Pinckney Rec. Area - Lyndon Park, Camp Crile, Gorman and Clarks Lake, March 6, 2004 by Ken Knight

Reports by Ken Knight | John Lawton | Andy Mytys | Dennis Shubitowski

I am not going to attempt to describe the route we took in any great detail. Dennis, Andy, and especially John can do that far better. Andy had suggested we embark on a loop hike that would take us through major trails, hunter trails, two-tracks, regular roads, and bushwhacking. Andy’s idea was that we would create a loop with North Lyndon Park as the start and end point. We would hike towards Camp Crile. Then veer east and south back towards North Territorial Road. From there we would walk down Island Lake Road until we got back on state land and we could re-enter the woods. Continuing south past Island Lake and then around Gorman Lake and down around Canfield Lake to Waterloo Road via Clarks Lake. At Waterloo Road the plan would be to hike north back to Lyndon park. Of course, the reality of our hike would end up delightfully diverging from this overall plan.

John and I arrived first. We knew from conversations with Andy that he and Dennis were running a bit behind our initial schedule so we adjusted accordingly. We did not have long to wait. Andy showed up and soon Dennis pulled in with his new weimaraner pup named Sam. The day was overcast, ever threatening to dowse us with freezing rain or maybe even snow, with a temperature in the upper 30s. Actually not bad hiking weather at all if you were wearing the right clothing (I was wearing a hunter orange funky hat, Ibex Icefall jacket, Paramo Mountain Shirt, Ibex Guide Light pants, Bridgedale socks, and old Vasque Clarion Lo shoes that I did not care if they got mucked up. I had a Cloudveil Snaz rain jacket in my Arc’Tyrex daypack.) We tossed on our packs and struck out north along the Waterloo-Pinckney trail a little before noon.

One of the first things that struck us, besides Sam’s enthusiasm for the trip, was the sounds of birds in the near distance. We heard Sandhill Cranes calling to each other. None of us is quite sure of the migratory habits of these large wonderful birds but we all thought it seemed a bit early for them to be back in the area. After all, we had heard them on Big Portage lake on December 21, 2003 (Winter Solstice Hike) and they were leaving the area then. Sure the ice has pretty much vanished from the lakes and streams and the daytime high temperatures have not dipped below freezing for at least two weeks, but the low temps certainly have. And that last week of February was surely an anomaly as far as temperature goes. But the birds seem to be back. No doubt there were other birds about, but we only heard the cranes. The woods were quiet but for our own sounds. We ambled over boardwalks and along the Waterloo-Pinckney trail past pools of water that were only recently thawed out. One bit of water had an almost gelatinous skin on it. The smell of damp mud was everywhere. Spring is approaching.

When Andy and Dennis get together some of the conversation is going to revolve around gear, gear testing, and issues associated with Does that sound like it could get tiring. For some it could, but they never stick to one topic and since gear requires people to use it the conversation always drifts into the realms of how people are doing. Even if you don’t care about gear you can’t help but be interested in the people. For example, the chat wandered onto the topic of a gear tester named Heather. Heather is a remarkable young lady who has done a lot and done a lot in an unusual way. She’s paid a price for how she has grown up (for instance, not much of a math education.) She is an interesting person. If the chat wasn’t about hiking related things then it could wander into areas like just what was Camp Crile used for. Or, Andy kidding (maybe) about how he’s going to take control over Keila after seeing Dennis with Sam. Conversations were light and relaxed. We strolled north towards Camp Crile and had fun doing it.

I’m not sure what Camp Crile was ever used for. All that remains now is a chimney and part of the stone foundation around it. I suppose at one time it was actually used as a small campground of sorts. I don’t see why people couldn’t camp there today though there is no water at the precise spot of Camp Crile (there is some nearby.) Camp Crile would represent our northernmost point, but before we really began to hike again we decided to settle down for lunch.

While I think it was still a bit early for lunch I can’t complain about the spot we picked. We settled in, more or less easily (Dennis had to set Sam down on a strict stay after he kept edging in to try for a bite of his Zingerman’s sandwich), for our mid-day repast. It is always enjoyable to sit with friends in a pleasant spot in the woods on a fairly nice day and just let the time slip by. I’m certain we all enjoyed our lunches. Even John, the lone person without a Zingerman’s sandwich, probably enjoyed his home-made bagel sandwiches. Of course, we had to get up sometime and begin our basically southerly journey sometime and we did so after about half an hour. It was about 13:30 by this time.

We were now leaving the Waterloo-Pinckney trail. We would spend the next several hours walking on old two-tracks, hunter and game trails, a stretch of modern road, and bushwhacking. We wandered south for a time through the rolling forest. Now and then the skies would send down a tiny shower of what seemed almost like snow or sleet. These little showers lasts for less than a minute and were hardly bothersome. We strolled along really without a care. Our goal was to enjoy the day. Part of that enjoyment was figuring out how well Andy and Dennis’ new GPS units were doing. They were doing rather well at plotting our position with respect to the local topography.

We took an eastward jog that took us around some marshy areas to a powerline just a short ways south of Joslin Lake Road. With all the moisture in the air the powerline was alive with electrical crackle. A tempting clear spot for a campsite, but really not a good place to camp. We returned to the quiet of the woods and our journey towards Island Lake via North Territorial Road.

Our typical hikes in this area avoid the paved and gravel roads. There is so much that can be seen without crossing a road that it’s just not necessary to walk along a road. However, the loop we were hiking today required some road walking. We strolled along North Territorial Road to Island Lake Road for probably not more than 15 minutes. Once we were able to turn onto trails again we did so. It was mid-afternoon by this time and we had only been walking down an old pathway to Island Lake for a few minutes when Sam began to kick up a ruckus. Two akitas (male puppy and an older female) came bounding up the trail. They were wearing hunter orange around their middles. They were exuberant and friendly. Their owner came up and took control of the male who was trying to show Sam he was top dog. Sam was, naturally enough, doing the same. Nice dogs and a decent owner. He would be the only other person we would meet during our romp through the woods. Not long after that encounter we came to the now (im)famous intersection of trail where the butt tree resides. I did not notice it this time. Maybe we didn’t go quite far enough to see it in it’s full lightning struck glory. We were not heading that way anyway. Instead we were going to travel around the northern and eastern shores of Gorman Lake. We could see the lake now and then below us as we moved steadily southward.

This part of the Pinckney Recreation Area is full of gentle hills, small valleys, plenty of lakes and ponds, and swampy areas. Typical terrain for this part of Michigan. Besides the flowing water we had seen we infrequently encountered brief stretches of terrain where snow and ice where still hanging on. I think we were all a bit surprised to find these spots. Usually shaded dips in the land where cold air could gather, but sometimes the spots seemed a bit more open and the ice just was unusually hard and thick. Finding little things like these unexpected white patches always makes a hike more interesting. But more interesting things would come our way. As we moved towards private land near Canfield Lake and Clarks Lake we found ourselves in what Dennis described as superb turkey habitat: rolling hills, with open oak forest with plenty of ground-level brush. We spooked a half dozen or so. I cannot believe I never really saw them. I know they were close. Very close. They make such a noise as they fly through the air to roosts where they hope they’ll be secure. Somehow I missed their flight and just heard them.

We continued on and soon came upon private land. There were hunter blinds scattered about and we did not want to trespass so we decided it was time for a route change. It was time for a battle between John and the map. Could he get us back to the Waterloo-Pinckney trail without any real trouble. We skirted the private lands, backtracked a bit, and started working our way back in a northwesterly direction. John took us over ridges and through prickers through the oak forest. Then we came upon a pine grove that was a real treat. There is such a change in atmosphere when you walk through a grove of pines. The ground changes, the light changes, the sounds around you change too. Pine groves are peaceful. It’s no wonder certain religions base ceremonies within pine groves. We ambled steadily on picking up the occasional scratch and, no doubt, many prickers in our clothing. And then, after a bit of confusion about which way was north (John wasn’t checking his compass much), he deposited us at the trail intersection of the Waterloo-Pinckney and a trail (two-track) that leads around the northern shore of Gorman Lake. Bingo.

It was somewhat past 17:20 by this time. The skies seemed uncommonly dark for this time of day. Sure, sunset was about an hour away but it seemed darker than it should have been given the overcast skies. We struck out along the Waterloo-Pinckney. I think we were all remembering how tired we were the last time we passed this way back in the early dark evening hours of our winter solstice hike. This time the hills were not quite as challenging. The Great Step up that is just before the South Lyndon park trailhead was a minor chore (and fun to watch Sam climb). Then we strolled past South Lyndon Park (I, like so many others, missed the turn and instead of veering off the Waterloo-Pinckney almost kept going). Just a little more to go and then we were back at our cars. It was a little before 18:00. We had hiked about 8.8 miles over the course of the past 6 hours. It was a fine hike. The old pickles we had been saving were a delightful way to end our day.


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