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“Mistakes are proof that you are trying”  Unknown.

Christmas Morning 2012

Weather:
Mostly clear (Yeah! Haven’t seen the sun in a while!)
Temp: 17 deg F
Wind: N 10 mph
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Woke up this morning and knew right away that I had to get out and enjoy the beautiful sunshine.  We haven’t had a lot of it over that last couple of weeks, and I needed a good dose of what I call “Vitamin S (Sunshine)”.  We threw our snowshoes into the back of the Jeep and decided to walk/snowshoe a trail that we did part of this fall while geocaching, but didn’t go all the way down.  The roads were pretty icy due to the snow and then rain on top, but we didn’t have to worry about a lot of traffic, so that was a plus.

Once at the trailhead, we realized that snowshoes wouldn’t be needed so we set out.  Needless to say, the snow was pretty crunchy, but quite walkable.  Noisy as all get out so we knew the wildlife would know we were coming, yelling “Yo 100_5703Bear!” was not necessary.

We were not the only ones enjoying this trail.  There were other tracks already laid down, but not sure when they were done.  We came to the ponds that we were told were back here and weren’t sure what we were going to find.  We scared up a grouse and as usual, it scared me just as much as I scared it!  We noticed a lot of deer tracks and even some “otter slides” going down the banks to each pond.  I’ve always found humor is seeing otters sliding on their bellies instead of trying to walk through deep snow.  Wouldn’t it be funny if we did that?  Could you imagine how funny we’d look sliding around on our bellies?!  But it would be a great way to travel!

100_5708After a brief rest and some picture taking, we started back.  Found a side trail, and as usual, had to see where it went.  Found it looped around into an open area and then back to the main trail.  As we were heading back, the clouds started rolling in and the wind began picking up.  I knew my dose of Vitamin S was coming to an end, but I enjoyed it immensely!   A very nice way to spend Christmas Day!

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“To keep from getting to far ahead of myself, I can apply to life what I’ve learned from running in the woods: The step in front of you is the most important one.”  Annie Morris – Mom, Runner, Writer

I have been feeling the pull of the woods since the leaves have changed and fallen and the nights have been getting quite chilly.  I know winter is on its way and I want to get all the fall hiking/geocaching in that I can.  I quickly watch the Weather Channel and realize that Sat and Sun are going to be the best days prior to Hurricane Sandy coming ashore in New Jersey.  I know we are a long way from New Jersey, but the sheer size of the storm will affect us and our 7-day forecast shows just that-wind and rain/snow starting Monday through Thursday.  I gather my trail maps and figure out which trails we haven’t been on yet and which trails may have geocaches on or near them.  Since we had already hiked the East Entrance trails of the Hoist Lakes Foot Travel Area, we decide on the West Entrance trails and see that there are two caches near the trails.

The morning is quite chilly (31 deg), but mostly sunny and not too windy.  I pack my backpack with “trail food”, my warmest pair of mittens, a change of shoes (still breaking in a new pair), a couple of water bottles, and as a treat-a small thermos of coffee.  Since moving to Huron National Forest area, the trailhead is just a few miles up the road so we are able to actually get an early start.  We arrive at the trailhead and see at least 7 other vehicles already there!  Wow, we never see this many vehicles in the parking area, let alone know that there are other people on the trails.  We pay our required day use fee and off we go.

We quickly realize that the probably of seeing any wildlife will be very slim due to the crunching of the leaves beneath our feet and also the fact that there are quite a number of people already out there.  We are on the trail only a few minutes when I hear someone coming up behind us.  A bow hunter.  We exchange pleasantries and let him pass, he is in a much bigger hurry than we are.  I am then instantly thankful that my husband put on his hunter orange hat.  It is not rifle deer season yet, but knowing that hunters are probably out here, being visible is a plus.

On our many hikes in the National Forest, we often see the blue diamond trail markers barely hanging on or missing in general.  So my husband bought a small hammer and some nails and we fix the trail markers that need help.  We found this to be the case on the trails today.  Throughout today’s hike, we ended up fixing about seven markers.

We arrived at a small lake called Byron Lake and realized that there were people camping in the various sites in the area.  We pulled out the GPS to see how far we had to go to our first cache and wouldn’t you know, it pointed right to a campsite that was currently occupied.  We realized that we’d have to pass up that cache so I took some pictures of the lake and we moved on down the trail.  A little while later we arrived at another lake with no name.  I pondered the thought of “what would I name this lake”?  I asked my husband that question and his answer- “Lake in the Middle of Nowhere”.  True, but I was thinking of something like “Serenity Lake” or “Little Lake All By Itself”.  Silly I know, but it kept my mind occupied for a while.  We were able to locate this cache quickly and then found our way back to the trail and decided to eat lunch there.

On the final two segments of the loop, we noticed the excessive amount of downed trees across the trail.  We began to feel that this section hadn’t been hiked in a while, or the cutbacks in the budgets of our Forest Service and DNR impacted the maintenance of these trails.  Either way, we decided to help out and fix the trail markers that were damaged, missing, or hiding on fallen trees.  It’s the least we can do since we enjoy the use of the Forest.

Even though we couldn’t be very quiet while hiking, we did stir up a couple of grouse, many chipmunks, and quite a few black squirrels.  Another good day in the woods.

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“My hope still is to leave the world a bit better than when I got here.”  Jim Henson (1936-1990); American Puppeteer

When I woke up this morning, I knew I wanted to do something outside.   When I watched the weather and they said the winds were supposed to kick up today, I figured a bike ride would not be very fun.  So my next immediate thought was a hike.  I have been wondering if the pair of loons we seen on Reid Lake last year had come back, so we decided to go hike the Reid Lake area to check.  I packed a couple to PB&Js, some chips and chocolate and off we went.  By the time we got to the trailhead, the wind was howling, it had turned cloudy and quite cool, only in the mid 40’s.  Considering we were in the 80’s a week and a half ago, we are back to more normal temperatures now, but boy, the warm weather was nice while it lasted!

We immediately noticed the amount of down-fall.  We thought back over the winter, and realized that we may not have had much snow, but we did have a lot of wind.  And looking around, that was pretty evident.  The first junction of the Homestead Loop is right at Reid Lake, and unfortunately, no sign of the loons, but we did scare up a grouse, or should I say, it scared me!   We did a quick Tai Chi practice, to honor Mother Nature, and continued on down the trail.  About half way around the lake, we seen and heard a pair of Sandhill Cranes fly over, we figured they were going to one of the other bodies of water in the area.

We then worked our way around Fanny’s Marsh Loop and was surprised at the amount of water that was in it.  We also noticed a very large flock of Bufflehead ducks on it and almost right in the middle was a very large beaver lodge.  Whether it was still an active lodge, we couldn’t tell, but it was an impressive one.  We stopped and ate our lunch on a large fallen tree and always had to keep one eye looking up.  The wind was still quite strong and the trees were swaying and crashing into each other up high and every now and then, we seen and heard branches coming down.

We then started around the Mossy Bog Loop and that loop was definitely true to it’s name.  We found ourselves avoiding some wet areas, but not too bad for early Spring.  Until…all of a sudden our trail disappeared into the bog!  Thankfully, we were able to pick our way around the bog and eventually got back onto the main trail.  On the other side, we immediately discovered the reason for the high water, a beaver dam.  We could tell that this dam was old, but the engineering and architecture was such that it looked like it was going to be there for quite some time to come.    Just a little way up the trail, we came to a rather long foot bridge across yet another beaver pond.  This one also had a large lodge in the center of it, and again, we couldn’t tell if it was still active, but the lodge and the dam looked like they were there for the long haul.  It’s amazing what beavers can do!!

 We also spotted a lot of the False Morel Mushrooms, but couldn’t find any of the edible Morels.  Not sure if the latest cold weather put a damper on their popping up.  What we did miss today were the scurrying, furry little Chipmunks or Ground Squirrels.  We usually see at least a few dozen when we are in these woods, but today, the ground was quiet.  All of the wildlife we observed was of the winged families.

Our wildlife sighting list goes like this:  8 Wild Turkeys, 2 Hawks, 1 Grouse, a flock of Bufflehead Ducks, 4 Mallards, 2 Sandhill Cranes, and 1 Green-backed Heron.  Overall, a great 5.5 mile hike on an early Spring day.

Happy Hiking,

Sheri

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“During your life, everything you do and everyone you meet rubs off in some way.  Some bit of everything you experience stays with everyone you’ve ever known, and nothing is lost.  That’s what’s eternal, these little specks of experience in a great, enormous river that has no end.”   American Writer Harriet Doerr

From my last entry, you know we have had an early, and very warm spell.  Besides us people being confused about what the calendar should say– the plants are just as confused.    The forsythia is in full bloom, daffodils are everywhere, and even the huge willow trees are almost all leafed out!  Unfortunately we are under a freeze advisory for tonight, I am hoping that not too much damage will be done to these tender blooms.

Since we were supposed to have a beautiful sunny day today, we decided to break out the GPS and get our first geocaching day of 2012 in the books.  I picked 17 caches in the Au Sable River/Oscoda area, since we didn’t have much snow all winter and this spring has been fairly dry, I figured the back roads wouldn’t be too bad.  We packed up our lunch and hit the road.

Our first few caches were found very easily, that is always good, since we goofed a little with our GPS unit, after all, it’s been quite a few months since we’ve used it!  We then headed to the Old Five Channels Bridge for a cache.  We walked out onto the old bridge and found out immediately that the bugs are also confused as to what season it is.  Swarms of small gnat like flies engulfed us and almost drove us off the bridge!  Thankfully, it didn’t take too long to find the cache, it was well hidden, but with my husband’s clever eye, he picked it out.

Our next cache took us to the north side of the river to a small park and boat launch area that we had stopped at a couple of years ago.  The reason I remember it so vividly is that as I was standing there, reading some informational signage, I heard a ruckus above my head, and as I turned around to see what it was, a fox squirrel fell out of the tree and almost landed at me feet!  I laughed so hard that I had tears streaming down my cheeks!  So from that day on, we have always referred to that place as the “Squirrel Falling” place.  When I noticed someone had placed a cache in the vicinity, I was very glad to go back, today unfortunately, so such event took place.  After finding the cache, we were walking back to the picnic area and as I looked down, I spotted a small garter snake slithering away, I felt bad about disturbing it’s ‘sun bathing’ session and just a few feet away, I also noticed a little lavender colored butterfly flitting about.  I had to keep telling myself that it is still March, not late April!  I was amazed at what we were seeing.  We decided to eat our lunch there and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

We then moved on farther down the river to a cache that had us a little stumped on how to get to, so we found a two-track and drove down as far as we could and figured we could hike the rest of the way.  It was after all, a beautiful day, and getting a hike in is just icing on the cake!  After a short way, we came to a paved road and a very nice parking area and scenic overlook that highlighted the Bald Eagles in the area!  Ok, so we pooched that one, but the hike was still nice.  As we were looking for the cache, a beautiful eagle flew over us and landed not far away.  I crept out to the clearing and was able to get a couple of good pictures before it flew off.  How cool!  We determined it was a juvenile, no white on it yet.  So I figured that if we had driven out there, we wouldn’t have seen the eagle.  Right?!  After getting back to the car, another couple drove up and we chatted with them and they were also cachers, looking for the same cache that we just came from.  We hinted to them that there was an easier way to the cache, but didn’t want to spoil it for them, just in case they also wanted to do a little hiking.

Our next cache took us to the Foote Pond area.  There is a paddle boat called the Au Sable Queen there that gives cruises and such, but currently still out of the water, it is after all, only March!  After locating the cache, I noticed a couple of swans in the area so I crept down to the bank to get some pictures.  Boy was I shocked that when they noticed me, they actually started swimming towards me!  I’m thinking they are residents and that they have gotten hand-outs from well-meaning people.  Unfortunately for them, the only thing they received from me, was a spotlight in my blog!  At first we thought they were Tundra Swans, but after looking in my bird book, we noticed they did not have the yellow smudge on their bills that the Tundra Swans have, it was then we realized that they were Trumpeter Swans!  What a surprise, I didn’t think Trumpeters were in this area, but from what we’ve learned, this is a summer breeding area for a small number of them.  But since they swam right up to us, I think they are residents at the Foote Pond.  What a great day!

Our remaining caches were quickly found with no such surprises and we finished our day around 5:00 pm, grabbed a quick bite and headed home.  For our first day out, it was a great one!  Our wildlife spottings were:  1 Hawk, 1 Garter snake, 1 lavender butterfly, 1 juvenile Eagle, and 2 Trumpeter swans.  A very good day indeed.

Happy Caching,

Sheri

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On this Veteran’s Day, I’d like to say “Thank You!” to all of my fellow Veterans.  I have very fond memories of all of the people I’ve
served with and hope they are doing well today.  I didn’t make a lot of smart choices at the age of 18, but joining the Coast Guard was one smart choice I did make.  I have never regretted signing up and feel that every day I was in the service, made me into a stronger and better person, and for that I am always grateful.  So in honor of Veteran’s Day, and this unique number day (11-11-11), Robert and I decided to try to get 11 caches.  He picked out about 15 of them in the West Branch area, so I packed up our ‘caching goodies’ and off we went.

It’s been really cold and wet the last few days, and we’ve even gotten some snow showers yesterday, so we weren’t sure what condition the woods were going to be in, but we layered up and hoped for the best.  The series that we started with had the title “A Trail Less Traveled”.  That is exactly what it was, a trail!  It started off ok, and we picked up our first couple caches with no problems, but the farther back into the ‘middle of nowhere’ we got, the trail seemed to be less and less traveled.  We had to shove a few small fallen trees out of the way, and finally we got to a mud hole that I really didn’t want to drive through.  I didn’t know how deep it was and I really did not want to get stranded out here, so we parked and decided to get the next 3 or 4 caches by foot.  Which is always fine for me, if I can get some hiking in while we are caching, that’s double the fun for me!

One of the caches we were headed to had the word “Swamp” in the title.  And with the amount of water we’ve seen in the area, I knew we were heading into some mucky area.  Little did I know, until my shoe got sucked off my foot, just how mucky it was going to be!  Yes, I stepped off a root area and my foot immediately sank into an unknown depth of muck and I went to keep walking and off comes my shoe!  Luckily I had a tree nearby to grab so I didn’t end up on my butt!  I couldn’t get my shoe out while standing on one foot, meanwhile, Robert had to carefully pick his way to me and he finally grabbed it and with a yank and a muddy sucking sound, my shoe finally came out!  I was able to slip it back on and get myself out of that area and on to the cache.  What makes all of this worth it?…when we located the cache, we discovered a pathtag in it!  So I did a little jig in the middle of the swamp with a wet, soggy, and muddy foot!  On our way back to our vehicle, we began to hear ATVs in the area, and then some gunfire!  I know rifle deer season doesn’t start until the 15th, but that still makes me a little nervous.  So when we scared up a deer on our way out, I told him to go hide for the next two weeks!

After leaving this area, we went on to the Ogemaw Hills Ski Area for a couple of caches.  Just a few days ago, we were talking about the skiing we did out here and I wondered what the trails would be like to hike, and wouldn’t you know, I was hiking them today, how cool!  Everything always seems so different when you’re hiking trails that you usually ski.  You don’t get to see the tree roots, rocks and other debris that you usually just glide over when there is a good foot of snow on the ground.  We located the two caches easily and then on to our final ones.

Our last cache ended up being at an old artesian well.  From the size of the pipe, it looks like it used to flow with much more volume than it has now.  That would have been very impressive to see!  We located the cache easily and with the sun setting much earlier than before the time change, we decided to call it a day, with 10 total caches found today.

Overall, it was a great caching and hiking day, hopefully we will be able to get back out soon!  Our wildlife count was:
2 bald eagles, 1 hawk, 1 whitetail deer, and 1 very large black squirrel.   A good day indeed!

Happy Caching!

Sheri

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During the long, hot, buggy summer, we began planning our fall  trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  This year we decided to go back to Copper Harbor since it has been over 20 years since our last visit there.  We also decided to combine some of our favorite activities:  hiking, geocaching, waterfall hunting, and we also included copper hunting this time, we were after all, going to “copper country”.  We arrived in Copper Harbor late in the afternoon, and checked into our small cabin that we had rented and then walked around town for a bit, mostly to alleviate the sitting we had to endure for the last 10 hours.  The weather was not ideal, it was cool, cloudy, windy and showery.   We know that the weather in Michigan in the fall is unpredictable, so we dressed for whatever weather we had at the time.

After a very nice dinner at a local restaurant, we went back to the cabin to plan our next day’s geocache adventure.  There were approximately 26 caches on a seasonal road that we decided to do.   We arose early the next day, grabbed a quick breakfast, packed some “caching snacks” and off we went.  It was raining on and off so our Jeep quickly became encased in a film of orange mud.  That was something new to me, I’d never experienced the orange, or should I say, copper colored mud before, so we quickly flipped over the mats inside our Jeep (much easier to clean the mud off the rubber side instead of the carpeted side!).  We finished the Mandan Road series late in the afternoon, and I have to say to anyone who would like to do this series, a 4X4 is not required, but be aware, it is a seasonal road and it is very rough and very hilly.

Our second day of caching took us up to the top of  Brockway Mountain and then along the Lake Superior shoreline westward towards Eagle Harbor.  There were some spectacular view of the Lake Superior along M-26.  One of our caches was named “The Devil’s Washtub”.  We couldn’t quite figure our why it was called this, until we arrived near the cache.  It was just rough enough on the Lake to make this an exciting place.

We arrived at Eagle Harbor and quickly found the cache in the area.  We noticed that the old Coast Guard Station museum was open so we looked around for a bit and then continued on.  Just after leaving the Station, my husband suddenly stopped the Jeep and quickly backed up, he had spotted a bald eagle sitting in a tree right next to the road.  We both broke out our cameras and were able to snap some pics before it flew off.  How fitting to see one in a small town called Eagle Harbor!

While we were taking pics at one of the caches near a waterfall, a nice couple sat down at a picnic table and broke out the largest muffins I had ever seen!  We had been told of a wonderful bakery, The Jampot Bakery, but had yet to find it.  I asked them if those muffins were from that bakery and they promptly told us where it was.  When we arrived at the bakery, which is operated by Catholic monks, we were treated to the most amazing smells ever!  I purchased some pear butter, and jams and of course, two of those wonderful looking muffins.  I have to support the local causes right??  Anyway, they were delicious and I think I was on a sugar high all day!  We again finished our caching late in the day, went back to the cabin and relaxed for the evening.

Our final day on the Keweenaw Peninsula started out with some clearing skies.  We packed the metal detector and decided to do some copper hunting after finding our last few caches in the area.  We arrived at Clark Mine and started hunting for copper on some old tailings piles and very quickly the detector started beeping.  We dug and were surprised to actually find a small piece of copper!  We continued hunting and uncovered a few other rocks with copper running through them.  We were quite excited about this but couldn’t spend all day here in that we wanted to do some more exploring around the area.

After some driving on the back roads looking at the fall colors, we arrived in Mohawk and found the Bird’s Eye Maple Store.  It was right at their closing time, but luckily for us, there were still some customers in there, so we did have a chance to look around.  I had never heard of Bird’s Eye Maple, but some of the local eateries in Copper Harbor had tables, and even a full length bar made from it, and it is absolutely gorgeous!  I was able to purchase an engraved coaster just to remind me of how rare and beautiful this wood is.

Overall, this visit to the Keweenaw Peninsula was excellent.  We found 59 caches, seen 3 different waterfalls, found some copper pieces, and seen some beautiful views of Lake Superior.  The fall color on the peninsula was not at peak, and patchy in some areas, but what had changed, was very pretty.

Happy Caching!

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It’s amazing what purchasing a couple of issues of Backpacker magazine can do for a hiker.  It makes you want to get out there and hit the trails!  So…after purchasing the September and October issues, I immediately wanted to get out into the woods.  We’d hiked the Reid Lake area a year ago on my birthday (my celebration of Earth Day), and at that time, we were not yet cachers.  We’ve seen that there was a cache out there and since the weather has been absolutely gorgeous, we decided to combine the two activities.  I packed up some trail food and water, filled our backpacks, and off we went.

While looking at the information sheet for the Reid Lake cache, we seen that a new cache had been placed at the ‘old park and ride’ near the intersection of M65 and M72.  The cache had only been found by two other cachers and we noticed that the last people to visit it had dropped off a pathtag.  We were very excited about that since we enjoy collecting pathtags.  Currently, our collection consists of six different tags and we are always excited about the prospect of getting a new one.  We found the old park and ride easily and immediately started following the arrow on our gps.  We arrived at the coordinates with little difficulty, but couldn’t locate the cache.  We began to expand our search, thinking that maybe with the dense tree cover, the coordinates may be off.  We searched in earnest for a good 10-15 minutes, but were still coming up empty handed.  I began to tell myself that I didn’t just drive 45 minutes not to find this cache.  So I stopped and began looking around and tried to figure out what didn’t look “natural”.  Finally, I spotted something that didn’t look like mother nature put it there and sure enough, it was the cache.  I can’t mention any more about it, so as not to spoil the find for someone else, but suffice it to say, we listed it as one of our favorites when I logged in our find.  We opened the container and wouldn’t you know, no pathtag could be seen, but then…I opened the smaller container that had the log in it, and yeeha!!! the pathtag was in there!  So now, our collection is up to seven and we are very proud of them (most of them did not come easily, so they are very appreciated).

We then drove on to the Reid Lake parking area just a few miles down the road and were eager to get on the trails.  The last time we were on these trails everything looked quite a bit different.  It was April 22, 2010, none of the trees had leaves on them and some of the trails were closed due to high water from the snow melt.  We didn’t have any of that to worry about today, but it still amazed me how different the woods are when the trees are fully leafed out.   We arrived at the lake and immediately looked for the pair of loons that we had seen and heard on our previous visit, but this time, they were not there.  We continued on down the trail that circumnavigates the lake and remembered that we took pictures from an old pier that used to be on the north shore.  When we arrived at where we thought it would be, the pier was gone.  All we could see were the old pilings that were just below the water’s surface.  We couldn’t tell if it had been removed by man or my mother nature.  We again snapped a few pictures and moved on.

As we progressed around the lake our gps started to confuse us.  We thought we knew which trail the cache was on, but needless to say, we were incorrect.  After a few “turn arounds” we finally figured out which trail it was on and soon found ourselves at the stated coordinates, but again, we couldn’t seem to locate the cache.  We expanded our search, and again, I told myself that I didn’t drive and hike this far not to find this cache, so I stopped and looked around to see what didn’t “look right” and then I spotted it.  Again, I can’t elaborate because I don’t want to be a “spoiler”, but I can say that we also added this cache to our favorites list.   We logged our visit and returned to the trail and found a suitable log to sit on and eat our lunch.  After a nice break, we then continued on around the lake.  While hiking back to the parking area, we were startled by a young buck crossing the trail in front of us.  Just as quickly as we seen him, he was gone.   There are a lot of trails here and I know I will be back to do more of them, this is a beautiful place, and one of my favorites.

Our wildlife count today:  1 young buck, 1 bald eagle, 1 garter snake, numerous squirrels and chipmunks.  Another beautiful day in the woods!

Happy Caching!

 

 

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