Use of the Forest

Public use of Saginaw Forest is encouraged. Rules for the public's use include (but are not limited to):

Friday, December 31, 2010

Evaporating snow leads to mist

There's mist rising from the melting snow, making for an interesting ground-level vista.




Changing views of the forest

Over the months, I have taken photos of the lake from the front of the cabin. Putting them in chronological order, one can see the progression of the seasons...

Rain in the forest

It's raining in the forest today, and the temperature is reaching 10C, too! I don't know how thick the ice is, but I'm not going to be walking out on it until it gets nice and frozen again...



Thursday, December 23, 2010

Trekking around the forest

Trekking across TSLThird Sister Lake has frozen enough to have an illegal ice-fisher out on the ice, and today I made my way (cautiously) across the ice on my rounds. Although I was not the first person to walk across the lake this season, I didn't grow up in places where lakes froze over (at least to the point of being able to walk on them). Also, being a rather large guy, I am wary of having things adequately bear my weight. Anyway, I mustered up my courage and headed out, following the paths of former walkers.

Helpful cuttingUp on the northwest part of the forest, I found that someone had a go at cutting out a path through some of the larger woody debris that has fallen across the user-generated path that leads to the main road from the user-generated entrance opposite Westview Way. While I don't mind that people are taking an interest in the accessibility to the forest, I am a little concerned that this might lead to actions that are successively more dangerous. If you happen to be the person doing this, I thank you for your efforts, but please e-mail me (link to the right) if you have concerns about accessibility. However, remember that this is not a public facility, but rather a research facility to which the public - on their own personal responsibility - is allowed access for the 12 hours between 6 AM and 6 PM.

Winter Bird-feeding

Woodpecker at the feeder

Female Cardinal

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Winter Solstice!

Solstice bonfire

Jet effect


Solstice +1.5 hours

A walk in the woods

I walked along the north side of the forest this Winter-Solstice evening, taking along my camera. I encountered a lost scarf adorning a tree (and decided to leave it there).

En-scarfed tree

Then, I moved along and started hearing what sounded like owls in the pines. Moving back toward the main path leading to the south side of Third Sister Lake, I happened across this scene, which really made me -- for some reason -- want to take a photo of it.

Snowy landscape

As I walked through the "Arboretum" portion of the forest, I noticed some footprints in the snow walking to the lake. Having had problems with ice-fishers in the last winters, I decided to ensure that these tracks belonged to someone who decided (inexplicably) to walk off the path and see the lake from the western end. However... no such luck. The ice fishers are (apparently) back and (again) trying to hide this fact by sneakily setting up on the far end of the lake.

Illegal ice-fishing setup

This one, and its twin (installed a few meters away) were removed.

With the solstice being tonight (in one hour from now!) I'll be making a fire to see it in.

Brids at the feeder

The birds are really liking the sunflower seeds. I've lifted the bird feeder even higher this winter to minimize the chance that squirrels could jump onto it and take seeds. (There are, after all, several seeds that fall to the ground, and squirrels aren't why I put the seeds in the birdfeeder.)

Birds at the feeder

Monday, December 13, 2010

More drilling

Due to test wells drilled earlier this year, the MDNRE is having PALL dig more testing wells around the area. They will be digging at least one new test well in the forest this coming January, on the northwest side of the property.


The snow plow is out in the forest, making a path to the main gate. Yay!

Before the plow could come, though, I had to ensure that the path down from the gate was free from tree obstuction, so I walked the main road:

And then - after some cutting - I wrestled away the felled trees.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Death in the woods

I slept over at a friend's place last night, and I received a phone call over lunch from the U-M police informing me that there was a hurt deer that was called in, and could I meet someone at the gate to let them in to put the deer down. I informed them that - unfortunately - I could not quickly do so.

Coming back to the forest, I looked for the dead deer, but the only evidence that there was one was a blood stain in the snow with what looked like some brain matter.

In the cabin, one of the mousetraps has caught yet another mouse.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The first decent snowfall...

A couple of inches fell last night, coating Saginaw Forest, and transforming the view from my front window from this (morning of Dec 6):


to this (morning of Dec 10):
First snowfall of December 2010

Apparently, too, the -14C temperature of Thursday morning was enough to finally put a layer of ice on the lake.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Entries from Kurt Byers

I received an e-mail from Kurt Byers, the Saginaw Forest caretaker during the summers of 1984 and 1985, together with some photos that he took. This was a really heart-warming thing to see, especially after waking up to 7F (-14C) temperatures this morning. Parts of the e-mail are posted below. As well, I have updated the entries that Kurt had written in his journal from his tenure.
Ah, memories. I noticed the blurb about your UM SNRE Saginaw Forest caretaker blog in the Fall 2010 issue of "Stewards." I was the caretaker at Saginaw Forest the summers of 1984 (between my junior and senior years at SNR) and 1985, after I graduated that spring as a 33-year-old "returning adult student" with a BS in Natural Resources and concentration in the now-defunct Environmental Communication program.

I was the sole student in that program when SNR shut it down in 1985 and released my academic advisor, Rich Block, due to a budget crisis (and perhaps low enrollment in the concentration and a concurrent general move by SNR to phase out its undergraduate programs). But I'm happy to say that academic program launched me on what is now a satisfying 25-year career in environmental communication with the NOAA Sea Grant College Program, starting with Michigan Sea Grant at UM my final semester at SNR, and for the past 22 years with Alaska Sea Grant at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Sea Grant bio:

My two summers as caretaker at Saginaw Forest were peaceful and uneventful. There was no caretaker journal then, as far as I know. I did, however, keep a personal journal. Spurred by the blurb in Stewards, I dug up my journal from that time to see what, if anything, I wrote about my stints at Saginaw Forest. (Not much)

I do recall splitting a huge pile of firewood, mowing the lawn, doing check-walks around the lake, wondering about toxins in the lake from the Gelman micro filter company, and sleeping on a mattress on the floor in the loft. And, somehow, in 1985, I lost my bowling ball out of a small U-Haul trailer I rented when I moved my stuff from my married housing apartment (although I was not married then) by the Medical Center (roach-infested apartments now torn down) to Saginaw Forest.

The most memorable event was when I lost my 12-foot aluminum john boat, when it somehow got loose and floated away in 1985. Then working part-time for Michigan Sea Grant as an editorial assistant, I had recently edited the Master's thesis of Sea Grant-funded UM grad student, Karl Huggins. His thesis described his invention of the Orca EDGE (Electronic Dive Guide) dive computer, which gained him everlasting fame in the scuba diving world.

Assuming my boat had sunk in the deep, cold lake, I easily persuaded Karl to do a search-and-recovery dive to try to find it. Karl and his dive buddy (photos attached) treated it like a training dive, spending a weekend afternoon scuba diving in the lake looking for my boat. No luck. Later, when the lake froze over and the cattails died, I found my boat frozen in the ice deep in the cattails, a place inaccessible to search without a boat in the summer. I tried to hack it out of the ice with an axe. I don't remember if I succeeded or if I had to wait to recover the boat later in the year when the ice thawed.

In any case, I was amazed to read the log entry from January 3, 1986, by caretaker R. Boyle, wherein he noted his discovery of what he speculated to be my boat! I don't recall anyone notifying me of his find and I don't recall knowing R. Boyle. Maybe both of us found it at different times that winter. Epilogue: A quarter century later, the boat is still around, now possessed by my brother-in-law in Grand Rapids!

My then girlfriend and later-to-be-wife, the late Poksyn Yoon (deceased 2008), was a post doc biochemist at UM and lived down Liberty Road about a mile or two from the Saginaw Forest gate. During the summer of 1985 I worked two jobs-two days a week for Michigan Sea Grant on North Campus, and three days a week for a residential accessory (room additions, carports, etc.--that's the company's Ford pickup in the attached photos) company in Livonia. On her way to campus, Poksyn would often leave a lunch for me in a small Igloo cooler on the gate to the Saginaw Forest driveway, and I'd grab it when I left for work in the morning. One morning someone absconded with it, and that was the end of that little ritual.
Karl Huggins: setting up for scuba search

Dr. Poksyn Yoon


Kurt in front of the cabin.


It's amazing to me how much everything is still the same, and amazing how much has changed. For example, the rusted hitch-and-wheels is still on the property, rusting away. The cedar next to the cabin has grown significantly taller and shades the cabin a lot more than in 1985, and I don't recall ever seeing so many turtles in the lake. Too, the woodpiles are quite impressive. I have to admit that, with a gas furnace (perhaps installed since 1985?), I don't chop too much wood (and don't use most of the wood that I chop, either).

I would very much like to thank Kurt for sharing his memories of his time in the cabin in the woods, and encourage any other readers to feel free to send me their own recollections or photographs of times past in Saginaw Forest.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Long-exposure photos

Although I don't have a tripod, I think that these long-exposure (15-second) photos from the north-side of Third Sister Lake are pretty good.

Night time long exposure

Night time long exposure

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rain in the forest

Rain has been falling on Saginaw Forest since about sundown. The grass that was seeded just prior to the campfire event -- one month ago now -- still has not fully filled in. This is due (to a large part) to the cold, lowered amount and incidence of light as well as the lack of rain (I don't irrigate the lawn, nor do I have the means to do so).

This should help. (And it should help the UM-OSEH guy that I ran into earlier today who was checking on the growth of the grass along the pathway.)

Additional No Parking sign at the front gate

Additional no parking sign

Before the Campfire event last month, I realized that visitors were parking in the front area of Saginaw Forest, staying away from absolutely blocking the access to the gate, but -- with their focus placed on the sign on the gate telling them not to block it -- fail completely to realize that they have just parked in front of the no parking signs located at the front gate area.

"I didn't see it," is the usual response when I point this out to them. It got me thinking that perhaps, yes, the signs are not immediately obvious to a driver whose attention is focused intently upon things in front of the car. Therefore, I came up with these signs, placed at roughly windshield-level, clearly emphasizing what the official signs say: that there is no parking in the area in which they have just pulled into.

I also provided a TinyURL link to the post I did about where people can park if they wish to visit Saginaw Forest.

In the month since I put the signs up, I have not (yet) seen a car parked at the front area.

Leash rule and Michigan leash law

I just walked outside and up came a dog, racing down the road, with a lycra-clad woman jogging up behind it.

"Why is your dog off its leash? Do you know that it's against the rules?" I asked.

"Yeah, I'll put it on a leash," was the response as she ran after her dog. It was almost closing time, so I decided to leave it at that.

But... that didn't actually answer either question, even though I did see her put her dog on a leash and continue her jog out the forest (I didn't encounter her again on my rounds). Sometimes, I wonder why certain dog owners don't feel that the leash rule of the forest, or the state of Michigan's leash law, applies to them.

Just as a refresher:

The leash rule in Saginaw Forest is simple: "All dogs must be on leashes."

This means that if you have a dog, and you want to bring that dog into Saginaw Forest, you must keep it on a leash.

The state of Michigan's leash law is less simple, but basically boils down to this: "It shall be unlawful ... for any owner to allow any dog, except working dogs such as leader dogs, guard dogs, farm dogs, hunting dogs, and other such dogs, ... while actively engaged in activities for which such dogs are trained, to stray unless held properly in leash." (Full text at link.)

Since a dog is considered a working dog only (as per the wording of the law) "while actively engaged in activities for which such dogs are trained", guard dogs and farm dogs cannot be working within Saginaw Forest. The former cannot be guarding the property, since no visitor is the owner of the property, and similarly, no dog can be working as a farm dog, since no one is the operator of the Saginaw Forest Forestry Farm, save (possibly) for the caretaker. Similarly, since there is no hunting allowed in Saginaw Forest, dogs trained for hunting cannot work in the forest. The "other such dogs" that might be allowed off-leash would be police dogs performing their duty. The only type of visitor's dog allowed to be working in the forest is a leader dog, otherwise known as a "seeing eye dog", which, due to its job requirements, needs to be in-hand in order to be working.

Therefore, the only dogs that are allowed by Michigan state law to be off leash in Saginaw Forest are guard dogs or farm dogs owned by the caretaker, or K9 Unit police dogs that are called to the forest.

Of course, the forest is a piece of private property of the University of Michigan (much like any research facility is a piece of private property; the public cannot just walk into one of the nuclear research lab on North Campus, for example), so the Michigan law is superseded by the property rules.

Taking out the trash -- on a bike

Piled up with recyclingThere was a lot of recycling that had been piling up inside and on the porch, so I decided to haul it up to the road. Of course, not owning a car was the main reason why so much of it accumulated at the house. However, today, I decided to pile up as much as I could on my bike, lashing down the recycling bin and filling my front and back panniers, and clattered and clanked up to the main gate, at a steady cycle of 4 mph.

Not all of my bottles have been returned -- I'll be bringing more to Kroger to get back the bottle deposit -- but there's a smaller amount of containers and paper in the house and porch.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hand rail on bridge

The bridge turned out to be higher off of the stream bed than originally thought, and so it was decided that a handrail would, indeed, be a necessary addition. Too, a longer footing was installed to help control erosion of the ramps that were built up to the bridge itself.

Handrail added

... oh, and the contractors' port-a-john was finally removed.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Campfire a seeming success

Although this year's campfire was set two weeks after last years -- and there was much less light -- it actually got off with very little problems. Of course, there was the dock, and everyone having a great time walking around in the still-temperate afternoon/evening air. Of course, too, people were commenting on how nice the new trail to and from the Pall property was.

It was good to see the previous caretakers (H&L) with their baby. It was good, too, to see friends that I hadn't seen for most of the previous year (what with me not taking many classes in SNRE at all now). It was also good to eat a few hotdogs before I had to fulfill my duties as official crier and cross-cut sawing competition manager.

But before that competition was the running of the wadered. The wader races -- like with every event every year with every campfire -- got off without TOO much problems, but this was the first year in very many years in which the Aquatics team didn't manage to win... and which we were the ones that fell into the water. Oh well, we can't win every year, I suppose... Still, it would have been nice, nonetheless.

The food was good, the remaining apples are numerous (I suppose I will start my new apple diet tomorrow -- I wonder how difficult it would be to make pies out of them...), and I might also carve up the five pumpkins (unless I can give them away).

However, without musical entertainment, or perhaps because so many students were away on the quick start to Fall Break (and possibly due to the onset of cold temperatures once the sun set), people all left by 10pm... leaving a silent forest once again, but this time with the detritus of the event. I was half-tempted to go to town with those returning there, to see some more of the evening.

However, I have a forest to tend and a party scene to try and pick up in the still of the night.

Major construction in the front done.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Portajohns are here

The somewhat aptly named "John's Sanitation" dropped off two portajohns.


There will remain one more portajohn that was brought in for the use of the contractors building the pathway and dock (they will have to finish up some pieces of work next week, thus necessitating their portajohn until that time). Hopefully, therefore, revelers will have enough choices in where to go for their call-to-nature (and hopefully, therefore, won't actually go to nature to answer the call).

Trash bins are here

The first of the deliveries for tomorrow's campfire event have arrived:
Trash bins

DSL cable repaired

The DSL cable got cut during the regrading, but yesterday the AT&T repairman came out here to fix it. Although fixed, I personally think that it's running slower than it did before it broke...

Cable spliced together

Anyway, I buried the exposed cable, and hopefully this won't happen again any time soon.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Ramping up for the Campfire

It's is turning out to be a rather slow start to the week out here in the forest. First off: I was half-hoping that the contractors would be out here today, because although the forecast said that there is a chance of rain today, it's been sunny, sunny, sunny, all this morning. (Maybe it's supposed to downpour in the afternoon, though, but in this rising temperature, I'm having my own personal doubts).

It is important that the work on the walkway and the patching of the lawn get done before Thursday, since that's when the deliveries start coming; things that will be difficult to work around once they are in place. (Difficult, but not impossible.)

Also, once the stage has been set with the placement of the tent, I have to then set up the cross-cut sawing competition area: nothing too major, just cumbersome (and I have to ensure that I don't pull out my back while lumbering along with the cumbersome timber). And then mow the lawn one more time (something that I did end up doing yesterday evening, since it was the first day in a couple weeks in which there was no equipment parked on the grass (well... save for two bobcats, one on either end of the lawn).

I'm looking at the bare patches of ground where I pulled out all the saplings and sumac that were encroaching into the lawn and thinking about what sort of seeding mix I should put there: something perhaps that would be nice and thick; discouragement for the sumac and brambles to fill that space back in again. (Well, at least for a summer or two...)

And then there's the question of what I should do with the area around the dock. As it sits, one corner of the end of the dock is not visible from the central front window of the cabin. It would be nice to ensure that all sides of the dock be visible from the cabin, which would mean that I would have to go in along the bank and cut back all the cherry, buckthorn, red osier dogwood, and willow wands that are poking up along the shore. A difficult task, but one that will likely be done after the campfire festivities of this Friday.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Roadway edges cleared

This morning, I awoke (kinda late) to the sound of machinery in the woods. "Odd..." I thought, but went outside to check out what it was.

What it was turned out to be the Bobcat with its shredder attachment that had been parked alongside the main road for the past few days. It turns out that one of the U-M Grounds people had come out today to mow down the edges of the extant roadway -- back to where it should be.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Carrying wood

In an effort to get ready for the upcoming SNRE campfire activities, I needed to find some wood for the cross-cut saw competition. Luckily a pine fell near the cabin, so it didn't make for such a long schlep to the campfire circle.

Still, it did end up bruising my shoulder carrying over four logs:

Wrong sand

The wrong material is out in the forest...

The wrong sand...
so they are removing it today from this pile...

... as well as what they had already spread on the trail.

Hopefully, the crew today won't tear up the grass too much with their equipment while they load up their dumptrucks to truck out the wrong sand.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Please dispose of your dog's droppings

Although the vast majority of people do pick up after their dogs, some people just choose to leave their plastic fecal bags lying in the forest. One of the rules-of-use (and I think its a pretty fair one) is that, "Dog owners must carry out all pet waste; please bring your own doggie bag to do so."

If visitors are going to be walking past the front entrance (not because one has parked a car there, though, of course), they can avail themselves to the use of the trashcan located a few yards inside of the main gate:

(It's the very obvious black, trashcan-looking object to the right of the photo.)

There, dog-owners (or good Samaritans who choose to pick up after those less civic-minded visitors) can add their canine fecal bags to the pile of other such baggies. Once the new bag has been added, make sure that the lid is properly sealing the can and locked down with both handles.

If guests leave by other exits, they should carry their baggies with them out of the forest and dispose of them in a (hopefully) civic-minded manner.

Misty morning ... with a touch of construction equipment

I really like these fall mornings: mist on Third Sister and the sun rising against the ever-more-ruddy far shore. Of course, with construction activities going on related to the larger management plan for the forest, the far-shore colors also have near-shore equipment that creates a somewhat jarring view from what was seen last year.

Sunrise, mist, and contruction

Of course, with the addition of a dock, one can get a little further out into that mist than before...