I left Cleveland at 9pm on Wednesday, 15 August. The traffic was light and the weather was good (except some fog around Grayling) so I made good time. I arrived at the Cabin at 5am. I had misplaced my key after the winter trip. Fortunately there were keys left up for the contractor (see below) so I was able to use those to get into the Cabin inextricably to find my keys hanging where I usually leave them, ....
The Cabin was in quite good shape. There were a few signs of mice in a few specific locations, but overall, not bad. Every year I have found a pile of "stuff" at the base of the central stanchion in the main cabin. It looks almost like a pile of sawdust with plenty of droppings in it. It clearly seems to be coming from the ceiling, but I do not know how/why.
After my traditional arrival shot of Krupnik I was ready to open the place up.
For the most part opening up was the same as usual: take off the plastic, rearrange the furniture, sweep the floor, and get the refrigerator going. I did not try using the pump at all during the trip so I do not know if it "all of a sudden" has become usable or not. The one "excitement" came while opening up the shed. After unlocking it, opening one door, and while stooping down to unlatch the bottom of the other door, I heard a lot of buzzing around me and then felt a sharp pain under my chin. Backing up quickly I saw that it was not flies, as I had expected, but instead a bunch of wasps around their nest hanging at the top of the door jam. Needless to say, they were summarily dealt with. Being hyper-aggressive did not help their cause, but the end result would have been the same, regardless.
I took a short work around the Cabin, particularly along the creek and back toward the river and meadow. It appears to have been an extremely dry year. Noticeably there were almost no bugs (very few mosquitoes or flies) and I could walk many places with ease that are often at least damp, if not under water. It was very nice to be able to explore this area not in the winter. Though it was also rather warm during the day (as was true most of the days).
One of the first, major projects planned for the Cabin is to get the kitchen wall rebuilt. This wall is in very bad shape having been exposed to water splashing on it for years, leading to decay of the logs. Further, the floor in the kitchen with the stove and refrigerator is sagging quite a bit, presumably due to rotted floor joists. A contractor has been hired and logs delivered. We now await the actual work. In fact, I was worried that it would be happening during the time of this trip. "Fortunately" this did not occur, hence you are reading this! Unfortunately I do not know when it is going to occur, it is essential that it gets done, particularly since the logs are already there. It will be quite disruptive when it is done since this will put the stove and refrigerator out of commission but also all of the lights in the Cabin since this is where the propane line enters the building.
I set up my hammock for the night. The weather was going to be hot during the days but pleasant at night. I set up the hammock behind where we currently have the fire pit. I left it there the entire trip. After a pizza dinner (of course not in town) I made an early night of it. It had been a long day.
I spent the rest of the day around the Cabin. It began by hiking the perimeter of the Cabin lot. This was based on a rough lot boundary on my phone using its GPS. I even put markers at the corners of the lot. Though not exact and not of survey quality, it still gives a reasonably good idea of the boundaries. As noted above, since it was so dry it was not too hard to get around. Even the area across McCloud Grade which is usually very swampy could be passed through without too many detours.
I did some cleaning around the Cabin too. The grass did not need cutting, though I did take down some ferns. I also cleaned out the woodshed. I restacked all the driest wood on the outside wall closest to the Cabin making it easier to access, particularly in the winter. At present there is about 1 (face) cord of the well-seasoned wood and about another (face) cord of the newer wood.
Before dinner I took the short hike around the loop. The old beaver dam continues to deteriorate as the area around it becomes more and more overgrown making it a bit of challenge to get through. Again, there were clear signs of lack of rain both in the few number of puddles with frogs and the surprisingly small pool of water near the dam.
Along the trail there was a clear sign that people had been there. A campfire is not such a rare thing to find. It is a shame to find one with so much garbage around it in the otherwise pristine forest.
When I was just about back to McCloud Grade I came across some fishermen heading back to their car. They had parked along Old Seney near the bridge. Though they would have eventually gotten back this way (wandering through the woods and crossing a river) I got them turned around and back onto the more direct path.
As a final task for the day I finally restrung the other clothes rod that has been unused for years. The one next to the wood stove is commonly used, particularly in the winter, but this one, above the small couch, has been ignored. Now we just need enough hangers up there to use all the space we now have.
My main "task" for the day was to go on a hike. I chose to walk the "big loop" up past the Lucky Buck and around it, mostly on the two branches of 443. (They seem to have two different routes they call 443.) Along the way I found another railroad spike. I veered off from the usual route after crossing Harvey Creek to explore and map some new roads. In doing so I stumbled across one of the cabins I had not seen before. Coming back along the branch of 443 that forks from McCloud Grade near the Cabin I saw two small deer. I had seen plenty of deer prints in the sand on the roads, but, like the deer that I saw, most of them were rather small.
In the evening I took a short walk up McCloud Grade to Old Seney. Along the way I found another railroad spike.
I planned another hike which started by walking the loop, then veering to the right, instead of crossing the beaver dam. This dead ends near the Sucker River. I had planned on doing more exploring from there, but it was a hot day. Too hot to do much walking! So I cut north through the woods to get back to McCloud Grade and spent some time inside the Cabin. Fortunately the inside of the Cabin remained relatively cool during the day giving a nice respite from the heat.
Besides being a dry year, it appears to also have been a windy one. In recent years at Gentlemen's weekend we have done a good job of collecting all the fallen branches near the Cabin. Now it seems they have been repopulated! There are even a few big trees down right near the Cabin. One even seemed to have been blocking the driveway and may have been cleared with the logs for the kitchen wall were delivered. There was also a very large branch hung up in a tree over the driveway. With some effort and a few different approaches I was able to get it down and hauled to the fire pit. I also collected up some of the branches closest to the Cabin to make the area around it easier to traverse. Even with this little work there is a nice pile of wood to burn. With more effort we will have plenty of large logs to keep a fire going for a long time.
Another day, another hike. This time I started back on 443, taking the right fork off of McCloud Grade. Once again I veered off looking for new trails. In particular, there is a certain lot marked on my map without a known cabin on it, nor even trails that would lead to one. Clearly there must be a structure somewhere. With this in mind, I followed trails toward the area looking for new ones to explore. I quickly found some and stumbled on a house. It is not fair to call it a cabin, it looked very much like a normal house with siding, tv antenna, satellite dish, outside hose, and electrical wiring. It looked like they had a generator that ran wires to the house. It also looked like it was being renovated.
I hiked around it and found some of the usual, unusual things. In this case, some mattresses just piled in the woods and a random ladder (which must be for a tree stand). I continued exploring the trails around this house before heading to Old Seney.
I turned off Old Seney and ended up walking past Camp Oscar. Exploring unknown trails around here I came to a dead end road that had two small fruit tree saplings, one on each side of the road. Why would someone plant such samplings in the middle of nowhere? Turning around it is clear it was not in the middle of nowhere: there was a deer blind a little ways off the road .... It seems that baiting deer is no longer allowed. Natural fruit on the other hand, ....
Again in the evening I took a short walk up McCloud Grade towards Old Seney. To highlight how dry it has been I stopped at a spot along the road that has often had water on it. In fact, one year there was a "lake" on one side of the road feeding a drainage river on the other side. The pipe under the road had become clogged so the water flooded the road, turning it into a small pond/river itself. After Bill had cleared the pipe that year, it still took many hours for the water to subside and start to fall below the road bed. This year there was no water. The whole plain was dry (at least there was no standing water) and the drainage river was empty. Quite a remarkable difference.
The final hike (as it turned out) started on a cooler day with some mist and drops in the air. The more favorable temperature suggested the possibility of a longer hike. It began by going up McCloud Grade and taking the trail that forks off at the intersection with Old Seney. This is a grass covered road that runs between the main branch of the Sucker River and one of its tributaries. It dead ends at the river. As usual, I explored a number of off-shoots from the road that had not been mapped. Typically they lead to the river itself. On one of them (first picture) I came across three muskrats swimming up the river. (I was too slow to get a clear picture.) I also came across another fire pit/camping area. Here the fire pit was well tended and logs were neatly stacked awaiting future use.
After hitting the end I cut north and crossed the Sucker river. There are always trees down across it, so it is just a matter of finding one that you would trust walking across. With a good pole (easy to find in the woods) it is really not that hard to cross. Across the river you hit another trail (that comes out near the bridge on Old Seney). Hiking along this I came across another camping area that seems to be frequently used. It is high on the bank of a twisty portion of the river.
Continuing down this road away from Old Seney it also dead ends meaning I headed back south and again crossed the river. Once again another downed tree served as a bridge. (This one really was easy to cross.) Near it there was a sand/mud bar. You might think that such an area rarely if ever sees human traffic. I was "randomly" walking through the woods and "randomly" chose where to cross the river. Yet in the sand there were many footprints not made by me! In fact, this area probably is "frequently" visited. In this case it was probably fishermen who had been walking up (and down) the river who had stepped out of it at this point.
Continuing further south I came to Harvey Creek. Somehow I crossed either it or a branch of the Sucker river again but still was on the "wrong side" of the creek. My original plan was to keep going south where you come to another trail, the one that leads from McCloud Grade to the Barfield lakes. However, the bank was densely covered in brush making it hard to approach. Finding yet another tree to use as a bridge was becoming tedious. Due to this I decided to head back and turned toward McCloud Grade. This meant roughly following the creek, but not too closely as to avoid the dense growth. It did involve walking through waist high grass which covered many hazards in the form of fallen trees and ruts. To make the trip less difficult I cut towards a wooded area to allow for easier hiking. Or so I thought ....
Picture the situation. I was along, walking off-trail, approaching McCloud Grade and expecting to hit it somewhere north west of the Lucky Buck. I did not know exactly where I was, but I knew I was getting close and would soon hit the road and be able to cruise on back to the Cabin. I cannot say I know exactly how it happened, I was just walking as usual, stepping around or over the many fallen branches and trees. When all of a sudden I felt/heard a pop as my right foot came down and rolled off of a branch (I presume, it all happened so fast). Again, imagine the situation: alone, in the woods, off-trail, and you just injured your ankle. What do you do?
The first thing to do is test the ankle. Can you put weight on it? Yes! Next thing you do? Keep moving! Do not stop! The last thing you want to happen is your ankle to stiffen up so that moving is very difficult.
So I kept walking. Heading toward where I knew McCloud Grade must be. I knew I had to within about 1.5 miles of the Cabin, so I just kept going. Fortunately I quickly came across an old logging road heading the right direction. Walking on the even somewhat smoother track of an old logging road is easier than walking through the rough woods when on a bad ankle. This very shortly lead up close to McCloud Grade, but not quite all the way. Again I was fortunate in that it was not too overgrown so crossing it to get back on the road was not too difficult. And then I just walked, slowly. The flat road bed (it was a railroad grade after all, that is about the best you could hope for in this situation) was pretty easy to walk. I completed the mile or so without too much difficulty, all things considered.
On arriving back at the Cabin I again had to be careful. I did not want to sit down until I had everything "arranged". I got out some ice (not all of it, had to save some for a gin and tonic later, of course) and tried to lay out everything I thought I would need so I could sit for awhile. I finally sat down and took off the shoes and socks. The picture shows what I found. It certainly did not look good!
Although I had been expecting to leave the next day and visit family on the way back home, this pretty much guaranteed it. There was not much more I was going to be able to do at the Cabin. After icing it for awhile and resting the expected happen. It stiffened up and became difficult to move around. It took a good hour for it to get loose enough to hobble around so I could get something to eat and do the other things that were necessary. It was not as bad as it could have been, it just meant doing things slowly. The first aid supplies we leave up there came in handy as it allowed me to wrap up my ankle without needed to get out to my car for the supplies I leave in it. I still spent the night in the hammock, swollen ankle and all!
There is little left to tell. The next morning was another hour ordeal to loosen up the ankle enough to be able to close up the Cabin. Despite the bad ankle I was able to do pretty much everything I needed to. I did not do much but close up the Cabin. Despite being my right (driving foot) ankle that was injured, it had been rolled sideways so the usual motions needed for driving were not badly affected. Thus the drive back down state was not as bad as it could have been.
Even with this "little setback", it was a great trip. I am already looking forward to heading back again. Maybe I should invest in a new pair of hiking boots, or maybe this was just a freak accident ....
After two weeks the ankle appears to be healing well. It seemed to go in steps. After a couple of days most of the swelling was down and it was not very stiff after sitting. After a couple more days walking with a wrapped ankle on flat ground was not too difficult, though still slow. Using stairs (mostly going down) was still some effort. This continued to the present where getting back to my usual three mile walks is almost done at my normal pace and almost without any pain. There is still some stiffness and still a few pangs every so often. Hopefully I will be able hit the woods again for more serious hiking soon.