Timber Wolf, Lake Superior, Ontario

A lone timber wolf greets
paddlers along the north shore
of Lake Superior, Canada
(Photo by Michael Neiger)

The Rucksack Masthead
By Michael A. Neiger, Marquette, Michigan
Wilderness tripper: backpacking, winter camping, swift-water canoeing
Web site URL: http://therucksack.tripod.com • E-mail: mneiger@hotmail.com
Contents copyright © 1984-2007 by Michael A. Neiger • All rights reserved.

Trip journals and photos


of a

Chippewa County
November 1-4, 2002

By Mary Powell
   Flint, Michigan
   Copyright 2002

E-mail author at

View Gail Staisil's
   Photo Album from this trip

Mary Powell and Mike Ugorowski pause along the North Country Trail

Mary Powell and
Michael Ugorowski,
both from Flint, Michigan,
pause along the
North Country Trail.
(Photo by Gail Staisil)


Every wilderness trek consists of some memorable events interspersed with routine camp chores and periods of less memorable travel through the countryside.

The latter are usually accompanied by introspection or by pondering of solutions to such trip-related problems as how to make one's pack lighter or fix the strap that keeps coming loose.


When I think of our November backpacking trip on the NCT, these are some of the things I remember:


Midnight drive

Driving to the trailhead after midnight with icy crystals hitting the windshield and the undisturbed expanse of snow on Dick Road glittering in my headlights.


Awaking in the Neon

Sleeping in the Neon near the trailhead and being awakened by the quacking of ducks on the Pine River and finding the car and the surrounding forest covered with several inches of white stuff. The first snow of the winter is always beautiful.


Black Creek bivouac

The first bivouac of the trip was near a bend on Black Creek. As we sat talking in the circle of light from a small campfire, a beaver repeatedly reminded us with loud slaps of her tail that we were in her territory.


Snow flea tea

Snow fleas were out in abundance. In some places it looked like the snow had been sprayed with black paint. Filling our bottles at one pond, we had trouble not acquiring large numbers of them along with the water and we joked that we would be making snow flea tea.


Swamp people

Another pleasant bivouac was on Arbutus Lake. Unable to reach a consensus on the options of camping on a ridge with a view of the water or in a more sheltered location, we split into two groups: Ridge People and Swamp People.


The bunker

Michael found a unique hunter's blind just south of Arbutus Lake. Dug well into the ground, heavily covered Aaron Cliff checks out the bunker at Arbutus Lakeand with only one small shooting port, it looked as if the builder thought the deer might return fire.

Aaron Cliff,
the tunnel rat
from Marquette, Michigan, volunteers to
enter the dark,
undergroud bunker
and reveal it secrets.
(Photo by Mary Powell)

View Gail Staisil's
   Photo Album from this trip


Betchler Swamp

Betchler Swamp was impressive--sweeping expanses of grassy wetland in pale shades of yellow dotted with the broken gray snags of long dead trees. It was especially pretty with piles of dark cloudsThe Pine River at the Betchler Swamp as a backdrop. It was impressive in another way too--in the amount of effort required to cross just a small segment of it off-trail.

A small beaver pond
backs up the
headwaters of
the Pine River as
it flows out of
the expansive
Betchler Swamp.
(Photo by Gail Staisil)

View Gail Staisil's
   Photo Album from this trip


Giant candle lantern

I enjoyed returning to camp at night with the glow of the campfire backlighting the tarp, creating a giant candle lantern.


Leaves and snow

Autumn colors are always pretty, but highlighted against the snow they were outstanding. Leaves of every color lay on top of the snow too, providing an endless collage along the trail.



Ever wonder what makes leaves change colors in the fall?

The last time I looked for an answer to this question, back in junior high, research hadn't gotten that far yet. Returning home from this trip though, I found the latest theories in the October 26 issue of Science News.

It said that cold snaps do varying damage to the intracellular mechanisms in leaves. When the process is slow, chlorophyll breaks down and as its green color disappears, the underlying color of the leaf, yellow or brown, is revealed. Red is a little more complex.

Some plants have evolved the ability to produce anthocyanins in response to cold damage. These chemicals make the leaf red and probably perform a variety of protective functions, which allow the leaf to continue to produce food for the plant for a while. Mike Ugorowski and Gail Bosio on the NCT

Mike Ugorowski
of Flint, Michigan
and Gail Staisil
of Midland, Michigan
take a break
among the freshly fallen leaves
on the North Country Trail.
(Photo by Gail Staisil)

View Gail Staisil's
   Photo Album from this trip

Experiments indicate that anthocyanins absorb free radicals and protect the leaf from UV damage. They may also give the fluid in the leaves lower osmotic potential, preventing dehydration, and they reduce further cold damage by lowering the temperature at which the water in the leaves freeze.

Other researchers have found that anthocyanins may protect damaged leaves against fungal infection and leaf color may give insects information as to which trees are most vulnerable to attack.



Every trip poses new questions for me and I spend some time in between trips looking for the answers. On my next in December, I'm looking forward to finding out more about what happens to the woods in the winter....




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In God's wilderness lies the hope of the world,
the great, fresh, unblighted, unredeemed wilderness.
— John Muir 1838-1914, Alaska Wilderness, 1890

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