Wednesday, July 30, 2014

North Country Redux: Twofer and a lighthouse

July 19 2014

As I passed by on my abortive venture into Traverse City yesterday, I scouted out a couple other places listed in my old hiking guide, one of which would serve double-duty. So today it was one if by sea and two if by land, or something like that. . .

I started the morning by huffing and puffing and putting my blow-up kayak into Lake Dubonnet.

If you go past the turnoff to the Cedar Hedge Lake access point, and follow Gonder Rd north all the way to the end, then follow the dirt track in front of you further on in to the woods, you will find a State Forest campground and a boat launch; oh, and Lake Dubonnet.

The lake is the result of a small dam built back in the early 1900’s that turned two small lakes into one
larger lake. The ground in much of the area is sand with a thin overlay of organic material and root systems tend to be shallow. During the initial flooding of the area there are reports that a foot-ball field sized chunk of land, complete with 40 foot trees, floated loose and got blown around the lake by the winds for a while before breaking up.

The remains of flooded woods ringing the lake make it a great fishing spot but terrible for high speed water sports such as jet-skis and the like, which makes it perfect
for some leisurely paddling.  

After exploring the shoreline and stopping off on my own private island for a bit, I returned to the launch, let the air out of my kayak and took to my feet.

Leaving the van right where it was at the boat-launch, which also just happens to be the summer trail-head parking, (Remember I said the last little bit into here is on a dirt track? Well apparently nobody plows that during the winter so you have to park at the end of Gonder Rd. and hoof it in from there during snow season.) I set off on the
Lost Lake Pathway.

There were a few small boats fishing the lake while I was out there but absolutely nobody else out on the trails. My kind of day!

Near the dam site are the remains of project where the plan was to build a corrections camp in the early 1950's. The locals, of which I can't imagine there were too many of back then, objected to this sort of facility in the area and apparently this was back in
the days when government 'by the people-for the people' was actually responsive to 'the people' and the project was abandoned. (Sometimes 'the good ol' days' really were!) Today, if you look carefully, you can still see a few rectangular depressions in the ground that I imagine were destined to be the locations of buildings (And don't show up well at all in photographs, at least my photographs.) and a couple of low concrete walls meant for some small structure; maybe a storeroom of some sort?

This old trail is clearly still maintained today and easy to follow but the blazes helped keep things sorted out between the Pathway and a larger network of horse trails in the area. You could hike the horse trails as well, which are actually more like two-track roads, but with camps anywhere from 16 to 30 miles apart along this system that requires the sort of commitment that I seem to have left way down deep in the back corner of a closet at home!

According to my 1982 book this is a blueberry bog. You can see by the water in the path there to the bottom right that it's a whole lot more bog than ground out there! The book said the blueberry plants will eventually grow into non-productive shrubs and the bogs are periodically burned off to give fresh plants a running start. Since this photo was taken over 30 years since it was described in my book, and these look a whole lot more like plants than shrubs, I would guess there have been a few burns done in the intervening years.

The area, in fact much of Michigan, used to be criss-crossed by railroads, both small and large, that were used to get the once abundant old-growth forest out of - well, the forest - and to the mills. Here the trail is clearly following one of these old roadbeds.

 And here is the namesake of the trail, Lost Lake. See it out there in the distance? The north country is dotted with thousands of these 'kettle lakes' which were formed when the retreating glaciers left behind a few ice cubes. Not the kind you put in your adult beverage, but rather really big ice cubes like the kind that can sink ships if they're carelessly left floating around somewhere.

Eventually even the largest ice cube will melt if you don't keep it cold enough and that leaves behind a hole in the ground which becomes these lakes. Being formed outside the normal drainage patterns, many of these lakes have no inlet or outlet and rely strictly on rainfall, which, over time will gradually wash in vegetation and other natural debris that has no way of washing back out. Lost Lake is one of these, sitting out there in the woods all by it's lonesome, slowly shrinking away as it gets filled in.

After some 3 miles of paddling and 6 miles of hiking I treated myself to a little aimless windshield touring to finish out the evening. Along the way I stumbled onto the Point Betsie Lighthouse, (Be warned, it’s at the dead-end of a sandy little road with no room to turn anything larger than a van around.) which began operation in 1858. Apparently the Great Lakes area has recently begun adopting the volunteer guest keeper program that many of the East and West Coast lighthouses have been using for quite some time now. Unfortunately by the time I got there visiting hours were over for the day so I wasn’t able to get a close-up shot of the lens for blogger and lighthouse fanatic enthusiast Suzanne. But I suspect that’s OK since apparently the original 4th order lens was replaced with an acrylic one at some point.

 Sand castles?? 

These are a pair of the several private residences located near the lighthouse. That's right, nestled down into the sand dunes with driveways half drifted over. What were they thinking???!! Maybe a nice view but this is a place where I can't even keep my beach towel from sinking and crumbling into the sand below me after only a few hours. Now I may not be the skinniest person out there (Oh for the days when I could wear a speedo to the beach and only be a joke and not an embarrassment. . .) but I'm still one heck of a lot lighter and definitely more flexible, than a two-story house!

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