Don’t Be a Pantywaist

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I woke up really emotional this morning. Perhaps I’ve been affected by spending several days in the woods. Maybe it’s the coffee I drank yesterday. Or it could be the releasing of all the stress of the last few weeks and finally relaxing my guard. It doesn’t really matter. All I know is that I cried at least three times today.

A tear rolled down my cheek when I read a New York Times article about the drastic declines in the shorebird populations. I am gripped in grief over the ongoing loss of our wild animal species. I had to pull myself together and stop crying after Ashok had an altercation with a very old dog at the kennel. It destroys me she can’t get along with other dogs, especially when they are so old. And I cried as the author of Grandma Gatewood’s biography recalled her heart for walking and her spirit of persistence until the ripe old age of 86.

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I am in the land of Grandma Emma Gatewood, the first female thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail. In fact, today is Grandma Gatewood Day, and this book signing by author Ben Montgomery was held today as a celebration. The event began with a showing of the documentary Trail Magic which details the 67-year-old woman’s hike of the 2200-mile Appalachian Trail. Her hike was in 1955. Yes, she was 67, and she wore tennis shoes and carried a canvas sack. She had no tent and stuffed leaves in her sack so she could sleep on top of it at night. In a word, she was a trooper.

Grandma divorced a man who beat her for over 30 years although she told people she was widowed. I won’t tell you her whole story, but I find it interesting that after divorcing a man who beat her and raising 11 kids, she decided one day to go for a walk – a very long walk. That’s what she told her kids. I am going for a walk. She was gone for many months when she decided to send them postcards to inform them of her trek because reporters had gotten wind of it. She didn’t want them to read it in the paper.

What made her want to walk? And what made her want to keep walking? After her first trip, she hiked the trail again two years later at age 69. And then she hiked it a third time doing section hikes even later. Oh yeah, and in between all of that, she also hiked the 2000-mile Oregon Trail. What makes someone who stayed for 30 years of intolerable abuse finally walk away? Then the walking became the obsession.

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Author Ben Montgomery and Me!

I’m not sure what touched me so much about her story. It could have been that I’m just raw right now. But I related to her desire to leave it all behind her. I know the freedom and the grief of extricating yourself from an abusive relationship. It is both insanely difficult and wildly freeing. I felt so happy that she found a way to step into her power and make a name for herself during a time it was considered selfish. I doubt she had a plan to be famous, but she ended up on the cover of the 1-year-old Sports Illustrated magazine. She wanted to walk and walk and walk.

One of my favorite feisty Gatewood lines was uttered when asked why she did it. “Most people are pantywaists,” she said. “Exercise is good for you.” Maybe we just need to decide what we are going to do and do it. We get all caught up in what we are supposed to do or in waiting for the perfect time. She taught me today that there is still time left. There is no time like the present, and there are no rules. Life is short. And, above all, just keep walking.

What would you do if you weren’t a pantywaist? Why don’t you just start walking and see what happens?

Hiking in Newaygo and Coffeehouse #8: The Bitter End

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Ahhhhhh…. finally. I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting. Today it was warm enough and dry enough to get out for a long hike on the North Country Trail. Yes, I can hike around for a an hour or two with my dog in the snow, but I was looking forward to a day warm enough to get out and hit the trail for a long, long walk. I could hardly wait to get out of bed this morning – even though I was up until midnight last night.

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I picked out a spot on the trail map within a 2 hour driving distance, finished up my coffee, packed my backpack and hit the road. On the way, I listened to an issue of the She Explores podcast on women over fifty. It was very inspiring. I saw myself in several of them, and I was inspired to hear that they continue to be active while they are accepting a different level of intensity as they age.

I didn’t really start hiking until I turned 50, and I only started backpacking in the last few years. I’m not sure how long I will backpack, but I do hope to get a few trips in this year. There’s just something about waking up in the woods that feels wildly spiritual. And my dog loves it. I know that it won’t be too many years until that might be too hard on her, so it makes me want to get out and do it now. I refuse to stop until it’s obvious I must. And I can definitely enjoy day hiking.

I wanted to get my #8 coffeehouse on the way in, so I stopped at The Bitter End Coffeehouse in Grand Rapids. It was tucked away in the cutest little area called the university district. Students probably love its 24/7 hours. It had the look of an English pub. The ambience was dark and masculine, and when I saw the ceiling in all of its original grandeur, I said “Wow” under my breath.

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They had a really nice menu with lots of specialty drinks, so it took me a bit to decide. I’ve been daydreaming about the Kona coffee I had when I was in Hawaii, so I asked for the Kona mocha and walked around while I waited. Unfortunately, I did not realize that the Kona mocha was a frozen drink, so I was a little taken aback when the barista handed it to me. But I promised myself I was going to roll with the agenda on this coffeehouse exploration, so I didn’t make a fuss. I’d already paid for it, and it was my mistake any way. It was very yummy and quite a fancy treat for 9:30 AM.

This coffeehouse roasts their own beans, so I purchased some of their Kona beans to make at home. Recently, I got a KitchenAid Precision Press, and I love the coffee that is coming out of that thing. I love French Press coffee, but I never get the measurements right. This one helps keep it consistent. The sieve is better, too, so I don’t get grounds in my coffee.

I will definitely stop back by The Bitter End when I have time to stay. And, since they are open all the time, it won’t be hard to schedule a visit.

Ashok and I drove up to Newaygo which is a little less than an hour north of Grand Rapids. I’ve been up there hiking before on the North Country Trail but not on this section. I planned on doing around 9-10 miles, so I turned on my Runkeeper app to see if it would track my distance. Some snow and ice remained on the trail, but for the most part, it was dry. It was a nice forested hike, and we walked up and down small inclines, across gravel roads and rested when we wanted.  There were no fancy views or water features, but it was a great way to get a jump start on spring. I look forward to seeing wildflowers soon!

Around the 4-mile mark, we came upon a grassy meadow. It was quite lovely and very different than the habitat we’d been seeing. A sign told us this was a Coastal Plain Marsh, and, apparently it’s quite rare. It has the same plants and trees that inhabit the marshes up on the East coast. They also contain some very rare animals including the Massasauga rattlesnake. These little spots could be the remnants of the preglacial era. What’s more, the sign said there were 40 of these rare eco-systems in Michigan. When I looked it up on the internet, there’s one just down the highway from my home! Put that on the list.

So now I’m curled up on my sofa with one tuckered out dog and two very affectionate kitties. My house is still a mess as I played all weekend. That’s just the way it goes. I enjoyed a great party with friends both Friday and Saturday nights, got my monthly facial yesterday, ran a long run yesterday and enjoyed an adventure today. I’m thinking I’ll crawl up under the covers and go to bed early tonight. I’m sure I’ll hear no complaints from Ashok.

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Coffeehouse #6: Play Date in Muskegon

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Tomorrow it will be 55 degrees and raining. The snow will disappear like whipped cream in my mocha. I decided I’d best pack up my girl and head into the woods before it was all gone. We’ll probably get more, but you never know. Better to strike while the iron is hot, I always say. I had Muskegon on the brain, so we packed up our hiking gear and headed north.

I thought we’d head to the Winter Sports Complex in Muskegon State Park, but then I had second thoughts. Maybe I’d prefer something quieter. I decided on the trails in North Beach Park in Ferrysburg. This lovely little county park had 10 miles of trails complete with stairs and boardwalks up and over the tallest dunes. Fabulous views of frozen Lake Michigan took my breath away, and we hiked for about two hours in the woods. I will definitely return there for trail running in the warmer months.

I knew that I had to visit another coffee shop this weekend, so my google search for “coffee near me” gave me several options. I drove by one, and it looked more like a cafe than a coffee shop, so I took the next one that popped up – Ryke’s Bakery. It didn’t really look like a coffee shop from the outside, but I decided to go in anyway. If I’m going to go on this year-long adventure I need to trust the journey.

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It was a bakery rather than a coffeehouse. But they did feature Kona coffee, and I happen to be in love with Kona coffee ever since I went to Kona. I ordered a cup and told Cassandra about my blog project. “Would you like a tour?” she asked. She told me the building was an old dairy mill. “Those ramps over there,” she said pointing toward the cafe,” are for the horses that came right through here.” She pointed me to some pictures of the old dairy carriages, and I took a look while she was getting Ashley to give me a tour.

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I know it’s a bad picture, but it’s the best I could do!

 

The bakery has been in business in Muskegon since 1937 and has been in its current location since 1967. They have over 60 employees baking, preparing and serving lunch and catering in the local area. Their business was built on their Butter Thins which were displayed in a big cabinet up front, and the recipe has never changed. But they do much more than that now. A night shift bakes and decorates their cupcakes which are delivered to customers all over town.

Ashley, who is fresh back from Disney’s college program in Orlando, has been working with Ryke’s for several years, and she said with a giggle that the best part of her job is getting to bring home cake remnants. She also told me that I just missed the Paczki that they sell on Fat Tuesday. Being a Louisiana girl who is familiar with the King Cake eaten during Carnival Season, I had to know more about this delicacy. This Michigan tradition has roots in Poland. It is pronounced (POONCH-kee), and I could not get it right. I am so sorry that I missed it this year. I will have to remember next year to stop by for one … or maybe two.

Me and my tour guide, Ashley…

Mel came out just as I was leaving. She’s from Memphis, and she wanted me to pronounce ‘bayou’ because she gets teased about the way she pronounces it. We shared memories of our favorite southern town, and then I grabbed some Butter Thins and headed out to the State Park. Note: Since I’m supposed to be writing about coffee, I should say that their coffee was excellent, and I even refilled my cup before I left. Ashok and I promptly ate several of the Butter Thins which were divine.

On the way to the State Park, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the ice fisherman on the lake. I had a chance to talk with Jim, a retired game warden, and his grandson who were headed out for some afternoon fishing on the two feet of ice we had today. They showed me the tool they use for cutting the hole and explained how their little boat opened up into a tent. I am fascinated by this whole ice-fishing business. I gave them the rest of my Butter Thins and wished them luck on their fishing.

On the way home, I spotted a place called Brooklyn’s Beans, Bombers and Bagels. I might as well get #7 while I’m at it! But you’ll have to wait until later this week for the write-up. It deserves its own space. Stay tuned.

All in all, I met some pretty special people today, drank some great coffee and learned a lot about the history and traditions in Muskegon. I would love to go back and experience ice fishing, do some more hiking and trail running up there and grab lunch at Ryke’s. And when I stopped by the Winter Sports Complex, I found out they have an ice skating trail! That would be interesting to try for sure.

I left my house today without a plan. If I’d stuck with my original idea, I would have missed the best parts of today. People really do like to talk about their hobbies and their businesses if I just take the time to listen. Some days it’s better just to let go of the reins and let the road guide you.

How could you let go of the reins and let the journey take you this week?

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Sundays in Sawyer: Dancing With Darkness

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The house across the street when I left this morning.

It was dark when I left out this morning at 8 AM. Christmas lights sparkled red and green against the soft luminescent snow. The Winter Solstice is this week – Thursday to be exact. I love Solstice celebrations. When I think of the significance of lightness and darkness in our lives, it makes sense to me that the days with the most light and the days with the most darkness should be marked in some way. And what would Christmas lights be without the long interplay of darkness in December?

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I’ve always loved the dark. I love seeing the stars at night, and I love the long nights of winter. They are times of rest and reflection. I don’t sleep as well in the summer with the long days of sunshine. While I feel more energetic during the summer, I don’t think it is good for us to be revved up all the time. There is a reason for the season, and I believe the reason is rest and rejuvenation – of our bodies, our souls and our lives. Our ancestors felt these seasons were so important, they were the biggest celebrations of the year.

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Part of my plan for getting through the winter this year is to be open to doing something different. I signed up for an 8-class yoga pass at my old yoga studio where I completed my teacher training. And, I decided that I would start doing my Sunday blogging at Infusco Coffee in Sawyer since it is on the way to the Sunday yoga class.  When I visited their website last night, I read about their mission. This is much more than a coffee shop. They sell “relationship coffee.” It makes the coffee taste much better when there is such a good cause behind it. If that’s not a light in the darkness, I don’t know what is. So now my Sunday blog will be called Sundays in Sawyer…. until I do something different.

The mission and history of Infusco ….

A sign on their counter said their eggnog latte was divine, so I ordered one. Ashok was out in the car waiting like usual, and I thought to ask if they allowed dogs. They do! Ashok can now hang with me instead of waiting in the car. I set down her blanket, and we both enjoyed the Christmas tree and the quiet setting of this comfortable and welcoming coffeehouse.

The darkness of depression is still lingering with me this evening. But I got up and made myself a nice, healthy dinner. A task so simple feels overwhelming when I’m depressed. But, I have to say it made me feel a tad better to put some effort into taking care of me. I think I’ll turn off this computer now and go read for a bit. Surely I have something light and humorous on my Kindle to ignite a little lightness in my spirit. If not, I can always fall asleep and get some rest. Either way, tomorrow will be another day.

We got out for a hike today at Warren Dunes State Park. That helped my mood a bit, too….

 

Yoopers, Fudgies and Trolls: North Country Trail Conference

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Two years ago when I was hiking in North Carolina, I ran into a couple who was very active in the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. They told me I should check it out. Promises of meeting like-minded people and getting inspired to hike the Appalachian Trail really attracted me to the idea but I never got on the ball to make plans to go. So, when I saw that the North Country Trail Association had a conference, I registered on the first day it was open. I was so excited!

I planned my vacation around the weekend festivities in Marquette, my new favorite place. I also prepared myself to create a Plan B in case I got there and didn’t feel comfortable. I do get socially anxious sometimes when I’m around new people, so I never know how it’s going to go. Besides, all these folks know each other, so I was a little unsure if I’d feel like a fifth wheel. So, Plan B was in place, and I showed up Thursday morning for the first hike.

It was a lovely hike to Little Garlic Falls in the Little Garlic River. The trail reminded me so much of the Appalachians. The beautiful little stream snaked through a dense forest with rocks and evergreen trees. Although it wasn’t as hilly as North Carolina, it was every bit as beautiful and not nearly as well-traveled. We sat on a boulder and had lunch at the waterfall while the others crawled over the boulders and crossed to the other side of the stream.

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It was easy to talk to people on the hike, but I was a bit worried about dinner. I arrived at the social hour at 5 PM, and there was no one there but me. Eventually, a few other people arrived, and I started to talk with a couple from the Eastern Upper Peninsula. Pat and Bob were long-time members and very active in trail work. We talked for awhile, and they invited me to sit at their table. I met the rest of their group, and happily I met my “family” for the week. Every night we dined together and enjoyed the programs. I even took Ashok to their campfire at the campgrounds on Friday. They were very nice and were very excited to have someone new to add to their hiking and trail work group.

As we talked, they each held up their hands to show me where they live in Michigan. If you’ve ever noticed, Michigan is shaped like a pair of mittens. The Lower Peninsula is one, and the Upper Peninsula is the mate. They also informed me that there were two kinds of people in the world – Yoopers and people who want to be Yoopers. ( A Yooper is a person from the UP.) Furthermore, they said that anyone from below the Mackinac Bridge (me) was a troll. If a Troll moves up to the UP, they are then called a Fudgie. Apparently, you are only born a Yooper……you can never become one.

So, any dream of becoming a Yooper was dashed at that point. However, I can certainly visit. I liked pretty much everybody I met up there, and the conference was highly educational and entertaining. The first night we had a phenomenal presentation on history of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. It has the largest stand of old-growth forest in the country. I cannot wait to get over there and do some hiking.

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I attended a long distance hiking session, a “comedy on the trail” session and a fascinating session where Alex Maier showed his documentary about hiking across the UP. I gasped out loud when I saw the stars and the Northern Lights, and I made a mental note to get out to see that as soon as I can. I’m going to include the links to his documentary below for your enjoyment. It is worth watching to see this beautiful country through the lens of a great filmmaker. He even has some great footage of his winter backpacking. I don’t know if I’m up for that yet, but it was really interesting and beautiful to see!

Have a great week, y’all! Don’t ever be afraid to try something new. You never know how it might change your life.

Yooper Tours Teaser 

On Da North Country Trail: Section 1

Section 2

Section 3

Section 4

Going Up and Up and Up: The UP

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“Go West, young man,” is the rallying cry that drove many of our forefathers to the Western U.S. to find their fortunes. For some reason, my compass always tells me to “Go North, young lady”. Now that I live north, the only place to go is to the top of the world that ends at Lake Superior – the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

I went from Calumet to Eagle Harbor to Copper Harbor….

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Because I was heading even further north this time to the Keewenaw Peninsula, my GPS sent me around Lake Michigan on the Wisconsin side. I drove up to Green Bay on Sunday. My friend Dan who is visiting in Michigan this week told me to be sure and explore Door County. I thought it might add too much time to the drive, but when I realized it was only about an hour and back out of the way, I jumped at the chance.

Sturgeon Bay

 

I only had a few hours there, but we stopped at a cherry farm to score lots of cherry yummies and had a cup of coffee and a potato pancake in Sturgeon Bay. Sturgeon Bay is a lovely sort of canal that runs across the peninsula. Big ships were parked at the docks alongside one of the biggest yachts I’d ever seen. I spent a little time watching the water go by and then took off to Cave Point which was recommended in a brochure.

 

I thought I’d go by Cave Point and Whitefish Dunes State Park, and I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that they were right next door to each other. In fact, I walked in and out of the parks as I strolled along the almost-California-like shoreline. This was a stunning rugged place that sounded almost as beautiful as it looked. Water crashed and popped under the cliffs like small explosions. I can’t even imagine the intensity of a winter storm.

Scenes from Door County

 

After dragging myself away from the peaceful place, I set my GPS to north, and up, up, up I went. I ended up in Calumet MI. On my itinerary it was just a place to stay, but Calumet was much more interesting than I imagined. The Keewenaw peninsula was a rich copper mining area in the days when America was installing electricity all over the country. Native Americans first mined copper here for tools. Then immigrants landed in the frozen land to find their fortunes in copper mining.

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Eventually greed, the Great Depression and a big strike dealt a blow. It didn’t kill the industry, but it would never bounce back. I would have loved to have taken some of the tours provided by the National Historical Park, but most of them were not scheduled while I was there. It was fascinating to run downtown through the mostly empty magnificent old buildings. The city’s population was over 60,000 in its heyday, and now it’s only about 1,000. But all of those beautiful buildings and mining operations are still standing. It was like a big, beautiful ghost town.

The Drive to Copper Harbor

 

I continued to drive north. This last stretch is the narrow peninsula that juts out into Lake Superior. Even though the UP is remote, this area is even more remote than the rest. It is also extremely beautiful. Known for its outdoor adventures, the upper Keewenaw is just as crowded in winter as in summer. People are either snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, canoeing and kayaking or hiking. And there is always fishing.

And then there is the Jampot…. a monastery of baking monks.

 

I stayed in Copper Harbor which is a tiny little town on Lake Superior. The entire village wasn’t more than a half-mile long. I stopped at an ice cream parlor and talked to the teenage girls that worked there. They said summer is fun, but they get out and snowmobile and ski in the winter. They said there are always kids playing hockey on the lakes, and snowmobiles are constantly flying by. They spent a little time talking about some of the boys they know and which ones were dangerous snowmobile drivers. In the summer they find natural diving boards for diving into the freezing waters.

Copper Harbor

 

The whole trip has been interesting to say the least. It’s been beautiful, too, but I’ve enjoyed learning about this area. I bought myself a pendant with greenstone, the state gem. Apparently, it’s hard to find now. I suppose now that I’m a Michigander, I should have one!

I’ll be in touch later…. 

A Watery Loop Deep in the Woods

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In planning a hike for my first day here, I got out my handy guide to hiking in the Upper Peninsula and researched the popular hikes. Some were heavily traveled. Nope, I’m not looking for that. Some were not well-marked, and the guide said to bring a compass. Hmmm… I’m not that confident in my navigational skills that I’d go off alone in a strange land. And one or two of them just sounded like a little woods hike. I wanted to see something special.

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I finally broadened my geographical search and found a section on Craig Lake State Park. The guide promised that this trail is so remote that you wouldn’t hear another mechanical sound after you parked your car at the trailhead. It was also in moose country which meant I might have the opportunity to see a moose although it would be highly unlikely. I loved the remote nature of it, and it said the trail was well-marked, was part of the North Country Trail AND went around a lake. If worse came to worst, I could just follow the lake around. This sounded easy enough to navigate but rugged enough to feel like I was deep in the woods.

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I was a little worried about the drive to the park. The guide said the dirt road to Craig Lake State Park was 7 miles long and was very rough – rough enough that you had to have a vehicle with pretty high clearance. I wasn’t sure about that, but I sort of figured if it looked like I couldn’t make it, I could always turn around. I googled the State Park, and the same warnings were there with no additional information that made me feel better about my Rav4. But there was a Facebook page, and I got on it and read some of the posts. It sounded like people went back there on a regular basis, so I got a little less worried about the road.

That is until I saw this sign….

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I looked at Ashok and asked her what she thought….

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“What? You gonna let a little dirt road scare you?” she said. “We’re going. Drive.”

So, we started down the road, and all looked pretty good most of the way. I read later that the park service had come in and removed some of the larger boulders, so I guess the road was worse at one time than it is now. About 6.5 miles in I came upon a huge puddle of water all the way across the road. I wasn’t sure I could get through it without getting stuck, and there was no way I could get help if I did. I walked up and looked at it, and the mud did seem pretty soft. Just behind me was a little place I could park, so I decided to park there and hike the rest of the way in.

Which one doesn’t belong?

 

 

Right at edge of the lake were four guys getting out of their tents and having breakfast. Their canoes sat at the edge of the water and the campsite, and I waved as we walked by. The first part of the trail was an old logging road. The forest was lovely, dripping with last night’s rainwater and painted with every shade of deep green. A carpet of ferns covered the forest floor with a feathery touch. Sunshine dappled through the leaves, and I could hear nothing but birds.

 

A mile or so in, we came upon the cabins. A woman was walking to the outhouse when we passed by, and a man was standing in the kitchen with his cup of coffee. You can’t drive back there, so I guess you have to haul your stuff by foot or wagon. In fact, it became obvious that you would have to portage your canoes at least a mile and as many as four miles depending on where you wanted to camp and launch. This must be a great place to come for peace and quiet. And I hear the fishing is phenomenal, too.

Tadpoles!

 

The logging road ended, and the trail became single-track at the cabins. After that, the woods looked more and more like the woods in Appalachia. Except we saw no one until we got almost at the end of the trail. So, we had the trail to ourselves for the full 4 hours it took to hike it. It seemed longer than the 7.9 miles mentioned in the guide book. And the last part was really hilly. We got a workout for sure.

Lunch…

 

We stopped for lunch at little river that had been dammed up by beaver. A beautiful suspension bridge provided an easy cross, but I opted to go sit on a boulder and look at the lake for awhile while I had a lunch of fresh cherries, smoked whitefish and Wisconsin cheddar. I kept hoping to see a beaver, but I only saw dragonflies – lots and lots of dragonflies.

Toward the end of the trail, the markers got a little murky, and I got a little nervous that we weren’t on the trail anymore. However, I’d see a marker every now and then of a different color, so I felt sure we were on some trail. And I could see the lake on my right. The map confirmed that was right, so we kept walking. And, sure enough, we finally ended up right where we started. More men were arriving with their backpacks and loaded up canoes. I suppose it was going to be a great fishing weekend and guy’s getaway.

 

I’m not sure what impressed me the most about Craig Lake. The forest was really beautiful. There were a couple of lovely points where we sat to take in the view. Those were nice enough to make me want to come back and throw a tent for a few days on the campsites. But what struck me most was how remote it was. Man had not changed it much over the years. It was pristine. I had the distinct feeling that I was just a tolerated visitor in a world where I didn’t belong. They say the UP has more animals than people. I sensed that here. I felt like an intruder. And I felt immense gratitude to witness what most people never will.

 

Up North Sampler


Last week I had decided to go backpacking on the Manistee River Trail, and I headed over to Wanderlust Outfitters downtown. While I was buying my dehydrated food, the gal at the counter told me they had a trip this weekend, and I should go with them. 


I took the flyer and after checking last week’s dicey weather forecast, I decided to can my backpack and go along with this group instead. It would be a great opportunity to break my gear out of storage and make sure everything still worked while meeting some like-minded people.


We loaded up on a school bus Saturday at 10 AM to start the 3-hour drive north. We would hike 6.1 miles on the North Country Trail to Bowman Bridge campground in the Manistee National Forest, spend the night and kayak the Pere Marquette River this morning. I had a great time chatting with a new friend who is in my field and meeting my new comrades. Most were new to camping/backpacking and were anxious to give it a try.


We stopped at the National Forest Visitor Center, and I asked the lady behind the counter for information on the Manistee River Trail so I could prep for a future trip. She discussed which campgrounds would be good and then said, “we have lots of bear up here – lots and lots of bear.” I took a pause and realized I’d need to get a bear canister for my food and some advice on bear before I made that trip. I’m glad I waited.


The hike was fabulously green and lush. The woods here are so pristine. In the whole weekend I literally saw one piece of trash, and it was out of reach in the water. Other than that, I never see trash on the trails or beaches. We partook of wild blueberries ripe for eating and marched our way through acres of ferns, lush evergreens and beautiful grasses.


I chose my campsite at the campground and walked down to the river. It looked high to me, and they later confirmed that it was too high to kayak. We ended up rafting this morning instead, and it was a blast. The rafts were harder to maneuver than kayaks and you had to work with a team of strangers to avoid the inevitable crashes into trees, but it was fun.


I’m on the school bus home, and I feel reenergized about backpacking and am eager to do something over the holiday weekend. I still need to get a bear canister and some advice on how you put a bear in a canister anyway. 🙂

We had oatmeal and blueberries cooked over the fire!

Memories of a Gorgeous Weekend

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I didn’t get to post about the weekend because it was so hectic, and I’ve been busy since I got back, but I wanted to share what could have been one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time. My sister and I went crazy in Chicago and then drove all over the northern portion of the lower peninsula of Michigan.

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I’ve only been up to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore once, and I remember being blown away by the beauty up there. But this time, we got to drive down the coast and saw even more of the emerald green waters and natural beauty. We stopped in the small towns of Frankfurt and Manistee. I can’t wait to go back!

I don’t have a lot of time to write, but I did want to share this with you! This place is beautiful!

Thanks to Reba for her song “My Sister”……

Memorial Day 2017 from Sharon Kay King on Vimeo.

Sunday Night Check-In: Shifting Gears

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I’ve had a rough week. To be honest, I’ve had a rough time for a few weeks. I’m not sure if it’s SAD, or if I’m just sad. I know that I’ve been trying to reign in my consumption of sugar with a great deal of inconsistency. Every time I eat it, I am awake in the middle of the night for hours kicking myself. The stuff disrupts my sleep no matter what time of day I eat it. I’ve been knowing this for over 3 years now. And still I struggle with it. It may even be the cause of my mood.

Friday was Employee Appreciation Day, and we had a candy bar in our office. A whole row of beautiful candies and chocolate greeted me as I walked in. I had absolutely no willpower. “So much for eating right,” I said before putting my purse on the floor. There were no brakes …. no deceleration … no hesitation. I went for it, and I woke up at 2:30 Saturday morning. “Hello, Sugar,” I say now when I wake up in a fit of insomnia. I’m not sure if I drifted off again or not, but I left early Saturday morning for a hike. Since I didn’t get much sleep, I told myself that I was NOT having any sugar this weekend. So far, I’m golden.

I met a group from the Chief Noonday Chapter of the North Country Trail Association in Marshall MI for a 6.5 mile hike. This was a “road” section, so we basically walked on the road through cornfields, a bitter winter wind and through neighborhoods. It felt a little weird since we were about 50 people with backpacks and stuff, but nobody else seemed to be bothered so I just enjoyed the day. A couple of river crossings gave me a little natural scenery, and I was very excited to meet Strider, the NCT thru-hiker I heard on one of those trail shows last year. (You can listen to his account of the trail here.)He is one of 8 who has hiked the entire 4600 mile NCT. I felt like I was meeting a celebrity although he seemed like a pretty ordinary hiker.

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Me and Strider

He works part-time for the National Park Service working on this trail, and there were a other park rangers on the hike. I talked to one who told me that they were all worried about the budget cuts coming. He said anybody that has anything to do with the environment is holding their breath. 97% of the funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Project is in jeopardy. It takes my breath away to even think of those beautiful lakes going back to their former polluted condition. All we can do is pray…. and call our senators.

I drove around Marshall to look at the town, and there were some beautiful historic buildings there. I put the GPS on “back roads” and drove home via country roads. I passed through several small towns and took a quick tour of Battle Creek. I found the Fort Custer Recreation Area and made a note of the nice campgrounds. The Kalamazoo River was up, and the sign next to the river assured me that any oil I saw would not harm me. Apparently there was a huge oil spill in this river many years ago, and the EPA spent a long time cleaning it up and holding the oil company accountable. I can only hope they will continue to be able to do jobs like that in the future. All I can do is pray … and call my senator.

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The flooded Kalamazoo… oil-free.

I woke up really down this morning, but I managed to get out and wash my car, take care of some chores and cook myself a healthy lunch. The sun came out and then ducked behind the clouds while I stewed in my juices about all of the sad things going on in the world. I tried to watch a movie about grizzly bears, read an article about a river that has disappeared because of human consumption in India and laughed at last night’s Saturday Night Live episodes. I needed to work out today, but I could not get motivated enough to move. I decided to walk Ashok around the block and keep walking if I felt like it.

Once I got going, I felt better, and I made my way to Lake Michigan. It was a beautiful late afternoon. The water was almost still, and the sun was hanging low on the horizon in a lightly-clouded sky. Few people were on the beach, but the ones who were out enjoying the spring-like day were friendly and talkative. We walked back at a slow pace, and, by the time I was home, I was really glad that I made the effort.

I’ll continue to try to shift out of my funk, and I’ll continue to pray … and call my senator. I hope you will do the same. Have a great week, y’all. I wonder what drama will go down this week!! You can’t make this sh*t up!