This summer, we alternated every other 7 – 10 days between our two Michigan home bases. While at our “sticks and bricks” in SE Michigan, we took care of the house, yard, laundry, etc. and touched base with family. At our Northern Outpost, near Frankfort, MI, we camped off grid, hiked, cycled, mountain biked, paddled, and caught up with friends. As of today, Sep 25, we have spent 89 days at home and 45 days camping, since we returned from our last big trip in May. We have camped a total of 114 nights this year, so far….
I took a break from writing this blog and I’m still contemplating how I will document the summer. This post will be about the Manistee River Trail and part of the North Country trails, which form a 20-mile loop.
We hike nearly every day, when we are “up north”, often on the 4 trails that are closest to home. We first day-hiked part of the Manistee RiverTrail, looking for some new scenery, and were not disappointed. We planned a quick late morning hike, so did not bring food or water. We were so enamored with the beautiful trail and gorgeous views of the river, that we just kept going. It was a perfect late August day.
Along the way, we saw several hikers who were camping overnight or doing multi-day trips. We decided we should dig out our old backpacking gear and return to spend 2 or 3 days backpacking. Our last time backpacking was in 1999, when we camped at Blue Lakes Pass and climbed Mt. Sneffels, in Colorado. (mentioned in my post on Ouray, CO, last September.) The need for water and lunch made us turn back after about 3 miles. We were definitely going to return.
Dave found our gear in the basement, in a bin, where it has been stored since around 2005. I purchased mine in the mid 90’s and did several trips with the Sierra club. Dave purchased his sleeping bag for his cross-country cycling trip in 1986 and his backpack, later, for a trip to Alaska. Dave’s pack was starting to disintegrate and had a broken strap, but was still sufficient to use. Mine, having been completely over-engineered, looked brand new. I think I could drive our HD truck over it several times and it would still look new. Needless to say, it weighs almost 8 lbs, empty (today’s backpacks are less than 2 lbs).
Over several days I soaked everything in the bathtub with oxy detergent and vinegar, which removed about half of the musty rotten plastic smell. The sleeping bags cleaned up nicely by washing them in a large washer at the laundromat.
Dave hesitated to go, knowing my lack of tolerance for any unpleasant odors. I decided it really wasn’t too bad and I really wanted to have a new adventure. I even told him that I didn’t care if I couldn’t sleep.
We drove to the Hodenpyl Dam and Hydro Power Plant to check out the canoe portage and eat lunch, before parking at the Seaton Creek tailhead and beginning our hike. The backpacking was really fun and the trail was beautiful. There were many beautiful campsites to choose from, since it was mid-week after Labor Day. We caught a perfect weather window. We saw deer, beaver, and many birds. At night I heard coyotes, what was likely 2 racoons fighting, the humming sound from the nearby Hodenpyl Hydro Power Plant and other interesting noises.
Our only complaints were about the gear. My pack weighed 21 lbs. after loading it and really hurt my shoulders, even after making adjustments. Everything seemed so much heavier than when I was 30 years old, when I carried 25 – 30 lbs. (The mean pack weight for today’s Appalachian trail hikers is 20 lbs. Many carry only about 10 lbs.)
The 1990’s vintage Thermarest sleeping pads were heavy and nearly useless. My sleeping bag, rated for 30 degrees, was too heavy and too hot, but it was too cold to leave an arm or leg out. I was also already bruised in multiple areas, including huge bruises on both hips, and a sore neck from recent wipeouts on my mountain bike. My small tent is too short for Dave, so he had to sleep on his side or diagonally.
Dave slept little and I slept even less, but I was still glad we went. Just as we arrived back at the truck on the last day, it began raining very hard. We left the parking area at the Seaton Creek trailhead and headed to a place called Rosie’s Country Cafe, where we had hot coffee and an excellent breakfast.
We plan to return and do a day hike or two and catch some fall colors in October. If we backpack again, we will replace all or most of the gear. We will also rethink what beverages we take, as Dave had lugged several beers on ice (Dave’s brother, Dennis, is the only other person I know who would do such a thing).
Our old backpacking gear