Cabin, May 2024

The Cabin after the winter.

After last years successful May trip I decided to try it again. Unfortunately various things kept me at work for most of May. Additionally, Bill's 50th birthday bash was scheduled in Port Austin for Memorial Day weekend, so I took that as an opportunity to head up afterwards. This means the time at the Cabin ran from 27 May to 2 June. I was fearing that the bugs would be bad, the mosquitoes did not let me down! Fortunately the flies were not too bad, certainly not by comparison. I spent most of my time sleeping or outside wearing a bug head net. Overall it was still great, it just required patience dealing with the bugs.

27 May: Arrival

Broken glass bottle on the kitchen floor. Traditional shot of Krupnik in front of the fire.

I arrived from Port Austin at about 7:30 PM. The drive up was pretty uneventful since I was "anti-commuting": most people were heading south. Even with traveling on Memorial Day, it had turned cool and rainy so most people must have left early. In general, the traffic heading south was also moving along well except for a few spots with construction. One example of this was at the bridge where work has reduced traffic to one lane in each direction. Heading north was not too bad, but south was somewhat backed up.

The Cabin was in good shape for not having had use since the fall. Immediately upon entering I found broken glass on the kitchen floor. It looks like one of the old bottles above the door between the kitchen and main room was knocked over and shattered. Going further in I saw a number of wine bottles knocked over. Based on past experience, and from one day during the trip, I expect at least one red squirrel continues to get in and probably is the cause of most of the disturbances. Other than this there were the usual mouse droppings in places.

It was somewhat chilly on arrival, in the lower 50's °F with the temperature falling. The mosquitoes found me pretty quickly despite the cooler temperatures but were not immediately overwhelming. Due to the temperature I planned on staying inside, got the fire going, and had the traditional shot of Krupnik. As usual I made an early night of it.

28 May

Purple flowers near the kitchen door. Current status of the new chimney.

As has become common on these trips, I slept in. It did get somewhat cold overnight, but was quite pleasant in the Cabin, so much so that it was hard to get up, so I didn't. Despite going to bed around 9:00 PM the night before, I stayed in bed until almost noon! It was great and a trend that continued. The day was sunny and cool. Despite these great conditions I mostly stuck around the Cabin.

The work on the new chimney began last November. This was my first time seeing it. Work on the base almost up to the roof line has been completed. So far it is looking good. The current plans are for more work to be done soon. If so, I wish them luck. As we will see, the mosquitoes are rather voracious. Regardless, hopefully most if not all of it can be done by Gentlemen's weekend. We shall see.

Restacked remains of the brush pile after gentlemen's weekend. Small mouse on the driveway. It was happy to just sit there. Small mouse on the driveway. It was happy to just sit there.

Last Gentlemen's weekend we did a good job of burning the brush pile I had created (along with plenty of other wood). I cleaned up the remains to serve as the core for a new pile. Most of the wood I had collected then was from "standing dead" trees along the driveway. Despite that, there was still plenty of dead wood left to collect, still along the driveway! I spent some time doing this. In the process I came across a mouse happily sitting along the driveway. It did not seem to be bothered by me, which is strange. It just sat there as I walked by a few times.

Cooking dinner with LED lighting. Dinner.

For dinner I baked some chicken breasts and fried some potatoes. Yes, I used a meat thermometer to ensure the chicken was fully cooked. I have no idea what temperature the oven gets to and the door likes to come open, so you can never be sure when using it. Lighting is always a challenge in the kitchen, particularly by the stove. Both day and night it is rather dark. I experimented with hanging one of the string of LED lights I had brought up last Gentlemen's weekend. It was incredible, I deem it a tremendous success and something that needs to become permanent. Exactly how remains to be determined (no, not like the experimental setup), but I think anyone doing any serious cooking would enjoy being able to see everything clearly. I left this in place and used it the entire trip.

29 May

McCloud Grade. Harvey Creek as seen from McCloud Grade. Road to Barfield Lake. Status of the bridge over the Sucker River on the road to Barfield Lakes. The road to Barfield Lakes where there has been a huge "pond" across the road in the past. Turtles sunning themselves at Barfield Lakes. Turtles sunning themselves at Barfield Lakes. Barfield Lakes. Barfield Lakes. Barfield Lakes. Barfield Lakes. New sign at Barfield Lakes. End of the road past Barfield Lakes. What looks like a new snowmobile track along a remote, overgrown road. Ladder in the woods near Camp Atwood. Camp Atwood. Back of Camp Atwood.

Despite sleeping in late and taking naps each of the previous days, I got up late again. Even so, I did plan on a hike. Andy informed me that the road past the Barfield Lakes actually ends, in contradiction to the map data, thus I needed to hike out and see it myself. The first step was to head toward the Barfield Lakes. The trip started fine. It was reasonably cool and the bugs were not too bad so I hiked down McCloud Grade, past the Lucky Buck and Harvey Creek, and turned off toward the lakes. The road continues to be in rough shape. It was not as wet as it is at some times I have hiked it, but I am continually amazed that even ATVs can drive it. And then there is the bridge. It has always been questionable, but now it is all but completely collapsed. One of the support logs remains in place, the rest of the bridge has fallen.

Since it was a cool sunny day there were many turtles out sunning themselves. They are very skittish, even small movements are enough to scare them leading to most of them jumping into the water. If you approach slowly as soon as you see the lake, you can sneak up on them. The bugs were not bad all the way to the lake, and, as always, the ridge gave nice views of two of the lakes. A new sign has been put up in case you did not know you were at the Barfield Lakes.

This was just the warm up. After spending some time at the lakes I continued on the road. It quickly became more rugged with numerous muddy pools of water on the road. There were small tadpoles in a number of these pools, but there were also clouds of mosquitoes. This is where it started. I tried continuing on, but they just became more and more annoying. I eventually gave in and put on the head net. It was glorious! Odd at first, since it does change the view having to look through the net. But not having mosquitoes constantly buzzing in your ears was wonderful. I continued on and on and was really beginning to doubt that it ends, at which point I of course got to the end. The road really does stop. I did not try to push through to see where it connects up again. (This road is suppose to connect to Tank Lake Road, and it is clear there is a connection to that road, it just is not continuous anymore.) Since this was further along than I had expected I turned back. I had other exploring I wanted to do so I back tracked.

There was another road that had split off south. This was interesting because there is a parcel of land in the midst of the Lake Superior State Forest that appears to be owned by the lumber company, but is not under the conservation easement. The road partially went through this parcel. Unfortunately it was not that exciting, I did not find anything of interest. Since I was here, rather than even more back tracking I figured I would try cutting through the woods to Camp Atwood. Not a wise decision.

Though it only required hiking maybe a couple of miles, it was extremely challenging. The woods are overgrown and marshy with many downed trees. I was roughly following the North Branch of the Two Hearted River. The woods were full of obstacles, downed trees, dense branches, and marshy/muddy ground. It required much back tracking and side tracking along with climbing over countless things in the way. And then there were the mosquitoes. I kept the head net on, which was great for the mosquitoes, but not so great for breaking through an overgrown forest. A short way in I questioned whether this was a good choice or not. I knew it was not, but I continued anyway. Despite not being a long direct distance to travel, it was a very long, arduous hike. It took much longer and was a lot more work than back tracking would have been.

Finally I came across a ladder in the woods, the nicest ladder I have ever come across in the woods! It meant I had made it to Camp Atwood. From there it was an easy hike back along McCloud Grade. In the end it was about a 6 hour trip covering 14 miles, but with a larger chunk that would be expected just covering the short distance through the woods. I got back as the sun was getting lower on the horizon and the temperature was dropping, getting down to about 50 °F by the time I arrived back at the Cabin. In fact, that night there was a frost warning in effect, so I got the fire going more than usual and stoked it for the night.

30 May

Bridge over Harvey Creek. Harvey Creek as seen from the bridge. Large broken tree in the woods. Red poop on the road. Close up of the red poop on the road.

Another day of sleeping in, it was great to be able to do that pretty much every day. Despite the chill overnight, the day was expected to be warm. By noon the temperature was already above 70°F. My plan was to search for new trails around North Lake. I started out taking the right at the fork off of McCloud Grade. I found one railroad spike on the road. Long ago we had stopped finding them on McCloud Grade and this off shoot had been a new source for me. It seems like this cache is also drying up. We may have found (almost) all the spikes we are going to.

Once again the bugs were not bad along the "main roads", like McCloud Grade, but the mosquitoes were out again on the smaller roads. They seemed to get worse as it got warmer. When I turned on the "big loop" to cross Harvey Creek they really came out in force. Fortunately the head net was a savior once again.

After this relatively short distance of fairly easy hiking I realized the impact of age. Though the hiking was easy, my legs were tired, not sore, but tired. I felt fine, but the muscles just did not want to keep working. Not having done much long distance hiking prior to heading to the Cabin, and being old, just means that recovery takes longer. The hard work from the day before took its toll.

Despite this, I carried on. I tried some side trails where more work is required to push through the overgrown roads. Unfortunately, even some of the most overgrown were known trails, there was very little new to discover. Reality set in and I decided it was best to not push it too hard. I looped around to the old 443 route and took it back to the Cabin. I did not get very close to North Lake. Despite this it was still almost a 9 mile hike. The day remained warm, the inside of the Cabin remained cool, so the napping was great.

31 May

Cleaned out wood shed.

The days continued to get warmer getting to almost 80 °F in the afternoon. Fortunately the interior of the Cabin remained pleasant, typically below 65 °F so it was a nice haven to return to. Based on yesterday's experience I had already planned to stick around camp and the weather only reinforced this choice. The activities mainly consisted of doing some work outside, it being hot, going back into the Cabin to cool down, and then heading back out for more work.

I did minor tasks around camp. One standard one is cleaning out the wood shed. This consists of moving everything out, raking out all the dead leaves, and restacking some wood. We still have a double row of logs on one side of the shed from the restocking done Gentlemen's Weekend 2021. I moved some of this wood to the outer wall. There is still a small double row left. We have plenty of wood, we just need a time to be at the Cabin when we need to burn it!

I also spent more time working on the brush pile. I continued to find more wood along the driveway. The more I look the more I find.

1 June

Marsh in the woods. Beetles on leaves. Small pool surrounded by dead trees at the end of a logging road. Dead trees on the east shore of Mitchell Lake. Bug marked tree on the eastern shore of Mitchell Lake. The camp on Mitchell Lake as seen from the opposite shore. (There are actually people there in the picture.) Big pile of poop on the overgrown road. Another nearby big pile of poop on the overgrown road.

I woke up early for once, but I stayed in bed anyway. Though there had not been that many signs of mice in the Cabin on arrival, it was clear they were coming in during the trip. Overnight I caught 3, which was surprising. For the most part they seem to "pass through", each in their own area (either the kitchen floor, kitchen counter top, main Cabin by the wood stove, etc.) So it does remain important to be aware of them and not to leave food on the counter over night. They happily chew through bags.

The day was warm again, though fortunately a bit cooler than yesterday. I decided to head out toward Mitchell Lake with the intention of exploring its eastern side as I was sure there were unexplored roads. This involved again heading out the right side of the fork from McCloud Grade before hitting some of the logging roads heading south. With the warmer temperature the flies seemed to be out more, though the mosquitoes were still the main nuisance. As I headed south along an overgrown logging trail I came across a rather large pile of animal droppings, showing that the trail was used by more than just me. Continuing on I found another such pile, and then another! Fortunately I did not encounter the animal that created those piles.

As expected I discovered some new trails and began exploring them. They did run along the eastern shore of the lake. At one point I found a branch that headed closer to the water. When this ended a short hike through the woods brought me to the shore. It seems the water was a bit higher than usual as a number of tree were standing in the water. It turns out I was directly across from the one camp on the lake. Even more amazingly there were people at the camp! I could see what looked like an overturned row boat on the shore which they were moving around. I was quite surprised. There were very few people around and when I had visited the camp a couple of years ago it seemed worse for wear. It is good that it is being used. These were also the only people I saw for the entire trip! Though, since I was across the lake, in the woods, and they did not see me, I did not need to acknowledge them, so maybe it does not count ....

The intention had been to find a way around the lake and return along the western shore, possibly stopping at the camp. Given the people there I was questioning that. Even so, I continued following the road in an attempt to get around the lake. It became more and more marshy, hardly resembling a road at all. This time better judgement kicked in and I back tracked. The sky was also getting more over cast and the weather forecast contained the possibility of rain. Once again better judgement kicked in so I decided to head back. I looped around on some new trails, hooked back into some I had already hiked, and headed back. In the end it was only about a 10 mile hike, and, since I used "better judgement", it of course did not rain, at all.

2 June

Haven from mosquitoes inside the Cabin. New brush pile at the end of the trip. The Cabin closed up for departure.

All things must come to an end and I had to be in the office Monday morning, so I decided to just head back home. I was concerned about traffic since it often can be significantly slower heading home than heading to the Cabin. I had done some cleanup the night before, even so, it took a few hours to close everything up.

The mosquito net worked great inside the Cabin. I made a good start on a new brush pile. It looks impressive, but it is not as big as it seems. In the end I caught 5 mice and expect a squirrel tried to come in while I was there. The LED lights were a great addition, I plan on using the more. The hiking was pretty good, even given the mosquitoes. I am already thinking about the next trip.

The drive back turned out to be very smooth. Despite driving during the day on a Sunday, there were no problems, little congestion, and I made good time. This was a pleasant surprise.