Northwoods Journal 4/19/2013

Hiking in Elk Valley

Hiking in Elk Valley

Friday, April 19, 2013

Spring can be a bit bleak in northern Michigan.  They got heavy snowfall a week ago and remnants of it lay like a dirty, crusty mantle across the shoulders of the roads and in low-lying areas.  Back home the trees are tinged with green, but here the woods are painted in monochromatic colors – shades of gray and brown.  Only the evergreens provide a splash of color relief.

I put out the feeders first thing this morning.  It took about an hour for my first feathered friends to arrive.  Even they are monochromatic; white-breasted nuthatches and chick-a-dees.  (And a bit later a red-breasted nuthatch, too.)

The wind is blowing cold and fierce and the sky is iron clad.  Our road is a muddy quagmire and when we step out on our porch we can hear the rumble of trucks, the buzz of saws and the shouts of men who are Ferngullying the forest a couple of miles away.  I truly despise the way the DNR manages the woodlands here.  They allow far too much clear-cutting that leaves the land looking like the killing fields of WWI.  That is not an exaggeration, I’ve seen pictures.  It looks like they have plans to cut along our road for a good distance.  Needless to say, I’m heartbroken about it.  Just after we bought our place, they clear-cut across the road and it took nearly 10 years for the scar on the landscape to heal.

[Author’s note: when I use the terms “Ferngullied” or “Ferngullying” it’s in reference to an animated movie from the 90’s titled Ferngully.  It was about clear-cutting of the rain forest.  When I see places up here that have been clear-cut, I always say they’ve been Ferngullied.]

Our outdoor thermometer reads 40 degrees.  Mark was able to get the pump running on the first try and water came out of the taps with no leaking pipes anywhere – hurrah!  Mark has always said the plumbing in this place is the bane of his existence.  He stoked up the wood burner first thing after he got up, so we’ve stayed cozy-warm with that and the two electric radiant heaters.

After breakfast we bundled up to take the dogs for their walk.  By the time we went to load them in the FJ Cruiser, it was snowing/sleeting/raining.  Thankfully that didn’t last long.  Since there is so much standing water/flooding we decided to drive to Elk Valley to hike higher ground.  One section of our road was completely flooded over for a good 20 yards.  Thankfully the FJ navigated through with no trouble.  Didn’t see anything of great interest on our walk, but the dogs were sure happy with the exercise.  Cold, wind and wet doesn’t bother them a bit.

We took a ride into Atlanta to see what’s new – we really didn’t expect there to be anything!  We were surprised to find a new “junktiques” store where we purchased several cool items, including an awesome refurbished vintage cabinet/china hutch for our dining room back home.  Of course, we didn’t bring the truck this time, so it won’t get hauled home until next trip up.

Just before dusk we loaded up the dogs and went for a combination ride/hike to search for wildlife.  We headed over to the DeCheau Lake area hoping to spot some elk but the DNR did a controlled burn of the rye fields at the north end of DeCheau Lake Rd. and nothing was moving in there.  There is a huge meadow way back in at the end of this two-track off Meaford Rd. where we have seen large numbers of elk before, so we headed there, only to find out that it, too, is being logged.  We parked near the start of the trail and walked the dogs through several rye fields.  Scared up small groups of deer in each field, which drove the beagles crazy.  They were yipping so much I figured they were scaring off whatever might be in the far meadow.

The logging equipment, rain and snow had made an absolute mess of the two-track but Mark was undaunted, put it in 4-wheel low and soldiered on.  (He lives for roads like that!)  Unfortunately, there wasn’t a thing to be seen in the big meadow.  We stopped one last time along Mills Rd. to walk the dogs again.  It was supposed to be a short jaunt but we walked back farther than we had anticipated and then decided to climb a small ridge to see if we could spot the road, which we did not.  We struck off cross-country and finally hit the road, quite a long way from where the FJ was parked.  Scared up a lot more deer as we walked the road but by then it was too dark to count.  Milo, despite his age and weight, held up like a champ!

All tolled I think we saw at least 40 deer, as we saw many more on the drive back to our cabin, and two turkeys.  We also saw huge tracts along M33 where they have clear-cut.  I swear the state won’t be happy until they have denuded Montmorency County of every last tree.  Mark commented that DNR must stand for Department of Natural Revenue.  And please, don’t give me a lecture on habitat management.  You will never convince me that clear-cutting is good for anyone except the people raking in the dough from the lumber.

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6 Responses to Northwoods Journal 4/19/2013

  1. Bob Zeller says:

    Your posts always bring back memories of my time in Norther Michigan. My sister-in-law called a few minutes ago from Traverse City. She said it is snowing and there is nearly 2 feet of snow on the ground. And this is April 19th?? Wow!!

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  2. You said no lectures, but I would like to point out two things. Most of the wildlife benefits from having areas clear cut, especially elk, which are really plains animals. Although it has seemed to me that te DNR was going too far as well, the last few times I was up there. That brings up the second point, the DNR does what they do to conform with laws passed in Lansing. The way the DNR is organized, they get the blame for many things that they would rather not do if they didn’t have to comply with silly legislation coming out of Lansing.

    Every time I’m up there during the week, I stop off at the PRC headquarters and have a chat with Scott Whitcomb, who is the manager for the PRC to get the real scoop. That is, if he is available. He’s a great guy who really does care, both about the area, and any concerns we may have. Unfortunately, many times his hands are tied, and he has to do things that he knows are wrong, but he is required to by law. I believe that due to budget cuts, he is also the manager for the State Forest lands in the area of your cabin now as well.

    What I said about Scott being a great guy applies to almost all the men and women working for the DNR that I have dealt with, we’re really lucky to have as many dedicated, hard working employees as we do in Michigan. We put them into a no win situation of having to balance many conflicting points of view, then complain when things aren’t done exactly as we would like them to be done. And I’m guilty of that as well, which is why I do talk with the employees of the DNR to find out what’s going on.

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    • I’m sure there are plenty of great people working for the DNR. I have no problem with responsible forest management, but the way they are clear-cutting every place you go in Montmorency County is not winning many fans. I believe there are ways they could thin the trees, harvest the lumber and help the wildlife without turning every acre into a war zone that takes years to grow over. And they harvest out all the hardwoods and what comes back are the aspens which are not as desirable. But, those are my opinions. I don’t like clear-cutting, period.

      I should also point out that our property is on Voyer Lake Rd. We are the second property past the corner of Voyer and Stevens Spring. Stevens Spring is clearly marked for cutting for quite a way down the road, which means we will have logging equipment practically in our side yard – and our back yard, since our property backs up to state land. Atlanta is my Happy Place, the place we escape to in order to get away from the pressures of “real life”. The serenity I crave will be much harder to come by if I have to listen to the noise of logging all summer. There are plenty of things that are beneficial – you know, like castor oil – but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

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  3. Carol Vogt says:

    Amy, You are such a trooper! I don’t even go outside when it’s cold and rainy – unless I have to.
    Must be that Army training!

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