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

My vacation, spring (???) 2014, an overview

Okay, I knew that I wouldn’t be camping for the two entire weeks of my vacation without at least a couple of days back home, but so far, the weather is not cooperating at all. When the forecast for Thursday through Saturday called for more rain, rain/snow mix, and a stiff north wind, I decided to come home for a few days. And, as I am editing this on Friday, the area where I was did indeed see accumulating snow this morning.

I left home early on Sunday morning, and had my camp set up in Goose Creek State Forest Campground on the banks of the upper Manistee River before 2 PM. It was warm and sunny then, I was wearing just a light short-sleeved T-shirt and jeans.

But before I get into the details of the trip, a few other thoughts first.

First, my Cabela’s tent/cot is a breeze to set-up and take down. I slept fairly well in it, given that it was really warmer than what my sleeping bag is designed for. I was too warm inside the first two nights, but since I wasn’t sure just how weather proof the tent/cot was, I didn’t dare open up the windows or other ventilation very much the first night. I got a little braver each night, as I found out that the unit does protect from the elements very well. That was important, because it rained off and on from the first evening that I was there, right through Wednesday evening, when I packed up to return home.

My biggest problem was condensation inside the unit, because I hadn’t opened up the ventilation as I should. I’ll know better next time. But, I don’t think that any tent would have been able to deal with the weather from Monday to Wednesday morning. The humidity was so high that it was foggy for much of the time.

Also, it was a lot easier to use the tent/cot in my living room when I tested it at home than it was outdoors in real use, but it will do what I intended it to do. It’s quick and easy to set up, or take down, but if one is claustrophobic, I wouldn’t recommend one of these tent/cots to them. 😉

I tried fishing a few times when I was sure that there were no thunder showers in the area, I don’t mind fishing in the rain, it can be a great time to fish, but I won’t stand in the middle of a river, holding a graphite fly rod in my hand, while there’s lightning nearby. I fished for at least a little while on several evenings, and all I could manage is one hit from a small trout, which is about as well as any of the other fishermen that I spoke to were doing. It was a long, tough winter for the trout as well as people.

The big story was the weather. It started raining, with an occasional passing thundershower Sunday evening right on through until Tuesday evening, and it rained at least a little each day. Monday and Tuesday, there was more time when it was raining than not. Sunday and Monday were very warm, hot even, especially for up there this time of the year. It cooled off to about average for Tuesday and Wednesday. There were a few short peeks at the sun on every day as well, with Sunday being the brightest day. Wednesday was cloudy most of the time, with just a few light sprinkles of rain a couple of times, but at least the fog was gone that had been around most of Monday and Tuesday.

It was so gloomy most of the time that I set the ISO of my camera to go as high as 3200 on auto, but even that wasn’t high enough. I shot some photos at ISO 3200, f/5.6, and a shutter speed of 1/80 of a second, not nearly fast enough for the new 300 mm prime lens and the extender behind it for a total of 420 mm. Not even as steady as I am, or the lens’ IS could get great photos under the conditions I had to work with most of the time. But, that didn’t stop me from trying. 😉

I probably should have switched to the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens), but I was hiking long distances each day. For the two nicer days, I also brought the second body and short lenses, and six to eight miles with the Beast is more than enough by itself. When I didn’t bring the other gear, the 300 mm prime did the job for macro photos as well as it can, which is quite good. Besides, the 300 mm prime is better weather sealed than the Beast, and that was important.

About all that I could do was hike, the weather wasn’t any good for much else. I did get some fishing in at times, but it was too wet and rainy to just sit around the campground as I had planned on doing. I need one of those canopies to set up to provide cover if I’m going to just sit outside and it’s raining.

But, I have to be serious, I’m not much of a sitter. I may not move fast or far, but I can’t just sit still for very long doing nothing either. When I did sit, it was out in the woods most of the time, and even then, not for very long. I’m the type that wants to see what’s over the next hill or around the next bend.

My best photo from my time up there is this one, taken Tuesday evening, when the bulk of the rain finally ended.

Evening at Goose Creek campground

Evening at Goose Creek campground

A close second is this one, same time and place, slightly different position.

Evening at Goose Creek campground

Evening at Goose Creek campground

I tried a few other landscapes, but none of them are very good as far as subject matter, except for this one.

Misty morning at Goose Creek campground

Misty morning at Goose Creek campground

That was shot on Tuesday morning. I had been drinking my coffee, leaning on the railing next to the river that you can see in the second sunset photo. I was thinking that even though I had images of many species of birds, that I hadn’t gotten any lifers so far on this trip, and that was disappointing to me. I thought to myself that just being there used to be enough to keep me contented, that I used to think that this was one of the truly special places in Michigan, then it hit me. It still is, I’m just so used to seeing it that it is more like an old friend than anything else, but other people haven’t seen it, so I should grab my camera and tripod, and capture the moment.

So, I ran around the area shooting landscapes using live view, which was a mistake. Little did I know that the lens had fogged up from the extremely high humidity, even though the camera and lens had been sitting in my vehicle all night, and should have been the same temperature as the air. When I looked at the camera screen, I thought that the camera was seeing the fog thicker than I was with my naked eye, so I never checked the lens. That’s the only photo that turned out at all, because it was the first one that I shot, before the lens fogged over completely. Lesson learned.

Also, I am happy to report that after four days of counting yellow-rumped warblers, that there’s a gazillion of them, give or take a hundred billion here or there. The sheer number of them interfered with my getting photos of other species. They were everywhere I went, and in huge numbers. I’d see a small bird, pull the camera to my eye, get a focus lock, and at least 95% of the time, it was a yellow-rumped, from here on in to be known as YRW’s.

I started to assume that any warbler perched long enough for me to get a good look at it was a YRW. They were on the ground, in the brush, in the air, and in the treetops, there were times when I had 20 in sight at the same time.

They had infested the campground, just as everywhere else that I went, so naturally, one of them will appear as my first bird photos.

Yellow-rumped warbler singing

Yellow-rumped warbler singing

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Those were shot while I strolled around the campground, checking it out, as were these.

Male rose-breasted grosbeak

Male rose-breasted grosbeak

Eastern hog-nosed snake

Eastern hog-nosed snake

Eastern hog-nosed snake impersonating a cobra

Eastern hog-nosed snake impersonating a cobra

Blue jay

Blue jay

Female rose-breasted grosbeak

Female rose-breasted grosbeak

It was still only mid-afternoon, so I drove up to the De Ward Tract, which I have written about before, there’s info about it in my hiking places pages if you’re curious. I walked along the bluff on the east side of the river for a mile or so, and only saw YRW in the brush below me, other than a lone kingfisher, the photo of it was too bad to post. But, I found a few interesting things to shoot.

Snow pile along the road

Snow pile along the road

Bees in the sand

Bees in the sand

Lichen

Lichen

Lichen

Lichen

Small butterfly

Small butterfly

Lichen

Lichen

Lichen

Lichen

I wasn’t finding much to photograph, and it was quite warm, above 80 degrees F ( 27 C), so I returned to the campground for these.

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

I don’t know if this grackle was fascinated by its own reflection, or if it was watching something in the water.

Common grackle

Common grackle

But he kept getting closer….

Common grackle

Common grackle

…and closer…

Common grackle

Common grackle

…until he went in!

Common grackle diving into the river

Common grackle diving into the river

One way or the other, it didn’t take him long to get out of the water, it was still very cold, as I found out when I fished later on.

Common grackle coming out of the river

Common grackle coming out of the river

This palm warbler looked on, wondering what the grackle was doing.

Palm warbler

Palm warbler

Then resumed looking for insects.

Palm warbler

Palm warbler

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

Eastern Chipmunk

Eastern Chipmunk

That’s it for the photos from the first day.

I slipped into my waders, and spent the rest of the day fishing. I fished all the way through the campground, and had one hit the entire time. That was the best that I did of all the times I tried fishing.

Just as I was finishing my supper, the rain started, so I slipped into my tent cot, and called it a night.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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29 responses

  1. Beautiful Male rose-breasted grosbeak! Sorry to hear the fishing didn’t go better.

    May 17, 2014 at 8:03 am

    • Thanks! The only reason that I wanted to land a few fish is because it’s been a while since I’ve fished.

      May 17, 2014 at 8:06 am

  2. What a lousy week to camp. I thought about you when the temp dropped, and the rain continued to fall. Those are not pleasant days in a tent, no matter how great the books are that you brought along. Hope this week improves.

    May 17, 2014 at 8:05 am

    • Thanks! As cool as it is down here right now, I’m glad that I didn’t stick around up there. I never thought of taking books on vacation before, I’m usually on the go from dawn to dusk, then collapse for the night. I should give them a try if the weather isn’t great.

      May 17, 2014 at 8:10 am

      • I’m a big reader, but always especially enjoy books read while wrapped in a sleeping bag, or those read with a headlight strapped to my forehead by a campfire. Hope the weather improves this week for you.

        May 17, 2014 at 9:14 am

      • Thanks, I may have to give your suggestions a shot.

        May 17, 2014 at 9:17 am

  3. I’m sorry phase one of your vacation was a bit disappointing as far as the weather is concerned. It (the weather) sure isn’t cooperating with anyone these days! I don’t know when the farmers will be able to get into their fields here – everything is underwater from a week’s worth of rain. And temps have been almost 20 degrees below normal the past few days! Ugh.

    I just loved the series of the grackle looking at its reflection and then falling in. I literally cracked up over that last picture! And then the palm warbler watching. 🙂

    Here’s to hoping phase 2 is more promising!

    May 17, 2014 at 8:42 am

    • Thank you Amy! I’m enjoying my time off from work, despite the weather, although that didn’t come through in my post. It may be a good thing that the weather has been so bad, manufacturer reps from Canon are going to be at the local camera store today, I’m hoping to pick up a few pointers on my equipment. Better weather is in the forecast for next week, I’ll head on up then. Besides, it’s beautiful downstate right now with everything greening up and the flowers blooming, and, I’m getting lots of new birds around here.

      May 17, 2014 at 8:53 am

      • Sometimes the time off is the most important thing! And I’ve come to know you well enough that you won’t let the grass grow long under your feet. 🙂

        I was thinking we should have made arrangements for you to use our place – it’s almost as rustic as a tent, LOL, but at least you would have been up off the ground and could get inside out of the wet if needed. Plus we do have a covered porch. 🙂

        Looking forward to your next batch of photos!

        May 17, 2014 at 9:01 am

      • Thanks again! Even if you had offered the use of your place I wouldn’t have taken you up on it, since we really don’t know each other. Besides, I didn’t spend big bucks on my tent/cot not to use it. 😉

        May 17, 2014 at 9:11 am

  4. You didn’t do too bad with photos considering the weather. I remember a day last summer when it was humid and the lens kept fogging up just as you describe. It was frustrating!
    It looks like you ran into a good clump of reindeer lichen. I like the chipmunk shot and the grackle is hilarious! I wonder what he was seeing.
    In spite of the weather at least you got to spend some quiet time in the woods in a beautiful area, and I can’t think of a better way to spend a vacation.

    May 17, 2014 at 8:55 am

    • Thanks Allen. Those photos were all from the best day up there weather wise, some of the following posts won’t be the same quality, but I will get into how much I enjoyed being out in the middle of nowhere with no one around in those posts. There’s nothing like having 4,000 acres of forest all to one’s self!

      May 17, 2014 at 9:14 am

  5. Thanks for the wonderful pictures, sorry about the weather though.

    May 17, 2014 at 9:12 am

    • Thanks Susan, I thoroughly enjoyed myself despite the weather!

      May 17, 2014 at 9:15 am

  6. Great post. I love your ability to recount your experiences so that we feel as if we are there with you and then you slip in those wonderful photos of what you have seen. Spring is a fickle time of year, perhaps next week will be more settled. I loved your comment about fishing with a graphite rod in a thunderstorm! Looking forward to your next report.

    May 17, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    • Thank you! I had a great time in spite of the weather, but I don’t think that I expressed that well enough.

      May 17, 2014 at 4:23 pm

  7. I am really sorry about the weather. I was looking forward to your trip almost as much as you.

    May 17, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    • Thanks Tom, I had a great time anyway, and I’ll be headed back up north later this week.

      May 17, 2014 at 6:17 pm

  8. It’s terrible to have the weather be uncooperative on vacation!

    I know what you mean with the Yellow-Rumps, also known around here as Butter-Butts. There are a ton of them, and its hard not to grumble sometime about wanting to see another type of warbler…

    May 17, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    • Thanks! It’s hard to believe that there are still insects left anywhere with the number of yellow-rumped that there are.

      May 17, 2014 at 7:23 pm

  9. I too am sorry the weather wasn’t co-operating during your first week away. I found the grackle photos so amusing and the evening shots are really beautiful

    May 18, 2014 at 9:34 am

    • Thanks Clare, it was a good four days despite the weather.

      May 19, 2014 at 8:11 am

  10. Nenkin Seikatsu

    The rose-breasted grosbeak is beautiful.

    May 18, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    • Thank you!

      May 19, 2014 at 8:18 am

  11. I’m glad you posted that misty scene, it is good to see the “big picture” of the environment, along with all of your close-ups of the wildlife, it adds perspective to the experience (plus I’m a sucker for misty river scenes). The snake impersonating a cobra is extraordinary. I hope the fishing gets better as your vacation continues on.

    May 19, 2014 at 9:27 am

    • Thank you! I don’t really fish to catch fish, I just enjoy being in a river away from the rest of the world. But, it’s been a while since I’ve been fishing, I would like to land one or two so that I can remember what fish look like. 😉

      May 19, 2014 at 1:45 pm

      • You’re welcome. Would like to see some photos of fish, is you can catch any. And if you need help remembering what they look like, this artist does an excellent “all trout all the time” calendar each year. I have bought one for the past four years, lovely drawings BUT drawings are not photos. Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/Trout-North-America-2014-Calendar/dp/0761173978

        May 19, 2014 at 8:46 pm

      • Thanks, but as a member of Trout Unlimited, a good deal of the junk mail that I receive is adorned with trout photos, I’d prefer to see a real one for a change. 😉

        May 19, 2014 at 10:59 pm

      • I don’t blame you for that! Good luck!

        May 20, 2014 at 10:42 am