Leota South

Saturday I set out on the Knobstone Escarpment trail for the first time since January. It was a really beautiful blue sky day, although below freezing by a little when I set out.

I started at the Leota Trailhead, heading south toward my goal of mile 20.5 +/- where I had turned back in January. The map makes this section look pretty difficult. The beginning was exactly that. Leave the parking lot, walk down a steep hill to a road. Walk down the road to a hole in the guard rail. Walk down a steep hill to a creek. Now walk right back up another hill.

Once on top of this ridge, the trail seems to follow it for about one and one half miles. Then you go down hill slowly to a beautiful stream. The crossing is a little tricky, but this is a great spot. Then up a steep hill via a narrow switchback. Again seemingly flat to slightly down hill, into another beautiful stream bed. Then I just followed this stream to my goal. 4.75 miles, 2 hours. Nice.

Sign Saturday

Here I took a seat and had a snack. Along came a hiking man. Interesting. He started at Deem Lake the day before. After my snack, I started my return. In no real hurry, I enjoyed my surroundings, the birds, deer, a turkey that scared the poop out of me, and the geology. Then I saw two more peeps, poking through the rocks by the stream. Once back past mile 22, I started up what had seemed like a gradual slope coming down. Up that hill, down the switchbacks, across the stream, and up the next “gradual” slope. I encountered a fourth hiker here, equaling my total of persons seen on the trail from the start, in one day.

Around now I started to realize that for most of the outbound leg I had been slowly descending, in terms of general elevation. So the return leg was an overall ascension  of the same trail. With the 9th pit of misery yet to cross before I was done. I was moving really slow by this time. My knees started to hurt, and the last 1.5 miles were true agony. A casual observer, watching me scale the valley up to the guardrail, up the road, across it, and up the really steep stairs/roots of the last 100 yards, would have wondered why that fat old man was even out here trying this.

This fat, old man was wondering the same thing.


Leota El

Stories from a Boy in Iowa

If you follow me here, you already know that I published a Kindle E Book a few months ago. It was a real thrill to see two people beside my self and my wife purchase this little gem for $1.09. I actually got a deposit from Amazon last month for the 4 copies sold in December. Kind of fun.

But today I noticed that someone purchased a copy last week. Thank you so much. It is truly an honor and a little thrill for me when that happens.

Writing here is something that I originally told myself I was doing just for me, and I didn’t care if anyone else read it. It is safe to say that that is total BS. If no one reads this, then I don’t care if I do it. That is the truth.

So thank you, whoever you are, for buying my little book. And thank all of you that do read me. I promise there will be more great adventures to come!


Stories From a Boy in Iowa. No e-reader is complete with out it.

Indian Chief

Originally published last November I think. Since my life has been so mundane lately, I am offering reruns for your amusement.

I went to Blackhurst Elementary School. In the 4th grade we studied the American Indian culture. They are called Native Americans now. We had a tepee in our classroom, and all kinds of other props.  We did arm wrestling and leg wrestling and all kinds of stuff Indians allegedly did. We had an election to see who would be chief. There was a tie between myself and a kid named Mark. We had to Indian leg wrestle to determine who would be chief. No one ever beat me at that.

When I lay down on the floor Mark laid the same way. It doesn’t work that way. So I turned around so it would work, but I would use my left leg. He beat me. I was not chief.

He had a Dad and big brothers.

We built a fort out in the woods behind the school. It had a hatch you jumped through to get in. We pretended to kill Nazis around there, and we would go in there and look at naked girl magazines that someone stole from their Dad or something.

One time when that Mark kid jumped through the hatch, into the fort, he hit his chin on the wood. He almost bit his lower lip off. We all went to his house later to look at him through the picture window. He had a row of stitches where his teeth came through his lower lip.

After we moved to the little white house, I had an accident on my bike.

A girl down the street got a new bicycle, and she was out with her Dad trying it out. It was really big for her. I went riding by on my bike, and I was taunting her about something. She swerved and ran into me. I flew off of my bike and hit my head on the curb. It knocked me out. I think everyone else ran away, like kids do when something bad happens.

I woke up in some bushes in the neighbor’s yard. My Mom took me to the hospital. I had a big spot on my forehead, and one on the back of my hand where the skin was all torn open. The doctor said I had a concussion, and then sent me home.

The spot on my hand left a scar that lasted for many years. It is gone now. I don’t know why I didn’t have a scar on my head.

Someone gave me a slingshot for a birthday or some other occasion. It was a Wrist Rocket. The absolute best, most high tech slingshot of the day. I was out in the front yard with it.  A big kid, a teen ager, was walking by. I was shooting a rock at a bird or a phone pole or something. It went right into that kids back, between his shoulder blades. I just stood there. I didn’t run. I don’t know if I claimed it to be an accident. I don’t know if I said anything. He walked back and punched me right in the throat. Then he went on his way. I laid on the ground and cried.

We all had Sears fiberglass bows, and the 3 or 4 arrows they came with. Once we found a pizza box. We took turns shooting an arrow straight up. It would go really high, almost out of sight. Another kid would hold the pizza box out in front of him and try to make the arrow pass through it when it came back down.

That was fun.


Waiting for a bus

In the mid-eighties I had a friend named Paul. Paul was really into waterfowl hunting, especially the Canada Goose, and he introduced me to the sport.

Pauly played drums for a bar band around the Grand Rapids area. Bars closed at 2:00 AM then in Michigan. So one night after he played, we went to his house and loaded up our gear and the boat and headed for Portage Lake near Cimax Michigan.

The Michigan DNR had decided to open a nuisance goose season right before Labor Day. Michigan has a lot of lakes, cottages, and boats. It is something people do there. And Labor Day is a big end of the season Holiday weekend.

We arrived at the boat launch before dawn and motored out to a marshy area on one side of the lake, anticipating a lot of boat traffic that day. We got all set up, put out our decoys, and began to wait. The sun got higher and higher. The temperature got hotter and hotter. More and more boats came out onto the lake. But no geese came around.

By mid-day it was easily 85 degrees, so we stripped down to our underwear, and put camo paint all over ourselves. Remember, we have been up all night. And we really didn’t bring much food or water. But we waited anyway.

After noon a couple in a canoe came into the area. We could hear the female saying “Oh look at all of the geese” as they paddled right into our decoys. Then the light came on, and they stopped paddling. ” How ya’ doing”? Pauly says. The lady finally sees us, standing behind our camo net in our camo boat. In our underwear. Covered with camo paint. Holding shotguns.

“You’re not hunting are you”, says canoe lady.

“No ma’am, we are waiting for a bus”, says Pauly.

They paddled away briskly. We never saw any geese all of that day, until we were strapping the boat on the trailer at dusk. Then a big flight came in and landed right where we had been set up all day. Waiting for a bus.

I think it’s almost morning.

After some time, several years, my Mom married that boyfriend with the blue and white Mercury. He didn’t have that car anymore, or the fuzzy cat with the red eyes. We moved to Michigan, which is where they got married. They bought a house next to a school, and we started a new life. I went to 7th grade at Jackson Park Junior High School.

Ron jumped right into Michigan life. At that time, there was a new thing where the DNR had planted all of these salmon in the rivers. Now they went to Lake Michigan in the summer, and in the fall they returned up the rivers to spawn. The sport of the day was to get a big fat deep sea fishing rod and some giant treble hooks and go down and snag these fish.

We went downtown to the Sixth Street damn to watch this spectacle. As we leaned on a railing watching, the people would stand in the river in waders and cast their line out. Then they retrieved it very fast, with a strong jerk, to try and snag the fish. Spawning salmon don’t feed I guess, so you have to just embed a hook into them to catch them.

As we watched, a man near our side of the river stepped into a big hole along the river wall and fell. It was common to put a belt around your waist, in theory so that water would not fill your waders if you fell. This poor guy had done just that, and in doing so had trapped a large amount of air in his waders with himself. Trapped air floats in water, right? So down the river he went, upside down, legs in the air, man under water. He eventually came to a shallow spot and righted himself. Pretty funny for the rest of us. I’m guessing not so much for him.

We decided we needed to try this amazing new sport. So we bought rods and big hooks, and headed off to the Muskegon River. We neglected to buy waders, or at least I didn’t get any. How cold is the Muskegon River in October? Shoulder to shoulder, cast and jerk. I never caught one fish. But I saw a drunk guy go stumbling over the rocky bottom with his line all tangled, cursing like my Grandpa. That was funny too.

Ron also decided that we should join the legion of Michigan deer hunters. I wasn’t old enough yet to hunt, but I wanted to go along. We had a little pop up camper. Ron bought a rifle. We got our rubber insulated boots and giant socks. Clothing technology wasn’t then what it is now. It was like the more you wore the warmer you would be. But you actually got all sweaty and froze your ass off. We went out to sight in the rifle, by the side of a country road. Two things happened. One, resting the rifle on top of the Buick LeSabre, Ron shot the box of ammo in half. No idea why there wasn’t an explosion. Two, he put his eye to close to the scope and got a nasty cut from it when he fired the rifle. If you have ever made that mistake, its not really funny. But hey, we were just learning.

November 14th arrived, and off we went to the woods near Big Rapids. We set up our camp, gathered wood, all that stuff. I went out with my 20 gauge single shot to get a squirrel or something. Not sure. Later, I was standing under a tree near camp looking up at a squirrel’s nest in a tree. Ron decided that it would be funny to shoot his Winchester .32 Special over my head, into that nest. While I tried to dig for China in the forest floor, he laughed his ass off. Sheesh.

We sat around the fire after we ate, and eventually went to bed. We kept lighting the lantern and the stove to get warm in our little camper. It was really cold. Ron’s watch had stopped or something. It’s the early 70’s. No cell phone. No digital clock in the car. We pretended to sleep for hours and hours, occasionally discussing what time it must be. I am not sure how we  were going to know when to get up. You see, part of this ritual is stumbling through the woods way before dawn to get to your spot so the deer won’t know you are there. Because deer are stupid? And can’t hear? And don’t live in the same woods all year?

Eventually we decide, by looking out of the camper door, that the false dawn is arriving. So we are going to go into town to eat breakfast before we go to the woods. It has been a long night. We get in the car and drive to town, which happens to be toward the fuzzy light in the sky. We arrive at the Big Boy on M37 at exactly 10:30 PM. The false dawn was the lights of town. We had been in bed for about 2 hours. The food was good though.

February Wrap Up

February was just a few local walks that we have done before. Nothing to report really. The weather was not helpful. Barely 18 miles, although I did have some miles on job sites, which always include stairs. But I never remember to record those.

I am going to TN this month, and hope to get a couple of good days in there. And then the weather here will improve and I can get back on the Knobstone.

See this months total at the bottom.

Thank you.

First published September 5th, 2018:

My dear friend is battling Parkinson’s Disease. He has been for awhile. My Grandfather  ( not the one you already know, but my paternal Grandfather) also had this disease. Please take a few minutes to read and understand a little about Parkinson’s.

Ok, Brad, that’s a sad story, but what can I do about it? Well, I am glad you asked, because here is what we are going to do about it.

For every mile I log, through 2019, starting on September 1st 2018, I am going to make a donation to Parkinson’s research. And I am asking that you do the same thing too. I am pledging $1.00 for every mile that I log, but you could do whatever is comfortable for you.

I have logged about 120 miles this year so far, but I am going to be more diligent about logging all of my miles, so that number will go up. I will post my total miles here at the end of each month, and we can all go directly to http://www.michaeljfox.org to make our donation. Just click on the green tab in the upper corner. While you are there, read a little about their research.

I will also, for the same period of time, donate 30% of the proceeds from the sale of any of my paintings to this organization.

Thank you for your support!



Screenshot_20190302-172857_Samsung Health

Pixley Knob Road

This is also from last year. I did not reach Mile 25 in 2018, and I still have not. But I will on my next leg, which is coming soon.

On May 20th I returned to the Knobstone Trail.  I started at the Pixely Road Trailhead, which is a two space dirt parking area. My goal today was Mile 13. As usual, I climbed straight up a hill as soon as I stepped off of the road. It had rained overnight, and it was a little muddy, which means slick. After the initial climb, the trail got pretty easy, and there are great views in this section. It was a very enjoyable 2 miles. Then at about 11.75 it happened.

I could hear a road, and some people talking. At this point the trail drops out from under you. There are some steps cut in with timbers anchored to the ground with rebar. A lot of the steps are damaged or missing, and there is rebar sticking up out of the wet, slippery hillside everywhere. At several points going down this hill I stopped and looked back. I was seriously thinking about turning back. I also looked at  the map to see if I could road hike back to the truck, were I to survive the descent. I eventually reached the bottom, and took a break by a stream. The voices were from a group I assume was waiting to be picked up just down the road.


Pixley Hill

That is about one tenth of the hill, and it looks a lot easier than it is, FYI. Be sure to look at the elevation chart at the end of this post.

Eventually I started again, of course up a hill. Once on top of that ridge the trail again was very smooth and pretty easy. I reached 13 in no time, and considered going on for at least another half mile. But climbing back up that hill behind me was really concerning me. Again I consulted the map. It was just to far by road. So back I went. When I reached the Mt. Everest want to be, I took my time, and was extremely careful. Once I scaled that, it was off to the races. When I reached Pixley Knob Road I was feeling pretty proud of my tired self. As I popped out onto the road and looked toward the truck, I got my last godsmack of the day. It was actually uphill the last 500 feet to the truck.

Again, I stress, this trail is serious. It is not well maintained, which is good. But it could hurt you. Younger and thinner will help. Take enough water, a life straw, and emergency items. My phone and GPS have worked almost all of the first 13 miles, so there is comfort in that. I am not trying to scare anyone from hiking here. It’s a great trail. Just know what you are getting into. And remember, I only saw 4 people on the trail in 4 sections, plus the small group leaving on this day.

I will return to The KT later this year when it is cooler and the bugs start to clear out. My hope is to reach Mile 25 this year. Until then, thank you for reading me. I will continue to post my other adventures.

Pixley elPixley Map