TR: Waterloo-Pinckney Trail

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torpified
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TR: Waterloo-Pinckney Trail

Post by torpified »

Background: Mr torpified and I were somehow allowed to do our jobs from California last year. I’d aimed to mount one last Sierra backpacking trip, in the Hoover Wilderness, before our return to Michigan. The worst wildfire season in west coast history put the kibosh on that plan. So since getting back to Ann Arbor, I’ve been looking for a makeup backpacking trip I could fit into the interstices of my punishing Zoom schedule. It turned out to be a jaunt on Washtenaw County’s finest long-distance hiking trail, the Waterloo-Pinckney trail, this past Wednesday and Thursday. Our very own sneakymonkey played an instrumental role in this scheme. The best beta by far I found on the trail was a reddit post of hers:

https://www.reddit.com/r/CampAndHikeMic ... _trail_36/


Day 1 (Dec. 9): Portage Lake to Green Lake
Mr torpified delivered me to Waterloo Recreation Area’s Portage Lake TH around 9 on Wednesday morning. The trail meanders 30 -35 miles (the authorities differ quite a bit on the question) from there, through a patchwork of recreation areas, game lands, and county parks, to Silver Lake in Pinckney. Camping is only in designated sites and designated sites are intermittent. Because I had Zoom duties Thursday afternoon, I aimed to spend the first night at a campsite 22 or so miles in. Not a fan of blundering around in the dark, I hoped to get there before nightfall. I didn’t think this would be insurmountably difficult: from what I could tell, the trail was easy to follow and (spring flooding aside) without significant obstacles, and although some of the terrain it passes through is pretty crinkly, it’s innocent of energy-sapping gargantuan climbs. Still I thought it wise to keep moving.

I also thought it wise to dress extraordinarily garishly. It is deer season here—archery and muzzle-loading season. I think of practitioners of those arts as less numerous, and more motivated to get a clear view of what they’re shooting at before letting fly, than hunters using the 6-shot magazines allowed during open rifle season. And the DNR employee I quizzed about camping options assured me that there wasn’t much “hunting pressure” along the trail. Still I was doing my utmost not to be deer-colored. My arms aren’t long enough for a selfie to capture the full effect.

In this rare photograph, torpified sports a violently purple skirt, hot pink fleece, neon yellow cycling vest, and flaming red shell.
not a deer.jpg
This was my first visit to the trail’s initial stretch through Waterloo. It reminded me a lot of the final leg into Pinckney: the trail weaves through a tangle of low but sometimes steep ridges that carve the land into catchments containing lakes, ponds, and marshes (all of which I examined carefully for moose, until I remembered where I was). For the first few miles, the woods were adorned with thick and braided vines. As much as I admired their sinuous panache, I also worried that they were old growth poison ivy.
old growth poison ivy.jpg

Mt Desor, the high (in elevation) point of Isle Royale, is infamously lacking in vistas. The high point of the W-L trail is Sackrider Hill at 5.5 (ish) miles, topped by a viewing platform from which I shot this while enjoying second breakfast.
sackrider.jpg
(to be continued)
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Re: TR: Waterloo-Pinckney Trail

Post by torpified »

Just short of Sackrider, I encountered the first gun of the trip, a (muzzle loading hunting?) pistol tucked into the waistbelt of a person walking a young German shepherd, who took vociferous exception to me. The human was perfectly friendly and seemed genuinely abashed that his dog was unmannerly. Still, I hoped that the trail wouldn’t feature too many more meetings with armed men walking snarling dogs. The next party I met, at the Mt Hope Road parking lot [6 (ish) miles], were a birding couple with a toddler who goggled at me and then shyly waved.

After Mt Hope Rd, the land flattens. The trail is open to equestrian traffic, and part (fortunately, an extremely well signed part) of a labyrinth of horse trails. The trail surface was sometimes sandy, usually abundantly hoofprinted, but relatively free of prints of human feet. 10 (ish) miles in is the Baldwin Flooding, a wetland engineered in 1957 by erecting a judiciously-placed levee. Judiciously-placed but not inviolable: the levee gave way after heavy rains in 2004. Ducks Unlimited stepped into restore the artificial wetland. Not a place whose natural history is totally natural, but a beautiful place nonetheless. I had first lunch there.
baldwin flooding.jpg
As far as I can tell, the mile markers, which had been appearing with metronomic regularity, went on hiatus between mile markers 11 and 19. (Vandalized trail signage isn’t exactly rare on this route, but I’m not sure that that explains the hiatus.) I ran across the second gun of the trip shortly after mile 11. A hunter decked out in blaze orange had established himself on high ground, about 6 feet off the trail. From there he could survey a wide and lightly-wooded depression for deer. The trail runs between his vantage point and the depression he surveys. I found myself very interested in communicating to him my presence while at the same time communicating that my presence was the presence of a non-deer--- but not sure how to proceed. (I hadn’t really given as much forethought to hunter-hiker etiquette as I should have.) I settled for using human language to say normal (for me) things, such as greetings, and remarks about the weather, which had improved, from dull slate grey and around freezing, to brighter grey and slightly above freezing. At first he didn’t react, which was unnerving. Eventually, he asked me if I’d seen any deer. I reported the creature count (5 humans and an anti-social Alsatian), wished him luck (despite rooting for the deer), and carried on, pondering the question of hiker-hunter etiquette. A ponderous paragraph follows.

[Is hiker-hunter etiquette well understood by others? I’d never skip rocks where a fisherperson is casting – but is hiking where hunting is allowed during hunting season essentially the same thing? And even if I’m not scaring the deer away, am I detracting from the experience by introducing to it the obligation to try not to shoot me? (But aren’t other hunters introducing parallel obligations?) Part of what I enjoy about walking alone is the opportunity it gives me to just soak it all in, and especially to see animals. On this walk, my head was definitely on a swivel, looking out for animals that also happened to be humans using weapons to hunt. But, I can testify, this sort of attentiveness to my environment lacked the charms of the usual soaking it all in. Am I symmetrically compromising the hunter’s experience by my presence?]

At mile 13 [ish], the trail exits the equestrian network to wend its way through the business end of Waterloo Recreation Area, repeatedly crossing McClure Rd like a sine curve crossing the x-axis. Shortly before the first McClure Rd crossing, I started hearing incredibly loud reports, repeated every 3-5 minutes. As I crossedd McClure Rd, I noticed a vehicle parked at a pulloff about 50 meters from the trail. And a few steps down the trail from the road, I spied what I conjectured to be vehicle’s occupant and knew to be the origin of the reports: a person with long grey hair had plopped themselves down a stone’s throw from the road in order to dischare what must be the world’s loudest black powder musket, as far as I can tell at random, into the woods. They were definitely within hailing distance, and I tried my best to hail them, without any luck. (If I were them, I’d have had earplugs on.) So I scurried down the trail, keeping a close eye on them, until a consoling solid hill blocked them, and their bullets, from my line of site. During the scurry, I saw them standing to shoot, aiming about 60 degrees from my direction. I’m afraid that I conjecture that they were aware that I was there and trying to freak me out. If so, they definitely succeeded. I continued to hear their reports until I crossed into the (no hunting allowed) lands around the Gerald E Eddy discovery center (mile 18.5 ish). These lands were getting a lot of use from people indistinguishable from Ann Arbor dog walkers. I had second lunch at a bench overlooking a lake just short of the Discovery Center.

Staghorn sumac near Discovery Center.
staghorn.jpg
The last few miles to Green Lake were mostly flat and refreshingly free of gunplay. As I walked up the road from the trail to the Green Lake campground, I smelled smoke, and wondered whether I’d have company. In order to keep things simple and above-board, I’d attempted to reserve a space at the campground – only to discover that the only space reservable in the off-season was a yurt with a propane heater, solar lighting, and a lock on the door. This left me little choice: I booked the yurt (which meant my pack, even with food and water, weighed less than 10 pounds at its heaviest). It turned out that the smoke was coming from the yurt’s fire ring, where a couple of locals had been hanging out. Much like the pistol-packing vicious Alsatian walker, they were very friendly, offering to help me operate the water pump and offering also to leave their fire burning when they left, in case I wanted fire in my fire pit. Once they left, I noticed that they’d used charred sticks to leave a moderate amount of satanic grafitti on the picnic table, but that seemed only natural. Still, I didn’t regret it that the yurt locked.
gly.jpg
I spent the evening delectating in the propane heater and dealing with the 74 work emails that had arrived while I walked. The first few hours of the night, I fretted about being beset by Satanists—but then I fell asleep and slept soundly until morning.
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Re: TR: Waterloo-Pinckney Trail

Post by torpified »

Day 2: Green Lake to Silver Lake

And a very frosting morning it was!
frosty pond.jpg
I set off in the company of more gunfire, but soon crossed into Park Lyndon---no hunting allowed! (I recognize that it’s irrational for me to care about that, since it’s the irresponsible hunters I worry about, and one way to be irresponsible is to hunt where it’s not allowed.) Almost immediately, I met a lush pair of deer, whom I advised not to leave the park. Park Lyndon itself was a delightful revelation: teeming with glacial ornamentation and graced by a trail system that made sense of the terrain, following the glacial ridges called eskers as they snaked through the valleys carved by the ice rivers whose banks they trace, then dropping into the lowlands to cross lovely marshes on long boardwalks. The only footprints on the boardwalks before mine, and they were footprints in the frost, were the work of teams of muskrats.
boardwalk.jpg
I’ve dayhiked pretty often from the Silver Lake TH in Pinckney. Not long after Park Lyndon, I entered terra cognita (to me) from those day hikes. A few hundred yards from the junction with the Potawatomi trail, I ran across Mr torpified and our dog Cholmondeley, who had driven to and then hiked from Silver Lake in order to collect me. And I got home in time to participate in my zoom committee meeting.
Ch and G.jpg
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Re: TR: Waterloo-Pinckney Trail

Post by Bobcat1 »

Cholmondeley has so many more letters than it needs! Great trip report and a great 1.5-day getaway.
19 RH-ML-TI-RH by kayak
16 RH-DF-MB-TI-RH-3M-RH by kayak
09 RH-DF-MC-TH-HL-SD-WC
00 WC-IM-WC
96 WC-FL-SB-SD-HL-CE-3M-RH
94 RH-DF-MB-3M-RH
92 RH-DF-LR-CW-HL-SD-IM-WC
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Re: TR: Waterloo-Pinckney Trail

Post by torpified »

Bobcat1 wrote: Sat Dec 12, 2020 5:26 pm Cholmondeley has so many more letters than it needs!
His tags tag him as "Chumly", and that's the name he uses with the vet. But between friends, we go for the whole berserk proper spelling.
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Re: TR: Waterloo-Pinckney Trail

Post by dcclark »

Nice trip log, thanks! My eye's been on the trail and especially that yurt (I'm a sucker for those, especially in the Porcupine Mountains). I've never visited the area yet. It sounds like that might be a good spring trip.

I learned something about deer seasons recently that I really wish I'd known a few weeks ago. This year, at least in the southern lower peninsula, muzzleloading season is open to all legal firearms. That, plus lots more licenses are valid in muzzleloader season. As far as I can tell, muzzleloader season was like rifle-season encore this year. (This is largely irrelevant now because muzzleloading season ends tomorrow.)

I heard about this change from some well-armed and well-intentioned hunters in the Rogue River state game area. I don't normally worry too much about being out in the woods during muzzleloading season, because... who does that?! (Answer: my cousin, but nobody else I know, and I know where he hunts.) I went home and tried to fact-check them, and they were right... but it wasn't exactly well advertised in the hiking world.
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Re: TR: Waterloo-Pinckney Trail

Post by torpified »

dcclark wrote: Sat Dec 12, 2020 6:13 pm I learned something about deer seasons recently that I really wish I'd known a few weeks ago. This year, at least in the southern lower peninsula, muzzleloading season is open to all legal firearms. That, plus lots more licenses are valid in muzzleloader season. As far as I can tell, muzzleloader season was like rifle-season encore this year. (This is largely irrelevant now because muzzleloading season ends tomorrow.)
Your research is way better than mine! And i think that if I had done your research, I would have trudged dejectedly around Ann Arbor, rather than venturing into the muzzleloading (broadly construed) lands. I wonder if there are blindingly obvious and easy steps to take to communicate salient facts to interested parties. I'm not exactly inept at finding things out, but my initial investigations suggested to me I'd only have bowpeople and re-enactors to contend with.
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Re: TR: Waterloo-Pinckney Trail

Post by dcclark »

I read a lot of articles about changes to hunting seasons this year, but the one I linked is one of the very few that mentioned the expanded firearm options. Even the DNR website (a place I would think would be a good place to learn about these sorts of things) doesn't have anything obvious.
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Re: TR: Waterloo-Pinckney Trail

Post by Midwest Ed »

I agree the Michigan DNR did a poor job of making the fairly late season changes (made in July) readily available or searchable. The most prominent calendars are even misleading. I found things more quickly via web searches than at the DNR website. dcclark, your link doesn't work for me.

The expansions are all due to managements of larger deer herds this year. Also, firearm deer hunting is NOT over with yet. The Doe season begins Monday (12/14/2020) and runs through the end of the year. Through lottery quotas, several thousand antlerless licenses for private land and several hundred for public land were offered in many counties.
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Re: TR: Waterloo-Pinckney Trail

Post by backwoods doc »

Torpified - a fine bit of writing.
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Re: TR: Waterloo-Pinckney Trail

Post by thesneakymonkey »

torpified wrote: Sat Dec 12, 2020 4:44 pm Background: Mr torpified and I were somehow allowed to do our jobs from California last year. I’d aimed to mount one last Sierra backpacking trip, in the Hoover Wilderness, before our return to Michigan. The worst wildfire season in west coast history put the kibosh on that plan. So since getting back to Ann Arbor, I’ve been looking for a makeup backpacking trip I could fit into the interstices of my punishing Zoom schedule. It turned out to be a jaunt on Washtenaw County’s finest long-distance hiking trail, the Waterloo-Pinckney trail, this past Wednesday and Thursday. Our very own sneakymonkey played an instrumental role in this scheme. The best beta by far I found on the trail was a reddit post of hers:

https://www.reddit.com/r/CampAndHikeMic ... _trail_36/
Glad you had a good trip! Nice read. The yurt is one of my favorites. : )
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Re: TR: Waterloo-Pinckney Trail

Post by thesneakymonkey »

dcclark wrote: Sat Dec 12, 2020 6:13 pm Nice trip log, thanks! My eye's been on the trail and especially that yurt (I'm a sucker for those, especially in the Porcupine Mountains). I've never visited the area yet. It sounds like that might be a good spring trip.
Careful there in mid to late spring...see my trip report/video for that misery...the whole area is swamp. Definitely go in very early spring, fall or winter. DO NOT GO IN THE SPRING....I can still hear the buzzing
Trip #1East side loop: https://youtu.be/xejNOfYWpIQ
Trip#2 Minong End to End : https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=P ... 9ZJVgtfgga
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Re: TR: Waterloo-Pinckney Trail

Post by torpified »

insects: not really an issue in December. Except in the yurt: the propane heat very briefly resurrected some houseflies who had gone into some sort of suspended animation. I swept their sad corpses out in the morning before leaving.

The yurt itself was very welcoming and sensibly appointed. As, as sneakymonkey would brag if she weren't so considerate, you can get pizza delivered there. Those are pluses. Minuses are that (as far as I can tell) (i) you need to reserve it for two nights. (The DTE energy trails are literally across the lake, so if you like mountain biking and don't mind carrying your bike over the rest of the W-P trail, laying over for a day in order to mountain bike is an option.) (ii) the noise from MI-52, just across the lake, is pretty significant, at least in the context of an otherwise-deserted off-season campground.
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Re: TR: Waterloo-Pinckney Trail

Post by Kelly »

Thanks for this trip report--that trail is on my radar for some hiking in the next few months.
Midwest Ed wrote: Sat Dec 12, 2020 6:58 pm Also, firearm deer hunting is NOT over with yet. The Doe season begins Monday (12/14/2020) and runs through the end of the year. Through lottery quotas, several thousand antlerless licenses for private land and several hundred for public land were offered in many counties.
And here I've been blithely wandering around rural Michigan and Indiana (also not quite over with the firearms) on weekends after the end of November, wearing my blaze-orange buff just because it keeps my ears warm. Phew.
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