Mental meandering by SOLAR historian…… vol. 21 July 2019 

Author: Bill Morse

Hey everyone! Greetings from your new historian, Bill Morse. I love what Mike has done with ‘Past Tents’. I won’t say that I will fill his shoes (I wear size 10.5 and I think his size is bigger), but want to continue to share from SOLAR’s past, not only for your reading pleasure, but to provide inspiration for future activities and adventures. I aim to put something together most months, though probably not every month. This issue is for July, so I will tell you about a few things that happened in July in some previous years, as recorded in the SOLAR Ray. Next month I’ll do the same for August, and then, maybe the same or something else. We’ll see. Anyway, let’s get this party started…

SOLAR Ray headline from 1992:  Fossil Hunt   Arcona, Canada

And the article…’Another successful SOLAR event! On Sunday, July 12th, Jim Gilfix led over twenty members to Arcona, Canada (to) the Rock Glen Conservation Area where members put to use their newfound fossil knowledge and took home memories. Aside from fossil hunting, many enjoyed a hike along the Au Sable River Gorge…We all hope that this will become an annual SOLAR event…Thank you Jim for the great trip idea.’

It did become an annual event. Excerpts from Margaret Martin’s report of the trip in 1993: ‘Eighteen of us arrived at Rock Glen Park by 11 AM ready for fossil hunting…The group was led by Jim Gilfix to the riverbank and he helped us to identify crinoids and brachiopods in the gravel. After everyone had found a few fossils we returned to the picnic area for a pot luck lunch…After lunch most of us tried the icy waters of the 30 foot waterfall. Continuing downstream we tried smaller but somewhat warmer waterfalls. (Underneath), there was a large deposit of gooky clay that we slipped on while trying to get into position for the camera people. The water continued to get progressively warmer until we reached the main river, which was just right for swimming…Jim led us to another area of the river where there were more fossils and we were able to find the elusive fossilized vertebrae as well as more brachiopods…After returning to the picnic area there was an impromptu watermelon seed spitting contest. Dana, Kathy, Linda and the children showed their seed propulsion prowess. Finally we visited the small but well done museum which included a chronology of the native people of the area and mineral and fossil displays.’ 

On July 22, 2001, Jim led the 11th annual fossil hunt, and in his words: ‘We had 19 people show up, 11 were kids. The age range was 4 to 55…After a modest but bountiful potluck lunch I made some balloons for the kids…The real find of the day goes to Rebecca (age 8). She found one of the nicest Trilobites I have ever seen. I was very impressed. To think that this small arthropod, related distantly to horseshoe crabs, was crawling along the mud one day feasting on small worms and other animals when it became trapped, embedded in the sedimentary rocks which formed from the mud and sand of long ago. And there it sat, for 500 million years, waiting, waiting, to be found by Rebecca of the SOLAR Club!’  

Jim started this trip when he was new to SOLAR and over the years, many enjoyed a day at Rock Glen. Although this trip has not continued every year, it has happened in recent years, and I’ve participated in some of Jim’s Canadian excursions. A great time! A member coming up with an idea, making a plan, and inviting others to come…that’s how it works in SOLAR. 

Also from 1992: AuSable River Canoe Trip

‘The ‘condos’ (tents) popped up on the DeFrance property from July 17-19th for the AuSable River canoe trip. Almost thirty SOLARites went north for the weekend to take in the amazing scenery and lots of fun.’

Moe and Dave DeFrance, longtime SOLAR members, regularly hosted weekend events in the summer. Having hiked with them in the mountains of western North Carolina and among the Red Rocks of Sedona, I would expect their weekends to be action-packed: ‘On Saturday morning Mo and Dave provided a fantastic breakfast that got our day off right. By 10:00 the group was out for a great six mile hike…After (the) hike, we all decided a lake swim was in order to cool us off a bit. When we got back to camp, we ‘heated up’ again for many games of volleyball. Of course, this all worked up another good sized appetite for the dinner/BBQ (some adventurous gourmets even prepared lobster!). By Saturday night, we were ready to get a taste of the local nightlife. So, we ventured out to find ‘Nashville Trash’ playing in town. Dave was kicking up his heels on the dance floor all night while some played a little pool and bar style shuffleboard.’ There are, alas, no known photos of Dave on the dance floor. 

The headline activity happened on Sunday, ‘a record breaking sunny day’. A kingfisher, loon, otter, ducks and deer were spotted by the gang as they paddled the AuSable. ‘Five glorious hours on the river later, we drove back to camp, tore down our ‘condos’ and took off for home. What a weekend!’

July 26-28, 2002   Another ‘up north’ summer paddling event set up by another longtime member…

Tom’s summary of the weekend on the Manistee: ‘Finally, nice weather!! After running this trip for the last three years in rainy, cloudy and last year 50 degree temps, it finally turned out the way it’s supposed to be on the last weekend in July, cloudy and warm!    Thank heaven for that since I had the largest group going this year, 35 or so people…Thank you Cindy and Vera for helping (with signs to the campground)…We had secured two group sites along the river so people would have plenty of space to camp. One was designated a quiet site for those wishing to get some sleep. The other-well, let’s just say that it was fun till much later in the evening. On Sat morning we all went for a 5.5 hour paddle down the beautiful Manistee River near Grayling, most of which is still wilderness. Everyone who wanted to get wet did so by the first hour or so…Later that day we all stopped at camp for lunch, ate our fill and continued downstream. After finishing the paddle…we rushed into town to see the beginning of the Grayling to Oscoda canoe race. I don’t know who ran faster, us trying to get to the start line or them, but we made it by a couple minutes. We watched as they ran by with canoes to the river bank in a mad frenzy for position. After all that hard work we had some hand dipped ice cream and made our way back to camp to relax by a roaring campfire. Later that night…we had a nice little thunderstorm roll through…After that it was just a nice relaxing pitter patter of rain on the tent, which ended before next morning, making packing up much easier.’

No one has set up more trips in SOLAR than Leslie Cordova. (Coming back to the present for a moment, Leslie and a few SOLAR friends are right now hiking the 100 Mile Wilderness in Maine.) Her husband Gene reported on what happened when 21 SOLARites ventured to southern Ohio….

July 4th weekend, 2002 (How we put the Independence in Independence Day)

‘Take a 4-day, 4th of July holiday…and add a streak of hot, sunny weather. Stir in the opportunity to hike, bike, swim, climb, kayak and canoe, and you have our recipe for some great summer time fun! SOLAR decided to celebrate our freedom, and demonstrate our independence, by exploring Caesar Creek State Park, in the Dayton-Cincinnati area. We stayed in the tree-lined, Group Horseman’s campground, (which) was also the broadcast home to a choral group of banjo frogs that enthusiastically serenaded us nightly. The park was very spread out and there was a lot to do…a Nature Center, a Pioneer Village, a 1,300-foot swim beach on the lake, hiking trails, equestrian trails, biking trails and fossil hunting by a dam…If this wasn’t enough, the 100-mile Little Miami State Park/river rails to trails system ran right outside the park boundary…Thursday found the group splitting up, with half going to the beach and the other hiking from the Pioneer Village to the dam…Some (hiking) highlights were the waterfall where the lake fed back out into Caesar Creek, the high, rocky cliff shelves surrounding the creek, a very cool suspension bridge, and finally seeing the dam after a long, hot hike. After the hike, we rushed to rescue the all day swimmers at the beach but it was too late. They had already sprouted gills, fins and scales! They obviously had a very good time too.That night, our group of pyromaniacs provided us with an impressive light display when they lit off 288 sparklers in less than an hour. On Friday we split up again. Some went hiking: some went to John Bryan State Park to rock climb and some of us rode the Little Miami State rails to trails path, south to Kings Island. This was a very scenic bike path…It was a hot day but we hardly noticed the heat, because the trail was well shaded for most of its  length (50 miles round trip)…Saturday saw almost the entire group riding the northern section of the Little Miami bike path. After yesterday’s ride, we were happy that this was only a 30-mile trip…Sunday, we arrived at the canoe livery, early, for our 4-hour trip down the Caesar Creek…This was a fairly placid river that could lull you into a false sense of security. But watch out, as there were a couple spots in which the water roared through some fairly tight turns filled with some challenging obstructions. Woe to those who did not stay alert and ended up in the drink! Some turned the trip into a 4-hour water fight. Others took turns swinging on the highest rope swing I ever saw…Caesar Creek State Park turned out to be a great place for fun in the July sun!’

What do you like to do?  What activity would YOU like to set up? 

An activity can be for a few hours at a local park, or a multi-day event in a distant location. You’ve met some of the people who have organized events for SOLAR. Moe and Dave are enjoying life in Arizona but Jim, Tom and Leslie still reside in Michigan. You might catch them at a SOLAR membership meeting or at the restaurant we go to afterwards. Pick their brains, or talk to one of the many other people who have organized events. Tracy Harper, our SOLAR Activities Chairperson, would love to hear from you and assist you with setting up an activity of your choice. You can reach her at:

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Bag Nights Contest

In 2001, Backpacker Magazine set up an online contest where organizations could record ‘bag nights’ (nights spent in sleeping bags for the year). Dozens of organizations entered. SOLAR members are constantly rolling out their sleeping bags, and Karl Overheul thought it would be fun for his club to get noticed on a national level.

The contest went on for several more months. In what position did SOLAR finish? You will find out later this year!


We visit the land of geysers and bison
We go to Ontario  (again…good thing Ontario is close)


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