Archive for June, 2013

Interlochen morning

Tuesday, 11th June 2013; 7:54 am

I had a brief scare last night when I got into my tent and found that my inflatable pad was flat. 10pm after dark was no time to try repairing it. I reinflated it, hoping to at least locate the leak … And it stayed that way. The first thing I checked when I noticed it was flat was that the valve was closed tightly, but that must have been the problem. I stayed inflated all night.

The night was mild; I never bundled all the way into my sleeping bag. It didn’t rain, but it’s a good thing I’d covered my gear for it, because the heavy fog that developed left everything exposed wet. Even with the sun up, visibility is limited. My view of the lake is just a grey void.

I woke at 6:30, and had a leisurely breakfast of pop-tarts and granola bars. My calf muscles protest everything I ask them to do, but between ointment and use, they’re loosening up.

Made it to Interlochen

Monday, 10th June 2013; 8:02 pm

I paced myself better today. Yeah, let’s go with that. That’s why I took 8.5 hours for the return trip down the Manistee River Trail. The easier route. Just 10.5 miles.

OK, it might have had something to do with me being tired, sore, and weak from the day before. Even if I’d wanted to set a faster pace, I really couldn’t. Not without a bear chasing me or something. Which there was not.

I hit the trail about 7:30; there was no point hanging around any longer than that. When I got to the “Little Man” bridge a mile or so from camp, it started to rain a little bit. I panicked briefly, but used up a little battery power to confirm that there was no serious rain coming.

The corresponding stretch of the North Country Trail is nice, but the MRT is nicer. It is less difficult, but still not an easy hike. Don’t let the fact that it follows the river fool you: there’s quite a bit of up and down, following the contours of the surrounding land. The Manistee is no Grand River, lazily wandering the lowlands to the Lake. It cuts a course through northern Michigan hills. The bluffs on either side can be several dozen feet above the river, which often offers some spectacular vistas. But you have to climb to them.

At one point in the morning the honks of a goose alerted me to look up. I was briefly confused, because the black-and-white bird I saw had the wrong pattern. Suddenly I realized that it was a small bald eagle. Both my iPhone and my Fuji aren’t good for action shots like that, so I missed it.

I had better luck later, when I startled Bambi from some undergrowth just ahead of me. He ran a little further ahead and stopped, giving me time to snap one good picture and a couple blurry ones. Using an autofocus camera in woods is always hit-or-miss; they tend to focus on objects in front of what you wanted.

The clouds thinned, and after a while the sun came out. That’s two days in a row that were supposed to be rainy (or probably) but weren’t. Random luck. The next couple days’ forecasts call for dry skies, so… we’ll see. 🙂

A lot of other thoughts crossed my mind today, but not many are coming right now. Among them were a bunch of lessons that I’ve learned the past couple days that I’m glad I learned now rather than on Isle Royale next month. I’ll get back to those later.

I finally reached the campground where I’d left the scooter, at 4pm. Coincidentally the same time I’d mapped out on my calendar for the trip… but that was starting 1.5 hours later. I took about a hour to change clothes and repack things for the road. In that time I found a set of keys that didn’t belong to anyone at the site at that time. Oops.

I was low on gas, and needed a few other things – including bug repellent (what, I was supposed to check that there was enough left?) and ointment for a rash on my inner thighs (the wrong underwear can chafe) – so I detoured into Mesick, where the pharmacy had closed 10 minutes earlier. Fortunately the grocery next door had what I needed.

I’d mapped out a nice backroads route to Interlochen, much of which had to be scrapped to get to Mesick instead. From there my two options were M-37 or some farm roads. Obviously I took the latter. So did everyone who wanted to go north on M-37, because that segment was closed. Fortunately that wasn’t too many people. In fact, the worst part was a steep grade I had to climb, without much of a headstart. I can do 40mph on level ground, but on this I dropped to 20mph. That could be a problem in the Porkies next month, so I’ll have to see if I can figure out the least hilly routes.

The check-in station at Interlochen State Park was already closed when I got there at 7:00. I didn’t have a specific site reserved, so I just went to the rustic campground and picked one. There are a bunch of open spots overlooking Green Lake, but they don’t have a lot of flat spots. I found one that should be good enough, and pitched the tent.

I rode into the village of Interlochen (a crossroads attached to the famous arts camp of the same name) and ended up at the Hofbrau, which is good but expensive: dinner and two draft beers for $27 (plus tip)!

Because I was a tightwad in my planning (if not my eating), I’m camped in a “rustic” section separate from the main campground, so I had to take a short ride down the road to take a shower. It was worth it.

It’s a starry starry night and it promises to be a sunny day tomorrow. Despite my condition, which leaves me unenthusiastic about any hiking, I figure I’ll be good for a day of riding. Old Mission Peninsula, Leelanau Peninsula. And the Sleeping Bear Dunes area await me.

Seaton morning

Monday, 10th June 2013; 6:02 am

I went to bed at 10 last night and went out like a light. Still woke up a little a few times during the night, of course, to turn over and whatnot. Definitely warmer than the night before, probably 60F ish. I woke completely just before 6: earlier than necessary, but it was almost 8hours

Radar looks… not too bad. There will definitely be rain, but the way it’s moving, the worst parts might pass east and west of here. Or not. But I’m hopeful.

Sittin at Seaton

Sunday, 9th June 2013; 8:09 pm

I’m trying to save battery on the phone (since my charger is 10miles away), so I’ll be brief.

I finished today’s hike in about 7 hours. Less time than I feared it might take, which is good. But it left me at the campground more than 4 hours before dark, with little to do. This is a Forest Service campground, and they don’t bother with stuff like interpretive nature trails. There’s just the forest. Ordinarily I’m OK being alone with my thoughts, but I’ve been like that all day. I need something to *do*.

When I’m riding, I can usually time my day better than this. And if I find myself at a site with nothing to do, I can hop on the bike and find a restaurant. Normally if I’d exhausted the local sights, I’d look over the next day’s ride, write these blog entries, or just do something with the phone.

I fixed my dinner early (all I have left now until I return to civilization is tomorrow’s oatmeal and 3 packets of granola bars), and having a little food gave me the energy to walk (with just camera and water) back to the suspension bridge I’d just trudged over on the way to the campground. With my camp shoes on my feet felt better, and I made the mile-plus in 45 minutes. I took a bunch of pictures with the good camera (it’s battery doesn’t run down as fast as the iPhone’s) and poked around a few side trails. It’s the same basic kind of bridge as the Mackinac, but much smaller; instead of being the Big Mack, it’s the Little Man.

I had time to explore more, but not the endurance, so I strolled back to camp. It’s still only 8:00, a but early to turn in. But I think I can kill a little time getting “washed up” (using the no-rinse cleanser that the astronauts use, since there are no showers here), and otherwise preparing for the morning. I might even check the weather online after posting this. Then I’ll have to turn off the phone again, and look forward to tomorrow.

Update: Just checked the weather, and it’s 50% chance of rain all day tomorrow. Radar has some strange weather patterns which are probably hurricane-related, which do kinda look like rain hitting here eventually. 🙁 At least tonight should be 10-15F warmer than last night. 🙂

Seaton Creek

Sunday, 9th June 2013; 4:52 pm

Today was a tough hike. The North Country Trail is half a mile or more from the Manistee River, in the hills. Just getting up to it was a tough climb. And it doesn’t stay at that level. It’s comparable in difficulty to some of the trails on Isle Royale, and tougher than some. Just because it’s more accessible doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s not treacherous or anything, but… I underestimated it.

What I overestimated was… a few things. My ability to just jump back on the trail after several years, for example. I really should have trained more for this. Like my feet, which are too soft for all that boot time: I’m getting blisters. I have moleskin for them, but that’s just treatment; I should have prevented them.

The suitability of this backpack is another thing. Just because its only a couple nights doesn’t mean you don’t need to pack properly. I managed to get everything in – or strapped on – the pack (tent, sleeping bag, pillow, towel, camp shoes are all hanging from it) but it doesn’t carry that weight properly. My shoulders are as sore as my feet.

But I can brag a little about something done right. On the trail I met a couple, one of whom asked about the little camera bag hanging in front of me. He’d been carrying his around his neck, or in his hand, and was frustrated with that. I explained my brilliant trick of attaching the strap to the backpack, so it carries the weight of the camera, not my neck.

It was a good hike, pain notwithstanding. It’s mostly dense woods, so even the hilltop views were obscured by trees. I saw the expected wildlife, including one deer who didn’t run from me. Maybe “wildlife” isn’t the right word for it. I first saw some stray fur, which I had trouble identifying at first. Was it an animal that had died and been eaten? If so, where were the bones? A few meters more down the trail. Lots of parts missing, but clearly a deer, probably young.


There’s a suspension footbridge that connects the NCT with the Manistee River Trail on the other side. When I got there, the campers from the other site – whom I’d left there this morning – were already there. I’m hoping that’s a sign that the other trail is easier, and not just a reflection of my condition.

Red Hill Lookout

Sunday, 9th June 2013; 10:14 am

One thing I didn’t think enough about was what to do with my riding jacket while on the trail. It’s entirely useless in that environment: no insulation value and bulky. I figured I’d leave it with the bike, as I often do when I go for a walk at Reeds Lake. But what about rain? Because it will rain before I get back to it. I ended up removing the armor, and barely stuffed it under the seat… Which required taking some clothes from there and putting them inside my helmet (which I left sitting on the floor of the scooter).

While I was working on that, one of the boys next door approached and asked about my “moped”. He wanted to know how much it cost, what gas mileage I get, how fast it goes. As I answered his questions, it sounds like he’s made up his mind to get one. I cautioned him to avoid the cheap ones, and I think he understood why.