In the pines:
An early spring
By Mike Ugorowski
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A dusty drive north
Enroute from Flint to the UP on a Thursday afternoon I saw a site I had never seen before. On I-75 in the Saginaw Valley the wind was blowing the dry topsoil across the expressway, almost causing a brownout. With images of Woody Guthrie and The Grapes of Wrath racing in my mind, I steadied my hands on the steering wheel and made it through safely. After crossing Big Mac, I spent the night in the Sunset Motel on US-2, just outside of St. Ignace.
Small deer, no bear
The next morning I drove from St. Ignace to the White Tail Resort in the village of Brevort. Talking with the waitress before the rest of the group arrived, I asked if many deer hunters come here. The waitress said, "Yes, but I don't know why, all the deer are small." I then asked her if any bear hunters come here, and she said, "Yes, but I don't know why, there aren't any bear around here." Small deer and no bears, sounds like a good place for a backpacker!
One at a time, the rest of the group arrived. John from Allen Park, Kevin from Grand Rapids, our leader Michael from Marquette, Mary from Flint and Gail of Midland. We left Brevort , north on Ozark Road spotting vehicles about 3 miles from town. We then all drove in Michael's van further north on Ozark Road where the trip began.
It was a great first day in the bush. We pretty much followed the Carp River the entire day and, although we were not on a trail, the hiking was very easy. Lots of bird action. Various group members spotted sand hill cranes, a kingfisher and an osprey or marsh hawk. We heard the mating drum of the ruffed grouse the entire day.
Our first night was spent on the banks of the Carp River and we were treated to a number of noises through the night; beavers slapping their tails in the river, the drum of a rain shower on our tents and the midnight quacking of a duck who would have kept me up all night, but fortunately after 20 minutes or so she left and took her quack with her.
Fording the Carp River
After breaking camp in the morning we hiked a few kilometers then came to a spot where we thought would be a good place to ford the Carp River. The crossing went very smooth for all in the group. With not much of a current at this point, the river was about 12 meters wide with a sandy, log-free bottom, the water at its deepest point reached just below my hips.
As we continued to the southeast, still following the Carp, we came to Rock Rapids. We took a break at the rapids and a number of the group took photos.
An odd sight near the rapids was a half dozen or so latrines set up in the woods very close the Forest Service road that allows vehicles to drive to the rapids. These latrines consisted of toilet seats set on wooden boxes. Not only were they close to the road, but they were close to each other as well. I would rather go a bit deeper into the bush. No seat, but more privacy!
Midday we met up with Mary Ann from the Canadian Soo. Work commitments had prevented her from starting the trip with us. We spent the rest of the day hiking away from the Carp River. We hiked through large red pine plantations (we estimated the trees to be about 50 years old), areas littered with logging scrap and, my favorite bush thoroughfare, cedar swamps.
Late in the afternoon we hopped over Silver Creek and found a clearing about 75 meters from the creek. This is where we spent our 2nd night.
Zip lines, coyotes, & owls
Sunday morning we broke camp and headed to the west. We were working our way cross-country toward the Little Brevoort River (on the topo map the lake and the river get an extra "o").
The landscape we traveled once again varied from acres of red pines, an occasional logging road to cedar swamps. Late in the afternoon we scrambled down a steep grade and found ourselves in a dense, cedar swamp on the bank of the Little Brevoort River.
Michael and several others took off on a recon to find a suitable site to spend the night. I wandered about 50 meters up the river and found a large log that had fallen across the river. I crossed the river on the log and went another 50 meters up the river. Climbing over a fallen tree I came upon a very nice site, a large, flat and dry clearing that would provide more than ample space for the group.
I called Michael over to the spot and it was decided that this would be our bivouac site for the night. Michael did not think that it would be safe to cross the log with packs on our backs. We all wrapped our packs in their covers or tarps. We then secured a rope across the river, tree to tree, to form a zip line. Attaching a carabineer to another piece of rope, we had a great method that allowed us to float the packs across the river in a controlled manner.
It was another night full of sounds in the bush. This time it was coyotes and owls. This third night was the coldest night of the trip. Some of us had a bit of ice form in our water bottles by morning.
Pasties and companionship
Breaking camp at 9:30 A.M. we had only about 2 hours of hiking until we reached our vehicles. Some of the group headed back to the White Tail Resort for lunch. Others headed back to the Lower Peninsula.
I stopped at Lehto's Pasties on US-2, made a purchase of each of the only 2 things they sell, pasties and canned soda pop, ate my meal at a bridge overlook and headed back to Flint.
It had been a great trip in the bush. The beauty of the area, the physical demands of the trip and the companionship of my fellow trekkers all made me realize why I enjoy backpacking.
View Gail Staisil's photo album from this trip
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