This was my most recent "36" (cause 24 is just too short) at the Hoist Lakes in the Huron-Manistee National Forest in the northeast corner of Michigan. I'm a little embarrassed to post this given the amazing scenery others have displayed recently, but it is one of my favorite places for a quick getaway in lower Michigan. What Michigan lacks in scenic vistas, it makes up for with rivers and forests, and the north woods are deep, quiet, and snowy this time of year.
I woke up at 3 am (funny how I never need an alarm clock on nights like this), grabbed my pack, and headed out, stopping to tank up on water and breakfast sandwiches en-route. I arrived at the trailhead at 7:30, noting on my car thermometer that it was a little colder than I would have liked.
I geared up and hit the trail. My pack was a little above UL standards due to the addition of a 7 lb ice auger, rod, and strainer strapped to the sides.
The wind was biting so I quickly covered exposed skin. I was wearing 2 baselayers, with a "spare tire" of water bottle, batteries, stove alcohol, and camera. Not a flattering look.
There was about a foot and a half of powdery snow blanketing the forest, but the trail was well trod and easy going.
I made the 2 miles to South Hoist Lake in an hour and poised to check out the familiar campsite there. It contains a log bench and forest service fire pit on a small hill overlooking the lake. In winter, the unmarred snow blowing across the lake surface conjures feelings of solitude.
Looking out over South Hoist Lake
The sun had come out by this time and the air began to feel warmer. Stashing my fishing gear behind some trees, I prepared to make tracks to see some of the other lakes in the area. With the auger tucked away, my pack was a comfortable 12 lb now. I carried all of my backpacking gear with me, as I was not sure I would be returning to the South Hoist campsite by nightfall. The well blazed trail petered out past the lake, leaving just the tracks of a lone cross country skier. I idly wondered who the skier was, wishing I could have seen the unbroken snow stretching in front of me as they had.
I was kept company during my trek by some well-fed black squirrels.
The mystery skier turned off at an unmarked two-track and I continued on, spotting some coyote tracks in the snow.
The going was slower now and I decided to shorten my loop to 5 miles to allow time for setting up camp and fishing. I passed a number of smaller lakes (No-name, Penoyer, and North Hoist before finally making my way back to my chosen campsite.
Rushes by South Hoist
I'll spare you the pictures of the other lakes as they all look pretty similar on film.
Getting back to South Hoist, I set up my tarp broadside to the wind, putting up small snow walls to keep out the draft.
I then put on all of my layers (2 base layers, windshirt, nano puff, and light down pullover) and went down to the lake to fish.
Dressed to fish
The view from the lake
Drilling a hole
Cheap plastic rod and strainer complete the gear
The fishing was relatively slow, but I did catch (and release) a pretty rainbow.
As the sun started to go down, the clouds closed in again. This was my favorite picture from the trip.
I built a small fire and cooked up a pot of linguini with mushrooms and white beans.
After dinner, I relaxed by the fire for a short while, briefly wishing I had brought a little whiskey. I headed for my sleeping bag before the sun fully set.
I slept warmly as the snow began to fall again, waking several times to tap the walls of the tarp. I rose at 5 am and packed up in the dark. It was cold again, and hard to leave the warmth of my downy nest. Other duties called though and I would answer. But not before a giant diner breakfast (the North Forest Cafe in Standish).