After missing out on another winter trip, after a long semester, and after the fire on the previous trip I was looking forward to getting up to the Cabin to see how it survived the winter. Also, I had never been up in May (or April for that matter) and wanted to see what it was like. I think I got very lucky, everything was great. The Cabin was in fine shape, the weather was great, there were almost no bugs, and there were not too many people around. It had been very dry and was breezy so there was a high fire danger (no outside fires), otherwise, conditions were nearly ideal.
I drove up from Livonia after spending the night with my father, arriving at about 2:30 PM. I wanted to arrive during the day in case there were any issues with the temporary Cabin repairs. Fortunately everything was in great shape. There were a few signs of mice inside (mainly to the left of the sink) and a few larger things knocked onto the floor (like some cards!), but otherwise it was in pretty good condition. Both windows in the bunk room (but not shutters) had been left open. The one by the small wood stove was barely open and is often stuck. It was possible to completely close it (which I don't think we were able to do in the past). This might be because of how dry it was, or maybe due to more settling of the Cabin. Weather forecasts suggested it was going to be cool most of the time, but on arrival it was warm, at least in the 60's. Even so, it was supposed to cool down so I planned on sleeping inside every night. There were almost no bugs, the grass hadn't grown yet, and the trees were just budding. It was like being up in the fall, except the sky was blue.
After opening the Cabin I worked on cleaning up the area around camp. As always, there is a lot of dead wood so I began collecting it and building a brush pile near the fire pit. Just off the driveway by the front of the Cabin a rather large tree came down. Fortunately it fell into the woods, otherwise it would have been quite a problem. Even so, it is hung up on its branches and other trees so care will be required when the gentlemen clean it up. It will provide a lot of wood.
Early in the evening the gas tank gave out. We must have been running on fumes at the end of the previous Gentlemen's Weekend. This means there is 1 empty and 2 (nearly) full gas tanks in the shed.
It did cool off significantly as the sun set. I was looking for an excuse to fire up the insert. We had used it the previous Gentlemen's Weekend but I wanted to see how well it worked in colder weather. A winter test is needed, but being outside the fireplace I expect will mean it produces much more heat. This proved to be the case! When first using it I noticed the floor about a foot in front of the insert was getting warm. Even though it had been used in this location before, I was paranoid and put a piece of metal down to insulate the floor. I really did not want to wake up in the middle of the night to another problem. It was still mesmerizing to watch the fire burn. It quickly heated up the Cabin and kept it warm without the need to burn too much wood. In the end it did get down to near freezing over night while remaining above 60°F inside all night.
A big hike was planned for the first day. The intent was to hike to the end of McCloud Grade, cross the North Branch of the Two Hearted river, then explore the trails to the south, finally looping around the river and coming back on known trails. I have not explored this area much so there were many new roads to discover. There were many, many old logging roads that were unmapped. Most of these, particularly those than headed toward the river, just ended. This meant much backtracking and looping around. It was also sunny and rather warm (upper 70's), though breezy. After failing to discover a road that was supposed to exist, I finally had to circle back and return along McCloud Grade. It ended up being about a 12 mile hike and left behind many more roads to explore.
Overnight the temperature fell to near freezing. Despite this, the inside of the Cabin stayed warm, too warm! The insert works quite well and it will take some time to get used to using it appropriately. It seems to maintain a relatively constant temperature (even without a water radiator) for about 6 hours. If that temperature starts high, it remains high. Many nights I had to keep a window open to have a comfortable sleeping temperature!
Since it was early in the season the woods were more open than usual so I planned to hike along the Sucker river. The grass, underbrush, etc., had not grown, making it possible to hike along the river. Later in the summer it is far too dense (and buggy) to attempt this. Even without all the extra growth, the growth is thick enough to make the relatively short hike along the Sucker river from behind the Cabin toward the Lucky Buck (Harvey Creek) a long one.
There was much to discover. The new beaver dam seems to be making slow progress. There is apparently an area along the river called the flats. I presume it is (always) mucky and dangerous to try to travel across (I did not try). It is interesting that there is (or needs to be?) a sign in the middle of nowhere on the ridge above the river warning people of this. There appears to be an old beaver dam further up the river, pretty much due north of the Lucky Buck.
It was a long, winding trip along the river. Despite being comparatively clear, it still required many twists and turns and much backtracking. At some point I turned south to connect back up with McCloud Grade. Even with the dry weather, this area is rather marshy with many stretches of standing water, so would be hard to cross under wetter conditions. Despite only being about a 5 mile hike, it was a lot of work.
There are always mice about, but it did not seem like there were too many inside the Cabin. Even so, the first night a mouse did chew through the wrapper of a loaf of bread I had left out. To combat this I set some traps. Despite the lack of interactions with people, the mice are rather smart and can often get the peanut butter (the only bait worth using) off the traps without setting them off, other times they are not so successful, and sometimes they only almost make it. I was awakened at about 3:30 AM (why does it have to be 3:30 AM) to a mouse struggling near the woodpile. It was not in its death throes, instead it was dragging the trap as it tried to escape. I had to get up to investigate. It turns out to have barely been caught. In fact, I do not know how it could not pull itself from the trap, it did not look like much was holding it. Regardless, I took it outside and let it go. For all I know it came back in and got caught later.
There really were not that many mice. I caught the one on the kitchen counter (probably the one that had gotten into the bread) and a few more for five in total. The last couple of nights the traps were left untouched. There is little reason for the mice to come into the Cabin in the spring. The weather was nice and they have plenty of food outside.
There are many camps on the other side of Old Seney, particularly around Kennedy and Newton Lakes. Previously I had not been able to visit most of them; that has now been rectified.
The nicest camp and location is on Kennedy Lake. The camp has a great lawn ornament (huge plow), a large fire pit with plenty of split log bench seating, and a wrap around deck with a beautiful view of the lake. I do not know how often they can really use it, given the weather, bugs, and short summer season, but it a beautiful camp.
In contrast, the old site on Newton Lake is devoid of any sign of the actual cabin. Instead, there is an old, smashed up truck with an old snowmobile stored upside in its back along with plenty of other junk. It still has an outside pump, and, in what seems to be a common phenomenon, the one building left is the outhouse! It is a shame there is nothing here, this is another lovely location.
Of the other camps closer to Old Seney, Camp Puke stands out for its name and use of deer skulls as decoration. But the most interesting may be Dave's Place. This is a small cabin off on its own (of course with a nice outhouse). However, it seems to have no road leading to it! Despite this, it had a couple of the large gas tanks. I do not know how they got there, but it seemed to be in good shape.
On the way back I cut through the logging trails on the other side of McCloud grade. Along the way I found a number of deer blinds. I have seen most of them before, though some of them do not seem to be on private land. I took the "nontraditional structure" I came across to also be a deer blind (rather than the flying saucer it first appears to be). Finally, I also came across a garden rake in the woods propped on a tree. It probably has been there for many years.
I had meetings on Thursday and Friday. It is good and bad that a reliable enough data connection is available at the Cabin so that I could get onto some Zoom calls. This, along with "recovering" from the hikes the previous day meant that I stayed around camp for most of the time.
On Friday I did hike the "big loop", though in reverse of the usual direction. I started along the fork (Old 443). The location where I had been finding railroad spikes only yielded one this time. It has not been likely to find them along McCloud grade for a few years not and perhaps this new location has dried up too.
Despite the dry weather, the "pond" across the road remains. It looks like it has completely taken over the road, making it all but impassable. It is even a struggle to hike around it.
A tree recently fell near the bridge across Harvey Creek. The creek seemed a little lower than expected. Overall it was a nice, easy hike of about 6 miles to cap off the day.
For the final hike I headed out to the Barfield Lakes. It is always a great place to visit and is quite popular. Leaving the visit until the weekend was risky, but fortunately no one else showed up.
The trail out continues to "return to nature". Though people have clearly driven it in the past, it had gotten to the point where it was really only usable by ATVs. I do not know if even that is true now! Part of the trail was a creek (despite the dry conditions), there are many large water holes, the bridge is falling apart, and once you make it over the bridge, there is a final "lake" blocking the road, preventing you from getting onto the road from the north (H-58) that takes you around the lakes. The bridge was solid enough to walk across, but I would not drive a vehicle over it. The "lake" was full of tadpoles in the shallow areas and required a significant detour to get around.
As always the lakes were beautiful. The log near where you first come up to the lakes contained quite a few turtles sunning themselves. They were very skittish, most diving into the water while I was still rather far away. The ridge provided the usual stunning views of the lakes and a peaceful location to sit and enjoy them. I considered hiking further up the road past the ridge, but, it quickly became more "ponds" on the road so I decided to head back. I came across a robin's nest built on the ground. It hardly seems like a safe location, but it did have four rather large eggs.
On the way back I decided to take a more scenic route. While detouring around the "lake" on the road, it looked there were some other trails so I tried to follow them. They quickly turned into nothing, but I kept going, cutting cross country. I came upon an old beaver dam on Porter Creek. It reminded me of the beaver dam that used to be on "the Loop" (which has now all but completely disappeared). This one must have been unused for quite some time too since there were not many signs of a beaver pond. There was enough of it intact that I was able to cross the creek. The land around was a little marshy, but again, with the dry weather, it was easily passable.
I also stopped by the ruined camp off of McCloud since it is near the turn off for the Barfield Lakes. It remains surprising to me that the one structure that always seems to survive (if any do) at ruined camps is the outhouse. In this case, the outhouse remains it good shape. It is a solid structure, with a solid door and handle that closes firmly. It even looks really good inside! Nothing like a classic two seater .... I did not try it out, but it still looked usable. The same cannot be said for the rest of the camp. Besides the garbage pile (or beer can recycling pile) there is not much left.
On the final day, since I have a very long drive back, I just closed up the Cabin and headed home. Even with cleaning and packing much the day before, it still took awhile to get out, leaving by about 10:30 AM. I left behind the beginnings of a brush pile from downed wood around camp (there is plenty more to pull in).
I do not know why I have not gone up in May before. I am sure things were nicer than usual. The weather was not too cold or too hot. The bugs were not out yet. There was no snow, even in the deep woods. Since it had been dry the ground was not muddy everywhere. Even so, it will probably be worth trying to head up in May again.
The trip was exactly what I needed. The Cabin is always a great place to get away from everything, to relax, and to enjoy nature. I am grateful to everyone who has and continues to make it possible. I am also already looking forward to the next trip.