Saturday, September 19, 2015

Folding Bucket

The 10L Sea to Summit Folding Bucket is a game changer! 

We use the MSR Sweet Water filter on our backpacking trips, which usually means the two of us standing out in Lake Superior with numb legs for however long it takes us to fill up our Nalgene bottles. I'm not sure why it took us so long to buy this, but it's a game changer, and we love it!

It's small (palm size), light (2.8oz), and carries all the water we need to fill up. It's also great for those eco friendly showers on shore. I'm not sure how we survived without it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Lake Superior Provincial Park Coastal Trail

We've been thinking about hiking the Coastal Trail for about 6 years, and this year we finally hiked all 43 miles. Just a few hours north of Sault St. Marie is the beautiful, rugged, and demanding Lake Superior Coastal Trail. This trail is weather permitting! If it's raining or the lake is wavy, we really don't know how this trail is even possible due to slippery rocks. We walked along the coastline, over beaches of boulders, along high cliffs, through the woods, and even some sandy beaches.

Nathan and I decided to hike from North to South, so we were hiking into civilization. We were very happy with Twilight Resort's shuttle service. We dropped our car at the Agawa Visitor Center where we paid for our parking and backcountry permits and were shuttled to Gargantua Rd. to begin our adventure.

Planning Info:
Lake Superior Provincial Park 
Quick View Map
Map with my notes
Purchase Detailed Park Map

BUY the detailed park map, you'll be happy you did.

This is our itinerary. We decided to head north from Gargantua trailhead (for a down and back), but if you need to trim your hike down you could just head south from here. Every single day was spectacularly beautiful but difficult to extremely challenging. We had an idea of what sites we wanted to camp in, but this is where we actually stayed each night.

Day 1: Gargantua Trailhead to Chalfant Cove
Day 2: Chalfant Cove to Gargantua Bay
Day 3: Gargantua Bay to Buckshot Creek (Extremely Challenging)
Day 4: Buckshot Creek to Coldwater River (Site north of Robertson Cove)
Day 5: Coldwater River sites north of Barrett Island
Day 6: Barrett Island to our vehicle at Agawa Bay Visitor Center (Challenging)

(Note: There was a site we wished we had known about prior that had a beautiful sandy beach. It's about 1 mile past Beatty Cove and is shown on the detailed park map)

We try very hard to be mindful of what we're carrying but we really should have left more items at home. If you can live without it, don't bring it. (Note: leave your hammocks at home, there are a few nice hammock spots, especially at Gargantua Bay, but it's not worth the weight)

You will need a good pair of broken in backpacking boots. This terrain is rugged and hard on your feet. You will be very thankful for the short bits of soft terrain through the woods. We each had a hiking pole and thought it was extremely helpful.

There were many areas were we were actually scrambling or bouldering over rocks. It was a lot of fun but a lot of work. We actually didn't feel prepared in some cases and it was a bit scary but extremely exhilarating and rewarding. Unfortunately we don't have any pictures because we were too tired or preoccupied with trying to get through these areas. 

This trail is a maintained trail, however they must use the term "maintained" lightly. There were sections of the trail where there were pine trees on either side of the trail that you basically had to plow through. This is basically our only complaint. Be prepared for some real untouched ruggedness out there.

One last tip. The trail is fairly well marked, however some sections of the rocky areas have cairns that are few and far between. We lost the trail a couple times and ended up in some real difficult situations. If the going gets too tough, you might have missed the cairn leading you back into the woods.

It's Easy Being Cheesy

Recently Nathan and I have been preparing for our Lake Superior Coastal Trail trip. I took a few pictures of the dehydrating food process. 

I have blogged about dehydrating food before, in Dry Food for Thoughtwhere I list some resources, favorite dried items, and what dehydrator we have.

We've started to hone in on some of our favorite meals and snacks which I'll share with you here. We sort of accidentally made this meal and loved it!

Taco Beef Mac (2 hearty servings)

  • 1 cup macaroni noodles (cook and dehydrate)
  • 1/2 cup taco beef (brown lean beef, add taco seasoning, bread crumbs, and dehydrate)
  • 1/4 cup mixed bell peppers (chop and dehydrate)
  • 1/4 tsp M-Salt (salt, pepper, garlic powder)
  • 1/4 cup black beans (rinse and dehydrate)
  • Sprinkle tomatoes (de-seed, chop, and dehydrate)
  • Pinch of JalapeƱos (de-seed, chop, and dehydrate)
  • Keep in separate snack size ziplock bag
    • 3 TBSP dry cheese from a mac & cheese box
    • 1 TBSP taco seasoning
    • 2 TBSP powdered milk
On the trail boil a little over 2 cups of water. Dump dehydrated mix in. Cover and wrap with a towel for insulation and wait 45 minutes. Just before serving, add cheese mix, stir, and enjoy.

Mexican Beans & Rice  (2 hearty servings)
  • 1/2 cup taco beef (brown lean beef, add taco seasoning, bread crumbs, and dehydrate)
  • 1 cup Zatarain's Black Beans & Rice Mix
  • 1/4 tsp M-Salt (salt, pepper, garlic powder)
  • 1/4 cup black beans (rinse and dehydrate)
  • Sprinkle green onions (slice and dehydrate)
  • Sprinkle dried tomatoes (de-seed, chop, and dehydrate)
  • Pinch of JalapeƱos (de-seed, chop, and dehydrate)
  • 1/4 cup mixed bell peppers
  • Keep in separate snack size ziplock bag
    • 3 TBSP dry cheese from a mac & cheese box
    • 1 TBSP taco seasoning
    • 2 TBSP powdered milk
On the trail boil a little over 2 cups of water. Dump dehydrated mix in. Cover and wrap with a towel for insulation and wait 45 minutes. Just before serving, add cheese mix, stir, and enjoy.

  • 2 cup cheese tortellini (cooked and dehydrated)
  • 1/2 jar of spaghetti sauce (dehydrated like fruit leather)
  • 1/2 cup beef (brown lean beef, add bread crumbs or Italian croutons, and dehydrate)
  • Sprinkle dried tomatoes (de-seed, chop, and dehydrate)
On the trail boil a little over 2 cups of water. Dump tortellini and sauce leather in. Cover and wrap with a towel for insulation and wait 45 minutes.  Stir, and enjoy.

Chili Mac
  • 1 cup macaroni noodles (cook and dehydrate)
  • 1 cup chili (make your favorite chili recipe and dehydrate, use lean beef)
  • 1/4 cup mixed bell peppers (chop and dehydrate)
  • Pinch jalapenos (de-seed, chop, and dehydrate)
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt/pepper or M-Salt (salt, pepper, garlic powder)
On the trail boil a little over 2 cups of water. Dump dehydrated chili mix in. Cover and wrap with a towel for insulation and wait 45 minutes. We think this meal might be awesome with a cheese packet too... we will try it next time.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Up North Trails

A flyer from IMAGIN just came across my desk with an article about an interactive map for trails in Michigan. "The Up North Trails Collaborative has a common goal of promoting all trail systems together for all trail users in a 21-county area."

They have been aggregating trail data from multiple sources along with points of interest. Check it out!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


For us Michiganders, Kentucky is actually a relatively short drive away. Here is a Kentucky trip planner post for Mammoth Caves National Park and Red River Gorge Geological Area.

Mammoth Cave Waterproof, Tear-Resistant, Topographic Map - This is a very nice National Geographic map showing contours, trails, campsites and more. A must have! Thanks Jacob for sending us this map and so fast! It helped with planning, and will be awesome in the backcountry. :)
Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave Maps
Cave Tour Schedule and Booking
Helpful Folks @ Mammoth Cave

If you plan on doing a cave tour you should book early. I waited too long to book a trip and missed out on a tour I wanted to do. We are going to do the Violet City and Domes and Dripstones tours which l am excited for. The park seems to be dog friendly and even has 10 kennels available at the onsite hotel for your dog to wait while you are touring the cave.

(Post Trip Notes: Kennels were very accommodating, there was a little shelter for the pups to go in if they wanted and you are able to padlock the gate while you're gone. The cave tours were amazing! The first tour was 3 miles, 3.5 hours. It was nostalgic and lit by 10 oil lamps our group of 40 carried. Our Guide's Grandfather (Wood) used to be a tour guide here also. We learned about salt/peter mining, geology, historical sites such as the church and hospital and saw multiple cave rooms. It was hard to see but you could really appreciate the darkness and what what the first visitors would have experienced. The second tour was totally different and a nice contrast to the first tour. This tour was 3/4 mile 2 hours. You follow a steep staircase down and travel in sort of an L pattern. The entire thing is lit up and we travelled with a group of 120. It was nice being able to see the rock formations especially at the end where the dripstones were. We even saw bats! )

Campsites are first come first serve, so it's a little hard to pre-plan the exact itinerary. We typically like to do multiple nights in the backcountry so we will try to string a couple sites together once we arrive.

(Post Trip Notes: Even if you don't see bugs flying around, wear long pants and deet up, or visit during the winter months. We didn't realize it was happening at the time, but we got DESTROYED by chiggers and ticks in Mammoth's backcountry. Chigger bites seriously itch for 5+ weeks. :(

It rained a lot the day we arrived and the visitor center folks steered us away from the sites we wanted to stay at due to flooding. They suggested Sal Hollow (Nathan likes to call it Shallow Hal) and Turnhole Bend. Both places looked great in the picture book they showed us and both were water accessible (so they say). Long story short, you cannot get to water from either of these two sites! Personally I would say skip backcountry camping at Mammoth... do some cave tours and get out of there. Head to the Red River Gorge Geological area.)

Red River Gorge Geological Area

(Post Trip Notes: Upon arrival at the Red River Gorge Geological Area, we went to the visitor center and managed to slip in just before closing time. We purchased a glossy topo map of the area for a just a few dollars. If you can stop into the Visitor Center, purchase this map. I was unable to find it online, but the ISBN is 978159351669-7.)
Red River Gorge Topographic Map with Campsites - I highly recommend this map. It comes as a package of 4 maps depicting trails, campsites, mileage, views and much more. I was not able to find campsites anywhere online, so I say it is a must have. It is a nice thick glossy paper, and folds up to a small size. Jacob, Thank you again for sending us your maps!

The Red River Gorge Geological Area looks amazing! I'm very excited to hike, camp, and view the arches in the area. The Red River Gorge Area is also dog friendly. Just remember to pick up any food or waste to keep disease from spreading through the park. We plan to split our stay here into 3 round trips.
  • Hike Auxillary Ridge Loop
  • Power Loop
  • Swift Camp Creek Trail

----------KML/GPS File & Interactive Map Section----------
Here are the routes and waypoints I entered into our GPS. If you want to create your own file to upload to your GPS follow these steps.
  1. Get a .jpeg image or screenshot or the map you want to use. If you map is very large, take a look at this post about 1024 pixel images.
  2. Add an image overlay in Google Earth. (Steps 1-4 in this link).
  3. Trace the trails and add campsites, placemarks, etc. It should look like this.
  4. Organize your routes, waypoints, images into a folder under My Places in Google Earth.
  5. Export a KML file from Google Earth with Right Click on Folder you made > Save Place As > Save as KML file to a location on your computer.
  6. Convert the KML file to a GPX file. I used a free online converter.
  7. Connect your GPS and drag the GPX file to your device. On my Garmin Oregon 400, it goes in a folder call GPX. Note: You may need to tinker with the settings on your GPS to get the routes and points to show up. On the Oregon 400 you have to go into Track Manager and set each route to "show on map".

To get the map in Google Maps, I just uploaded it as a KML file. You can download the file by navigating to the map, clicking on the folder icon under the title, and selecting Download KML. You can open the file in Google Earth and make modifications or go right to step 6.

These maps do not depict every trail, campsite etc. I used them for my own trip planning but thought I would share them.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Kitchel-Lindquist / Harold Hartger Dunes Preserve

Connie and Gerald Lindquist, Harold Hartger, and Marjorie Hendricks made it possible for us to take a walk through this 112 acre dunes preserve.

The Connie Lindquist Trail and Marjorie Hendricks Trail are both interpretive trails. There is a box at the trailhead with the brochures but it is typically empty. The city of Ferrysburg was kind enough to email me the brochures which I have posted here.

Connie Lindquist and Marjorie Hendricks Brochure
Marjorie Hendricks Brochure

I was also told next year they will do a better job of having the boxes full as well as create a trail map for the Harold Hartger Trail.

There is a parking lot on Berwyck St. Map

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Killarney Provincial Park

If you're looking for a challenging and remote trip, Killarney Provincial Park's La Silhouette Trail Loop in Ontario, Canada is the hike to do! This is a very scenic area with many lakes and a number of excellent lookouts on the mountain peaks.

For the most part we would not see anybody except for a couple of locations where day hikers can make it in and the canoers/kayakers on the lakes. We went counter clockwise and crossed a couple of hikers each day going in the opposite direction as us. Clockwise is the normal direction for most, leaving the most difficult days for when your pack is the lightest.

The Friends of Killarney are very helpful and will help you plan your trip.  When you are ready to book you can call Ontario Parks and reserve your backcountry sites. This is a tough hike, make sure to plan the mileage according to your ability. They say you should plan at least 6 nights, but there are people who have done it in 2-3. I don't recommend it unless you and your group are in excellent shape.  ;)

Ontario Parks Website
Friends of Killarney

Book with Ontario Parks Reservations:
Trip Planner with Friends of Killarney:
705-287-2800 (careful with this number, you may get extra charges on your bill since it is international)

I highly suggest purchasing the waterproof Map and La Silhouette Trail Guide Book. The book describes the campsites, wildlife, trail, and also provides a nice mileage map. Unfortunately there is not a lot of information online on the La Silhouette Trail making purchasing these items a must.

Make sure to purchase these early.  It took a couple of weeks for these to travel snail mail to Michigan from Canada. You will also want to make sure to plan your trip early! The campsites are not shared which is very nice for solitude and privacy, but its first come first serve when making reservations. We did not do this and ended up doing the trip counter clockwise in order to book some campsites.

The terrain is very rugged so make sure to have sturdy comfortable hiking boots.  We saw a guy wearing his camp sandals because both of the soles of his hiking boots blew out!  I should have taken a picture, it was kind of awesome. I suggest a hiking pole as well.

View Killarney in a larger map

VanRaalte Farm

Take a stroll through VanRaalte Farm in Holland, MI.
There are 160 acres of meadows, forest, ponds, and streams.
It is accessible from both 16th street and 24th street.
This farm is also open in the winter for cross country skiing AND they have a sled hill.