Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Thinking Back 10 years

I've been thinking this week of how I hiked up Tumbledown Mountain in Maine 10 years ago on August 24, and how much that meant to me.  I am not going to repeat the story - you can read it in the link above if you are interested.  The photo shows the three of us from my group that went on to the top.  You can see the lake well behind us, and one of the summits in the distance beyond the lake.

It's great to be healthy, 11 years after cancer, and 10 years after struggling a bit to make this hike about eight months after wrapping up chemotherapy.  I hope to keep going strong, but know very well that life holds no guarantees.  So it is important to be grateful for what you have, and to live each day to the extent you can that day - given the responsibilities that each of us have.

A return to Tumbledown Mountain is on my "bucket list."  It is amazing how fast time goes by, though, so I guess I'd better find a way to make that happen.  The 10 years since I went there to hike up the mountain and to celebrate our friend's big 5-0 have gone by in a blur.  Now, my friend just turned 60 and we couldn't make it this time - just not enough vacation time with the trips to California and Michigan.  The mountain is still there, waiting, and will be there longer than my time on the earth.  I just need to find time to get back, and make sure that I am strong and healthy enough to repeat the hike to the top, with cancer so far in the past that I can barely remember it any more.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What Am I?

As I hiked along the Old Indian Trail in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore last week, I heard an animal moving more or less in my direction through the forest.  I stopped and waited, and waited, and suddenly, there it was - three of this creature.  Although they are very common all across the USA, I have only seen them a handful of times while hiking.  Can you guess?

I'm covered with a thick grey fur
So I'm a mammal, you'll concur

Some people say I wash my food
A silly myth - don't think me crude

For food, I'm not fastidious
I'll eat things you think hideous

I truly am an omnivore
Eat meat and fruit and lots things more

My paws resemble your fine hands
And serve me in my life's demands

Around my tail I've rings of black
I think I am a handsome jack!

I'm quite at home up in a tree
And won't come down despite your plea

And like a robber I've a mask
With this last clue, complete your task!

I think you
should have
plenty of clues
to figure this
out, so
to find the

Did you just call the proper tune,
And guess that I'm a masked raccoon?

Three of these animals walked through the forest.  They didn't see me, but at one point they began to move away, so I began walking towards them.  Two started running, and the third - a younger one - climbed a tree.  I snapped a couple of photos and then left him alone.  It as an exciting sighting to see something a little different.

Old Indian Trail in Sleeping Bear Dunes

Last week, while in Michigan, I got up early on Friday and went hiking in the gorgeous Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, specifically on the Old Indian Trail.  This trail was historically used by local Indian tribes to gain access to Lake Michigan.  I've marked my 4.25 mile track on the map below.  The star shows my starting and ending point, and the arrows show direction of travel.

This image shows the elevation profile for the hike.  You can see that while there was some uphill and downhill, especially on the way in, it was not a real rugged hike - less than 200 feet elevation gain and loss.

This is a view of the initial trail, moving through open forest.  The woods got deeper quickly, and it was a pleasant mix of the types of trees that one finds in the north.  There were also a goodly number of mosquitoes, which are clearly not endangered in the state of Michigan!
I liked these two big yellow mushrooms.  If you look closely, you will see a slug on the left hand mushroom.
 This small garter snake tried to hide but I spotted him or her anyway.  I didn't see a lot of wildlife on my hike.  I did see two deer (in separate locations) and a flock of wild turkey on the drive to the hike, and I did see another animal that I plan on writing a "What Am I?" post about tonight or tomorrow.
After about 1.7 miles, I crested the dunes and came to my first view of Lake Michigan.  Although it is the third largest of the Great Lakes, it is still plenty huge.  Can you imagine the forces that gouged out this lake?
Here is a panoramic view of this Great Lake from the dunes and beach:
I walked about a half mile up and down the beach.  The last time I walked on a beach was at Shackleford Banks.  There were no sea shells here, of course, but I did find some great skipping rocks and some other interesting rocks.
I thought that this lone tree among the dunes was interesting.  How did just one tree take root and survive here?
Returning to the top of the dunes, I looked back on Lake Michigan one last time, gazing out at South Manitou Island far out into the lake.  I always hope to have time to do a backpacking trip to this island or its sister island, North Manitou.  But I always run out of time.  Some day, I will be retired and will do this.
From this point, it was only a mile and half or so of pleasant walking to return to my car and head back.  I am glad I got in a nice morning hike to Lake Michigan.

Monday, August 19, 2013

What Am I?

On my kayak outing last week in Michigan, I snapped a photo of this bird in flight.  Can you guess what it is?

Far from water I don't roam
And by a stream I make my home

But if you're thinking I'm a duck
Guess one more time, you're out of luck

I perch in trees by water's edge
By borders of cattails and sedge

I have a quite distinctive call
My rattling sound might you enthrall

My feathers are a bluish-gray
I am quite handsome, I must say!

But little fish with no great love
Would call me winged death from above

For my day is a true winner
If I catch a fish for dinner

Into the water I will dive
To snare a fish is what I strive

Need one last clue? Oh, what the heck!
I have a “belt” around my neck.

clues, don't
you think?
Take a
guess and
to learn
if you
are right!

Belted kingfisher? That’s your choice?
Then whistle, stomp, and raise your voice!

We saw a number of these interesting birds as we kayaked up and down the stream.  We saw them dive into the stream after fish a number of times.  They never seem to tolerate humans, even in a boat, getting very close, and will fly away - usually making their distinctive "rattle" - when one gets too close in their judgement.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Victoria / Cedar Creek (Michigan) Kayaking

I was in Michigan (plus lots of driving to and from) for the week to visit my granddaughter and daughter-in-law.  One fine afternoon, we decided to take kayaks on an out and back up Victoria / Cedar Creek, which is one of the inlets for beautiful Lake Leelanau.  It would be about 3 to 4 miles each way to reach the lake.  If it had just been Sarah and I we might have gone that far, but with a little kid, you have to be pretty aware of what they will tolerate.  We went about 1.2 miles each way, which was maybe about .4 miles more than my granddaughter's tolerance for outdoors fun.  But that's okay, because it was a beautiful creek on a gorgeous day.  We saw painted turtles, a northern water snake that swam so close to my kayak that I was able to easily reach over and pick him up, many ducks, kingfishers, and lots of scenery.  Here are some pictures.

Our route, out and back, starting and ending at the upper left and following the stream maybe 40% to the lake:

Near the start of the trip.
Mother and daughter kayak along, one paddling, one ready with her net. 
I think this was a mother with two young ducks, not quite ducklings anymore but not old enough to be alone either.  Since ducks usually have about 8-12 young, I imagine the others are in the bellies of foxes and minks.
It is delightful to see a young child excited about the natural world, like this painted turtle.  She wanted to keep it but was persuaded that the best place for it was his watery home.
The entire stream that we kayaked on wild like this - no homes, cottages, or docks.  Just pretty scenery.  Just the way I like it!
This vivid water lily flower was too tempting to pass up.

You can click on the panorama for a full view.
My granddaughter caught this little green frog at the end.  She put it on the grass so that she and her mom could look at it.  As they knelt down to look at the frog, I was busy getting gear organized, but I happened to glance up.  At that exact instant, a large (30 inches at least) water snake was moving just behind them, less than a meter from their feet.  But their backs were turned.  I shouted several times for them to turn but by the time they did, the snake had squeezed between two boards on the dock and was gone.  My granddaughter was sure that I was kidding her, because I sometimes do joke around, but not this time.  I am sorry they missed it, as my granddaughter is fascinated with snakes.

Friday, August 2, 2013

What Am I?

I saw this western animal on both the Donner Lake and the Mount Judah hikes in California last week.  Can you guess it?  It is not an easy one to guess from some verse, that is for sure.

Here is a chance to earn your stripes
Come on, think hard, suppress those gripes

For my bright stripes are really clear
You'll notice them, I say with cheer

So are you thinking smelly skunk?
Guess once again if so you thunk

Here's one important little clue
That I'll give right now to just you,

That just might your answer augment:
I am, in fact, a small rodent

So now is it you guess chipmunk
Instead of black and bright white skunk?

Well, you are indeed getting close
Try once more before I expose

The answer to your inquiring mind
So you may guess if so inclined

Around my neck's a golden hue
And sorry, that's my final clue!

It's like I have a shawl of gold
Quite lovely, if I am so bold

Yeah, I know
this is a tough
one unless you
have seen one
of these guys in
the west
and thought "chipmunk,"
and then looked it up
in a field guide.
Well, scroll
to catch the

Well, the answer I now unfurl:
A cute golden-mantled ground squirrel

One of these little squirrels (and after all, any chipmunk that you see is indeed a squirrel) ran about 1 foot from my boots as I stood admiring the view of Donner Lake from Donner Peak.