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!

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Across the Mississippi - Day 274

  Today was urban pathways through Grand Rapids, Minnesota. It got pretty warm, so I was glad there was more shade than I expected.
shaded urban trail

About halfway through my walk, I crossed the Mississippi River on a road bridge. Does that mean I'm officially in the East?
Mississippi River

The vintage car of the day is a Plymouth. Something in the 1950s, I'm sure.
vintage Plymouth

In the spring, I showed you the flowers and furled leaves of Blue Cohosh, Caulophyllum thalictroides. It is one of those plants that looks alarmingly different later in the season. Now the leaves are large, and the clusters of blue fruits are ripe. Not edible- in fact, they can be toxic, although there are reportedly medicinal uses.
blue cohosh

At the end of the day, the trail passes through a University of Minnesota Natural Area, with unpaved trail. There were signs marking the ages of some stands of trees. These red pine are about 200 years old.
red pines

BONUS SECTION: The Mystery Plant

You might remember that on Sunday I said I found a new plant, but was having trouble identifying it. For starters, I'd never seen anything quite like it. The stems were square, which made me think it was in the Lamiaceae family- Mint and deadnettle. The pictures I took didn't focus. Bother. I asked a few people who are better than I am at botany. No responses. I looked at every plant I don't know in the Minnesota and Michigan herbariums in the Lamiaceae (Labiatae) family. No luck. I looked at the pictures again and found one little space that was in focus. Aha! The flowers looked more like snapdragons or turtlehead. So I started looking in Scrophulariaceae. Found it!

Now, you can just ignore some of that taxonomy, if you even care. All the genetic testing of plants has led to new Orders, Families, and Genera. Things that used to be grouped together because they appeared to be alike, are turning out to be more closely related to different things. It's all pretty nuts, but anyway, I did find the plant.

So, that little obsession I wanted to feed today? More botany. It was to walk back to where I found this plant, get the location and better pictures. Usually, this would be no big deal, but this epic adventure is not really a botany tour. But I decided to do it.

"All right, all right, Joan, just tell us what it is!" Well, sigh. It's alien and invasive. It's called Red Bartsia, Odontites vernus, or maybe O. vulgaris or maybe those are really both the same plant. Taxonomy is such a mess these days. It's only been reported in three locations in Minnesota (now four, because I just submitted it in an unreported county). There are two findings in Michigan, both in the UP. However, it's a real problem in Canada. It began to appear in Manitoba in the 1950s, apparently hitchhiking in crates that were shipped from West Germany to an Armed Forces Base at Gimli. Makes sense that it's moving into the northern states.

It's been moved into the Family Orobanchaceae. That seemed surprising to me. Those are broomrapes, parasitic plants. Well, it is partially parasitic, deriving part of its nutrition from the roots of grasses. So there you have it. It's not related to mints or snapdragons, but to broomrape and one-flowered cancer root!
red bartsia

I moved the trailer today, and Michelle headed for home. She has been a great help, and we have a lot in common, so it's been a good time together. I gave myself a break today, what with moving and botanizing, and hiked fewer miles.

Tomorrow is a day off, and there's a big treat coming. Stay tuned.

Miles today: 10.0. Total miles so far: 3240.2. (Plus about 0.8 miles botanizing and a spur to get to the parking)

See So Long, Chip

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

So Long, Chip - Day 273

  Today I said goodbye to the Chippewa National Forest, but it went out with a bang.
Chippewa National Forest sign

Milton Lake was a beautiful place to stop for lunch. There was a breeze and I was able to take off the gloves, head net, and long-sleeved shirt while I ate.
Milton Lake

The less-than-good news is that at that same spot the river has been running across the road/trail for years. Sometimes it's deeper than other times. Today it was almost crotch deep on me. Maybe it's just my destiny to be wet.
flooded road

After that wade, the trail climbs to the top of an esker and follows it for about a quarter of a mile. Eskers are always fun! See how both sides drop off steeply? That's an almost certain clue you're on an esker.

Then, until the next road crossing, the trail hadn't been cleared in a while. Lots of trees to climb over again. But after that, the trail was in good condition. With warm afternoon light, the Chip bid me farewell.
green forest

Tomorrow I move the trailer. Not sure how many miles I'll hike. We will decide after we see how long the move takes. And I have a little side trip that is tempting me sorely. I've stayed awfully focused for 9 months. Maybe I can feed one other obsession just a bit. Stay tuned.

At any rate, I now switch to almost 200 miles of hardened trail or road walks, very little of which is through damp woods. Hopefully, I'll leave the skeeters behind to care for the Chip. Instead, I'll try not to pound my feet to a pulp.

Miles today: 15.7. Total miles so far: 3230.2

See Sleepwalking

Monday, August 29, 2022

Sleepwalking? - Day 272

  I seemed unable to wake up all day. Walked anyway, of course. The mosquitoes were horrible, but there's only one more day in the woods for a while. Not sure I've ever anticipated paved trail quite so much.

These stands of red pine from the 1930s have been recognized as not a best forestry practice, but they are always picturesque.
red pines

This is Crown Lake, which seems to be turning into Crown Wetland. There is a campsite here, but I sure can't recommend it during mosquito season!
Crown Lake

Here is the Boy River, which the trail crosses on a road bridge. The lazy, broad rivers of this area are so different from the rocky, jumbled and swift rivers of some of NY and PA.
Boy River

Another new-to-me plant day! American Spikenard, Aralia racemosa. I thought it was a shrub because of the size, but it's actually herbaceous (not a woody stem). One of the largest herbaceous plants. The fruits will ripen to deep purple. Apparently this is also found where I live, but I've not seen it before.
american spikenard

Near the end of the day, the trail popped out on a road again. I wondered why. Well, duh- another river to cross. Oddly, this is named the Swift River. Is that like calling the fat guy "Slim?"
Swift River

And I'll leave you with a pretty purple mushroom. Closest we can ID is probably to the genus Cortinarius. Mushroom identification is a minefield, and I will almost always defer to someone who knows them better than I. For more purple mushrooms, see Purple mushroom/fungus
purple mushroom

Slept all afternoon after I got back to the trailer, so hopefully I'll be more alert tomorrow.

Miles today: 14.3. Total miles so far: 3214.5.

See Theoretically Two-Thirds

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Theoretically Two-Thirds - Day 271

  Jumping ahead to do this road walk was such a great idea! Maybe 4 mosquitoes all day. Dry feet. I plowed through a bunch of miles to attain this goal. I broke 3200 miles today, and 3200/4800 is 2/3. However I am betting that the final tally of miles will be a bit over 4800. Still, this feels really good, and I needed a boost to the old morale.

It's nice to see that the local chapter helps with roadside cleanup here. Great publicity for the trail, too.
Adopt highway sign

The common tansy is out of control in the midwest, and it's alien. Not a favorite plant of native species lovers. But it is colorful, and I thought this patch that was going to seed presented a nice autumnal palette.

Where I stopped for lunch, there was a row of tamarack (larch), Larix laricina, that had probably been planted. One of them had cones. I love how tiny they are. Similar in size to hemlock cones, but they grow upright and are lighter brown.
tamarack cones

Another great find was bottle or closed gentian, Gentiana andrewsii. This is the most common gentian here, but I don't find them super often, and I love the color and shape.
bottle gentian

Pokegama Lake through the trees. Most of the day was overcast (keeping the temperature down), but there was some sun in the afternoon. The green just glows!
Pokegama Lake

And, what's a road walk without a cool vintage vehicle? This is a GMC truck. Don't know what year.
vintage GMC truck

I also found a new-to-me plant which always makes a quality day. Still trying to ID it. And I think I'm ready to face two more days of mosquitoes now.

Miles today: 18.0. Total miles so far: 3200.2.

See Campgrounds

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Campgrounds - Day 270

  I planned to take my first rest break at the campsite at Gut Lake. But it was occupied! That is a good thing. I like to see folks using the trail.
Gut Lake

They were a son and father, Tony and Ken, who had backpacked in from the nearest road. They let me rest for a few minutes and we visited. They were fishing and camping. Here's the neat part. They had actually heard of the North Country Trail. A few years ago, despite the fact that there is an NCT emblem on the bench (you can see the edge of it), campers might be there and still not know about the trail. Little by little we are being recognized.

They have hiked on the NCT in Jay Cooke State Park, and some other parts in the Chippewa. Ken is 77, but likes to stay as active as he can. They were about to start a fire and cook up a small-mouth bass and sunfish.

The day stayed cloudy, which was really fine with me. That meant it was cooler. I had to stay covered because of the mosquitoes. Later in the day I passed Hazel Lake where there is also a campsite.
Hazel Lake

This one is kind of special to us, because we took a day off and celebrated Marie's 50th birthday there (on our hike so many years ago). David and I surprised her with 50 balloons, 50 M&Ms, etc. Yes, I carried all those in my pack just to have a fun party. (But not 50 candles.)

I know some of you don't want to see this, because it's pushing the next season. I will welcome cooler temperatures, and hopefully the demise of the mosquitoes soon, but it also pressures me to keep hiking!
red tree

I REALLY can't take any more mosquitoes right now. Thankfully, the trail today was mostly clear, so I hiked as fast as I could. But it all spoils the enjoyment of a very nice section. Tomorrow, I am skipping ahead to do a day of roadwalk. That will give me some fast miles, dry feet, and a break from the whining and biting.

Miles today: 15.5. Total miles so far: 3182.2.

See Into the Chip

Friday, August 26, 2022

Into the Chip - Day 269

  We had an interesting start this morning. The road I wanted to hike to turned out to be pretty much an ATV trail, and we could not get to the NCT on it. So my choices for distances were 14.1 miles or 18 miles. I chose the shorter one. I just didn't feel up to 18 on trail after yesterday. So by the time we did all that driving around on poor roads, I got a late start. It all worked out.

Today, I started through the Chippewa National Forest. I wondered if I'd recognize any of the places from 1997.
Chippewa NF sign

The western section of the Chip is defined by the Shingobee River. It's called the Shingobee Recreation Area, and the trails are wide for skiing. I do remember this bridge, called the Anoway Bridge because it crosses the outlet from Anoway Lake that leads to the Shingobee River.
Anoway Bridge

The bridge over the Shingobee is on a road. The river is broad and winding, and the floodplain is filled with cattails. I liked the texture of the scene.
Shingobee River

I guess today was a texture day, because this is my favorite shot. These are tamarack (larch) trees, looking dark against yellowing grasses. I would love to get another picture of this same place in the fall when the tamarack turn yellow. Maybe by then the grass would be brown. In the spring, they would be yellow-green against darker grass.
tamarack trees

Again today, there were a lot of little lakes and ponds to walk by. That always brightens my day. I love blue and green! This is just an unnamed wetland, but I liked the shapes and textures.

While I was eating lunch at a ski shelter, two different butterflies came and rooted around in the gravel. I think when they do this they are looking for moisture. This one is a Compton Tortoiseshell.
Compton Tortoiseshell

Right next to it was a Northern Crescent. I have seen both these butterflies at home too. But not together. I thought it was interesting that they came and left together.
Northern Crescent

The mosquitoes weren't quite as bad, and I only got wet to my knees today. I didn't recognize any other places. I don't really know if the trail follows most of the same route. In one place I found a really old trail marker, so that must be the same.

Miles today: 14.1. Total miles so far: 3166.7.

See Lots of Woods
See Northern Crescent
See Compton Tortoiseshell

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Lots of Woods - Day 268

  I'm working hard to say some positive things about today. The weather was nice. For a few tenths of a mile there was the epitome of a running joke Marie and I have had going for years. She promises to not be crabby if I can provide her with a portion of ideal trail every day. That is defined as good clear trail, slightly downhill, with sunshine. Here you go, Marie, although the sunlight was dappled. It didn't last long.
perfect trail

It rained all night, so you know what that means about the woods. The bushes were loaded with water. They were again encroaching on the trail and I was soaked to the skin until around noon. That also means the mosquitoes were happy. But I did like these tall, straight trees in one section.
tall trees

I went through one large area that had been clearcut about 5 years ago. The trail was nicely mowed, and I was ever so thankful, because bushwhacking through 10-foot-tall aspens through slash piles and armpit-high thistles is one of my least favorite things to do.

But, of course, after lunch, I got to do just that in another logged section that had not been mowed. There was also some woods trail that was very overgrown. Well, I got through, but it was late afternoon when I finished. Eight hours on the trail.

I was invited to eat dinner with these three ladies, Stacy, Linnea, and Linda. Stacy and Linnea will be leaving very soon to hike the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

The dinner was provided by my current host, Linda. What a great meal! Appetizers, lasagna, salad, corn on the cob (my first this year), bread, and ice cream cookie sandwiches.

Now I need to get some sleep!

Miles today: 16.6. Total miles so far: 3152.6.

See Rain

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Rain - Day 267

  I got rained on big time today. I knew it was going to happen, but I can't just take every rain day off. Again, this is all new trail miles since I did this. In 1997, there was no trail at all, and we bushwhacked across here with map and compass. And we did not get lost!

The rain made everything sort of misty and otherworldly. I passed by a number of small lakes, each one beautiful. This is Lower Teepee.
Lower Teepee Lake

An awful lot of the trail today was through regrowth after logging. The trail was pretty clear, but in the rain, the shrubby sides bend in and grab at you and dump even more water on you. Although, I guess after you are wet, you can't get wetter. That's the physics, but it feels extra wet every time you get slapped with a wet branch!
narrow trail

This grove of white birch was especially beautiful.
white birch

I really like this flower. It's whorled rosinweed. Looks a lot like a sunflower, but the genus is Silphium. It's hard to see in the picture, but the leaves are arranged in whorls of three around the stem. I like the dark stems and the shade of yellow- it's more true yellow than golden.
whorled rosinweed

And I've been seeing, and been wetted by, a lot of this shrub. It's beaked hazelnut. This is not the hazelnut we eat or get flavorings from. That's a European species. But these are important food for wildlife.
beaked hazelnut

I was really tired today, and I didn't do long miles. I hope that's from wet branches and wet pants, not a general wearing down. I have to do longer miles tomorrow.

Miles today: 14.1. Total miles so far: 3136.0.
See Hubbard County Forest