Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Float with my Frater

A lot of outdoorsy people are constantly asked by family and friends why they go out and do the things that they do; why subject yourself to getting blisters, scrapes, bug bites? Why eat salty freeze-dried pouches when you could just hit up McDonald's? In essence, why deprive yourself and risk injury by doing things in the outdoors? The answer: I have no clue, but I do. However I am lucky enough to have a brother who is not one of these people, Zach.

(photo by Jeannette Ware)

He understands the primal feeling of starting a fire without matches, and the pride in making do with the materials that you have. That is why we had such a great trip this past week down the Big Manistee River.

We put in at Tippy Dam and snaked out way through the combat fishermen who were eagerly casting within 15 feet of one another. After a few bends we were rid of the mass of people and only ran into the occasional boat, or group of guys on the shore.

When I made this trip the Monday before, I did so alone, and in doing so I was very cautious in my actions. I did not search the log jams for hidden treasures or spend too much time out of my kayak. That trip was mostly a personal time trial and endurance run.

Zach happily dodges the combat fishermen. (photo by Jeannette Ware)

(photo by Jeannette Ware)

However when there are two people you can take more liberties than when you are alone. Zach and I shot up into the jams searching for whatever treasure we could find; bottles, lures and bobbers mostly. Doing such adds considerable time on to the run but what it adds in time, it multiplies in enjoyment. Between the two of us we found about 20 bobbers, and 15 crank-baits, not a bad day at all!

A bit of treasure from one plentiful jam.

We were lucky enough to have had a large sampling of wildlife on our trip. Among them were many ducks, geese actually quite a few trout swimming in the shallows. We also saw 6 or 7 muskrats both on shore and swimming in the water, funny little creatures and quite fearless too, Zach had one swimming directly towards him while he worked on a lure stuck in a jam. The coolest animal sighting of the day personally was a weasel, or maybe it was mink, either way we saw it atop a log on a bank. Very cautious little bugger.
Look at this little fellow who was searching for some minnows.

Zach scans the log jam to determine if it will be fruitful.

When it was time to fix lunch we opted for some Chicken Ramen and canned beans. We decided to start a small blaze to boil the ramen water sans lighter/ matches. 

It started with small pit with wood shavings as kindling:

Then we made a Les Stroud inspired tinder bundle and struck at it with out flint like to sorcerers until we saw a faint wisp of smoke. Zach quickly grabbed the bundle and coaxed a flame:

Welcome to Yonkers' riverside cantina; you want beans or soup?

Chef Zach stirs the river-water based Ramen. MMMMmmmmm

With out stomachs full of the kind of meal that as Zach put it you take a nap after, we continued to travel with the current.
Lucky for us we had favorable conditions. Great day of paddlin'!
Checkout that knife: ready at all times.

Sweet reflection caught while checking out one of the larger tributaries.

We had a great trip, I look forward to doing it again. Maybe next time the thermals will not be necessary!

I am thinking about doing a trip in August; Arcadia to Onekama via Lake Michigan, or Arcadia and back from Onekama. I would prefer the latter with a start early in the morning.

Monday, April 25, 2011

UPDATE: Osprey Momentum Backpack

I have had the Osprey for about three months now so I feel that I can make an adequate review focusing on the usage, and not merely the cosmetics.

So far the bag has been tested out as a school bag (law school, loads of books and computer), day commuter (trips to the supermarket, bookstore, drugstore and library and other general errands), short hiker, and a media bag (camera, computer, kindle, ipod and the like).

The Momentum performs very well in all of the above stated uses. As a bag for school it handles the demanding loads of law school with ease, however as it is only the 26 liter model you are limited in the number of books that you can put in it. I can usually fit 2 large case books, computer and charger. As a day  commuter the Momentum has enough space for a light trip to the grocery store, or whole day out of downtown shopping. Perhaps my favorite use for this bag so far has been as a media bag. The main compartment (where you would put books in a knapsack) has two medium sized mesh pockets on the back wall which hold electronic gadgets. The amount of padding in the bag is also a major plus when deciding to stow your media/ electronic gadgets in it; each pocket and compartment of the Momentum have great padding. I have been known to have the occasional slips of hand and so far this bag has saved me from a few of those! My electronics have made it through the drops and bumps thanks to this thing's padding.

The Momentum is billed as a commuter bag for bikers and other commuters and it does a great job as such. No matter how you like to wear a bag, loose or cinched down, you can configure this bag to sit comfortably. I have Scoliosis and it is often difficult to situate a pack on my back, however the Momentum does not have the obtuse over-padding of most bags, it has very dense padding that does not get too hot or put necessary pressure on you back. Very comfortable.

I only have a few issues with the Momentum, nothing that would make me take this bag back. The first: as a school bag, the writing implement pocket on the front is a bit short, you cannot fit a wooden pencil in it, nor a long pen, at most this in frustrating and not a game changer.

Second: the water bottle pockets on the side. The model that I have has zippered pockets with mesh that zips out. When using them you bottle tips out away from you (towards the front of the pack) this makes them very hard to get at and you usually have to take the bag off for a drink. The zippers also unzip under the weight of the bottle. I have found that I can only use them for smaller containers when the bag has stuff in the main compartment. When the main compartment is empty you can fit a large Nalgene in them with ease. Again, a bummer, but not a deal breaker; if nothing else they make great stash pockets for cellphones or the like.

Here is a Pro and Con list of some other small points! All in all this is an awesome bag, if you want a functional, weather resistant commuter bag with some outdoor panache and credit!


  • Versatility
  • Very water resistant even without the attached rain fly! (walked for 45 minutes in a pretty good drenching with no leakage at all, no rain fly)
  • Great mesh pockets in the main compartment for organizing
  • Comfortable: custom tailor the fit with all of the adjustments.
  • Front quick access pouch (adjustable strap allows it to close almost all the way! Bonus secure Pocket!)

  • Small organized front pocket (a pencil will not fit upright in the mesh pockets and must be laid sideways)
  • Awkward bottle pockets

I would definitely seek this bag out again, however next time I would opt for the larger unit as 26 liters gets filled up pretty quick!        

Great Bag, look forward to testing another Osprey model out, hopefully soon.

Get a hold of me with any questions,


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Coffee at the Edge of the World: a quick break at Old Baldy

We have made the walk out to the old blown out dune known as Old Baldy several times however this week I opted to leave my walking shoes behind and take the two-wheeler.

The tight trail that leads out to Baldy provides technical terrain that suited my beginner biking needs. There are no long straightaways to gain speed, however the tight turns and downhill sections are a blast! There are even a few sections where I was able to get enough speed to get a little air.

Upon locking my bike up to a tree at the base of the steps I climbed to the entrance of the open space. Overlooking the sandy vastness I was instantly filled with joy.

The view from the northern portion of the dune offers you a great view of one of the Herring Lakes and also the Lake Michigan shore; awesome.

I took in the view to the north for a while and then hiked the west ridge to one of my favorite spots, the highest spot that you can reach in the dunes area.

The view from up here is just magnificent. I fired up the stove and began fixing myself a cup 'o joe. I cannot think of a better way to relax and just take things in than having a fresh cup of coffee.

Instant coffee, not the best, but it will do in a pinch.

I love a good coffee shop as much as the next guy, but you cannot beat this view, and the barrista is a pretty cool guy too.

Cafe John at the top of the world. I really wish that the land conservancy allowed camping in the dune area, this would be the coolest place to camp.

Remember to heed the rules of the trail!

The bike ride back to the car was just as great as the one out to the dune, I decided to take the longer path and it was a good choice on my part. The next time that I bike out there I will take that path both ways; great straight sections leading to tight curves and some nice rollers!

I cannot stress enough that you need to take the time to check Old Baldy out, by foot or by bike it is a great trip. Take your dog, he will love it, but keep him on his leash.


Tippy to White-Fence a Solo Trip Down the Big Manistee River

After a stressful semester I decided to take to the woods and connect with the life-force. My first trip of the week took place on the Big Manistee River. 

 It was a cold gray Monday morning when I was dropped off at Tippy Dam. After dodging the lines of combat fishermen standing no more than 8 feet apart from one another I was off. Once I rounded two more bends I saw three boats and then nothingness. It was great.

The water was high, cloudy and moving quickly, no doubt a result of the rains of the weekend. An hour into the trip I spotted a Bald Eagle, but could not maneuver my camera out of my pack with the numb digits. The mental picture is enough for me.

My view for the trip.

I ran into my fair share of these types throughout the trip. I even happened upon a few pairs. I think that they must be hatching out the little ones. When I was lunching on an island I noticed that over the hill there was a female sitting on a mound that I can only assume was her nest. In fact I would have stepped on her had it not been for her mate making me aware of their presence with his hissing.

I could not identify this duck while out there but they were a lot of them and they were pretty. I got buzzed by four of them at once, it was very cool.

Here is one of the mumma gooses sitting on her nest.

This was where I decided to lunch. It was the first time that I got to use my new Primus ultra-lite stove; it worked great. Nothing like some corn and baked beans when you have been on the water for a few hours.

Had the weather been a little more favorable I would have liked to sling my hammock up while my food digested, but there will be warm days to take advantage of in the future.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Living Great Lakes: It's like coming home

When I get a chance to read something for myself I get quickly disappointed when the book does not measure up to its cover or the reviews. However The Living Great Lakes does both of those splendidly.

The book takes the shape of an informative series tales set to the narrative of the author's trip through the Great Lakes on the Malabar, a tall ship out of Traverse City, Michigan.

Jerry Dennis, the author, lays the story out like a regular guy telling you of his travels at the bar.

He gives lessons on the history of man-made features as well as the geological happenings and cycles that shaped the region in everyday language that anyone could understand, and he makes it interesting. You are learning and being entertained at the same time.

Dennis shares tales of Native American beliefs about the area, as well as their stories and practices. He also

Throughout his trip through the lakes Dennis explains the recent and current trends and happenings in each lake. He also explains what certain groups are doing help these awesome ecosystem! He also gives subtle warnings about environmental issues that they are facing without preaching, a feat that is not easily accomplished.

I read this book with a map pulled up at all times on my computer, I loved to find the places that he was talking about, then I would Google the story, or the area that he was describing and get lost researching the topic. While the book reads quite quickly, if you take the time to delve into the side stories and to look up the events that Dennis is writing about you will find yourself taking a little longer than usual. But the extra time is worth it because it will only enrich your experience with this book.

Since reading I have amassed a list of places and events that I would like to check out due to their descriptions in the book:
  • The Witching Tree
  • The Snow Wasset
  • More of Sleeping Bear Dunes
  • The Manitou Islands
  • The shore of Superior (I think that Chelsea and I are going to kayak up there once we find a suitable truck to carry our gear!)
  • and so many more...

This book describes the Great Lakes region with such familiarity that any reader will feel at home, even if you have never been near the Great Lakes. He does this through anecdotal additions which add to the familiarity of the tone.

One of my favorite examples of this is when he is describing the fateful night of the Edmund Fitzgerald's sinking. In his description he mentions the Arthur M. Anderson, the boat where my Great Grandfather was a crew member. This really added a personal connection to the book.  I also enjoyed the references to the places that I have played since my youth, Manistee, Arcadia, Traverse  City, Mackinac, and Leelanau.

Guests to the area, I suggest you read this on your trip or before, it will provide you with a wealth of information and history of the area, and if you read it before you get here it may even whet your appetite to check something out that would not otherwise be found!

Residents of the area, I suggest you read this book, enjoy it thoroughly, research the stories and examples within, you will discover things about your town/ area that you would never have found before.

Pick this book up as soon as you can, get it read before the summer and then start exploring!


Saturday, April 16, 2011

One busy week finished, one to go!

I have done it, I have finished my first semester of law school. It was a rough task that consumed a lot of my time, but hopefully it will pay off.

Now for a week of fun and games! I will be spending the week in northern Michigan at my Mother's house and taking advantage of everything that there is to offer up here! Expect many blogs, insights, talk of new gear and hopefully many other updates to make up for the time I was gone this winter and the time I will be gone this summer!

What am I doing while I'm here? Glad you asked!

  • Kayaking from Tippy Dam to White Fence
  • Checking out Old Baldy
  • Fishing
  • Hunting for some mushrooms
  • Reading whatever material I choose to read
  • Taking pictures
  • and doing pretty much what I please!

Right now I am just enjoying this awesome rain storm, I hope you are too.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Soggy little walk

The seasons of Michigan are both unique and diverse. This spring we have seen a great example of this. This area has had a few days in the 60's followed by a weekend covered in snow. We have had bright days with temps in the single digits and mellow days which facilitate a lust for summer.

Today, however, the weather is the best that Michigan Springs have to offer: the temp is around 40, the air is humid, and a gentle, steady rain is falling just enough to keep most people hunkered down indoors.

These types of days are the best to take a walk in. At home one of my favorite places for a spring rain hike is the Spirit of the Woods Nature Area. The canopy of the trees keeps you sheltered while allowing you to hear the rain coming down.

Now that we are in Ann Arbor though, I have grown to favor the Parker Mill Park area which abuts the Huron River.

Today I had Chelsea drop me off at Gallup Park and began walking East toward Parker Mill.

As expected, the trail was empty, most people are either at work or just didn't find merit in venturing out in such weather.

While I originally thought that such a walk would be a poor choice as I should be studying for finals, I remembered that I have hours and hours of audio podcasts and audio files focusing on the main topics covered in my courses; no brainer! Enjoying the outdoors while learning about Contracts? AWESOME!

The much needed break from studying and interaction with people provided to be the break that I needed.

Though I did not see any people on the walk I did run into my fair share of animals.

I guess that you could say that rainy days as this are truly fowl weather!

I guess it it easy to hangout in the rain when you have such sweet rain jackets as these feathered dudes have!