Posts Tagged ‘nature

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 😊

11
Apr
13

Pups Go West 2013 – Begin Again

After weeks of anticipation, the morning was finally here, time to leave for vacation with the dogs to Utah. Since I worked a late shift yesterday evening, I packed the remainder of my gear and clothing this morning…that, extreme weather in the area and two overexcited dogs underfoot delayed departure a bit. It was cold, wet and gloomy, which would continue throughout the day and across five states (with a little snow an sleet thrown in).

I made my traditional stop in Davenport, Iowa to grab the amazing sub that is Capriotti’s Bobbie (shredded turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and mayo). During the time I was in the sub shop, Mira, the crafty little Aussie that she is, figured out how to open the cooler and had dragged a 2-pack of vacuum sealed New York Strips out. Thankfully she didn’t have time to get the package open. I think my future dogs will need to be stupid, that speckled little nut is always a step ahead of me 🙂

The Bobbie
Rain and cold were a constant throughout the day
Wet weather = muddy paws 🙂
Mira was enjoying the windy day (so much that she forgot she was out to potty)

My original destination for the evening was North Platte, Nebraska but between battling the Jeep in the heavy crosswind and dealing with the rain and snow I was very sleepy and stopped short. One thing that always appeals to me about driving rather than flying, are the amazing things you see while on the road. In the last hour before stopping for the night, I saw hundreds of Sandhill Cranes – I must have lucked out and hit Nebraska during the crane migration. What an absolutely amazing thing to see!

Tomorrow…Utah or bust!

03
Apr
13

Pups Go West 2013 – Pre-Trip Prep

 

20130404-092353.jpg

Mira testing out her new ABO Travel Dog Bed (my Big Agnes Lulu bag behind her).

The time is upon us, time for the second annual ‘Pups Go West’ hiking and camping trip. Aside from some mishaps, dehydration and doggie seizures, the dogs and I had a great time rambling around Utah for a couple of weeks last spring so I decided I needed to make time for it again.

I’ve made a few changes to our sleeping accommodations: a curtain between the front and back seats instead of Reflectix, thinner more travel friendly dog beds (that can also be used outside at the campsite), an ENO Hammock and my Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 tent. We’ll be sleeping mostly in the Jeep but I wanted some additional options in case we wanted to sleep under the stars (without the risk of rattlesnakes and scorpions). The dogs still don’t quite grasp the concept of the mesh tent but we all fit it fine and have spent several nights in it.

We’ll be heading out bright and early on April 11th, hoping to hit Western Nebraska our first evening and Utah the next afternoon. For the better part of the vacation, we’ll be spending time exploring the San Rafael Swell/Reef area, Escalante and if road conditions permit Cottonwood Canyon Rd. This year my goal is to be a better blogger and not wait and entire year to start my trip report. Any followers have suggestions on good hikes (with dogs) or must see features in the areas above?

24
Apr
12

Pups Go West 2012 – Day 5

Loaded up and ready to go – Goblin Valley State Park Site #1loadedupgv

I woke up the second morning spent in the Jeep to a beautiful, sunny blue sky.   I didn’t have a set plan for where we would go, just in the general direction of Escalante via UT-12 and my favorite, The Hogback.  Using the Jeep as a “camper’ instead of the tent makes for easy take-down – just had to load the cooler and chair back in, tidy up the site a bit , feed the beasts and we were on our way!

South on UT24,  our first stop would be Capitol Reef National Park.  While researching, I came across a loop on my Utah Recreational Map that mentioned Temple of the Sun/Temple of the Moon in Cathedral Valley.  After researching on the internet, I planned on driving the loop and camping in Cathedral Valley for the night.  I stopped at the visitor center in Fruita and asked about conditions on the road and decided against it.  Back to the Jeep, I noticed an amazing Overland vehicle with European plates and started chatting with the couple standing outside.  They were from Amsterdam and were traveling around the world in their van…pretty awesome setup!  I quickly checked out the campground that was near the visitor center, it was quite full and sites were close together so I opted to keep rolling, stopping for a couple of photos in front of the Capitol Reef National Park sign.

Mira and Yukon at Capitol Reef National Parkmirayukcapitolreef

Family shadow portrait (couldn’t keep the dogs still long enough for a real portrait)capitolshadows

After a quick stop for Subway (a staple meal on this trip) in Torrey, we set off down UT12 toward Boulder Mountain.  The last time I was on Boulder Mountain was September 2011 near the end of a 3 week long motorcycle trip.  Part way up the mountain I was pummeled with dime sized hailstones, not very comfortable on a motorcycle!  The weather this time up the mountain was much sunnier, albeit windy, and we made stops at each of the Boulder Mountain overlooks.

Panorama from one of the Boulder Mountain overlooks (the Henry Mountains in the distance to the left of the photo)bouldermtpano

We kept heading west toward Escalante and the Hogback, a stretch of UT12 that sits atop a thin ridge of sandstone wide enough for the two-lane road, with dropoffs on each side.  This is an amazing ride on a motorcycle, one of my favorites, unless you get stuck behind a motorhome.  We took a moment to walk around Head of the Rocks view point, an overlook over Escalante Canyon and vast stretches of slickrock with UT12 winding its way through.

Yukon and Mira at Head of the Rocks overlookyukmirahofr

View from Head of the Rocks overlookheadofrocks

Head of the Rocks panoramaheadoftherockspano

Upon arrival in Escalante, I looked for established campsites but everything was full.  New to dispersed camping, I didn’t consider that at the time and ended up in one of the pet-friendly cabins at Escalante Outfitters.  The dogs were quite hot due to the unseasonably warm weather so I asked at the desk if there was an area to take the dogs swimming.  I was directed to Wide Hollow Reservoir, a body of water formed by a dammed Escalante River.  The dogs were in their glory (especially Yukon) splashing around in the cool water.  Unfortunately, this outing ended any hope of hiking for the rest of the trip as Mira pulled up her rear leg with a torn pad.

Mira cooling down at the edge of Wide Hollow Reservoirmirawidehollow

Yukon bringing back his stick – blissful at being in water again!yukonwidehollow

Due to the circumstances, I took the opportunity to drive Hells Backbone Road instead of the hike I had planned to Calf Creek falls.  I had been wanting to check this road (and its famous bridge) out for a while but always arrived in town with too little time to do so.  Starting out in Escalante, I wound my way through a juniper covered desert landscape which made way for pines and aspen as the road climbed its way to a higher elevation.  We stopped near Pine Creek to play in the snow and wade in the ice cold water before arriving at the historic Hell’s Backbone Bridge.

While climbing around the rocks near the bridge and taking in the stunning view of the Box Death Hollow Wilderness Area, I noticed another vehicle slowly making its way across the chasm.  The brown Chevy pickup, bearing a ‘Beaver Island’ license plate, pulled behind the Jeep – a fellow Michigander perhaps?  An older man, in his late 70s as I would come to find out, stepped out of the cab and came over to say hello.  He was touring around Utah, camping in his truck on what he called his last big trip, though judging by his spryness I suspect there will be many more trips in his future.  As I suspected, he was indeed a Michigan native, a resident of Whitehall, a mere hour north of me.  Though I’m an extroverted introvert, one of my favorite parts of road trips is the people met along the way. This gentleman was no different, I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation and after 20 minutes of story swapping, he was off to his campsite for the night.  The dogs and I continued exploring around the bridge before heading back to the Escalante Outfitter cabin.

Heading up Hell’s Backbone Roadhellsbackbonejeep

View over Box Death Hollow Wilderness from Hell’s Backbone bridgehellsbackbone1

Bristlecone Pine with Hell’s Backbone Bridge in the backgroundhellsbackbonebridgecolor

Mira and Yukon begging to join me on the porch of the cabinpleaseyukmira

Back in the cabin – time for bed after planning for the next dayescalantecabin

23
Apr
12

Pups Go West 2012 – Day 4

After poring over the Utah Recreation Map and the Gazetteer, my plan for the day was to explore Black Dragon Canyon and it’s pictographs, visit Swasey’s Cabin, explore along Temple Mountain Rd ending up at Goblin Valley State Park for the evening.  Well, I accomplished two of the four planned stops for the day – driving Temple Mountain Rd. and Goblin Valley State Park.

Heading west out of Green River, I had my eyes peeled looking for the ranch exit that led to Black Dragon Canyon.  Argggh…blew right past it and decided it would have to wait for another trip.  I started making my way toward Swasey’s Cabin and decided to turn around at a washed out area as I was concerned about the Jeep’s (and my) ability to navigate rougher obstacles.   Temple Mountain Rd. turned out to be a nice, scenic back road.

CrossroadsTemple Mountain Road Sign

A little frisbee at the base of Temple Mountain to occupy the dogs (and a Pawsitive Vybe cameo appearance)templemtfrisbee

Tired dogs after an impromptu frisbee session at the base of Temple Mountainyukmiratemplemt1

I arrived at Goblin Valley State Park campground early afternoon, chose site #1 and after paying for a night heading into Hanksville to pick up supplies.  Back at camp, I got the firewood and kindling ready for later in the evening and made some lunch (gourmet Ramen noodles with canned chicken – LOL).

Making lunch and kindling before an afternoon hike at Goblin Valley State ParkMaking Kindling

The sun was quite hot so I waited until late afternoon to take the dogs for a hike.  I had picked out the short Entrada Canyon hike from the brochure.  Though it was short, it sounded interesting, running through an arroyo until it opened up into the field of hoodoo formations that Goblin Valley is known for.

Ready to roll – the first portion of the hike made its way across this hot, dried mud landscapeenteringentrada

As we hiked further into the canyon, the temperature increased – what was intended to be a short, easy afternoon hike turned into a panicky fiasco.  Yukon became increasingly sluggish as the sloping muddy walls closed in.  Mira’s pack came in handy as it carries 1L of water which I used to dump on an overheating Yukon head so we could get back to camp.  I’m generally pretty good at reading how my dogs are feeling, but I dropped the ball on this one.  At one point, my furry black buddy stopped dead in the middle of the trail, laid on the ground and refused to move.  We continued this pattern of stopping, wetting Yukon’s head and getting water into him for the mile back to our campsite.

This is what most of the hike looked like (sorry for the lens flare)entrada1

Yukon and Mira taking a cool down break in Entrada Canyonentradacanyon2

Mira basking in the sun on a break from hiking Entrada Canyonmiraentrada

We got back to camp fine, and after filling Yukon with more water, we loaded into the Jeep and drove down to the valley overlook and explored the endless hoodoos with the Henry Mountains in the distance.

Mira climbing around the hoodoosDesert Dreaming

Mira with the Henry Mountains in the distancemiragoblin1

One of the many interesting hoodoos in Goblin Valleyhoodoo1

Climbing on hoodoos – Mira, Yukon and me in shadow
goblinshadow

After the amazing sunset in the valley, we headed back to camp and started a campfire while the moon rose over the red rock walls surrounding the campground.  Although I know it’s not the best for me, I stuck a can of beanless chili in the fire and ate it with bread (I know, camp gourmet). 

After a frustrating previous day (scary incident on the trail with the dogs and an asthma attack) it was nice to sit by the fire with Mira on my lap and Yukon at my side.  The only way I could think to describe it was explosive bliss…the perfect end to a great day.

goblinvalleyfire




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This is what I walked in to see when I got to work today 😂. My long time coworkers readily admitted that with the antics of my early adulthood, they didn't think I'd live to see this milestone 😬 #birthday #40thbirthday #thebig40 Mira wasn't thrilled about the hike back to the Jeep yesterday morning.  After I pulled the bear bag down and grabbed her treats, she perked up and was ready to go!  Our second backpacking trip went well, she was much more at ease sleeping in the tent.  I'm so glad my old girl still is fit and spry and can share these adventures with me!  #australianshepherd #australianshepherdsofinstagram #rescuedog #rescuedogsofinstagram #backpackingwithdogs #backpacking #camping #campingwithdogs #hiking #hikingwithdogs #northcountrytrail #tahquamenonfalls #michigan #olddogsrule #seniordog People watching at Upper Tahquamenon Falls. #australianshepherd #australianshepherdsofinstagram #rescuedog #rescuedogsofinstagram #herdingdog #tahquamenonfalls #michigan #waterfall #puremichigan #ruffwear #olddogsrule #seniordog I don't think any photo could better demonstrate Mira's look of displeasure at me interrupting her attempt to drink Lake Superior in its entirety than this one does 😂 #australianshepherd #australianshepherdsofinstagram #rescuedog #rescuedogsofinstagram #lakesuperior #michigan #upperpeninsula #crisppointlighthouse #dog #water
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