Jordan River Pathway Trek
By dlacher on Nov 15, 2004
Joe, Dave, Dan, and myself set out Saturday morning around 5 am to leave from home and head up the trail. We made a stop in Gaylord to get some breakfast before actually getting to the trail head.
After arriving at the trail head, we spent a few minutes taking in the scene from the Dead Man's Hill overlook. Back to the vehicle to get our packs and head out. We were on the trail by 9 that morning. The hike starts out with a modest decent down Deadman's Hill (DMH) . The slope complexity was added to with having to trek over frost covered fallen leaves and tree roots. At the bottom of DMH we took the wrong fork in the trail under the direction of the one with the map... only to stop about 10 minutes later and actually look at the map and realized that we where headed in the wrong direction.
No worries it was just a nice chance to get the body temperature up to operational status. The outside temperature was around 30 ° F that morning. Now that we are on the trail going in the right direction we started moving along at a clip of 2 to 2.5 miles per hour. The trail slowly descends down from the base of DMH to the river bottom where the views are of small streams and pools flowing over some beaver dams into the river. There was one section where the stream was running right down the trail and then dumping into the river... so that was a little tricky maneuvering for a while. Then some of the best views of the trip appeared out of now where. There was the flock of Canadian Geese that flew over our heads so close that you could see the individual feathers shortly followed by an opening on to a large pool of water that was partially frozen over with small islands of earth just large enough for a small evergreen to take root and start growing. It was at this point where we all realized that we did not pack a camera along on the trip... I know we were all kicking ourselves. After crossing over a couple large pools where the water was so crystal clear that we could see the fish swimming around we crossed the river.
After crossing over the river we headed back into the woods for a while. This was a very calm and quiet portion of the hike. The tree tops where at about 80 feet and you could see for a long ways along the trail since all the leaves where down and the sunlight could stream in. It was amazing to think the entire area that we were hiking in was once clear cut and all of the trees that we were viewing was new growth since it had been clear cut. As we looped through the forest we swept back down towards the river where you could see the fish hatchery. Turning a bend on the river I decided I was going to head off the trial a bit and walk down to the rivers edge for a moment and enjoy the moment... while that was until my foot sunk into the now softening mud. While the boot was looking a little dirty now but the foot and clothing was still dry so I figure no harm no fool.. or is that no harm no foul. A little further a long we found a nice place right on the river to stop and have a mid morning snack and enjoy the river some more. Morning snack consisted of some beef jerky, cheese stick, and some gorp, that is good ol' raisins and peanuts (with M&M as well). Someday I might give out my gorp recipe... but I am sure that you could guess it.
After the mid morning break the trail lead us back into the forest and away from the river. We ended up hiking on what was an old railway line that the loggers used. We knew that we where going to have to be headed up a hill soon to gain elevation for the scenic overlook that we had read was coming, when out of now where we were headed all most straight up (no switch backs) this massive hill... only to see a fabulous view that opened up over the whole valley. From this vantage point one could not see a single man made object on the horizon. It was a majestic view and the best part was the only way to get this view is to hike in to it.
Shortly after leaving the overlook we found ourselves at the Piney Bridge Campgrounds. To our amazement it was only 1 in the afternoon. So after scouting out the 20 or so camp sites we picked one that seems to have some good wind shelter and was large enough that we would not be cramped in camp. After lunch, Dave and I headed down the trail a bit to look around and see what tomorrow morning would bring. Just a short jont from our camp was the Piney River Bridge and the Jordan River. This little river is so clear and flows so smoothly that I just wanted to sit and watch the water flow for hours.
Back in camp we rounded up more then enough wood to have fuel for a fire that night and the next morning. After setting up camp and getting the fire going we all just sat around and enjoyed the day. The eight miles in did not seem to have a strain on the system.
For dinner we whipped out the stove to start boiling water for our Mountain House Beef Stroganoff. One of the guys on the trip was not sure he was going to like the freeze dried meals so he packed in some brauts. Shortly after dinner the sun head set (5:30 pm) and it was rapidly getting rapidly getting dark and the temperature was dropping off.
The weather forecast for the night was suppose to be 29 ° F. We quickly realized that the forecast was wrong as the temps bottomed out at 20 ° F. It was a very good thing that we had a fire going or it would have been a very long evening and night in the sleeping bags. About 6:30 we noticed a light jumping around in the forest every once and a while... ends up being to hikers that got a late start and were just getting into the campground then... they had some trouble following the trail in the dark. They headed to the other side of the campgrounds and setup camp there.
The sky was so crystal clear that night that I was overwhelmed with the number of stars that we could see. The sky was so clear that we could see the milky way, that was amazing. To get the best views of the stars we would walk out away from camp a bit to remove the light of the fire from our view. Simply amazing.
As we kept feeding the fire and keeping warm we all started to get a little tired. So after feeding the long sections of some logs into the fire we all headed into bead about 10:30 that evening. Initially getting into my bag I was relatively warm and ready for a good nights sleep. Well that did not last for long, I found myself not really able to get comfortable this night and then my feet started to get cold, then my nose. I had the mummy bag synched up right around my face and would turn my whole head into the bag to keep my nose warm. After curling up a bit and rubbing my feet together got them warm enough and I did catch a few hours of sleep... in between the two bathroom breaks... I mean come on man, can't you hold it until morning.
I heard Dan up and about and I thought I could hear the fire going. So after confirming w/ him that the fire was going I put on the cloths that I wanted for the day and emerged from the tent. Everything was covered in a nice layer of frost, it was still 20 ° F so I quickly moved over to the fire to take in some of it's heat and started thinking about breakfast. It did not take long and all four of us were up and about discussing how we slept. All of use now feeling hungry we each made out breakfasts up. I had two packets of instant oatmeal, cheese, granola bar, and some coffee. Turns out that there were left over brauts from last night so we shared them and added a little hot meat to the breakfast experience as well.
After packing up camp and making sure our fire was out we headed out for the day. Even by this point (9:45 AM) the temp had come up to 30 ° F and we could tell that today was going to be a nice day. We had a 10 mile hike ahead of us. Reading from 50 Hikes in Michigan we knew that we were going to be in for a long day. The DNR sign post were not matching up w/ where they said they were suppose to be and it stated that the trail was poorly marked. Side note to the DNR or the Jordan Valley Pathway Association, MARK THE TRAIL BETTER and put the numbered markers in the correct locations.
Wow this post is getting long, good thing is day two was pretty much the same thing repeated a few times over. The start of the day was a fast ascent (no switch backs again) up the ridge where we basically stayed all day. As we traversed the trail we would come up and down the small ravines that the streams feeding in the river had formed. Twice along here we somehow got off the trail (missed a blase) and did a little back tracking to get back on course. All of the stream crossings were wonderful. To pause for a moment and be caught up the the roaring of the water over the rocks and logs that were helping to form the stream was wonderful. We had lunch at one such stream where Dan and I sat on a log that was spanning the stream. It was totally enjoyable to be almost deafened by the sound of the water while we relaxed and enjoyed some nourishment.
At Landside overlook the Jordan Valley Pathway and the North Country Trial split. This is a major place where unless you are following a map very carefully you will end up on the NCT headed the wrong direction. The Jordan Valley Pathway is marked with blue circular blase marks instead of the rectangular ones that mark the NCT. The bad part was there were no circular ones to be found so we trek on in faith that we knew we were suppose to follow the ridge line... well 200 yards off the split in the trails we ended up finding the blase marks we needed again.
After a nice (chilly) stroll along the ridge the trail lead us back into the forest for a couple more gorgeous stream crossings and then back to DMH. Time check. We are now two miles out and right on pace. The final two miles of the hike take you through a section of new growth pine trees and then you meet up with the day hike loop for the last mile of the hike. 30 minutes to go and we are going to make it. We are all feeling a little fatigue but we knew we were close so we pressed on. About this point I am also feeling a little chill since I had removed my fleece outer layer but I just bucked it up and headed on (hind sight, should have put the fleece on). Arriving back at the top of Deadman's Hill we had reached our destination. 5 1/2 hours and we had covered at least 10 miles, I say at least due to the off trail misadventures.
We did it!
After a quick prayer of thanksgiving that we all packed up the gear in the vehicle and headed into town for dinner. If you are ever in Gaylord we must stop at Gobblers to have one of their famous turkey dinners. It is a great family run place with food that is wonderful.
Well that is it for the adventure. We drove home to be back with our families. I know for myself that I took a nice hot shower when I got home and then relaxed with my wife and dog. The main points from the trip were this... 1) The memory of the views 2) I am not ready for winter camping, 3) gear review for my new poles will be coming in a few days.
For what it's worth.