Despite my recent solo trip just a couple of weeks earlier, I went back to the Cabin for the usual Labor Day trip. In general this is a difficult trip; it is a long drive for a relatively short stay. Also, we are at the mercy of the weather. Though I had considered skipping, the previous trip up was so good I wanted to go again. Plus, Vittoria would not let me.
The plans were good: Jon and Amelia were heading up early on Friday, Vittoria was also able to get an earlier start since I agreed to pick up Bill and Dog in Detroit. This did mean extra driving for me, but it did allow me to drive all of I-75 in the lower peninsula from the Ohio border to the Mackinac bridge.
The trip actually started well. I walked out of class to my car and was on the road by 3pm. Traffic was not nearly as bad as I had feared. I made it to Detroit almost on time (took a bit more than 3 hours). I quickly got Bill and Dog situated and was back on the road. For most of the trip the traffic was bearable so we made reasonably good time. The most exciting part of the trip was to learn that the early travelers could not make it the Cabin, there was a washout on McCloud Grade! The road was impassable (at least by non-off-road trucks).
The sensible solution was to find accommodations in town. This was not acceptable for me. I was not going to drive all that way just to stay in a hotel. Bill and I discussed many options on the way up. I am fairly certain there are other ways in to the Cabin (a bit more on this below), but, not knowing the roads well, and the fact that we would be arriving quite late, prudence won out and we did not try to find a drivable back road. Instead, we drove to the washout arriving around 1am. I did not get a picture of it but water running across the road cut a deep, wide ravine. Even with some freshly cut logs placed in it there was no way to drive over it. Instead, I reorganized some of my gear so I could hike into the Cabin. Bill, Dog, and I hiked the half mile into the Cabin mostly in the dark (flashlights off). It was a very pleasant walk. Since I had recently been there everything looked to be in good shape. Bill and Dog went back to my car and headed into town. I opened up the Cabin and spent another pleasant night alone at the Cabin.
Despite getting to bed late, I got up at a reasonable time and did some work. The main task was to clean up the mess I left at the stump. I took an ax to the big root, cut it out, then filled in the rest of the area, leveling it off. There are still roots to dig out and remove, but this does give an idea of what the area will be like when cleaned up. For the time being it served as a large sandbox which Frankie certainly enjoyed.
A road crew had come out early and patched up the washout. Shortly after I finished cleaning up the stump area Bill, Vittoria, and Frankie arrived. The Cabin was then officially opened. I had not done everything (or even most things) typically needed.
Due to the number of people expected and the fact that Frankie and Teddy would be going to bed early, we decided to not sleep in the Cabin. This left the Cabin open for people to stay up late and make noise without disturbing anyone sleeping. Everyone brought and set up tents. I chose a prime location up on the ridge behind the bunk house. It is nice, soft ground up there, though there are very few large, flat spots in which a tent will fit.
Despite arriving from town, it was necessary to head back there to meet Brad and Jordan and bring them out to the Cabin. Vittoria claimed that the roads were bad and their car was too low to handle driving them too frequently so they took my car instead. This was a repeated claim. (The roads were fine. There were a couple of puddles and a few slightly rough areas, but they are dirt roads after all!) Naturally I had no desire to go into town so I went for a hike instead.
As noted above I expect there are other ways to get to get to the Cabin besides using McCloud Grade. There are plenty of roads but I don't know their state. For this reason I decided to hike one of them. It starts out as snowmobile trail 443 before splitting off to a grass covered road. I hiked a little of it when exploring the property on the other side of McCloud Grade on my previous trip. Besides wanting to explore this region, I was also interested in whether it could be easily driven.
At first glance it isn't encouraging. It is a grass covered, not even two-track road. Despite this it was in very good shape. It was solid ground and had very little debris (fallen branches, etc.) on it. In fact, for much of the hike it looked to be easily drivable. As with other hikes the scenery was beautiful. I found some old, rusting machinery next to the road. Many of the side roads off of it were blocked by dirt berms. It seems someone is trying to prevent many of the roads from being driven. On the main road there were a few puddles. One or two of them were somewhat deep. Though I think they would be passable by my Escape I'm glad I didn't have to try. There was also one small tree fallen across the road. It would be easy to remove, or even drive over.
One surprise was that I came upon a camp I didn't know existed, Camp Oscar. The road runs right through the camp. Fortunately it wasn't occupied at the time so I didn't bother anyone. The road leading up to the camp also has a gate. Though it appeared to be locked, it actually wasn't. (I think this is public road so maybe it cannot be locked.) In the end I think the road could have been driven but it is not the ideal one to follow. There are some other options that I will explore in the future.
The road connects to Old Seney which I followed back to the Cabin. Along the way I saw a large tree that partially split lengthwise and fell over. It was amazing to see such a large tree fallen in this way.
I also walked past the patched washout on McCloud Grade. The repair was to remove the logs put in as a temporary patch, perhaps replace/repair the pipe running under the road, and cover it with dirt and rocks. I don't know if there are plans for an alternative patch or if this one will just get smoothed out with time.
Though I didn't go on anymore long hikes there are always interesting things nearby. I rarely pay attention to the creek the runs along the driveway leading in to the Cabin. This time I actually did climb down and explore it a little. There is a tiny waterfall (we are talking inches in height) and a nice pool of water near McCloud Grade. I could actually hear this water flowing from my campsite at night. I also saw an interesting insect. When it was flying it looked huge because of its long antennae flailing about.
One of the main attractions of the Cabin is the great food (at least when I am not there alone). This trip was no exception. The main great meal was paella made on the open fire. My job was to build the fire. I produced a good set of hot coals which Jordan had to deal with while making the paella. He did pretty much all the cooking.
Every step was difficult. Stirring it, adding ingredients, etc. Even removing and replacing the pan on the fire was a two man job. In the end it was exceptional. Enough was made that we got to have paella burritos the next day.
After the very busy day much of the rest of the time was lazy. For my part this was due to the weather turning cooler and rainy, plus I was feeling sick. It had started the day before heading up and got worse. (In fact, I really didn't get over it until a week after I returned.) Thus we only went on some small hikes and almost everyone napped. The dominoes were a great source of amusement as building materials. Many great structures were constructed (unfortunately I did not get pictures of them or much of anything else during this time, as I said, I was not feeling well).
Jon, Amelia, and Teddy left on Sunday. They weren't at the Cabin itself for even 24 hours because of the washout. Brad and Jordan left on Monday. It was cool enough on Monday that I got a fire going in the wood stove. Contrary to most times we use the wood stove, it did not smoke up the Cabin too much. Presumably this is due to not having the chimney full of snow, the wood being very dry and seasoned, and many doors/windows open in the Cabin. The main thing the fire helped with was drying out the Cabin which was sorely needed.
The short hikes we took were typically along McCloud Grade, often toward the Lucky Buck. We didn't always make it that far, but they were good walks regardless. On at least one of them Frankie verified that every mud puddle on the road did, in fact, contain mud.
Though we did not do much work, nor intend to, some work was done on the wood shed. It has been in bad shape for awhile; the roof is falling off and the support posts are decaying at their base. Piling wood against them has probably helped both push them out and accelerate decay. It has gotten to the point where some of the posts are either not really supporting the shed or are in danger of collapsing. To this end we "recovered" some discarded tree trunks which will be used to replace all the supports.
To prepare for this we cleaned up the area around the wood shed and moved all the wood to the back right. Bill stripped the bark from a number of the larger tree trunks. One of the supports was in particularly bad shape, in fact, it wasn't clear if it was supporting the shed at all. We replaced that one with a temporary support. The shed will be squared up and more permanent supports put in place during Gentlemen's weekend.
The final hike along McCloud Grade toward the washout started as a quick, short trip. Because of this I didn't have my camera with me (for once) and missed the chance at some good pictures. It quickly turned into a raspberry collecting expedition. There are many small bushes (mainly on the south side of the road) and a fair number of berries were collected, only limited by the receptacles we had available. (Clearly larger wine glasses are needed!)
Vittoria, Bill, Frankie, and I left Tuesday morning. We were able to close up the Cabin and hit the road by 10:30am. We stopped once along US-2 for a picnic lunch at a rest stop. The weather had cleared up and and warmed somewhat (of course). While the rest of them stopped for a quick dip in Lake Michigan I continued on home. The traffic was not bad at all and I made good time. In fact, it seems that leaving on Tuesday allowed us to miss most of the holiday traffic.
Overall it was another great trip to the Cabin. It was a difficult trip but not as bad as I feared it would be. Coming up earlier would be even better, but staying until Tuesday is essential for the Labor day trip.