A Trip to the Manistee National Forrest in Michigan
I originally posted this in the 88th's IHS forums but have decided to blog it so that the rest of the community can share in my tale.
Originally Posted by MindkillI would like to relate the tale of my time in the back country of Michigan. Please keep in mind that I am a city raised guy and have never really been out in "the wilderness".
My neighbor (and long time friend) and I left around 10am this past Wed. on our 3 hour trip to the Manistee National Forest in Michigan. Our specific target was where the Slagle river drains into the Manistee River and a cabin that my neighbor leases. Our priorities were: Install a wood burning stove, put a stop to a rogue porcupine that was eating the cabin, and then fishing/hiking.
It was pretty cool watching as we started leaving the civilized world behind us, the farther north we drove. First to go was the 4 lane highway and all of its associated nonsense: slow drivers, fast drivers, idiots, etc. After that, Meijers (one of Michigan's big grocery store chains), McDonald's, and BP gas stations were the next to fade into memory, replaced by Bob's General Store, Bob's Deli counter, and Bob's Gas 'n Go. Bob, by the way, was a nice Pakistani guy that spoke fluent English and knew tons about which fish needed what bait! After leaving Bob's, we had about 3 more miles of paved road before we had to engage the 4WD. Once the truck was pulling with all four wheels, we had approximately 2.5 miles of two-track trail to contend with, most of which was pretty tame. Just lazy turns around the trees and hills, a very peaceful and beautiful landscape. Although, there was one rough spot.. At one point, pretty close to the cabin, the trail starts descending into the valley that the Slagle river flows through. With all of the heavy rain that northern Michigan got this spring, the trail was washed out pretty badly at the peak of the hill. Lower down the hill wasn't washed out like at the top, instead, it was covered in 12 inches of loose, finely grained sand. It wasn't too bad getting down the hill through the washed out part and the sand covered part, the fun was trying to get back up it! After traversing the one poor spot on the trail, we had one turn to make, a gate to unlock with a giant DNR key and we arrived at what I now like to call, Paradise!
We turned into a clearing on the side of the trail, out there in the middle of nowhere, and I found myself looking at a medium sized cabin (with no power and no running water). It's probably close to the size of an average 1 stall garager. Covered with vertically stacked pine half-logs and with a cinder block chimney sticking out of the roof, it looked pleasant enough. Sliding out of the truck, the first thing I noticed was the sound of rushing water, some crickets and birds, the a coyote... and nothing else. No cars racing down the road. No airplanes. No lawnmowers. Nothing! At first, I was a bit disconcerted with not hearing the familiar sounds of city life but, I quickly grew to love that deep and natural silence. The next thing I noticed was the smell. Slightly damp earth and green, growing things. Again, none of the familiar smells associated with city life. A firepit, stack of logs, a picnic table and an outhouse stood off to the left under a stand of pines and oaks, completing the idyllic view.
I won't bore you all with a step-by-step description of all of our activities from this point on, I will just give you the highlights.
The first day at the cabin, we mostly installed (I say mostly because we didn't actually complete the job. We ended up not having the tools we needed and the closest hardware store was 15+ miles away) a new wood burning stove in the cabin, cleaned out the outhouse (lots and lots of spiders!), and did a little fishing in the immediate area (we only caught a few fish. After dinner and a campfire, we got ready for bed. My neighbor went over the plan with me on how we were going to get the cabin munching porcupine: Lay out our clothes for quick and easy access, lay out a 17 million candle power spotlight and, what my neighbor affectionately calls his "Hog Leg", the .44 Magnum. After that, we slept. At around 1:30 am, I felt something shaking the crap out of my foot. I wake up and hear a weird scratching, chewing sound. my neighbor asks if I can hear it and I reply that I can. He grins like a school kid getting ready to light an M80 in the neighbors mailbox and scampers back into his bedroom. I slip my shorts and shoes on and a few seconds later, my neighbor comes out dressed, with the spotlight in one hand and the "Hog Leg" in his other. I unlock and open the door for him and he rushes out and around the side of the cabin. Once I get outside, I see him standing at the corner of the cabin, near the generator box, with the spotlight on and the "Hog Leg" aimed and ready for business. As I raised my hands to cover my ears (my neighbor warned me the day before that the "Hog Leg" was F'ING LOUD! And he didn't lie!), I heard him say, "So, you want some of this?!". Then... BLAM! Bright flash of light, deafening whip-crack of unholy thunder and one dead varmint. We checked and made sure it was dead, then went back to bed. We both awoke around the same time and stumbled outside to check out the dead critter. At this point, my neighbor related what he had seen when he shot the porcupine, "It looked like it puffed up for a 100th of a second, then dropped". Evidently what he saw was the blast cavity from the .44 round, as it passed through the animal. Either that or it was a serious all-body muscle spasm. Either way, the force of the .44 round/muscle spasm sent porcupine quills flinging out in all directions inside the generator box with enough zing to embed themselves into the wood and rubber sheeting. We then shoveled a hole, dropped ole "Miss Cabin Muncher" into it, and covered her up. We made a cross for her out of some of the wood she chewed. It felt like a fitting memorial.
After the excitement of the night before, we decided to spend a good deal of the second day on fishing and exploring. We only caught a few fish, mostly rainbow and brook trout and a good deal of them were throw backs. I assume that the river was fished pretty heavily by the other cabin owners/leasers in the area. It was, after all, just after the 4th of July holiday weekend and there are around 6 other cabins in the area. (Most of these folks only use their cabins on holidays, so we had the area to ourselves since we were there in the middle of the week) On the exploring side of things, we checked out an awesome view of the Manistee river from a 100 foot tall (or so) cliff with a washed out foot path going down it, walked some of the nature trails that the DNR keeps up, and repaired some of the damage to the cabins siding caused by Miss Cabin Muncher.
The third, and final full day, was the most memorable for me. I managed to talk my neighbor into going on a hike up the Slagle river. He went equipped with his fishing pole, I had my trusty Nikon camera. The terrain around this area is kind of weird.. I have never seen anything like it. The whole area is large rolling hills, covered with pine, maple, oak, and birch trees with the undergrowth being mostly ferns and weeds. That all seems normal enough but, the channel the river flowed through was anywhere from 10 to 50 feet below "ground level". Not only that, it looked as if the river had been much larger in the past, as it had cut out different levels in the sides of the hills. At the bends of the river, there were large flat areas. I find it hard to explain what all of this looked like and the pictures that I took of the area don't even come close to showing the scale of the the valleys, flat spots and the hills. The hill on the opposite side of the river was over 100 foot tall in most places. Where it wasn't 100 foot, it was twice that. We didn't see much in the way of wildlife but, we did see evidence of it. Deer, porcupine, coyote and even bear tracks littered the area around the river. We ended up hiking a good distance. It felt like 2-4 miles and it took us almost 3 hours to make that distance. Once we got tired, we found one of the DNR trails that led to the overlook we had seen on the first day. We followed that to a two-track trail that led back to the cabin. That journey lasted all of 10 minutes. After we got back to the cabin, we fried up the few keeper trout we had caught, had a good dinner, a campfire and then bed.
At around 3:30 am on the day we were to leave, I had a serious case of deja vu. I awoke to someone shaking my foot and excitedly whispering, "Do ya hear that Roy? I think there's another porcupine out there, eating the cabin!". I focused my hearing and did pick up the sound of something chewing on the cabin. We quickly got dressed, got the light out, and my neighbor lovingly pulled the Hog Leg from its case. What followed is almost identical to the first night's surrealistic experience. Except this: After he asked the porcupine if it wanted some and the earth shattering report from the .44.. my neighbor did a double-take and said, "You ain't had enuff?!" BLAM! We then went back to bed. That morning, I buried Daddy Cabin Muncher next to his wife. Hopefully they don't have a large family of revenge minded offspring!
We took a bit of time cleaning up the area, straightening up the cabin, and generally dragging our feet as we realized that we really should start our journey back to the "civilized" world. Now, we are back where we live, in this loud and stinking city, consumed with a longing for the great outdoors.. eagerly counting the days until we can go back.
Thanks for taking the time to read my little story about my trip. If you are interested, you can check out the photos I took in my Photo Albums. I still have roughly 50 images to upload, just haven't gotten around to it yet.
Updated 07-13-2011 at 03:31 PM by Mindkill