A Collection of Michigan Snowy Day Hikes - 2004-2005

Waterloo-Pinckney Mapping Project - The Maze Again to Baldwin Flooding

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Ken's Report | Dennis' Report

It’s time for another hike to gather more data for the detailed maps we are making of the Waterloo-Pinckney Recreation Areas. This project is actually moving forward at a pretty good pace when you realize just how many side trails there are off the main Waterloo-Pinckney Trail. Last month we took our first whack at what John refers to as "The Maze." This is a region of twisting horse trails, other side trails, and two-tracks that lay in the region mostly bounded by Sackrider Hill, Glenn Road, and Maute Road. In January we spent time getting a sense of the area. A few weeks ago Andy returned and walked the trails again to create a continuous track on his GPS which would, in theory, create a better map than trying to link up the discrete segments we had already obtained. This time we would attempt to finish creating continuous-tracks for the region and also get a sense of the trail network further north and east of our furthest extent before --- trying to reach the area of the Baldwin Flooding.

John picked me up at 8:00AM and we picked up our now traditional Zingerman’s order for the group. This time the group would also include Dennis, his dog Sam, and Steve. Since we hadn’t known Steve was going to join us he didn’t get a sandwich. Of course, neither did Sam (who bore up well under the pressure of those great smells). When John and I arrived at Sackrider Hill we found the rest of our band waiting for us. We actually ended up parking at the Mount Hope Road parking area by the Lone Oak Field. From there we hiked back towards Sackrider Hill to re-connect with the others. We were going to re-trace our steps of a couple months ago since Andy’s data was incomplete for a small portion of two-track and side trail there. It was a glorious day to be out. A fine bright, clear blue, cloudless sky with a temperature rapidly passing 40 °F on its ways to a high in the mid-40s °F. In this area of Michigan clear blue skies in the winter are to be savored and we relished this day. Of course, the warm temperatures were melting the remaining snow and that would affect our trails as the day progressed.

I’m not going to try and describe the route we followed. This is something that John can do far better than I and hopefully he or perhaps Andy will. We enjoyed the warming morning sun, Sam’s antics, and the company of friends as we walked along a horse trail following the track we had walked during our night hike of some 7.5 miles last month. Of course, the trail this time was quite a bit different. It was daytime and there was considerably less snow. At times we were able to take advantage of the fact that we had multiple GPS units on the trip and we split up. One such instance Dennis, Steve, and I (think this is right) were moving along and Steve spotted 4 deer on a ridge to our right (west I think). I never saw them. We also heard and saw birds including Chickadee and Gold Finch.

As the sun moved across the sky the snow continued to melt and the trails got wetter and wetter. We often found ourselves walking through streams of melted snow. The melting process was well under way when we stopped not far from Baldwin Flooding for lunch a little after 12:30PM. Those Zingerman’s sandwiches sure went down easily for those of us lucky enough to have them. Steve sat quietly with Sam on a short leash as we ate and chatted. Poor guy. The Baldwin Flooding is, in warmer times, exceedingly wet --- often flooded. We were expecting the same today. We split up again with Andy and Steve going one way (short and wet) and the rest of us going the other (long and dry). It would turn out that the flooding had frozen over. We crossed paths on Baldwin Road and each group completed the loop no wetter for the experience.

This was not the last time we would split up. Steve and Andy would break off from us later in the day as we again walked the side trail from Glenn Road up the switchbacks towards Maute Road while they went somewhere else. This is all in the service of creating good tracks for the eventual trail map. It was getting later in the day by now and John, Dennis, Sam, and I found ourselves waiting at Maute Road on horse trail (black or was it green or yellow?). We were going to check out the loop the black and green (I think) trails made before really beginning to head back towards our cars. But before we could begin we had to wait some 20-25 minutes for Andy and Steve to re-join us. If we had had radios with us perhaps we would have gotten in touch with them and just planned to meet them elsewhere. Oh well. Once they returned we strode forth, with me setting a brisk pace, along the loop. We passed many side trails and in fact zipped by the trail Andy wanted to return on. Not that it really matters since this will all get walked again later. The sun was steadily dropping lower and lower and we had plenty of walking to do. By the time we returned to Maute Road it was probably well past 4:00PM. We still had miles to go before we were done.

We would again split up. Steve, who is new to this particular hiking area, was sent off to hike some trails that would take him twisting and turning all around. Andy went on his own way along another horse trail, and that left the rest of us to deal with horse trails that would among other things take us to Morresey Road. At this point I want to note that I still don’t understand what Andy’s objection to me doing a section alone is beyond the fact that I did not bring a GPS unit along. But this is neither here nor there I suppose. Our little group set out walking along trails I think we have done before in our quest to get a good solid track. This time though we went as far as Morresey Road which was , as far as I know, completely new terrain. We wound around, up, down, and all about. At times I thought I knew where we were (the long side of the uppercase E and then winding in and out on some of the legs including the central one, but really I think I’m wrong now). We enjoyed the walking as the temperature began to fall. Now and then we heard a piliated woodpecker smacking a tree searching for, I assume, food. We had long ago divined, through Andy’s great ability to attract mosquitoes, that insects were definitely around. When we finished at reached the spot we thought the others should be at it was now about 5:45PM. So much for my getting back to Ann Arbor by 6:00PM as I had hoped. No one was there.

Andy’s distinctive footprints (he was wearing Stabilicers) were present, but he was not. Steve wasn’t present either. This was less surprising to us since he had the toughest route to follow. In hindsight that was clearly an error, but that’s what hindsight is best at detecting. We waited for a while for Andy to appear. No joy. We called and whistled for him. Those little whistles that you are supposed to be able to hear for a good quarter of a mile may work well in some places, but not around here. We decided that we would head towards Katz Road and see if anyone was there. After all, the roads all connect. We left arrows showing where we were going and sallied forth. Then we heard a shout. Back we went. Andy was there without his pack. He had gone off looking for us or Steve --- I am not really sure. I’m not sure why he had gone off, but he had. Still no sign of Steve though. We were just about to split up and start searching for him in earnest when he came into view. He had made wrong turns that took him to, among other places, Glenn Road but he was here now. We could now all head back to the cars at the Mount Hope Road parking area by the big field. Clearly, we failed on several fronts. We should have had a backup plan should people not reach the meeting place at an appointed time. Having two-way radios wouldn’t have hurt either though I don’t think we would have had enough of these.

When we reached the large field with its loan dead oak standing stately off to one side of the trail the sun had all but vanished. There was the barest tinge of orange in the western sky. If you blinked you would miss it. The thin crescent moon was sliding down the western sky and the temperature had taken a nose dive from its high mark that had easily been in the mid-upper 40s to whatever it was now. My feet were cold and tired. My shoes had absorbed, or otherwise permitted entry, water and my feet were in small pools. I was quite happy we were done. I was a bit irked that I was also missing the Storytelling Festival, but sometimes things happen that are out of your control. Despite our mis-adventures of the late afternoon and twilight the day was a good one. We got plenty done and made a new friend in Steve. Sam, of course, made (or renewed) friendships with everyone.


Dennis' Report

Ken is (supposedly ) writing this TR but I had not seen it yet. Andy M, Ken, John L, new guy to the list Steve (last name???), and me all met on Saturday at 9am near Sackrider Hill off the Waterloo Pinckney Trail for a dayhike mapping session. The morning started out pretty darn cold and I was debating whether to make my dog Sam (a silly Weimaraner) carry a pack or not while trying to decide on clothing at the same time. I caved in and decided to schlep his stuff for him, which one can never be sure they appreciate or not, and the extra work would negate the extra clothes I thought about carrying. Sam is still a young dog and I am uncertain of his behaviors in some instances, but overall is a pretty good trail dog both on and off leash. Pertaining to the recent dog discussion, Sam was on-leash for about the first half of the hike then off-leash while in the woods and fields but back on leash as we approached roads. He is a shadow of a dog (very high in pack drive) and does not go far and will come in a heartbeat. He was a very good boy (for the most part) - at least no one said anything too outloud. ;)

Steve was the new fellow to this gang of mapping four, but he fit in right away with maps in hand and talks of preferred routes via bushwack. I have been out of the loop on the WP mapping lately while doing all the nesting stuff for the impending hiker, but I was thankful to be outside and hiking on such a beautiful day. The reason it was so cold in the morning was there was not a cloud in the sky, and that certainly boded well for afternoon sunshine.

So off we started from Sackrider Hill about 9:15am with maps and GPS units and dog and backpacks (and a chair too in Steve's case which he of course would benefit from while we sat on foam or the ground at breaks) and Zingermans sandwiches all in hand or on back. We mapped trails north of the hill and west of Mt. Hope Road and eventually made our way over the the old field with the huge dead tree. From here, we begin to enter the horse areas which was the main focus of mapping today. Everyone sans Steve has been over these areas dozens (and dozens) of times before, so Andy had some specific information GPS-wise that we needed and had individual maps made up for prescribed routes through the "maze" that is the horse trails. It literally is a maze - it is no wonder people get lost. Most junctions have 3 possible ways to go, many trails parallel other trails and it is all very, very, very confusing. So I mostly hiked with John and sometimes Ken while Andy and Steve and sometimes Ken also hiked together (the main area we covered was around the Katz, Maute, Glenn, Morrissey and Baldwin Road areas). The Waterloo Hunt Club apparently had a hunt that morning and we saw many of the horses in a sweaty mess from the chase. Everyone was very friendly.

We did hike in an nice area I had not been in before (a largish loop east of Maute Rd) that had some nice hills and terrain features. Overall, there was a bit of waiting and a lot of socializing and not really a point-to-point hike. There was one point of stress where we split up to get routes but did not make an alternate plan if someome got lost. We were supposed to meet at a certain point in the maze and then exit from there, but when John, Ken and I got there, no one else was there. We moved a bit up the trail to a spot where we knew we would catch Steve but could still call for Andy, and we waited quite a while and tried to figure out what to do next. It wasn't like anybody was going to get lost - we all had GPS units and compasses and could easily make it back to the vehicles, but there was definite concern on keeping the group intact. We decided to leave arrows and the ground and start to head out while calling and whistling at the same time. Andy heard us and we all met back where we had just been waiting. The voice stress analyzer was going up while we were trying to decide what to do about missing Steve and we laid out a plan. Literally as we were about to set foot on the hunt, Steve comes walking up the hill. Whew. For future reference, all of this could have been avoided by saying something like "if by X time no one is there or you are lost, head west to X road and we will meet up there."

Anyway, it was starting to get dark and it had been about a 14 mile day. We packed up at the cars and then all headed into Chelsea for a post hike beer (or OR in John's case). Ken missed his Ark gig (sorry Ken!) but it was very nice to meet Steve and to see all my mapping partners in crime again. Things should be moving forward pretty quickly now with the mapping project as we have the kinks worked out for maps and programs. Forward progress to come.

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