the blazing. In most places, the NCT blazes are painted. However, within the Adirondacks, they requested the nail-up style, so that is what is being used. this four-mile reroute which can now be followed eliminates a seven mile road walk! nailing up blazes After Mary and Bill left, I had a mission. Two of them. I wanted to get a few pictures that were "real" Adirondacks. This scenic view comes cheaply, as it's seen from a roadside turnout. You don't have to work to be rewarded. But it's pretty neat anyway. This is not the High Peaks, but is a view to the southeast. This panorama made so small isn't nearly as spectacular as it is in real life. Adirondacks And the other part of my mission was to find one of my best friends. He and his wife live only 20 miles from where we were working, but I hadn't been able to get in touch with him. I decided to just drive there. I knew he wasn't in the same house as the last time I visited, but I had hopes that I could locate him. And I did! This is Paul, one of my very best friends in the world. In fact, he introduced me to the Adirondack Mountains, 55 years ago. Did you ever have a friend that just resonates with your soul? Nothing romantic between us, ever. But we just seem to "know" each other. We had a great visit, prayed together, and they fed me. What a perfect ending to this Adirondack visit. I suppose we look a little older than that week we climbed Haystack and Skylight so long ago, but we don't care. friends Now, I'm beginning to work my way back west. I'm with Irene again tonight.

Miles of NCT hiked- a total of about 6. Total for 2020: 211

North Country Trail near Speculator, NY, from Oak Mountain Resort to NY 30

 

See R&GV Rail Club
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