CWD in Kent County Facility: Bad News for Deer Hunters in Michigan

The Michigan DNR has in the past few days announced that Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been detected in a captive cervid herd in Kent County. As I understand it, all cervids in that facility will have to be destroyed. And all baiting is now banned across the Lower Peninsula. If CWD spreads, it will potentially create the need for some mass animal eliminations and who knows what else. I have worked with COs in the western UP where we were required to confiscate any deer that  hunters were attempting to bring back into Michigan from Wisconsin, and believe me, people were NOT happy about having their prizes taken away. And neither were the officers happy about having to do it. But the word has always been not IF CWD was coming: Only WHEN it would arrive . Now it’s here. For the history of the disease you can search the web. For the history of what’s happened in Wisconsin check the following website and URL:  www.wisconsinoutdoorsman.com

108 Reasons to Fish for Trout

Da Nose, Boss. Da Nose!
Da Nose, Boss. Da Nose!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One photo to offer: from last summer, night fishing. Mein Gott! I swear za infamous “Heywood Nose” grows larger every year. As does my gut.

Back from camp last friday: Five of our six Bullshidos eventually straggled in. Lars Hjalmquist, originally from Ironwood, and now living in Venice, Florida, got “caned” by rain and no-could-fly- G.I. Dickie Bird Chamberlin came up from Gull Lake for Weds and Thursday. Reg “Yank-Canuck” Bernard was late on Monday because his Rx was two hours late at the Wal-Mart in Ft. Wayne. And I had a doctor’s appointment Monday morning, after which I picked up Robochef and the week’s tucker. Only Allan VanDenBerg was on time —and only because VDB lives there.

This was our 31st consecutive camp. I was el-heapo younger (only 34) when the thing was launched. Time flies, etc. Atypical camp, except for food, which was at the usual level of outstanding. A camp first: Not one hand of poker played. Two rum cakes consumed, thanks to Tara (Heywood) and Molly (Bernard). Fished only one day, caught two small rainbows (8 & 9-in steelhead babies), then a guy and his kid parked their personal pontoons 25 yards downstream and I just walked on and went past them and sat on the bank, wishing I’d not quit smoking last year, and looked in the water and started picking up rocks instead of fishing. Even the largemouth bass were less than interested in my offerings and not one got caught by me. 

Little L Lake almost always has a loon or a pair and this year it was the same. But this year there was the added attraction of a mom bald eagle and a little one and every time mom flew, the loons raised verbal hell. Little L Lake, by the way, has no motors allowed, even electric trolling gizzies. With silence comes the birds: draw your own conclusions.

Weds and Thursday drove through the PM Lodge cabins to see if anyone might be about. No luck.

One day the Bullshidos played golf at nearby Marquette Trails: Talk about sticker shock: 41 smackeroos for 18 holes and an electric cart! Holy wah, eh? That much for one partial day of lousy golfing, vs $27 for an entire season all-species fishing license?  No comparison, financially or emotionally. Some of the clubs for sale in the clubhouse cost as much as my reels. And I shot 108 for the first 9 holes and just rode the second nine. My first golf outing since 1993. You think the score showed it? The good news: I don’t have to think about golfing again until 2023 — 15 years down the pike, and by then will either be dead and in the eternal dirt nap as a dust heap, or approaching 80 and if not the former, surely will be unable to remember what golf is, or able to remember and not give a damn.  I look at the outing as providing me 108 good reasons to fish for trout. Al-the-Pal says 108 is a record for 9 holes in his 65 years. Oh well, I guess  it’s good to get into the record books. This being Olympic time, ask Brit ,Eddie the Eagle, of ski-jumping infamy.

We visited our long-time friend Dick Schwikert, and wife Lou, at their spread over on the Little South Branch of the Pere Marquette. Schwikerts have had three bears on the property (including eyeball-close on the patio) this summer. Amazing to think that when the Bullshidos first started going to camp there were no bears anywhere near Baldwin. Now they seem to be plentiful.  Robochef saw the first one some years back on 19-Mile Road near Big Jackson. Bear reports are now common in the area and Reg even found a fresh pile of scat next to one of the greens at the golf course during our golfing round.

Robochef’s culinary offerings this past week were as follows: baked cardamom-honey chicken with cous cous, dates and almonds; Baked spinach-stuffed pork chops; blazing shrimp creole; and, the Bullshido Thursday night tradition, grilled filets, these the size of catcher’s mitts.

We’re off to the Yoop again soon, but just for a few days this time. Weather up there is cooler, less humid. Birds are beginning their fall migration along the flyway that crosses Whitefish Point.

 

For Grady Service fans: The newest Woods Cop entry, DEATH ROE,  will be out around October 1. Ask at you favorite book store. Sometime this fall all of the Woods Cop mysteries will be issued in soft cover with very different artwork. The new covers are a now on the website for your viewing pleasure. Ask your local (and all Michigan bookstores) for the books and if they don’t carry them, ask them why not. By the way, I know that CHASING A BLOND MOON  has been out of print for awhile, but I’m told will be reprinted with the other titles this fall. With a new publication imminent, a few speaking engagements are also looming and these too are listed on the site. DEATH ROE will be Woods Cop No. 6. Number 7 has the working title of HARD GREEN VIOLETS and I finished the first draft the night before I left for Bullshido camp. Expect HGV to be out some time in 2009. Not yet sure what the subject of Number 8 will be, but a few notions seem to be rolling around in my head like loose agates in a tin pail, so we shall see where they lead. Youse take care. Da salmons dey’ll soon be runnin’ all over state, eh. Get out dere and enjoy experience mosta dose udder states simply can’t offer. And keep any eye out for dat infamous Limpy Allerdyce, who can turn up almost anywhere. Holy Wah, he might even walk Da Britch on Labor Day wit the governor and her crowd!

Lookawaysaturday

Partridge in a Pine Tree (Cones, no Pears and it's not even close to Christmas). Ontonagon County
Partridge in a Pine Tree (Cones, no Pears and it's not even close to Christmas). Ontonagon County

Gravel Pat, Schoolcraft County

Gravel Pat, Schoolcraft County

Weekend here. Olympics on… sort of. The opening ceremony put on by the Chinese was…way too much and way too little, if you get my meaning. Instead of politics I’d rather look closer to home and share some pix for your viewing pleasure. Have a nice weekend. It’s perfect fishing weather.

Porkies in the Mist, Ontonagon County
Porkies in the Mist, Ontonagon County
Doe Deep in Maples, Ontonagon County
Doe Deep in Maples, Ontonagon County
Sunset Rock, Just west of Silver City on Lake Superior
Sunset Rock, Just west of Silver City on Lake Superior
Small Buck in Ferns, Delta County
Small Buck in Ferns, Delta County
Road Hawk, Delta County
Road Hawk, Delta County

Psyching Up for Bullshido Camp

 

22-inch brown caught on the AuSable's Holy Waters in August 2007 on a black Houghton Lake Blaster. For me the epitomy of brown trout fishing is done at night, when there is no moon and you drift slowly down the river without lights casting to likely spots, waiting to hear the slashing strike or feeling it before hammering the fly home. This kind of fishing is called mousing and it's not for everyone, but if you want a shot at a big fish once in a while, this is the way to do it. Interestingly, the trout will slash at the fly and if they aren't stuck by it, will hit at it again. They think it's a kind of vole which has it's territory on both sides of the river and goes back and forth all night. Mousing for trout. You'll love it or hate it.
22-inch brown caught on the AuSable's Holy Waters in August 2007 on a black Houghton Lake Blaster. For me the epitomy of brown trout fishing is done at night, when there is no moon and you drift slowly down the river without lights casting to likely spots, waiting to hear the slashing strike or feeling it before hammering the fly home. This kind of fishing is called mousing and it's not for everyone, but if you want a shot at a big fish once in a while, this is the way to do it. Interestingly, the trout will slash at the fly and if they aren't stuck by it, will hit at it again. They think it's a kind of vole which has it's territory on both sides of the river and goes back and forth all night. Mousing for trout. You'll love it or hate it.

             

 

 

           

Next week the Bullshido boys (the youngest just turned 57 or 58 and what is it about trouters and hockey players that cause us to call each other boys?) and I will convene at trout fishing camp near Baldwin; it’s been more than 3o consecutive years now but I’ve lost track of the precise count. Lots of memories accumulate over such a long period, and many of the cartoons from those camps are in pages in the cartoon sections.For camp, the lads will saunter in from Florida, Missouri, Indiana and various Michigan locales. Sometimes camp is about a lot of fishing (largemouth bass and trout), and sometimes it’s more about nickel-dime poker. This year, who knows? but I’m ready to chase some Pere Marquette River system trout. To prep myself I looked at some old pix today and share them here simply to show that once in awhile some actual catching takes place (blind-pig-and-acorn phenomenon). 

I doubt there’s ever been a serious trouter who did not go through a phase of wanting to find magical, unknown water. That bug, I confess, still steadily gnaws at me. First I present a couple of shots of the sort of U.P. landscape you have to contend with in order to find relatively new beaver ponds and once located, how the heck you fish them. Beaver dams are not known for good footing and with all the protruding sticks, casting a fly line can quickly become a nightmare.  I was once standing on a beaver dam in Iron County with a good CO pal of mine and he said how the heck are you making that cast? I was shooting the line straight up to 12 o’clock and when it got full extension, I whipped it down and out, like a baseball pitcher chucking a submarine pitch. Doubt if I could ever replicate the cast, but on that day in that place it worked and we caught brookies and that was enough. If you can find a relatively new beaver pond and fish it before the worm-clan gets there, you are in for some sport to remember.

Okay, it can't be far now and the loonshit doesn't feel too deep. Who wants to lead the way. Nobody? Sheesh.
Okay, it can't be far now and the loonshit doesn't feel too deep. Who wants to lead the way. Nobody? Sheesh.Okay, now what?

Okay, there's the beaver dam. How the hell do we fish the pond?
Okay, there’s the beaver dam. How the hell do we fish the pond?

That being the U.P. secret beaver pond angle. I also need to say that we don’t find so many beaver ponds this far south in Michigan, and that any brook trout anywhere down here are rare, so once in awhile, when intel reports trickle in from your personal fishing information “network” about an unknown and very secret lake with brookies in the mid-teens,  of course you JUST HAVE to go find the damn thing and see it for yourself. I won’t say where this little lake is, except to say that it took more than an hour to work our way 30 feet to the edge of the water through all the slash and blow-downs. Not a single fish rose. Not a single trout took any of the plethora of flies we tried, but fish-catching aside, this sort of adventure is for me the holy grail of MIchigan brook trout hunting — finding new water that just might produce.

Here I would add that to me this sort of brook trout fishing is a lot like a professional baseball career. If you can field, and hit .250, chances are you’ll earn a million or two simoleons a year. Finding secret fishing places that pay off at a 25 percent rate will make you feel like a million or more bucks. Trust me on that. Sometimes just locating the damn place and not catching fish still makes you feel like a million. I have no reasonable explanation for this other than the late John Voelker’s observation that fishing is the ultimate act of optimism, and  I simply report it here.  You can file it wherever it makes most sense for you. I suspect a day will come when I can no longer chase mystery ponds so I figure I need to keep at it until that eventuality descends upon me.

But to make a point,  Yooper Beaver ponds are one thing and BTB secret lakes another. To wit a very small, secret lake, which takes a whole heap of work to get to and produces nada and at the end of the day it’s been a GREAT time (although I intentionally neglected to point out to some of the boys the fresh bear scar we passed on the way in. They were yakking. Why break their reverie, eh?) Most searching expeditions end similarly, but let me add here that the finest brown trout fishing day  I ever had was one mid-July afternoon and evening about twenty years ago on the Pere Marquette, where I caught and released twenty brown trout between 14 and 18 inches, all taken on dry AuSable skunks. The next evening I took three Bullshidos to a spot, issued skunks, and each caught a brown between 14 and 16 inches. Fishermen tend to remember these sorts of things.

 Continuing on, I find that this computer blogging program a bit too “sophisticated” for the likes of me (like most trout) but will plow forward to share a few more pix, then call it quits for fresh Michigan tomatoes and BLTs and to think purple. 

I present some of the Bullshidos and other fishing pix from the U.P. to demonstrate that fish are actually caught.  Draw whatever conclusions you like, about our alleged competence.

Ms. Jambe Longue with one of her numerous smallies from the Paint River in Iron County in 2007. She loves to CATCH fish!
Ms. Jambe Longue with one of her numerous smallies from the Paint River in Iron County in 2007. She loves to CATCH fish!
 
Proof: Blind pig finds 18-inch acorn in Paint River, 2007
Proof: Blind pig finds 18-inch acorn in Paint River, 2007
 
 
 

 

Herewith sits the secret pond BTB and Robochef Peterson and I have crawled out to the precipice to try some casts.
Herewith sits the secret pond BTB and Robochef Peterson and I have crawled out to the precipice to try some casts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big fellas, midday in the Meadows Section of Cooks Run in Iron County, with no notions of feeding. Boy oh boy
Big fellas, midday in the Meadows Section of Cooks Run in Iron County, with no notions of feeding. Boy oh boy
 

Mister Reginald Bernard, c'est un right winger extrordinaire, a native of Soo, Ontario and long time partner in Yoop brook trout excursions. He looks more like his dad, the famous Canuck fighter Slugger Bernard, every day.
Mister Reginald Bernard, c'est un right winger extrordinaire, a native of Soo, Ontario and long time partner in Yoop brook trout excursions. He looks more like his dad, the famous Canuck fighter Slugger Bernard, every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ironwood native Lars Hjalmquist, happily tagging along with the Bullshido brook trout seeking expedition. Usually Lars is more at home on a golf course, but he grew up chasing brookies in Gogebic County and across the Montreal River in Cheeseheadland. One of the world's truly great gentlemen.
Ironwood native Lars Hjalmquist, happily tagging along with the Bullshido brook trout seeking expedition. Usually Lars is more at home on a golf course, but he grew up chasing brookies in Gogebic County and across the Montreal River in Cheeseheadland. One of the world's truly great gentlemen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Trout Fishing Notes from the Porkies

The notes that follow area from the journal I kept during my two weeks as artist in residence. The journal will later this year go to Friend of the Porkies who will add it to their collection of original works. The two photos will give you a sense of the low water and beautiful surroundings.

1. It was a relatively dry spring in Ontonagon and Gobebic Counties. Local COs informed me that nature was running 2-3 weeks behind schedule, river bugs, new fawns, everything.

2. When we hauled our gear out to Dan’s Cabin we had water music from the Little Union River. Two weeks later the flow was a trickle, the music gone.

3. Waters on the south and western sides of the park were either too small, too dry, or too warm. As you travel the South Boundary Road, the rivers and creeks have no signage. You need to get 1:24,000 quadrangle topographic maps, and count distances and order of creeks from wherever your starting point is. Best way to find the creeks and rivers is to watch odometer and road to look for ribbons of new concrete where patching has been done. More often than not road-patching will show you the location of a stream. The west not looking promising, we chose to focus on the east side, the Little Union, the Union, and the Little Iron Rivers. We did not hike to the Big Carp or to it’s feeder waters west of Union Spring.

4. Bedrock causes 6-10 degree water warmups every day. We took temps at multiple sites at different times. Best fishing was in morning while water cooled back to near its normal temps in high 50s or low 60s. By day could be in high 70s.

5. Trout were concentratead in pools below fast-moving water that carried oxygen.

6. Many of the pools were 2-4 feet deep with adequate cover and a multi-layered current which allowed fish to carefully and leisurely inspect all newly arriving food offerings. This was technical fishing at a level I had not anticipated.

7. Lots of terrestrials: black flying ants (12-20), crickets (12), caterpillers (which were hanging from silk threads from what seemed like every tree in the forest.  I plucked a few and dropped into pools and got no interest from the fish). There were also lady bugs, a few lightning bugs, some grasshoppers (small 14s, tan thorax), and aphids (18-20).

8. Black and tan caddis seen at multiple locations, but no splashy rises typical of trout feeding on fast-emerging caddis .

9. Mayflies were few. We saw Borchers (16) and mahagonies (14-16, blue wing olives (18-20). The fish took only BWOS or size 20 Adams (serving as a baetis-BWO stand-in). I had some small steelhead try to take some Missouri yellow yarn eggs, but they seemed more curious about the eggs, than hungry.

10. We regularly saw large black stoneflies (8) in flight. But no rises to them. Also saw lots of little yellow stoneflies (yellow sallies, 14-16), but as with the larger bugs, no rises or takes. Lots of dragon flies and damsel flies in the air.

11. We observed trout nosing bottom for nymphs. Clear water and good bank-side cover allowed us to watch fish behavior and provided a near classroom situation.

12. Red Copper Johns (bloodworm, 16-18) elicited no takes and little interest.

13. Trout seemed to be highly selective, inspecting and rejecting offerings of pupa, emergers, nymphs, egs, soft hackles, small dry flies and small streamers. I continue to hear how easy it is to catch Yooper Brook Trout, but have never found this to be true. These particular fish see virtually no pressure and should be fly-stupid, but they aren’t.

14. We observed large black leeches in Union River pools, but did not see trout feed on them.

15. There were no gray drakes or isonychias (white gloved howdies) observed.

16. Mosquitoes aplenty. Likewise deerflies, blackflies, horseflies and stable flies. Mosquito and deefly dries elicited no interest.

17. Rocks in these rivers are sharply angled, slippery and potentially dangerous. Anglers need to be careful at all times. Some poole require a climb of 20 feet or so to reach. If a rounded boulder looks oddly dark, be careful. It’s we and slippery. Good hiking boots will not prevent you from falling on your keester.

18. Fly fishing is possible on the Union, Little Union and Little Iron, but short rods and short untapered leaders and tippets are recommended. We worked with a one piece 5 foot bamboo and a 3 wt reel, and a 6-foot graphite rod with a 4 wt reel. We used a lot of side-armed casts and found space by false casting back over the middle of the water. This is a place where you have to THINK about what you’re doing.

19. Buddy-fishing is recommended for safety. Especially for us old farts.

20. May to mid-June and late August through September see to be better months for fly fishing rivers in the Porkies for brook trout. We had expected more water than we had, but found trout in pools every day. Ordinarily we take a few brookies to eat. This time we put them back.

21. Salmon runs in Sept – Oct on the Big Carp seem promising for a future expedition. There are cabins and campsites at the mouth of the Big Carp.

22. Fishing for smallmouth bass with a fly rod on the Lake of the Clouds and Mirror Lake (both in the park) is reported to be excellent, and virtually an untapped fishery. Lake of the Clouds is a catch-and-release fishery due to parasites in the bass.

23. We saw only one other fisherman in two weeks, also with a flyrod.

24. A tentative hatch chart follows and should be considered theoretical until actual fisherman observations can confirm the data. The chart is only for early summer bugs, that is those you might see start to come off in May – July. Some go deeper into the summer before they are done.

PORCUPINE MOUNTAINS WILDERNESS STATE PARK HATCH CHART

March Brown (S. vicarium, 10-12): May 1 – June 25, Noon – 1600.

Eastern Gray Drake (S quebecensis, 10-12): May 15 – July 10. Just before and just after dark.

Light Cahill (S. cadesne, 12-16): May 15 – July 15. 1400 – 2200.

Gray Fox (S fuscum, 12-14): May 15 – June 25, afternoons.

Yellow Sally/ Little Yellow Stonefly (Alloperla S, 14-18): May 15 – October. Sporadic afternoons.

Borchers Drake (L cupida, 12-14): May 20 – September 15: 1000-1600.

Isonychia (i bicolor, 12-14): June 1 – July 31, 1600-2200.

Yellow Drake (Use Roberts Yellow Drake) (p distinctus, 12-14): June 1 – July 10. Afternoons

Mahagony Dun (i sadleri, 10-12): June 1 – Aug 14, 1600- 2200.

Trico (P stygiatus/ P Anoka , 22-26): July 20 – October 20. When air temperature reaches 65 degrees.

Slate Wing Olive/ BWO (e. lutta/atterwata, 16-18): June 25-July 31, Midday. Often start when Trico spinners end.

Quill Gordon (e pleuralis, 12-14): May 24 – July 12, 1300- 1600.

If you have additional information, corrections, experience with fly fishing for brookies in the Porkies drop a note through the website and I’ll collect the information and update the chart later. Meanwhile, have fun in the Porkies. It’s one of our state’s most beautiful places and largely untapped by fly fishers.

Inexplicably Yoop

Uncle Mike (brother-in-law Mike Phillips), Jambe Longue (Longlegs) and I were out searching for the old Ropes Gold Mine north of Ishpeming. We found all sorts of serpentine with white hairs of chrysoltile (asbestos) all along the two-track, but never located the mine. At the front end, where we left the Green Streamer, we found the carving in the photo, standing on adjacent property. Big Foot? A Native American? Your guess is as good as ours. Whatever it was, it was a shade on the creepy side. A couple of days later Longlegs and I found the old Ropes Mine — about a mile from the carved creature. The thing about exploring is that you don’t always get things right and that’s part of the fun and the adventure. As we were walking two mountain bikers showed up, wanting to know if the two-track would go all the way through to Ishpeming. Since we were south and sort of east, I told them I doubted it, but the older of the two said he was pretty sure it did and away then pedalled. I looked at a map later and found that the road dead-ended at the end of a peninsula jutting into Deer Lake. I’m sure the biking brace discovered the same thing…eventually. If you don’t like surprises or inexplicable things, exploring the Yoop is probably not for you.

The Unexpected: Good, Bad & Ugly.

One of the best parts of exploring the UP is taking roads you’ve not taken before. One day in mid-July we left Bay Furnace west of Munising and headed north up a peninsula on 5 Mile Point Road. The road’s a little bumpy and sort of washed out and washboarded in some places, but with a relatively solid bottom it’s passable. If you keep bearing right you’ll eventually reach a turnaround and an interesting vista. The bedrock out there is limestone with some sandstone and lots of people have carved their initials into the rocks. Some visitor even carved the little umbrella in the upper photo and the carving later filled with moss. On a clear day I’m pretty sure you can see Williams Island, and beyond that, the west reaches of Grand Island. It’s also possible on a clear day you might see AuTrain Island to the west, but this is pure speculation on my part… We were there on a misty day. The turnaround is between Fivemile and AuTrain Points and worth a drive out to take a look. Might even be a nice spot for a picnic on a sunny day. The lake water is as clear as vodka and the underwater rocks range from yellow to orange. Not a good place to swim unless you want to be dashed on boulders and rocky shores.

The other thing trips bring are lots of roadkill and this coyote was down on the shoulder west of the Driggs River heading toward Seney. When you’re driving around anywhere in Michigan — and especially in some parts of the UP you need to be ready for just about anything to charge into your path. This coyote is somewhat swollen in rictus, but it’s also a big animal — somewhat larger than coyotes we see in the lower peninsula, and known by Yoopers as a brush wolf. A somewhat grisly picture, I know, but it’s all part of the experience on the other side of the bridge.

Okay, gross stuff aside, I leave you with a view of a purple coneflower preserve near Kenneth on M-123, south of Trout Lake. Enjoy.

More From Da Yoop

The Caves of Fiborn

About twenty years ago, or so, I was traveling alone in the U.P. sort of looking around and one morning found myself on the floor of something called Fiborn Quarry, which looked like the surface of the moon. I was there because I had read that the DNR had planted brown trout in Fiborn Pond and since the place looked a bit off the grid, I reasoned the fishing might be pretty interesting. Having found the old quarry, it took me years to actually locate the pond and by then I learned there were two ponds, the “old” one and the “new” one, the old one actually the remnant of the old stump pond from the days of the quarry and the new one built since and dismantled for reasons unknown. I won’t go into the history of Fiborn Quarry, but you can via the internet and i recommend it. The place is not on the tourist itinerary, but someday it may be. The quarry was mining limestone and limestone is often associated with trout water and something else: caves.

Ergo, pal Robochef Peterson and his wife J.P. joined us during our sojourn at Epoufette Bay, and one morning we all ventured north to Fiborn Quarry to spelunk a quarter-mile long cave with guide Kellie. Coupla observations are in order: Spelunking is largely for the short, thin and flexible, not 65-year-olds in desperate need of a diet. The cave is not like Carlsbad, Howe,  or any of the big old dinosaurs. It’s a physically demanding sucker. And naturally, if you have problems with claustrophobia, that won’t make your day, either. I don’t have that problem, but fit was a distinct problem and I didn’t get far into the cavé. On the plus side, I had an awsomely cool helmet to wear! Picked it out myself, only to earn snorts of disgust derisive comments from Robochef, J.P. and Longlegs. Seriously, if you want to visit an interesting, off the tourist-map place, get on the net and look up Fiborn Quarry (in some sources and on some maps, it’s misspelled Fibron). While you’re looking, also check into the Michigan Karst Conservancy web site, which will give you information on all of Michigan’s caves (there aren’t all that many known and publicly announced caves). Be advised, you cannot enter Fiborn’s caves without an authorized guide, and if you get fancy ideas about exploring on your own, be aware that some of the smaller caves contain heavy concentrations of brown recluse spiders.

 

The Real “North of Nowhere”

In a recent Woods Cop book I had Grady Service give his friend Luticious Treebone a “camp” he called North of Nowhere. Like a whole lot in the Woods Cop mysteries, the camp is a real place, but the name invented by the author. Alas, there is no magical brook trout stream on the property. (At least not that I know of) Below is a picture of the place, which is owned by friends, behind a gate and just over the Chippewa County border.

We found signs of bears and wolves going in and around the cabin, and learned that for some reason bears love to chew gas lines and eat gas cans with liquid or fumes. Apparently loggers know this and remove all fuel cans from the woods at night, or put them in stout, locked sheds. The cabin sits at the end of a finger, sticking into a swamp. It was —  as related in aWoods Cop story — a place where a poacher from Trout Lake used to operate. My friend found the violator’s illicit cabin on state property after the man, an alcoholic, had committed suicide, and having found the cabin he found the violator’s primary hunting blind, which is where the cabin now sits. In those days the nearest two-track ended several miles away from where the cabin is , a long slog on foot across heavy dedar swamps and demanding ridges. If one were to look for the definition of hideaway in the dictionary, this camp is what you should find depicted. There’s no electricity, but there is a well head not working beause critters ate some of the leather parts. Longlegs and I took Robochef and J.P. into the camp for a look-see and on the way into the camp we passed a formation we now call Ten Birch Church, the name coming from something J.P. said about a cathedral in the Woods.

 

 

Some Final Clueless Thoughts, Observations and North Country Sights

One of the fun parts of travel (gas price isn’t one of them) is the unexpected sights and natural and unnatural eye-candy one encounters  – if you keep your eyes open. Here are a few from this trip.

 

 Short Bus in New Light: This mudder bus was not in the U.P. and I don’t know who owns it, or its history, but I can tell you it is  is just the sort of vehicle conservation officers cringe to see in the woods. How can a monster like this not cause damage off road. I’m not saying this one has ever done anything wrong, but just LOOK at it and imagine what it might do.

Cord Roads: For the record, the practice of constructing cord roads by loggers is a live and well. (This one is between Epoufette and Rexton.) Every spring loggers lose huge pieces of expensive equipment to innocent looking mires. Cord roads are sometimes installed after the fact as much as beforehand. When you see such a road and try to imagine the days when many many wilderness roads were made this way, it makes one cringe and wonder how many spines got permanently jostled and bent by traveling over such rough creations in wagons and other conveyances.

 

Pat on My Back: This is what I call creative gardening and this photo due to lighting and nothing to do with my photographic skills, turned out to look almost like a painting. My photography is notoriusly pedestrian, but I really like this one and may one day get it blown up and framed.

 

Big Spring: Michigan has a lot of legends attached to various places, some created on some thin factual basis, many of them made from thin air. Not sure where to classify this one about Big Spring, but the place is real and undeniably interesting. The legend goes like this (unabashedly taken from a web site):

Kitch-iti-kipi was supposedly a young chieftain whose girlfriend got the best of him. He told her he loved her far above the other dark-haired maidens dancing near his birchbark wigwam. “Prove it,” she insisted. As a test of his devotion, she declared that he must set sail in his canoe on the pool deep in the conifer swamp. He was to catch her from his canoe as she leaped from an overhanging bough. His canoe tipped over as he was looking for her, while she was back at her village laughing with the other indian maidens about his silly quest.

According to legend, the Spring was named Kitch-iti-kipi in memory of the young chieftain who went to his death in the icy waters in an attempt to satisfy the vain caprice of his ladylove.”

That’s the other thing about legends: they often report human frailty/stupidity and mask it as tragedy.

Be that as it may, Big Spring (Kitch-iti-kipi) is located in Palms Book State Park just on the northeast corner of Indian Lake, west of Manistique There’s no camping or fishing in the park, but you can have a picnic and you can take a ride on a sort of raft, which you propel across the biggest natural spring in the state. The raft has a glass bottom so that you can see clearly into the spring’s depths and spot giant trout swimming around. But the trout aren’t indiginous: the DNR dumps some of its brood stock in every year for tourists. Still, how often do we get to see giant browns in habitat? The spring area is beautiful and worth a couple of hours of your time to see. The 40-foot-deep spring stays a constant 45 degrees year-round and fissures it the limestone below feed in more than 10,000 gallons a minute. For the record, the second largest natural spring in the state is Union Spring in Porcupine Wilderness State Park.

Protest “Art” and the Kennecott Minerals “Eagle Project.”

Most of us with any outdoor interests are aware of the controversy over Kennecott Mineral’s plan to mine sulfides from beneath the Salmon Trout River up on the Yellow Dog Plains north of Marquette. At this point the actual mining has not yet begun, but Kennecott has contract security personnel patrolling the area and taking down names and license numbers of visitors. The blueberries were ripe while we were in the area and we picked and did some looking at the Kennecott “footprint,” such as it is.  The mine is near a rock formation called Eagle Rock, said to be a sacred place to the Keeweenaw Bay Ojibwa people. It’s also said that there are nesting Kirtland Warblers in the area and that the Salmon Trout River has an annual run of coaster brook trout — the only known spawning river for the Lake Superior-dwelling brook trout in Michigan. There are a lot of wrinkles and history in all this, too many for me to rehash here, but if you’re interested (and if you value the U.P. and the land in question, you need to be)  go to the Save the Wild UP.org website and edify yourself. Bottom line is that there is incalcuable potential risk to priceless resources in one of Michigan’s most beautiful areas for a mine that will be open less than ten yars and employ fewer than 200 people at peak. In addition, there are indications and rumblings from multiple sources that uranium exploration is underway in the U.P., and if you want to see what uranium mining looks like in its aftermath, take a drive over to Elliott Lake, Ontario, about 90 miles east of Soo, Canada and have a look-see. You’ll come home sobered up. There is a whole lot of opposition to Kennecott Mineral’s so-called Eagle project because of the potential for serious, potentially irreparable environmental damage and some of those who oppose the project have found a way to protest. To wit the photographs. Obviously the protesters need to work on their vocabulary, eh. But there’s no mistaking the clarity of their sentiment.

Nuff for today. As an old pal from Mobile, Alabama used to say, “Let’s go git it done, son.” 

 

Solitude and Beauty Blend in the Porkies

The late Dan Urbanski of Silver City had a dream of an artist-in-residence program for Porcupine Wilderness State Park. Urbanski, the one-time-Detroiter-turned-Yooper was an award-winning professional photographer and an artist who loved the Porkies and its surrounding areas, which he explored with great gusto, year-round. Dan passed away before he could see his dream come to fruition, but last year the Friends of the Porkies built a cabin, which they named for Dan, in the Little Union River Gorge area (east side of the park) and opened applications to artists who wanted to visit. As an aside, Dan’s wife Patti, was extremely kind to us and showed us a fine location west of Silver City– Sunset Rock — from which to shoot photographs of the Porkies to show the mountain shapes that gave the area its name.

This year I was lucky enough to be selected for a two-week stint in the cabin. The photo shows Dan’s Cabin from the edge of the Little Union River, so you get a sense of how close the place is to water. When we first arrived, we had river music from the moving water, and the water literally sang all day, but without significant rain and after a relatively dry spring, the Little Union was in the process of drying up for the summer and soon its music went silent. The 16 by 20 cabin was put together using traditional construction methods, meaning pegs and angles, not nails. There is no electricity and no running water. The photo of the cabin’s interior shows its warm and homey nature. The disorder is all ours.  Despite the Little Union shrinking throughout the two weeks, there remained enough water in step pools to fill jugs for boiling. the Friends gave us a couple of starter gallons, and we brought at full 3-gallon jug. We could have boiled our water, but why waste time on chores if you don’t have to. So  every day we walked the quarter mile out to the truck and drove to park HQ where we refilled out jugs. The truck’s parking spot by the Union River was downhill from the cabin, which means the loaded water runs were all uphill. Not a big deal. While we did a lot of exploration and fishing in the area of the cabina and truck, we went out every day to explore other parts of the park as well. Because we were going out, it wasn’t a big deal to haul water back with us at the end of our day. Nevertheless, future AIRs need to be aware that living in the cabin requires a lot of planning and sheer physical exertion — just to take care of basics. There is firewood already cut, and kindling and there is a splitter on the cabin porch which I used to keep the usable supplies up. We did a lot of foot exploration of the Little Union River Gorge and of the Union River canyon, but other explorations required us to walk out to the truck, drive to a different part of the park and then hike some more. In other words, there is a lot of hiking and climbing required if you’re going to do anything other than sit on your doofus on the cabin’s porch – a big temptation. The cabin sits under uncut, original growth sugar maples and hemlocks and the canopy overhead makes it difficult for sun to get through, or rain for that matter. As note earlier, there had been a fairly dry spring and over the course of our two-week stay the Little Union continued to shrink. The photo that follows will give you some notion of how much it shrank. In spring where I’m fishing from and all that rock and debris ground behind me, would be under, or at least in the water. Even with reduced flows the Little Union River Gorge is a beautiful natural phenomenon worth an artist’s exploration.  The ground in the Gorge area is carpeted with light brown pine duff, and the woods and river contain a lot of galcial boulders, blow-downs and the usual rotting flora of the deep woods.

Over the course of the two weeks, I created 50 cartoons, a sort of poor man’s  day-by-day journal of our two week adventure. I also did a few drawings of nature observations, wrote a poem about the park’s bugs, and created three characters that may or may not lead to a book, though certainly at least one of them will end up in a book. The photo shows a giant ichnumens, which I drew a picture of, but take a good look at the photo and you will see how the creature’s body is arched and pointing toward 10 o’clock is a long stinger which the insect uses to drill into wood and to insert its own eggs into the larvae of other insects; the larvae then feed off the host as they grow. We saw big wasps almost every day and always around a young sugar maple bush. The one in the photo is a female (yellow and black); males are almost entirely black and larger. I vaguely remember seeing this insect only once before, while fishing the Pere Marquette River, and having seen it quickly telling myself I had been hallucinating. But they are real. Fortunately they are not colonizers and live their lives singularly and individually.

The key to success for a two-week stay like this is to one have the sort of curiosity that compels one to get out and look around, and secondly to have a  day-by-day meal plan, a menu for each day to minimize how much food you want to lug in and to make daily preps easy. 

There’s a lot to do for an artist in the park: There is wildlife to observe and photograph; landscape to traverse and photograph or draw; all sorts of old mine tailings piles to search for minerals. The small boulder in the photo is on the Union Bay beach and the photograph doesn’t do justice to how stunningly beautiful a piece of rock can be. 

There are also excellent beaches with lots of intriguing driftwood formations to collect or depict, as well as various Lake Superior stones and minerals from the old mines; old growth (never logged) forest areas to see and smell; hikes galore, most of them laid out for you by park personnel with easy-to-follow routes. There are brook trout and steelhead youngsters in many of the park’s creeks and rivers, but the best brook trouting requires some serious hiking and overnights in the woods – hikes in the neighborhood of ten miles round-trip (all with a degree of what we might call “verticality.”) The park also is a magnificent place from which to observe the stars without the light pollution of cities, and it’s an excellent location for observing and photographing cloud formations during the day. Weather tends to fly down from Canada and drift across Lake Superior, which makes for some visually powerful clouds. One or our first chores in the stay was to take water temperatures in all the park’s southern perimeter creeks and to check their water levels. One evening after finding the White Pine Extension Creek I started poking around in a mine tailings pile and discovered close to a dozen snakeskins. I figured the reptiles had used the rough edges of the rocks to help them slough the old skins. When I lifted one of the rocks, I found a northern red belly snake curled up underneath. It then dawned on me that I was probably standing on a rockpile with multiple critters and I withdrew quietly, not wishing to disturb their rest.

There are also insects galore, some of them things you don’t often have the opportunity to see. These insects include the usual suspects of trouble: spiders (giant wolf spiders), wasps, biting ants, wood ticks, skeeties, black flies (called buffalo flies out west), deer flies, horse flies, pine beetles (whose bite is likened to being burned by the lit end of a big fat cigar), and the legendary stable flies, named we assume for those things that hang around horses and drive them mad. When warm southwest winds come in with a bolus of humidity, the flies come with the conditions. Shifts in wind direction are reputed to move them out, though we did not find this to be true. Wind speed also seemed to have no effect, and after leaving the park I figured out the puzzle. En route to Crystal Falls to see friends we stopped at Little Girl’s Point, north of Ironwood, a place I’d never been and had always wanted to see. When we got there, the beach had several other visitors, families with young children, the girls in little two-piece bathing suits and shirtless middle-aged men. When we got out of the truck I noticed that Longlegs’s trousers were covered with flies. We looked down to the beach. Everything seem normal. Conclusion: Must not be so many down there. So down we went and discovered that the stable flies (called biting flies) in other parts of the state were there in full force and after twenty minutes of pure hell, I swore like a sailor and withdrew from the combat. Meanwhile the others on the beach carried on as if nothing was amiss. A rock-picker had a white bucket completely covered with flies, which he carried along with him. Back in the truck we killed as many interlopers as possible and I figured it out: Stable flies live at Little Girl Point. The southwest wind blows them up to the Porkies and from there they drift eastward to the Pictured Rocks and as far over as the mouth of the Two Hearted. The people on the rocky beach at Little Girl Point were obviously locals, whose genes have made them immune to feeling the damn flies bites. One couple took a largely exposed two-month old babe with them onto the beach. The non-reaction of others that day will always stick in my mind as one of the more astounding and inexplicable things I’ve ever witnessed. Leaving the Porkies after two weeks we carried with us skeetie bites, black fly bites, deer fly bites, spider bites and stable fly bites, but we got out without needing transfusions, so that’s success in its own right. Bottom line. If you don’t like bugs, stay the hell away from the park and Lake Superior. This year had a fine crop of testosteronal skeeties, many of them bigger than my fingernails. Skeeties of such dimensions  could confront hummingbirds and emerge victorious.

As a technical note, the photos in the blog are from a 10-megapixel digital camera. I also shot some roles of 35 mm slides, some with 50 mm lens, and many with a macro lens. If any of those reveal any interesting things, I’ll put them on the site. I will also later add a tentative hatch chart for porkies waters. Before making the trip I did as much research as I could to determine what hatches we might expect, but did not find a great deal of information. Still, I cobble together something to serve as a starting point and used that while in the park, amending it with notes. I will post the amended chart and hope that over time someone will add to this so that eventually there will be a comprehensive insect hatch chart for the wonderful wilderness waters.

Stuff You Never Knew About (Or How My files Contain Some Great Leads)

I can’t talk for other authors, and can barely talk for myself, but I have for too many years to contemplate kept some fairly extensive if somewhat eclectic files. They’re not technically organized: That is, they aren’t in some sort of internationally sanctioned, scientifically recognizable order. But I can sort of remember that the bit I want I think I sort of remember is sort of in the northwest pile of clipping boxes…maybe.  You get the picture. My non-system works for me. One of these clippings led me to write Ice Hunter, about diamond exploration in Iron County.  In the course of further research for that book I also ran across a mention of the Michigan Geological and Core Sample Repository in Marquette. The repository is part of the Michigan Geological Survey Division of the DEQ and staffed by the dynamic and enthusiastic Melanie Humphrey, who could be the poster woman for highly talented, competent, and smart state employees who labor in obscurity.  The warehouse contains mining records going back to the late 1800s, and boxes and boxes of mining core samples drilled by miners or by university or government personnel.[A core sample looks like a mini-rolling pin.] The samples are organized by mine, not by mineral. So, I contacted Mel by email, told her I’m a novelist, and asked if I could get a tour. “Sure,” she said, “but mostly I get geologists here.” I made sure she knew I didn’t know schist from schizophrenia, but she still said I could have a tour, so Longlegs and I went over one sunny Monday morning and spent a fascinating couple of hours with Ms. Humphrey. As soon as we walked through the door, Longlegs looked around and  said, “Shades of Indiana Jones,” and she was right, as the photos show. I walked out later with all sorts of information I can use. The manuscript is called Hard Green Violets and is nearing completion and necessitated my having some geologic information for the plot, and for my edification.  Rest assured this facility in Marquette will be in the story, and the Indiana Jones observation as well. Ironically the late John Voelker once got caught up in the craze for looking for uranium in the U.P. He never found any, but it’s up there. Longlegs and I looked a big hunk of hot rock (which we didn’t photograph). But I did snap a shot of uranium core samples in wooden boxes, which is how all core samples area stored. Writing the Woods Cop series has enabled me to meet some interesting, smart, dedicated state employees with great attitudes. Melanie Humphrey is on of these. Upon leaving the rock house we had lunch at the Crossroads Bar and from there launched our search for Frenchman’s Pond.