Posts Tagged ‘michigan

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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13
Mar
13

Hitting the Wall AKA Learning to Climb

Climbing has always been a sport (art form) that has intrigued me. There are various reasons that until recently I hadn’t tried it – intimidation, bad shoulders, location and so on. Thankfully, a couple of weeks ago, a friend informed me that Grand Rapids Hiking Meetup group was heading to the local climbing gym, Inside Moves, all experience levels welcome. I instantly signed up for the Meetup group and RSVP’d – YES!!!

After a night of learning the basics of belaying, bouldering, climbing and knot tying we spent the evening navigating routes and socializing. Not only did I meet some really nice people, I realized that I would be able to climb and the intimidation was all in my head. The next day, I picked out some basic gear and anxiously awaited its arrival. Weather and work (Ok, I’ll admit – very sore muscles) kept me from trying again until this past Thursday night.

Since I had already been to one of the local gyms, I thought it would be interesting to see what another had to offer. Unfortunately, their bouldering wall had all the holds removed for an upcoming competition. All day, the one thing I could think about was how anxious I was to get back in the climbing gym so I headed back to Inside Moves. One of my big concerns was getting in an experienced climber’s way but while paying for a day pass I was assured that being an absolute beginner was not a problem.

I donned my shiny new (very tight) climbing shoes and made my way over to the bouldering walls. Apparently I not only didn’t know I was doing, but I looked like I didn’t know I was doing because after a few minutes of struggling, an older gentleman came over and started chatting with me and giving me tips (beta as I would come to find out). Joe told me he started climbing 12 years ago at 75 years old looked like he was going strong and would be for quite some time! It just goes to show, you’re never too old to try something new!

Over and over, with the help of Joe and another kind woman who had been climbing for 2 years, I attempted to less-than-skillfully muscle my way up the various routes/problems.  At last, I was able to complete one of the easiest problems…I was elated! After working on that same problem until I ripped the skin off of four of my fingers, I tried a few other problems before packing up my shoes, thanking everybody and heading home with a big grin on my face. The following day, I had a hard time tying my own shoes, but that didn’t matter I was hooked!

Easing the pain of my skinned fingers with a Big Sky Trout Slayer

25
Aug
12

By the Shores of Gitchee Gumee

Gitchee Gumee as Longfellow referred to it, Gichigami or “Big Water” to the Ojibwe natives, Lake Superior was my destination for the day. Lake Superior State Forest campground on the dirt portion of H-58 east of Grand Marais was where I hoped to find a campsite to spend a night on the big lake.

As I was loading up for the day, a fellow hotel guest asked me a few questions about the V-Strom. He is a long haul trucker but has a Gold Wing at home he gets to ride on occasion. Without fail, the question, “Do you feel safe as a woman traveling alone?” came up. I’m very used to this question and explained that in general I feel very safe and that common sense is the best tool to protecting yourself while touring. Checked out and loaded up, I was on the road around 8:00am, heading north again! As always, being in the Upper Peninsula felt great, it was nice to be away from the city for a bit.

Heading through Newberry, I noticed signs in store windows thanking firefighters for their help, evidence of this spring’s Duck Lake forest fires. I made the turnoff to Muskallonge Lake and H-58, 23 miles until the pavement ends and the V-Strom fun begins! The Wee handled the dirt road quite well despite its fairly worn street tires, I stood on the pegs and enjoyed the fresh air. Thankfully, when I finally made it to my destination campground there were several campsites available. I decided on site #4, a fairly secluded site with a path down to Lake Superior. I quickly unloaded my drybag full of camping gear, set up my little tent and hung my new ENO Singlenest Hammock (review to soon follow).

Lake Superior State Forest Campground – Site #4

Dragging myself out of the hammock was a chore but I had to head into Grand Marais to grab a bite to eat. Riding the Wee into town was a ball, I was singing at the top of my lungs as I pulled into town, The Sportsman’s Restaurant was my stop. I was hoping breakfast was served all day, I love their french toast, but they stopped breakfast at 11:00 I was there at 11:05, bummer. After inhaling (my normal mode of eating) my burger, I buzzed across the street to the small town grocery store to pickup pop, adult beverages and some grub for the evening.

Hmm…no cooler for the beer or the pop, time for some moto-camper improvisation. Since the V-Strom didn’t have Givi bag hangers, I was using some older soft saddlebags for this trip. I lined one side with a grocery bag and filled it with ice – instant cooler!

My moto-camper cooler – still had ice left the next morning

I had one more stop to make before heading to my home for the night, on our recent car camping trip we found a great source of firewood just east of town. This guy had a firewood buffet, you could choose from several different hardwoods, softwoods and small pieces of split cedar for kindling. I grabbed a bundle of birch and a bundle of cedar kindling and strapped them to the bike – have I mentioned Rok Straps are one of the best moto inventions ever?

The Wee makes a great firewood hauler

Singing Janis Joplin’s ‘Mercedes Benz’ at the top of my lungs, I was loving life!  That’s when it happened…I overreacted to a car coming the opposite way (narrow truck trail type road).  I pulled too far to the right and the bike’s front wheel  was sucked into about 5 inches of sand.  As the bike swerved slightly, I did something very stupid…chopped the throttle instead of accelerating, my back wheel hopped over the sandy embankment on the side of the road.  Looking back, adding to the V-Strom’s top heavy nature by loading firewood up top probably wasn’t the best idea 🙂

With adrenaline (and embarrassment) surging, I did the first thing I could think of…I grabbed the Wee by the bars and yanked all 500 lbs of it in a rage.  I never said I was bright!  As I righted the bike, it started slipping in the sand and I had to quickly set it back down.  Despite the diminutive assigned to it, the Wee is anything but little and light!  It was then I started to realize I was a bit bruised and shredded, the bike was damaged very little thanks to the frame sliders and other safety doodads.  While standing on the side of the road trying to figure out how I was going to get myself out of this mess, a couple in a truck showed up, followed by a trio of dual-sport riders – a sight for sore eyes!

After a bit of effort, we got the bike up but still had to contend with the rear wheel being stuck in a sandy embankment.  The guy from the truck and one of the dual-sporters pushed while I hit the throttle and I was finally out of the mess.  Thank goodness for kind strangers.  I’ve never backpacked but have heard of “trail magic” in the form of people unexpectedly helping or the like.  For as much as people worry about me traveling alone, I’ve experienced the motorcycle touring equivalent of “trail magic” more than once.  For anyone feeling down on mankind, take a road trip, meet some great people, it’ll restore your faith in the good of people!

The couple in the truck were heading my way, so they loaded up my firewood and followed me to the campground.  After thanking them profusely, and offering them a cold one (the beer survived the crash thankfully), they were off, on their way to their campground.  Still shaking from the crash, I cracked open a beer and attempted to calm myself down.  Prior to crashing, my intent was to head over to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and hike the Chapel Loop, one of my favorite hikes in the area.  After the crash, I decided I should just stay put, enjoy a beer or two and relax.

Sweating from the effort of wrestling the motorcycle, I took a quick dip in Lake Superior followed by a nap in the hammock.  I swear ENO has perfected time travel, whenever I get in that hammock it’s all of a sudden 2 hours later 🙂  It will definitely be a constant in my motorcycle camping kit from now on.

A quick rest in my ENO Hammock – doubles as clothesline!

After I managed to get a decent campfire going without lighting my hair on fire (which I’ve done the last couple times I’ve camped) I headed down to the beach for the sunset.  Despite the black flies trying to make me a meal, the sunset was beautiful – it was going to be a great night!

Trying out the Crazy Creek Hexlite chair (another soon to review) while enjoying the campfire

Sunset on Lake Superior

There was no rain in the nighttime forecast so instead of sleeping in my stuffy tent, I dragged my sleeping bag to the hammock and crawled in.  I quickly slipped into sleep under the stars next to the dying embers of the campfire.

24
Aug
12

Northward Bound

This summer’s motorcycle adventures have been sparse (ok, non-existent) so when given the opportunity to test ride a used 2006 V-Strom 650 for the weekend I jumped on it.  Where to go for a short camping weekend…the Upper Peninsula of course!  On a recent car camping trip, Andy and I had noticed a small campground on H-58 east of Grand Marais, Michigan called Lake Superior campground, that would be my destination for Saturday night.  Since I’m diligently saving vacation for my fall India trip, I planned on leaving after work and staying somewhere in St. Ignace for the night – riding at night isn’t my favorite (especially in rural areas).

After what seemed like a never ending day at work, I got home and loaded up the Strom.  On schedule for a change, I hugged the dogs good-bye and pointed the Wee north.  The ride up was pretty uneventful albeit a bit shaky at first.  It took a few miles to get used to the new machine, but once I was comfortable all was well.  After a few hours on the road, I saw the white towers of the Mackinac Bridge looming in the distance – the gateway to my weekend getaway!

My plan was to camp at either Carp River State Forest Campground or Foley Lake Campground, but while crossing the bridge, the clouds started to open up…motel it would be!  After a few calls to find a place with vacancy that was sufficiently cheap, I landed at The Pines Motel, a little mom and pop on the north end of St. Ignace.  Thankfully there was a convenience store next door with homemade pizza and baked goods.  It was nice being able to take a short walk in order to grab a bite to eat!  After scarfing down a couple of pieces of pizza, it was down to the lake to watch the sunset.  On my walk back, I was joined by a party of bats swooping around me grabbing their evening meal.  Off to bed, it’d be an early morning ride to the big lake and my campsite for the day.

All packed up, the V-Strom ready to ride

10
Sep
09

Michigan’s West Coast

Since the beginning of the summer I’ve been trying to do 400-600 mile rides on as many of my days off during the week as I can.  Since I enjoyed this ride so much during the spring, I thought I’d do it again.

Gear:  Arai Quantum 2 helmet, First Gear Monarch TPG jacket, Joe Rocket Phoenix 2.0 mesh pants, Sokz Riding socks (Arrow), Alpinestars Web Gortex boots.

Mileage:  427 miles total, 40 on expressway, 10 on dirt, and the rest on West Michigan two lane beautiful twisties!!

LINK TO ROUTE

Trip Photos :

My GPS sent me down about 10 miles of dirt.  Dual-sport Ninja!!

Ludington Pump Station – uses turbines to pump water from Lake Michigan uphill into a reservoir.  During times of peak power water is released from the reservoir to generate power.

Two of Everything Breakfast – House of Flavors, Ludington, MI

Ninja at Ludington Light

Ramsdell Theatre – Manistee, MI theater opened in 1903.  Where James Earl Jones started his career.

Lake Michigan Overlook north of Arcadia, MI

I think I was bordering on delirious when I took this shot – LOL…blurry biker bitch?

Point Betsie Lighthouse

South Manitou Islands taken from Pierce Stock Drive Overlook in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  The Chippewa legend about Sleeping Bear Dunes can be found HERE.




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Great day to take the little beast for a hike (and to take her senior [citizen] picture 😜)! #australianshepherd #australianshepherdsofinstagram #rescuedog #rescuedogsofinstagram #seniordog #olddogsrule #michigan #fall #autumn I woke this morning to the drumming of rain on the roof and wind howling in the trees.  I cuddled back under the covers, my two dogs and my parents’ GSP (who I’m dog sitting) keeping me warm.  I’ve never had much success with squirrels on windy days, it seems to drive them into their hidey holes safe from airborne predators.  After yesterday’s near misses, I couldn’t stay inside and not hunt despite my low chances for success, so around 1:30 I got dressed and headed out.  I saw a red phase Ruffed Grouse creeping through the thorny underbrush before it flew out and away from me.  An eagle cried high above and the treetops were whipping around like they were caught in a cyclone.

I saw one elusive grey squirrel leaping from tree to tree as I attempted to close the distance, no deal.  Deeper into the woods I went, large branches falling around me.  My desire to find a squirrel was less great than my desire not to get taken out by a “widow maker” so I started walking back.  Along the edge of a just cut corn field, 10 yards away, a fat fox squirrel sat on its haunches, a scavenged corn cob in its front paws.  My first shot hit the thorny brush covering the field’s edge.  I nocked another arrow, this one finding its way home. #squirrelhunting #bowhunting #archeryhunting #recurvebow #tradbow #tradbowhunting #psearchery #foxsquirrel #michigan #smallgamehunting #womenhunt So much for squirrel hunting today, I went out for a little bit but was caught in a downpour.  I did surprise a small doe hanging out in tall ferns. (I hate how I sound on video 😂). #hunting #bowhunting #squirrelhunting #michigan #rain #downpour #archeryhunting #archery #womenhunt My parents went on their first vacation in over a decade (out to Vegas to visit my sister) and I finally had the opportunity to pay them back for watching my dogs whenever I need them to.  Maggie the 2 year old German Shorthair operates on a whole different level from my two senior citizens.  I forgot what puppyhood was like!  Today she ate my @jayssportinggoods that I’ve worn like 5 times LOL.  Thankfully for my blood pressure, they’ll be back at the end of the week 😂 #adventuresindogsitting #dog #germanshorthairedpointer #puppy #gsp #germanshorthairedpointersofinstagram
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