Thursday, May 17, 2012

Spring Shake Down Trip to the Jordan River Valley

Finally, we were able to carve out a few days to get away from the grind!  Terri and I have been very busy the past few weeks with life, coming at us from every direction.  However, the three days we had set aside on the calendar over a month ago did not disappoint.  Springtime in Michigan can mean anything weather wise, but the forecast for our time looked perfect!  And we took advantage of every hour!!

We had such a fun time spending a few minutes here and there over a week or so organizing our equipment, talking and preparing food, etc.  (Dreamer thinks preparing to head out is almost as much fun as actually leaving.)  Terri, Charlie & I were loaded up and headed “Up-North” first thing Friday (May 11th) morning.  Terri was excited about checking out and leaving the grid behind.  Charlie could hear squirrels and chipmunks chattering in the woods.  I simply wanted to be consumed by the freedom and adventure of the trail.

Even though it took about three hours, our drive to the Jordan River Pathway (actually part of the North Country Trail) seemed to fly by.  Charlie especially liked our only stop at McDonalds.  He eats very little human food, so the sausage and scrambled eggs went down very quickly!  To get there; take Hwy 75 to Gaylord, go West on 32 to 131, and from there go South just a few miles to Deadman’s Hill Road, follow that a couple miles to the trail parking area.

Normally, the purpose of the “spring shake down trip” is reacquaint ourselves with our packs and gear that we either: don’t take enough of, or too much of, or forget altogether.  From a gear point of view, we packed and prepared for exactly what we expected.  If the weather had been what we expected, the trip would have been uneventful.  However, the weather forecast missed the actual temperature on Sunday morning by about 30 degrees.  More on that in a minute…

Our first day of 4 or 5 miles went by quickly.  Perhaps, all the hours and time we have spent hiking at Rose Lake since our return from Maui made a huge difference.  Less than two hours after leaving the truck and were making camp on a beautiful stream.  Charlie did great carrying his pack with four meals, treats bag and his collapsible bowl.


Our camp was ideal, except for one thing the gnats and black flies were a nuisance.  Not overwhelming, just bothersome at times.  Terri wore her head net.  I simply applied some deet in strategic locations.  We have never tried one of those freeze-dried meals before, but we did this time from recommendation.  It was Sausage and Pasta.  In a short, not too good…  Perhaps after a pound of salt and pepper, it would be palatable.  Terri’s Chicken Vegie Rice was much better indeed.  It was actually a meal we had left over from our AT trip a couple years ago.  (Those freeze-dried meals last a long time!)  Team TNT slept nicely with the stream signing all night long!

Continuing our hike South along the North Country Trail on the East side of the Jordan River on Saturday was pretty uneventful, except for one fall.  I lost my footing on a slippery log and fell right in the mud!  No injuries, just a muddy butt and right arm.  (Amazingly, after the mud dried, it simply brushed off like it wasn’t even there.)  After 2 ½ hours we arrived at Pinney Bridge Campground.  It was a beautiful day!  Some sun and clouds with a variable breeze in the high 60’s / low 70’s.  The higher ground along with the breeze kept the flies somewhat in check today.  After making camp, we had all afternoon to relax.  Terri and Charlie napped and I read.  Terri & I both cleaned up in a sandy bottom stream that runs a short distance from the campground.  Very nice indeed!

When we went to bed, it was chilly, but not cold.  When we woke up in the night, it was COLD!  When I stepped out of the tent at 4am for an old man break, I was startled by white!  I looked like it had snowed!!  It was just frost, but it was thick enough to shovel.  Even though Charlie was wearing his coat and my sweater, he as shivering.  Terri & I zipped our bags together and put on all the clothes we brought with us.  We zipped up the bags and waited for morning.

It was 32 degrees when the sun came up.  All four of our water bottles were frozen.  The alcohol form the stove was so cold it would not ignite with a match.  (I didn’t realize the ignition temperature for alcohol was close to freezing.)  I had to hold the cat food can with some fuel in it in my freezing hands to get it warm enough to light.  I’ll tell you, the weatherman missed the forecast big time.  Lesson learned here was always prepare for potential extremes no matter what the weatherman says!

Hiking the 9 miles back to the truck on Sunday was very sweet for me!  After being in the woods for a couple days, I felt relaxed and shed of some of the burden of life.  The plaguing feeling of the day however was, after this hike today it is back to real life…  Walking near the Jordan River was exciting for me.  Something about fast moving water in the wild thrills me.  Hiking through fields of Trillium is always a springtime treat.

How can three days go by soooo fast?  Before we even really started, it was over and the truck was in site.  All Charlie wanted was the McDonalds cheeseburger and chocolate shake we had promised him.  He got them!