“Dragons cannot be truly tamed but they can be bonded with and trained”-From Game of Thrones Wiki
From our friends at NC Parks:
Michigan’s Dragon at Hardy Dam, #midragontrail, is in the process of adding just over three additional miles to usable trail this build season. Fundraising and construction have been going strong on the Dragon Trail since ground was broken last fall. By the end of 2020, just over 13 miles will be open overall. To date, eight miles of trail are in and ready for hiking and biking.
“We’ve got some great momentum going on the trail,” said Nick Smith, Director of Parks and Recreation at Newaygo County. “Through the help of individual donors and some amazing trail partners, we’re able to keep our builders and volunteers busy working toward our overall goal.”
The miles of the Dragon Trail that will open later this year will connect already opened portions to Big Bend Park - Campground in White Cloud. Thanks to a generous donation of $50,000 from Big Prairie Township Parks, a bridge will be installed so that riders and hikers can use the trail from Big Bend Park all the way to Hardy Dam County Marina, Sandy Beach County Park, and Operator’s Village Day Park. A 1.5-mile portion in Brower Park, called Brower Loop, is already open for use; as well as a small section in Newaygo State Park.
In the coming months still, four more bridges will be installed, connecting more constructed trail. Also, later this year a route over the Hardy Dam itself will be finalized, adding more official mileage to the total for 2020. As segments are officially open, the Dragon Trail website will detail access points on the trail conditions section of the page.
“Mountain bikers and hikers are loving the trail so far,” said Dragon Trail fundraiser Jodi Overman. “With a total project goal of over $3 million for a 47-mile trail we still have a ways to go’, and any gift, big or small, will help us get further along so we can get it built.”
To access the trail on the southwest side of Hardy Pond, it’s best to park at Sandy Beach County Park. Please be sure to follow park guidelines regarding parking passes.
To learn how you can help build or maintain The Dragon, or make a gift, visit www.thedragon.us
The many lives of the Birch Grove School House and other ghost stories
Story and photos by Charles Chandler
Who doesn’t love a little picturesque one-room schoolhouse? One that you know contains so many memories and local history? Like that white100-year-old Birch Grove School House sitting at the corner of N. Felch Ave and W. 5 Mile Road. The new owners Margie Moran and her family are some for sure.
The early history of the School House when it housed students of the local farming and logging families is better told by their descendants. Members of families like the Stewarts, Twings, Plank, Courts, Ditlow and others.
The history chapter that most of us hikers are familiar with begins when the beloved Genny and Art Wunch and other hikers rescued the derelict building and had it moved to its current location. Once located there the repurposing and renovations began. The Birch Grove School House would soon become the Headquarters for the North Country National Trail Association (NCTA). It is located about a mile and a half from the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT). The NCT is the longest hiking trail in the National Trails System, stretching 4,600 miles across eight states from North Dakota to Vermont. Don’t know if Ginny Wunsch and crew planned it or not but the School House is located at the halfway point of that 4600-mile trail. As the NCTA organization grew, they needed more space and access to utilities and technology. They relocated to downtown Lowell and the local Western Michigan Chapter of the NCTA assumed operations and maintenance of the School House.
The School House “did well by the Chapter.” In full disclosure, this N3 Correspondent and wife Dianne were for a time the School House caretakers. I helped maintain the building and the grounds. Dianne managed the public relations and reservations side of the operations. It was kind of like managing an Airbnb property. We took the operations seriously because the place meant so much to so many people. However, it was a case study of diminishing returns.
It was still in great shape but as we all know things change. The use and subsequent rental revenues declined while operating expenses increased and the Chapter membership aged and participation declined. A heartfelt business decision had to be made. Many locals and members of the Chapter were concerned over what would become of our School House.
Andrea Ketchmark, NCTA Executive Director issues the following letter to the membership “For close to 40 years, the Birch Grove Schoolhouse has served the North Country Trail community in many ways, first as the Association’s headquarters, and more recently as a meeting spot for the Western Michigan Chapter and rental property for trail crews and visitors. It’s been managed by the Western Michigan Chapter for more than 20 years and although it’s been a source of pride for the Chapter and NCTA, it’s also introduced challenges and has diverted both time and funds from NCTA’s mission of building, maintaining, protecting and promoting the NCT Trail. After holding a local stakeholder meeting and pursuing several options for managing it in partnership, we again concluded that the financial, maintenance, and liability burden will continue to be on the NCTA as long as the NCTA holds ownership.”
On September 18, 2019, the Western Michigan Chapter of the NCTA decided by unanimous vote that they can no longer manage the rental, maintenance, and operations of the NCTA Schoolhouse, effective January 1, 2020. Subsequently, on December 7, 2019, the NCTA’s Board of Directors agreed and approved a motion to sell the property in 2020.
Andrea concluded by saying we still have hope that the sale might be to a person or organization that will honor the history and/or provide future opportunities by keeping it open to the public. The funds generated from the sale will be put to use protecting the Trail and the NCTA’s legacy.”
We did get that wish and then some. The property did not stay on the market long. Artist Margie Moran from Higgins Lake area had some special high school friends down here that lived on the Muskegon River and owned business in Newaygo. They had been asking her to move here so they could enjoy their retirement time together in the woods and water of Newaygo County. She thought that was a good idea and put her Higgins Lake property up for sale and started scanning realtor.com for a suitable property in this area. Margie’s property sold in Higgins Lake and she bought the Birch Grove School House before the ink was dry on either listing. The big attractions to the Birch Grove School House were location and function. It was near her friends and had high ceilings, solid maple flooring, and abundant natural light from the many windows making it a perfect artist studio. As a plus, it came with tons of history, had lots of character, and Tom Birdsall, a great neighbor who loved and had cared for the old building as well.
Margie Moran is somewhat of a character herself. Soft-spoken with an easy laugh, and interesting enough, some folks have mentioned that “she favors the unforgettable Genny Wunch.”
She graciously gave the N3 Correspondent the tour while discussing her plans for the property and revealing a bit of her personal story. In her 20s Margie was a hog farmer and later took a job as a long-haul trucker to put her kids through college. She attended Kendall College as an art Major and is a working artist. Stained glass and ceramics are her mediums. She mentioned her kiln should be installed within a week. She and her son, a third-generation stained glass artist both worked in a studio in Philadelphia doing restoration work for local churches. When asked if she was related to one of our great western painters Thomas Moran? She said no, but with a laugh revealed that when her extended family gets together, her great uncles would invariably bring up one of their relatives. The infamous Chicago probation gangster Bugs Moran.
Her plans for the School House are to develop a working studio and provide a long-term refuge for her children. She plans to keep the building as original as possible and the upgrades in electrical, mechanical, and plumbing will be “period-appropriate” and environmentally friendly.
One daughter is a hiker, another a Hospice Nurse, and a son living in Washington. It
appears that the children have already taken to the place
About that family, Margie has three other kids. Three adorable rescue dogs that appear to have the run of the place. They were instructed to stay in their enclosed backyard while the company was about. That worked for most of 15 minutes and soon they were underfoot and pretending to mind Margie.
At one point during the outside tour, they misbehaved and were given time out and banished to School House. Seems some things never change. They immediately went to the large windows so they could peer out and monitor the adults. No decent artist studio would ever be without cute or interesting animals. The outside furry and feathered folk always found the Birch Grove Schoolhouse attractive. There was this little Eastern Phoebe hen that every year would build a small nest of moss under the back-door overhang. Every time someone would go out the back door she would flutter away. She always put up with the commotion and would successfully raise a small brood. When asked about her Margie said apparently, she felt comfortable enough with her and the dogs until she moved her little nest to the front porch. They were able to watch this spring’s family fledge and fly away.
After the tour, the friendly chat, and invitation to come back was over I sat in my truck for a few minutes and looked at the School House. On reflection, it kind of looked like the same place but felt different. There were petunias in pots and chairs for sitting on the front porch. Funny dog faces in the window. Murdoc the small metal flying pig sculpture in the flower bed and a new heating and air-conditioning system on the other side of the building. The inside still had some of the old cabinets but the artist touch was evident and the studio was evolving. I felt that a page had turned and the North Country Trail Association had left the building. What magic life brings to people, places, and things?
About those nine lives and other ghost stories. So many more stories have been told around the fire pit in the backyard. Did you hear the one about the time that a group of young campers was overnighting in the School House and something started tapping on one of the upstairs windows? A thorough search inside and out found nothing and as soon as everything quieted down the tapping would start again. Well, they freaked out and left as soon as possible. Reminded me of something Mr. Poe said: “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As if some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.” The mystery was finally solved when it was discovered that a robin would see its reflection in the window and start pecking at a perceived opponent. When someone would go outside it would simply fly away then return to the pecking match when they left.
Or how about that time when a passing motorist was having a heart attack and pulled into the School House parking area. His car rolled up next to the front steps and the driver mashed the car accelerator to the floor. The engine eventually overheated and caught fire. Neighbor Tom Birdsall and other first responders were able to extinguish the fire and save the School House from being burned to the ground.
The Little White One Room School House has once again caught a lucky break and could be around for another 100 years. Now it has a caring committed artist and her family to watch over it. Margie has owned the School House for a month now and has had several visitors drop by with their stories. She does feel the responsibility of owning this property but also feels that she now has a studio where she can enjoy the serenity, she needs to focus on her art.
Bet Ginny Wunsch and crew are smiling. Thanks, Margie, we can’t wait to hear if you give the place a new name.
Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing
By Alexis Mercer
There have been many times throughout my adult life when I have purposely avoided jumping on the latest and greatest book train. I’m not quite sure why, exactly, I generally feel opposed to reading what “everyone” claims to be the best.
They’re going to make a movie out of it? Super. That doesn’t automatically mean it is good.
Oprah declared it her favorite book of all time? Excellent. I’m glad she enjoyed it.
It made the top of the New York Times’ “Everyone And Their Sister Is Reading It” list? I am not that sister.
And yet there have been a handful of these books that well after the hype settles down, I pick up the book and begin my own journey through its pages. Not because it is all the rage. But because I am hoping for a quiet interaction with a book that has promise to engage me in a way I haven’t been engaged before.
A prime example? Harry Potter. It wasn’t until the fourth book of the series came out that I finally picked up The Sorcerer’s Stone and dove in. That choice worked out really well for me. I finished the first book within 24 hours, reading relatively non-stop (I was in college then...I could afford a sleepless night). And then I didn’t have to suffer the long wait to read books 2, 3 and 4. I devoured them all concurrently with no pause. Waiting for book 5 was painstakingly difficult. Not jumping on the train early had caused me a lot of anguish in wait.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is my most recent example of avoiding the popularity train. My main reason for not reading it early on was because I kept hearing how sad the book was. And I just don’t do sad. There is so much sadness in the world already. Why put myself through deep sadness in a book, too? Not that everything I read is rainbows and sunshine. But during a pandemic the last thing I needed was any more sad.
But I had read through all but one of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series and was hoping to save the last one for a little bit. I was heading on vacation camping with my family and knew I would have some time to read. My mom had given me the book, along with the recommendation that it really was worth the sadness, so I suppose the time had come.
Kya is a girl who grew up in the marshes of North Carolina. She watches her mother walk down the driveway, away from Kya’s abusive father, and out of her life forever at a young age. Her siblings and dad eventually follow, leaving her alone to fend for herself in a worn down shack with no income. She lives wild and free, befriending an unexpecting dockman and his wife, her only true support through much of her life.
Chase Andrews, the best high school quarterback to have ever lived in the small town where Kya grew up, is found dead with no clues as to who could have murdered him. The ensuing investigation puts Kya in the hot seat as the main suspect and the peaceful life she once knew living amongst the wildlife is suddenly at risk of crumbling.
One of the better books I have ever read, the sadness of this book does not overpower the beauty of life presented through Owens’ words. The characters were so greatly developed and the story so beautifully unfolded that I felt a part of the world in which Kya was living.
Where the Crawdads Sing is worthy of all the hype it received, however, I don’t regret waiting until I was in a spot to be able to soak in its beauty. I’ll now be on the lookout for the next latest greatest book train to avoid until I am good and ready.
By Ken De Laat
At N3WH kicking back and taking in some TV viewing in the latter part of the day remains a pastime in the summer months and the search for material that carries enough interest to earn a bit of binging is an ongoing one.
Here are a few of our more recent streaming safaris and reviews that reflect the ramblings of a curmudgeonly couch potato in possession of considerable television viewing experience who still believes Barney Miller was the best cop show ever.
We watched the first two seasons and while the writing is top notch in many ways and Anna Friel shows some serious chops in the title role I have my doubts we’ll be tuning into season 3. Beyond Friel few of the actors other than Sinead Cusack (only in season 1) are the least bit memorable in their roles and in my opinion the series could have ended then and there. The second season felt a bit disjointed and the ending left me with no desire to continue.
A fun take on the Arthur/Merlin story with a female as the main character (Nimue, played by Katherine Langford from 13 Reasons Why), and some intriguing twists including presenting Merlin as a bit of a drunk who has lost his magic touch. Sure there are a lot of holes in the plot that leave unanswered questions and the writing leans a bit to the cheesy side but a rather radical take on an old story is always good for generating interest and I’m certainly not above cheesy if it makes for goodtime viewing. Plus, the scenery and settings are exceptional.
Midway through season one and admittedly already committed to moving directly to the just released season 2. This is a cleverly done plotline that travels beyond the usual superhero cliches and leaves you hungry for more information about each of the characters as it trickles out in bits and pieces. Discovering the show is based on a comic book series made sense as the dialogue and imagery are reminiscent of the genre- particularly the type of publications put out by Dark Horse Comics (Hellboy, Sin City). While rife with intriguing characters and portrayals ranging from effective to compelling, David Castenada is a fun watch as he milks the richly outrageous role of Diego playing it close to over the top without allowing it to tumble into slapstick. The quirky dance scenes are fun and the music is varied and curiously well fitted to the situations.
Highly recommended. Particularly if you aren’t peevish toward peculiar.
Baseball’s back on TV and a couple of questions strike me thus far.
Do you think the announcers will continue to apologize each time the f-bomb is dropped into an empty stadium? Because it happens a lot.
Will they amp up the somewhat creepy canned crowd noise to compensate?
Beyond those queries the surrealness of the game being played with no one present save the teams, officials, staff, tv crews and a few others seems oddly enough to fit well with baseball. It’s always been a bit more cerebral enterprise than some other team sports say, football and soccer where the action tends to be much more fluid. Baseball’s a game that needs to be taken in, contemplated and savored which is likely why it lacks appeal to the less patient among us. But editorializing aside, it is indeed good to see it back on the tube, though for how long might be anyone’s guess.
Please, please, please stop running the insurance commercial where the guy’s wife grabs the phone from him to confront the agent on what he might be wearing. I was tired of it before the reboot, it has lost every shred of charm it might have once possessed and it is on more often than political ads during election week.
Give it up already.
“All television is educational television. The question is: what is it teaching?”-Nicholas Johnson
Newest offering by Jennifer Graeser Dornbush being released today
By Ken DeLaat
On a stifling summer night in northern Michigan, a vivacious 18 year-old, Nina Laramie, is brutally raped and murdered. Her killer is never found. Three months later, a local hunter finds Nina’s skeleton in the Hole in the Woods, a forested party area several miles from Nina’s house. It is determined by the medical examiner that she has been brutally raped and bludgeoned to death.
There are no fingerprints. No hair. No biological samples. No murder weapon.
A witch hunt by local law enforcement brings several suspects to the forefront, but there isn’t enough evidence to make an arrest. Detectives are convinced Nina’s friends know more than they are letting on. But a code of silence prevails. Rumors grow. Suspicions form. But ultimately, there is no proof. Lives move on. And thirty years march by...
It describes a fictionalized account of the Shannon Siders case that haunted the area for decades before a cold case team was formed in 2011, a team that doggedly pursued every aspect of the murder before breaking it open, and sending the convicted killers to prison in 2015.
I covered the trial for the Times Indicator at the time and remember meeting Ms. Dornbush who was doing research to write a book on the subject.
Hole in the Woods is that book.
She also held a special interest in the case.
“I first learned about Shannon and her death by my father who was the county Medical Examiner at the time. He determined after examining her remains that Shannon had suffered a brutal death, disturbing details that I wouldn’t find out until sitting in on the trial some 25 years later.
“This was, of course, a shocking event for our rural, tight-knit community and it cast a dark cloud on our rural county. And that’s why it stuck with me all these decades. I kept up with the case as it unfolded in little layers for 25 years... through newspaper stories, documentaries, and finally attending the three-week trial in the spring of 2015.
“I desired justice for Shannon just as much as anyone in my county. We all wanted to believe that someday her killers would be found and put away. We wanted her story to be complete and her family to have catharsis. We all wanted order from this chaos. We wanted good to win over evil for her. We wanted to see right come from a very wrong situation.”
Ms. Dornbush, who also penned the popular “Coroner’s Daughter” series, will be the featured guest at the Fremont Library’s Author’s Night on Tuesday, September 22, at 7pm. She has partnered with The Cold Case Foundation, a nonprofit organization supporting law enforcement agencies that take on the hardest to solve, least funded cases, working closely with victim’s families and providing victim prevention services and a percentage of of Hole in the Woods books sold will go to the Cold Case Foundation.
“As a crime fiction writer, I look at crime for its story and entertainment value because that’s my job. But I have always believed that it is essential to give back something positive to the real-life crime fighting world and the real life crime fighters (aka the TRUE heroes and heroines).
“When I found the Cold Case Foundation, they became an instant heart connection for me. They share my personal mission to shed light into the darkest recesses of human spirit. My work with the CCF primarily involves being a public ambassador for their victim prevention training, which seeks to train others on how to significantly lower their risk of becoming a victim of a violent crime.”
In addition to being an accomplished author Jennifer is a screenwriter, a forensic consultant, and a much sought after speaker. Her appearance at the Fremont Library should prove to be an engrossing evening particularly for anyone who recalls the long unsolved crime and the efforts undertaken to bring those responsible to trial and conviction.
From the book:
Find the criminal. Make the arrest. Attend the trial. Hope for fair sentencing. Life in prison. Satisfaction? Yes. Justice? Yes. Closure? Never. Trace the deep lines on the brows of the victim’s family. They weren’t there a few years ago. They etched themselves into the flesh the moment they got that call. Trawling deep, gnarled trenches in the faces of loved ones. They grow more creviced as the case drags on. Closure. Never.
No amount of confessions, jail time, or penance will ever be enough retribution for the act committed.
And in the dark recesses of your soul, you pray, you beg the very God that gave that a-hole life, that he doesn’t have some crazy deathbed conversion. Because you want to be certain he’ll burn in hell.
Smugglers Cove continues to intrigue us. First the driveway area was redone. Then picnic tables suddenly appeared. Shortly thereafter the possibility of food trucks that had been floating about locally for a few days became a reality and since then a treasure trove of trucks have been delivering the eats with some making regular appearances much to the delight of the citizenry.
And now after pouring a cement slab, a structure has appeared.
Folks are abuzz as speculations regarding the possibility of the latest culinary incarnation at the Hess Lake Eatery site becoming a near future reality have caused theorists to thrive on social media as well as in other social (distanced of course) settings.
Well done folks. Carry on and keep us guessing The ongoing mystery has helped create a little diversion to this part of the world...a rare and valuable commodity these days.
Tuesday is the Primary Election.
For pity’s sake vote.
Particularly those of you who find it necessary to share any and all of your personal opinions on social media because if you do that and don’t vote your words have even less credibility than they did before.
Vote because it’s the right thing to do. Because it matters. You might think one vote doesn’t matter but it does. It matters because in casting your ballot you show how much this country truly means to you
Vote because you care. And care enough to pay a little attention to who and what you’re voting for. If you haven’t had time to do the research ask someone you trust about the issue and/or candidates.You don’t have to follow their opinion, but listen to it and make up your own mind.
Vote because you want to tell your children and grandchildren that you did and let them know what a valuable possession a vote is.
We at N3 World Headquarters love farmers markets so it has been a delight to see the Newaygo FM getting the Friday afternoon action in Brooks Park. It’s a pleasant way to spend a summer day in an inviting setting. From meats to peaches to tomatoes to soap to even a barn quilt, each week has resulted in a few items heading back to N3WH.
But as I said we really like farm markets and thus, tend to be less than faithful to any particular venue.
The Muskegon Farmers Market is sprawling and Saturday a visit there proved to be a pleasant diversion on a gorgeous and barely August morning. The usual collection of musicians and other sidewalk entertainers weren’t out and about at the time we were there and I’m not sure how much of the extra curricular activity that always seems to surround the market will be experienced during this oddest of all years we find ourselves in.
But over near Carmen’s Cafe (our first time back to a Muskegon favorite) a vehicle that looked to be a one time fire truck provided ample entertainment in and of itself. We were particularly intrigued by the model of a T-Rex devouring a smaller member of his species in the center of the hood with an angel in the foreground.
And if you want to view something that is close to drop dead guaranteed to bring a good chuckle check out a youtube video called “News Anchor Loses It." You won’t be disappointed.
Be well, good readers. Stay in touch, treat each other with kindness and…
For the love of liberty, vote.
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“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”
- Eric Qualman