Last Friday (Jeff’s day off), I decided it had been two weeks since our last hike and my body nearly shook, craving to get into the woods again. I did leg-strengthening exercises all week to prepare my knee for the hopeful hike. Our previous hike was slow and each step rather painful (7 pain level), especially going downhill (9), even using Jeff’s hiking stick in addition to my own.
Ya know? What’s the balance of life? Stay home and remain painfully free but immobile, or walk slowly and painfully (only 4-ish pain level) through God’s glorious woodland? I choose the latter.
The exercises paid off. Friday morning, after doing last moment leg lifts and wrapping an ace bandage tightly about my knee, off we went to the Kellogg Experimental Forest near Augusta. It was 77 degrees with temperatures rising to mid-80’s by the time we were done.
I wanted to try something new, something different from the popular Lemmien Trail loop. We’d hiked the trail enough times I knew where every rise and decline was, and dreaded the pain which would accompany going that way. The trail we took is not a loop, so made it easier for me to decide if/when we needed to turn around. We’d never made it as far as 89 before. Friday we did. And as it turned out, every step of our hike from the first step to the ground from our van was on – wait for it – The Scenic North Country Trail!
New trails are good. I love hikes, especially when we don’t meet a single other human on the trail. I really, really loved this hike. We don’t mind seeing other animal, but we only saw a few fish and chipmunks, 2 caterpillars,
and one giant bird swooping into the trees and out again. It looked a cross between a golden eagle and a baby dragon. Huge!
Only twice before we’d hiked past the Sugar Shack towards Highway 89, curious where it went, roughly following Augusta Creek, and crossing the Not-A-Horse-Trail Bridge. But before we’d returned shortly after the bridge.
This time I took my cross-country ski poles vs my hiking stick. They worked out well.
But since the trail was not often used, when I didn’t spot them in time to knock them away, my face broke through spider webs. Happened three times going to 89. I thought it a bit unfair on our return trip when my face discovered an industrious spider had remade a trail-crossing web. Just like the title of my memoirs:
The Road Less Traveled Often Involves Smacking Face-First Through Spider Webs Animal Encounters buy link
Through the wooded parts, we also hiked past a newly planted oak forest, a hidden sugar maple sapping forest, and a couple of meadows.
There were sections which looked more like deer trails than human trails, but the blue markers regularly told us which way to turn.
There’s a part of the North Country Trail which follows Highway 89 for a bit before turning north past Cheff Riding Stables. We didn’t make it too far along there, because…Highway 89! It’s a two-lane, speedy road with narrow shoulders.
But I did want to check out the sty about 150′ down the road, where I assumed the trail used to pass over.
When we moved here 15 years ago, we spotted the sty in a blink riding along 89. The steps went over a fence. Think of the Nursery Rhyme: There was a Crooked Man. About five years ago, Jeff surprised me and parked on a side road from where we walked over the highway bridge and down to the sty. The boards were rotting then and moss covered in the perfect fairy garden, but certainly not even then strong enough to hold a human’s weight. The trail still showed on both sides of the sty. This time, it was overgrown with no evidence of any trail going over.
It was an overall pleasant hike.
When we returned home, Jeff turned on the TV and the news was on, warning of the danger of EEE in seven Michigan counties, including ours! Telling people to stay away from woods or waters and not to go outside between dusk and dawn when the deadly EEE-carrying mosquitoes would be hunting for warm blood. Even the school evening sporting events had been moved to daylight hours. This was serious talk.
An interesting part to our story is that before we’d left for the hike, I—who normally decline bug repellent when offered; I’d rather swish them away with my bandana—made Jeff wear a mosquito repellent fan-clip while I wore two mosquito repellent bracelets. We hadn’t used either in years. Fortuitous, Spirit-warned, or plain creepy? Whatever, please take precautions when outdoors and be safe.
FYI, two natural mosquito repellents which work for some are mint or cinnamon.