Old Boys and a New Toy

Northwoods Journal

Friday, July 18, 2014

We hit the road around 4:30 yesterday (Thursday) afternoon and had a fairly uneventful trip up. We saw a red fox when we got off at Exit 202. It was in the triangular median between the exit, M33 and the expressway. This did not seem like a very safe place for a red fox to be hanging out, so I do hope it got back to the safety of the woods.

We stopped to walk the dogs at Forwards and since Mark has been complaining about all the driving back and forth up here, I took over behind the wheel and drove the rest of the way. This gave Mark time to play with the new toy I just bought – a Garmin GPS. I was pretty impressed because I just ordered it from HSN Sunday morning and it arrived by UPS about an hour before we pulled out of our driveway.

There was enough daylight left after we arrived and unpacked to take the dogs for a quick run up the road. We just went up Stevens Spring to the ATV crossing which happens to be the area where the clear cutters are now wreaking destruction, eh hem, I mean hard at work. Mark opined that it did not bode well for the morning and he would be correct.

It got very cold overnight. At one point I was curled into a ball, shivering, when something in my subconscious prodded me and I remembered there was an extra quilt folded at the end of the bed. Once I pulled this over me, I was cozy warm and slept like a rock. Until 6:30 a.m. when we were rumbled awake by a logging truck downshifting at the T-junction of Stevens Spring and Voyer Lake. Soon it sounded like the whining logging equipment was going to drive right through our bedroom.

I hopefully put out the birdfeeders but a lone blue jay was the only bird to stop by. I think he tried one peanut and flew off. Nothing showed up the rest of the day, until a hairy woodpecker found the suet at dinnertime.

Before we could do anything we had to run into town and gas up and also buy Mark a phone charger. Mark and phone chargers are an ongoing theme. He could have one stashed in every place and still come up missing one. We made a stop at the Baklava Shop for shortbread, Danishes and cinnamon rolls. (Mark also got some raspberry thumbprints this time.) Then it was on to Northwoods coffee house to chat with our friend who owns the place while Mark got on line to register the Garmin. Installing whatever he had to on that seemed to take forever!

By time we got back to our place, Mark was hungry for lunch but I was all jacked up on sugar, having consumed two cinnamon rolls and a huge cup of hot chocolate. We sat out on the porch while he ate his sandwich and discussed where we wanted to go for our hike, choosing to head over toward the Black River.

We couldn’t have asked for a better day. The weather was perfect with a clear sky, moderate temperature and no bugs.

Steps down to the Black River.

Steps down to the Black River.

A nice wide bend in the Black River.

A nice wide bend in the Black River.

Seeing it from this view, Mark commented that it looked like it would be a nice river to canoe down.

It turned out the place we chose was a makeshift campground. There were stone fire rings at various places and many spots with wooden steps leading down to the river.  Some spots even had fire wood stacked nearby.

Campfire ring

Campfire ring

We even came across this sign that said the area was part of a reclamation project, but I don’t know how long ago.

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I was pretty upset with myself. I went to take my first photo and the red “low battery” light started blinking on my camera and I realized I had forgotten to bring my back-up. This really irked me as I am usually very diligent about that kind of thing. But, realizing there was nothing I could do to change it now, I decided to enjoy our hike and when the battery went dead, so be it. No point crying over spilt milk, as they say.

The beagles really wanted to go for a swim!

The beagles really wanted to go for a swim!

This might pose a problem for the canoe.

This might pose a problem for the canoe.

Some pretty rapids.

Some pretty rapids.

It was a pretty spot but unfortunately not the best for hiking. Old Milo quickly got worn out going up and down all the steps down to the river and soon the trail angled away from the water and went through a lot of scrub pines. We did find plenty of blueberries around, which was encouraging. When the dogs (well, Milo) got too tired to hike, we decided to drive the rest of the trail, only to find it dead ended not far from where we had turned around while walking.

Although the dogs seemed satisfied with their exercise, and Mark had enjoyed playing with the Garmin and seeing how well it tracked our route, I felt disappointed with our hike. I didn’t feel we had really hiked very far and I hadn’t been able to take hardly any photos. I toyed with the idea of walking by myself back to Sportsmen’s just to see if there was anything interesting to photograph but then Mark suggested we go look for blueberries and I agreed.

He drove to an area we have picked in the past and we found plenty. (If you are in the northwoods and want to know how to find wild blueberries, I will share the secret with you – look for pine woods. Pines and blueberries are good friends. I’m sure there’s a scientific reason for this, but I just know it from years of observation. The best wild blueberry patches are among pines.) The berries are bigger and sweeter than they were a couple of weeks ago, but they are also on the downhill slide as far as ripeness goes, with a lot of them starting to shrivel up. We found some good-sized bear tracks in the trail. I wish they would have been sharp enough to get a photo of. I did take a picture of this pretty yellow toadstool that was growing among the berries and ferns.

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I don’t know how long we picked, over an hour I think, before Mark called it quits. Even though it wasn’t terribly hot, and we were picking in the shade, he started to feel icky and was ready for the a/c in the car. He and Milo are both getting too old for this up-north stuff, I guess. When he left our picking spot he decided to drive back to where they’ve been clear-cutting behind Sportsmen’s, to see what it looks like now. I really wish he wouldn’t have because it really just makes me depressed and upset and I ended up in a bad mood.

We ate our dinner out on the porch with the citronella candles helping to keep the mosquitoes at bay. The hairy woodpecker showed up and had some dinner too – suet! It was cute, the hairy landed on the well pipe that sticks up out of the ground. There is a cap with a valve on the top of the pipe and some water from the recent rain was in the cap. The hairy was drinking the water from the top of that pipe! Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera at hand. I did fill the bird bath right after that!

The plan was to go fishing tonight but neither one of us felt up to the hassle of loading the canoe on the trailer so we decided to take the dogs for another short hike instead. Mark didn’t feel like driving anywhere so I suggested we walk up the road toward Voyer Lake and hike part of the power lines down by Hungry Five. When we got to the power lines I asked if he wanted to walk to the lake or take the power lines and he voted for the power lines. The deer flies were swarming and we hoped they wouldn’t be so bad once we got away from the road. We were going along just fine, Milo even found a baby snake! But before we got to the top of the third hill, Milo stumbled on something and next thing I know he was limping. We examined his paw and didn’t see anything. We tried going a bit further but it was obvious he was done for the day. We did make it to the top of the third hill and saw this deer grazing in the ferns in the distance. Ruby soon spotted it, started howling, and it dashed away into the woods.

White-tailed deer

White-tailed deer

Milo had a hard time of it going back. He kept stopping to chew at his paw and I kept trying to see if he had something stuck in his pads or if he had broken a nail or just what. I told Mark to go on ahead with the girls and I would take it slow with Milo. At one point, when I stopped to let him rest, I saw this teeny-tiny growth. Seriously, it was like a tiny Epcot dome. I took a couple macro shots of it. I would estimate this was only about the diameter of a nickel.

Very interesting tiny object.

Very interesting tiny object.

Eventually we made it to the road but Milo was really not wanting to walk on that paw. I tried carrying him, which was ridiculous on my part. He’s so heavy (just over 40 lbs), I only made it maybe 10 yards and gave up on that. At one point he laid right down in the middle of the road. I finally got him over to the edge, in the grass, and not long after Mark came buzzing down the road in the FJ. He and the girls had run a good portion of the way back to our place.

Once home, I washed his paw up and examined it but couldn’t see anything. The only thing we can figure is that maybe he got stung. I gave him a chewable junior strength Tylenol and let him rest. I guess we are going to have to get serious about leaving him home with Nathan. We keep saying he’s too old for coming up, but we always hate to leave him behind.

Mark washed up the dishes and I froze the blueberries we picked. We had contemplated a campfire but our hearts just weren’t in it. Mark’s allergies are making him miserable and he figured wood smoke probably wouldn’t help matters. The whip-or-will has been serenading me as I write this. I am tired and ready for bed. Maybe Milo isn’t the only one who is getting too old for up north adventures!

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4 Responses to Old Boys and a New Toy

  1. I hope Milo is alright.

    I wouldn’t recommend a canoe trip down the Black River as far upstream as what you were, lots of fallen trees to go over, under, or drag the canoe around. It gets better downstream after both branches of the Black and Canada Creek have all joined together. But, it’s still a wilderness type float.

    I hope that you were able to charge the battery for your camera, I’m looking forward to more photos. 😉


    • Milo was perfectly fine in the morning, thank goodness!

      We would love to canoe a river like that but our problem would be getting back to our starting point, unless we can canoe back upstream the way we came – which didn’t look too promising on the Black River. It looked like an awesome area though.

      I had a charged spare battery at home, so changed them out as soon as we got back, and re-charged the first one. I couldn’t believe I didn’t put the spare in the backpack! I figured if all else failed, I would use my phone, but it doesn’t take very good photos. 🙂


  2. gladgardener says:

    Pine needles are acidic. And blueberries love an acidic soil.


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