Sunday, November 21, 2010
Since 1999 the members of the GreatLakesHikes email group hosted over on Yahoo Groups has held a gathering in early November the weekend before modern gun (rifle) deer season starts. For a weekend we take over the Schoolhouse owned by the Western Michigan Chapter of the North Country Trail Association. The Schoolhouse is located near the town of White Cloud at the intersection of 5 Mile Road and Felch. The North Country Trail is less than a mile away and other trails like the Birch Grove Loop are even closer. It's a great place to get together for a base-camping weekend where you can enjoy the company of friends in an indoor or outdoor setting.
This year the Gathering was held the weekend of November 12-14. People started arriving in the early evening of the 12th and so the fun around the campfire was well under way by the time Andy, Elwira, John, and I pulled in just before 11:00PM on Friday. The evening was chilly but their was little wind and the fire was burning bright and hot. People were comfortable and having fun. We joined right in once we got our shelters pitched. Of course, some people were already asleep for the night but when you remember that some of those people are young, very young, kids that's quite alright. Even the diehards, including me, packed it in around 1:00AM, after all we all knew we had a long fun day ahead of us Saturday.
What really makes the Gathering shine are the people who attend. We had our usual mixed-bag breakfast before getting ourselves sorted out for the various hikes Saturday. The longest of these turned out to be about 11 miles starting at Echo Lake Road and returning to the Schoolhouse. SHorter hikes used that same basic route just starting closer to the Schoolhouse. The weather was overcast and crisp, threatening rain. A pretty typical autumn day in Michigan's woods. By the time we were closing in on the end of the hike that threatening rain began to drizzle down upon us. It wasn't a storm but it was steady. More than enough to cause us, once back inside, to stay pretty much inside. Durning the evening the on-and-off rain kept us from making a second campfire but we made up for it throughout the night with the usual good varied food, excellent conversation, and impromptu live music from Chuck and Charlotte on guitar and violin with Chuck providing gritty vocals.
Sunday dawned colder but dry. Weather that would turn out to be ideal for what we had planned to do. People helped clean up the Schoolhouse and then went their separate ways. Several others decided to join Andy, John, Elwira, and myself and hike our section of North Country Trail and help us do our fall maintenance work. That help was quite welcome as we had a dozen or so major blow down of primarily oak trees stretching across the trail. Over half of them were too big to merely drag off and required us to saw through them first. Many of those required a few hundred strokes with the bow saw to cut through: oak is tough. But with the help we got through the 7 miles of trail in about 5.5 hours of good solid work. Thanks everyone.
This was a very good Gathering and perhaps one of the best attended.
My apologies for the problems in the audio. For those of a technical bent wondering what is going on it is a side-effect of using an external microphone with an iPhone left in regular mode. The iPhone must be in Airplane mode when doing such recording to prevent any chance of interference from the radios in the phone. This is annoying, but to be fair a smartphone isn't a dedicated recording device.
A reminder: You can click the title of this post to see the video in 720p HD. To be sure to receive the highest resolution version of the podcast you should subscribe to the Wandering Knight podcast via the iTunes link provided on the left.