Saturday, December 27, 2014

Potawatomi Trail Dec 2014

Route Name: Potawatomi Trail
Trailhead Elevation: 890 ft.
High Elevation: 1002 ft.
Hiking Total Distance: 11.15 mi.
Elevation Gain: 2,550 ft.

Trip Report:

   This was my third trek in the Pinckney Recreation Area.  Each time I've taken a slightly different combination of trail in hiking the loop.  This was the second time I've done this in winter.  Last year the temps were in the teens, this year the daytime temps were near 40 while the overnight low hit around 30.  It only felt slightly warmer.  

This trip was another of my rare opportunities where I was bacheloring it at home and so I decided to spend this "alone" time out on the trails.  I also was looking for an excuse to try out my new REI Quarter Dome 2 tent which I received for my birthday.  When I did this backpacking trek last over Labor Day I resolved that carrying my 7 lb. 4-person tent was just too much extra credit.  The QD2 is an ultralight tent and weighs in a 3lbs, a wonderfully light and small tent to deal with when hiking solo.  It has just enough room for 2 people, or in my case, myself and my backpack.

The last two times I've hiked the Poto Trail I've started at Silver Lake and began hiking counter-clockwise as is suggested for hikers.  This time I wanted to do the southern leg (that is, starting clockwise from Silver Lake) first instead of slogging through it as my final push.  

I was just before 3pm when I got started so I decided I would use the typical shortcut on the southern leg which cuts the distance to 4 miles from just over 6 miles. I didn't want to make it to camp right at sunset. It was comfortable hiking and I did so with a short-sleeve / long-sleeve combo layers on top and hiking pants on the bottom.  I didn't need to wear gloves but I did wear a blaze orange winter cap on top just in case the hunters were out and about.

It was a pleasant hike in and I listened to Ed Viesturs' "The Will to Climb" on audiobook along the way to keep me company.  I find I don't like to have music blaring while I'm on trail but an audiobook at least offers the feel of conversation, while not disturbing the sights and sounds of nature.

I took me an hour and 20 mins to make it to Blind Lake which put me in around 4:20pm.  I saw a few dayhikers along the way, just a pair of bikers, and a trail-runner.  I spent a few minutes deliberating where at Blind Lake to place my camp.  There is a nice ridge crest of a pair of sites that seemed enticing and more dry, but the ground is also full of pebbles.  I opted for a similar location as I did last November and found a nice bed of slightly damp leaves to put the ground tarp on.  It took me a few minutes to re-learn how to put the Quarter Dome 2 up as this was only the second time now I'd done it.

With tent in place I set to work on supper.  This time around I'd found a Mountain House lasagna package at my local meijer and settled on that.  That's always a fav of mine in the backcountry.  I heated my water up and prepped the lasagna.  I saved enough water for  some hot chocolate afterwards as well.  It was cool out but noticably warmer than last year.  A light pair of gloves did the trick for my hands.

After supper I settled into my sleeping bag for warmth.  I stayed up for a few hours there in my bag doing some reading, doing some work on my Surface Pro (yes, I did carry a little extra weight) and watching a movie.  It was probably 10p when I finally decided to give sleep a go for the night.

It was a restless night.  Just couldn't get comfy and struggled some with staying warm.  At REI I had picked up the little chemical hand warmer packets and I put one each in my socks and had two others loose to hold in my hands as needed.  These did help through the night.

I spent most of the night tossing and turning and just hoping for morning.  I hesitated to check the watch for fear it would only say 1am.   Sometime in the night as it looked like it was starting to head for daylight it started to sprinkle.  Great.  The forecasts had said I had til at least 9am which I figured would give me time to pack up.  Well, it came early.  I finally checked my watch and thankfully it was about 7:15am.

The rain complicated my packing and leaving time and it also killed my desire to leave the tent to answer nature's call.  So I waited it out in my sleeping bag hoping for a bit more sleep to come.

About 8:30am it sounded like the rain had stopped and I hopped out of my tent to examine the situation.  Things were pretty wet outside but thankfully my new tent wasn't leaking.  Yay!  I fired up the stove and made some more hot chocolate to go with a mint chocolate Powerbar I had along for breakfast.  

With everything being so wet it made packing up a real challenge.  Before pulling my backpack from the tent I packed as much as I could in it and then set it on the picnic table.  To take down the tent I decided to dismantle the tent itself first while leaving the rainfly and poles in place.  This was done with the hope of keeping the dripping water from the trees from getting the tent itself wet.  Because of the clever minimalist setup option REI tents provide this wasn't hard to do.  I got the tent part taken down and stowed in my pack.  The rainfly was pretty soaked so I wadded it up and attached it to the outside of the pack to let it breathe.  

It was 9:45am or so when I finally had everything packed and ready to hit trail.  By this time I had already seen a few runners pass by on the trails.  I made good time myself once I got going.  It wasn't too bad in terms of temp and I was comfy wearing what I had while hiking in the day before.  I took the northern shortcut on the way home figuring the extra 4-5 miles weren't necessary with all the wet gear I had.  It was enjoyable seeing these sections of trail from a different direction this time which made them feel all new.  It was just after noon when I hit the parking lots at Silver Lake.  Thankfully the weather held up well for the hike out.  

Another successful hike at Pinckney and I am falling in love with this local hiking and backpacking option.


I captured a track of the hiking with the BackCountry Navigator app on my smartphone.  This track is available for download:

My Track

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