Potowatomi Trail 2004

Potowatomi Trail
Pinckney Recreation Area, Michigan
Memorial Day Hike
May 30-31, 2004

Day 1: 12.6 miles

The fun started today before we even got on the trail. We left the house in Indiana at about 7am. I’d stopped at a sporting goods store on the way to the trailhead (3 hours from home) for an item I thought I needed. I left Beau in the truck with his normal breakfast. He’d seen me unzip his pack to remove my ID and credit card* before going into the store.

I returned about 5 minutes later after realizing the store didn’t carry what I was after. Beau had finished his breakfast and, as always, wanted to munch some more. So he carefully unzipped his pack and removed his dinner. Luckily, he hadn’t opened that up yet. I repacked everything and got back on the road.

We made it to the trailhead around 11:30 am, after checking in at the ranger station. I arranged his pack items* on a picnic table for a photo. After I loaded everything back into his pack I remembered my ID was in my shorts pocket from stopping at the store and his pocketknife was missing (I’d purchased a small one just for his pack so I wouldn’t accidentally lose my Leatherman or the knife Dad gave me, should something bad happen to his pack). I searched the truck, but no luck. I didn’t want to waste time tearing through everything to find it, so he got to carry the Leatherman anyway.

We headed off in what ended up being the wrong direction (it’s a loop, I was following a shorter, day-hike loop instead of our backpack loop). After correcting that I discovered something new.

Usually when Beau is hiking on leash he needs a long line so he can get around objects. I planned on this, so we were using his 15’ training lead with a 4’ as a backup. I like the 15’ leash as I can use it as a hands-free leash by wrapping it around my waist, and it can also be a tie out while in camp. Pinckney (as well as it’s adjoining property, Waterloo) requires dogs to be on a leash. I switched him over to the 4’ after he—literally—tied the long line around my legs. I slid my hip belt through the hand loop and pulled it off to my left to keep Beau in a heeling position. This worked very well for him. Next time I will try a bungee leash that extends from 4’ to 6’.

A short while later I lost my pedometer, but a group of day hikers behind me picked it up and returned it. Based on their accents, I think they were from Germany. I was very thankful.

We soon came across a Painted Turtle basking in the middle of the trail. Since mountain bikes use this trail, too, I didn’t want it to get hurt if no one saw it until the last second. I took a couple of pictures while the Germans caught up. By their reaction to the turtle’s coloring, my guess is that there are few Painters in Germany. One of the other hikers moved the little guy to a safer sunny spot.

At the next post Beau and I met a couple who were out with their three kids. They were hiking out of the site we were on our way to. I stopped here to rest Beau and take another picture of his pack contents. He drank a little bit and barked and jumped to let me know it was time to go. This got a chuckle from the parents who teased their kids: “see, the dog doesn’t need to take a big, long break and he’s carrying a pack, too!”

About a half-mile down the trail we met a man hiking with his Cocker Spaniel. We hung out with him for a while before our two parties parted company. The shorter route would have knocked about 2 miles off our day and also led us to a hand pump. I decided that since it was only 1:45, we would take the longer route and get water from the hand pump at our camp. To save pack weight I didn’t bring a water filter, counting on the hand pump in camp.

We ran into a few pleasant mountain bikers during the day’s hike. Many were reluctant to pass, even after I said it was okay, since the rule of the trail is that mountain bikers yield to all other trail users. I told one pair of guys that it would take a lot less time for them to ride down the hill than it would for the two of us to come up. It would get all of us on our way sooner if they’d just let me take a breather.

Being a friendly dog, Beau made a lot of friends on the trail. We did have one unpleasant encounter with a large Lab who wouldn’t let us walk down ‘his’ trail. His owner caught up, but didn’t have a leash for his dog.

We hiked on, encountering very few other trail users the rest of the day. About a mile from our campsite I started to hear thunder. The rain spit and sputtered, but really let us have it just as I started to pump the hand pump at camp. I was thoroughly soaked by the time I realized the pump just wasn’t going to work. I quickly set up our tarp and told Beau to get under it and stay. I decided I could figure out what we were going to do for water out of the rain.

It’s easier to make lemonade out of life’s lemons if you have a little water, so I set out my cook pot and its lid, a small fry pan, plus both of Beau’s dishes. I only had a liter of water with me to last us until we got back to the trailhead—4 miles away if we took the shortcut. I moved one dog dish closer to a drip so it would fill faster. It clicked in my head that I could fill everything this way. So much for figuring out what I was going to do for 2 hours once I got to camp.

I got a comfy seat and bent an edge of the tarp and—voila!—instant faucet. I strained the water through a bandana into my water bottle. I ended up with enough water to mix up the baby oatmeal I’d brought for breakfast (dinner was to be mac n’ cheese, but the downpour changed those plans). More straining filled one of Beau’s 20-ounce bottles and one of my 1-liter bottles.

I wound up getting a few bad Charlie Horses in my legs due to not drinking enough fluids and also skipping lunch (I wasn’t hungry). I knew this was going to happen when I did that, but I did it anyway. A little water and two granola bars later, I was okay. I covered Beau with his jacket and blanket—both damp from getting soaked while in my pack—and barely had time to get in my own sleeping bag before passing out. I’d wake up shortly before sunset when Beau let out a low growl. At first I wasn’t sure what it was, but the trail passed through the designated campsites and only about 10’ from our tarp. Some guys were talking loudly and Mr. “I’ll-take-care-of-everything-for-I-am-the-dog” went into “Protect Mom” mode.

I slept pretty well until Beau decided he wanted to go hiking again. I didn’t look at the clock on my weather radio, but I could tell it was too late to go anywhere. This didn’t stop this determined boy, though. He would wake me every hour or so by nudging and licking, and wagging his tail (“are you okay? I want to go!”). It stopped being cute real quick. The storm died off, but then came back with a vengeance a few hours later. I was too tired to care.

Day 2: 4.3 miles

Beau was up with the sun. He didn’t get out from under the tarp until I gave him the okay and he went outside to stretch and pee.

I got up and fed Beau, giving him a good drink. He wasn’t interested in the rainwater. I poured it back into his bottle, determined not to run out of water.

I checked our map to see how far until we reached the trailhead as if it would magically be closer this morning than it was last night. I wanted to finish our trail, but the extra 3-4 miles weren’t worth running out of water. My legs were still sore from the cramps, but Beau was bouncing and ready to go.

We made it back to the trailhead uneventfully. I checked my cell phone messages. My boyfriend was concerned about how I fared in the storm (as an aside: the previous week I went through a much worse storm—45mph winds, 70mph gusts, and widespread major flooding—under the same tarp and that didn’t seem to bother him). I stopped by his house for a shower and to wash my clothes before heading home. Beau was in the truck by himself for just a few minutes, but decided the snacks and water I gave him weren’t good enough. He opened the small cooler containing his food, ate that, then took a bottle out of the holster on my pack, opened that, and drank the water. There’s a reason Catahoulas don’t have thumbs–they get into enough trouble without them.

Good Idea/Bad Idea

Good idea: picking up your dog’s poop so no one can step in it on the trail.

Bad idea: tying the baggie to the side of your dog’s pack so that every bit of brush he walks by breaks the baggie just a little bit.

Trip Casualties

Beau’s blue sleeping pad got a chunk taken out of it while he was taking the bottle out of my pack. I also can’t find his pocketknife.

Lesson Learned:

Always have SOME sort of water treatment available.

Most Asked Question:

“Do you go out there all by *yourself*?” Answer: “No, Beau is with me.”

*Beau is required to carry certain items for his backpacking title from the Dog Scouts of America and WET DOG. These items are: a bowl, water, a spare collar and leash, at least three clean-up baggies, a flashlight, a first aid kit, matches, my ID, a compass, and a knife. A map of the area is an as-needed item.

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