January 31

Andy arrived pretty much when he said he would. I had spent the past few hours making sure I had everything and was still in the process of making sure when he showed up. The slightly hectic nature of things was increased when my brother called to ask for some computer aid which I was able to provide (and would later learn was pretty much what he needed). Still, all in all, we left pretty much when we had planned to leave. We were soon zipping down the highways of Michigan towards Flint to pick up Dennis at a parking lot by a Lowes. After fetching Dennis and saying hello to his wife, Lisa, and their wiemerrunner we piled back into Andy’s Ford Focus and struck out towards the distant shores of Lake Michigan and the place where the Hiking Vikings (on this trip just two of the original Vikings would be present: Joe and myself) were born: Nordhouse Dunes.

We stopped in Ludington, Michigan around 20:00 for a late dinner. Ludington appears to roll up the sidewalks right around 8:00PM and that limited our choices somewhat. We ventured into the Old Hamlin Inn and had a decent meal. We arrived just in time. I am virtually certain we were the last paying patrons of the night. After filling our furnaces with burgers we set forth on our final leg of the journey to Nordhouse Dunes. Things would get interesting at this point. We followed Andy’s carefully crafted directions superbly at least until we decided, unwittingly, to completely ignore the directions. We drove down Forest Trail Road (also known as Lake Michigan Recreational Area Road) and crossed Quarter Line road and kept right on going. We drove down the road pretty much until it reached its terminus. We pulled into one group campsite, getting stuck in the process (Andy actually asked me if I could drive so he could get out and push; I didn’t move figuring he was joking. He hadn’t been joking, but I never have driven and doubt I ever will. I got out to push.) We eventually parked along the road near several campsites and began to unpack our gear and pack our pulks to haul our stuff to what we thought would be our campsite for the next couple of days. It was about 22:00 by now and the night was dark and still. The sky was overcast but even if it had been clear there would have been precious little moonlight. However, there was still some extra light reflecting off the six or so (average) inches of snow that lay all around. The reflected light was not enough to let us really get by without our headlamps, but the Petzel Tikkas Andy and I had plus my Black Diamond Ion (I lent my Tikka to Dennis) were able to provide more than enough light. We hitched ourselves up to our sleds and began to haul our gear to a campsite.

I don’t think we had walked for much more than 5 minutes when we turned off the road into the forest and soon saw, or thought we did, the glint of metal. That metallic glint had a curious shape to it. It looked rather like the shape of a Ford Focus. None of us thought we had traveled in a circle. We knew we had made a turn but it hadn’t seemed like a large turn. Investigation was called for. The investigation revealed that the shape was indeed a Ford Focus and more precisely it was Andy’s Ford Focus. We had traveled a ovoid path and found ourselves in the forest just a few dozen feet away from where we had started. The spot was open and level and we decided that it would make a fine campsite. We spent the next while setting up our shelters. I had never set up the Golite Hex in the field before and all things considered it went pretty smoothly. The Hex is a hexagonal tipi type tarp and there is a fair amount of room under the tarp. But, it doesn’t feel like there is anywhere near as much room under the Hex as there is under Andy’s Black Diamond Megamid. We were all astonished by the highly reflective stake out points of the Hex. I don’t think I have ever seen such reflective stake out points. They really help make the Hex stand out. I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit of a reflective stripe on the door to make that a bit easier to locate.

After settling in we took a night hike that would lead us up and over the dunes to the Lake. Steep climbs on those barrier dunes. On the outbound trip I don't think any of us fell or lost footing but it was definitely a good bit of work to attain the summits of the dunes. We found the observation platform and looked out to see - absolutely nothing. The sky was completely overcast. We went down to the lakeshore where we were buffeted by the wind and soon found ourselves actually at the water's edge. Andy found the thin ice first and Dennis and I chose not to confirm his discovery. The only sound around us, besides the crunching of the snow under our feet, was the crashing of small waves against the ice and snow that lay upon the sandy beach. We couldn’t really hear the wind at this point though we certainly felt it. However, once we moved away from the shoreline the sound of the waves fade away to be replaced by the rustle of the wind. We made our return hike via GPS. The outbound hike had been pretty much a John Lawton (i.e., bushwhack) special and the return would be no different. Our campsite was our geocache and we managed to find it in pretty short order. A straight line shot over one very steep dune where we all did slip and slide some on the way up. All in all, a very enjoyable night hike through the quiet winter night. It was now a bit after midnight and clearly time for bed.