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December 5-8, 2008

Michigan Bush Rats'
4-day Winter Backpacking Trip
Pigeon River Country State Forest

Northern Lower Peninsula
Otsego & Cheyboygan Counties
Vanderbilt :: Michigan

When: 8 a.m. Friday, December 5, to midafternoon, Monday, December 8, 2008

Level: Intermediate-level, on/off-trail, map-and-compass, winter camping.

Difficulty: Moderately strenuous for the fit; cold/foul weather; snowy, wet, slippery terrain.

Prerequisites: Participants must have prior cold-weather backpacking experience.

Costs: This is a free trip. Transportation, lodging, meals, public transit, permits, etc., are the responsiblity of each participant.

Organizer: Michael Neiger (LandNavMan on the boards), Marquette, Michigan (Web site; e-mail; bio).

Sign-up process: After reviewing the material presented below, e-mail your first name, last name, trail name, city, state (or province), and e-mail address to Michael Neiger (LandNavMan).

Chimo (Inuit for welcome) to fellow alumni
of southeastern Michigan's SOLAR Club,
the School for Outdoor Leadership, Adventure, and Recreation,
and fellow members of the North Country Trail Association.


The man [woman] with the knapsack is never lost.
No matter whither he may stray,
his food and shelter are right with him,
and home is wherever he may choose to stop.
—Horace Kephart, the Dean of the Wilderness, Camping & Woodcraft, 1917


Trip beta index

2—Pre-trip assembly info
3—Wilderness itinerary
4—Destination info
5—Permits and fees
6—Rations required
7—Advisories and notices
8—Hazards and perils
9—Insurance and SAR-comm gear
10—Equipment recommendations
11—Land-nav team info
12—Trip Internet discussion thread
13—Journals and photos from prior trips
14—Emergency contacts
15—Travel info
16—Wilderness skills info
17—Sign-up info


There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more.
—Lord Byron (George Noel Gordon) 1788-1824
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, canto IV [1818], stanza 178


The Michigan Bush Rats' December '08, 4-day, on/off-trail, winter backpacking trip will see them exploring the southwestern corner of the 93,000-acre Pigeon River Country State Forest, including the 6,300-acre Green Timbers Wilderness Tract, in the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan.

This area is traversed by portions of the High County Pathway and the Shore-to-Shore Trail as well as the Sturgeon and Pigeon Rivers.

Since this area is home to the majestic Elk, we'll be keeping an eye out for this elusive animal. In lieu of the real thing, we'll be watching closely for signs of its passing: ground spoor (tracks, scrapes, sheds, and bones) and aerial spoor (rubs, hair).

An excerpt from last year's December trip journal:

.......after breakfast at our campsites, we drove down to Clear Lake State Park, where we would leave most of our vehicles for the duration of the trip. Cathy was there as were Josh and Mary Ann, who had driven down from the Canadian Soo. Mike's car was spotted elsewhere so he could leave on Sunday to get back to work.

The crew adjusting their layers in the morning sun. (Photo courtesy of IsleRoyaleGirl's photo album)

Before long, we began our hike, which was to be a sizeable loop, east of the park, in the Mackinac State Forest.

After crossing M-33 we cut a rough azimuth to the east, over a ridge, before heading south a bit to pick up one of the many firebreak trails in the woods. Traveling on this firebreak would facilitate covering ground since we were getting a relatively late start.

Steve S. breaks down his outfit for another day of sledging. (Photo courtesy of NatureLady's photo album)

Though the sky had been overcast at daybreak, it was now a bright blue with puffy, white, fast-moving clouds. With the temperature in the high twenties and almost no wind, it was very pleasant hiking weather.

By lunchtime we had seen an assortment of tracks--turkey, squirrel, mouse, deer, coyote and elk. We stopped to eat along one of the trails. When we got moving again, we spotted an eagle soaring high above the trees.

Mary Ann and IsleRoyaleGirl pause in their sledge harnesses. (Photo courtesy of NatureLady's photo album)

Steve expressed an interest in the land nav and Michael set him up to cut an azimuth on point. He did an excellent job despite having to contend with the thick brush and swamp that covered the low ground between the ridges.

The final azimuth of the afternoon took us to what was probably an elk feeding area--a clear field decorated with the dried remains of summer flowers…alien invaders actually: spotted knapweed and the tall spikes of mullein.

Mary Ann and Josh M. survey three coyote-gnawed deer carcasses they discovered in the bush. (Photo courtesy of NatureLady's photo album)

The field was bordered with a young mixed forest--aspens, beeches, and maples with a scattering of birch and evergreens. We found a sheltered area along the north edge and began to set up camp.

When completed, our little village had an assortment of shelters--Mike's Snow Cave, Steve's heated tent, Josh's pyramid shelter, and several, variously-erected tarps.

Looks like another fine day in the bush. (Photo courtesy of NCThiker's photo album)

We settled in to enjoy our view of the field as we prepared dinner and relaxed for the more of NatureLady's photo-journal.

View journals from prior Michigan Bush Rats' December Backpacking Trips

2007 :: 2006a :: 2006b :: 2005 :: 2004 :: 2003a :: 2003b :: 2002 :: 2001

View photo albums from prior Michigan Bush Rats' December Backpacking Trips

2007a :: 2007b :: 2007c :: 2006a :: 2006b :: 2006c :: 2005 :: 2004 :: 2003a :: 2003b :: 2002


This free, moderately-strenuous, map-and-compass, on/off-trail winter-backpacking trip is suitable for the adventurous, intermediate-level, independent, fully-equipped, 10-degree, foul-weather, substance-free (tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs), swimming-proficient, adult, winter backpacker with a strong mind and body who enjoys exploring off-the-beaten-path wilderness and bivouacking in remote, non-campground settings.

Since our area of operation will likely be snowfree, and we will be bivouacking in pristine, highly-combustible, non-campground settings, we will not be having any campfires (or using any twig-burning-type hobo stoves) except in an emergency. Everyone should be equipped with the necessary insulating layers—leg, torso, and head—to stay warm and stave off hypothermia at rest, especially at lunch when it is cold, rainy, and windy. Everyone should be carrying a lightweight backpacking stove for heating water and cooking their rations.


I shall be telling this with a sigh—
somewhere ages and ages hence;
two roads diverged in a wood,
and I—I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference.
—Robert Frost (1874-1963), The Road Not Taken, 1916, stanza 4

2—Pre-trip assembly info

Pre-trip bivouac options:

One Thursday-night bivouac option is the Green Timbers Wilderness Tract parking lot situated along the north side of the Sturgeon Valley Road, just west of the bridge over the Sturgeon River.


Friday morning assembly location:

Our 8:00 am Friday morning assembly location will be the Green Timbers Wilderness Tract parking lot situated along the north side of the Sturgeon Valley Road, just west of the bridge over the Sturgeon River. This parking lot is located in Section 21 (Township 32 North, Range 2 West), about 6 or so miles east of the Vanderbilt Exit No. 290 on I-75. The parking lot's approximate UTM coordinates are 0691540mE 5001900mN, Zone 16, Datum NAD 27.


Last-minute contact for problems or cancellations:

There will be no means of contact.


Departure time:

After signing waiver forms, we'll depart to spot our vehicles about 9:00 AM.


General Great Lakes-area tourism and travel information:

Upper Peninsula of Michigan travel information

Michigan travel information

Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario-area travel information

Province of Ontario travel information

Ontario travel information

For brick and mortar breed filth and crime,
With a pulse of evil that throbs and beats;
And men [women] are withered before their prime
By the curse paved in with the lanes and streets.

And lungs are poisoned and shoulders bowed,
In the smothering reek of mill and mine;
And death stalks in on the struggling crowd—
But he [she] shuns the shadow of oak and pine.
—Nessmuk (George W. Sears), Woodcraft, 1920

3—Wilderness itinerary

In addition to exploring the Green Timbers Wilderness Tract and Sturgeon River Wateshed, we'll also trek eastward, into the Pigeon River Watershed.

If all goes well, we should arrive at our vehicles about mid-afternoon on Monday.

Additional itinerary info may be posted at a later date.


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
—Robert Frost (1874-1963), The Road Not Taken, 1916


4—Destination info

Pigeon River Country State Forest

The 93,000-acre Pigeon River Country State Forest consists of seven campgrounds, over 90 miles of hiking trails, 27 miles of horse-riding trails, numerous limestone sinkhole lakes, and several rivers.


After heavy logging between 1860 and 1910, the area suffered disastrous, uncontrolled fires for years. Fires burned significant acreage as late as the 1930's. Unsuccessful attempts to convert the land to farms resulted in large parts of the area reverting to State of Michigan ownership through either tax reversion or purchase. In 1919, the area was designated a state forest and tree planting began soon thereafter. Planting and forest recreation development expanded with the establishment of a Civilian Conservation Corps Camp in the region. The headquarters buildings along the Pigeon River were built between 1934 and 1935.

Elk & wildlife

Seven elk released in 1918 increased to as many as 500 by 1927. Illegal shooting of elk in 1974 resulted in a record-high loss of 45 animals. By 1975, the herd was estimated to number only 200 animals. The herd eventually recovered and now exceeds 1,100 animals, making it the largest wild elk herd east of the Mississippi River. To control crop damage and allow forest regeneration, limited harvests of the elk are scheduled from time to time. In addition to elk, the region is inhabited by deer, bear, bobcat, coyote, grouse, woodcock, snowshoe hare, squirrels (gray, black, and fox), pine martin, beaver, otter, muskrat, waterfowl, and numerous songbirds.

Gas & oil exploration

After the discovery of gas and oil deposits under the south-central portion of the region in the 1970's, commercial exploration and development began. By 1984, nearly 857,000 barrels of oil and 9,200,000 million cubic feet of gas were being removed from the area annually.

(Contains material adapted from the Pigeon River Country State Forest brochure, courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources)


Green Timbers Wilderness Tract

Scenic vistas, prime wildlife habitat and over ten miles of Sturgeon River frontage dominate this 6,300-acre tract. Adopted as part of the Pigeon River Country State Forest in 1982, Green Timbers is closed to all motor vehicles, including snowmobiles.


Green Timbers, so named in 1942 by Don McLouth of McLouth Steel, was developed and used as a hunting and fishing resort. Prior to McLouth ownership, the southeast portion was used as a recreational retreat by Titus Glen Phillips, while the north portion was owned by Cornwall Lumber Company. The land was extensively logged, burned, and then grazed by both sheep and cattle prior to the 1950's when McLouth purchased the property. The logging, fires, and heavy grazing are still evident to the observant eye.


About 55 percent of Green Timbers is covered with a mixture of aspen, oak, northern hardwood, swamp conifers, red pine, and white pine. The remaining 45 percent consists of open grasslands and scattered pine stumps or open grown hardwoods.

Elk & wildlife

Green Timbers has been an important area for elk since the successful reintroduction of the species in 1918. The original release site is just 1.5 miles north of the property. Large open expanses of grassland as well as annual seeding of rye, buckwheat, clover, and alfalfa by the Wildlife Division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources provide prime habitat for elk. Swampland (lowland forest), aspen, and hardwoods offer habitat for rugged grouse, turkey, bear, white-tailed deer, woodcock, snowshoe hare, and a variety of other wildlife species. The Sturgeon Valley watershed, including the Sturgeon River, Club Stream, and Pickerel Creek, contains healthy populations of brook, brown, and rainbow trout.

Rustic Cabins

The Green Timbers Tract includes two, hike-in log cabins that are open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. The one-story Honeymoon Cabin overlooks the Sturgeon River Valley from high atop its east escarpment in Section 10. Its west-facing porch--which is highly exposed to west winds--offers magnificent views of the valley below. It is heated by a massive, fieldstone fireplace. The Green Timbers Cabin is situated at the bottom of the Sturgeon River Valley along the east bank of the Sturgeon River, just north of the confluence of Pickerel Creek and the Sturgeon, in Section 10. It too is heated by a massive, fieldstone fireplace.

(Contains material adapted from the Green Timbers: A Part of the Pigeon River Country State Forest brochure, courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources)


Additional Resources

  • Pigeon River State Forest Headquarters, DNR: 1-989-983-4101
  • Indian River Chamber of Commerce (elk viewing maps and tips), 1-800-EXIT-310
  • Gaylord Area Convention and Tourism Bureau,1-800-345-8621
  • Field Guide to the High Country Pathway, 1997, booklet with topo maps keyed to text, by the Pigeon River Country Association, P.O. Box 122, Gaylord, Michigan 49734-0122 ($5, 24 pages).
  • High Country Pathway & Pigeon River Country State Forest Map, 2007, by the Pigeon River Country Association, P.O. Box 122, Gaylord, Michigan 49734-0122 ($7.50, waterproof map).
  • High Country Pathway Map , 1990 map with text, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Information Services Center, P.O. Box 30028, Lansing, Michigan 48909.
  • Green Timbers Map, 1993 map with text, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Information Services Center, P.O. Box 30028, Lansing, Michigan 48909.
  • Hiking Michigan book, by Mike Modrzynski (Falcon Press, 1996).
  • Backpacking in Michigan book , second edition, by Pat Allen and Gerald L. DeRuiter (University of Michigan Press, 1989).
  • "Hiking with the Herd," by James Campbell, in Backpacker Magazine, Oct '00, page 97.
  • The Pigeon River Country--A Michigan Forest book, by Dale Clarke Franz, et al., by the Pigeon River Country Association, P.O. Box 122, Gaylord, Michigan 49735 (300 pages; history of gas exploration and preservation efforts).
  • Pigeon River Country State Forest Map, 1985 map with text, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Information Services Center, P.O. Box 30028, Lansing, Michigan 48909.
  • Natural Michigan: A Guide to 165 Michigan Natural Attractions, by Tom Powers (1987)
  • Wikipedia on the Mackinac State Forest
  • Search destination in Google's search engine

Camp out among the grass and gentians of glacier meadows,
in craggy garden nooks full of Nature’s darlings.
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.
The winds will blow their own freshness into you,
and the storms their energy,
while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.
—John Muir (1838-1914), Our National Parks, 1901

5—Permits and fees

  • Since we will be bivouacking on State-owned land during our trip, we will need to post free Camp Registration Cards (see below).
  • Pre- or post-trip lodging, meals, and campsite fees are optional and the responsibility of the participant.
  • There are no other fees or costs to participate in this trip.

General Great Lakes-are bivouacking regulations

Bivouacking on State of Michigan-owned land:

Anyone bivouacking on land owned by the State of Michigan outside the boundaries of state parks, state forest campgrounds, etc., is required by state law (Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Sec. 74201 et seq., P.A. 451 of 1994) to post a Camp Registration Card (Form no. PR 4134; view sample copy) at their bivouac site. Notice: Backpackers have been ticketed and fined for not posting Camp Registration Cards in the past.

This permit—which is free—must be filled out in pencil (to make it legible when wet). Since this two-part permit is perforated (for partial removal by Department of Natural Resources officers) and made of heavy cardstock (to withstand weathering), it can not be reproduced.

These 8.5- by 11-inch permits can be picked up free at any Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) office. They can also be ordered by the DNR by e-mail.


Bivouacking on United States Government-owned land:

No permits are generally required to bivouac on federal land outside the boundaries of national parks, national lakeshores, national forest campgrounds, national recreation areas, etc.


Bivouacking on Canadian Province of Ontario-owned land:

Anyone bivouacking on Crown land—property owned by the Province of Ontario—outside the boundaries of a provincial park, national park, etc. is required by provincial law to purchase Land Camping Permits.

These permits cost $10.00 Canadian per night, per person and are generally available from any Ontario sports shop that sells hunting and fishing licenses, such as the one below, which is conveniently located along the east side of Highway 17 on the northern outskirts of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

Chippewa Trading Post
1332 Great Northern Road
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario P6A 5K7
Fax: 1-705-759-0887

The trail has taught me much.
I know now the varied voices of the coyote—the wizard of the mesa.
I know the solemn call of herons and the mocking cry of the loon.
I remember a hundred lovely lakes,
and recall the fragrant breath of pine and fir and cedar and poplar trees.
The trail has strung upon it, as upon a thread of silk,
opalescent dawns and saffron sunsets.
It has given me blessed release from care and worry
and the troubled thinking of our modern day.
It has been a return to the primitive and the peaceful.
Whenever the pressure of our complex city life
thins my blood and benumbs my brain,
I seek relief in the trail;
and when I hear a coyote wailing to the yellow dawn,
my cares fall from me—I am happy.
—Hamlin Garland, "Hitting the Trail," McClure's, February 1899

6—Rations required

The following rations will be required for this adventure:

  • Breakfasts—3 (4 if bivouacking Thursday night)
  • Snacks—4
  • Lunches—4
  • Dinners—3
  • Backup rations—1 full day(s) (breakfast, snack, lunch, dinner)


How to pack your rations:

Measure, weigh, and triple check your rations. You should be carrying about 1.75-2.75 pounds of dry weight food, or about 2700-4500 calories of food per day, depending on your body weight and exertion level. It is recommended that you avoid "bulk" packaging and instead consider packing each complete meal serving in its own, separate, plastic bag, which is sealed with a simple overhand knot. This system has the following advantages over putting all of your snacks, say nuts for the whole trip, in one bag:

  • You'll know for sure at home (visually) that you've packed enough rations;
  • In the bush, you'll now exactly how much to eat without eating into another days rations; and
  • You'll further reduce the chances of your food getting ruined if moisture penetrates the food bag itself as the moisture will still have to work its way into each and every individual ration unit.

Meticulous ration planning, measuring, and packaging is tedious, but its essential for safe and successful long-range recon of remote wilderness.

A nature lover is someone who,
when treed by a bear,
enjoys the view.
—Author unknown

7—Advisories and notices

Wildfire hazards on snow-free terrain:

We must be extremely careful with our cooking stoves and when burning bug coils to make sure we don't start a ground fire, which has happened more than once on past trips of ours. Please bring a fire-proof stove base (aluminum pot lid, etc.) for your stove and bug coils.

During snow-free periods, we will NOT be having any campfires—or burning any hobo stoves—unless we find a very, very safe area, such as an open mud-gravel-or-sand-covered area immediately adjacent to water. If a fire ban is in effect, which is sometimes the case during the summer, we will not have any fires.


Fire-proof stove base:

To prevent accidental ground fires during snow-free periods, everyone must have a heat-resistant, fire-proof stove base. This has been a problem in the past with both solid fuel (Esbit) stoves as well as liquid fuel stoves, especially MSR-type stoves.


Biting insects in warm weather:

If the weather is very hot, come prepared to do battle with swarms of mosquitoes, black flies, no-see-ums, ticks, and biting beach flies while hiking, swimming, eating, and bivouacking.

Loose-fitting, tightly-woven, full-coverage, light-colored clothing treated (saturated) with permethrin (e.g.: Repel's Permanone Clothing and Gear Insect Repellent) before the trip combined with liberal doses of 100% DEET (e.g.:Muskol's Maximum Strength 10-hour 100% DEET Insect Repellent; Repel's 100% DEET Insect Repellent), a head net, and a love of the outdoors should do the trick.

Since they are so critical to one's sanity, bring an extra bottle of DEET and an extra headnet. If you are going to experiment with alternatives to DEET, pack some 100% DEET anyway as most experienced deep-bush travelers swear by it when all is said and done, especially most Bush Rats, who bivouac sans tent.

A supply of smudge-creating bug coils (e.g.: Pic Mosquito Coils) are also a staple of most deep-bush travelers (note: a flat, fireproof base must be used under these to prevent accidental fires).

Out of 8 billion applications of DEET from 1966 to 1999,
less than 40 instances of toxicity appeared in the medical literature.
—Dr. Mark Fradin, in the May 2000 issue of Backpacker Magazine, on his study of DEET

Safety glasses:

It is highly recommended that some form of eye protection—safety glasses—be worn while bushwhacking as several trippers have suffered near-incapacitating eye injuries on past trips.



This is a tour, not a basecamp-type trip. We will move everyday, bivouacking in a different location each night.

We do not go to the green woods
and crystal waters to rough it,
we go to smooth it.
We get it rough enough at home,
in towns and cities.
—Nessmuk, (George W. Sears), Woodcraft, 1963

Long-term parking advisory:

Reduce the threat of thefts or vandalism to your car by keeping it locked, relatively empty, and uninviting looking. To help stymie gasoline theft or vandalism, consider using a locking gas cap. The expense of a locking gas cap—$10 or $20—will look pretty cheap compared to the alternatives: having to get someone to haul gas to your remote location, much less have your car towed and repaired after vandals contaminate your gas tank.


Liability waiver form:

All persons participating in a Bush Rats trip or expedition organized by Michael Neiger must read, acknowledge understanding, and sign a liability waiver at the trailhead.


Prohibition on cotton clothing:

No high-cotton-content clothing—save a bandana or two—is allowed to be worn or carried for safety reasons. When wet, cotton is VERY hard to dry and often leads to hypothermia. Wool or synthetic clothing fashioned from nylon, supplex, polypro, fleece, or microfibers are much safer and easier to manage during prolonged bouts of foul weather.

There's no such thing as bad weather—
only wrong clothes.
—Author unknown

Survival kit:

An on-your-person, in-pocket, survival kit (knife, waterproof matches, firestarters, compass, and whistle) secured with a loss-prevention lanyard is highly recommended.

The beginning of wisdom is a salutary shock.
—Arnold Toynbee

Water supply:

Bring an adequate amount of water to the trailhead as there is generally no water available.


Water-hauling capacity:

Everyone should have the containers (Nalgenes and bladder) to hump 4 quarts of water when needed. While we often trek with just a quart or so of water in our rucks, when we range far from water—like when we bivouac long distances from surface water—we will fill up all our containers so we can remain independent for an afternoon of bushwhacking, dinner at night, breakfast, and a morning of bushwhacking.


Equipment waterproofing:

To keep your gear dry during foul weather, consider lining the main compartment in your rucksack with a huge, heavy-duty "contractor-grade" plastic bag. Critical items within the "contractor" bag, such as clothing, sleeping bag, and rations, should be further protected from moisture by lining their respective stuff sacks with heavy-duty "garbage-compactor" bags. Avoid using regular garbage bags as they tear much too easily on long, rugged trips.


Hydration and snack consumption while underway in the bush:

It is recommended that you carry a water bottle and snacks on your waistbelt in separate pouches so you can snack and sip water while underway, without stopping to take your pack off. Regular snacking and hydration are essential for avoiding dehydration, hypothermia, and exhaustion, especially when things get challenging, like late in the day or during foul weather.


Allergies to bee stings:

If you are allergic to bee stings, consult your physician about carrying an injectable epinephrine unit—such as an EpiPen or Ana-Kit—in your rucksack.


Canadian trips:

Canadian money: You may want to consider getting Canadian money from your local bank before the trip, or using one of the money exchange services located in Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, if they are open when you cross the boarder. Currency exchange calculators on the Net include or X-Rates.

Gasoline: You may want to consider topping off your gas tank, before you cross the border, in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

Identification: Bring appropriate identification with you to reduce problems getting into Canada as well as back into the United States. If you don't have a visa, you must have a copy of your birth certificate to establish your identity.

Prescription medications: If you are carrying prescription medications in your first-aid kit or elsewhere that are not in a properly-labeled container, it may be a good idea to stow the original, labeled containers, with at least one example pill in each, in your vehicle to reduce problems with Canadian and U.S. customs officials.

The tendency nowadays to wander in wilderness is delightful to see.
Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people
are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home;
that wildness is a necessity;
and that mountain parks and reservations
are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers,
but as fountains of life.
—John Muir (1838-1914), Our National Parks, 1901

8—Hazards and perils

Wilderness tripping and expeditioning—especially remote, foul-weather travel, bushwhacking cross-country, cliff and steep slope travel, climbing, canyoneering, cave exploration, river fording, swimming, canoeing, portaging, skiing, snowshoeing, winter camping, ice travel, ice crossing, deep cold, high winds, etc.—involve unknown and unpredictable hazards and perils.


Forewarned is forearmed:

A wilderness tripper's or expeditioner's failure to physically and mentally prepare for a harsh trip or expedition; acquire the necessary skills and equipment for a harsh trip or expedition; and recognize, take responsibility for, and avoid the unknown and unpredictable hazards and perils that often present themselves on a harsh wilderness trip or expedition will likely result in the serious injury, paralysis, or slow, painful death of the tripper or expeditioner.

Nature never overlooks a mistake,
or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance.
—Thomas H. Huxley (1825-1895), A Liberal Education, 1868

First-aid kits:

On Bush Rats trips and expeditions organized by Michael Neiger, the only first-aid equipment available is that which is carried by each participant. Each participant should carry their own first-aid kit, which should be stocked with the items and medications recommended by their personal physician.

We need the tonic of wilderness. . .
We can never have enough of nature.
—Henry D. Thoreau (1817-1862), Walden: Spring, 1854

Emergency medical care:

On Bush Rats trips and expeditions organized by Michael Neiger, there are no doctors, nurses, EMTs, paramedics, or other trained emergency medical personnel. At best, other participants may only be able to render the most basic of first-aid care.


Search & rescue services:

On Bush Rats trips and expeditions organized by Michael Neiger, no one is trained in rope handling, rappelling, climbing, caving, ice travel, high-angle slope travel, swift-water travel, etc. No one is trained in rescue from any of these activities either. There are no search-and-rescue personnel, and no one is trained in high-angle rescue, ice rescue, swift-water rescue, etc.

In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments—
there are consequences.
—Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899)
American lawyer, orator, and civil war cavalry commander
Some Reasons Why, 1896

9—Insurance and SAR-comm gear



On Bush Rats trips and expeditions organized by Michael Neiger, no insurance coverage is provided for participants. It is recommended that participants consider purchasing their own insurance coverage such as:

  • Trip cancellation insurance
  • Dental insurance
  • Medical insurance
  • Prescription insurance
  • Evacuation insurance
  • Disability insurance
  • Life insurance

Early and provident fear is the mother of safety.
—Edmund Burke (1729-1797), Speech, 1792

SAR-comm gear:

On Bush Rats trips and expeditions organized by Michael Neiger, emergency communications gear such as cell phones, satellite phones, and satellite beacons (ELTs, PLBs, & EPIRBs) are not provided. Even if a participant carries SAR-comm gear, it can't always be relied upon, especially in rugged terrain, remote bush, or extremely harsh weather.

The only way to summon search and rescue personal or emergency medical personnel on Bush Rats trips or expeditions organized by Michael Neiger is for another uninjured participant to walk, snowshoe, or paddle to a point where help can be summoned.

The wait for assistance may be very long—sometimes measured in days—and could possibly be very painful, maybe even fatal. Since the evacuation process will be very difficult and costly to arrange, participants should consider purchasing evacuation insurance and carrying their own communications gear.

Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal.
My strength lies solely in my tenacity.
—Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), French biologist & bacteriologist.

10—Equipment recommendations

On-person survival gear

[ ] Waterproof matches with loss-prevention lanyard
[ ] Waterproof firestarters with loss-prevention lanyard
[ ] Magnesium firestarter with loss-prevention lanyard
[ ] Sturdy pocket knife with loss-prevention lanyard
[ ] Compass with loss-prevention lanyard
[ ] Whistle with loss-prevention lanyard
[ ] Signal mirror with loss-prevention lanyard
[ ] Map of area in plastic bag


First-aid kit

[ ] Elastic ankle wrap
[ ] Moleskin
[ ] Vaseline
[ ] Band-Aids
[ ] Waterproof first-aid tape
[ ] Pain relief medication
[ ] Anti-inflammatory medication
[ ] Cold & flu medications
[ ] Small tweezers
[ ] Small scissors
[ ] Powerful, prescription-grade pain killers for long trips (see your Doc)
[ ] Broad-spectrum antibiotic for long trips (see your Doc)


Repair kit

[ ] 50 feet of 1/8-inch braided nylon cordage (lashing, repair, difficult [2-rope] bear hangs)
[ ] Small roll of duct tape
[ ] Sewing kit


Head gear

[ ] 1 very thin balaclava
[ ] 2 thick hats that can be worn together
[ ] 1 pair of sun glasses
[ ] Protective eyewear for bushwhacking (very important)
[ ] Prescription glasses (spare pair if important)
[ ] Bandana
[ ] Wide-brimmed sun/rain hat


Upper-body gear

[ ] 3 or 4 thin polypro tops
[ ] 1 thin breathable nylon windshirt
[ ] 2 1/4-inch thick micro-fiber-insulated or fleece jackets
[ ] 1 hooded, synthetic-insulated parka in (early spring, late fall)
[ ] 1 nylon rain parka (no vinyl; no ponchos)


Hand gear

[ ] 1 pair of mitten shells (early spring, late fall)
[ ] 2 pair of mitten liners (early spring, late fall)


Lower-body gear

[ ] 1 pair of polypro undershorts
[ ] 1 or 2 pair of polypro long underwear
[ ] 1 pair of thin nylon hiking/wind pants with zip-off legs
[ ] 1 pair of 1/4-inch thick micro-fiber-insulated or fleece pants (sidezips are very handy)
[ ] 1 pair of heavy synthetic-insulated overpants with sidezips (early spring, late fall)
[ ] 1 pair of nylon rain pants (no vinyl)



[ ] 1 pair of sturdy boots (insulated in early spring, late fall)
[ ] 3 pair of thick synthetic or wool socks
[ ] 1 or 2 pair of liner socks
[ ] 1 pair of gaiters (to seal boot-pantleg opening against mud and debris)
[ ] River-fording footwear


Rucksack gear

[ ] 1 large rucksack lined with contractor-grade plastic bag
[ ] Full-coverage raincover
[ ] Waist-belt water bottle parka
[ ] Waist-belt snack pouch
[ ] Waist-belt map pouch


Bivouac gear

[ ] Tarp and bivy (or small, light tent)
[ ] Stakes and ropes to rig tent or tarp
[ ] Sleeping bag with appropriate rating
[ ] Sleeping pad (& repair kit if needed)
[ ] Sleeping booties (early spring, late fall)
[ ] Flashlight (LED with headstrap is recommended)
[ ] Spare battery
[ ] Candle(s)


Hydration gear

[ ] 2 one-quart durable (Nalgene) water bottles
[ ] 1 two-quart water bladder
[ ] Water purification system (pump, iodine tablets, etc.)
[ ] 1 spare bottle of iodine tablets (even if carrying a pump)


Ration-heating gear

[ ] Lightweight backpacking stove (repair kit for liquid-fuel stoves)
[ ] Fuel for stove (five to six Esbit fuel tabs per day for NATO-type stoves)
[ ] Lighter on loss prevention lanyard
[ ] Windscreen for stove
[ ] Fireproof base for stove
[ ] Pot holder
[ ] Pot
[ ] Lid for pot
[ ] Spoon
[ ] Mug
[ ] 50-foot food-hanging rope (use cheap, hard, 1/8-inch-diameter, slippery poly-rope for heavy loads)


Hot-weather bug-management gear

[ ] 1 bottle of 100% DEET per week
[ ] 1 spare bottle of 100% DEET
[ ] 1 headnet
[ ] 1 spare headnet
[ ] Several anti-bug smudge coils


Personal items

[ ] Personal medications
[ ] Driver's license
[ ] Birth certificate and/or passport (recommended for Canadian trips)
[ ] Emergency contact names and phone numbers
[ ] Credit cards
[ ] Cash and travelers checks
[ ] Medical, prescription, and dental insurance cards
[ ] Sunscreen
[ ] Lipbalm with sunblock
[ ] Wrist chronograph
[ ] Paperback book


Personal hygiene gear

[ ] Toilet paper
[ ] Synthetic pack towel
[ ] Toothbrush
[ ] Toothpowder (or toothpaste)
[ ] Toothpicks & dental floss
[ ] Handcleaner


Vehicle gear

[ ] Extra car key on lanyard
[ ] Vehicle registration papers
[ ] Vehicle insurance papers
[ ] Locking gas cap
[ ] Heavy-duty battery in good condition
[ ] Road map (Michigan 1-800-292-2520; Canada 1-800-268-3736)
[ ] County map book for Michigan trips
[ ] Spare tire (check pressure!!)
[ ] Tire jack and lug nut wrench
[ ] Shovel
[ ] Windshield scraper and snow brush (winter)
[ ] Safety Check—Tire pressure (including spare)
[ ] Safety Check—Tire tread wear
[ ] Safety Check—Wiper blade condition
[ ] Safety Check—Wiper fluid (front and rear)
[ ] Safety Check—Oil level (level; thinner in winter)
[ ] Safety Check—Radiator fluid level (level and rating)
[ ] Safety Check—Transmission fluid level
[ ] Safety Check—Headlights, taillights, brakelights, & turn signals
[ ] Jumper cables
[ ] Nylon tow strap
[ ] Single-bit axe (optional)
[ ] Bow saw (optional)
[ ] Hi-lift bumper jack (optional)
[ ] Hand-operated winch (optional)
[ ] Pick axe (optional)
[ ] Tire inflation system (optional)
[ ] Battery jump-pack power unit(optional)

It is one of the blessings of wilderness life
that it shows us how few things we need
in order to be perfectly happy.
—Horace Kephart, the Dean of the Wilderness, Camping & Woodcraft, 1917

11—Land-nav team info

Topographic maps:

  • 1:24,000 Hardwood Lake, Michigan
  • 1:24,000 Green Timbers, Michigan

Note: UTM easting and northing grid lines may or may not need to be drawn on these quads

Topo map ordering info and waterproofing info


County maps:

  • Cheboygan and Otsego

County map ordering info


Additional Pigeon River Country-area cartographic resources


Gps setup:

Grid coordinate system:

1000-meter Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) Grid

UTM grid horizontal map datum:

Michigan Trips:

1927 North American Datum CONtinental U.S. (NAD 27 CONUS)

Canadian Trips:

1927 North American Datum Canada (NAD 27 CA[nada]) for older edition maps; 1983 North American Datum (NAD 83) for newer edition maps

UTM grid zone:

Zone 16

UTM grid hemisphere:

Northern hemisphere

Unit of measure:


Battery type:

Use lithium for deep cold and long-range use

Battery setting:

Select type of battery being used for accurate battery-life readings

Owner info:

In the setup menu, key-punch in your name, address, and phone number so if your GPS is lost and found by a willing party, it can be returned to you.


Magnetic declination:

December 2008 Magnetic declination for Lat. 45° 10' 00"N, Lon. 84° 30' 00"W:

06° 51' west

Deviation of UTM easting grid lines from meridian of longitude lines:

01° 44' east

Magnetic declination of UTM easting grid lines:

8° 35' west (we'll use this magnetic declination figures to correct our field and map azimuth calculations in the bush)


Roamer utm plotter scales:

Michigan destinations:

1:24,000 and 1:25,000

Canadian destinations

1:20,000 and 1:50,000


Ranger pacing beads:

Metric: Nine 100-meter beads and four 1-kilometer beads


I can’t rightly say I’ve ever been lost,
but I’ve been mighty perplexed for two or three days runnin'.
—Davy Crockett (1786-1836)

12—Trip Internet discussion thread

To keep up to date on the latest developments on this trip as well as learn who else is going, point your Internet browser to the trip's discussion thread (message board) on Backpacker Magazine's Midwest Forum Web site.

I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature,
which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.
—Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), "Walking," Atlantic Monthly, June 1862


13—Journals and photos from prior trips

To review journals and photo albums from Michigan Bush Rats' trips and expeditions, visit the RuckSack's Journals and Photos Page.


To review photos of sheds discovered on Michigan Bush Rats' trips and expeditions, visit the RuckSack's Sheds and Skulls Page.

Years from now
you will be more disappointed by the things you did not do
rather than the ones you did do.
So throw off your bow lines,
Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.
—Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens, 1835-1910)

14—Emergency contacts

  • Cheboygan County Sheriff: Cheboygan, 1-231-627-3155
  • Presque Isle County Sheriff: Rogers City, 1-517-734-2156
  • Otsego County Sheriff: Gaylord, 1-517-732-6484
  • Montmorency County Sheriff: Atlanta, 1-517-785-4238
  • Michigan State Police: Cheboygan, 1-231-627-9973
  • Michigan State Police: Alpena, 1-517-354-4101
  • Michigan State Police: Gaylord, 1-517-732-5141
  • Hospital: Cheboygan, 1-231-627-4339
  • Hospital: Rogers City, 1-517-734-2151
  • Hospital: Gaylord, 1-517-731-2100
  • Hospital: Alpena, 1-517-356-7252

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread
places to play in and pray in,
where nature may heal
and give strength to body and soul alike.
—John Muir (1838-1914), The Yosemite, 1912

15—Travel info

In every walk with nature,
one receives far more than he seeks.

16—Wilderness skills info

All-season skills:

As you sit on the hillside,
or lie prone under the trees of the forest,
or sprawl wet-legged by a mountain stream,
the great door, that does not look like a door, opens.
—Stephen Graham, The Gentle Art of Tramping, 1926

3-season skills:

It is impossible to overestimate
the value of wild mountains and mountain temples
as places for people to grow in,
recreation grounds for soul and body.
—John Muir (1838-1914)

4-season skills:

In the school of the woods there is no graduation day.
— Horace Kephart, the Dean of the Wilderness, Camping & Woodcraft, 1917

17—Sign-up info

If this sounds like your kind of wilderness adventure, kindly e-mail your first name, last name, trail name, e-mail address, city, and state (or province) to LandNavMan (Michael Neiger) of Marquette, Michigan. Thank you.

See you in the bush.

In God's wilderness lies the hope of the world,
the great, fresh, unblighted, unredeemed wilderness.

 —John Muir (1838-1914), Alaska Wilderness, 1890


If you've been able to read this Web page...
thank a Teacher;
If you've been able to read this Web page in English...
thank a Veteran.
—Author unknown

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