Tuesday, October 20, 2020

A Weekend With Friends: Alum Creek and Lake Hope State Parks, Ohio

photo taken October 10, 2020 at 6:40 PM

Lil, Ken, Dawn, and Janelle. Lexi the dog.

--October 10, 2020 at 6:40 PM. Furnace Ridge Rd, New Plymouth, OH, United States

A few weeks ago a friend and I were sitting on my deck, reasonably distanced, enjoying an experiment in food and beer. The old-style apple raisin fritters were a success (and then I learned Lil doesn’t like cooked apples so an even bigger hit). During that time conversation wandered around to talk of friends some of whom we don’t get to see often even when the world isn’t engulfed by a pandemic. Lil had the bright idea that since our friend couldn’t readily travel here for a relaxing weekend we could go to her and take her on a relaxing, winding-down, weekend. Out of that initial thought came some ideas of places to go that would be new and exciting for all of us. We changed places as planned gelled and issues came up. The plan firmed up more with a place settled upon and another friend deciding she could join us for at least a little while if not for the whole weekend. Our weekend adventure to Alum Creek State Park and then, for two nights, Lake Hope State Park was born.

This car-camping trip was really more about spending time with friends and giving everyone a chance to enjoy the company of people they’ve known for years in a situation where, for a time, it would be possible to step back from the larger world. We might rub against each other in odd ways at times, nothing every goes quite as smoothly as you envision, but the opportunity to decompress remains. If the physical location itself has worthwhile attributes that is a bonus.

Photo taken October 9, 2020 at 1:31 PM“ title=“” tooltip=“” style=“width: 353px; height: auto;

Alum Creek Lake. At the northern end of my short paddle. It was a lovely autumn afternoon.

--October 9, 2020 at 1:31 PM. Delaware, OH, United States

Lil and I stopped at Alum Creek State Park on our way to fetch Janelle (and dog Lexi). This park is known for a biking trail and is also popular among boaters of various types from paddlers to motorized craft. Alum Creek Lake certainly sees plenty of boat traffic and the creek has charm. Lil had a good, if tough, bike ride and I managed a nice little paddle in my old trusty Alpacka Yak packraft.

We got Janelle and Lexi loaded into the too-full truck (proving once again that nature abhors a vacuum by filling the F150 to the brim) and drove off to Lake Hope State Park. With one thing and another we didn’t arrive until just after sunset. We quickly learned just how sloped our campsite was. We used chunks of firewood to level out the picnic table so we could use it without fear of everything sliding off. Too bad we couldn’t level out the tent Lil and I shared. But we were there and our first night by a roaring campfire eating hotdogs-in-cornbread (sort of pigs-in-a-blanket) and coleslaw was working out quite well.

That night set the pattern for the rest of the weekend. Eat decent food (even if messed up a bit), enjoy good conversations especially after Dawn arrived and we talked her into staying the night (she had already been leaning that way and it just took a tiny nudge), and time spent hiking, biking, or just relaxing under the trees. The weekend would give us all what we were hoping for: good time with friends.

Video Note

For those that care the video was shot using my iPhone 11 Pro and a new camera out for its first use: an Insta360 Go. This camera is bout the size of your thumb, weighs about one ounce, and is meant to take action shots in short clips of 15, 30, or 60 seconds. It has a single very-wide-angle lens and shoots 1080p video at 25 frames-per-second (technically it is shooting at 2700x2700 but the app it uses to export video only does so at 1080p which is a shame because it throws away so much data). There is no screen. You point the camera in the direction you want to shoot and push the shutter button (or use the Bluetooth connection and app to do the same thing). A video (regular or slow-mo, hyperlapse), picture, or time-lapse, is tkaen. When you connect the camera to your smartphone the app you’ve installed will let you transfer the data to your phone for processing and sharing. No muss; no fuss: in theory. It does work and once you begin to understand the limitations the insta360 Go certainly has uses. It isn’t anywhere as flexible as a more traditional action-camera but for what I wanted it seems to have worked well enough. You’ll likely have no trouble figuring out which shots were from the Go and which the iPhone. I should also note that the video was edited entirely on the iPhone using Luma Fusion.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Coleman Stove First Use: Faux Biscuit

Photo taken Oct 4, 2020 at 2:30 PM

Two-burner Coleman propane stove with a Lodge 3.2 quart Combo Cooker. With a stand this becomes far more Dutch oven like. There is no reason I couldn’t mound coal below and on the lid if I were cooking over a fire. If I could’ve bought a traditional style Dutch oven I would have but the size I wanted wasn’t available at least not soon enough.

I don’t car camp that often. But I do it enough that I finally decided it was time to buy a classic-style (hardly classic as the original version is definitely built of stouter materials) two-burner Coleman propane stove. The stove arrived last week and I managed to find increasing hard-tp-find Coleman propane fuel canisters. Are people feeling a need to become more-prepper-like or are they car camping or tailgating more? I do not know. Now that a damp fall afternoon has arrived I have decided it is time to try using the stove and an also new dutch-like-style oven. Time to try and make a set of biscuits.

I’m was too lazy to make an actual biscuit dough but thought that Bisquick with bits of butter folded in might work. Perhaps it does work and I just failed to make the biscuit properly. Given my skill at cooking this seems all too likely. Long story short I thik had I treated this ore like a frybread project it wouldhave worked out better. You can learn more the experiment worked out watching the video.

Photo taken Oct 4, 2020 at 3:09 PM

The top looks great. The bottom was sadly rather burnt.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Food on the Deck: 18th Century Apple Raisin Fritters

Photo taken Sep 22, 2020 at 6:24 PM

Lil. Getting ready to make the apple fritters. They’re about as simple as can be: flour, apples, raisins (optional), hard cider. Make a paste-like batter that holds the fruit and fry to perfection.

I have been thinking about food. Probably everyone has been thinking more about food and cooking it during these unsettled times. What is new for me though is I am actually cooking more. I doubt I’ll ever truly be good at cooking. I doubt I’ll take anywhere near as much pleassure from it as some do. However, I will admit that when I have made a successful meal I get a surge of joy especially if it was something I was feeding to other people. Those other people likely only will appear in certain restricted circumstances. Greater numbers, though still small, when camping. One other, likley that will be all, when cooking on the deck as I do here. In both cases my attention seems to focus on possible foods I could take on a camping trip or even backpacking trip. The former is more likely to be a car camping excursion. Given these conditions the food I will make is apt to be simpler fare. That doesn’t mean less tasty just fewer ingredients and less complicated cooking. Sometimes that means I can delve into the past for ideas based on the idea that 200 and more years ago people were less likely to create complex recipes except for special occasions and certainly only rarely if they’re less well off. Looking at frontier cooking, cooking for travellers, and the like can be a source of inspiration. That is how I came across this Apple Fritter recipe idea from Townsend’s Savoring the Past blog. I probably came pretty close to the recipe except for the fact that I pan-fried my fritters instead of deep frying them.

Photo taken Sep 22, 2020 at 7:23 PM

Ken. The apple fritters are done and it is time to eat. Photo by Lil.

Ingredients and Notes

  • 1 Large apple
  • 2 cups (about) flour
  • 12 ounces (about) hard cider
  • 2 fistfuls of raisins (wish I had used more)
  • Sprinkled salt on fritters when done cooking them
  • Enough oil to cover pan for frying.

This actually ended up serving 2 people. I expect an efficient cook can prep and cook this in 20 minutes. I took a bit longer. I’m not sure how many calories though I expect it would be around 1,100 for the whole recipe with the flour accounting for about 900 calories.I’m not sure how many raisins are in two handfuls. The alcohol would cook off so not contribute to the calorie count (I think).


  1. Dice the apple into small pieces. Remember to core and de-seed it (though I wasn’t that careful with the latter one time I did this recipe and it was fine).
  2. In a bowl add flour and slowly mix in the hard cider (you could also use a brown ale or just water). Your goal is to create a paste-like batter.
  3. After making the batter mix in the apple dices and raisins. Get everything well coated
  4. Heat your frying pan with oil to a good frying temperature. Sizzling.
  5. Using a soup spoon or a bit bigger drop modest-sized (heaping spoonful) globs of mixed batter into the pan. Tap them down to flatten them a bit.
  6. Fry until they begin to brown nicely. Probably about 4 minutes but it could vary.
  7. Flip the fritters and continue to cook them for a similar amount of time or until the appear golden brown on both sides.
  8. Take them out of the pan and salt them to taste.

We found that they do absorb oil as they cook so if you make more than one batch (we did 2 in a 10-inch pan) you may need to replenish the oil coating like we did. We used just enough oil to coat the pan.


Thursday, September 17, 2020

A weekend on the Au Sable River

Photo taken Sep 12, 2020 at 12:29 PM

Paul and Ken. At the boat landing by the remains of Durant’s Castle. Durant was, like Mason, a major landowner. Mason held more land and it is his name the Tract we walk bares.

--September 12, 2020 at 12:29 PM. Roscommon, MI, United States

Since we could not go to Wheatland Music Festival due to its cancellation Paul came up with the idea of doing a car camping trip someplace else. He invited me (and I invited a friend who could drive us there) to join his family at the Canoe Harbor State Forest Campground. This campground sits on the bank on the Au Sable River (South Branch) not too far from Grayling, Michigan. While I suppose I have driven through Grayling this is an area I know virtually nothing about. Certainly the first time I’ve ever camped here. For that alone I am very thankful Paul invited me along. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into our relaxing weekend at this uncrowded campground along what is generally considered one of the prettier rivers in Michigan whether you are an avid fisherman or not.

In the video I make a consistent mistake referring to the west branch of the River. I note that I think that is wrong but I never did try to correct it. We are definitely on the south branch.Mason would buy Durant’s land. Mason bequeathed the land to the State to be kept as a permanent game reserve.1

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

George B. Parker Woodland Refuge

I woke up this morning thinking it was going to be at best a partly cloudy day. It was almost cloudless. A fine day for a final hike in the forests of Rhode Island before I have to return to Ann Arbor to do some things that I cannot avoid doing any longer (not sure how long I’ll stay in Michigan). We would visit the George B. Parker Woodland Wildlife Refuge which is owned by the Audobon Society of Rhode Island (like Maxwell Mays wildlife Refuge - see visit of a few days earlier there). When we pulled into the parking lot around 09:45 skies were still virtually clear, winds rustled the leaves and branches up high but we barely noticed them, and the temperature was edging towards 60°F. A fine morning to spend walking through the forest.

Previous hikes I would categorize as easy walks. Little elevation gain and loss and good footing make those trails in Arcadia and Maxwell Mays easy introductions to southern Rhode Island. Today would be a bit more challenging. This property is supposed to include fields as well as forests and streams but our modest lollipop-shaped hike would not expose us to any fields or even glades. The closest we would come were areas where the forest grew slightly less dense.

The standout feature of the first part of the hike was extensive boardwalk. While much of it is in good shape there are segments that clearly need some tender loving care to remove nails that stick up, seriously sagging boards, and some boards that are not at all secure. The bridge-segment, complete with railings, is in good shape even though it has a bit of a lean. There must be some rather wet regions that the trail works its way through but the forest doesn’t seem to change.

Photo taken May 19, 2020 at 10:25 AM

This is just part of a homestead composed of several buildings (foundations at least). It was most likely originally owned by the Vaughn family and built in 1750. I am not sure when the homestead was abandoned or why it was left. Sometime after people left fire destroyed a lot of structures. Back when it was active there would have been fields and pastures to support people and livestock. They may have had orchards too. One thing that was not obvious though was ready water access (my topo map suggests water may be present not too far north of where this photo was taken at the main farmhouse).

--May 19, 2020 at 10:25 AM. Greene, RI, United States

Photo taken May 19, 2020 at 10:31 AM

Ken is standing in what likely was a cold storage room. The stairway gave access to this space from the outside.. Photo by Jonathan.

--May 19, 2020 at 10:31 AM. Greene, RI, United States

We joined the Coventry Loop Trail (dark blue, hard for me to see, blazes) and in short order came to the foundations of parts of the Vaughn Family homestead. This homestead was built in 1750. I’m not sure how long it was inhabited but at some point people left and a fire destroyed at least the wooden buildings. Still it is always fun to see what remains and imagine how people may have lived.

Photo taken May 19, 2020 at 10:49 AM

The trail is rocky and full of roots waiting to trip you up. Trees encroach the footbed too. We are not far from the Vaughn homestead which sits on Biscuit Hill. Jonathan is on the left; Ken is on the right. Photo by Judy.

--May 19, 2020 at 10:49 AM. Greene, RI, United States

The trail is definitely on the tougher side of easy or easier side of moderate depending on how you choose to view the world. Roots and rocks abound so step with a bit of care. The trail is also hillier. We gradually climbed for the first 1.5 or so miles before having the largest descent. At that point we were working our way around the loop sometimes nearing at least one swift-flowing stream. None of the climbs are long but compared to the previous two hikes they are noticable. It also seemed to me that at the start of the walk birds of various species were far more active than they were during the middle portion of the hike. I wonder why? You would think near a stream life would sound more lively.

Photo taken May 19, 2020 at 11:19 AM

The boulder of the day with Judy and Jonathan off to the right providing just a bit of sense of scale.

--May 19, 2020 at 11:19 AM. 1670 Maple Valley Rd, Greene, RI, United States

Photo taken May 19, 2020 at 11:58 AM

There are about 100 stone piles, they look like cairns but it isn’t clear that is what they are, in this area. No one is sure why they are here or who built them. Theories range from the truly outrageous to more mundane. Chance are that at this point we will never know so perhaps it is best to just enjoy them for what they show: signs of human endeavors.

--May 19, 2020 at 11:58 AM. 1670 Maple Valley Rd, Greene, RI, United States

What makes this section most interesting to us are the cairn-like piles of stones. No one knows why 100 stone piles that look like cairns are scattered about the area. Theories range from what I could classify as nuts to more reasonable. We certainly can ignore the ludicrous ones such as the piles were crafted by Phoenicians or ancient Celts. Notions that farmers from the 18th or 19th century would have considered stones a nuisance to be gotten rid of as they cleared fields and used stones to build walls and homes but it isn’t clear they’d make cairns. Nor can we say Native Americans did or did not build them.

Overall the hike was about 3.4 miles in length with about 320 feet of gain and 330 feet of loss. The weather stayed superb throughout the entire trip. We did not see anyone today.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Breakheart Pond

Perhaps spring has properly settled in. To be fair I should write instead that perhaps we have returned to temperatures and weather conditions that are closer to the typically expected conditions for this time of year. Ealier in the month, and for most of April, I feel confident in saying temperatures were well below normal with cloudy/rainy days well above normal. Taking a peek at weatherspark.com we find:

Average Weather in May in Warwick Rhode Island, United States Daily high temperatures increase by 9°F, from 63°F to 72°F, rarely falling below 53°F or exceeding 83°F.

It has been considerably cooler and wetter. But although next week isn’t shaping up to be as nice as these past few days I think it has become properly nice at last. With the weather being nice it would be a shame not to go out and explore at least a little bit. Even if the place being explored is one we have all been many times before: Breakheart Pond in the Arcadia Management Area.

Arcadia is a multi-use recreation area which, among other things, means hunting and fishing are allowed. We donned our hunter-orange vests again. Over the couple of hours we were out we saw over 20 people and only a smattering of them were wearing significant amounts of orange. Some just did not know it was hunting season (turkeys I believe). We did hear quite a few gunshots throughout our time outside but they were never close. The boomed intruded on what was a lovely Saturday morning as temperatures rose into the low 70s under an almost cloudless sky.

Our plan was to walk around Breakheart Pond. I am pretty sure we followed a lollipop path using the John B. Hudson, Hicks, Breakheart Trails. The walk is through forest. Unlike our walk in the Tillinghast Pond forest which took us through definitely different ecosystems, the area around Breakheart Pond feels like one great forest. No dead zones in this, mostly oak I think, forest.

Many of the trails are well marked but bring a map because there are many old woods roads and un-marked trails in the area. We had a nice paper map but you can also find online printable maps1 or use what a mapping app provides.

This is an easy walk that has a surprising amount of total ascent and descent, about 250 feet over the hill just south of Breakheart Pond.But you barely notice. We moved through the forest full of birdsong stepping over a couple small rivulets that Mom doesn’t think we have ever seen before. But the spots where it has been muddy in the past must be permanently muddy as we encountered mud this time too. Just step with care or deal with some moisture.

At the start of the hike we encountered just two women who were clearly new to the area. We were able to give them some advice on which trails to follow. They struck out on the “white” trail which is a bit more rugged and certainly muddier than the “yellow” trail. Both trails lead to the pond so you can make a narrow oval loop with them if you prefer. When we reached the pond itself, easily as large as Tillinghast Pond, we found many cars in the parking lot. Some people were paddling kayaks and canoes, or rowing a boat, on the pond. No doubt others were hiking somewhere and we saw a few of them. Photo taken May 16, 2020 at 10:26 AM

A couple streams were more rivulets than proper streams but we did cross some larger streams like this one. M --May 16, 2020 at 10:26 AM. 260 Arcadia Rd, Exeter, RI, United States

Photo taken May 16, 2020 at 10:27 AM

Ken rocking his orange vest on a lovely spring morning. Photo by Judy. --May 16, 2020 at 10:27 AM. 260 Arcadia Rd, Exeter, RI, United States

We had thought we would make a slightly bigger loop and so struck out north on the Breakheart Trail. When we came to a junction, perhaps a third of a mile from the northern tip of the pond, we decided to start returning towards the pond. The path felt more like a very minor forest road and within a couple hundred feet we passed by a metal garbage barrel that was full. This seems like a peculiar place for such an item. There is nothing nearby. In fact, very soon after passing the barrel the road becomes very muddy and brush-laden. I am pretty sure we were not that far, as the crow flies, from intersecting the Hicks Trail but we decided to keep our feet dry and so retraced our steps back to the junction with the Hicks Trail.

Photo taken May 16, 2020 at 10:24 AM

There is a man-made stream in my parent’s back yard. The inspiration for that water feature comes from this stream doesn’t have a name but it is a nice swift water way. --May 16, 2020 at 10:24 AM. 260 Arcadia Rd, Exeter, RI, United States

The bulk of the not-wearing-orange people we would encounter were in this area around the pond. I suppose the pond is the standout feature although I think that outside the immediate area by the roaring outflow and parking lot your views of the water aren’t that great. We found ourselves some boulders to settle upon and have a quick lunch before climbing out of the lowland where the pond lays. During this last stretch of walking we met a young couple carrying what appeared to be huge backpacks. As we got closer they turned into huge bed-like objects strapped to their backs. They told us that they were part of their rock-climbing gear. If you fell off the rock you would land on the cushion of the large, thick, foam pad. None of us have ever seen anything like that before. We weren’t sure where they would go rock climbing but perhaps they were just going to find a big boulder and practice falling off of it. Strange.

All in all this was a nice morning ramble through the woods. It would be easy to make a bigger loop and spend moe time in the area of Breakheart Pond. Perhaps next time we will do just that.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

When is a Pond Not a Lake?

The weather continues to be spring-like. We had planned a different hike but were forced to change our plans when we came up against a big traffic jam on the way to Arcadia State Park. We settled on Tillinghast Pond which is owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy. The management area hosts 13 miles of trails which wander through a variety of ecosystems. You can also paddle Tillinghast Pond which seems, to my eye, rather large to be called a pond.1 People also hunt and fish depending on the season, turkey season now, so we wore hunter-orange vests.

I have visited this area a few times over the years. However, this time as we set out on our counter-clockwise loop it seemed to me that things were different. The forest didn’t seem as dense. Part of that could be put down to the time of year.Previous visits have been in the summer or perhaps early autumn. We passed through an area that had been deliberately cleared. We passed the remains of a homestead (water heard in the distance; in or out-flow of the pond) then wound our way along the twisting trail into the first of several dead zones. I don’t know what types of trees they were (some hemlocks and pines; many deciduous) but I do know the trees were all dead. Had I taken a photo it would show a ravaged scene with some signs of new low-growing life coming up in the much more open area. Cycles of life: but I find myelf wondering if this cycle was caused by something that should not be present. The way the dead zones change the feel of the area is remarkable.

THe Flintlock Trail winds through a variety of ecosystems. Sometimes you move through a somewhat wetter area; sometimes drier; glades appear now and then sometimes clearly man-made. It seemed to me that there were far fewer birds about than we experienced in the woods at Maxwell Mays earlier in the week.

Photo taken May 14, 2020 at 11:32 AM

The big boulder of the day. The Flintlock trail wiggles a lot before reaching Tillinghast Pond. Sometimes it passes through stretches with exposed boulders but none as large as this one.

--May 14, 2020 at 11:32 AM. West Greenwich, RI, United States

Eventually after some climbing and descending (about 110 feet over the course of the whole loop - spanning the Flintlock Trail and the white-blazed trail) we caught our first glimpses of the almost glass-smooth Tillinghast Pond. We curled around the eastern end of the pond and soon came to the edge of the meadows and small dock that juts out into the pond. What a fine spot for a snack break.

Photo taken May 14, 2020 at 12:16 PM

Sitting on the dock of the pond, watching ripples roll away... We had a nice snack break here on the northeastern tip of Tillinghast Pond. A lone kayaker works his way west and we heard a hiker talking as he walked along the far shore (he and his fluffy white big dog caught up to us later).

--May 14, 2020 at 12:16 PM. West Greenwich, RI, United States

The medows are yet another ecosystem that you could cut across to save time but it is against the rules. The Nature Conservancy wants people to let the nature be and that is understandable. I wonder if there is an explosion of wildflowers in the meadows.

The pond appears and disappears from view and after a short road walk we dipped back into the trail network for the final walk back to the car. We saw a lone paddler and two walkers and one dog. A fellow was standing by a boat in casting his fishing rod. I am sure there were more people about because we counted 8 cars evenly split between the put-in point and the parking lot where we parked.

You won’t get a serious hiking workout in this area but you will enjoy yourself as you walk through forest, meadows, glades, and along the shores of a large pond.

  1. The dividing line between when a body of water becomes a lake or pond is a bit squishy. This article provides some interesting insight into the terms. I don’t know how deep Tillinghast Pond is but suspect it isn’t that deep which is a big part of why it is a pond and not a lake even though it is likely about 12 acres in size. ↩︎