My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Pigeon River Country weekend, day three

I woke up on Monday morning stiff and sore all over, it was a struggle to crawl out of my sleeping bag and get dressed. I think some of it was from old age creeping up on me, but most of the stiffness and soreness was from having spent way too much time driving the day before. Maybe part of it was from the change in the weather as well, for with the rain the evening before, the cooler air had finally arrived. I forgot to mention that in my previous post, but then, I forgot to mention many things in my previous post.

Back in the late 1980’s, I had a boss tell me that I “was too results oriented”. I didn’t know what he meant back then, it is finally starting to sink in now. I started the previous post planning on going into more details about the places I stopped, and even adding some information about things I saw but didn’t stop for, like Grand Lake for example. It is a large lake, with several very good access sites, and it looked like a great place to spend a day, maybe two kayaking. There are many bays and islands to explore, even though there are quite a few homes around the lake.

That’s where good intentions run into my obsessions with results and efficiency, and that actually started to hit me Monday morning when I got up. Of course that didn’t stop me from falling back into the same old me when I started yesterday’s post.

As I was typing it, I realized that I was going to go back to every place I visited on Sunday, and that my descriptions from the Sunday scouting trip were going to be the same for every place I stopped. I got out of my explorer, did a quick walk around the place, shot a few pictures, then went to the next stop on my GPS unit. So if I am going to go into much more depth when I revisit these places, and spend enough time at each one to write an in-depth report on them, why bother doing a quickie on each one now?

Another place I didn’t mention in my previous post, the Rockport boat ramp. I assumed it would be just a boat ramp for access to Lake Huron, it is more like a park than an access site. There are picnic tables and lots of room to spread out there.

Rockport, Michigan access site

I didn’t shoot a picture of the park itself, just a few of the old docks, and the shoreline.

Lake Huron shore at the Rockport, Michigan access site

One could easily spend half a day, maybe an entire day, wandering along the beach, and eating a picnic lunch there at the park. My reason for stopping there is that the access site is the best place to put a kayak in to paddle out to Middle Island, which lies 2 miles off the shore where the access site is located. There is another historic lighthouse on Middle Island, that you can only reach by boat of kayak. After visiting the access site at Rockport, I think it is worth a visit in its own right, even if one doesn’t use it to reach the lighthouse.

So, back to Monday morning. I was pacing the campsite, trying to work all the kinks out as I was drinking my coffee, and re-running the previous day’s scouting excursion through my mind when I noticed waves on Round Lake. There was a cool breeze blowing, but Round Lake is so small and so sheltered that you seldom see wind generated waves on that lake. That meant something other than the wind had to be creating those waves, so I grabbed a camera to check it out.

Trumpeter swans

It turns out that the waves were from a pair of trumpeter swans that had landed on the lake!

Trumpeter swans are native to Michigan, and they are the largest native North American bird, if measured in terms of weight and length, and they are, on average, the largest living waterfowl species on earth.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the trumpeter swan was hunted heavily, both as game and a source of feathers.  These birds once bred in North America from northwestern Indiana west to Oregon in the U.S., and in Canada from James Bay to the Yukon, and they migrated as far south as Texas and southern California. The trumpeter was rare or extinct in most of the United States by the early twentieth century. Many thousands survived in the core range in Canada and Alaska, however, where populations have since rebounded.

Early efforts to reintroduce this bird into other parts of its original range, and to introduce it elsewhere, have had only modest success, as suitable habitats have dwindled and the released birds do not undertake migrations. One impediment to the growth of the trumpeter swan population around the Great Lakes is the presence of a growing non-migratory Mute Swan population who compete for habitat.

You can tell trumpeters apart from the more common mute swans by the color of their bills and feet. Trumpeters have black bills and feet, whereas mute swans have orange bills and feet. The mute swans were brought here from Europe, after the Europeans had all but wiped out the trumpeters. In Michigan, the mute swans are now considered an invasive species, and the DNR is trying to control the number of mute swans so that the trumpeters can increase in numbers and re-occupy its traditional range. Here’s a photo of a pair of mute swans and their young, you can clearly see their orange bills.

Mute swans

The two trumpeters on Monday were giving me fits. They weren’t all that shy as far as me being there was concerned, but they seemed to go out of their way to avoid being in direct sunlight. I never did get a great picture of them, just some good photos.

Trumpeter swans

They seemed to be teasing me.

Trumpeter swan

These shots would have been so much better if the swans had been in the sunlight rather than the shade!

Trumpeter swans

I needed another cup of coffee by then, and I thought that as the sun climbed higher in the sky, it may burn off some of the clouds and throw more light on the swans.

As I was drinking my second cup, one of the guys from the campsite next to mine walked by, and I pointed out the swans to him. He thanked me, grabbed his camera, and went to the end of the lake where the swans were then. On his way back to his site, he stopped by to chat, and that started what turned out to be a long conversation.

We started exchanging Pigeon River Country stories, turns out his name is Ryan, and like myself, he began going to the PRC as a kid with his family, fell in love with the PRC, and continues to return as often as he can. Somewhere in there, the swans took flight and made a couple of laps around the lake.

Trumpeter swans in flight

Beautiful birds!

Ryan and I went back to our conversation, and soon we were joined by his friends, Meagan and Andy. That was actually the first of a couple of long conversations over the course of the day, they are three of the nicest people I have ever met. I hope to run into them again someday.

Talking to them reminded me of the past, when I would be camping there with other people, mostly Spud, but there were others as well. I began thinking about how it all fit together, the way that I am always on the go when I am up there, the way that I camp, how I had jammed too much driving into the previous day, and how I couldn’t just sit down and relax and enjoy the peace and quiet. Maybe I am one of those people who needs some one else along to make me slow down.

I almost didn’t take my tent with me for this trip, to save the time it takes to set up camp, then to pack it all back up again at the end of a trip. “Too results oriented”, I am beginning to understand what you meant, Dick, finally.

Even as I was thinking about it, I couldn’t sit still. I was either pacing the campsite or taking short walks on the roads to the campground. Maybe some of that is because of my job. Often, when people offer me a seat, I tell them, “No thanks, I sit for a living”. That about sums up a truck driver’s job, sitting behind the wheel of a truck for a paycheck. But that doesn’t explain why I used to do about the same things as I do now long before I became a truck driver. I have always been on the go, and have always camped as light as I could so I would have more time to be on the go.

You may have the mental image of me as one of those people who is always going 100 MPH in every thing I do, that’s not the case either. I may be on the go, but slow. That’s why I noticed the things other people pass by without seeing or hearing. In fact, most people who I hike or kayak with go at a much faster pace than I do. Larri used to say I dawdled, I think she just liked using the word dawdle 😉 , but I do go slow. I am like the tortoise in the story the story of the tortoise and the hare. I may not move fast, but I am always moving, well, except for while I am shooting photos or examining something in depth.

One of the things people would have heard often when Spud and I were out in the woods or fishing would have been “Whacha looking at?” We were both easily amused, and it didn’t take much for either one of us to stop and examine something closely, like a bird, a flower, a rock, a tree, a cloud, you name it. When we noticed the other had stopped, that was the standard question, “whacha looking at?”, and then we would most likely examine it together and discus it.

There is an upside to going as slow as I do, when every one else is worn out and ready to call it a day, I am still ready to keep going. In that way, I am like the Energizer Bunny, I keep going, and going, but at a tortoise’s pace. That’s the problem, I do keep going, and going. I don’t need some one to slow me down, I am slow already, I need some one to make me stop!

So, is there a point to all this rambling? I hope so. First of all, I have to apologize for the quality of my last post, it is not what it should have been. I rushed it to get on to the next project, and parts of me feel I should re-do it, but I know the same thing would happen again. It will get re-done in a way anyhow, when I put together the pages for exploring the Lake Huron shoreline. I know I have promised in the past not to rush posts, and I should know better than to make promises I can’t keep. So this time I am going to promise to try not to rush posts.

Secondly, it was so great chatting with the Terrific Trio, my new nickname for Ryan, Andy, and Meagan. Talking to them has convinced me that I have taken this solo thing too far, and that I would love to sit around a campfire and swap stories with some one else. Heck, I don’t even have campfires when I go solo, and what is camping without a campfire?

I am going to buy one of those folding camp chairs and have campfires again, maybe even roast some hot dogs, and look for some one to share them with. I am not going to be able to see all there is to see in Michigan in one day, no matter how hard I try, so I need to stop trying. Here’s a map from my Sunday scouting trip, you can click on it for a larger view. The green pins are places I stopped, the red ones are places I haven’t been to yet.

Click for a larger view

And even after all that, I stopped at two places trying to see elk, and several spots that were so cool that I wish I would have had more time that day to even note them on my GPS unit.

I sure covered a lot of ground that day, but it was worth it in a way. I gathered some good information about the places I want to go back to, and a saw a lot of beautiful things.

Wildflowers blooming in a marsh

And these.

Yellow wildflower

But, I am never going to do that again, at least I hope not. I don’t want to wake up the next day in the same shape as I did on Monday!

If I hadn’t been in such bad shape on Monday, I would have never met the Terrific Trio, or realized what I am missing out on doing things the way that I have been. It pays to sit still now and then, I am going to have to do it more often.

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  1. Pingback: The Big (photo) Dump, The Birds « Quietsolopursuits's Blog