Archive for the 'Her On Wheels' Category

10
Mar
19

Loss and the Long Road – Part One

May 4-6, 2018 and May 11-12, 2018

It was a cruel irony that the wagon I had ordered to pull Yukon along the Mississippi River on a weekend Great River Road adventure showed up the day after I had to let him go. I sat and cried, like I had so many times since the previous day, before cramming the box into a dark corner of the garage.

I came home on that Friday to find Yukon’s injured leg was swollen to double its normal size. As I was palpating his leg, I felt a large, hard mass in his groin and my heart sank. I knew what it meant, but wasn’t fully ready to let go.

The next morning, I woke early and carried my goofy dog that I loved so much to the car. We were heading to Kruse Park Dog Beach on the shores of Lake Michigan, one of Yuk’s favorite swimming spots. I walked with him slowly down the steps to the sand, despite his condition, he was amped to be near one of his favorite things, water. He enthusiastically chased ball after ball into the waves, his back end collapsing time and again, my heart breaking over and over each time. I’m not sure what others at the beach thought as I held my wet dog, sobbing before deciding it was time to leave. He was unable to walk up the stairs so I carried him, tears blurring my vision.

His body may have been broken, but his spirit was definitely not!

I didn’t want to go to sleep because I knew what the next day would bring. Yukon was my first dog and I’d never had to make the decision to end the life of a beloved pet. We were all exhausted and finally I had to force bedtime. I pulled a huge, thick ribeye out of the freezer before lightly grilling it for my pal’s final meal, then sent my vet a Facebook message and he agreed to meet me at the office in 20 minutes. I held Yukon as we took X-Rays, my fears were confirmed he had a large mass in his groin and two smaller metastasized tumors in his lung. While I knew the answer, I asked my vet, “What would you do if he were your dog?” To which he replied, “He has no quality of life and he’s in an incredible amount of pain.” It was at the same time the most difficult and the easiest decision of my life. Mira and I by his side, me whispering “I love you, buddy.” in his ear, the euthanasia drug was injected and after a few labored breaths, Yukon was gone.

See ya later old pal!

A short five days later, I had plans to take on another section of the Great River Road. I was devastated by the loss of Yukon and was ready to cancel plans and lie in my dark bedroom, clinging to Mira. Then I realized that sitting and moping would accomplish nothing, that one of the things that was helping through this loss was the many photos and videos I had collected during out many adventures together. Dammit, Mira and I were hitting the road in honor of our buddy!

Mopey Mira

When work ended Friday, I rushed home to pick up Mira, gather some things and hit the road. That night’s destination, Davenport, Iowa. We arrived late and after chowing down on some Capriotti’s and shedding a few tears while staring at the television, Mira and I cuddle close and got some much needed sleep.

One little monkey jumping on the bed!

Since our first adventure on the Great River Road, I had armed myself with more information (ordered maps, guide books, etc.) and had a pretty good idea of which route I wanted to take on this weekend trip. We started northbound from the point we began our southbound leg on the last visit to Davenport. Our first stop was Centennial Park, I pulled into the entrance to find the mighty river had broken free of its banks and inundated the park. I was still able to find a place to park and Mira and I were able to walk along the flood waters dodging debris as we went.

Mira hanging out in front of Centennial Bridge – Davenport, Iowa

Mira, I don’t think that’s what Tina Turner meant when she sang “Rollin’ on the river”

Flooding and debris along the river in Centennial Park

Driving north along the western side of the Mississippi, we enjoyed the short glimpses of life on the river (well, I enjoyed them while Mira snored in the back). The only definite stops I had planned on this drive were Effigy Mounds National Monument and Potosi Brewing. We crossed the river at Dubuque, Iowa before heading to the first of these stops, Potosi Brewing, which is conveniently located right on the Great River Road.

Postosi Brewing Company

After learning of Potosi while planning, I called to make sure Mira would indeed be allowed in the outside eating area and double checked again when we arrived. The hostess said they normally didn’t allow dogs out there on the weekends , but since it was 50 degrees and sporadically drizzling, they’d make an exception for my furry beast. Mira settled under the table as I ordered a Tangerine IPA and some chicken fingers (I know, super adult). Eating quickly as not to freeze, we headed across the road to get a photo with the giant Potosi bottle before once again hitting the road.

Mira, dogs don’t like beer!

“Giant, scary beer bottle…I’m outta here!”

Because of the high water levels, the ferry across the river I intended to take wasn’t in operation so I crossed the river once again at Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin and headed north to Effigy Mounds.

As fascinated as I’ve been about the indigenous tribes that inhabited the desert southwest, I’ve never learned much about the mound builders that once dwelled in my own “neighborhood”. Once inside the visitor center, I chatted with the ranger working the information desk and stamped by National Park Passport. She recommended a trail that Mira and I would enjoy. We wound our way up the switchbacks, squirrels flitting back and forth through the green forest. The mounds were hard to comprehend from ground level, huge earthen mounds that from the air resembled birds, bears and nondescript, circular mounds. It’s unclear the exact reason for the mounds (in some areas they were burial mounds), perhaps territory delineation or ceremonial/sacred sites.

Effigy Mounds National Monument

We reached the top of the climb through the mounds to reach Fire Point Overlook, a broad vista overlooking the Mississippi. We chatted with a couple of people that were heading in the other direction before making our way back down toward the parking area. Mira has always been a conversation starter, which is good for a solo traveling introvert like myself. A couple in the parking lot stopped me and asked if they could pet her which she of course loved. Mark and Cheryl were up on vacation from Iowa, staying in Prairie du Chien. We chatted forever about dogs and travels and motorcycle touring (Cheryl did quite a bit of solo motorcycle travel) before heading our separate ways.

The view from Fire Point Overlook

My hope for accommodations was to camp on the river at Perrot State Park but when I arrived, every single campsite was filled. As the sun was dropping toward the horizon, I checked a couple other campgrounds which were also full, camping on the big river would have to wait. I wasn’t even able to get a motel nearby and ended up driving an hour east to Tomah, Wisconsin. As much as I wanted to camp a bed and a shower sure felt great after a long day of driving!

Tired little dog, sacked out at the Tomah, WI Super 8

01
Mar
19

April Adventure Part Two – Route 66 and the Great River Road

April 13-15, 2018

The threat of an impending ice storm made me load up the dogs shortly after returning to my parents’ house after backpacking. Thankfully, it was clear sailing for the entire 3 hour drive home.

Early next morning, I woke to a dreary, grey, drizzly day. Since I still had two days left of my four day weekend, I decided to chance potentially bad roads and hea out on a “short” adventure. Because of Yukon’s bad leg, we couldn’t hike and I had been hankering for a Capriotti’s sub so Davenport, IA it would be! Since we’d be going past some bits and pieces of Route 66 that I hadn’t been on, I decided to check the ‘Roadside America’ app and see what interesting places we could visit on the 5 hour drive to Iowa.

Me: There’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark out, and we’re wearing sunglasses. Mira:  Hit it!

First stop, Route 66 Food N Fuel to see the Bluesmobile on a Stick after snapping a couple of quick photos, we moved on to Rich & Creamy for some ice cream on the Mother Road. Looking at routes as an alternative to taking I-80 as I have on what seems like a million occasions, I decided to get off the expressway and on to two lanes, crossing the Mississippi River at Clinton, IA.

Bluesmobile on a Stick at Route 66 Food N Fuel

Rich and Creamy in Joliet – the pups loved their little doggie treat

Yukon, you have no thumbs, you can’t pump gas!

A frigid, wet wind whipped at the dogs and me as we walked down toward the mighty river for a photo. Yukon, despite a bum leg, was throwing a tantrum because he was close to a body of water and I wouldn’t let him go swimming and Mira was tired of the wind and made several attempts to escape to the warm Jeep.

The Mighty Mississippi at Clinton, IA – Yukon wanted to swim, Mira was trying to escape to the Jeep

Heading south on 30, I noticed a scenic route sign imprinted with a riverboat wheel. My interest piqued, I looked it up to find we were on a lesser known scenic route known as the Great River Road. At that point, I decided I’d do my best to trace the entire route in sections. As we were in the area, we stopped at American Pickers headquarters (Antique Archaeology) in Le Claire. Mira begrudgingly sat to have her photo taken in front of the iconic car in front (bribed with treats from the nice ladies inside the gift shop of course). It was a short drive to Capriotti’s and my delicious “Bobbie” sub followed by a stop for some of Toppling Goliath Brewing’s Pseudo Sue, a beer I’d been wanting to try for a while simply because they feature a T-Rex on the can.

A quick stop at Antique Archaeology (American Pickers) in Le Claire, IA

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The Bobbie and a 4 pack of a Pseudo Sue – the perfect combination!

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I’ve mentioned before, when on the road with the dogs, I tend to stay at Motel 6. They definitely are spartan but they’re usually pretty decent and dogs stay free. Motel 6 in Davenport was no different, definitely not fancy but clean and comfortable. Unfortunately, they put us in a room on the 2nd floor, not awesome with a 65 pound dog that is struggling to walk. I carried my giant black dog upstairs and placed him on the bed where he instantly made himself at home. Snuggled into bed with the dogs, we fell asleep to the Discovery Channel.

The dogs know how to make themselves at home after a decade of road trips!

After following a short section of the Great River Road from Clinton, IA to Davenport, I was intrigued. A lesser known scenic route similar to the vibe of Route 66 that runs along the Mississippi River from its source at Itasca State Park in Minnesota to the Gulf in Louisiana. After reading up on this road that was previously unknown to me, I decided day two of our road trip would be to follow it from south of Davenport to Alexandria, MO before heading home via back roads connecting to Route 66.

Yukon, my four-legged divining rod was beside himself with excitement as we drove along the shore of the big muddy Mississippi through Buffalo, Montpelier and Muscatine on our way to a quick stop at Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge.

Navigator Yukon at your service

Sergeant John F. Baker Jr. Bridge – I-280 over the Mississippi River

I pulled into the first parking area for the Wildlife Refuge, the parking lot being excessively muddy, I left the dogs in the car to do some exploring along the shore. I saw hundreds of fish, dead on the bank like there was a massive die off and they washed up. The smell was something special! My boots caked with a couple of inches of mud, I returned to the Jeep, today would be a driving day instead of a hiking day.

Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge and a few photos of the fish die off

White Pelicans taking flight from Muscatine Slough

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As we made our way south, we sometimes lost sight of the river, but were rewarded with rolling Midwestern farmland in exchange.  It started snowing as we drove a tunnel of trees, two lane back portion of the Great River Road into Keokuk, Iowa which was named after the great Sauk leader Keokuk.  I continued on, crossing the Missouri state line, filled my gas tank in Alexandria and started to head east toward Route 66.

I live for rural two lanes!

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A statue of Sauk leader, Keokuk, the town’s namesake

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Nearby carved eagle statue

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Made it to Missouri!

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Looking for life on two lanes on our way to Atlanta, Illinois

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We made our way east, traveling on more rural back roads in pursuit of another of Illinois’ Muffler Men (Mira and I visited Gemini Giant the previous fall) in Atlanta, Illinois.  I left Yukon in the car, leashed Mira up and started toward the imposing figure of “Tall Paul”, a muffler man formerly resided in front of Cicero’s hot dog stand in the Chicago suburbs.  I sat Mira in front of him with the intent of getting her photo, she was freaked out and dashed toward me for protection from the scary figure.

Mira says, “I’m outta here!”

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Loaded back into the Jeep, we made our way back home.  After 35 hours, 5 states and a little over 1,000 miles we were back in our driveway, a fun little adventure under our belts.  I’ll always cherish this trip as it was Yukon’s last road trip, three weeks later I had to have him put to sleep.  His leg that was a presumed CCL tear was actually a very large tumor in his hip with metastasis to the lungs that there was no recovering from.

RIP Yukon – 7/2006-5/6/2018

 

27
Feb
19

Celebrating a Century of the Wondrous Abyss

My sister was moving to Las Vegas and my aunt, my dogs and I were helping move her from Michigan to her new home. Since none of us had ever been to the Grand Canyon, we made it a point to stop on our last day of travel. This was just the first of a number of times that this Midwestern girl has visited the abyss.

Standing on the edge of a precipice looking down onto layers upon layers of color, it was hard for me to comprehend those that described the Grand Canyon as “Eh, wasn’t impressed, it’s just a big hole in the ground.” or “Not sure why I would go back, I’ve seen it once, don’t need to see it again.” On my first visit to the great canyon in April of 2008, I was 30 years old, I could have sat on that edge until the sun went down and remained there until the sun peeked over the rim. I was in awe.

Mira enjoying the breeze on the South Rim in April of 2008

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Yukon as Bark Ranger on the South Rim in April of 2008

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Upon his first visit to the canyon in 1903, Theodore Roosevelt had similar feelings, stating:

“The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison-beyond description; absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world.  Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness.”

Shortly after (11/28/1906), the then president established the area he found so beautiful as the Grand Canyon Game Preserve.  Thanks to the Antiquities Act of 1906, Roosevelt was able to redesignate the canyon and the land surrounding it as a national monument on January 11, 1908.  In a further effort to protect this area of unparalleled beauty and splendor, President Woodrow Wilson again changed the canyon’s designation, making it the country’s 17th national park 100 years ago today on February 26, 1919.

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It took 8 years for me to return to the park, this time Mira and I making the trip down from Utah onto the North Rim.  We wound our way up in elevation, the landscape quickly changing from desert to alpine, huge Ponderosa pines towering over us, mule deer and turkeys roaming the road side.  It was a stark contrast from the hustle and bustle of the South Rim, hardly a person in the viewpoint parking lots despite equally majestic views.  The cool quiet enveloped us as Mira and I sat and looked out over the endless colorful towers and buttes.

After walking the quiet Bridle Trail (the only dog friendly trail on the North Rim) down to the North Kaibab trailhead, Mira and I went to find our campsite in the Kaibab National Forest, overlooking Marble Canyon and the Marble Plateau.  It was windy, the temperatures dropped below freezing and I had to zip Mira up into my down jacket, but we woke to a beautiful sunrise with nobody else around which made a little bit of suffering all worthwhile.

Mira and Me at Point Imperial – we had a great conversation with a German couple who then offered to take our photo.

Point Imperial Panorama

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Nice short hike on the Bridle Path

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Campsite on the edge – Kaibab National Forest

Looking out over the Marble Plateau

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Fast forward to spring of 2012, I again found myself staring out over the layered landscape.  Camping at Mather, the site was frequented by mischievous ravens and elk bedded down at the back of the site.  The next morning I woke before dawn to catch a bus to the trailhead of the South Kaibab trail.  I’d be taking my first trip below the rim, hiking down to Ooh Aah Point and back.  It was like a different world as a I traversed the rocky trail.  Standing and looking out from Ooh Aah Point, I knew I needed to return and traverse the canyon from the North to the South Rim.

Mira is always a hit with tourists at the South Rim (which for a national park is exceptionally dog friendly).  Such a little ham!

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Hiking down the South Kaibab Trail, its openness allows for some pretty spectacular views!

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Amazingly, I was able to convince my friend and coworker Amy to tackle a multi day Rim to Rim trip despite the fact that she’d never been backpacking in her life.  We nervously submitted our multiple itineraries in May of 2018 for a trip in September.  A couple of days later I opened my email to find out we’d drawn our first choice itinerary and that we’d be spending a night at Cottonwood Campground and another night at Bright Angel Campground before making the arduous journey out to the Bright Angel Trailhead.

Throughout the summer we trained with our packs, scrutinized our meal plans and got one backpacking trip under Amy’s belt.  We flew out to Las Vegas on September 13th arriving at my sisters late that night.  My sister followed us to the South Rim in a separate car, picking us up at the Backcountry Office parking lot where we dropped off our rental.

After visiting a few viewpoints, we started the long journey to the North Rim where we’d camp for the night before Amy and I started our voyage across the canyon.  We arrived after dark, my sister starting the fire and Amy and I setting up the tent.  We cooked over the fire under those towering pines, drinking in the crisp, high elevation air before we retired to the tent.  Sleep came hard, the excitement of the impending journey akin to what a 5 year old feels on Christmas Eve.

Amy, Me and Melissa (my sister at the South Rim)

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Dusk on 89A, heading toward the turnoff to the North Rim

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Melissa roasting marshmallows  and cooking dinner before bed.

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After a few photos and a goodbye hug from my sister, we started our hike at 6:40 AM, the temperature hovering just above freezing.  Over the next two days we descended into the canyon the temperature and scenery changing with the elevation.  After spending a night at the bottom we arose at 2:45 AM to start the strenuous hike out.  Looking down from the rim, one only sees desert, but the many folds of the canyon hide an oasis.  There hanging gardens on rock walls with beautiful orange flowers, bees buzzing back and forth, puddles in the middle of a muddy trail filled with tadpoles wriggling around in the morning sun and several alcoves with cascading waterfalls.  It took us about 10 hours to complete the 10 mile hike out and to the parking lot, it was physically and mentally grueling for us flatlanders, the last 3 miles feeling like an eternity.  But a few short days after we climbed out of the chasm, we were already talking about which route we’d try next time.

Amy and I at the start of our hike – the North Kaibab Trailhead

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Campsite at Cottonwood campground, our first night in the canyon.

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Amy waving up from the bottom of glorious Ribbon Falls

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Bright Angel Creek and Bright Angel Campground

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Amy looking down at the Devil’s Corkscrew that we just hiked up.

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A little waterfall cascading into a pool in a small alcove along Bright Angel Trail

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Looking back from where we had come, getting close to Jacob’s Ladder, the most difficult part of the day!

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Nearing the top, hiking behind a group of guys we had befriended on the way up.

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We made it, despite shredded feet, sore knees and sunburned lips!

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I feel so fortunate to have visited the canyon as many times as I have in my 41 years.  I dream of more excursions exploring the inner canyon and lingering on the rim, feeling like a raven with the wind blowing on my face.  I’m so thankful that our forefathers had the foresight to protect this wondrous place, that it’s not a private playground for the rich with the entire rim crowded by huge vacation homes.  As Roosevelt said, “The ages have been at work upon it, and man can only mar it.

 

 

13
Feb
19

April Adventure Part One – Pigeon River Country

April 12-13, 2018

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Four days off in mid-April during a winter that refused to end, what did I do? Well, for the first portion of the long weekend, I headed up to my parents’ house to drop off my injured Yukon (at the time we thought he had a torn CCL, more about that later). Then, I loaded Mira back up for an overnight backpacking trip to the Pigeon River Country State Forest.

We arrived at the trailhead parking lot at around noon and while wrangling an overexcited Mira, I crammed everything we’d need for our little adventure into my pack. We started our hike in a light drizzle with intensified as we made our way to the forest headquarters. The trail, already covered in 6 inches of sloppy snow and ice was made more treacherous, each step an effort. Thank goodness for hiking poles! Headquarters was closed so we took shelter on the covered porch, reading some pamphlets before continuing on the trail toward our destination for the night.

Getting started – Mira and me at the trailhead

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Made it to headquarters, slightly damp

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PRC is inherently quiet, but winter intensifies that silence, the only sounds being our footsteps slogging through the slush and the sounds of drizzle dripping onto my pack. Signs of the state’s only elk herd were all around us, huge rubs on trees along the trail, their large tracks icy along the slushy trail and large piles of scat (which Mira eyed longingly more than once).

Plenty of elk sign along the trail!

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By the time we reached the 10 mile loop cutoff, we were both exhausted, so I opted to leave the uppermost portion of the trail off and head west toward Section 4 Lake and ultimately the south end of Grass Lake where I was planning on camping for the night. Just past Section 4 Lake, I noticed some larger tracks iced into the snow that at a glance didn’t look like elk. I moved in for a closer look and saw they were made by a recently awakened, rarely seen, forest dweller, Ursus americanus – the American black bear. As I always do when I find slightly out of the ordinary (somewhat scary) tracks, I sent a photo to my mom so she and Dad could worry even more. I suppose it’s not as bad as my first solo fly fishing trip where, when I arrived at my campsite along Rock Creek in Montana, I found a mountain lion track in the mud and sent a photo to Mom captioned “Here kitty kitty!”

It seemed like forever, probably because both Mira and I had slowed to a crawl, but we finally reached the south end of Grass Lake and set up the small Kelty backpacking tent on the wet snow. Mira’s needs took priority, she was shivering and could hardly stay awake (she is 13 years old I guess, 6+ miles in slushy snow is a workout for an old lady). Wrapped in a down throw, she struggled to stay awake nodding off, but unwilling to give in a fall asleep. I made her some warm Honest Kitchen before heating water for my Mountain House meal. We snuggled in for the night, both of us still shivering so I filled a Nalgene with hot water and crammed Mira into my bag with me. Sleep didn’t come easy despite the added warmth, visions of rampaging bears filling my head.

Pigeon River

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Made it to the cutoff, time to head to camp!

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Bear!!!

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Tired old dog after a strenuous hike!

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Camp for the night

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Thankfully, we survived the night without slipping into a hypothermic coma or being eaten by a starving bear. After breaking camp, I was soaked and exhausted and so was Mira, time to head cross country and forego the top end of the loop. I broke trail threw the deep wet snow and Mira followed close behind. Powered by trail mix, granola bars (Tucker’s Carnibars in Mira’s case), we were back to the car in no time and heading back south to my parents’ to don dry clothes and rejoin our Yukon.

 

 

13
Feb
19

Back in Time 2018

Well, 2018 was a bit of a rough year. A year of loved ones lost, both two-legged and four-legged. But also a year of new adventures and new experiences. I didn’t keep up with documenting these adventures so I’ll be stepping back in time, via this blog, to recap the excitement (and the pain) of this past year.

08
Feb
18

The Road

 

“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” 

-John Steinbeck, “Travels with Charley: In Search of America”

The road trip, it has been immortalized by many an author, from Kerouac’s stream of consciousness, to Steinbeck’s descriptive narrative, to the frenetic, drug-fueled musings of Hunter S. Thompson. It’s an American tradition.

Tires humming beneath me, chewing up endless miles as they roll west.  The loneliness of the small hours of the morning, the only company my four-legged companions snoring contentedly in the back, and the music – Tom Petty, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, all whose lyrics I belt out at the top of my lungs, windows down to let the cool air wash over me and keep me alert.

Gas stops pared down to minutes – fill the tank, let the dogs stretch their legs, grab a drink to make sure caffeine levels remain high enough that if I had to push the vehicle to my destination, I could.  The sun peeking over the eastern horizon, lighting everything ahead of me. The terrain changing from Midwestern corn fields to the rolling short grass prairies of eastern Wyoming, Montana or Colorado.  That first glimpse of the Front Range in the distance.  Approaching my first night’s stop, delirious exhaustion bordering on hallucination, overridden by the excitement of the new surroundings and the possibilities.  This is my happy place, the place I feel at home, the place I feel alive.

03
Aug
17

Into the Big Wild

For years I’ve dreamed of loading a backpack and wandering off into the wilderness to experience nature for more than just a day hike followed by a night of car camping.  An excessive number of hobbies won out and backpacking was kicked to the back burner.  Until now!  At the end of last year, I started thinking about how wild it would be to do a Rim to Rim backing trip in the Grand Canyon.  In December, my first real backpacking pack was on its way, an Osprey Aura AG 50.

Fast forward to the end of June, I had a few days off after the 4th of July holiday and was planning on hiking the Shingle Mill Pathway in the Pigeon River Country State Forest in the Lower Peninsula’s northeast section.  Home to the state’s only elk herd (along with many other of Michigan’s native flora and fauna) and the largest section of contiguous state land ownership in Michigan, it is a quiet retreat from the madness of city life.  I couldn’t wait to set foot in what forester and conservationist, P.S. Lovejoy coined the ‘Big Wild’ and decided to experience it properly, I needed to spend a night and walk the trails with a loaded pack on my back.

Lovejoy Monument – Pigeon River Country State Forest

Mira and I left AuGres (my parents’ house) in the morning for the short drive to the Pigeon River Country State Forest.  Driving east out of Vanderbilt I saw my first brown and white DNR sign indicating I was near, excitement mixed with a touch of anxiety welled up as I pulled into the parking area across from the Pigeon River Bridge Campground.

Over the winter I had read about the proper way to pack a backpack and practiced several times at home prior to leaving, my pack weight upon leaving the lot was 29 pounds with food and water (including Mira’s food).  Mira’s Ruffwear Singletrack pack was loaded with her Ruffwear boots, her food and water dishes and our Thermacell.  She was ridiculously happy to be tackling another adventure with me.  After snapping a few photos we proceeded to take our first steps of our backpacking adventure.

Time lapse of packing, realizing I forgot to load my hydration bladder, unpacking and then repacking :-)​​  **upside down until you hit play

Trying to get a nice photo at the start of our journey – Mira had other ideas 😂


Time to start!


While planning, I decided that I wanted to do the loop clockwise (no particular reason, my brain just likes clockwise).  Plans were quickly squashed when I failed to realize the loops “end” didn’t have a common point near the campground.  I continued on counterclockwise, toward the Pigeon River Country Headquarters and the next campground.

A few miles in, it became apparent that my pack was very ill-adjusted.  My butt hurt, my legs were uncomfortable and I had the sensation that the top of the pack was forcing my head forward, chin to chest.  Instead of stopping and attempting to fix it like a sane human, I continued forward, completely uncomfortable.  We only saw one couple and their young Brittany in the stretch from Pigeon River Bridge to the Headquarters, stopping for a minute to chat about dogs and bird hunting.  The forest’s solitude was proving to be blissful!  We made a quick stop at the headquarters building to read the pamphlets posted outside about bears, elk and fishing before heading toward the campground for a break.

Forest Headquarters


The Pigeon River State Forest Campground, while a nice little rustic campground, was definitely a stark contrast to quiet of the trail.  Families cooking on grills and bathing suit clad campers carrying inflated tubes were all bustling around, enjoying the nice (hot) weather and the cool water.  One such family stopped me to talk, they had a young Aussie at home.  They were curious about Mira’s pack and decided that their energetic four-legged family member should start carrying their own trail goodies.  I made a couple of stops at the river to let Mira wade in, get a drink and cool her paws before heading on.  We reached the 6 mile split and kept heading heading north through the pines toward the 10 mile split where we would head west to check out one of the area’s sinkhole lakes before making camp for the night

6 Mile Split

Photos of clear turquoise waters with downed logs drew my attention while browsing the internet during the planning phase of this trip, Section 4 Lake looked like a place I would need to stop and wet a line.  The lake which used to be off limits to fishing due to research purposes (these sinkhole lakes with no streams entering or exiting were perfect for studying) was now open to fishing during trout season for anglers using artificial means only.  Thoughts of catching a jewel colored Brook Trout from this stunning water made me pack my 6 piece fly rod and a small stash of flies.

After taking a steep, marked trail down to the lake, I tethered Mira in the shade and took my increasingly uncomfortable pack off to access my fishing gear.  The tree lined shores made fly fishing a tough prospect and while I saw fish rising in the middle and gave it a serious go, I ended up skunked.  Float tubes are allowed in Section 4, which would be an excellent way to better fish this body of water.  Begrudgingly, I stashed my fishing gear and wrestled on my pack (I was getting better at it, but it was still a feat) and started the final push to the night’s camping spot, the south end of Grass Lake.

Fishing at Section 4



I found the dispersed sites easily upon arrival and chose one further away from the trail with plenty of well spaced trees and access to water for Mira.  Finally, I could crack one of the beers I hauled in to celebrate our first successful day of backpacking!  After finding the two perfect trees, I strung the hammock and rain fly and laid a ground sheet under it on which Mira promptly crashed.  Dinner for the evening was courtesy of Mountain House, my favorite, Beef Stroganoff.  Dinner finished and Mira fed, I set about hanging a bear bag for the first time.  I’m sure it would have been hilarious for anyone watching and after many tries I was finally successful.

Mira, one beer in and crashed…lightweight 😜


Dinner time for Mira and me


In the hammock, Mira on top of me (it was 80 degrees out, perfect furry dog cuddling weather), I read until my eyes would no longer stay open.  The haunting sounds of the lake’s resident loon, the chorus of bullfrogs and the incessant buzz of blood sucking mosquitos lulled me into a deep sleep.

Hammock time with my little trail buddy 😊




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Started puppy class last week with these two hooligans. While we both know how to train, working on things in the presence of 7 hyper puppies is great for the pups. These two are pretty solid on “leave it” as we use it for keeping them from tormenting the cat and curbing Mesa’s herding tendencies. • • #aussielovers #aussiepuppy #aussie #dogs #dogstagram #australianshepherdworld #australianshepherdsofinstagram #dogsofinsta #instadog #dog #aussies #puppylove #australianshepherd #puppy #puppiesofinstagram #dogsofinstagram #aussiesofinstagram #aussielove #cute #doglover #reddog #redmerle #redmerleaussie #adventuredog #adventurepuppy #dogtraining #gsp #germanshorthairedpointer #germanshorthair #gsppuppy
Probably an unpopular view seeing as fall just started, but I can’t wait to get out ice fishing with my dad! #icefishing #fishing #michigan #walleye #saginawbay #lakehuron
Two nutty Aussies keeping busy in their own weird way. Seven month old Mesa herding his @jollypets Jolly Ball Push-n-Play around the yard and 14 year old Mira running her daily laps around the house. Such fun dogs! . #aussielovers #aussiepuppy #aussie #dogs #dogstagram #australianshepherdworld #australianshepherdsofinstagram #dogsofinsta #instadog #dog #aussies #puppylove #australianshepherd #puppy #puppiesofinstagram #dogsofinstagram #aussiesofinstagram #aussielove #cute #doglover #reddog #redmerle #redmerleaussie #adventuredog #adventurepuppy #bluemerle #olddogsrule #seniordog #herdingdog
Missing the hell out of this little dog lately! This was from our second to last hike together 😢 . #aussielovers #aussiepuppy #aussie #dogs #dogstagram #australianshepherdworld #australianshepherdsofinstagram #dogsofinsta #instadog #dog #aussies #puppylove #australianshepherd #puppy #puppiesofinstagram #dogsofinstagram #aussiesofinstagram #aussielove #cute #doglover #blacktri #blacktriaussie #adventuredog #adventurepuppy #cyanobacterium #hikingwithdogs #rip #northcountrytrail #fifelakeloop
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