January Hiking Update

Hello everyone!  I’m running behind a bit, so please bear with me as I catch up.  This post is going to be a quick run-down of my January hikes. Remember my gear update at in mid-January, where I told you all about my new snowshoes?  Well, I put them to work a couple times this month.  I did three hikes total, two on snowshoes and one with ice spikes.  Eek, I can’t wait to tell you about that one!  But I’m gonna start at the beginning.

IMG_20200120_143700_MPHike 1 of 2020 – So I am starting over again with the 52 Hike Challenge and the North Country Trail’s Hike 100 Challenge.  This hike covered 2.5 miles along the NCT, from Round Lake, to Spring Lake and back, in Petoskey. In the summer, this section of trail is a paved path for walking, running, and biking.  In the winter, it’s used for snowshoeing and snowmobiles.  Have no fear though, it’s mostly a long straight stretch, so you’d see a snowmobile coming long before it reached you……if you didn’t hear it first. It was a chilly, partly cloudy day but I worked up a sweat, and had to remove a layer or two along the way.  The sun did peek out for a moment around my halfwayIMG_20200120_143715 point.  This was the first time on the new snowshoes.  Everything was great for the first mile and half.  But my baby toes started complaining about being rubbed on by the binding.  I decided I probably had my feet too far back in the binding, causing the rub. I adjusted on the next hike.

IMG_20200120_144319Hike 2 of 2020 – I continued along the same trail as hike 1.  This was a little bit shorter, going from Round Lake to West Conway Road.  I stopped there, thinking the trail went up West Conway Road, and I didn’t feel like doing any road walking.  Turns out I was mistaken.  The trail goes up North Conway Road. So there’s .2 of a mile that I missed before the trail starts following the road.  I’m going to leave the road section of the trail for the summer.  In the winter, the snowbanks don’t leave much room for walking along the road, and the snowbanks IMG_20200120_144808_MPthemselves don’t make for great walking surfaces.  My snowshoes didn’t rub on my toes so much this time, as I positioned my feet farther forward in the bindings.

Hike 3 of 2020 – This was my favorite hike of January.  Also, the most strenuous, but totally worth the effort.  We met up with friends from our hometown, and hiked in to the Rock River Canyon Ice Caves, near Eben, MI.  Better known as the Eben Ice Caves. Thanks to some other bloggers, we had an easy time finding the trail head.  “Just set your GPS for Eben Junction, and then follow the IMG_20200126_133417signs.”  It really was that easy!  We got lucky in that there weren’t a whole lot of people there that day.  We were able to park fairly close.  I’ve seen some more recent photos where people had to park a mile or so away. Three miles round trip, this walk is hilly and icy.  I highly advise against doing it if you don’t have some kind of traction device on your feet like ice spikes, yak traks, or ice cleats.  I also brought my hiking poles and found IMG_20200126_134659them to be super handy in several places.  Be prepared for a short, but steep climb once you’re there.  It’s steep enough that, on our way back out, I decided it would be easier to just slide down.  The ice caves are formed by giant icicles, which are created by the trickling water of a small river.   You can walk inside the caves, but be careful doing so.  Even with my ice cleats on, I was sliding a bit and ended up on my rear end IMG_20200126_135845once.  Oh!  We also took advice from a sign at the parking lot and had lunch at the Village Pub.  The food was pretty darn good!

In summary, I completed 3 of my 50 hikes for the year.  My mileage for the month was 7.75 miles, 4.75 of which was on the North Country Trail.  Tell me, in the comments, if you’ve been to the Eben Ice Caves, or any other ice caves!  See you next week!

A Whirlwind Visit to the Windy City

My husband and kids are really into Pokémon.  Me, not so much.  So, when the Pokémon Go festival came to Chicago last year, and they got tickets, I wasn’t sure if I was going to go with them.  What was I going to do at a Pokémon festival?  The festival was being held in Grant Park, which is a block or two down from Millennium Park where the famous giant bean is. Really, it’s all just one giant park.  I found a huge list of things to do, within easy walking distance from Grant Park: a huge library, a quirky toy store, museums, rooftop bars where you can see the city for just the price of a drink. I decided to tag along after all.

IMG_20190615_113819357We went a day early to have some extra exploration time.  Our plan was to spend most of the day at the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is free to visit.  However, it ended up being a cold, rainy day, so we had to find indoor activities instead.  We visited the Engine 18 firehouse, which is used as the set for “Firehouse 51” on NBC’s Chicago Fire.  Hubby is a HUGE fan of the show.  His reaction to visiting “Firehouse 51” could totally be defined as “fan-girling”.   He was completely star-struck, despite the fact that they were not filming at the time, so we didn’t get to see or meet any of the people on the show.  Engine 18 is very welcoming to visitors.  You can walk around most of the firehouse, sayIMG_20190615_114852290~2 hello to the crew, and even purchase souvenir stickers and t-shirts.  They even have a couple of the props from the show.  Spoiler alert: the prybar is actually rubber so no one gets hurt.  We had planned to have lunch at Lottie’s Pub, which is set for Molly’s Bar on the show, but apparently everyone else had the same idea, because there was no parking available within at least two city blocks in any direction. So, we settled for a drive-by and had lunch elsewhere.  We spent the next several rainy hours exploring the Chicago History Museum.  We learned about the Great Chicago fire; there was an interactive exhibit on all the musicians who came from, or frequented, Chicago; they had a huge exhibit on Martin Luther King Jr and the civil rights movement (I think we spent more time on this one than any of the other exhibits); one exhibit followed the timeline of fashion on the silver screen and showed how it influenced everyday American fashion.  It was fun. There was a lot of interactive bits to keep kids interested.  Although my daughter, at 15, was a bit old for all that, she did it all anyway. IMG_20190615_192621160~2We finished our day off with a fancy dinner at The Gage.  We couldn’t not eat there, at least once.  I mean, Gage is our last name after all.  We joked with the maître d’, as he seated us, about getting a family discount.  BTW, that was a big fat no, haha.

The next day was the festival.  We all took an Uber from the hotel to Grant Park, but once they were checked in as festival guests, I bid them adieu and headed to The Art Institute of Chicago.  I spent ALL DAY there.  Can I give you a tip?  Make sure you have a map, because this place is HUGE.  Like, huge. To help you keep track of where you are, all the rooms are numbered and those numbers can be found on the map.  Another tip, if you’re with a group, and someone needs to take the elevator, you should ALL take the elevator.  Why, you ask? Because the elevators and the steps don’t necessarily go to the same place, even when it looks like they would.  I didn’t have to worry about that, because I was on my own, but I did get lost trying to find food when lunch time came around.  One more tip: there are benches throughout to rest – use them.  Even if you don’t think you’re tired yet, take a quick sit down.  Did I mention this place is huge?  If you’re not tired yet, you willIMG_20190616_120932973~2 be.  SO take advantage of the benches.  I didn’t right away and began to regret it about halfway thru the day when my feet, legs and back started to ache (wow, I sound like on lady LOL).

I spent way too much time in the miniatures exhibition.  I was just so amazed by the amount of detail that went into each and every tiny room.  Period appropriate furniture, rugs, portraits, dishes, chandeliers……you name it, those little bitty rooms had it.  And there were so many of them, spanning centuries of décor from many different countries. There were exhibits of Muslim art, ancient art, modern art (I rushed through that area – I don’t care for modern art. I think it’s weird, and makes absolutely so sense), Van Gogh’s self-portrait was there, as well as “A Sunday Afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte” which was way bigger than I ever imagined. I spent a lot of time looking through the older paintings like “Venus and Mars with Cupid and the Three Graces in a Landscape” painted by Domenico Tintoretto sometime between 1590 and 1595….. or “The Allegory of Peace and War” painted by Peter Paul Reubens in 1776, which was one of my favorites…..or “Odalisque” painted by Jules Joseph Lefebvre in 1874, which was another of my favorites. I love these old, moody paintings.  The colors of them are amazingly still so clear and vibrant, especially when you consider how long they’ve been around.  I love how all of today’s body “imperfections” are painted beautifully in these old paintings: full curvy figures, less-than-flat bellies, rolls and lumpy bits.  They are all perfect in their imperfection. As the owner of a Rubenesque body, this art is a balm for my soul.

**Caution: the slideshow below shows the paintings I mentioned above, some of which contain nudity**

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My last tip for this museum?  Plan to be there the whole day.  Like, the WHOLE day.  There were a few areas I didn’t make it to, and I was there from open to close.  The museum just happened to close at the same time that the festival wrapped up for the day. IMG_20190616_193433662~2So, I met up with the fam, and we got an Uber back to the hotel.  After a long day of walking, for all of us, we just decided to order pizza and chill in the hotel room for the rest of the night. I don’t know if Chicagoans would say this is “THE place” to get pizza, but deep dish, Chicago style pizza from Giordano’s is amazing (I mean, just look at all those layers of sauce and cheese! yum!) and they deliver! We spent the remainder of our evening watching the city from our room on the 17th floor!

Oh!  It was foggy almost the whole time we were in Chicago, so we didn’t realize it until the fog cleared up just before we left, but our room had a view of Lake Michigan!  Would have been a gorgeous view on a clear, sunny, summer day!

What’s your favorite thing to do in Chicago? Do you have any cool, off-the-beaten-track places you would recommend?  Those are my favorite kind of places, the kind that most tourist don’t know about, but they’re totally worth a visit.  I’m sure I’ll be back to Chicago again someday (I’ve already been there three or four times) so drop your suggestions in the comments, and maybe they’ll end up on my next Chicago itinerary!

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Touring in Traverse City

Let’s talk about a different kind of adventure this week. An adventure I had last winter with my mom, her best friend, my sister and my best friend. It wasn’t like the typical adventures I write about – all outdoorsy and campy with hiking and stuff –  but it was an adventure nonetheless!  We had ourselves a wine-tasting girls’ weekend in Traverse City.

I am a thrifty traveler.  My husband would say I’m cheap.  I like to do fun things but I don’t like spending a ton of money., so I look for great deals  I found us a lovely little suite, right on Lake Michigan, at the Sugar Beach Resort.  We didn’t get a lake view room, but that’s ok since it was January, and all we would have seen was snow, ice, and more snow.  The suite was cute, and clean, and super roomy.  It slept all of us, with room to spare, and it was very reasonably priced at about $120 per night.  Since we split the cost between the five of us, it only cost each of us about fifty bucks to stay for two nights!

I then signed us up for a wine tour on Old Mission Peninsula in the afternoon and a Wine, Beer, and Spirits tour of Traverse City in the evening.  The tour company was great.  They picked us up right at the hotel. You can set up private tours with them if you want, but we picked a “join-in” tour which meant we had about 15 to 20 other people on the bus with us.

FB_IMG_1582053987911Our wine tour consisted of four wineries along the Old Mission Point: Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery, Bowers Harbor Vineyards, Chateau Chantel, and Chateau Grand Traverse.  We had almost an hour at each stop to relax, taste the wine and explore the venue.  There was some other big wine event happening the same day, so we just kinda blended FB_IMG_1582054149708in with all those people.  Brys Estate had several tasting spots set up so that you tasted several of their wines while following a walking tour of the winery.  The whole place was beautiful, but because of all the people, and the assembly line setup, I did kind of feel rushed through this one.   Bowers Harbor had nice big indoor and outdoor tasting areas, as well as a big gift shop.  We were able to do more looking around at our own pace.  The view from their FB_IMG_1582054156699patio is amazing, and I hope to go back there someday to see what it looks like when it’s not covered in snow.  Chateau Chantel was a nice place, kind of set up like a restaurant.  You walked in, waited to be “seated” at the bar. I think the guy working that day was a bitFB_IMG_1582054253247 overwhelmed, as he was not the most polite.  But it was here that I found my favorite of the day: Naughty Cherry Cider.  Oh my!  It tastes like cherry soda.  Yummm!  The last stop was Chateau Grand Traverse.  I had had their wine before, and since.  After all, it’s sold all over Michigan.  You can even find it in my tiny home town of Grand Marais, at Bayshore Market.  Their Late Harvest Riesling is my favorite.

The bus dropped us back off at our hotel.  We had bought quite a bit on the tour, and we had just enough time to drop it all in our room, before the next bus picked us up for our second tour.  Our Wine, Beer, and Spirits tour consisted of four stops around Traverse City: Right Brain Brewery, Traverse City Whiskey Company, 7 Monks Taproom, and Mammoth Distilling.  This was a much smaller bus, and there were only two other people touring with us, but the driver was out to make sure we had a good time!  Right Brain Brewery had a warehouse feel to it.  A live music act had just wrapped up their set when we arrived, so it was pretty busy.  The walls were decorated with local art. We all shared a flight of six beers.  I’m not a big fan of beer, but I keep trying them, thinking I’ll eventually find one I like.  This was the night. FB_IMG_1582055017750 I really enjoyed their Nitro Girl Stout. The thing that turns me off of beer is the flavor of hops, but this stout hardly had any hop flavor. It was creamy and chocolaty instead.  Traverse City Whisky Company was a cool little place.  However, I skipped the tastings here, as I am most definitely not a whiskey fan.  At this point, we had spent all day sipping alcohol and only nibbling on little snacks here and there. We begged our driver to modify his plan for the night to include somewhere we could get a real meal, which is how we ended up at the 7 Monks Taproom.  Our tour companions, who turned out to be loads of fun, ate dinner with us. The food was really really good (or maybe we were just really really hungry? We did all eat like we hadn’t seen food in weeks LOL).  Our last stop was Mammoth Distilling.  They make their own gin, vodka, whiskey, bourbon, rye, and rum.

The whole experience was a complete blast.  So much so, that we are currently in the beginning planning stages of our second girls’ weekend. This time, we’re looking at Petoskey.  The wine and beer culture has exploded in Petoskey, and the surrounding areas, in recent years.  Currently the Petoskey Wine Region consists of thirteen wineries, and I can think of three breweries off the top of my head.  Since I live here, I have visited most of them already, and I definitely have my favorites, but I can’t wait to tour some of them with the rest of the girls!

 

Barefoot Sisters Walking Home

9780811740128_p0_v3_s550x4062247078805375554665.jpgThis book, by Lucy and Susan Letcher, tells about the two sister’s journey as they walk northbound along the Appalachian Trail, after already completing the trek, southbound.

Let me start off by saying that this is the second book by the barefoots sisters. I did not read the first one. Turns out that’s important. This is definitely not and stand-alone read. The authors refer back to things they saw and did, places they visited, and people they met – without any further explanation. I pushed through anyway, but I spent a lot of time very confused.


The writing style of this book, on occasion, feels like it was written by someone who really didn’t want to write it, or they had a very short time to write it. We walked here. We saw this. Then we walked there. We were happy to meet up with these people. They were just how we remembered.  We were uneasy because so and so was there so we moved on. As one reviewer on goodreads put it, there’s “very little story to the story.”.  Honestly, it’s exactly the writing style I strive to avoid, when I write.

As I read, I was left with many questions. Who is this person and why are you happy to see them? What exactly about them was just how you remembered them?  And why are you not happy to see that other guy? I’m assuming all that information can be found in the first book “Southbound.”

I stopped reading about a third of the way in. There was just too much I didn’t know, because I hadn’t read the first book. So I’m going to do just that. Hopefully the writing style is a bit easier to read, and I’ll find the answers to all the questions that “Walking Home” left me with. Although, if the online reviews are any indication, I should go in with low expectations.

 

Gear Update

You guys!  I am so excited!  Eeeek!  Ok, hold on, let me back up a minute.

Yesterday, on my day off, I had intended to get some more miles in, on the North Country Trail.  There’s still a lot of local trail for me to cover before I have to venture farther out, around Michigan.  I drove out to the section I had in mind and was so disappointed to see that Old Man Winter had different plans.  The trail was under about a foot of snow.  Bummer.  So, by the time my hubby got home from work, I was deeply entrenched in online snowshoe research. They are expensive!  Plus, I may have mentioned before, I’m not a small girl.  I need some serious floatage to stay on top of the snow, which means bigger, longer snowshoes, which usually means higher prices.  I mean, some I was looking at were in the $300-$400 range.  I can’t afford that, unless I take a couple months to stash cash away in a jar.

886745780113_1Hubby asked if I had ever checked the local sporting goods stores (we have at least three of them in Petoskey), so I can at least try some on to make sure I like them.  I hadn’t of course.  I’m that person who just hops online to see what I can find.  So we drove into town to catch Bear Cub Outfitters before they closed.  I found a pair I liked and hubby surprised me by buying them, right then and there!  They’re 30” Tubbs so they’re big enough to carry my and my large, er, stature.  The binding is super easy to get in and out of. Aluminum frame, so they’re fairly light. They have a heel lift which, if I understand correctly, is for going up hills with less fatigue on your ankles and calves.  And…..they’re purple – that was a bonus! This is the first pair of snowshoes I’ve ever owned.

In case you don’t know, Michigan winters are cold and snowy.  I’m definitely a warm weather sun worshiper, so I typically spend a lot of time indoors in the winter. But man, winters here are also long.  Looooong. 6-8 months long, depending on the year.  That’s a lot of indoor time.  Ever heard of cabin fever?  It’s not gonna get me this year!  I can’t wait to hit the trail and test these snowshoes out.  Sunshine and (cold) fresh air, here I come!

Cabin fever (noun): extreme irritability and restlessness from living in isolation or a confined indoor area for a prolonged time.

~ http://www.mirriam-webster.com

Do you get a lot of snow where you live?  What are your favorite winter activities?  Let me know in the comments.

Happy New Year!

Before I start, can I just say this: when you’re a blog owner, don’t take a hiatus. Really, don’t do it. Ha-ha! I took what I expected to be a little hiatus to give me more time to work on my costume and prepare for Halloween. It turned into a 3 month break! It’s hard to get your mind back on track when you let yourself lose focus. And that’s true for all aspects of life. So, take time to have fun and relax, but not so much that you lose focus of your goals.


So, I signed up for the North Country Trail (NCT) “Hike 100” challenge last year. I also signed up for the 52 hike challenge. I figured I’d do 52 hikes, at least 2 miles each, to reach the 100 miles…easy peasy. I missed the goal….by a lot. Like, a LOT. I completed 22 hikes in 2019. Since they were all short day hikes, and they weren’t all NCT hikes, I only made it to 21 NCT miles (35 miles overall). I’m happy to say that they were, however, all unique NCT miles. According to my hiking log, there were no repeated NCT miles. Why does that make me happy? Because (remember?) I set a goal….a big goal….a lifetime goal…of completing all the NCT miles in Michigan. I’ve crossed off all 7 miles of the trail that go from the north side of Petoskey to the South side of Petoskey. There’s about 3 more miles (I think) of paved trail, north of town, I need to cover before I start on actual wooded trails. Hiking south of town is temporarily on hold, as there’s a section that currently follows roads, that’s being rerouted, and I read that work on that will be started this summer.


I didn’t do any overnight hikes in 2019. I totally chickened out. I think I have most of the gear I’ll need to do, at least, a shorter trip, like 2-3 days. I don’t have any rain gear yet, so I’ll if be out of luck if weather didn’t cooperate.


Time to look forward to the new year. I have set myself the same goals I set last year: 52 hikes total, 100 NCT miles. What goals did you set last year? Did you fall short , like me, or blow them out of the water? What are your goals for 2020? Let me know in the comments!

Hiatus, Halloween and Hard Reads

Hello all!  It’s been a while, I know.  I took a little Hiatus, this time it was on purpose.  I took all of October off.  Why, you ask?  Because I love Halloween.  I love it.  I love creating a costume, although sometimes it tests my patience.  I love dressing up.  I love being, for a short time, something I’m normally not.  Some of you are probably thinking “Psh, you’re too old for that.” To you, I say this: you don’t stop having fun when you get old, you get old when you stop having fun. And grown-up Halloween parties are fun.

My costume this year was Alice from “Alice in Wonderland”.  My friend was dressing up as  the Queen of Hearts.  We decided to try to put a bit of a steampunk spin on them.  We both sew and craft so we were making our own costumes. I decided to not use a pattern this time around.  Which is the reason for the October hiatus.  Ive made enough costumes in the past that I had a good idea of how to get this one done.  But I needed time.  All the extra time I could get my hands on.  It didn’t come out quite as I wanted, it still needs a little tweaking.  The skirt was good, the petticoat I made was actually TOO poofy.  I didn’t realize a petticoat could be too poofy, did you?  And somehow, the corset ended up a bit too big and loose, even when laced up.

My friend’s costume was on point.  And I dressed my hubby up as the Mad Hatter.  Yes, I dressed him up.  If I didn’t come up with his costume, he wouldn’t dress up at all.  It’s just not his thing, but at least he goes along with the crazy plans I come up with.  We ended up winning “Best Group Costume” at the party!

So, now I’m back.  This week was scheduled to be a review of the next adventure-related book I’ve read.  Sadly, I haven’t read another one since The Last Season. To be honest, these kinds of books aren’t my normal genre.  Normally, I read fantasy books with magic and dragons and mermaids and romance and other make-believe stuff…….So sometimes I struggle with the more realistic stories.  The Last Season grabbed me and pulled me in because I wanted to know what happened to the missing ranger. But they aren’t all gripping tales, and with my short attention span, I end up staring off into space, following a random thought that leads me every which way but where the book was going.  Next thing you know, I’m looking up concert tickets online, or looking at puppy pictures on a rescue’s website.

For next month’s book review, I just sent a request into my library for The Barefoot Sisters “Walking Home”  by Lucy Letcher.  It was suggested by a member of a facebook hiking group I’m a member of.   It’s a story of two sisters who hike the Appalachian Trail, twice, barefoot.  It’s rated 4.12 out of 5 stars on good reads.  I’m hoping it will be a good one.

I’m also looking for suggestions from you.  Help me out here!  Tell me about a book you’ve read that you really enjoyed.  Something related to hiking or traveling or exploring or camping or kayaking or……..anything adventurous like that.  Tell me what you loved about it and why you think others (including me) should read it.  Next week, I’ll share with you a fun adventure I had this summer in the U.P.  See you then!

The Last Season

This week’s post is fairly short. I read “The Last Season” by Eric Blehm this month.  I really enjoyed it and I want to tell you all about it.  However, although it’s a true story, Blehm also wrote it with a bit of suspenseful, what’s gonna happen next, kind of feel, and I don’t want to give too much away.  Or, maybe it was in the news and you already know what happened.  In any case, here’s my short review:

The telling of a true story, this book is about Randy Morgenson, who worked as a seasonal back-country park ranger for 28 years, living in the mountains for entire summers.  He lived, breathed, and preached conservation in an effort to preserve the wilderness areas he so loved.  He was considered one of the most knowledgeable and skilled rangers in the Kings Canyon National Park, and assisted countless lost, under-prepared, and injured hikers over the years.  Despite all this, he himself went missing in 1996.  This book tells of his life up to his disappearance, and the enormous search and rescue efforts that followed.

I really enjoyed this book.  There were many points where I momentarily forgot it was a true story and not just a suspenseful ‘missing person’ work of fiction. I recommend this book to anyone who loves hiking, camping or mountain climbing.   I really think Blehm did a great job of making sure we knew just who Randy Morgenson was – through interviews with the people who were closest to him, and excerpts from Randy’s journals. Some of the names, you may recognize.  Randy’s wife, Judy, is an artist in Sedona – and Ansel Adams was a close family friend.  Yes, THE Ansel Adams.  He once told Randy that “Many of the greatest photographers were “amateurs” in the sense that they did not make their living from the art.”    This book is a good reminder of the dangers that exist out in the wilderness, and therefore I am NOT recommending my mother read it, as she already thinks that I’m going to get eaten by a mountain lion when I go backpacking.  I also actually learned a lot about what park rangers do.

Please share with me what you thought of this book.  Also, let me know of any other adventure-related books you’ve read, that I should read.  I’m always looking for additions to my “to read” list!

Truck Build Update

I am so excited to share with you, this week, an update on my truck build!  Last month, I posted briefly, but very excitedly, about the truck cap I found on the cheap.  Thank you, facebook marketplace! If you follow me on Instagram or facebook, you may have already seen some pictures of my camping setup.

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I had done lots and lots and LOTS of research (aka looking on Pinterest) to figure out how I wanted the layout.  There’s a couple options like a platform bed with storage underneath…..having the bed right on the bottom of the truck bed with storage along one side – could sleep two if you don’t mind getting snuggly…..a raised (or not) bed in only half the truck bed (to sleep only one) and storage on the other side….. bed right on the bottom with storage over your feet…..SO MANY OPTIONS!!  I seriously have so many pins related to truck bed camping  I didn’t like the storage-over-your-feet idea for a couple reasons. Firstly, all my stuff would be all the way in the front of the truck, so I would have to climb in to get anything (although that makes it a bit more secure from theft). Secondly, I just don’t like the idea of sleeping under stuff.  Like, I know it would just be my feet, but what if something falls on me while I’m sleeping?  Not ok.  Plus, I’d prefer to sleep with my head toward the front of the truck. Don’t ask me why. I have no idea.  And I’m definitely not sleeping with my head under a shelf of stuff.  Again, what if something decides to fall?  Having side storage would reduce the width of the sleeping area.  Hubby won’t always be with me, but when he is, we don’t want cramped sleeping quarters. I mean, I love him, but I need my space to sleep.  So, I ended up going with the platform bed with storage drawers underneath. This way we’ll have the entire width of the truck for sleeping.  It’s actually six inches wider than a queen mattress!!

After taking a few photos, and numerous measurements, Hubby got right down to the modifications.  He got the platform built in one day while I was at work.  Hooray!  My hero!  He even remembered to take a few pictures of the process! The drawers are going to be added later.

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After that, it was all up to me.  I found a queen size folding memory foam mattress on amazon.  It was a little pricier than some others I saw, but I liked that it was foldable, and it was 8 inches thick. Have I mentioned that I want to be comfortable? Like I said above, a queen mattress fits, width-wise, in the truck.  When it arrived, I had to trim almost a foot off, length-wise, so it would fit.  I did lots of internet searching about this too.  Turns out it was super easy to trim.  I just sawed thru it with a sharp kitchen knife (uurgh, I forgot to take a picture of this part).  The remaining length still works for me because, well, I’m short.  What can I say?  Hubby was apprehensive about his ability to fit.  I saved the cut-off piece, because it seemed like something I may be able to use for something else.

A quick trip to Walmart and I had sheets, blanket and pillows.  Yep, no sleeping bag camping for me.  Does that make me a “glamper”?  I also picked up some inexpensive IMG_20190807_114850430material, and some lightweight curtain rods.  I spent a day with my sewing machine, and ended up with two curtains for each window.  They can be pulled back and tied open, without obstructing my line of sight, when I am driving.  But they can be pulled totally shut for privacy.  Hanging the curtain rods inside the cap was a bit interesting.  I actually used the screws that hold the windows together, to attach the rod hangers.  Eek, I know!  I was a IMG_20190806_154425592bit leery about taking out those screws.  In my history of projects, it seems like if something CAN happen, it DOES.  I thought, this is going to be the thing, right here.  These screws are going to be the death of this project.   It all worked out really well though.  My only issue with this method – and it’s more of a personal issue, like OCD-type issue – the screws are not symmetrically located around the windows, so the left side of each rod is not necessarily level with the right side.  But the hangers were made out of cheap metal, and I was able to bend each one a bit, up or IMG_20190806_174624774down, to bring it closer to level.

The last thing I wanted to address, before my first week truck camping, was lighting.  I had flashlights and lanterns, but hand-held lighting is not always the most convenient thing.  I found a string of LED fairy lights, about 30ft or so long, again on amazon.  They’re battery powered, which is good because there’s no power source in the back of the truck…..yet IMG_20190811_230958253(that’s a future add-on, sometime before next year’s camping season starts). They’re also super lightweight.  So I cut little pieces of Velcro, like you would with tape, and used those to stick the lights up to the carpeted ceiling of the cap.  For a little added fun, the fairy lights are remote controlled and can flash, pulse, and change colors! Ooooh!

I took my new setup camping for a week in the U.P. and I have to say, I love it!  Even with nights getting down to the low 50’s, I was plenty warm enough without a heat source.  Once the drawers are in, I’ll be able to store everything under the bed.  Without the drawers, I left things in tubs inside the cab of the truck, otherwise it would be difficult to get stuff out of the cubbies if it gets shoved too far in.  Hubby is not so IMG_20190809_085514514enthused.  He joined me for two nights, and was not comfortable because, being a bit taller than me, he was not able to stretch out all the way while sleeping.  So, we shall see….this may end up being an “only when I go somewhere alone” thing.

Future plans include a power plug (with a second battery and isolator, so I don’t wear down my primary battery), drawers, heat of some sort for those cooler nights……. Do you have any ideas?  If you were building a truck bed camper, what would you add?  Let me know in the comments!

See you next week!  Don’t forget to like, share, and follow me here and on social media.  You can find me at #rgseekingadventure or by clicking the links at the top of the page.

NCT Update

Running a couple days behind here, oops.

This will be a short post today. (I think)  Today is the day I update you on how many miles of the North Country Trail I crushed the month before. Disappointingly, I only added 3 miles in August! Why? I have several reasons, or excuses….even to myself they sound like a lot of “blah, blah, blah”. Truth is, I just didn’t get out there in August to do much hiking. But let me tell you about the two hikes I did do:

Mile 359.73 to mile 358.75, and back

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My daughter and I did this hike together. We knew it was going to be a short one. We were “wasting time” before a family member made it to town. We started at the Hurricane River campground. In the summer, this area is packed with tourists; not only the ones camping, but also the ones using this spot as a starting point to walk to the Au Sable Lighthouse, which is 1.5 miles east. We opted for the much less crowded path that leads west instead, and it turned out to be a very quiet, relaxing walk. The only other people we ran into, was a group of backpackers as we were returning to the campground, and they were just taking off. On this section of the trail, you start off walking just inside the treeline, along the Lake Superior shore. There are several places where you could get down to the beach to dip your toes in the water, or refill your water jug. Although Lake Superior has a reputation for being exceptionally clean (I drank the lake water straight out of the lake on numerous occasions when I was little) it would still be advisable to run it thru a filter. The trail was very thin in some spots, with the vegetation, growing as high as my shoulders, that I had to push thru. These spots didn’t last very long, and the trail opened up again. We stopped regularly, after pushing thru high grass and plants, to check ourselves for creepy crawly hitchhikers (aka ticks). About half a mile in, the trail veers away from the lake andimg_20190809_1408485904657381469415647775.jpg crosses H-58. Please be careful crossing here. Since they paved this road in the 90’s, the speed limit is now 55mph. There IS a “trail crossing” sign to warn drivers, but it’s pretty little and at that speed, they may not see it. I know I didn’t when I drove thru the first time. Being mid August, the mosquitos weren’t bad. In fact, they didn’t bother us at all until almost the end of our hike, when we had finally started to get a little sweaty – and even then, there were only a few here and there. The trail itself is fairly flat. The trees create some pretty gnarly roots in the trail though. Also be warned, I didn’t see a single blue blaze along this entire walk, in either direction. This little 6 inch square sign was the only thing indicating we were on the right trail.

 

Mile 346.5 to mile 346, and back

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There was more to this hike than that. We started at the Little Beaver Lake campground, but it’s a mile off the North Country Trail. So, it was a 3-mile hike but I only added 1 mile to my North Country Trail total. We hiked from the campground to Big Star Cove, all within the Pictures Rocks National Lakeshore. It’s about a mile and a half total, but it’s a very scenic walk. Theres Little Beaver Creek, Arsenault Creek and Little Beaver Lake…..as well and some pretty impressive rock formations along the trail. Also, in August, you ust might find blueberries. We found uite a few. It slowed our progress a it…..but BLUEBERRIES!

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It starts off as a forest trail, but then transtions to a sandy dune trail. You join the North Country Trail right along the Lake Superior shoreline. At first, the shoreline was beach, but it turned to sandstone before long. Please be very careful on this section of the trail, until you leave the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Quite often, the trail is right atop the sandstone cliffs. Not only is there a risk of falling off the cliffs, but the sandstone is not 100% stable. At BigStar Cove, there was evidence of recent collapse, and that same day, some kayakers had a near-miss with a cliff collapsing into the water – read all about it HERE.  So, be careful! We reached the coves, climbed down to water level, ate lunch, and went swimming. There were hardly any other people there, the weather was amazingly warm and calm, and the water felt fantastic.

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We even jumped off one of the smaller cliffs into the water! Sidenote: If cliff diving is your thing, check out Black Rocks in Marquette. I haven’t been, but many of my friends have and they say it’s a blast.

These two hikes put my hiking mileage at 29.5 miles total for the year, and 14.8 miles on the NCT this year. Did you know, if you hike 100 miles of the NCT in one year, they’ll give you a patch? I don’t think I’m going to make it this year, but maybe next year!

 

Enjoy these additional photos I took while hiking and adventuring this month.  Please remember to like, comment, share and follow me on social medias!  You can find me at #rgseekingadventure or by clicking on the links at the top of the page!

 

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All photos on this blog are mine, unless specified otherwise.  You can get prints or digital downloads of these and many others by going to Rachel Gage Photography