Hiking Dude Blog
2019 - Aug Jul Apr Mar Feb
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Why, oh why, oh why, would ANYONE want to hike so far????
That's often the thought folks have when they hear about someone that likes to hike the longer trails. And, it's a good question! Some people hike to find themselves, others to lose themselves, others to enjoy quiet time, others to meet new friends. It kind of reminds me of coffee commercials - some say it perks you up, others say it calms you down. :-)
Hearing about someone's hiking trip is like seeing an astronaut's photo of earth, or hearing a recording of a live concert, or smelling a day-old doughnut - it is just not possible to appreciate the description without personally experiencing the event. One example I use is a day I had on the Arizona Trail. As I hiked 35 miles across the desert south of Flagstaff, a rumbling sound caught my attention. I saw about 50 elk running across the open grass ahead of me. When I stopped to watch, I could even feel the ground shake from their pounding. I didn't smell them, but sight, sound, and feeling were all involved - you can't appreciate all that from me just writing it here.
That's why it's great to meet others out on the trail. It's a community that tends to support each other and let everyone be a part, in whatever way they'd like. A short movie was just made to show support for a specific person that could no longer participate, but more so for the community as a whole to become stronger and more supportive. After watching Paul's Boots, I think you'll appreciate a bit better what the hiking community is about.
The movie is 37 minutes and give a glimpse into the hikes of a handful of various people, some famous in the long trail community, and others on their first long hike. Each of them taking on a burden in support of an Australian named Paul who could not hike the trail himself.
Meet My Little Friends
While watching my maple tree continue to slowly turn color today, and contemplating content for my hiking guide, I noticed this cute squirrel hopping about in the leaves and picking up stray maple seeds. I didn't realize squirrels like maple seeds that much, but I've got tons of them to share this year. I wonder if they taste anything like maple syrup to squirrels?
Anyway, I took his picture and went back to work. A bit later, with the afternoon continueing to be bright and sunny and my computer screen being boring, I saw a black squirrel wolfing down seeds, too. Maybe he was collecting them for later rather than eating them now, I don't know. Anyway, through the window, I got his picture, too. He looks more greyish here, but I promise he was coal black.
Believing I should share my good fortune with the networked world, I was about to post his candid photo when another little critter scampered by. Now, this gal is the real reason I even had my camera sitting here. I've seen her the last couple days but she always skittered away before I could snap a shot. I guess she's getting full and slow because today she was in no hurry and posed like a professional model for me, in the leaves and breeze. You can't see it, but her hair was blowing in the wind. :-)
Grey, black, and white squirrels in my yard all in one day. Pretty cool. But wait, there's more! As a bonus this chittering little guy also made an appearance. I think he just heard the paparazzi were around and wanted 15 seconds of fame. I obliged.
Wow, all that wildlife and I didn't even go for a hike today.
Where's the Red?
OK, to follow up on yesterday's post about improved photos, I need to let you know what brought that about.
I spent two days hiking around Duluth, MN doing research and taking photos for a hiking guide I've been asked to write. During that time, the fall colors weren't very spectacular so I spent another day about 10 days later to get better pictures. The colors of the trees still seemed kind of flat to me - mostly pale yellow, even maples. Oak and cottonwood leaves usually just turn tan in the fall and drop off. Poplar and birch turn yellow, but I was hoping for some engaging reds and oranges from the maples trees that I know are there. To my disappointment, even the maples were just pale, mostly yellow with a bit of orange on some trees.
The maple tree in my front yard presents a spectacular display of orange and red every year and is a joy to watch change. This year, I've noticed it is showing pale orange and nothing like I've enjoyed in the past. It was such a drastic difference, I was concerned and checked to see what might cause it. I noticed that there are thousands! of seeds on the tree this year - I thought maybe it is putting its energy into seed production rather than color. Some research on the good 'ol Net informed me that is not the problem.
Fall colors in desiduous trees are pretty interesting. During the summer months, the tree's chlorophyll creates green pigment and we see green leaves. Underneath that green color there is also yellow color (carotenoids), but we can't see it. When the amount of sunlight decreases day by day as fall approachs, the tree generates less chlorophyll. Eventually, the lack of hours of sunlight prevent the tree from creating chlorophyll, the green color fades away, and we see the yellow that was there the whole time. So, in fall, we're pretty much guaranteed to have yellowish fall colors.
The orange and red colors are different. They are the head-turners, but they may or may not show up in any year since the stuff that makes red color (anthocyanins) is only created in the fall, and some years are better than others. More red colors will appear when the tree receives more bright light and cold air. So, crisp autumn days with little cloud cover create the best environment for brilliant fall colors. If it's a dreary autumn weatherwise, the tree colors will tend to be mostly yellow (and dreary) too.
Other weather can affect fall colors, too. A sustained drought can delay the process of color turning by a couple weeks. An early, heavy frost can kill the leaves before they can turn color and they fade directly to brown and drop.
So, the perfect recipe for great Fall Colors is a warm, rainy spring followed by a pleasant summer with clear skies in early fall. This creates robust growth, sustained health, and strong preparation for winter.
Much of my maple tree's leaves are still green, so I've got my fingers crossed that this week of nice weather will help it brighten up before halloween. And, don't get me started on those box elder bugs! :-)
2 Good 2 B True
On instagram I see these gorgeous nature photos. Crisp, colorful, vibrant colors. Perfectly focused, eye-popping hues and tones. Sometimes, they seem to good to be true.
I thought this scene of ladies practice hiking up and down a ski hill in Duluth was interesting and colorful, so I took a photo. When I compare my photos I've taken on the trail to others, I see drab, sometimes blurry, bland scenes that look exactly like what I saw when I was out there. What am I doing wrong?
Well, being the inquisitive type, I did a bit of digging and found that some of (most of, a huge majority of, nearly all but mine) the pics posted online have been filtered to make them better than real life. What??? A picture of a tree by a trail needs to be improved? Why?
Here's an example... Just google 'rainbow mountain china' and check out the images that are returned. WOW!!!! I really want to go there. But, wait a minute. Here are two images of virtually the same place, one natural and one 'enhanced'. Guess which is which...
The real one is pretty cool, and I could see that if I hiked there. But, the colorized one is impossible to actually see in real life. Nature photos that are blurred, sharpened, contrasted, emphasized, and in other ways 'improved' make it more difficult to trust the story being told. They set expectations of being able to enjoy that scenery by someone hiking that trail or visiting that location - expectations that can never be fulfilled.
I can certainly understand improving a picture to influence people, such as marketing or high school albums or publicity shots, but just pictures of that hike through Wyoming? - Come On! Sure, crop out the clutter and level the horizon if you held the camera crooked, even remove red-eye if you want, but blurring, filtering, brightening, sharpening, and colorizing just create a fantastic version of something that was never experienced, doesn't exist, and will never be seen.
I figure if the photos are getting doctored up anyway, might as well make it worth the effort...
Hops, Not Hiking
Besides hiking, I also homebrew beer. My wife wasn't using our very small garden plot this year, so I grew four hop plants just to see what would happen and today was the surprise harvest day. These are all the hops I harvested from my small garden. Tonight, they are laying on a screen on an old air hockey table where they will hopefully dry over the next day so I can use them in my next batch of beer.
In 5 short months, I've learned a ton about hop farming - and there's still tons and tons more I don't know, but that will make it fun to continue on learning. For example, just the terms are weird - a bine is a hop plant that normally would be called a vine, the hop plant that gets planted in the ground is called a rhizome, and the part you harvest is a cone. That screen has about 2 pounds of cones on it.
But, I want to let you know how I spent my last day with my hop farm.
I planted four rhizomes way back in April - two Cascade hops and two Nugget hops. I built a 7-foot pyramid trellis for them to climb and, as they quickly sprouted and reached towards the sun, they worked their way to the top. All four bines survived, grew, and were healthy. I kept their small area weed-free and life was good.
But, those bines wouldn't stop growing. I finally had to accept the fact that hops really do grow to 20 feet high. I lashed together a taller three-poled trellis and up they climbed. This is the final growth that I started harvesting today. The bines reached the top, wrapped around, and basically made a big knot of hops at the top. Hey, it was my first year and I just wanted to grow hops.
I found out today was harvest day because I tested a dozen cones to find their moisture content. If it's under abour 78%, it's time to harvest. I weighed them, then microwaved them to evaporate off all the moisture and weighed them again - moisture was only 70% so they were drying out and I didn't want them to go bad on the trellis.
Since they had grown so high, I cut all four bines about 6 feet up and lowered the upper section to the ground as you can see in this photo. I picked the cones off the remaining 6 feet and will let that part of the plant continue to grow until it naturally stops this fall. This should strengthen the root system so I can cut it back and then have it come back with vigor in the spring.
The next 60 to 90 minutes were pretty easy and monotonous, just plucking cones off the bines. The old window screen worked well to collect the cones and it was fun to watch my small piles slowly grow as my hands got slightly sticky from the hop oils and my arms itched from the hop fibers. They say to wear gloves and protective clothes, but I'm a noob this year.
I finally finished with two piles of cones, the bare bines in the compost bin, and a successful harvest. The funny thing is that a batch of beer uses somewhere around 4 oz. of hops - once these 2 pounds are dry, that's just about how much I'll have. A summer of growing for just one batch of home brew.
But, it was sooooo fun, entertaining, interesting, and educational to grow my own, and next year they should produce about twice as much. I'll have a better trellis to keep the hops separated and they will be more mature with a higher yield.
Oh, and I did hike 5 miles on the trail this morning before harvest!
Stickers in the Wild
I really enjoyed meeting so many people on the Superior Hiking Trail last week. I handed out a few Hiking Dude stickers, and got a couple of new pictures for my sticker page.
If you've got one of my stickers on your water bottle, pack, car bumper, or whatever, send me a pic of it in the wild and I'll add it to the page.
If you want a sticker, either run into me on the trail or click here.
Day 6 - Ending at Tettegouche
I walked 40368 steps on the trail today.
I traveled about 14 miles today.
After the nice time in camp last night, I slept well and woke to a clear sunrise for yet another great day of hiking, avoiding the rain that was expected.
Our route took us from the backwoods with lakes towards the UPs and Downs of the hills by Superior. We only met 1 lady and then 2 boy scouts on the trail - a quiet day.
About an hour into the hike, Martin's knee started complaining.
We crossed a cool beaver dam and then climbed up the Section 13 area with great views all around. From there, it was up and down along a ridge line all the way to the Baptism River and Tettegouche State Park. We had wonderful breezes off the big lake most of the day and the trail was good. But, with a knee continuing to get worse, we decided that 84 miles was a nice hike for this week and there was no need to go farther.
I was very happy with the part of the trail we traveled. It included a broad range of terrain and different north woods environs. A bear or moose, or even deer, would have been nice, but squirrels, loons, swans, snakes, frogs, toads, mushrooms, tiny fishes, and crayfish were all interesting to see.
If you check out our path ( Check out my current location on the map. ) you can see the tracker did not do very well in the woods - I'm quite disappointed about that and will be letting the company know.
One more thing, Tettegouche has a new, very nice visitor center - if you get up the north shore, you really should stop in.
Day 5 - Lake Country
I walked 31769 steps on the trail today.
I traveled about 13 miles today.
Our hike was relatively flat compared to previous days. The trail traversed the high boggy area on the back side of the sawtooth mountains that ride from Lake Superior's shore. We crossed over low hills between lakes Sonju and Egge, and many boggy areas along the way. The lakes are beautiful, with swans and loons cruising about. The 4 campsites on these two lakes are nice too. We met Sean, Casey, and Steven at a site when we took a morning break. They wound up at the Leskinen Creek site with us tonight. When we arrived here, Pat and Katie were already here. So, it was a nice evening visiting with new friends and enjoying a small campfire. I would really recommend this section of trail for someone that wants a weekend taste of the SHT - mellow trail, lakes, and nice sites. Concerns of bad weather proved unnecessary as it was quite warm, then cloudy, but now a nice breeze and less humidity tonight. I hope it stays. Food has been good and adequate, water filters working great, and just minor physical pains. We've been very fortunate to meet a wide range of people, all out enjoying Minnesota in their way.
Day 4 - Free Beer
I walked 39597 steps on the trail today.
I traveled about 15.8 miles today.
It seems each day is getting harder than the last. The trail was steeper and rockier, the weather was hotter and more humid, and the muscles and joints complained more. But, it was still a great day of hiking! We hiked from Dyers Creek, crossed the Caribou River, climbed up, over, and across the very hot, south facing Horseshoe Ridge, plummeted down to the Manitou River, and finally climbed up to Aspen Knob for the night. The trail was empty until we reached Crosby-Manitou park. We had just been talking about having a beer when we get home, and wondering about the weather forecast, when we saw two young guys camping by the trail. We stopped to chat and asked if they had heard any weather news. They then offered us beer. Not to be rude, we accepted and had a nice talk with Zach and Ryan, two working actors on a quick camping trip. An hour or so later, we got to our campsite and set up. Four college friends showed up so we got to visit with them this evening. They have been on the trail 11 days and want me to call them the poopy boys - so there you go.
Day 3 - Sun, Rivers, and Bugs
I walked 38302 steps on the trail today.
I traveled about 15.7 miles today.
Another beautiful day for hiking but this one had late summer humidity and the mosquitos finally tracked is down. I got a handful of bites this afternoon. We crossed the Temperance and Cross rivers, handfuls of creeks and uncountable mud holes. We only ran into a few hikers and none seemed to be too interested in chatting. We have the campsite at Dyers Creek to ourselves tonight. The creek is full of small fish and crayfish. We had lots of time to relax in camp and had a fire for the third night on a row. Carlton Peak had great views of Lake Superior and the rivers were nice scenery.
Day 2 - Making Tracks
I walked 38447 steps on the trail today.
I traveled about 16 miles today.
Yeah, that's right - bear tracks! Didn't see any other Wildlife today, but it was a beautiful day for hiking with sun and breeze all day. Once the leftover water on the trail and foliage dried up, the trail was fine. Ran into lots of day hikers around Lutsen, but only one other backpacker on the trail. Tyler started yesterday north of us and plans to hike to his folks' home somewhere in Minnesota. We wound up staying at the same site with him tonight, along with a bunch of Neanderthals. Actually, that's what they asked me to call them in my post. They're a handful of guys, all related, but big age range, that go out on a short camping trip each year. We shared a nice fire, but I'm in bed earlier tonight after our longer than planned distance. Our mashed potatoes and chicken dinner was great - lots better than last nights noodles. Oh, early this morning we walked by the view of the Poplar River valley which I think is one of the nicest spots on the trail. Early tomorrow, we'll go up Carlton Peak - another favorite spot.
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