Escape to Silver Mountain

April has flown by, and I can’t believe that it’s been over a month since I last posted. It’s not like anything too out of the ordinary has happened—there was work travel at the beginning of the month, maple sugaring on the weekends, and a lot of time getting our cottage up and running for spring—but I’ve been pulled in more directions than normal the past month and not able to write.

The weather has been yo-yoing between nice and not-so-nice. We’ll occasionally have a beautiful spring day, which will invariably be followed by days of cold, rainy weather.

When I looked at the weather forecast this week, Tuesday was supposed to be the best day of the week and so I planned to meet Sara at Silver Mountain to go for a hike and deliver some gardening goods. The “mountain” (which is only about 250 feel tall) in only about a half hour from my house, so it’s someplace that I seem to go about once a year. Usually I go there  in the fall to see how the colors are shaping up; I don’t know if I’ve ever been there in the spring.

View from near the top.

It was a gorgeous early spring day, with the temperature warm and near 70 degrees. The trail was pretty dry, and we meandered around the top of the mountain catching up on everything that was new since we last talked in the fall. The scenic views aren’t particularly exciting this time of year since the trees are only just starting to bud out. The real action this time of year is in the forest understory, where plants are just starting to pop up and flower.

Trailing arbutus.

As we walked along, Sara told me how Silver Mountain is amazing because its made out of the lava that used to be the center of a volcano. She told me this repeatedly, and each time we’d stop and try to imagine how where we were standing would have been somewhere inside of a volcano. Later on, we hit an area where the rock was smooth and undulating, almost like waves on water. A small sign tacked on a tree said ‘glacial striations’ to point out this phenomenon. I couldn’t help think that Glacial Striations would be a really good band name, and imagined a group of gray-haired individuals strumming guitars and signing upbeat oldies music

A particularly interesting patch of mosses and lichens.

We kept meandering and found a trail that seemed to lead down the mountain on the south side. Neither of us had ever been that way before, so we decided to go that way since it would be a slower route back and give us more time to be outside. We worked our way down the mountain, from rock outcrop through oak and pine and down to the bottom of the mountain, which is northern hardwood forest.

First trout lily flower of the year.

The spring ephemerals are just starting to come out, which is always exciting. These plants are visible for just a little while, popping up around the end of April or early May and only sticking around for a few weeks. I’ve been seeing wild leeks starting to come up since mid-April, but it’s only now that the other plants are starting to show and flower.

Bloodroot.

The trail we were on wound around the south side of the mountain and then curled northward back toward the parking area. It was not far from the parking area that we encountered a stretch of sheer cliffs. I’d heard that there were some cliffs on the mountain, but never seen them. A friend just recently mentioned that the area is becoming more popular for rock climbing, and I could immediately see why after seeing this clean, rock wall.

The east-ish side of Silver Mountain.

I feel a little silly that I’d never seen this part of the mountain before, even though I’ve probably hiked to the summit about 15 times in as many years and these cliff faces are not more than a quarter mile from the parking area. It’s a good reminder to explore places a bit more and not be in such a rush to get to the top. And, also, to revisit familiar places at different times of the year since a different season will make it a different place.

Weekend Warrior in the Keweenaw

We stayed pretty close to home this summer on account Sexy’s broken ankle (better now!) and getting our very own camp.  We’ve also been especially busy at work the past few weeks. Because we haven’t had a lot of time to play, we decided to head to the Keweenaw for the weekend for a series of small adventures.

We started out by visiting an undisclosed location so that Sexy could see how suitable an area would be for deer hunting, which involved about 3 miles of walking on Saturday morning. It was a gorgeous fall day with bright colors.

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From there, we went up to Copper Harbor and I raced the first day of the Keweenaw Cup—a two-day cyclocross race that’s part of the Upper Peninsula series. I started off way to hard and burned myself out early in the race. I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to finish because I was feeling really sick. Once I started feeling a little better, I fell on a tight corner. I scratched up my knee, and I had to fix my chain, which had fallen off my bike. Later, I realized that my front wheel was loose (probably from the fall) and had to stop and fix that. And then later in the race I had to do it again. But I did finish! Continue reading “Weekend Warrior in the Keweenaw”

Getting to Know the Adirondacks

I only had a quick trip to the Adirondacks, so I had to make the most of my time. To see the forests, I did a turbo hike up Ampersand Mountain in the afternoon. The hike started out easy, with the flat trail cutting through northern hardwood forest. It was fairly familiar forest—mostly maple, hemlock, and birch growing on shallow, sandy soils—but not exactly what we have back home. There was also hobblebush (a viburnum) and American beech, two plants we don’t have in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

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The trail was nice and mellow for about a mile, but it was also gradually getting a steeper as I went. Eventually the trail became much steeper until it was eventually a staircase made of stones.  Continue reading “Getting to Know the Adirondacks”

Hiking with… Pack Goats!

I haven’t been backpacking in ages. In fact, it’s likely that been avoiding since the last time I went backpacking for fun. That was ten years ago, when friend and I did a great 14-mile loop at the Porkies but ended up doing the entire thing in one day, instead of the two that we had planned, which meant that we’d schlepped our packs filled with overnight gear that entire distance for nothing.

I was excited to try backpacking again, especially when my friend, Sara, proposed trying out pack goats. Continue reading “Hiking with… Pack Goats!”

Project Get Out: Week 7

Project Get Out is my personal challenge to spend at least a half hour a day outside for the fall. Because even though I work in natural resources and write about the outdoors, I don’t get out nearly enough.

I am once again finding my tendency to go dormant in the fall hard to overcome. La get last week included some high points, but also several low points in my endeavor to get outside more this fall.

Monday: I traveled to Vermont on Monday for work and intentionally carved out some time to take a hike and get to know the area’s woods a bit better. I selected a hike called Mt. Horrid and The Great Cliff and wrote about that earlier this week.

Earlier in the week, I visited The Great Cliff.
Earlier in the week, I visited The Great Cliff.

Tuesday: I was in a meeting all day, so my only outside time was the walk to/from the lunch restaurant and a brief walk around town before dinner. But at least it was something…

Wednesday: I stayed at a small bed and breakfast a mile or so out of Rutland for most of my Vermont trip. I knew it would be hard to get outside after my meetings on Wednesday, so I took a half-hour walk in the morning around the local countryside.

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This was the view from the window of where I stayed. In the evenings, it was incredible to see a nearly full moon hovering over the barn with the valley and mountains in the background.

Thursday: I was busy with work and driving, and it was raining. I walked around Downtown Burlington a bit in the evening before dinner, but I really didn’t get much outside time.

Friday: Fail. No outside time. It was one of those cold, rainy, miserable days and I was preoccupied with meetings and travel. My travel home was nearly interrupted by snow back home. The plane landed in Hancock (although it had been stocked with extra fuel in case we had to turn around and return to Chicago) on more than an inch of sloppy, early-season snow.

Snow on Saturday morning.
Snow on Saturday morning.

Saturday: Happy to be home, I spent most the day being shamelessly home-bodied and lazy. At the same time, the snow and cold temperatures were threatening to ruin the last of the greens in my garden. My outside time on Saturday was spent digging into the snow to get the last of the greens and carrots from the garden, plus some other pre-winter yard work.

The last of my greens: buried under snow, but saved by a row cover!
The last of my greens: buried under snow, but saved by a row cover!
The final garden harvest for 2014.
The final garden harvest for 2014.

Sunday: We continued to get snow, with a few inches stacking up by Sunday morning. I wanted to go skiing, and I should have in the morning while it was a bit below freezing (better gliding conditions) and low wind. But I procrastinated, thinking I’d take a walk later. Well, I never did, and I spent the day inside relaxing and enjoying being home.

I keeps snowing! Here’s another pic of what it looks like now!

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The snow as I write this (Tuesday morning).

Mount Horrid and the Great Cliff

A quick special post this week. I was in Vermont for work and had a little time to take a stroll in the woods. When I looked at what might be nearby in the Green Mountains, I honed in a trail named Mt. Horrid and The Great Cliff. I needed to go there.

Mt. Horrid and The Great Cliff—how could I not go there? It sounded so mysterious and exciting, like a Harry Potter movie or something. Continue reading “Mount Horrid and the Great Cliff”