Camping and Hiking in the National Forest

Back in 2010 John and i went hiking and camping in the Manistee National Forest, just north of Grand Rapids Michigan. This year we still went to the Manistee National Forest, but decided to take a different trail. In 2010 we followed the Manistee River, this time we didn't follow any rivers, but we did cross the White River. The plan was to walk 22 miles in 2 days, heading south. Here's where we started, the 40th Street Trailhead.
manistee national forest, north country national scenic trail, 40th street trailhead sign

And here is the map of the trail we followed (John made this). We ended up walking 13.5 miles on day 1 and 8.5 miles on day 2.
hiking trail map, manistee national forest, guide, marker, miles, pdf
This time hiking i decided that i should bring less stuff. The last time we went i was really sore after the 3rd day of hiking because of all the weight i was carrying in my backpack. So this time instead of taking 2 liters of water i only brought two small bottles. I did this knowing that John had his water filtration pump so we could refill anytime we crossed a river or stream.

I met Katie and John at their new cottage and it was raining the day before we left. Here's a baby bird i saw sitting on their chain-link fence.
baby bird on fence, brown, wren, wet, raining

But the next day everything was pretty much dry. Here's where Katie dropped us off to start hiking.
trailhead drop off point, manistee national forest, start of trail

The trail was pretty easy to follow but it's really nice that there were blue paint marks on the trees every 100 feet or so. And there were these signs and markers were at all of the road crossings.
north country national scenic trail marker sign, blue marker, manistee national forest trail

Although there were some points where different driveways, roads, paths and trails would cross and you had to make sure you were still going the right direction. Also at some points while walking we had to cut-back along a particular road to connect to a different part of the forest.

I don't know if it was from the rain the day before but there were lots of mushrooms along the trail.
big red mushroom, mario mushroom, hiking trail

It was great walking along the trail. The scenery changed from woods to fields as we walked. There were lots of hills and swampy areas. This was my favorite place to walk, a pine forest.
manistee national forest trail, pint trees, marker

The rain also helped to compact and harden up the sandy trail. Otherwise it would have been a soft fluffy sand that we had to walk on which would have made it much more tiring.
hiking trail manistee forest, backpacking, camping

Also it was a perfect day in terms of weather. It started out a little bit cold and for the majority of the day it was 70 and cloudy. It would have been a lot worse if it was 85 and sunny. Even with the cool temps i was sweating after a couple of miles.
2 day hike, camping, manistee, michigan hiking trail

We took a quick 5 minute rest every 3 miles or so to drink water and eat. I brought lots of food with me. This was some old energy bar i had, it was pretty good, peanut butter and nuts.
energy bar, power bar, camping, hiking, how to make, peanut butter, nuts

And even when it did get sunny, as long as we were under the trees it was very shady.
tree canopy, michigan forest, manistee, river

Half way through the first day's hike we crossed the M-20 Trailhead. The Manistee National Forest put in these signs and parking areas. There were a few cars of people that started hiking and bike riding from there.
m-20 trailhead, manistee national forest, us department of agriculture, us forest service

I found this bright red feather on the trail. I'm not sure what bird it's from, maybe a cardinal.
red and white feather, cardinal, tiny, forest

At the end of day 1 we finally made it to the White River. There was a big metal bridge to cross. But we stopped to go fishing. The water wasn't too deep, it ranged from about 1-4 feet, although it was really cold water. The hard part was not getting your lure stuck on the submerged logs.
white river fishing, michigan, river fishing

I ended up catching two of these fish. I think they are a type of bait fish called a Chub. Apparently they don't get very big.
Chub fish, river fish, white river, michigan, manistee forest

We wanted to camp near the river but not in an area where people will be walking by. So we walked a few hundred feet up the trail then turned off the trail to the right. We set our tent up on top of a hill in a little clearing. It was a good spot, dry with a little breeze and a view of the river down the hill. Here is what the river looked like near our camp.
(click to enlarge)
panorama river, sunlight, sandy river, manistee national forest trail

Here is a time lapse video i did of us setting up the tent. It only took like 5-10 minutes though.

I tried fishing off the bank here too but no luck.
sandy river, manistee national forest trail, hiking, camping

I mainly just laid down in the tent to rest and then walked along the river with the camera taking pictures. I had my homemade ND filter with me and tried taking some of the cool pictures like i took at Lake Erie. They didn't seem to turn out as well. I still need practice with getting the right amount of light to exposure time.
nd filter river water, smooth , log, michigan forest

But i had fun trying all the different setting of exposure, aperture and ISO.
smooth flowing river, forest, sand, trees

You can't really see but this was a submerged tree that had two wild flowers growing out of it. Either the flowers grow really fast or else the water level must stay at a pretty consistent level for them to grow.
wild flowers in river, growing from tree submerged branch

Here is a picture i took using the camera's HDR setting. I've tried HDR photography before by manually taking 3 consecutive pictures at different exposures. But this time i just used the built in settings in the camera. It turned out great and i think that this was one of the better pictures i took. HDR works great for a picture like this with the bright sun and dark shadows.
HDR photo of river, forest, setting, sun, shadow

Here's the low swampy area between our tent and the river. I imagine that this is all wet when the river floods, but it was pretty much dry when we were there.
moss on log, swamp, sunlight, forest, michigan

Another picture of the river later in the day. This picture and the first one i showed were created by taking 6 photos and i combined them using a program called AutoStitch.
panoramic photo of river, michigan manistee national forest, trail, camp

At night i wanted to take a picture of our campsite. I saw some really amazing examples of tents out in the desert with the night sky and the glowing tent. Unfortunately it didn't turn out as well as i had hoped. The trees made the forest floor too dark. I tried using Photoshop to even out the lighting but it made the sky too bright. I'll have to try it again in an area with no trees.
glowing tent at night, exposure, stars, forest, dark

We saw and heard turkeys near our campsite and i marked the spot we stayed with a couple of feathers.
turkey feathers, camp marker, michigan, national forest

Then it was back on the trail, following the blue marks on the trees. Again the second day it was a little cold in the morning but soon warmed up.
follow blue markers trail, michigan national forest trail, hiking

I took a picture of this fern. There was one ray of light coming through the trees which lit it up.
fern, forest, sunlight, prehistoric plant, hiking trail

More rows of pine trees.
pine tree rows, planted in line, workers

There's quite a few of these little crossings over creeks and streams.
mini stream river bridge, handrail, wood, 4x4 posts

The trail was really well maintained. Everything was clearly marked and it looked like it was used quite a lot.
sun hiking trail, manistee national forest trail, hiking, camping,

I felt ok at the start of day 2 but after 8 miles i was really sore. And for the next 5 days i was walking like i was 90 years old. It was from the weight of the backpack being on my hips. The backpack belt is great for getting the weight off of your shoulders but it made my legs sore. But overall i had a great time. I said next time instead of 22 miles we should do just 20.


Bathroom Sink - How to Install a Faucet

A couple of years ago i replaced the faucet in my bathroom. It was a really easy job and it took less than an hour. It was easy because that sink is attached to the wall without anything below it, all the pipes were exposed and easy to access. Also i only changed the faucet, not all the other drain pieces. Karrie has been using this bathroom in the hallway. It has a lot more room to put stuff and actually has two sinks, but there's not a lot of room underneath.
how to remove old sink faucet, cheap bathroom faucet about to be removed and new faucet installed

It has the same old cheap faucet as the one i replaced in my bathroom. Here's the cheap plastic faucet that i hate.

old cheap bathroom faucet, get rid of that old faucet, cheapest bathroom faucet

So one enthusiastic day i though, "Hey i'll replace those two faucets just like i did in my bathroom. It' shouldn't be too hard." So i went to Home Depot and they were still selling the exact same faucet from Glacier Bay. It's nothing fancy, just a $28 brushed nickel faucet. I liked this better then the chrome version, which they also make. Here's all of the pieces that come in the box.

new glacier bay bathroom faucet from home depot and lowes, brushed nickel, chrome

The first thing i did was get under the sink and turn off the hot and cold water valves. This was actually kind of difficult, those valves looked and felt like they hadn't been turned off in decades. I had to use pliers to really tighten them before all the water stopped trickling out. Then i climbed under again in order to remove the plastic nuts that hold on the old faucet. Then the old faucet could be lifted off of the sink.
After that i used a metal putty knife to remove all of the old plumbers putty.
how to fix your old bathroom sink faucet, remove nuts under sink tool

Then a whole lot of problems started when i decided to change drains as well. The reason i wanted to do that was because you can see from the picture above that the drain and plug are chrome. I thought it wouldn't look good with the brushed nickel faucet. So i thought that i could just easily unscrew it and install the drain that came in the box. It turns out that this was a bad idea. Well not really, but about 20 minutes into taking it apart i thought, "I've made a huge mistake." Here's what it looked like underneath. The gray plastic piece is the one i wanted to change out.

pipes and hoses under sink, below under sink drain, caulk, putty, shut off valve

I unscrewed the plastic nut and loosened it from the sink itself. But then in order to separate it from the metal pipe i had to wiggle it around a little. It turned out that the metal U-bend pipe could not handle any wiggling. It completely broke off in my hand. The pipe was totally rusted through right at the point where it connected to the wall. This is where i said, "Uh oh."

rusted, broken bathroom sink drain, metal pipe u bend

You can see how rusted and filled with gunk the pipe was.

whats inside pipe drain, sink drain, gunk inside pipe at house home, clogged

Suddenly at this point i thought the old faucet seemed perfectly fine and was questioning why i decided to replace it in the first place. Unfortunately when things look like this it means you have already crossed the point of no turning back.

how to replace a sink faucet, parts, new bathroom faucet for sink

The reason why the pipe was so full of gunk and completely rusted was because of how it was installed originally. The sink on the right drains toward the sink on the left. I found this out when i tried to clean off my hands with the working sink and water drained out the other hole. But the problem was that the pipe didn't have enough slope to the downward drain, which meant that there was always water sitting in the pipe. So after 40 years with water always sitting in the pipe it just completely rusted and fell apart.

As with all of these projects i went back to the hardware store to find the right drain pipe. They actually didn't have what i needed. It's a little hard to tell from the picture above of the broken pipe but i needed a pipe with a slight bend. Neither a straight nor a 90 degree bend pipe would work. The only thing they had that would work was this pipe with two 45 degree bends. When i got home i immediately went downstairs and cut the pipe in half. Luckily that worked and everything fit back together.

45 degree pipe bend needed to fix bathroom sink drain, home depot pipe, expensive

To install the drain and plug i wrapped the pipe with tape and drain with plumbers putty. I really had to tighten the plastic nut down in order to get a good seal with the sink.
install sink drain with plumbers putty and tape, stop sink drain leak

Luckily after a bit of a scare, everything went back together fine. The second sink was even easier. Since there wasn't any water sitting in that pipe it wasn't rusted and didn't break. Also i found $1 in quarters at the bottom of the U-bend.
found money in sink drain, old rusted coins found while fixing drain, found free money

Here it is with the sinks all finished. Nothing fancy but i think it looks a lot better with the new faucets.

new bathroom faucet, how to replace an old bathroom faucet, repair


Neighborhood Red Tailed Hawk

Here's a picture of the Red Tailed Hawk that's been flying around my neighborhood for the past year or so. I've seen it a few times with what looked like a rabbit in it's claws. And it's probably the cause for the pigeon wing that Charlie brought to the door in the middle of winter.
red tailed hawk in neighborhood subburb tree branch, hawk in tree, hawk eating rabbit
I took this picture after i saw him near the pond. When i walked out the sliding glass door he flew up to the tree branch. I got pretty close before he flew away, so he must be used to people.


Cat Flys in His Sleep

I went upstairs the other day and this is how i found my cat Charlie. He was in his usual 9am - 1pm sleeping spot, my bed. It looked like he was dreaming about flying.
cat sleeping, funny flying cat, cat dreaming flying sleep, funny cat sleep

He has various sleeping spots around the house. You will find him sleeping on or under certain beds and at different corners of the couch depending on what time of day it is. At night i let him out and he just runs around and hides.
cat flying in sleep, dreaming cat flying, cat sleeping funny

Here's some of the other posts i've written about him
  • Charle Bath - This is when i gave him a bath to get rid of fleas. He didn't really like it.
  • Easter Bunny - He caught this baby rabbit on three different nights. He never killed it and it eventually got away for good.
  • Baby Bird - This was a baby robin that couldn't fly. I don't think he killed this either.
  • Wild Cat - Him drinking out of the toilet.
  • Flying Cat - He was more energetic when he was little.
  • Mouse - Another helpless animal that he caught but didn't kill. Charlie just delicately picked it up by it's feet and brought it to the door.
  • Charlie and his Wing - Some random pigeon wing he showed up with in the middle of winter. There's about a 0.04% chance that he had anything do do with killing the bird. Probably from a Red Tailed Hawk that i've seen several times in my neighborhood.
  • Squirrels -1 - Charlie acting like he's tough.


Comerica Park - View From Seats in Stadium

Here's a view of Comerica Park from the right field upper deck seats. Last month i went with Karrie and her work to a game. It was great, we all met at her work and then took a bus down to Detroit.

Sitting in the upper bowl was actually perfect because that day it was over 90 degrees and really sunny. The seats we had were under the awning and we were shaded from the sun.

Like some of the other pictures i've taken at Comerica Park, this is a panorama photo that i made by combining several pictures together.

(click to enlarge)
comerica park stadium view from seats, panorama, field, upper deck

It was great not having to worry about parking or traffic. The bus parked right along I-75 and it was just a short walk to the field. Also we all brought along food and drinks and we had a great time on the ride to and from the game.

Here's some of the other times we went to see a Detroit Tigers game at Comerica Park:

  • Earlier in the year when we sat in centerfield and almost caught Miguel Cabrera's homerun.
  • Last year at the ALCS playoff game. This is when i tried to buy tickets online from Ticketmaster and then Karrie was able to get them the day of the game really cheap.
  • This was also last year when it rained for 3 hours then the game was canceled.


300th Blog Post

Well after 3 years and 2 months i have reached my 300th blog post. The first one was on 6-17-2009. I didn't realize that it had been that long until i just now checked the date.

The whole blog thing sort of started as a way to show friends and family pictures of places i had gone and things i had made. All of the early posts were of pictures from working out of town in places like Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky. Also i wrote about things like my garden and TV shows that i liked to watch.

Actually not much has changed, i still post pictures of places i go, and still write about stuff around the house. The past year has been a lot about photography. Taking cool pictures at night and making homemade lens filters for my camera. Also mixed in was a lot of How To sort of stuff. The blog was sort of an excuse to try different things. Although in just the past few months i have started getting into something called SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization. The short explanation for that is, getting more people to see your website. The way you do that is to get your pages to appear higher up on Google when people type in particular keywords.

After 4 months of reading, writing, experimenting and trying out all sorts of cool new things it's really made a difference. In 2009 i averaged about 230 page views per month. For most of 2010
and 2011 i averaged around 1,000 page views per month. Last month i averaged around 800 views per day and had 36,000 views just in the month of July. The total number of page views just passed 100,000 this month.
blogger stats, overview, chart, graph, all time, pageviews, pagerank

I've really enjoyed seeing how people come to my blog, what words they type in, and how different backlinking strategies work. For example here's one of the lists and graphs on Google Analytics which shows the most popular searched for words people typed to get to my blog.
google analytics graph, stats, keywords, query, list, top pages, searched

And as a bit of motivation and far off dreams and hopes i added Google Adsense. I know it can be annoying but hopefully you have AdBlocker Plus installed on your computer and never noticed the ads. But by adding them to my pages i just recently made $100.
google adsense graph, earnings, top pages, stats, chart, explorer

I've had small goals along the way, i was happy when i averaged $1 per day for the month of July. Hopefully that too continues to increase. It would be neat to get a $100 check in the mail from Google every couple of months.

Back in October of 2011 i wrote my 200th post which i posted while in Italy. I didn't really have time to write about everything i wanted, but i quickly listed my favorite blog posts. So here's my current favorite things i've done or seen and put up on my blog.

  • 2,600 Miles on a Honda - My motorcycle trip from Arizona to Michigan. It was the best adventure i've ever been on.
  • Italy - Going with Karrie to Italy for 10 days was amazing. The more i think back and look at the pictures, the more amazing it seems.
  • CHDK - This is when i really started to get into photography stuff. I began trying different things and having fun taking better pictures. And that's how i learned about creating time lapse videos which i think is really cool.
  • Fixing my Snapper Riding Lawn Mower and another Riding Mower in the garage. Taking pictures for the blog actually helped me to organize my thoughts. In order to explain to people how i fixed the mowers i really had to understand everything i was doing.
  • Las Vegas - Yet another trip that Karrie and i went on. It didn't hurt that i won $1,000 when i was there either.
  • 3 Weeks in West Virginia - This was one of the trips i took out of town for work. At the time it wasn't really fun, but looking back it's cool seeing everything i came across.
Honorable Mention - Best Lunch Ever - I still don't know why more places don't sell Bacon Double Cheesburger Wraps. They are excellent.Link
Like i said earlier, the blog was a great excuse for me to take lots of pictures. Recently i think i've gotten a lot better. But here are some of my favorites. I'm sure there's some that i missed but it's impossible to go through all of them .

hiking trail in the manistee forest, a walk in the woods, michigan trail hikingmichigan sleeping bear dunes, great lake, lake michigan, sand, water
clout gate chicago, the bean, reflection, rain, umbrella, girlspinning wool, steel wool, long exposure photography

trevi fountain, rome italy, at night

star lake panorama, reflection at night

motorcycle and tent, camping at night, motorcycle ridecocoa beach florida, ocean pier, sunset
ND filter lake water, calm, dock, sitting
rome train station, italy, train time, waiting, looking

corned beef sandwich, best sandwich ever, recipe, clevelandmonarch butterfly migration, michigan, canada, mexico, thousands
cat bath, wet cat, water, sad
ND filter at the lake, calm lake water, smooth, dock, black and white, effect, photography

Here's three of my favorite videos. This first one is a compilation of several videos that shot when i was first experimenting with time lapse. I used Adobe After Effects to put it all together and make the sense of movement with the camera.

Here's another time lapse video that i made while Karrie and i were waiting for our plane to arrive at the Phoenix Airport. This one turned out exactly how i imagined it. The pictures were taken at night and i wanted to get a slight blur to the lights of the cars as they were moving.

This is another video i created using CHDK while staying at the cabin in Gatlinburg Tennessee. You can see the stars as they rotate around in the sky.

If you're interested, here's my Youtube page with all the video's i've ever uploaded. There's about 100 videos in total.

In the future i plan on continuing to post the same type of things as i have been. I don't have Facebook or Twitter, which is fine with me. That means i don't have to read stuff like "If you like being happy then forward this on to 400 of your friends." Instead of an immediate kind of interaction as with Facebook, the blog is more of a planned out story format, which i like.