A Collection of Michigan Snowy Day Hikes - 2004-2005

Waterloo-Pinckney Mapping Project - Baldin Flooding Area

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On Saturday, March 12, 2005 Andy Mytys, John Lawton, and I ventured out into the Waterloo Recreation Area for another day of mapping. I am not going to try and describe the route we took. Hopefully, John or Andy will do that. It’s clear that they have a far better understanding of the region than I do. My understanding would be better if I constantly referred to a map during the day or spent countless hours fiddling with area maps on other days. We wandered around the region near Baldwin Flooding, side trail near Seymour Road, side trails off the black and green horse trails, and so much more. We wandered over some 13.8 miles of terrain climbing up and down countless times (never very far, but steeply).

Instead I think I will focus on my experience of the day. I may not be contributing much to the hard-core mapping work, but I want to believe I am providing at least this much and that it is valuable. Even if it is not valuable it is still fun to be out and about especially when you have a day as fine as this day would turn out to be.

I had some doubts that this day would turn out to be a good mapping day. When I left The Ark after an enjoyable evening of bluegrass by the Kruger Bothers the streets were clear and it was not snowing. Several of us spent an hour or so chatting over drinks at our favorite after show hangout, the Old Town, and when we left it was edging towards 1:30AM. When we left we walked into a minor blizzard. The streets were covered in snow. The snow was falling quickly and with gusto. We had to walk with our heads down if we didn’t want to get blinded by the pounding flakes. In just a few minutes we were covered in white. When I got home just before 2:00AM the snow showed no signs of stopping and if that was going to be the case then mapping would be much harder. Fortunately for us the snow did cease. While everything was covered I doubt we actually got more than an inch of snow. It just came down very quickly. When John showed up to fetch me the skies were calm and merely overcast.

We reached the Sackrider Hill parking area, burdened with our precious load of Zingerman’s sandwiches, a little after 9:00AM. Andy showed up shortly after showing no ill effects of his rough wake up. We moved to another parking area off, I think, Glenn Road and began our day of hiking around 9:40AM. It was a crisp, fairly wind free, about 27 °F morning. If the wind held off it would be a good day for hiking even if the sun never managed to break through the layers of clouds (you could see it wanted too). Right away we began following side trails that we did not know. The lovely glade of pine trees we came upon was our first pleasant surprise of the day. Sure the side trails in that immediate area don’t actually go anywhere per sť, but we did not mind. If we minded anything it was the crunchy snow that we kept sinking into. The snow wasn’t very deep, but it was deep enough. Deep enough that with each step we took we would sink in and have to work that little bit harder to take the next step. Now and then stretches of trail would be covered with snow that was hiding sheets of ice. Andy and John both had pratt falls early on. I was spared that ignominy until late in the day.

While it is still beautifully snow covered and chilly out there is no doubt that spring is coming. Almost right away we heard Sand Hill Cranes warbling overhead. We would hear their distinctive call throughout the day. Clearly they’re coming back to the area. We also heard large numbers of Canadian Geese honking their way across the sky. Add to that some chickadee or finch (no one is quite sure) and the hawk that we saw (well I missed it as I was going for a good picture of snow shrouded pines) fly overhead early on and you know spring is coming soon. Of course, having Andy and John around also means that animal tracks will be easily located. I wish I could see these. For example, the mouse tracks Andy spotted running along the edge of a log heading uphill or the wild turkey tracks they spotted late in the day sharing space with squirrel and other animal tracks. If you know what to look for and can see it there is so much out there that suddenly becomes visible.

As the morning rolled along we found ourselves moving at a deceptively fast pace towards Baldwin Flooding and it’s notorious stream. Would we be able to cross the stream without getting our feet wet. Would we have to resort to using some sort of waders (I didn’t bring any—hadn’t realized we would be crossing and even if I had I may not have brought anything) [I was wrong about what this stream is. It's not part of the actual Baldwin Flooding though it is certainly not far from it. -krk]. The clouds were breaking apart as we explored the region and found more side trails that took us to places both public and private. The great fields near Seymour Road which now appear are public land are one such example. They may be part of the prairie restoration project the DNR has going. When we reached the Baldwin Flooding stream (if it has a name I do not know it) we found it covered with weak ice. John and Andy were able to punch through with their staffs (OK, broomsticks, but "staff" sounds so much better) and cause the ice to settle into the water. Earlier, crossing the somewhat ice covered stream near a previous lunch spot John had punched through enough ice to find the railroad tie you can sometimes use to cross. Andy and I just jumped. But with the Baldwin Stream a simple jump wasn’t an option. You feel your way about, figure out a safe route and hopefully safe landing zone, and with using your poles or staff to assist you take that leap and hope you don’t slip. None of us did though we all made bigger holes of the settled ice.

By now the sun had really broken through and the sky was full of large blue area for the sun to cast its light and heat down upon us. We had all removed layers of clothing and we were still quite toasty. I was down to my Paramo Mountain Shirt and Wintergreen Designs Shell. I was seriously considering flipping my Paramo around so the fuzzy side would face out. That would, in theory, keep me a bit cooler. I never did it, but if I had been carrying a load heavier than a daypack’s worth of stuff I am sure I would have. As we sat at Baldwin Road eating our lunch we felt ourselves being toasted by the sun. The in-sun temperature was definitely considerably higher than the ambient temperature. Andy’s zipper thermometer read around 40 °F and I believe that. Of course, those of use wearing darker clothing really soaked up the heat quite well. The sun brightened the world and made a seemingly dreary morning into a brilliant one. At times more than bright enough to cause some of us to put on our sunglasses.

After lunch it seemed as though the hiking got tougher. We seemed to be spending a lot more time climbing in and out of the kettle bowls that make up so much of this area. Down one steep hill, into a small depression, and then right back up and out the other side. The ascents and descents are probably never more than 40-50 feet (if I am wrong Andy or John can correct me) but they’re moderately steep and the snow and ice covered hillsides make them tougher to negotiate than normal. Up and down we went. Wandering along side trails that lead off the black and green horse trails we had hiked the month previous. We found our way to a fine overlook of an un-named stream that flows out of Locker Lake into Baldwin Flooding. Down in the pricker bush ridden area below the peninsula you can guarantee yourself an excellent change to tear clothing and draw blood. In another low area, bounded by private land, you can if not careful touch an electrified fence while trying to avoid the frigid water that lays at the fence’s base. Or, you can walk along a promising side trail for several minutes that all of a sudden peters out in an astonishing amount of foliage that contains a seemingly infinite number of prickers. And, if you are really lucky (as Andy was) you can lose you GPS unit in that massive mess (fortunately he noticed it’s loss pretty quickly and the snow actually made it easier to spot. Had this happened during the fall things could have been quite different. After all, as we learned on a hike last fall my bright yellow Garmin eTrex still managed to blend nicely with all the fallen colorful leaves when it fell off my pack one mid-autumn day).

As the day progressed we all started to notice spots of cold. My Vasque Sundowners aren’t as waterproof as they once were. I should have also worn gaiters to prevent the snow that kept accumulating on my probably too-long pant legs from dropping into my boots. John had doused his feet a couple times and his improvised plastic bag water barriers while helpful weren’t really up to the task. Andy probably faired the best. While we kept moving I don’t think any of us really minded, but when we stopped the cold crept into our feet and once that happened it was hard to warm back up. We kept moving on, mile after mile and hill after hill. The clouds regained domination of the sky and the temperature began to drop. By late afternoon we were all tired and maybe that lead to the one communications mix-up we had. John and I waited for Andy to come marching around the a hill of switchbacks on the black horse trail (is that right?) and he did not show up. He had thought we would be waiting at the bottom of that hill. When we called to each other he, for a reason I still don’t quite get, came bounding out to meet us sans daypack. He had to return to fetch his pack and that gave John and me enough time to eat the remaining halves of our sandwiches. Why Andy bothered to drop his pack is a mystery to me. It couldn’t have been weighing him down that much. Of course, had he not done that then John and I couldn’t have had the snack break. We all agree we should have eaten the whole sandwiches at lunch. By now it was edging to nightfall. Twilight was imminent and we decided we had done enough for the day. We had a couple little bits we could have still done, but we decided it was time to return to the cars which were probably a bit more than a mile away.

We reached the cars a little after sunset and were glad to be there. The day was well and truly done and we had accomplished a lot during the past nine hours, 13.82 miles, and goodness knows how much elevation change. My only regret is that I don’t keep up with John and Andy well enough to take part in the conversation during the bulk of the day.

Note: I believe the area we hiked can roughly be bounded by the following roads. West: Glenn Road at the parking area a mile or so west of the switchbacks on the Black trail; East: east of Maute road since we hiked the loop made by the green and yellow horse trails; South: Leach road which we visited a couple times; North: Seymour road though we never went that far we were hiking in the Baldwin Flooding area.

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