This trip journal is a bit late in coming. I normally write my journals as my trip progresses. However, the Handspring Platinum Visor refused to work. The unit would turn on but nothing would appear on the screen making the device effectively useless. I am going to have to find another handheld computer and keyboard combination. I would return to the MessagePad 2100 (Apple Newton) except it has long since been showing its age in the touch screen and weighs about twice as much as a Palm OS based device. Therefore this journal is being written a few days after the completion of this overnight hike along a portion of the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail (WPT).
I was joining Lil, Yvonne, Mike, and John for this short overnight hike on the WPT. We would hike from the trailhead at Loveland road near the Burns cabins to the campground at Green Lake. This is probably about and 8.5 mile hike. The next day we would play by ear but probably day hike some other portion of the trail or other trail in the same general area. This would not be a tough trip. It would be a social hike with like minded people and a chance to enjoy the late fall scenery along the WPT.
John and I arrived at the trailhead shortly before 10:00, Saturday, November 23, 2002. No one else was there to greet us. We settled in to wait for the rest of our group to arrive. We soon learned, courtesy a phone call from Lil, that they were dropping off a car at Green Lake campground and we should expect them to arrive in about a half an hour. It turned out LilŐs guestimate of an arrival time was about half an hour short. John and I had plenty of time to chitchat and wait for them to show up on this crisp, high overcast, morning. While we waited we pondered whether there might be any chance of additional snowfall during our trip. Neither of us thought there would be, but there was more snow here than there had been in Ann Arbor. Given that we were in the country instead of the city that did not surprise us. Temperatures are often lower away from cities and it seems precipitation rates were higher out here as well. While Ann Arbor only had a dusting of snow here the snow pretty much covered the ground in a light white blanket. The roads and trail were clear but everything else had a fairly seamless coat of white upon it. Maybe there was an inch or two in places. The trees were covered in white powder giving them that fine wintry look that is so pleasing to the eye.
When the others arrived we donned our gear and respective splashes of blaze orange apparel. We are hiking during the firearms hunting season and none of us wanted to be mistaken for a deer. We moseyed on down the trail around 11:00. The temperature was hovering around the freezing point and there was little wind. Once we began moving the chill I had felt soon vanished and was replaced with a comfortable warmth.
Almost immediately we found ourselves strolling through a winter wonderland of small hills. Everywhere we looked we saw trees lightly shrouded in snow. We walked through what seemed, at lest to me, like tunnels of intricately designed white and wood brown. Without the snow the branches would just be ordinary leaf bare branches. But, with their coats of snow they took on an ethereal quality that transformed them into something far prettier. Of course, the vast majority of the trees we passed had shed there leaves. We could see many of those leaves on the trail which was still pretty clear of snow. Now and then though we would pass an evergreen (pine or cedar I image) that wore its snow in bunches atop its needle laden boughs.
As we hiked I learned about my companions and their hiking styles. Mike is clearly the most gregarious of the group. His boisterous voice carries easily (too much so at times for my taste) through the quiet woods. However, the others were also talkative. I am probably the least talkative member of the group at least when hiking. I am not sure if I just don't have much to say, Mike, Yvonne know each other and Yvonne and Lil know each other, or just prefer quiet when hiking. Maybe it is a bit of both. There were times I pulled ahead or let myself fall behind to soak in some winter quiet. When I did join in the conversations I enjoyed myself and it is clear that those engaged in the conversations were enjoying themselves too.
Other hill and dale we marched. The weather warmed up a bit and I found myself wearing just my basic single layer (Ibex Guide, the old Schoeller Skifans fabric version pants; Lowa hiking shoes, Smartwool socks and long sleeve wool top; orange fleece hat) of clothing. I don't thin anyone else took off their jackets. I guess I hike warmer than they do. But, that is not a surprise to me. I have always hiked warm. The temperature had probably risen into the upper 30s and later, in the mid-afternoon, the temperature may have reached the low 40s. The clouds, though they remained light and fairly high, did not disperse. We hiked on through the overcast, but pleasant, late fall day towards the Gerald E. Eddy Discovery Center. We arrived around 13:00 and settled down on the deck for a leisurely lunchtime repast. Lil (or was it Yvonne) had brought a considerable amount of sandwich fixings that they shared with everyone. I was happy to help lighten to food load since the only lunch food I had with me were more of the same, hardly healthy but calorie rich and fattening, Swiss Cakes I had purchased the night before at a local gas station as I walked home from The Ark. I had never been in the Discovery Center before so I took a little time to explore. They've got a nice collection of exhibits.
It was a fine place to have lunch. I don't think I saw anyone else but the center's staff the entire time we were there. We had crossed paths with a few other day hikers (and I think a dog) as we took the last steps to the center, but those were the only non-hunters we met the entire day while on the trails. It was enjoyable, though chilly since the wind had picked up, having lunch on the deck looking out over the lake and listening to the chickadees calling to each other.
When we finally left it looked as if the clouds might be breaking up. As we returned to the forest trails we caught the scent of smoke. John guessed, and I think this makes sense, that the fire was probably burning leaves. A park ranger had been raking leaves off the cement trails surrounding the Discovery Center as we left and we surmised that he was now burning them. We hiked on. The sun broke out and suddenly the sky had far more blue than gray in it. I don't think I really noticed the change until I reached to top of a small ridge that took us out of a glacial valley (of sorts). We were hiking along an esker (at least I think that is what it was, since we were on a ridge of what had once clearly been home to a glacier that had left a valley and kettle lake behind) and when the sun burst forth the whole nature of the day changed.
There had been less snow of late, though it was still in evidence, and when the sun shone down upon us the colors that were still visible became clearly visible. Those colors were mostly on the trail. Fallen leaves from oak, maple, and beech. The occasional deep green of an evergreen. The winter deep blue that you only seem to get when it is crisp and cold. It was a very fine day. I was even able to ignore the infrequent blast from a hunter's gun.
We reached Green Lake Campground around 15:45. This is a car accessible campground on the shore of Green Lake. This means that people can, and do, car camp. There was someone there who had a generator running pretty much all the time we were there. The campground is also just a couple miles away from a state prison. During the next several hours into early evening and then again starting the following morning we could hear the prisoners yelling or chanting or something. Stress relief excersizes or something like that for, I believe, the relatively young (minors) inmates. It was eerie.
Lil is a firebug. She went scrounging for wood but found the picking meager. So she and Yvonne piled into her car to go to some nearby store and get wood. They also picked up chips and some beer. This is a first for me (and probably everyone else). I've car camped before but I've never gone into a car accessible campground and then had other members of the group make trips (she got more wood later on) to the store to fetch things. When she got back and got a fire going it was a fine heat producing affair that we all gathered around. The clouds had regained dominance of the sky and the evening began with overcast skies. While that would obscure the moon it would mean the temperature would be a tad warmer. We sat around the fire, ate our meals, and talked. This had been a fine first day.