Thursday, October 13, 2011

Shingle Mill Pt. 2

 Continuation of the Pigeon River posts.

By the time I reached the Forest Area Headquarters (see map, arrow at bottom right) the fog had lifted.  The building was closed but I stopped and had a snack and looked at my map.  I needed to pee but decided I could wait until I got to the Pigeon River campground.

Just past the headquarters the trail meets back up with the river.  Much of this stretch is up on a high bluff, with nice views of the water below.

The I came upon this curiosity, a marker for someone named P. S. Lovejoy.  I looked him up when I got home.   

Turns out he was a conservationist, born in Illinois, who studied at U of M in Ann Arbor as one of its first forestry program students.  He worked for the Forest Service at Medicine Bow and Olympic National Forests before returning to U of M as an associate professor in the forestry department.  He was also the head of Michigan's Conservation Department and was instrumental in establishing our refuge system.  Aldo Leopold wrote his obituary, published in The Journal of Wildlife Management in 1942.  Lovejoy was apparently very fond of the Pigeon River area, a place he called "the Big Wild."

When I finally reached the campground I was pleased to find new toilet facilities with not one but four air fresheners perched along the handicap railing.  The campground was much more secluded than the Pigeon Bridge campground, where I was camping, and the sites themselves were bigger and much more private.  There were only two campers there and not a soul in site.

The campground road crossed over the river here and deposited me on its western bank.  I sat for a while and wrote in my journal, ate some lunch, and kept a close eye on the sky and its lowering clouds.

Past the campground the trail stays with the river for a little while, then starts climbing upwards again.  It was here I came to the fork in the road, and I paused to consider one last time which trail to take.  I felt good, having hiked not quite three miles, but knew that another seven would do me in.  It takes me a long time to get anywhere as I stop frequently to look at stuff, so a three mile hike often takes me 2 1/2 to three hours.  While I don't cover a lot of ground I am on my feet pretty much the whole time, so I get more tired walking three miles than folks who just push through it do.  I turned left and headed for number 12. (See arrow at left on map above.)

I had seen very few signs of animals on this trail, even though there's probably more wildlife here than just about anywhere else in the state.  I had seen four deer early in the hike, not a 1/4 mile from the trail head.  Some coyote tracks, deer tracks, and various birds were the only other things that I had seen.

But as I made my way to marker 12, I came across some scrapings on the trail.  I tried to distinguish foot prints in them but could not. 

I looked around and found this rotted log torn apart.

That's when I noticed the blueberries.  I had not seen any along the trail up to now.  Blueberries are, of course, one of the black bear's favorite foods. There were no berries this late in the year, but this told me I was certainly in bear country.  The scrapings and shredded logs could have been done by a skunk or coon, but I liked the idea that it was a bear.

Thanks to the fact that I spent a lot of time scanning the woods around me, looking for critters who might like to make lunch out of me, I noticed water off the trail a few hundred feet on my right.  I detoured to it and came to Ford Lake.  I found a comfy place to sit and got out my gorp and journal.

While I sat munching and writing, a flock of 20 to 30 Yellow-rumped warblers appeared on my right, seemingly from out of nowhere.  I watched, rapt, as the flock moved around and above me, peeping and gleaning insects from the trees.  I slowly brought my binoculars up and watched an adult male nab an inch-long caterpillar and proceed to devour it.  I one point I was literally surrounded by birds--above, behind and in front, to my right and left, even below me as I was sitting on the side of hill.  At one point a bird sat perched on a branch not five feet away, at eye level.  I have no way of knowing if they were aware of me, but the moment, which lasted maybe five minutes, left me breathless.  As they moved off down the shoreline the forest returned to silence, and I sat, grinning like a fool.

My view of Ford Lake from my resting spot

Next:  The final leg of the Shingle Mill Pathway.

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