Monday, September 28, 2009

Taking to the Trail III(f)

Today the wi
nd and rain are both blowing a bit sideways, and expected highs for the next few days are expected to be in the mid-sixties or below. After all the muggy and/or warm days that I've put up hiked through recently, this one makes me wonder . . .

Lift-off is four days away. I'm sitting home today because my fourteen-mile hike last Saturday gave me bruises on the balls of both my feet. Why the previous Monday didn't cause the same problem I don't understand. The only thing I can think is that I changed my stride in an effort to slow my pace to a more relaxed one, which did more harm than good. At least my tiredness Saturday night left no stiffness on Sunday morning.

At any rate, this has given me a chance to finish packing the dry goods in the bear bag. The breakfast granola is in its little bags mixed with the dry soy milk. The bag of coffee has been reduced to only the amount I'm likely to drink. All that remains is to throw in the excellent chunk of cheese waiting in the fridge on Friday morning. Total weight for two weeks is eight pounds.

It occurs to me that I have hiked as many miles getting ready for this trip as I will hike in the next two weeks. This last shot is of the sudden pinking of the sassafras leaves. By the time they are ready to fall they will be a most stunning scarlet. I wonder what I'll see as I move north.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Taking to the Trail III(e)

Out of
a 9-to-5 day, I had exactly one (1) student and she came in at 9:00 AM. I took it as a sign that I should go for a walk today. I put in another fourteen miles and feel pretty good (a shower and a scotch has done no harm). The trail is beginning to fill with leaves in places, especially under the cottonwoods. As I looked up I saw no decisive signs of fall, but when I got to the lake two miles from the car, the entire opposite shore - cottonwoods all - was decidedly more yellow than green. Fall has arrived in Southeast Michigan regardless of the calendar. It has been a privilege to be there to see it. More to come! What a fabulous day to be handed as a blessing! The high was seventy-one degrees and the breezes consistently stymied the already-groggy mosquitoes. I even put on my vest for a few minutes at lunchtime. My age-related slowness to acquire muscle mass is being gradually beaten into line and I'm still two weeks from lift-off.

The woods continue to produce beautiful things. I don't even know the name of this gorgeous six-foot-tall plant with its nine-inch pannicles of fruit.

Then there is the consistent beauty of the ivy climbing its way to make use of the dead and dying. One variety (often spreading over large sections of forest floor) is actually a striking pink right now, while it's relative shows up deep red against so much that is otherwise still green and even skelotonized black.

To think we have at least a week of days like this predicted!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Taking to the Trail III (d)

Very end of the day. I had hiked 13 + miles and stopped to rest at this little Huron-River access site. A father, a son, and an uncle had come straight from work, wandered into the river with no special equipment to begin casting around this downed tree. It probably felt wonderful! Although they seemed to be catching nothing, it appeared to be most important to be wetting lines (?and their nethers?) on a warm and comradely September afternoon.

I finally ended at fourteen miles. my feet were aching, but not as much as eleven and a half miles had made me hurt three days previously. The temperature was scheduled to hit eighty-five degrees and seemed to have made every bit of it. The worst part was not the full heat of the afternoon because it brought a breeze, but at the end of the day - even with the temperature falling slightly - the air got very still as I walked back to the car in full sun.

The last thing I saw on the way out of the woods was this rather gigantic old oak looking like something out of Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves nightmare forest sequence. It probably has quite a few stories it could tell.

RANT: Although my change of approach has helped me, the multi-use paths through the Island Lake State Recreation Area are populated by may bikers for whom a hiker must, understandably, step aside. The problem comes from a few bikers who either grimace at me as if I've done something wrong by merely existing, or even growl at me. The most memorable incident occurred a year ago when a nattily -clad rider snarled, "You're in my way!" This on a thirty-foot-wide stretch of gravelly trail with a number of paths through it. Evidently I was supposed to guess which part he wanted and yield it to him. I have taken the approach recently of saying, "You're welcome!," to anyone for whom I step out of the way, whether they say, "Thank you," or not. I have noticed that several say, "Thank you," the next time I see them. To all public bikers: for heaven's sake, folks, do you have any idea how many mosquitoes I collect in the five or ten seconds it takes you to pass me while I huddle in the brush? A couple of simple words doesn't seem too much.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Taking to the Trail III (c)
It was hot yesterday! Temps were perfect for sitting in my back yard with a book. Instead, I needed to walk at least ten miles with my pack on. I made eleven and a half (eight on the trail and then took the road back to the car rather than the much-more-winding trail). That at least allowed some of the very light breezes to get to me.

Despite the relatively calm day, the cottonwoods were extremely - pleasantly - noisy. The whole way, yellow leaves drifted out of the elms and the wild fruit trees. Fall is coming, and hopefully, somewhat cooler temperatures.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Taking to the Trail III (b)
Finally put the pack on today, but have whittled it down to just over thirty pounds with full water bottles and food bag. I made myself take the nine-mile trail in Island Lake SGA and was pleased to feel that I could have done twelve without too much discomfort. The much lighter pack really helps.
It was a spooky day. When I stepped off at noon the entire landscape seemed smoky. For the first half of the hike the bugs weren't bad because little breezes kept them confused, but lunch at the four-and-a-half-mile picnic area was a busy affair. The breezes died completely and I would have put on my head net if I had had it. When I went back into the woods it got worse! I should have recognized the frenzied insect activity as a warning of serious rain, but I was too busy flailing. When it did start, I was protected by a section of multi-sized Maples. Then, finally realizing it was serious, I had to rustle to get out my poncho, then learn how to use it, as it's a new one.

Not much wildlife today. These turkeys were roosting in a row on this fence at a rental cottage that the trail runs behind. They were totally uncooperative, so I could only snap as quickly as I could.

Actually, on my late evening walk through Southfield last Friday I saw much more - and bigger - game. On the farm next to the Civic-Center and its golf course, I watched a doe and five fauns reaping the labors of several local gardeners who rent plots there. Then just a block away from the I-696 freeway, a nervous young buck moved just enough for me to see him and then froze against a natural-fence background and become all but invisible. Too dark for pictures, but a great treat. Today's flowers are surprisingly different from last week. The goldenrod are thinking about retirement and the queen-Anne's lace have completely closed in on themselves. On the other hand, this mallow was in its full glory, playing host to a large mason bee and this rather handsome fellow.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Taking to the Trail III (a)
It was good to be back in the Michigan woods again after - literally - months away. I discovered that I still had the Michigan State Parks sticker from las
t year in the window of the Escape! The blue-green carpet of vincas was still in the same place in the Island Lake Recreation Area, however, Queen-Anne's lace and jewel weed was still in bloom, and blazing star was everywhere in the waste places. What was really striking this first day of September is that the trees are still a rich green rather than the tired gray green so common at the end of summer here. I'm sure the wet, cool summer has been a major factor.

Today isn't the first attempt to get ready for another leg of the North Country Trail, but it's the longest walk (about 9 miles) that I've taken in a while. The month of July was spent mostly with my son and daughter-in-law in Colorado, where my son led me to a pass in the (Aspen-area) Maroon Bells that topped out at 12,400 feet and about 14 miles total. The hike was only two days, but the trail was
rugged. The Colorado designations of difficult vs. medium trails only covers the relative steepness of the trail. It assumes a trail tread that is studded with rocks and brutal on the feet. The callusses on the outsides of both my big toes were bruised rather than blistered. My son decided that there is a measure called the Colorado Mile that is decidedly longer than the one he grew up with here. The experience was fabulous! We should have, perhaps, taken three days instead of two, but I would not have missed it for the world.

I have finished my itinerary for The Trail and have decided that I will try to double my mileage in hopes that I will at least finish the Michigan section before I die, or the legs become seriously incapacitated. That means 150 miles in two weeks. We'll see.

As I hiked today, I was keenly aware that I have lost my concerns about whether my knees will hold up. All extended walking seems to do is work out the stiffness - albeit at the expense of short term muscle stiffness. The work on a ladder at the playhouse last night along with kneeling repeatedly had left some issues that were resolved after just two or three miles.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Taking to the Trail part II

Wednesday, October 1, 2008 (c. 8:30 PM)

I'm sitting inside my sleeping bag, inside my new tent in a certain public-land area just east of Battle Creek. Despite the chill, rainy day we have had - and despite the sharp-ish breeze in the branches high overhead - I'm quite cozy. The vents on the rainfly are even open.

Pam (my wife) let me off at the gate around 7:15 and I had just enough light left to stow things and set up (she was quite nervous about my safety - as well as my legal status - and is probably going to lose sleep until I tell her I didn't get arrested overnight). It should be pretty chilly by morning with about a thirty per-cent chance of rain in the afternoon. Then the weather is expected to be chilly (fifty degrees) but sunny until Monday or Tuesday. Even the long-distance forecasts say there should only be 'a chance' of rain. That sounds just October-in-Michigan misty to me. I sure hope so.

I'm hoping to go nearly eighty more miles along the Michigan section of the North Country National Scenic Trail in the next six days and end up at the NCTA headquaters in Lowell on Tuesday so I can attend the "triad" meeting Wednesday and Thursday with the National Park service and National Forest Service representatives. Although the Baw Beese (southernmost Michigan chapter, to which I belong) may not have much to do with federal agencies, I want to learn how the relationship works and maybe become more involved.

Thursday, October 2 (c. 2:00 PM)

I stopped writing at about 9:30 last night because it had become too cold to sit up and write starkers (my sleeping bag is so warm it usually requires that) and I slept, arose and packed up undisturbed by public authorities.

I left my campsite just before 9:30 and have gone eight or ten miles along my way. I just finished a tasty snack of cheese, crackers and tomato soup while sitting on the bank between the Battle Creek Linear Pathway and the road. Both parallel the Kalamazoo River for some miles. As I write, I'm sipping coffee from my - insulated - titanium cup with it's nifty protective cover. It has turned out to be a huge improvement over my stainles steel one which allowed things to cool far too quickly. It perfectly holds the contents of my personal-sized coffee press.

No rain despite repeated stretches of gloomy clouds with occaisional flashes of very welcome sun. The tiny thermometer on my backpack reads perhaps thirty-eight degrees. I have on three layers, but will have to take off the wind shirt as soon as I hike a ways. I was even a bit over warm with two layers in the windless woods. A forty-pound pack moves the metabolism up dramatically.

(7:45 PM)

I will, I think, sleep much more soundly tonight than last night. Careless map reading combined with fatigue led me to go all the way west to Michigan Avenue, a mile past my Kalamazoo-River crossing point. I had to backtrack the mile. I then left my map in the backpack until I had missed the cut-off that leads into the Fort Custer National Military Cemetery (and wooded trail) by following the local bike path to the south side of that very large area. I ended up looking across a busy road to a very empty-looking Fort Custer Training Center, and deciding that it was just time to quit for the day. I waited until the traffic cleared, took a sharp right into heavy cover and found the perfect camp site about an eighth of a mile in. The unused nature of the place was emphasized by the two deer that walked right into camp, startled, snorted and beat a hasty retreat.

The feet held up well considering that they probably went over sixteen miles today. My errors of today may have even made tomorrow a twelve or thirteen-mile day with a bike path all the way into Augusta for starters.

Friday, October 3 (c. 6:45 AM)

I was awakened about 2:00 AM by the sound of soft rain. I closed the side flaps and worried about the top vents as the rain intensified to a three-hour soaker. I'm delighted I didn't have to set up camp in it. The vents are perfect, although I should probably have left the side flaps open a bit to prevent condensation inside the tent.

Because of the cloudy sky it's still too dark to begin breaking camp, but I must do so soon. When I got up to answer nature I discovered that my pack fly is no longer perfectly waterproof. I could really use a day of sun. Long-term weather said I should have it, but packing up wet is still significantly better than packing up in the rain. My change of clothes is quite dry. Everything else pales into insignificance.

8:00 PM

I would be surprised if the chorus I heard a mile away was not coyotes! I'm glad I decided to hang the 'bear' bag despite my hurry to sneak into the hidden back-end of Cadwallader Park at the edge of Hickory Corners.

Pam and I both tried to contact the local fire department (tiny building, I discovered this evening, right on the four corners) to resurect my previous - year and four months - permission to camp here. I asked around at the Hickory Timbers Cafe to try to solve my problem tonight. My waitress could not imagine anyone giving me trouble. Neither her boss nor anyone else could give me any further help. My waitress promised to visit me in jail.

My meal finished, I found that the county sherrif's office has also closed for the weekend except for 911 calls. I decided that discretion indicated the whole issue was best left lying quietly outside the cafe. With great trepidation I walked on to the park, found as hidden a corner as possible - at deep dusk - and quickly set up my tent and locked down for the night. I'm at least not worried that a car turning through the driveway will see any part of me and, now that it's dark, the neighbors can't either.

Today's hike started well. Once I got back to the blue blazes, they were very clear and timely. The first four miles of them went very quickly and picturesquely, mostly through the MSU Kellog "tree farm". The next - un-certified - section I let myself lose the blazes and probably added another mile to my trip, slipping onto trails on a huge horse farm for jumpers. They were serpentine at best and circular at worst.

When I got to the MSU Kellog Biological Station, I found out that the trail had been re-routed away from my map without telling the people at The Station where. Finally I decided to back-track a half-mile and then rather hot-foot it to Hickory Corners four more miles straight up Fortieth Street. Whew! So much for a twelve-mile day. I changed to dry (not clean, but dry) socks twice today. It worked; the feet are fine.

Saturday, October 4 (c. 8:15 AM)

I've been up since well before 7:00 to avoid having anyone see me coming out of my tent. Of course, anyone who sees my gear spread all over the inside of the picnic shelter is likely to have a pretty good idea where I spent the night. The only person up appears to be a neighbor two houses down from the park who is ignoring me thoroughly as far as I can tell. At least now I know the source of the banging sound I heard repeatedly last evening after dark. The fellow's garage has an entry door with an old-fashioned coiled-wire spring that he lets slam every time he enters or leaves. Whatever enterprise he was/is about requires repeated trips from there to his truck.

The sun is right on me, but it's still so close to freezing that the miniscule breeze that comes with the sun is chilling. That's why I'm still wearing all four layers I put on when I got up. The tent was coated with ice outside, and the inside had a rime as well despite my efforts to let air into the tent all night long. Coffee is more than a tiny delight this morning as I wait for everything to dry before setting off again. It will help to pack up truly dry today even if it means getting a later start. Even with another fifteen-mile day I should be fine if I get started by 10:00.

The once-scarce sandhill cranes are everywhere hereabouts, gleaning the harvested fields. They fly like geese (rather ungainly ones) but their primaries are so long they curl up on the downstroke. They chat like geese as they fly except, of course, it's that characteristic grating chuckle.

7:10 PM

It's been another long hike, but I'm in the Barry State Game Area very near the trailhead that I meant to hit. I've probably hiked sixteen miles by the map with an extra half-mile over, then back, floundering around because I couldn't read - or failed to trust - the local chapter's blazes.

I got to Prairieville about 1:00 PM and ate a burger, fries and coleslaw at the Prairieville Inn. I was glad afterward that I had stopped on the way into town, because there was no other eatery besides a newly established carry-out pizza place in the 'center' of town. The only couple in my restaurant were a chubby lady and lean husband whose only other obvious entertainment involved fishing off their own dock somewhere very nearby. The woman was extremely interested in/amazed at my expedition and kept up a constant conversation with myself and all three 'proprieters' (a grandmother, daughter and teen-age grandson by the look and feel of things). The man with her appeared somewhat deaf, so his wife talked for both of them. I was lucky I came when I did, because the place closes at 2:00 on Saturday afternoons.

Several miles later, I was on a dirt road around Lake Stewart, having only recently regained the trail in some darkening woods, when a young woman who was evidently helping a neighbor prep her bushes for winter dropped in beside me on the way back to her own home. She was surprised to learn that the blue blazes she had been walking past for some time were the signs that a national trail passed down her quiet dirt road. She kindly invited me to supper, but I was still at least a mile from my camping spot so I kndly refused.

Despite the long mileage today, the legs and body are getting used to the pace. Despite the later start and the mileage I got to my camp site earlier than I have done yet. I even had some time and energy to eat properly. The frequent changes of socks combined with glorious weather have successfully held off the fire-heading- toward-a-blister in my right foot. I think I must look a little odd with two pairs of socks dangling from the compression straps on the sides of my pack.

The tent is wide open again tonight and I hope the oak grove overhead will keep off the frost. So far this trip has alternated between a glorious series of day hikes and slightly panicky adventures. It might be nice to have company when things get a bit 'concerning', but so far the kinks have worked themselves out quite satisfactorily.

Sunday, October 5

Got up late (about 8:00) but still left camp a bit before 9:30. I'm getting more efficient at breaking camp as well. This 12.6-mile day began with a beautiful little walk into the Yankee Springs State Recteation Area which is partly surrounded by the Barry State Game Area. The way included a clear little stream from which I filtered a morning's worth of water and a picturesque walk into mature forest. The trail, however, very soon joined a horse-trail that became a leg and foot killer, a mile of which took me almost an hour. I like horses and met some nice ones today, but they churn sandy soil into something just slightly less awful than deep, sucking mud. I was quite weary quite early but got a second wind and pulled in here near the Peet's Road trail head at the north-east end of the Game Area about 5:30. I could tell it had been a shorter day but was still very glad to stop.

This camp site is another complete change from previous ones. The scrub oak is growing in sand like last night, but the sand is covered with moss and is soft and soggy under the dead leaves. The most impressive thing here at the end of the day's walk is the big pine plantation of forty-to- seventy-year-old red pines that are seventy or eighty feet tall and at least a foot thick. The planting (?CCC work?) is half a mile long and an eighth of a mile deep right on the edge of the public land. The mat of four-inch needles under them is spongy with stored moisture and feels like it might be a foot deep. It was more cathedral-like than spooky, but massively quiet.

Today started out as gorgeous as Saturday, but became thinly one-clouded by dusk. I could wish that it not rain until Tuesday, but I'm sure I'll deal with whatever God sends. Since I only have two days' march - and only one more night sleeping out - It'll be hard to get very uncomfortable regardless of the weather.

Ahh! Here comes the softest whisper of soft rain. Time to batten down a bit. The rain is intermittent as well as soft. The tree frogs are certainly not put off by it! Last night I heard - I think - two different kinds of owls at quite different points in the night.

Saturday morning as late as 10:30 or 11:00 AM I saw deer grazing unconcernedly in farmers' meadows, only moving off if I stopped to try to photograph them. They were easy to watch but my little camera has a minimal telephoto capacity, so I have no pictures to show. The really difficult part about capturing the glories of Michigan's October country-side is in conveying the sense of 360-degree beauty with it's blended dome of clouds and sky from horizon to horizon.

Hunting season is open for squirrels, as is bow hunting for deer. I have heard shooting in several directions and have had my orange vest arranged high on my pack as I traveled but I have not felt any concerns for my safety since shooting at squirrels involves pointing almost straight up. Besides, all such sounds have been quite distant. This afternoon, however, about three miles from here I came upon a camouflage fabric deer blind sitting practically on the trail (which passed along the edge of woodland (public land) and a large open field (private land). To avoid startling anyone I whistled a few notes as I approached. I became convinced that the blind was empty; then, just as I made out the bow hanging idly on its stand with an arrow nocked, I also made out its owner in the darkest back corner fast asleep. I tiptoed by and went on my way.

This is the first night I've not been too chilly or too tired to stay up and write. I must be getting toughened up. I know I'm losing weight because I only care enough about supper to eat a little so I don't wake up hungry in the night.

Monday, October 6 (about 12:45 PM)

I have just finished my biggest meal in five days. It included a beer, and I'm slightly concerned about the effect of the relatively rich food after cheese, crackers, gorp and granola. After a chill morning of about five-and-a-half miles, I still have about seven to go, so I will have a coffee to get me out the door again.

This Champs was the first eatery I saw as I came off the Paul Henry (blacktop) trail into Middleville. Hunger warred with the possibility of more quaint places - or none - further down the road through town. Appetite won! Besides, I found an available electrical outlet at the next (vacant) table from which I can re-charge my cell phone. Now I'll be able to leave it on as much as I want to for the rest of my trip. Up to now I've left it off until I had the time to try for a signal with which to call home.

This morning as I ate my cereal I saw the reason for the surprisingly strong signal I got in the tent last night. The tower was across a soybean field on top of a big hill just three quarters of a mile away. Here in the center of town the signal is quite a bit weaker as the tower is now on the other side of a ridge to the south. Phone's charged. Time to finish the day.

6:30 PM

Egad! Not only did the waitress - who had been so nice - have to practically chase me out of the restaurant to get my money, half the afternoon later, I realized I hadn't tipped her! How preoccupied can I be?! I will now have to send her a letter with an even bigger tip than I would have left her! This being a representative of the North Country Trail makes the oversight a good deal more heinous.

Things went smoothly getting out of Middleville and back into the woods (not surprisingly named the Middleville State Game Area) until I came out at the Johnsonville Road trailhead. All blue blazes stopped! First I had to figure out that the trail did not continue just across the road at the big yellow DNR gate. Then I wandered a third of a mile north to Garbow Road (where there were no road-name signs at all. Finally I had to guess that the dim and somewhat spooky road that led straight north was indeed the uncertified "remainder" of Johnson Road as shown on my map. Once on it, I soon discovered that it was only a lead-in to a trailhead turn-around from which a trail led onto what may have been a logging road of yesteryear.

After the first half-mile of rough-and-tumble stony wash-outs I discovered that I was leaving state land for private property, past No Trespassing and Keep Out signs well peppered with bullet holes. The thought of hiking back a half-mile and then further east was daunting, and the map seemed to indicate that this part of the road was less than a full half-mile long. The road itself looked like it got a good deal of use from mountain bikes despite the signs. So, with the theme from Deliverance playing in the back of my mind, I covered that last section of road as quickly as I have covered any. Around the gate at the other end that (ineffectually) barred trespassers I found evidence of much foot and bike traffic, indicating that locals are pretty cavalier about the prohibition.

I can only assume that this part of the path was established at a time when the local land owners were farmers, but who have since sold off lots for small home-owners who work in nearby towns. Non-the-less, an easy re-route is available and should probably be seriously considered unless access to this part of the 'trail' is clarified and made more user-friendly.

This is my last night in this marvelous little tent. A real bed may seem somewhat strange as well as luxurious. Then again, a night without the odor of old socks trying to dry before morning will be only luxurious.

The wet weather moved east and south as the day went on. It has been replaced by a brisk breeze good for drying many things. If it is cold enough to freeze tonight I'll be protected by the rather gigantic oak trees whose leaves are hissing marvelously in the evening's gradually dying wind.

Tuesday, October 7 (about 7:30 PM)

I have just finished a delicious chilli supper at the home of Bruce Matthews (the executive director of the NCTA) and his family (all three, lovely people). I am showered, shaved and in totally clean clothes. I had a beer before supper (luxury) and stopped after just one bowl and a piece of corn bread. I'm concerned about my digestive reaction after six very abstemious evening meals in a row. I also don't have any desire to regain the weight I have shed this week.

I expected today's walk to be uneventful, even boring, especially after yesterday's late adventure. It was all road-walk and nearly fourteen miles of that. I did make time for an extremely salty bowl of Mrs. Grass's vegetable soup and some coffee at breakfast time, and still started by 9:30.

I was was moving along feeling quite fit and well-pleased with the time I was making. The early morning had shown deer crossing in front of me numerous times, including a faun who just stopped to stare like a five-year-old child might have done to a stranger in his home. I turned east to make the short jog from Baker Road to Wingieir Road when I roused a dog apparently sleeping in its yard across the road. The dog was quite good about not violating the split-rail fence. Then the lady of the house appeared to quiet the dog and became quite excited about the discovery that I was hiking the North Country Trail which, she knew, ran in front of her house. Nothing would do but that I must come into the house, meet her husband, discuss my hiking boots, describe my route and generally chat about The Trail for a half-hour. I was offered various refreshments, but settled for two very welcome glasses of water for my Mrs.-Grass-induced thirst.
Pat and Randy Angel
and Snickerdoodle

Later, with Lowell nearly in sight, I passed a bearded man harvesting some kind of wild fruit in the fence row who chatted me up about my journey and places he had been on the NCT. He asked about the local route, of which he knew little, but for which he had a couple of enthusiastic suggestions about routing. The conversation was sort of shouted through the foliage, as he was on the field side of the fence and I was on the road.

As the afternoon marched along, with about three miles to go, I began to press myself to keep up the pace. I could have used a mouthful of gorp and a sip of water, but the thought of a semi-permanent sit-down (not to mention a bath) began to dwell heavily on my mind. Besides that, I knew that Bruce would have to come south to pick me up if I arrived at headquarters after 5:00 PM. Actually, I made it before 4:30, which represents the shortest time I have covered fourteen miles despite the socializing I did.

One phenomenon that occurs when I have walked all day with a pack on is that, for a short time, I move like a drunken sailor when it is off. My legs are a little achy; my feet and cheeks feel over-warm in this sixty-eight-degree room because my metabolism is expecting to need to deal with forty degrees or less. We are watching the second presidential debate and I am fading fast. I have gone gratefully to sleep around 8:00 for several nights and I'm already awake past that. I will fall asleep soon willy-nilly.

The contest with myself is complete! I have hiked over eighty miles in six days. I have seen beautiful bits of Michigan in October; been just a bit scared from time to time and overcome several obstacles that had worried me in the abstract. I made all the geographical appointments set for myself and got my camping and backpacking skills into a new degreeof good shape. I have lost over five pounds and hope to keep them off while food and snacks flow at the conference.

Thursday, October 10 (about 8:00 AM) Triad Conference; Day 2

It's interesting that my appetite has come back to a totaly healthy degree, but I fill up really easily. My stomach simply seems to have shrunk a good bit.

Yesterday we met at wonderfully funky boy scout cabin (lots of old fireplace smell, scout silliness photos and memorabilia). The two battered canoes hanging overhead completed the warm outdoorsiness despite the pouring rain outside (I had wakened in the very dark night to the sound of the - predicted - rain heavy outside my bedroom and said a, 'Thank You', all over again for the blessings of the week).

We were walked through over-all relations within the Triad (NCTA, National Park Service and National Forest Service). One thing that has become strongly evident is that Bruce Matthews is a real treasure; with outdoor-related, managing-director experience in Washington. On the drive into the conference yesterday morning Bruce shared with me that he and his family had already moved back to the mid-west for several reasons when he discovered this job opening about six miles from his recently-purchased home. He has already helped move the NCTA onto the upward path again. The improvements are in the nature of eight per-cent this past year.

It was necessary to forgo the picnic lunch on the Lowell showboat so the Jimmy John's box lunches (sandwich, pop and chips) were delivered to the cabin. This was followed by a bus trip through the area south of Lowell that will bypass the Segwun-Road walk that I took into town. The 'fence-row' gentleman of this past Tuesday would be pleased to know that one of his suggestions is being followed very successfully. We, of course, heard about a few of the legal complications associated with a rails-to-trails process even in a relatively rural area like the one surrounding Lowell. We added a short, hilly hike of a little over a mile in the Lowell State Game Area. It felt a little like deja vu', but we did see a couple of exquisite fungi.

Supper and lodging was at The Shack, a large complex of hotel-type log buildings with farm-style names like The Loft and The Granary. Some of the logs in the dining hall are immense. It is all situated on a recreation-friendly medium-small lake. One of the more famous specialties of The Shack is the free - bottomless - ice cream sundaes starting at 9:00 PM. Being lactose intolerant saved me from any thought of dietary foolishness. The old gentleman (seventy at a guess) really seems to love what he does and to have no intention of turning the running of the place over to anyone else.

Yesterday, as we were riding up to The Shack, I met a couple who were going to Royal Oak, another suburb of Detroit, to visit friends right after the conference. They offered to drive me directly home to Southfield instead of taking the bus From Big Rapids as I had previously planned. Not only will I get home almost a full day earlier - and I am now quite ready to be there - but I will be going door to door rather than needing transportation to and from bus stations. The only regret I have is that I won't get to visit with my high school choir director and his wife who moved to Big Rapids a year or so after I graduated from Brighton High School in 1964. This represents the second time I have called them for lodging and then had a change of plans. One of these days I'll have to hike this section of The Trail and make good.