Cabin, Gentlemen's Weekend 2023

The Cabin closed up after another trip.

Gentlemen's weekend ran from 12 Oct to 15 Oct. This year the group from Kalamazoo did not make it. It seems that every time Jon does not come up, the weather is great, even late in the season. This year was no different, the weather was pleasant, not too cold, not too hot, not too rainy, .... Despite that, it is better when everyone can make it up. As always there were various projects to complete and some not so wise decisions made ....

Traditional shot of Krupnik. LED strip!

As usual I drove up from Cleveland on Wednesday arriving before 11:30 PM to open the Cabin. As is also usual, the drive up was easy being late and night, and the Cabin was easy to open given the recent, previous trips. The set up went quickly including getting the fire going. It was cold enough that having a fire was warranted, and it is always nice to have one going.

As a trial I also brought up a couple of USB powered LED strips. WOW are they bright! Setting one up and plugging it in I was stunned at how bright it can be in the Cabin. The gas lights are nice, but dim. Even during the day it does not get that bright inside. In general I don't know how they will be used, but they certainly put out a lot of light and offer much potential. They also turned out to be useful for one of the indoor projects completed during the trip.

Pre Detroit Arrival

Brush pile waiting to be burned.

Before the Detroit groups arrival I had some time. The brush pile collected during the summer was ready to be burned. I stuck around the Cabin to take care of a meeting before heading out for some more exploration.

Harvey Creek off of McCloud Grade. C.O.P.S Camp. Changing leaves near C.O.P.S. Camp. Beaver dam near C.O.P.S. Camp. Lake in the woods (west of North lake). Lake in the woods (west of North lake).

When completing the hike around the Two Hearted River last trip I noticed a number of trails near C.O.P.S. camp that had not been explored. Now was a chance to explore them. Going past the camp there were a number of trails to its south, particularly near the North Branch of the Two Hearted River to be mapped. A number of them even gave access to the river which was nice, allowing me to discover yet another old beaver dam (now on the map). Completing a loop led me past another nice, small lake in the woods.

Post Detroit Arrival

The Detroit group, Bill, Andy, and Mikey, arrived some time in the evening (I don't remember exactly when). The usual Krupnik and drinks followed before heading to bed.

Mikey making breakfast (trying to be like Jon). Mikey making breakfast (trying to be like Jon).

Mikey did his best to emulate Jon's breakfast, though with pants. He did an excellent job and the griddle looks full, but he could not match the volume of the usual breakfast. There was not mountains of leftovers after the meal, we actually ate pretty much everything cooked.

Mikey and Bill raising the flags. Mikey raising the flags. Mikey raising the flags. The flags flying over Camp A&A.

The flag pole was temporarily set up in its usual place and the flags raised. They flew throughout the trip. It is a shame it cannot be left up year round.

Project: Countertop

Andy working on replacing the countertop. Work on replacing the countertop. Work on replacing the countertop. Bill giving the sink a thorough cleaning. Work on replacing the countertop. Locally sourced clamp for the well pipe. Andy working on replacing the countertop. Andy working on replacing the countertop. Andy working on replacing the countertop. Work on replacing the countertop. Andy putting the epoxy on the new countertop. Andy cutting the countertop to size. Andy smoothing the edges on the new countertop. Andy and Bill reattaching the sink in the new countertop. Andy and Bill reattaching the sink in the new countertop. Andy finishing up the new countertop. Andy proudly showing off the completed countertop installation.

The main and biggest project of the trip was replacing the kitchen countertop near the sink. When the new well point was installed the counter top to the right of the sink was ruined. With usage, water spills onto this surface and without protection the wood soaks up the water. Fixing this had been discussed and a sheet of countertop was already in the shed waiting to be installed. As always, it was more work than expected. Andy took on this project. Initially the idea was to replace the wood to the right of the sink, thus providing better support for the pump and cover this part with the new counter top.

Of course once we started looking more closely it was clear more work was needed. Eventually it was decided that a whole section of wood around the sink would be replaced and the new countertop extend over almost the whole side of the counter containing the sink. This required removing everything, pulling out the sink, throwing away a lot of things, multiple trips into town by Bill, and a lot more craftsmanship by Andy. It also allowed us to clean the entire sink, something that hasn't happened in decades.

With a couple of days of work Andy got the old stuff out, the new stuff in, and the new countertop installed. The well pipe now has a much more stable support and the splashing water will be far less damaging. Overall this is a tremendous improvement to the kitchen.

Project: Trees

Mikey cleaning up the downed (huge) tree limb. Bill cleaning up some deadwood around the Cabin. Mikey cleaning up the (huge) downed tree limb. Mikey cleaning up the downed (huge) tree limb. Mikey cleaning up the downed (huge) tree limb. Mikey hauling logs from the downed (huge) tree limb. Mikey stacking logs from the downed (huge) tree limb. Bill stacking logs from the downed (huge) tree limb. Mikey and BIll stacking logs from the downed (huge) tree limb. Mikey making a Swedish log. Mikey preparing to light a Swedish log. Mikey lighting a Swedish log. Mikey and Bill watching the Swedish log burn. The Swedish log burning. Mikey relaxing by the burning Swedish log.

A perennial project is cleaning up all the deadwood around the Cabin. The brush pile was an on-going collection of the small stuff, now was time to tackle the bigger things. The largest cleanup was a downed "tree" in front of the Cabin. It actually was only a limb from the very large tree along the driveway, but was the size of a tree. This project was taken on by Mikey.

Care was taken to safely trim all the non-supporting branches. These were hauled off and burned. Afterwards, even more care was taken, using the rope saw, to cut the main branch holding the bulk of the tree off the ground. In an anticlimatic finale the tree slowly lowered itself to the ground allowing for the final cleanup.

The bulk of the tree was cut into logs and stacked near the fire pit. This is soft wood so it is not intended for use inside the Cabin. Other uses include making Swedish fire logs. A couple were made and burned. One was even used for some cooking.

Project: Endless Fire

Burning the brush pile. More burning of the brush pile. The remains of the brush pile after a weekend of burning. Burning some old gas.

Another essential activity during gentlemen's weekend is keeping a fire going all the time. We began by burning the wood from the brush pile, needing to cut it in sections with a chain saw. We added to this all the other wood collected, such as from the tree. In the end we burned almost the entire brush pile and at least the same amount of wood from everything else collected during the trip. I guess it is time to start another pile.

Projects: Other

Bill replacing the screen in the kitchen door. Bill spraying the moss on the roof to remove it.

There are always other, smaller projects to do. One of note was finally replacing the screen on the kitchen door. This had numerous holes in it which are a problem in the summer when the bugs are out. It is important to note that the section of the old screen with the "bear claw" mark on it is prominently mounted inside the shed door.

A Not So Wise Choice

Andy working to get the Bronco out of a deep hole. (Near where Ted had gotten his truck stuck.) Andy and Bill with the Bronco finally out of the hole.

What would a gentlemen's weekend be without a questionable decision or three being made? Having completed the bulk of the projects by Saturday afternoon it was time to take the Bronco out on the back roads. Based on expeditions on the previous trip confidence was high. Heading out McCloud Grade past the Lucky Buck, stopping at the ruined camp, and then going to the end of the well maintained portion was smooth sailing. Taking the harder part of the unmaintained road that contains some puddles was no problem, even in two wheel drive. Evertyhing was going smoothly....

All until we got to the section that leads to the North Branch of the Two Hearted River (and another ruined camp). Here the fateful decision was made to "go for it".

Now, this stretch of "road" has its own history, well known to at least Bill and I. About 13 years earlier another attempt was made to drive this road that did not end well. But this was different. Rather than a pickup truck, we had a serious vehicle, a Bronco, set up (mostly) for these situations. It had handled some terrain, with ease, that most vehicles would not dare. It started fine. The initial puddles were no problem. Then came the big one! Full speed ahead and, ..., the Bronco was stuck. It was not going to pull itself out. (Clearly the Bronco needs a winch.)

There was nothing to do but head back to camp, get supplies, and see what we could do. On the way Bill called someone to come out and pull it out. We also came across a group of people with ATVs who had just come from Barfield Lakes. How they could or would(!) drive that road and cross the sketchy bridge, I don't know. They were taking a break on McCloud Grade where the road splits off. I'm sure they thought it was strange seeing a group of guys walking down the road.

Andy waited on McCloud Grade for the guy from town to come out while the rest of us collected up gear from camp: shovels, axes, chain, come-along, and headed back in my car. The people with the ATVs were still around and interested in all the activity so they came down to check out the situation. Andy and the guy from town arrived, ..., with an ATV! He was confident he would be able to pull the Bronco out, he was wrong.

It turns out the people with the ATVs were from Camp Crab Orchard off of M-77 where it crosses the West Branch of the Sucker River (its on the map now). A number of them worked for Ford and even worked on some aspects (I think mostly marketting) related to the Bronco, so they were excited to see one in such a predicament. They also pitched in to help get it out.

All kinds of attempts were made including chaining the ATVs together with their winches and having all of them pull, all to no avail. There was slight movement, but it was not coming out. In the end, with a lot of digging, it was found that the Bronco was hung up on old logs and a buried railroad tie (from which I found another spike) that we had to dig up to finally allow the Bronco to get some purchase. That, along with a lot of cranking on the come-along by one of the guys from Camp Crab Orchard, the Bronco was able to back out of the hole. Over all it took a couple of hours and a lot of work.

The group from Camp Crab Orchard were incredible. They spent hours helping strangers in the woods. I don't know how much longer it would have taken without their help. After some drinks to celebrate the success we headed back to our camp and they to theirs. That was enough excitement for the evening. We went back, had dinner, and took it easy.

End of Trip

Bill at the site of the ruined trucks. Andy and Mikey at the site of the ruined trucks. Bill, Andy, and Mikey at a tree found in the woods near the Cabin. Bill, Andy, and Mikey at a tree found in the woods near the Cabin. Me, Andy, and Mikey at a tree found in the woods near the Cabin.

As a final adventure, the Sunday morning before leaving we hiked through the woods on the other side of McCloud Grade to some ruined vehicles. They are along a path leading to Camp Oscar that is most directly accessed by cutting through the woods south of McCloud Grade somewhere between the Cabin's driveway and the fork on the way towards the Lucky Buck. If you hit the right spot a shortish hike through the woods will lead you to a road that gets you into the network of mostly grass covered roads south of the Cabin. Despite being close to the Cabin, they are rarely visited. Typically I only pass by this site in the summer when they are buried in tall grass. At one point I was either told or came to the conclusion myself that they were railroad related. Seeing them without the enshrouding tall grass made it clear that it really is the site of two old, ruined trucks that were left in the woods decades again and have remained there ever since.

As always, it was a great trip. Good work was done, further improvements made, and everyone (and every vehicle) survived. As always we are looking forward to future trips. Hopefully a full crew will make it next time (regardless of what that may mean for the weather).