Wednesday, November 18, 2015

GLH Gathering 2015

A group of people, obviously including me, have spent a couple of days at the Birch Grove one-room schoolhouse located near White Cloud, Michigan. We spend our days out on the North Country Trail doing a variety of day hikes. Our evenings are spent at the schoolhouse eating wonderful, plentiful food; enjoying time around a campfire; sometimes playing games; and, generally having a grand old time. This year, our 17th annual Great Lakes Hikes Gathering, was a little smaller than some but we still had a very good time.

You can learn more about the Gathering by joining our email group over on Yahoo. We also have a FAcebook page.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

8 Days After Cataract Surgery

The%20eye%20that%20was%20operated%20on.%20It has been 8 days since my cataract surgery. For most people this is a straightforward operation and they can count on their vision improving pretty quickly. Of course most people have two eyes so even if the vision in the eye that was operated on is acting up those people can rely on their other eye. Having just one eye removes this ability for me. Over the past week I have felt all the symptoms that you are expected to feel while recovering from the operation. I am definitely more sensitive to light  (and that was likely made worse by issues with my cornea). My eye continues to feel irritated and is still a bit bloodshot. It certainly feels better to keep it closed a lot. Reading a computer screen is pretty much out of the question (in fact I am writing this “blind” and will get someone to find my errors later on). Reading a book, magazine, menu, or most anything really is almost as hard - effectively speaking I cannot read. Over the next few weeks things should improve. They’d better. If I have to wear reading glasses that will be fine. It’s even possible I may have to get some type of prescription glasses though that strikes me as unlikely.  

Perhaps I had an unreasonable expectation of how well and quickly I would recover. I knew it would take time but should have downgraded my thinking because while everyone I talked to who has had cataract surgery was very pleased with their results they certainly could ease into having a second eye to rely upon.  I remain hopeful that everything will settle into a better view soon. My surgeon was quite pleased with the operation and since my eye is somewhat out of the ordinary that is very good news. I’ve not experienced any issues with flashes of light or floaters which is good news. I just wish my life wasn’t being affected as much as it is. How do people who can’t read in a world of words get by? At least I am quite comfortable with audiobooks and podcasts. I’m zipping through quite a lot of material right now. As long as things continue to improve I guess I will have to be satisfied by that.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

#44: 42nd Annual Wheatland Music Festival

This year I attended the 42nd annual Wheatland Musci Festival. I am not sure how many I have been too; less than 10 but certainly at least 8. That may seem like alot but compared to many I'm a piker. Paul Haan has probably attended 25 and I know people who have attended nearly every festival. People return year after year not only for the generally excellent muscial variety but to renew friendships. Wheatland Music Festival is more than just dozens of concerts it is a thriving community. I hope you enjoy this audio program and get a good sense of what a wonderful festival Wheatland is. Natually enough I have included a sampling of some of the music played at the festival. You'll hear music by Bill Kirchen, Dervish, California Feetwarmers, some open mich music, Balsam Range, Rapetipitam, and Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton.

You can learn more about the Wheatland Musci Festival, held the weekend after Labor Day, on Wheatland Music Organization's property just outside of Remus, Michigan at their webiste (

Sunday, June 7, 2015

#43: Jordan River Pathway Loop Backpacking Trip

Jim and Kip at Deadman's HillWho is happier about this hike? I think Jim probably is. Kip though would enjoy himself though scampering through the woods when Jim was sure no one else was about.

The Jordan River Pathway and North Country Trail form an 18-mile loop. Located in the northwestern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula the Jordan River valley is perhaps a bit less well known than some other areas. I’ve actually not done this loop hike before. On May 31 and June 1, 2015 I joined Jim Walke and his dog Kip to backpack the loop. Like most people we decided to do the hike in the traditional counter-clockwise fashion starting at the overnight parking lot at Deadman’s Hill. But, I am getting ahead of myself - let’s start at the beginning….


There is a fair bit of information available about the Jordan River Pathway Loop. The JRP is maintained by the Jordan Valley 45° North North Country Trail Association Chapter. While some maps exist online for the area they are pretty meager affairs. You can get a rough sense of the area from this overall trail map (PDF file, page 2) and of the detour from this map. The map in Jim DuFresne’s Backpacking in  Michigan book is decent and I expect the NCT map isn’t bad.


Jordan River at Pinney BridgeWe were stirring by 07:00 and it was a chilly morning. I suspect the nighttime low was closer to freezing than either Jim or I expected. In fact, I learned Jim had a chilly night. But with the sun shining down upon us we warmd up as we crossed the Jordan River expecting another fine day of hiking.


 Jordan River Pathway Overview Map page 1 of 2.

Jordan River Pathway Overview Map page 2 of 2.

The complete photo album for the hike can be found here on Flickr.


Check out this episode!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

#42: Play Ball

It has been a very long time since I went to a major league baseball game. Since Andy had to work on Thursday, just before we would head up north for our backpacking weekend at Pictuted Rocks National Lakeshore, I was able to go to a Detroit Tigers baseball game at Comerica Park.

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

#41: North Country Trail Maintenance, Spring 2015

Three times a year I join Andy Mytys and Joh Lawton and we drive west and north towards Lake Michigan to maintain a section of the North Country Trail (NCT). Our section runs about 6.5 miles from 13 Mile Road (north) to 16 Mile Road (south) in Newago County. You usually can find something different in any trail work session and this year was no exception. Finding the very hot remains of a campfire in an illegal campsite was the unfortunate standout this time (see video here).

Learn more about the North Country Trail and Western Michigan NCTA Chapter.

Check out this episode!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Night Camp, Spring Trail Maintenance on the NCT

Night Camp, Spring Trail Maintenance on the NCT

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Music and Life

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

#40: Alley of the Glaciers

On the weekend of January 24 and 25th, 2015 I joined nine of her adventurous kayakers to paddle a stretch of the Manistee River between Tippy DAm and Rainbow Bend. It would be a good adventure with plenty to learn and experience for all. The trip was organized by the Fortune Bay Expedition Team.


Additional photos can be found here

A more detailed written account is on my blog

Check out this episode!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Alley of the Glaciers

Alley of the Glaciers Camp.jpgAlley of the Glaciers Camp

We arrived at our camp a little before 16:30. We had paddled about two thirds of our planned route in less than four hours. Our campsite has several gullies running through it. It did not occur to me what these might be but I think Larry must be right that they represent stream beds. They're a source of annoyance for me though as the banks are high enough to make a single step up or down impossible.

Several thousand years ago glaciers swept down across Michigan. I am not sure if they created the Manistee River but and all the associated rollings valleys but they certainly had a hand in shaping the land. Today the glaciers are gone and all we see in the winter is snow clad land along the curving course of the river. On the weekend of January 24-25, 2015 I joined 9 other adventurers to kayak approximately 17 miles of the Manistee River between Tippy Dam and Rainbow Bend. Our plan we to paddle about two-thirds of the distance on Saturday and the remaining third Sunday. We would overnight camp on the river. What follows are my thoughts written (and then edited later) during the trip. I hope you enjoy what you see.

Sitting on a couch In Lansing, MI - January 24, 2015

It never seems to fail: the night before a trip begins I sleep poorly. It's true that I couldn't sleep much even if I wanted to since we will be leaving so early but I have been laying on this couch for what seems a long time and not falling asleep even though I am tired. Maybe I can blame the couch but it is probably better to blame pre-trip jitters. After all, Mike C. , Mike J. and I spent some time earlier discussing things that could, though you fervently hope won't, go wrong during a winter kayaking trip. I am sure Mike J. is feeling jitters since he is the trip leader (OK, he has help from Larri but this is really his baby). I hope I can drop off soon because I want to feel ready for the real adventure later today.
Tippy Dam.jpgTippy Dam

It is overcast and nippy at Tippy Dam on the Manistee River. The temperature likely never rose much above the mid-upper 30s °F. It is obviously not too cold to keep fisherman from wading into the chilly water in their quest to catch steelheads. Our group arrived more or less at the same time and by 11:00 we had all our kayaks packed and ready to go. Man of the group then piled into cars to drive down to Rainbow Bend and thus set up the car shuttle. This would take well over an hour so our group of intrepid adventurers would not put paddle to water until about 12:30.
Snowy Bluffs.jpgSnowy Bluffs

We often would pass by bluffs like this. Now and then we thought we might have spotted the trails of river otters sliding down the snow into the river.

On the Mainstee River at camp (44.263781°N, 86.084637°W) - January 24, 2015


Let there be fire. As soon as shelters were set up people including Aaron (shown here) were out and about gathering wood from mere twigs to modest logs for our necessary campfire. It sure would cast a wonderful warmth and glow for the several hours we all would cluster about it sharing stories, making up tales, chatting amiably about whatever came to mind. When Chuck "Pathfinder" Hayden made a surprise visit having hiked in from the road which lies a good mile or so away the amiability may have grown more pronounced still. The light freezing rain that turned to light snow didn't dampen our sprits one bit.
I wonder if any of our group, at least the contingent of me, Mike C., and Mike J. slept well. Goodness knows some of us had a long way to come to get to even the starting point at Tippy Dam. Getting to Tippy Dam wasn't that bad and everyone seemed to arrive by 10:00. But arriving at the starting point and setting out on the river are two different things. We had to spend a good hour unloading the kayaks from vehicles and then packing them up. That is always a chore. Shove, push, squeeze those drybags filled with sometimes bulky gear through the narrow deck hatches into the confined spaces of the kayak. Struggle to get the hatch covers on, one side is snugged down and while you work on the other it pops up again, secure everything in place. If you're lucky and careful you haven't forgotten to squeeze something important in. Time passes and even though it is a bit above freezing you are beginning to get cold. In the end the boats are packed but you still can't get in and start paddling because cars have to be driven to the take-out point which is well over a half hour away. The bulk of the group piled into cars to set up the shuttle leaving a few of us behind to chat, try and stay warm, and wait. At least we had good company including the couple of fellows standing knee-deep in the cold Manistee River fishing for steelhead. By 12:30 everything was in place and we were shoving off from the boat ramp and beginning our paddle down river. This is a swift flowing stretch of river especially once you get beyond the wider pond-like area just below the dam. You are quickly greeted by numerous bends including big oxbow bends that send you past high banks shrouded in snow and topped with trees both bare and evergreen. Except for the sound of conversation and the slap of paddles against the water it is pretty quiet on the river. Now and then a rifle caused by water surging past a rock or log makes a sound. People spotted plenty of activity: eagles, loons, turkeys, pileated woodpeckers, some other small birds, beaver - but they were all pretty quiet. I wish I had seen them. Instead I paid attention to where I was paddling and who I was following. I didn't want to run into anything if I could help it. Turned out I couldn't. Just beyond High Bridge I brushed through some branches that were farther out than I'd though and I took some foliage away with me. No harm done. It's possible to chat while paddling. Groups of two or three kayaks seemed to form and dissolve all the time. Even now, in my toasty warm sleeping bag, I can't tell you what we talked about. But it was pleasant conversation and the time went by quickly. We were moving quickly at any rate passing by banks sometimes low and approachable and quite often steep and inaccessible. Even with our break at the boat ramp by High Bridge we reached this campsite in slightly less than 4 hours. Our pine tree (white I think) forested campsite is cris-crossed by gullies. Until someone, Larri perhaps, suggested it I had no notion what they were but I think the idea that they are stream-beds makes sense. In the winter they're kayak storage spots and irritations for those of us with shorter legs. Other than that this is a fine campsite with easy access to the river and a perfect spot for our campfire which we kept alive for several hours before all heading to our tarps, tents, or hammocks for the long night. It is nice to have a campfire. It's very nice when someone else builds it. I am just not up for that. It takes too long to gather up wood of the proper sizes to birth the fire into something worthwhile. But we have plenty of people who dearly love a fire and they got one going in short order. No shortage of dead wood. Soon most of us were having dinner by the fire and then settled in around the comforting light and warmth sharing stories and relaxing, if that is the word for it when the temperature is steadily dropping below freezing and a bit of freezing rain turning to a modest flurry of snow, as time creeps on by. Pathfinder, aka Chuck Hayden, made an appearance. That was a shock to us all. He had parked on a nearby road, probably a mile and a half away, and bushwhacked in to our site. As I glance at the map there may be a trail nearby but I am not sure (can anyone confirm this?). He sure can liven any event up. But he wasn't staying so so even our desire to stay warm by the flames ebbed and around 21:00 - surprisingly late - everyone had dispersed to his or her shelter. I am comfortably warm on my new sleeping pad and I hope I can fall asleep and stay that way for the next several hours: sunrise is at 08:00 or so.
Good Morning, Sunshine.jpgGood Morning Sunshine

During the night the temperature plummeted down to around 10°F. If you were up and had the eyes for it you could see stars twinkling. The sun is rising on a chilly morning. Fortunately our campsite is reasonably protected from the wind so morning chores aren't too areas once you get moving and warmed up.
Larry on the River.jpgLarry on the River

Larry is perhaps our most colorful, certainly brightest, paddler passing by one of the many snowy bluffs.

Sitting on the couch in Lansing - January 25, 2015

The trip is done; the adventurous portion of it is done since I still have to take the bus back to Ann Arbor tomorrow morning. What a difference a day can make. Sunday dawned partly cloudy and promised to clear throughout the day. It was also considerably colder and windier. I doubt the temperature broke 20F and the low during the night may have nudge 10. But sunshine can make you feel warmer even if, to some degree at least, it is all in your head. Certainly when we gathered again around a campfire we were all warmer and you warm up remarkably fast trying to work frozen tent stakes out of the ground but it really wasn't too bad once we got moving and got some food into our bodies. No doubt the trees helped block the wind which certainly cut through us while upon the river. A very fine morning of lazy packing and sometimes a bit of fun. After all, you aren't in a hurry or concerned with the remaining third of paddling if you take time out to build a snowman. But you can only dawdle so long and again around 12:30 everyone was in their kayaks and on the river. The skies had cleared up completely and the wind started to chew into us. I am glad I had my rain jacket to help act as a windbreaker and I reckon the PFD added some protection too but we all felt the bite of the wind on exposed skin. I wonder if the big drop in temperature and rise in the wind kept fishermen away because today I think we only saw a couple fishing from small motorboats marveling that people would choose to kayak at this time of year. Personally, I think today was a great day to be out even though parts of me were quite chilled. Colors really popped and though we spotted far less wildlife it felt good to be outside. I think everyone felt quite alive even those that may have been wiped out by the kayaking. Those last couple of hours, covering the last third of the 17.5 miles of paddling, seemed to go by quite quickly and I am sure everyone enjoyed the time immensely. That enjoyment was marred by the wretched wind and cold that ripped through us as we unloaded, almost as much of a chore as loading, the boats and put them on their various cars.
Rainbow Bend.jpgRainbow Bend

We have arrived at Rainbow Bend and Mike, aka Seadod, is one of the last to disembark. Of course, we still had to unload our kayaks and then put them up on the various cars before we could depart. That seemed to take an eternity. The wind had become fiercer and that made everyone feel far colder than we had been all day.
Once we got back to Tippy Dam and sorted everyone out it was time to head off home. We had a nice enough bar dinner on the way and I think everyone enjoyed how this short adventure came to a good conclusion. I know I enjoyed it and I am sure I learned a few things along the way about myself, my gear, and other people. All 17 photos can been seen in this Flickr Album.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Change of Mind

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Years 2014-15