Upper Peninsula Blueberry Picking

Mid-August brings our annual trek to the Upper Peninsula for wild blueberry season.  Our ‘super secret spot’ is no longer so super secret.  When we arrived in the late afternoon, we found that we had to wait to get down the two-track that takes us to ‘our’ spot due to other vehicles parked on it.

Since we planned to ‘car-camp’ for the night, we decided to check out the other two-tracks in the area and see if we could find a cool spot.  And yes we did!!

We came across this lake with a clearing perfect for camping.  But before setting up camp, we still had to pick blueberries, so we went back to our spot, and all the vehicles and people were gone-too bad they didn’t take the mosquitoes with them!  The Upper Peninsula’s mosquitoes are legendary, and believe me, they lived up to their legend, and then some!  We sprayed ourselves, donned hooded jackets, and began picking.  It didn’t take but a couple of hours to fill our containers (unfortunately, no pictures were taken, too busy picking and swatting).  We then loaded up and headed to the campsite.

We decided to car-camp this year, mostly to see if it was doable in a Jeep Compass, and if it was successful, it may open up new opportunities we hadn’t thought of.


As you can see, the back of the Compass fits us just fine.

We brought a log (pressed wood with wax) to burn and settled in for the evening.  As you can see from the pictures, no wind.  It did not take long for the mosquitoes to find us, and they were hungry!

Called it a night once the log was burned and found that since we had to leave a window cracked, the mosquitoes knew just where to find us!  It was a night with no sleep and knowledge that we were being chowed on.  So overall, the concept of ‘car-camping’ is a good one, but only before or after the ‘mosquito season’.




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‘The Jewel Is In The Lotus’

Went for a paddle around our lake the other day (8-9-17), mostly for enjoyment but also to photograph the lotus flowers or water lily as some call them, while they are still out.  The title of this post is loosely translated from the most popular Buddhist mantra ‘Om mani padme hum’.  Lotus flowers are amazing in that their roots are in the mud or muck of a pond or lake, yet the flowers are amazingly beautiful.

No, I didn’t tip over in my kayak!  Sometimes the reflection is more beautiful than the actual scene.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Hump!! Didn’t realize we had beaver on the lake.  Very industrious building engineers!

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Until later…



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Valley Of The Giants and Dollar Lake

Another great solo hike on the North Country Trail (8-5-17).  Clicked off another 7.2 miles towards my 100.  Cool and wet this morning, so it took approximately 20 steps to get my shoes and pant legs soaked!  But that’s ok, they were dry by the time I was done.


Robert met me at the Mayfield Road crossing, had a quick bite and replenished my water, it’s nice to have a support vehicle if it’s needed.


After leaving the crossing, hiked down the two-track and re-entered the woods and began to work my way down a very large ravine.  At the time, I didn’t know I was entering the “Valley of the Giants”, but I did notice a lot of huge, old growth oaks and pines.  Also crossed Twenty-Two Creek, which meandered at the valley floor.


There was no way I was going to fit this ‘giant’ into one picture.  After a few miles of following the creek, I began the long climb out of the valley.  I noticed a sign handing over the trail and when I turned around. . .


Aah Ha!  I guess I came in through the back door, I kind of wondered why everyone I met was going the opposite way??  Not far up the trail, someone had built this beautiful sign next to a hug oak.


Finished this hike at Sheck’s Place Campground, (no, I didn’t see him!) had a nice picnic lunch and headed home

Two days later (8-7-17)…Since the wind was not conducive for Robert to ride another section of the North Central Trail, we decided to hike the next section together, which means an out-and-back hike.  We started at the Muncie Lakes Parking Area and hiked north to the Dollar Lake Trailhead and returned (8 miles).  Another beautiful day, low humidity and quite breezy, for August, this is quite a treat!

Didn’t realize we’d be hiking a cross-country skiing area, but that was fine with me, I knew the trail would be well maintained, and it was.

Taking a quick break before climbing this very large hill, thankfully there were switchbacks once we got back into the trees!


We came to Dollar Lake and realized that there are very few lakes that are uninhabited, what a treat!


Unfortunately, we came across some illegal campers and once we got to the trailhead, seen the damage they inflicted so they could drive their vehicle down the trail and to their camping area.  We turned around to begin our trip back and stopped for lunch at a bench that was just begging for some company!

Overall, it was a great hike.  Met up with some ‘fat-tire’ riders once we were back in the ski area.  I think we had the easier trek, the folks on the bikes looked like they were working much harder than we were!  This hike put me over half-way (53 miles) to my goal of 100 miles, so as they say…it’s all downhill from here!

Until the next adventure…




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Beautiful Day On The Trail

Could not pass up this beautiful day:  temps in the 70’s, beautiful blue skies, low humidity.  It’s hard to believe the calendar says mid July!  Picked a section of the North Country Trail about 10 miles south of the Fife Lake area where the trail runs along the Manistee River and the Fife Lake Creek.  Robert decided to join me today so it was an out-and-back hike, but still able to add 6.2 miles to my Hike 100 Challenge.

Not far down the trail, I spotted this ‘colored’ leaf.  Is this a sign of an early Fall!!!


It was very buggy once on the trail, but a little bug spray and a head net and all was well.


Thanks to the Grand Traverse Chapter for the trail maintenance and the great bench overlooking the Manistee River.  We took a nice break there on our way back.

Came across a lot of wildflowers which I was not expecting, but definitely was great to see.  The butterflies, bees and other little insects where hard at work as we hiked by.

After reaching 4 Road, which was our turn around point, we decided to do the ‘scenic spur’ which took us down to the Fife Lake Creek and eat our snacks there.  What a neat place!  Even spotted a little Brook Trout in the creek.

It was a beautiful day for a hike, and any day spent in the woods is a great day!



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Finally On The Trail Again

After my visit with family on June 20th, myself and my husband came down with nasty summer colds.  Being sick in the summer, in my mind, is the worst.  For some reason, it always seems harder to shake a cold in the summer than in the winter.   After three weeks of being laid out, I couldn’t take it any longer, and since I felt somewhat better, I decided to hit the trail yesterday and continue working towards my Hike 100 Challenge.  I had originally planned to do a couple of separate sections that would complete an area near Mancelona.  The first being 3.8 miles and the second being 4.0 miles.  After two days of severe thunderstorms, I knew the trail would be wet and buggy, and it definitely lived up to that!

When we found the trail crossing and I seen the overgrown area just beyond the sign, I knew my bug net (which is hanging out of my pocket) was an essential!  Thankfully it did clear up further down the trail.


Last time I hiked in this area, the ferns were just emerging, now in some areas, they were almost up to my shoulders.  I felt like I was in some prehistoric area and needed to look out for dinosaurs!


I really liked the original picture of the trail and decided to see what it would look like in a watercolor medium.  I was pretty happy with the way it turned out.


One of the two power line crossings that I was actually able to catch a breeze and take my head net off.


This was a fresh break that I could only assume came just recently from the nasty thunderstorm that rolled through on Wednesday and Thursday.


Came to a clearing that had been logged some years ago, and was surprised to see a large area of foxglove growing.  I’ve seen it in personal flower gardens before, but never in the wild.  It was quite a large area and the colors ranged from white to this purple.  It was quite a treat.

After my first 3.8 miles, Robert was waiting with the car to take me to my next 4 mile section, but unfortunately, my energy was totally depleted and I knew I couldn’t do another 4 miles.  So I called it a day and we headed into Mancelona for a picnic lunch and a gas station so I could put some dry shoes and clothes on.  I could definitely tell I have been away from the trail for a while, but it was quite a morale boost to be in the woods again.  Hopefully this cold will depart and soon!!



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Fife Lake Area Solo Hike

Solo hiked a new 7-mile section of the North Country Trail yesterday, thankfully, Robert agreed to be my spotter so I didn’t have to do an ‘out-and-back’ trip.   Decided on the Fife Lake Area which is about 15 miles south of Kalkaska.  I noticed on my map that it went through a couple of campgrounds and alongside a couple of lakes, so I figured my photo opportunities would be good.

The weather was forecast to be in the high 80’s with windy conditions, so I thought that if I got an early start, I’d be done before the hottest part of the day arrived.  Hit the trailhead at 9:30 am and unfortunately, I had left my bug head net at home.  I use it so frequently while working in my yard/gardens, that I surprised myself that I had neglected to put it in my pack.  Needless to say, the biting little gnats were pretty intense, but thankfully, the mosquitoes heeded my bug spray!


The trail crossed and merged with numerous ATV trails, and also the Shore-to-Shore horseback trail, so thankfully, the North Country Trail is marked very well.


View of Spring Lake from the boat launch at the campground.  Very nice and quiet lake.


Looking west at Headquarters Lake.  The wind had started to pick up, which felt great as the temperature was steadily rising.


Something about a trail through the woods just makes me say “Aaaaaahhhh”.


Came around a bend and here was this wonderful bench.  Thank you to whomever put it there.  It was nice to sit and take a break, and enjoy the views.


I couldn’t believe how tall these ferns were, over three-feet tall!


We’ve had some intense wind storms this spring and I have a feeling that one of them toppled this huge pine.


These ‘stump-chairs’ were provided by the Grand Traverse Hiking Club.  Thank-you! They sit quite comfortably!

Met back up with Robert at 1:15 pm then drove a few miles south on US-131 to a road-side park and had a nice picnic lunch.  I was also able to clean-up a bit thanks to an old hand pump well, before the 1 and 1/2 hour trip home.

It was a great hike and I look forward to my next one.



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Jordan River Valley Hike

For those of us who live or have lived in Michigan know, if you wait on good weather to do anything outside, you’d never get anything done!  So on Thursday, May 31st, we set out to do another section of the North Country Trail.  We were forecast to have a chance of rain, but when we arrived at the trailhead, it was raining very hard.  Since we do a lot of outdoor activities, we were prepared with rain gear and ponchos.  This was our first time hiking in the Jordan River Valley so we weren’t sure what to expect.


View of the Jordan River Valley from the North Country Trail.


Had to don both my rain gear and poncho.  I know I look like a yellow peep, but I am dry!


Very hilly terrain, but thankfully the Trail Chapters take good care of the trail.


This is the very first time I’ve seen Pink Lady Slippers!  They are absolutely gorgeous.  We found them in a very small area.


Shortly after seeing the Pink Lady Slippers, I came across this one bunch of Yellow Lady Slippers!  What a treat, and again, they were only in a very small area.


I must have been quite a wind storm to bring this big guy down!

Did not realize we were going to cross the 45th Parallel.  We are half-way to the North Pole!!


When you think of ‘fungus’, you may not think of something this beautiful!


These unknown ferns were also very cool, it’s amazing what you can find in nature!


It was beginning to clear up as we made our way back to the car, it was a great hike, and as I’m not made of sugar, I didn’t melt!



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Memorial Weekend Ride

After almost a week of cool and rainy weather, we couldn’t wait to get on our bicycles and get outside and do another section of the North Eastern State Trail.  Robert dropped me off at the trailhead in Tower, MI and and he drove to my end point, Millersburg, left the car, and started from there.  Since we have only one vehicle, this seems to work well for us.  We don’t get to ride together, but we usually meet somewhere along the trail.  We can tell each other about obstacles, hazards, and the like.



I was a little unnerved when I read this note, only because I had a dream about a bear just the night before!  I was prepared to say a lot of “Yo Bear”s along the way, but when I heard how loud my water bottle and stuff in my bag were rattling, I knew I was making enough noise.


An old weathered bridge over Tower Pond, which is part of the Black River.  Very scenic.  The trail conditions were ok, I could tell we’d had a lot of rain by how loose the limestone pebbles were, so I was very glad to have borrowed Robert’s old bike, which has wider tires than mine.


These beautiful little blue and white wildflowers were everywhere!


Loved the tunnel effect of the trees, and also thankful for the shade, it was quite sunny and warm.


At our meeting point, this Black-billed Cuckoo sat in the brush just off the trail while Robert and I ate a snack and chatted with another cyclist.  It’s nest must have been very near.


? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?  Enough said.


Robert caught this Ruffed Grouse strutting his stuff.  I also observed one sitting in the divot of a horse hoof mark.


Seen and heard quite a few deer along the trail, this one decided to check Robert out!


New bridge over the Ocqueoc River just outside of Millersburg.  A lot of work went into it and the surrounding landscape.

It was a good 13 mile ride, although I have to say, the last five miles for me were tough.  I seemed to have run out of energy and my legs were feeling like lead!  And why is it that no matter what direction you ride, the wind is ALWAYS in your face!!




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Starvation Lake Road to Twin Lake Road and Return










Completed another seven miles of the North Country Trail on Friday, 5/19 (just 86 more miles to complete my Hike 100 Challenge!) It started out very chilly, but as the day went on, it warmed up nicely. Parked at the Starvation Lake Road ATV parking area and had a short walk to the trail, which immediately led us into a small, well carpeted pine forest. For once we were actually pretty quiet while hiking – while this is nice, it does have its disadvantages: animals may not hear you before they see you, and most wild animals don’t care to be surprised. Thankfully, we did not have any close encounters, but we also seen very little wildlife. This kind of perplexed me, no chipmunks, squirrels, or any other little ground animals. Was it the type of area? Was it the ATV trail riders that had driven the wildlife away? We crossed an ATV trail approximately four times in the 3.5 miles down to Twin Lakes Road. There were even very few songbirds around, you know the kind: robins, blue jays, chickadees, sparrows, and the like. The only wildlife we did observe was a pair of Canada geese with four goslings, a garter snake sunning itself in a small patch of sun, and three Broad Winged Hawks soaring overhead.

While the scenery was beautiful, as you can see in the included pictures, the lack of wildlife put a small damper on this hike.   We did discover two wildflowers that we had never seen before, not sure if they grow over here on the east side of the state, but if I ever see them again, I’ll know what they are. The first was a beautiful purple “Fringed Polygala” and the second was a cute little white “Star Flower” (appropriately named!). Overall, it was a good hike, I was able to experience another area I had never been to before, and we both arrived back at the car safe and sound, although tired.




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For The Love Of Spring

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera

I absolutely LOVE spring.  The days are longer, the sun is warmer, the trees are beginning to bud, and the birds are singing!!   The above pictured bird is a Brown Thrasher, and if you’ve ever been lucky enough to hear them sing, you may think you’re listening to ten different birds!  Their song seems random, chaotic, and without any structure, almost a cacophony of many different sounds.  And what I also love about them is that they sit at the very top of a tree and they are by far, the loudest bird around.  Talk about wanting to be noticed.  There is nothing demure about these birds and their song! We’ve had Brown Thrashers here every spring and they sing from sun up to sun down, and this year I was fortunate enough to capture a good picture of one in mid-song.

While listening to them, and all of our other resident birds, I remembered a book I had to read while working on my minor, Environmental Science, at Western Michigan University, called Silent Spring (1962), by Rachel Carson.  I though of Chapter 8, entitled “And No Birds Sing”, I cannot imagine not hearing a single bird sing, a silent spring, and am so grateful to Ms. Carson for writing this book.  It helped lead to the banning of DDT following the death of massive amounts of birds and other animals around the country. Lets hope this never happens again.



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