Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Untended Campfires - A Scary Story

by Paul Haan, edited by J.H. Young
used with permission, from greatlakeshikes email group, and including additional information from various responses.

I stumbled across something this weekend that really set my teeth on edge. Our trail crew with the Western Michigan Chapter NCTA was out mowing back the bracken ferns along the trail in northern Newaygo County on cool, beautiful, breezy Sunday morning. Shortly before noon, I decided to bushwhack back from the car towards the mowing crew for which I was waiting. On my way through the brush, I stumbled across a recently vacated backpacker campsite. There, in the middle of it all, was an unattended, smoldering pile of ashes.

I couldn't believe my eyes. The wind was blowing at a good 25 mph, and some knuckleheads didn't have the common sense to put out their campfire before leaving?

With the windy conditions that morning, I would say the odds would have been pretty good for a forest fire had I not found their leavings. Perhaps they "thought" it was out, but it certainly wasn't. This location was a mere 2 miles south of where a couple of careless backpackers burned up 40 acres just a few years back.

Thankfully, their Leave No Trace practices weren't much better than their fire dousing skills, making it easy for me to trip across the smoldering ashes. They also left a wad of duct tape, a ziplock bag, and the matted down ferns . The fire was only about 60" off the trail and about 100" from the Cedar Creek drainage.

In response to this posting, other reported coming across campfires blazing high, less than three feet from stacked woodpiles with no human anywhere in the vicinity. Two of these instances were in the northern Manistee Forest, near Coates Highway, and one other one near Newaygo.

It's beginning to seem quite miraculous that we still have the Manistee National Forest intact to recreate in.

PLEASE, if you find it necessary to build a fire in the back country, make sure it is good and out before you leave. And while you're at it, PLEASE try to camp at LEAST 200" off trail and away from the water sources upon which we all depend.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Frida Gets Off the Couch - Way Off!

Frida Waara
Frida Waara
courtesy photo
by Joan H. Young

Skis? “Check.” Poles? “Check.” Seventy-five pounds of gear? “Check.” Satellite phone? “Check.” Helicopter ride? “Hey, where in the world are you going, Frida?”

Frida Waara of Marquette, Michigan wants to become one of the few women on the planet to have visited both of the Earth’s poles. She’s halfway there.

I recently had the opportunity to share my hiking adventures at one of the DNR’s popular Becoming an Outdoors Woman weekends. While chatting with two ladies, one of them displayed a yellow WomenQuest patch on her jacket, pointed at the other gal and asked, “You know who you are talking with, don’t you?” Suddenly it clicked, and I was jumping up and down yelling “You’re the Frida who skied to the North Pole with Sue Carter!” Indeed, she is just that Frida.

The twelve women who reached the Pole (on my birthday, no less) in 2001 never received the publicity they deserved. No one died, lost body parts, was attacked by a polar bear, or even fell through the ice. Frida, who was also the group’s videographer, commented dryly, “If nothing goes wrong, TV stations just won’t air your film.” Trek leader Carter wrote about the expedition and titled the book “Ordinary Women,” probably another ho-hum to the news media. Yet that was the whole point– to put together a group of adventurers who were not world renowned explorers and prove to a younger generation of girls that dreams are meant for them too. Any woman who applied, who could master the training regimen and come up with the cash, was accepted. The only reason they got there without me was that I knew nothing about the expedition until after the fact.

But back to Frida. “Snow is my favorite toy!” she chortled. She grew up in an active family whose vacations included swimming, canoeing, biking and skiing. She was encouraged to be comfortable in the out-of-doors and in her own body. Visiting France with her family as a young teenager, she was separated from the others when the ski run she took deposited her in a completely different town. But having been taught to be independent and resourceful she managed to find her way back to the ski area. Not the typical actions of a young lady, a continent away from home, several decades ago.

Arctic skier
Frida Waara skis her way to the North Pole in 2001
courtesy photo
For her, being in the outdoors reduces life to the essentials. She lives on Lake Superior, and says, “If you walk to the Lake with an armload of troubles and throw them in, you find that they were only a teaspoonful.”

She is attracted to people with the same spirit of adventure, and loves to help other women learn how to become comfortable in the outdoors. “ When we are taken away from our normal work mode, we must learn to make decisions and solve problems.” She encourages everyone to “do something that no one can take away.”

And that other Pole? She’s gearing up to make a film called “Condition One,” about the Antarctic. Condition One is the term for weather so bad that humans are not allowed out of the base camps. “Um, I guess that means you’ll be out in it if you plan to film it,” I said. I could hear her smiling right over the phone line.

Frida Waara will be in Ludington, Michigan, sharing more about her adventures, on the evening of September 13, 2008. Save the date! (For more info contact Joan Young)

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