Saturday, January 29, 2011

Into the Wilderness!

Did you see the movie - "Into the Wild"?  Well, this is sorta like that in just 3 days!  Four rugged men head out into the Wilderness for a 3 day cross country ski trip.  We will only take in what we can carry in on our backs ............................  and on the toboggan.

We arrive and drive to our trailhead.  Here we park the car and start packing.

*Remember to click on any picture to enlarge it.

We decide we will have to make two trips.  The cabin is 2 miles down the trail.

This is Nebo Trail Head.  We were the first campers this week so the ranger takes a snowmobile and grooms the trail.  That was nice but since he was going to the cabin he could take a load in.  ...Ha, Ha...this is what we came for....hard work and a long trek into the wilderness.

Nebo Trail to Nebo Cabin - 2 miles.

This was prior to the grooming.

We are packed for the first trip in.  That is 2 miles into the cabin, unload, then 2 miles back out to the parking lot, and 2 more miles back to the cabin.  Then we can start skiing.

John is lightening the load for the first trip in.

Remember the toboggan goes under the gate.  We can't wait.  Into the Wilderness!

Here I am ready for the trip with my backpack.  Phil is the Captain of the Lighthouse boat and FILA board member.  You can see the snowmobile blazing the trail for us to the cabin.  Having the groomed trail really helped the job of going in and out. 

My brother, Gary, was ready.  He did several, multiple miles practice runs before this trip to get in shape.  I wish I had!

The woods had this nice trail to the cabin.  Two sets of tracks, go in on the right and out on the left.  It didn't matter, nobody was on the trail and the forest was quiet.  Actually we did see one skier go by and then return but other than that, we had the whole place to ourselves.

Is this the cabin?  What? No windows?     No, that is the outhouse.  It is close to the trail so the Rangers can come by and service it once a season or so.  The cabin is up the hill behind the outhouse.

Home sweet home.  Gary is getting the water pump primed so we can get set up.  The cabins were built by the CCC way back in the 1930s?.  The cabin is very tight and has a wood floor.

A nice wood stove and 5 beds( two bunk beds) along the far wall.

The table had two benches and two chairs.  The mattresses were vinyl covered firm ones that could survive in the wilderness.

The front, left side of the cabin was for the kitchen stuff.  No running water, no electric lights, no curtains, no sink, but all you need for a campout.  I had a small candle lantern that I fixed above the kitchen area.

I had a single mantle gas lantern above the table but next time, I'll just bring the candle lantern as it worked so well.

This was one of two stacks of firewood outside the cabin.  We moved wood up beside the door and some inside the cabin.  Once we fired up the woodstove, it was plenty warm inside.  We opened the windows a crack all the time we were there.  It was so warm we let the fire burn out after going to bed.  In the morning, Phil would shout out "Hey,'s time!"  Gary would jump out of the sleeping bag and!...

This is the view from the picnic table in front of the cabin down the hill towards the outhouse.

This was the fast pit stop area.  You did not linger here long.  You did your business and got out!  No reading on this John.

A problem arose when washing the meal dishes.  We had a flat top on the stove so a pail of water was always there and hot.  We would use bread or tea bags to clean out the majority of the leftovers and then wash the stuff inside the cabin.  Then you would go outside and scoop some snow to rinse the dishes.  One problem.  There was lots of yellow snow around the front of the cabin so we carefully found fresh WHITE snow to rinse with.

Phil and Gary ready to ski.  It was nice to ski in the quiet area.  We saw animal tracks but didn't see any animals during the day.  Later, will be another story.

You will note that Gary and I both had hydration pacs.  Phil and John were more experienced outdoorsmans and they were minimalists.  They traveled light.

We headed south of the cabin on Nebo Trail and then turned East on South Boundary Trail.  Then we turned North on Swamp Line Road and  crossed Big Sucker Creek and then Big Stone Creek.  There we took the Red Pine Trail back towards Nebo Trail.  You can see one of the wooden bridges we crossed on this trail.

Gary just crossed the bridge.  Note that the wide former trail is now a small single file trail that was described as undulating.  We found out what that meant!

Note the blue blaze on the tree.  This is part of the North Country Trail that goes from New York , PA, Ohio, MI, Wisc, Minn, and North Dakota - will stretch over 4,000 miles.

John is also on the South Fox Island Lighthouse Assocation ( and his buddy, Terry was meeting us at the cabin around noon.  This was to be a nice 6-7 mile morning ski.  John and Phil were way ahead and would be right on time to meet Terry.  Gary was ahead of me and I was skiing alone across this undulating trail.

Gary was waiting on the dam/bridge.  Now I wasn't alone any more. 

Gary took my picture and you can see the nice stream in the background.

Off we went towards the undulating part of the trail. 

Gary got ahead again as I stopped to take pictures.

You can see the narrow trail through the Red Pine forest.  It was a lovely trail, I thought, at this point.

This trail is going up!  It is not too steep but I can see sets of herringbone tracks going up.  That means that it is a little steep and you have to climb it.  Whee, that was fun and on the other side and hill going down.  Fun!  I managed to get downhill and carried on .  There were about 6 more of these, each a little steeper.  I managed to make about three hills and fell near the bottom of the rest to avoid trees, turns or a pond.  Cross country skis do not turn as easily as downhill.

I took a picture of this tree stump.  The birds were busy here.  It was getting tougher as I skied along.  I was about 3 1/2 hours into this morning jaunt and knew I was behind the guys.  Finally I reached the top of the last hill before Nebo Trail.  I took my skis off and walked down.  As tired as I was I didn't want to fall again.  Being alone at this stage, because I was slower, I couldn't risk an injury.  Besides, I knew they were having lunch.  OK, on I go.  It only takes about 20 minutes to get to the cabin.

Wow, it sure is nice to see the familar sight of the outhouse.  That means home is near!

Terry was there at the cabin and lunch was on.

Phil had made homemade chili and cornbread.  Plus we had that box of red wine to empty before we head out.  

The guys were discussing the afternoon ski outing.  We had just done a 6-7 mile loop but they wanted to do a big loop.  I was tired and my hip and knee were sore so I opted out to read and relax.  John and Phil decided to try the outermost boundary trail which would be about 12 miles or so.  Gary and Terry said they would ski 1/3 of the way and then come back and ski to the parking lot to take Terry's car over to the most NW part of the park and then ski down to meet the guys around Sturgeon Cabin.  That would save John and Phil from doing 6 more miles.  They took off at 2:30 pm.

Down the trail south towards the South Boundary Trail went John, Phil, Terry, and Gary.  I read for 2 hours and brought in more firewood.  Then I got dressed and started to ski down to meet Gary and Terry on their way back.  It wasn't long before I met them.  When we got back to the cabin, Gary said he was going to stay as his hip was bothering him.  He had skied about 14 miles so far that day.  Terry had vision in only one eye and was having catarack surgery in the morning.  Terry had to ski 2 miles north and get his car and drive 4 miles west and park and ski down towards Sturgeon Cabin to meet the guys.  It was about 4:30 pm by now. 

Gary decided to ski up to Mt Nebo.  He was gone about 1 hour and took this picture of what is left of the fire tower.  It was getting dark as Gary arrived.  We did a few more cabin chores, drank  some wine, read and waited for the guys to return for dinner at 7:00 pm.

About 7:30 pm we started wondering where the guys were.  It was very dark out, no moon light to travel by.  Did the guys have a flashlight?    8:00 pm and no guys.  Now we started wondering about what could have happened to them.  By 9:00 pm we decided that either the guys had gone out with Terry to get a flashlight and have dinner in town or they went to Terry's house and would return in the morning.  About 9:30 pm we went to bed and shut out the lights.  Around 10:00 pm we heard some shouting outside.  I lit the lanterns and in came John and Phil.  They got to Sturgeon Cabin and saw only one set of ski tracks and knew Gary didn't come with Terry.  They skied up to the parking lot on the NW end of the park and no cars.  The guys did not have water and only two granola bars with them.  They did not have lights.  They had skied about 12 miles and were about 6 miles from the cabin and it was very dark.  They were tired after skiing all morning and all afternoon and part of the night.  Did I mention that there was no cell phone service?  They said they could just barely make out the trail and started to falter as they came to the curve by the cabin.  They thought they heard sounds and lights as they were near the end but wasn't sure.  John saw a coyote.

Gary and I had made dinner about 8:30 pm and we gave them semi-warm spaghetti and fettuccine sauce.  They were very de-hydrated.  We were all so thankful that this had a happy ending.  We talked for a bit and then it was "lights out".

Next morning we started packing up and cleaning the cabin.   Oatmeal, raisins, nuts for breakfast. 

We survived the wilderness.  Oh, wait!  We have to pack up the tobaggon and ski 2 miles out the cars, unload, ski 2 miles back to the cabin, load up and ski 2 miles back to the car.  Off we go.  The snow was wet and sticky on the way out.  The last trip out the tracks were slightly frozen and the glide was perfect.  We were moving right along on the last trip out.  Maybe we should ski another loop?   .......................

We packed up the cars.

We were already talking about our next outing.  Phil and John are both captains and have sailing boats.  They are always up for an adventure.  What do you think?  Where should we go?    Want to join us next time?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cross Country Skiing at Big M

I need to get in shape.  I know "round" is a shape! I mean I have to do some cardio work to get ready for my three day cross country ski trip to Wilderness State Park.  I have been out for a few short outings but I have to do more.

Big M cross country ski trails are close to where I live and has semi-groomed trails.  I decided to head over for a little workout.

Disregard the photo date, I finally updated it yesterday.  I have my backpack ready and my skis and poles.  I packed the pack with some heavy items so it would be like I am ready for my 3 day trip.  I wanted to check out my clothing to see if I layered properly. 

This is the trailhead for the Big M area in Udell Hills.  If you go be sure to get a trail map.  After a few crossings, it is very easy to get turned around on the trails.  Below the board is a pipe for donations, $8 is the suggested donation.  This covers the grooming and upkeep.  In the summer, this is a great mouintain bike area.

Here is the topo map of the ski area.  At most corners, there is a post with map telling you where you are.  One post had a parking sign but no arrow, leaving you to decide which direction to head.  I ski here alone, which is not a good idea.  I always can re-trace my path if I have to but know the area a little.  OK, I have had to re-trace my path once and got lost once, and still managed to find a corner with a mappost.  Don't do as I do, be safe.  I did have my backpack and sleeping bag, food & water, so what's a little adventure if you don't have a little scare every once in a while to keep you alert!

This is the view as you travel.  You have two narrow paths to follow if they groomed the trails.  You want to stay in the path and "Do not walk on the trail path".  So you end up looking down at the trail.  But you want to see the winter sites/sights, so you have to "look around" also as you coordinate your skis and poles.  I use to really race on the skis and kick up the back ski, but now I want to enjoy the trail and look for animal tracks.  Last time out, I saw where a group of deer bedded down overnight and looked for acorns.  I followed the tracks of a squirrel to where he made shelter under a log that had fallen down.

The snow can get deep, especially if you try to boondock across an area or if there are no groomed trails.  I sometimes ski a golf course in the winter.

Notice the blue/tan gaiters that I wear.  They keep your leg warm and snow off your socks.  Cross country ski boots are only ankle high so in deep snow you could get you socks (feet) wet.  Gaiters are nice if you are going to be out for a while.

Speaking of clothing, it is vital that you layer your clothing, top to bottom.  I have silk or polypro long sleeve/leg underwear and some different weight underwear over that.  Then I have my lightweight outer pants and a fleece top and lightweight wind breaker. I found that I did not want my medium weight winter was too warm.  You need less than you wear for downhill skiing. Cross country skiing is a workout and you will sweat if you don't layer properly.  Many times people end up tying their jacket around their waist.  If you sweat in the snow, you are going to get wet and cold fast.  When you start, you are cold but your body warms up fast and soon you are opening your jacket to release some body heat.

Why didn't I get a picture of the snowcat that grooms the trail?  This is what the trail looks like in the woods.  You can see the outside tracks of the snowcat and the two ski grooves for skiing.  This is nice and makes it easy to travel around the wooded area.  You can burn more energy if you bushwhack your way somewhere, but here you stay on the trails.

There are hills in this area and you are skiing around and between them.  Sometimes you see a trail break off from the main trail at the top of a hill.  This is an easier way, if you want to avoid the gentle hills.  I like to downhill ski so I like to go downhill on cross country skis.  It is different.  Cross country skis are only attached to the toe of your ski boot so you can not turn as you do on downhill skiis.  Basically you go straight down.  There is usually a long run-off.  You learn to do a slight snowplow to turn or slow your skis down.

This is the view at the bottom of the hill.  You can see the tops of the trees and clouds above your head as you lay wrecked in the snow at the bottom of the hill.  After savoring the view until my head cleared, I got back up and kept going.

It is quiet in the woods.  It was in the teens this day in middle January.  Yes, I will change the camera date for next time.  This is part of the lure of cross country skiing.  Going into the places in winter and observing what is around you.  Many places will rent skis for a day or weekend.  Try it!  You can even just walk on the skis and take your time.  At least you will be outside and observing Winter. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

First Night Time Fishing Trip

Ok, I had to go to Traverse City for a board meeting and I decided I would be done about 6:30 pm.  Sure enough, right on time, meeting over!

Now to hurry to my favorite night time fishing spot.  I hope I packed everything.  After stopping for a quick fast-food dinner, 45 minutes later I arrived at the parking spot,.  There were 6 cars and I could see lights out on the frozen lake.  I unpacked all my gear into the portable, one-man ice shanty and started down to the lake.  Gee, the rest of the shanties were only out about  20-30 yards from shore.  The snow on top of the ice made it a little soft and it did firm up as I walked out.  It was dark and I started my lantern.  Next I started to fire up my gas ice auger.  Somebody shouted at me "the ice is only 2 1/2" thick , use my hand auger".  Great, I borrowed their auger and zipped right through the two holes.  It had 5" of water on top.  As I was setting up, I knocked over the Coleman single mantle gas lantern.  It almost started a fire and then went out.  It wouldn't run.  Darn, it is dark.  I used my small flashlight to set the fish finder in the hole and lowered the night light 15 feet down the hole.

Next, I baited up one rod with two hooks and got out the wax worms.  I pulled the top of the shanty down.

I could just barely see my rod tip from the light off of the fish finder.  I am going to try it.

Bang! A bite in just 3 minutes of fishing.

These little smelt were caught on wax worms.  I started catching a couple when I put the bait down to where I could see the smelt on the fish finder.  They were at about 25 feet in 30 foot of water.  I would watch the bait descend and stop it right above the fish on the fish finder and bang.

It was really dark inside the shanty without my lantern.  I fished for two hours and missed a lot of bites.

I saved a couple smelt to use on the tipup tomorrow and cleaned the rest.  I will have to get a light before I go out for smelt again and I need more smelt to make a meal.  I have a plan to re-wire a shop clamp-on light  with a RV bulb to my 12V trolling battery.  I'll let you know how that idea works next time.