#11: The Gathering, 2008, Part 2

The Gathering is held at the old Schoolhouse near White Cloud, Michigan. The Schoolhouse, run by the Western Michigan North Country Trail Chapter, has served us well over the years. Although we were expecting iffy weather we knew this would be another fine Gathering.

The Gathering draws people for a quick visit or the whole weekend. It also sometimes happens to fall on a couple group members birthdays though this year would not be one of those times. This year marks the tenth gathering and although only a handful of people have managed to attend all the of them, including myself, it is no less special. In fact it is a remarkable testament that the event has endured this long given the size and spread out nature of the group that spawned the event. For various reasons this Gathering would be a bit smaller than some in the past, but quantity alone does not make an event special. Quality is key and the quality of the people at this year's Gathering was high.

We spent Friday evening catching up with each other sometimes inside the Schoolhouse and sometimes outside around the fire John and Paul had built. The next several hours, before the weather really began to close in on us, were spent in enjoyable conversation. Saturday would bring a different world.

The long hike group which would include me did a hike of about 11 miles. We started at the NCT trail crossing of 11 Mile Road (Newago County) and hiked the trail to it's intersection with the Birch Grove Trail. From there we took the Birch Grove Trail to where it crossed 5 Mile Road. We then followed the road the remaining distance to the Schoolhouse.

After a potluck dinner of usual massive proportions featuring everything from homemade pickles to great locally made apple pies we settled down to conversations and play. Play this year included another Texas Hold 'Em tournament and this time a Haan family member did not win. Andy would take home the lion's share of the pot this year with Matt breaking even. The remaining 5, including me, lost our $5 buy in but we all had fun so that hardly mattered. People drifted in and out but eventually the long day would catch up to us all and those of us sleeping in shelters outside would slip on our wet shoes and slip out into the frigid, though warmer than it had been in some years, night air to find our tents and a good night's sleep.

We'd spend around three hours on the NCT and within the Coolbaugh Natural Area. This hike is a varied one featuring forest of oak and pine, prairie like areas, areas with ponds and even a couple creeks. When walking the trails in Coolbaugh we followed the red sole blazes that marked the trail. These are soles from countless shoes.

Sites Of Interest

Additional Photos and Hiking Map
North Country Trail Assoication
Great Lakes Hikes Group
The Schoolhouse
Coolbaugh Natural Area

Direct download: 10th_glh_gathering_part_2.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:42am EDT

#10: The Gathering, 2008, Part 1

It was a glorious day to maintain our section of trail. This is the Highbanks section of trail that runs between 13 Mile and 16 Mile roads in Newago County about 6.3 miles of North Country Trail. The section rolls through a passing of Manistee National Forest passing by several lakes over its length, along ridge lines, and a few slightly wetter areas. It is one of the prettier section of trail and over the past few years we have whipped into shape. We all maintain the new Highbanks Campground connector trail which we had a hand in scouting and building earlier this year. To do proper trail maintenance you really need to come out three times a year, more if the trail warrants it. Autumn is an ideal time for us because we can roll our trail maintenance into the long weekend before firearms deer hunting season opens when the Great Lakes Hikes hiking group plus a few friends from outside of the group, who are always welcome to come, hold our annual Schoolhouse Gathering. This year would be our tenth such gathering at the Western Michigan Chapter Schoolhouse.

Over the next few hours we would scurry down the rest of our segment of trail, 6.8 miles of trail in all, touching up a blaze or two, removing a couple downed trees, and doing some minimal pruning. It was the fastest trail work day I think we have ever had We were walking back along the forest road that parallels the trail just to the west by mid-afternoon. The sun was still a bit above the horizon when we returned to John's car and drove to the Schoolhouse to join our fellow GLHer for the tenth annual Gathering.

The Gathering is held at the old Schoolhouse near White Cloud, Michigan. The Schoolhouse, run by the Western Michigan North Country Trail Chapter, has served us well over the years and even though we were expecting iffy weather we knew this would be another fine Gathering. In part two join me and my friends as we celebrate fall in Michigan inside and out.

Sites Of Interest

North Country Trail Assoication - www.northcountrytrail.org

Special Note: An enhanced version, that is a version with embedded photos, of this episode is here.

Direct download: 10_glh_gathering_2008_part_1.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:49pm EDT

#9: Wheatland Music Festival, 2008

On the second weekend of September for the past 35 years their has been a music festival held near the town of Remus, Michigan. The Wheatland Music Festival is an exciting varied event that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. I've been a couple of times, still a newbie compared to some people I know who have been dozens of times. I've plenty to still see and learn but that will have to wait for the 36th festival next September.

One thing that makes Wheatland Music Festival special is that they feature a broad array of musical styles. They also tap into things associated with music, most notably, as with the group you hear in the background—Sole Impact—dance.

Their is a lot that goes on at Wheatland. You have the Main Stage, Centennial Stage, and the Dance Stage which represent the big three. Then you have the massive Kids Hill area plus a stage for kids shows, workshop stages, an Open Stage pavilion, and this only covers the "official" music scene. People run drum circles and jam sessions all over the place. You have the artisans marketplace featuring arts and crafts of all sorts to explore as well.

Throughout the podcast you've heard music from some of the performers. Music heard includes the Pine Leaf Boys, Sole Impact, Crooked Still, The Refugees, Bichini Bia Congo Dance Theater Company, David Honeyboy Edwards, Tom Graves and Cherokee, and the Cherryhomes Family. A complete list of the performers on the Main Stage, which doesn't represent everyone who performed at Wheatland, can be found in the show notes. You can learn more about the festival itself as well as the many other activities the Wheatland Music Organization does at the Wheatland Music Organization website.

Main Stage Performers

Pine Leaf Boys, Tim Graves and Cherokee, David 'Honeyboy' Edwards, Sole Impact, The Freight Hoppers, Slide (Ireland)

Tim Graves and Cherokee, Tarbox Ramblers, Pine Leaf Boys, The Chicken Chokers, David 'Honeyboy' Edwards, Slide, Dale Watson, Cheryl Wheeler, Bichini Bia Congo Dance Theater Company, The Refugees, Crooked Still

Gospel Sing, The Refugees, Dale Watson, Cheryl Wheeler, The Chicken Chokers, Crooked Still, Sole Impact, The Cherryholmes Family

Sites of Interest

www.wheatlandmusic.org (Whatland Music Organization)

Direct download: 9_Wheatland_Music_Festival_2008.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:05pm EDT

#8: An Autumn Clasic-Corn Maze Visit

Our group is out this blustery late October day celebrating a birthday of a friend. He's passing a prime number, the last one before he turns 40 a few years from now. He came up with the idea to visit the corn maze at Talladay Farms and a handful of his friends including myself were able to come out and join the fun.

One of the joys of the fall season, even on a windy and hence somewhat nippy, about 50 degrees before the wind chill, day is being able to sit down with friends over freshly made doughnuts with cups of fresh hot spiced cider. Wasem Fruit Farm is just a hot, skip, and a jump from the corn maze at Talladay Farms and we thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon repast.

Sites of Interest

Talladay Farms
Wasem Fruit Farm

Direct download: 8_Walking_A_Corn_Maze.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:37pm EDT

#7: North Manitou Island, August 2008, Part 2

North Manitou island is approximate 7-3/4 miles long and 4-1/4 miles wide. The highest point on the island is 1,001 feet above sea level and therefore 428 feet above Lake Michigan. That high point is somewhere on the northwest corner of the island and we would not visit it this trip we probably were not that far from the high point on the first day on our walk along the trail to the Pot Holes. The group would divide a couple times the first day with some heading straight to the campsite we had agreed upon near Swenson's Barn, the rest hiking along the Pot Holes trail to the overlook on the norhtern shore where we gazed down upon Lake Michigan and then divided once more with some retracing their steps and a group consisting of myself, Doug, and Andy scurrying down to the warm sandy beach and walking the 3-1/2 to 4 miles of beach to reach the campsite. We would have several hours to laze around camp, swim in the cool but not frigid, waters of Lake Michigan, relax, and just have fun. With the setting of the sun the bugs grew a bit more annoying but unbearable. We would spend some time watching the stars peak out as we sat on the cool sand listening to the waves of Lake Michigan lap against the beach. The last of us, Andy and I, would settle down for bed a little after 11:00PM—pretty late for a backpacking trip especially when you consider we hadn't slept much the night before.

Our full day would include exploration of Sweonson's Barn, a long lazy lunch near Fredickson's Place, and then exploration of lesser visited parts of the island by some of us. That would include some wonderful bushwhacking up steep sandy hills to gain great views by Old Mount Baldy. We wold also walk along beaches of rich sand and deep Zebra Muscle beds and through dense woods down by Dimmick Point. The day would end with the group re-united near the old cemetery near the old estate of the Bournique's.

The final day would go prety smoothly except for an accident Jim would have on the ferry before we even left the dock. While that would take some time to sort out and cause concern for us all everything would work out well in the end.

Sites of Interest

The National Park Service site for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is at www.nps.gov/slbe. Information for North Manitou can be found here. I have also written about previous trips I have taken to both the mainland portion of Sleeping Bear Dunes and North Manitou Island and you can find those journals on my main website.


Additional photos can be found at A Wandering Knight. (direct link)

Direct download: 7__North_Manitou_Island_August_2008_Part_2.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:34am EDT

Some of you have already downloaded Episode 6 of the Wandering Knight podcast. Perhaps you have noticed the interesting overdub that plays at the start of Hello Dave's song Michigan. My apologies for that tiny mess up. It is a bit of recording by me from the first night signing off for the evening that I forgot to delete. A new version, hopefully corrected and completely proper, should appear in the feed very soon after this blog post goes out.
Category:general -- posted at: 2:19am EDT

#6: North Manitou Island, August 2008, Part 1

North Manitou Island, the larger of the two islands, is a designated wilderness area. The only real way to reach it if you are not a serious paddler yourself, and the paddle from the mainland to the island should not be under-estimated as Lake Michigan is a serious body of water worthy of considerable respect, is via the Manitou Island Transit Ferry. Today the very full ferry made the hour long crossing on fairly smooth seas, but for some the ride was not quite smooth enough and I am sure they felt an even greater sense of joy upon reaching the dock at the old village remains, the one small bit on non-wilderness designated area, on North Manitou Island. The real trip would begin at this point, just around noon, on a glorious summer day.

We planned to stay somewhere near Swenson's Barn which is located on the northwestern shore of the island. A direct hike, across the island center and then north, to the region we wanted to visit is just a few miles. With that in mind our group would split up with the bulk of it trekking down the unmaintained trail that winds through the "potholes" to an overlook above Lake Michigan. At that point we would divide once more with one group retracing their steps and hiking to the camping area we had settled upon while the others, including myself, would take the more round-about trek walking along the beach to the same location. Even the longest trek, the around the beach version, was probably only about 8 or so miles of easy hiking. Easy and lovely.

Our campsite was, and I've stayed at several on North Manitou, superb. We had easy access to the lovely fresh waters of Lake Michigan and there was so much room that had their been others around we could have easily been spaced far enough apart so as not to notice them. If only the bugs hadn't pestered us the night would have been perfect.

Sites of Interest

The National Park Service site for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is at www.nps.gov/slbe. Information for North Manitou can be found here. I have also written about previous trips I have taken to both the mainland portion of Sleeping Bear Dunes and North Manitou Island and you can find those journals on my main website.


Additional photos can be found at A Wandering Knight. (direct link)


Music came from The Podsafe Music Network by Artist Hello Dave with Michigan and from the group Falling You with their song Tribe which can be found at Magnatune.

Direct download: 6_North_Manitou_Island_August_2008_Part_1.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:55pm EDT

#5: TGO Challenge 2008 Part 5: Tarfside to Dunnottar Castle

Part 5 of my journey across Scotland. From Tarfside to the coast and then Dunnottar Casle required me to walk about 53 kilometers. While the journey can certainly be done in two days I stretched it out to 2 and a half days. In some ways this bit of hiking was the most challenging and most frustrating of any I would do. My meandering travels especially in the vicinity ending not far west of Burn of Badymicks (starting west of grid refernce NO557 812) slowed me down to a crawl. The three deer fences did me no favors either costing me considerable time finding secure spots to climb over them. What should have been an easy 16 or so kilometers ended up comsuming the better part of the day. The kilometers I would cover after my afternoon tea at Charr Bothy themselves were no bull of cherries seeing me go the wrong way more than once especially when I went the wrong way around a fence into a farm field trying to figure out how to cross the Water of Dye.

My annoyances would continue as I went through Heatheryhaughs. What was most irritating about that little area was not so much my losing of the trail and having to bash through high heathery and then up Heathery Hill was the considerable time I wasted trying to figure out the right path through the fields and barbed wire fences. Had I gone the right waya round the old buildings (along the right side, not the left) things would have been so much better and I would have saved a substantial amount of time. Ironically it was the works of man that caused me the most headaches not the natural terrain itself which was merely physically demanding but at least I was always going the right way. I certainly could have pushed on into Stonehaven after passing Mergie. But I settled in at Mergie for a rather early night and short walk along the roads the following morning into Stonehaven and from there Dunnottar Castle.

That final walk through gorse lined fields that contained cows and bulls was OK until I reached the seemingly deadly A90. If a speeding car had stopped to ask if I needed a lift I would have said, "Yes, please just enough to ferry me across the awful road." I was very happy to meet up with fellow Challengers, after considerable dithering on my part at the A90, and cross that road with them.

Though climax of the day remains the dipping of my feet in the ocean surf off the beach at Stonehaven. While the stroll with John and Steph to Dunnottar Castle was nice and the castle itself looks incredible it was a bit anti-cimatic for me.

Places I stayed at:

I had not booked lodging in Montrose. I really should have done so while I was in Braemar. Had I not lucked out and learned that Mark Alverez was willing to share his room at Murray Lodge with me I may well have ended up setting up camp at some campsite. Murray Lodge was nicee nough and just a few minutes walk from Challenge Control at the Park Hotel.

Sites of interest:

You can find some of my trip journals for this trip at A Wandering Knight Blog. Other journals and much more at my main personal site.

The official site of the TGO Challenge.

Direct download: 5_part_5_Tarfside_to_Dunnottar_Castle.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:17pm EDT

#4: TGO Challenge 2008 Part 4: Braemar to Tarfside

Part 4 of my journey across Scotland. This section would prove, in some ways, my most difficult. The walk out of Braemar was the long way around on the highway to Invercould Bridge but at least I got to share much of it with another Challenger which livened things up. Even my navigation error wasn't a really awful thing in retrospect as it just sent me along a more northern route than I'd planned. But my troubles along the narrow, barely a hunter trail, path just after Gelder Shiel really bummed me out. Falling into the stream wasn't even the worst of that. It was upsetting but I felt more irked by my meandering around the holiday homes a couple miles west of Spital of Glenmuick.

Being able to share the hike across the mountains around Shielin of Mark made that crossing much easier. I'm confident that I would have made it now, especially the cross-country section that leads from the bothy to the summit of Muckle Cairn which seemed easier than the stretch between the end of the path along Allt Darrarie and the cross-country stretch to Shielin of Mark bothy. The whole stretch though seems full of places you could easily fall into holes if not paying attention so I am certain I'd have made the crossing much more slowly. The walk from Muckle Cairn to Tarfside through the soaring peaks and along Loch Lee was enjoyable.

Places I stayed at:

During this stretch I did not expect that I would be staying under a roof. But as luck would have it I was given the chance to snag sleeping space on the floor of the conference room at the hostel in Tarfside. I'd have been happy camping out, like most everyone else, but I am not complaining either. You can get a room at the hostel for a modest fee if you book in advance with the folks at St. Drostan’s Lodge.

Sites of interest:

You can find some of my trip journals for this trip at A Wandering Knight Blog. Other journals and much more at my main personal site.

The official site of the TGO Challenge.

Direct download: part_4_Braemar_to_Tarfside_with_intro.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:22pm EDT

#3: TGO Challenge 2008 Part 3: Kingussie to Braemar

Part 3 of my journey across Scotland. After a lively night in Kingussie where I would eat way too much and not drink enough I would drag myself back to hiking around 10:00AM. I should have splurged and bought some eggs and made an omelet for myself in the hostel's kitchen. Live and learn. Over the next 3 days I would hike about 52 kilometers to reach the town of Braemar. The Bulk of that hiking would be on the second day and if it hadn't been for that day the hike itself would have been rather dull. Should I hike between these two town again I hope I can find a nicer route to the western edge of River Feshie.

But the hike had many high points including my time spent at Ruigh-aiteachain Bothy with numerous other Challengers. My brief visit to Ruthven Barracks was also enjoyable though I should have spent more time there. Mar Lodge was also a very pleasant surprise and I am glad I learned of it from Russ.

From a hiking standpoint the high point has to be the walk across the Feshie watershed through the southern marches of Cairngorn National Park. Being able to do that with other made the trek much easier but I'm sure I would have made my goals had I gone across alone.

Places I stayed at:

I was able to snag a room at Mar Lodge. The room cost about £15 and was quite posh with the notable exception of the gross teapot. The building has extensive kitchen facilities as does the bunkhouse where many other Challengers were staying. If you know you are going to stay here you could, as some like Laura and Mary Ann, mail food to the lodge and prepare yourself a fine meal or two. It's a fascinating place, not to be missed.

I managed to locate a room at the Callater Lodge. It was what was available and I think the rate was around £35 for the night. While I've no doubt I could have saved plenty of money staying at the hostel I was happy where I was. But if I pass through again and make reservations ahead of time perhaps I'll try the hostel and save £20.

Sites of interest:

You can find some of my trip journals for this trip at A Wandering Knight Blog. Other journals and much more at my main personal site.

The official site of the TGO Challenge.

Direct download: 3_part_3_Kingussie_to_Braemar.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:16pm EDT



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