Saturday, June 30, 2012

Our Best Day of All

Greetings from Dreamer!

Our Best Day of All!!
Normally, Charlie & I are up and around by 6am at the latest. Not this morning! We slept in! We were cuddled up like two peas in a pod when my eyes flicked open. No covers were necessary, whatever the temperature was, it wasn't hot or cold. By the time we did a our chores and packed, it was 8:30am. Our latest start, but we were in no hurry. I think a bit of depression was sitting in, knowing we were in our last full day on the trail, left me a little sad.
I have a new appreciation for the NCT!
I truly do enjoy this on a level that is indescribable. So, when we hit the trail, I was feeling a bit down.  We left Dollar Lake feeling quite positive we were going to find a great campsite today somewhere between the Sandy Lakes Quiet area and Guernsey Lake. Because it was only 6 miles to Sandy Lakes, we were searching by 11am. Like the Muncie Lakes area, Sandy Lakes has its own trail system that the North Country Trail (NCT) fits right into. (It would have been nice if I had brought a map of this area.) Once the NCT joined the Sandy Lakes area, there was a nice map at the trail junction. It would be the last time I would see a map of the area. (For those of you that know me, my memory is not my strong suit.)

Our campsite at Sandy Lakes Quiet area.  Perfect!
To make a long story short, we wandered around lakes for almost 2 hours. Good news is we found a perfect campsite!  Bad news is, I am not completely sure where we are.  My plan tomorrow is to move on the side trails by compass until we reach another junction with a map on a post.  Our site is above the water, in a bed of pine needles, under HUGE pine trees (branches with pine needles do not even start for at least 40 feet. The shade feesl like air conditioning compared to stepping out into the sun; which Charlie and I did when we gathered or water, washed clothes and went skinny dipping! The water in the lake was so clear (could easily see 15 feet) Charlie was going wild trying to catch the fish that were simply swimming right in front of him.
My video camera set-up.  I took almost 3 hours of video!
I ran to get the video camera, but by the time I was set, he had lost interest, realizing that he wasn't goint to catch any.  Right now, I find myself very grateful for this blessed time on the North Country Trail!!!  I can smell the sweet scent of pine, a breeze that comes and goes with the regularity of swells on the ocean, I can hear ducks on the lake playing, birds of many languages singing and the mighty snore of my good friend Charlie!

Morning at Sandy Lakes.
 Life on the trail with...

Charlie & Dreamer

Friday, June 29, 2012

You take what the trail gives you!

Greetings from Dreamer!

The Rule is: You take what the trail gives you.  There is good news x2, bad news and more bad news...
I have 29 pictures of different beautiful views of the Manistee River!
1st, I want to thank Dave & Patty Warner for going above and beyond for me this morning!  Thank you so much for the ride back to the M186 Trailhead from the Fife Lake Inn at 6:30am!  Because of the heat, I really wanted to get an early start. Without their help I would have had to endure an hour or two more of afternoon heat than I did!  Thank you so much!!

 The 2nd Good News, Charlie & I are doing great!  Hiking strong and feeling like I am much younger than I really am. (58)  We hiked to our scheduled destination (Shecks State Forest Campground) which is over 10 miles before 11am!  In fact, I was feeling like a hiking machine, just before the wheels came off... Charlie & I decided to high tail it another 4 miles to Dollar Lake.

From my camping spot on Dollar Lake.
And at this point, not a bad decision. I could come up with several (perhaps) legitimate excuses but none would eclipse the fact that sometimes I am simply bone-headed!  Hiking like the super athlete I was feeling like, I walked right by two turns in the North Country Trail and hiked WAY out of my way. Twice!!  I just missed the turns...  My bad. Oh well, that only added about a mile to my day and part of the mile was spent climbing a sand dune!  (Note: climbing up big hills of sand while carrying a backpack is not fun!). I tried blaming Charlie, but he wouldn't hear of it. 
Note:  The trail was moved for about 6 miles North of Dell Road.
 The final bad is the worst!  My camping spot (if you would call it that) is set up in sand because there is not another level spot for 14 square miles!  (I may be exaggerating some.). All the level spots around this lake were already taken!  I believe someone is having a Family Reunion. And not only in the sand, but in direct sunshine!  (Good thing it is so cool out today!  NOT...  Ok, you take what the trail gives you. I grabbed my pack to wander into the woods in search of a shady spot under a tree. Alas, I found one. Laid out my tarp, sat down with my journal to finally relax and guess what happened?  ANTS!!!  Big ones, little ones, but they all had one nasty thing in common...  They really excelled at BITING!!!   Charlie & I went swimming...

Charlie & Dreamer

Thursday, June 28, 2012

One very tough day for Charlie & Dreamer!

Greetings from Dreamer!

One very tough day for Charlie & Dreamer!! From our restful and the emotional high at "Two Bridges over Two Creeks Junction" campsite,  Charlie & I left for Fife Lake.
Campsite at 2 bridges over 2 creeks junction.
Our resupply box and a much deserved  night  in a Motel awaited.  I am unsure of the temperature today but I can tell that the heat laughed at the two liters of water I left camp with!  The North Country Trail Guide is silent on water sources leading up to Fife Lake. In short, THERE ARE NONE!  Additionally, the trail today, although flat, was sandy and exposed. Which means hot!
Our spot at Campsite #6 on the Manistee River Trail.
If that wasn't enough, today was the day the horse flys decided to harass me endlessly!   Even though I shared all the water I had, Charlie suffered!  He actually stopped and laid down twice while making the torturous road walk into Fife Lake. The convenience store on the corner of 131 & 186 looked like the promised land!!!  You may be asking, why not hitch a ride into town?  We tried for almost an hour at at 186 trailhead with no luck. Then I continued while walking, with no luck.

Around every bend there is another beautiful view!
 A step back for a moment...  I had intended to take the Sparling Spur Road into town. However, of the dozen two track roads I crossed, I never found none labeled Sparling Road. I may have missed a sign, but if there is no sign, I am wondering how one is supposed to know which road was the right one if you (like me) are not familiar with the trail?  (I have since learned the sign is actually down on the ground.)

Sweet log bridge over Sparling Creek.
 The good news, the Post Office had my resupply box and the Fife Lake Resort not only had a vacancy, but their rules allowed pets as well. We enjoyed another Rootbeer float and a swim in the lake. Very nice indeed!!!  Time to rest up, we have about 14 miles tomorrow!

 Happy Trails,

Charlie & Dreamer

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Charlie & Dreamer- On the NCT!

Greetings from Dreamer!

Sorry for the long and unanticipated absence!  Since my hike of the North Country Trail began on June 23rd, I have simply not had Internet service on my phone. (It seems AT&T extended does not provide the Internet.). However, I have been able to text and talk. Go figure...

Charlie ready to begin hiking at Udel Trailhead.
 Today is Wednesday, June 27th. (A Happy Birthday shout out to my daughter Hannah!!)  Charlie and I have hiked over 60 miles so far, with another 50 to go. We are camped about 8 miles South of Fife Lake in a beautiful spot called "Two Bridges Over Two Creeks Junction".  

Campsite at Sawdust Hole with Ed Morse.
 In general I can say all is well with Charlie and I. Specifically, I can say I have never felt better on the trail!  God is good and has provided many blessings. Too many to expound on here with my cell phone. However, I will catch you up in time with my experiences, lessons learned, and describe the wonderful  people I have met along the way.  So far I have taken over 7 hours of video!!  I am not sure how many pictures, but a lot!  FYI, I am unable to load pictures and video to this Blog from my cell phone. 

This perfect hammock set-up belongs to Ed Morse.
 In a short:  raccoons ate two days of my food one night, lost the audio to a few video clips because I didn't turn the external microphone "on", almost lost my hiking poles over a huge-steep cliff, God miraculously provided a hot dog,  made a man materialized in a pick-up when I needed assistance as well as a Dairy Queen with Post Office across the street, first day out I twisted my knee while swimming in the Manistee River with Charlie and has given me strength and healing.  Tomorrow we will reapply and overnight in Fife Lake. Charlie needs a bed fix!  ;-)   Hopefully, this 3G signal from AT&T will continue. If it does, I will begin posting every day. 

 Charlie & Dreamer

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

All packed and ready to go!!

Yes, yes, I know...  Charlie & I are not actually leaving until Friday afternoon.  So whats the big deal?  So I am packed and ready to walk out the door a few days early.  I am so excited, I could squirt!!  Life is too short and death too certain not to be crazy in love with something.  (Notice, I did not say, someone.)  I have spent so much of my life looking for a hobby that really thrills me and low and behold, it was right under my feet all the time!!
This is it!  The sum total.
As you may have noticed, we have inserted a link (just to the right of this post) to our gear list.  Not too bad actually, as you will see, I am hovering at about 30 pounds (total) in my pack.  Charlie will be at about 3 pounds.  Note: this is only food for three days.  We have sent mail drops to Mesick and Fife Lake.  You can easily see our proposed schedule in an earlier post.

Here we go!  Stay tuned!!


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Time to Start Packing!!

Good Morning from Rose Lake!

Simply one of God's greatest blessings!  The hope of a new day...
Another spectacular morning in the woods!  (Personal Note: A few years ago I was basically complaining to Terri that I didn't have something in my life, like a hobby or delight of some kind that I truly loved doing.  Most of my family & friends all have something that flips their switches.  It occurred to me this morning, I do as well.)  I am blessed!!

Food Preparation is almost complete
Terri has gone above and beyond this time!!  I just finished eating a sample of the Beef Stroganoff she has been working on.  (A recipe from the Happy Hammock Hanger.  Check an earlier post from Terri) IT IS FANTASTIC!!  Not good or great, but fantastic!!!  Better than the sampling off the stove!!!!  WOW!  Am I ever excited.  If it tastes that good here at home, just think how wonderful it will be sitting in the woods after a long day on the trail…

Three Days of Food for Charlie & I

The picture above represents 3 days of food for our upcoming hike.  I will carry a batch like this (Charlie will carry his own food) when I start and send one each to the Post Offices in Mesick and Fife Lake.  (I will send it General Delivery, addressing it to myself with a note that says something like, “Hold for North Country Trail Hiker.”  I would normally only do one mail drop for a 9-day trip, but there really is not a good place to send it to between Mesick and Fife Lake.

Here is a list of my food stash for 3 days:

5.1oz - Beef Stroganoff  (Dinner)
4.4oz – Hamburger Gravy  (Dinner)
10.9oz – Tuna Noodle Casserole  (Dinner)
4.6oz – Hot Chocolate
6.0oz – Gorp (Almonds, M&M’s & Chocolate Bare Naked Cereal)
2.7oz – Snack Bag (Cheese Puffs, Pringles & Cheddar Cheese Crackers)
7.2oz – G2 Drink Mix
4.0oz – Fiber Bars x3
6.0oz – Power Bars x2
6.1oz – Snickers x3
3# 7oz - TOTAL

Charlie’s food stash:

32oz – High Protein Dog Food x 6
3.4oz – Treats
2# 4oz - TOTAL

Odds are, we will not starve in the woods!


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Testing, testing. Can you hear me now?

Learning to Blog was a big deal for this old-timer!  Now I know enough to be dangerous. ;-). It occurred to me a couple weeks ago that I would have to learn how to blog from my cell phone, so that I could keep the blog update while hiking. This is my first attempt at creating a blog entry from my cell phone.  Also, below, I am learning how to upload short (blogspot only allow short ones) videos.  Let me know what you think!

 Early this morning Charlie and I headed out for our regular hike at Rose Lake. If you have never been there, you owe it to yourself to check it out. I would be happy to serve as your guide, if you are one that is tentative in the woods. Many, many miles of beautiful trails. Charlie and I normally cover about 5 miles in around 1 hour and 40 minutes. (Depending on how many squirrels and bunnies he sniffs out.)
Terri working to build 9 meals for me!
Strawberry Fruit Roll ups!  A bit sticky, but VERY good!!

 Yesterday, Terri began building some meals for me that will feed me on my upcoming adventure on the North Country Trail. So far we have: Chili Mac, Beef Stroganoff, Tuna Noodle Casserole and my favorite Hamburg Gravy!  And, for desert, Strawberry Roll ups that she dehydrated.  Very tasty indeed!!  I am sure Terri would pass along the recipes if you are interested.  This ends the first test of blogging from my cell phone!


Monday, June 11, 2012

Hiking the North Country Trail

Greetings from Dreamer

As always, I find my mind returning to hiking and backpacking in almost every other thought!  It is almost as if I am crazed, near to obsessed with: hiking, gear, maps, guides, food, spreadsheets, books and videos about backpacking.  Charlie and I cover about 5 miles, most days of the week.  But in the evening when all the work is done, dinner is cleaned up, I like to sit back and watch a DVD on the Appalachian Trail.  And my favorite is TREK!  I have watched it (seriously) many many times.  I’ll watch it with anyone that is willing to sit through it.  Check it out on Amazon. 
1st picture of Charlie when we rescued him.
My purpose in writing today is discussing our (Our being, Charlie & I) newest adventure.  We have been planning and preparing since our last adventure to the Jordan River Valley to cover another 100+ miles of the North Country Trail.  This time, we will be hiking the section of trail maintained by the  (GTHC) Grand Traverse Hiking Club.  Even though I have been a member for quite some time, I have never hiked the portion of trail that the club over see’s.  If you are interested in more information on the North Country Trail, go to and check it out.  I can personally say the folks at GTHC are amazing!   A few weeks ago, I wrote to Sara Cockrell, the Program Chairperson for information and within a few hours I had all my questions answered and more.  If you would like to join their hiking clubs group, you can go to:

Dreamer is about to take his first steps on the AT
Here is our proposed schedule for the trip:

June 23 – From: Udel Trailhead to Sawdust Hole – 11 miles
June 24 – From: Sawdust Hole to Campsite #6 – 12 miles
June 25 – Campsite #6 to Mesick – 11 miles
June 26 – Mesick to Anderson Creek – 11 miles
June 27 – Anderson Creek to Baxter Bridge – 8 miles
June 28 – Baxter Bridge to Fife Lake – 16 miles
June 29 – Fife Lake to Sheck’s Place – 14 miles
June 30 – Sheck’s Place to Guernsey Lake – 10 miles
July 1    -  Guernsey Lake to Kalkaska – 10 miles

Terri & Dreamer hiking in Shenandoah National Park
Obviously, this is only our “proposed” stops and approximate mileages.  Depending on how Charlie and I are feeling, weather conditions, and a host of other variables, this could all change.  We could very well go beyond Kalkaska, and we could very well not even make it that far!  We’ll see… 
Dreamer on McPhee's Knob in Virginia

If there needs to be a purpose for this hike other than simply getting out there, it is to:  give Charlie an extended hike to check out his abilities, test some new gear (more to follow on that) as well as test Blogging from my cell phone, and uploading pictures etc.  So, stay tuned between June 23 and July 1st.  I’ll be Blogging about our journey, testing to see how this will all work when we take off next March on the Appalachian Trail.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

How and what will we eat??

As we talk with people about our upcoming adventure, some of the questions we often hear are, "What do you eat? Do you carry all your food? Do you stop at restaurants along the way?" As the "cook" in our home and the hiking partner most responsible for food on trail, it's most appropriate for me to share this story.

Well, let me begin to explain the process of eating on the trail....We obviously don't go hungry.

We have always eaten well on trail, sometime even baking. We purchased a 'backpacking oven' some years ago and I was able to refine the technique to bake fresh bread, coffee cakes, cinnamon rolls and even cookies. Lightweight, it was still weight we carried and the concoctions I mixed up to bake, were even heavier than the oven, so over the past couple years, in our quest to become "ultra-lightweight" backpackers, the oven has taken up residence in a storage box. Neither one of us has ever been a fan of the backpacking meals available at camping retailers... Expensive, full of sodium, poor selection and mostly heavy!

I've spent the past month researching and reading blogs and websites shopping for a new dehydrator... we dehydrate almost all of our own food and use a technique called "Freezer Bag Cooking".  Which basically means, all of our food is dried beforehand and I mix recipes with the dried ingredients and put it in a freezer bag, which, on trail, we only need to add maybe a couple small packets of additional seasonings or oils and boiling water, let it sit in a 'cozy' (or in our case, our fleece) while it re-hydrates and then we chow down! Gourmet stuff by most backpacking standards and is most cases we are the envy of other hikers.

After much research and study, I decided to purchase an Excaliber 3900 dehydrator. It's the Cadillac of machines and hopefully will serve us a great many years. It's quiet, efficient, has a 10 year warranty and the capacity to prepare dehydrated food for the Apocalypse. We've been using 2 'Ronco' circular machines for years, both purchased at yard sales for about $5/each. Marginal efficiency, inconsistent results and small capacity caused me to rethink the amount of food I'd need to prep for a 5 month hike. The most I've ever prepped before was for a month hike, so the volume I'll need this time required the new machine. Besides, with the garden we still grow, it will be nice to preserve the additional food for any emergency.

I have been experimenting with the Freezer Bag Cooking techniques for several years and have come up with some very tasty and easy meals that we love while hiking. Some of our favorites are beef stroganoff, chili mac and tuna noodle casserole. If you're interested in learning more about freezer bag cooking, please visit this woman's website.  FreezerBagCooking  She is the guru of this type of cooking and has taught me a lot of the basics. I've just taken it to a new level, modifying other recipes I use, making them trail meals. Fresh fruits and vegetables are the biggest missing ingredient on trail, so dried fruits, etc. make an adequate substitution. Not perfect, but better than endless pasta.

Our new machine arrived this week. Mind you, we're only 9 months away from lift-off and I need to prepare and dry approximately 130 meals before leaving. When we leave, all of our prepped meals will be listed on a spread sheet, packed into boxes labeled with each meal name and a number. Boxes will be prepacked to ship to us along the trail to start the trip, but as we hike along, we'll be able to call our "Logistics Manager" and have other meals substituted as we desire. For instance, if we get tired of something, we can ask her to send more Chili Mac or take out the Cheesy Macaroni for a while. "Send us 5-#8's and 4-#12's" and logistics will then go to those boxes and pack them in our next "drop-box" that will be shipped to the next trail town in our path northbound to Maine.

Our first experiment in the new Excaliber machine was Beef Stroganoff. Mixed with a new recipe from: Hungry Hammock Hiker, it made enough to sample a dish and dry 5 additional meals. I had also found some very large stuffing mushrooms on 'clearance' at the grocery store, so I thought I'd dry those too...
The vote from my hiking partner on the stroganoff was, "Fabulous", so in the machine it went, along with the mushrooms for 10 hours at 150 degrees. When I got up in the morning, I raced downstairs to check on our new purchase.... viola, shriveled and shrunken, leathery mushrooms, just waiting to be put into another delightful recipe and stroganoff, ready to re-hydrate on trail with just 1 1/2 cups of boiling water; weighing a mere fraction of its former self and for the same price as ONE manufactured backpacking meal.... and much more tasty!!

As you can see, eating on trail for us is the reward at the end of a long day of hiking......a gourmet dining experience in a trail 'hut' and a TON of work ahead of time.... but SO worth it!! So, for the next 9 months, I'll be drying most anything I can think of... vegetables from the garden, LOTS of pastas, meats, fish and fruits. Next up, fruit leathers with fresh Michigan strawberries! Bon Appetit!