Friday, July 22, 2011

Ode to Summer

Andrew and Elizabeth take summer fun to a whole new level.  They have so much fun playing outside, no matter what they are doing.  With Elizabeth, she is usually looking for bugs, playing in the sprinkler, running races across the backyard or building a sand and sea shell dinner for mommy or daddy.  Andrew is usually splashing water all over his sister or wandering around.

Andrew has just now figured out the bug thing.  He knew quite a few months ago that sister was totally facinated with bugs but could not really see them.  Now he knows what he is looking for and likes to find them, point, and say bug, bug, bug over and over again.   And while I am thinking about it, tonight Andrew really started to roar like a dinosaur while playing doll house.  We like to play that the dinosaurs are invading the doll house and then dollhouse mommy, daddy, baby, prince and princess ride around on the dinosaurs.

Elizabeth requested that daddy give her and Andrew a bath this evening.  It's a very unusal request as usually when daddy gives them a bath and mommy is around, all I hear for 15 minutes is whining for mommy.  But I was fine with that and took the opprotunity to fold two of the eight baskets of laundry that had accumulated as a result of a crazy busy week.  Andrew got out of the bath first.  When I give the kids a bath, I get Andrew out first and put his diaper and clothes on and then get Elizabeth out and do the same.  Jan puts Andrew's hoodie towel on and lets him run around the second floor crazy for a while while he washes Elizabeth.  So there is Andrew, running from room to room with his doggie hoodie towel on.  And then it got really quiet.  Anyone who has been around Andrew knows that quiet only means one thing.  I turn around from the laundry, look down and plop plop.  Poop landing on the floor.  Yes, Andrew managed to poop and pee on the floor.  What is it with this kid and poop stories!

Elizabeth thinks that the silliest things are funny.  She learned the word "dude" at school and now everyone is "dude".  Well, more specifically, "dude eyeball."  She says it so much that Andrew goes around calling her dude eyeball now.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Flats Labor Camp - 2011

This year my parents took on some big projects at the flats adding a fantastic new dock, putting a new steel piling foundation under the place, and taking down the enormous trees that threatened to fall on the cottage.  It definitely looks different!!! 
The new dock adds a whole new dimension to the cottage, I can't wait to sit at the end and do some fishing with the kids!
 While my parents made some big improvements, there was a lot of maintenance that needed to be done on the exterior of the cottage so we all descended on the flats for a work weekend including my parents, Casey and Jennifer, myself, and a good family friend, Sarah.
 The main task for the weekend was to strip the exterior walls and get some new pain on them.  They were looking terrible after years of harsh weather exposure and everyone worked hard to get the job done.

 One of our improvement projects was to add a roof over the dish washing station to help keep the sun and rain of the dishes and the person cleaning them.

 After a long day of dirty sweaty work it was time for a bath at the end of the new dock...

 That is the expression for refreshing in Michigan.  Elsewhere in the country they simply call that freezing cold.

 After working hard all weekend (and it was clear that Sarah won the award for working the hardest - thank you again Sarah!) it was time for a nice boat ride and lunch at the quintessential flats establishment - Brown's.  Great weekend - looks like we will have to make this an every year or every other year event!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Goose Creek Hike

With the weather finally feeling like summer and grandparents in town eager to spend some quality time with the kids Kate and I decided to head up to the mountains and do an overnight backpacking trip on the Goose Creek Trail in the Lost Creek Wilderness.

This is a place we have visited as a family for the last two summers but with the kids, we had only ever ventured in about a mile or so from the trail head.  Doing some research we found that about 4 miles in there is a valley of unparalleled beauty heavily guarded by a massive boulder field.  Those willing to venture in are rewarded with some breath taking scenery... or so they say - we set out to find out.
The drive up was a little intimidating - it was pooring rain and had been all afternoon.  We could only hope that the weather would clear as we pushed up into the mountains to the west.  Fortunately it did.  We arrived at the trail head around 6:00PM finished packing our packs - as lightly as possible for a one night backpacking trip.  Then we had to decided - go about a mile and set up camp while the trail is relatively flat or keep going hiking up the hill (approx 800ft gain over the next 4 miles) and see if we can make it the 4 miles to the camp site near the Lost Creek Valley.  We decided to go for it.   After an hour of a trail that only seems to go up, the camp site no where in sight and daylight burning Kate needs a break from her pack...  In fairness I had "borrowed" her ever so critical belt buckle  on her pack to put on our other smaller pack that goes with us just about everywhere we go. You know - the one that cinches the pack around your hips to take the load off your shoulders... that one...)  So imagine Kates surprise when she put her pack on ready to set out on a weekend backpacking trip only to find that I had of course forgotten to replace her critically important belt buckle...  I Macgyver rigged something but as most real-life MacGyver solutions go they work well enough that if you were filming all of this you could find enough good footage to think it was a decent fix but then there are all the other parts that get edited out usually due to necessity with all of the profanity and cursing at the infernal "fix" that has been made... So with Kate needing a break and daylight burning I grabbed her pack and wore it on the front with mine still on back and kept on going... no fun but my own fault...
Fortunately it wasn't much further until we arrived at the camp site.  To our surprise there were a number of other campers as well at the camp site.  We found a nice flat spot, set up the tent and called it good.  We managed to get all situated before the sun set and Kate fell asleep within 5 minutes and slept all night.  I rarely sleep much on the first night backpacking and this trip was no exception.  I slept all of maybe 5 minutes all night... I just couldn't get comfortable... That flat spot we decided to put the tent on wasn't all that flat, my sleeping pad was too firm, I didn't bring an adequate pillow so my neck hurt, then there was the utter silence in the woods - so quiet in fact that as I was laying there I even heard the "neighbors" maybe 200 ft away getting frisky in the night, then there was the rain, oh yeah, and since Kate hadn't brought enough warm clothes I had to give her my warmer sleeping bag, and winter hat, then there was the rain in the night... Of course Kate wakes up refreshed, warm and ready to go not having heard the rain or the neighbors or had issue with the sloping tent, etc.  I woke up an achy zombie.
Its hard to let a bad night of sleep keep you down for too long surrounded by this spectacular scenery.  We put together a day pack leaving everything else at the camp site and set out to attempt to find the fabled Lost Creek Valley.  Lost Creek gets its name by vanishing under the pile of immense boulders, many of which are bigger than very large houses at the bottom of the valley, and then reappearing further down the valley.  We arrived at the remains of the shafthouse which was used to try to dam the river as it passed under the boulder field by pooring concrete down into the spaces... fortunately it never worked.

Moving up past the Shafthouse we found numerous trails attempting to negotiate the boulder field. After a couple of dead ends or routes we deemed to be too risky we decided the path dropping about 9ft down using an old log as a makeshift ladder was the best option.  Kate was first and scouted ahead.  Those brave enough to investigate further are rewarded by the most incredible vista.

The fabled Lost Creek Valley does in fact exist and it is simply spectacular!!! Definitely one of the highlights of the trip!
Heading back out retracing our steps we went back to our camp site, we grabbed the little fly rods and did some fishing for the resident brook trout.

Kate then refilled the water bottles while I packed up the tent.  We wanted to hike back to the beaver pond we had passed on our way in to try to fish it as well as to fish some of the water closer to the trail head which we know from previous trips is loaded with brookies.

The Beaver pond was very productive as was our secret run downstream a little further.  Wow that water is cold!!!
Kate had a blast picking off the brookies one at a time on the surface with her new 7"6" hot pink 4wt.  These little rods have got to be just about the most fun that can possibly be had with a fly rod!

Simply beautiful fish from the frigid mountain stream!  After catching our fill we hiked back to the car and headed home exhausted.  We stopped for dinner at a new place (new to us) in Pine called Zokas.  It was incredible food and very reasonably priced.  Aftrer catching and releasing all of those brookies earlier in the day Kate couldn't resist the trout topped with a rhubarb chutney and I went for the Zoka Burger.  It was delicious.  Great food all the way around - we can't wait to go back!