A Woodland Hike…At Last!

 

Last Friday – Jeff’s day off of work – we decided to finally venture out of our house and either take a drive past some woods, or maybe even hike into some. The last time we hiked was March 13th, seven weeks ago. In the past seven weeks of our pandemic shelter-in-place, we drove downtown to the church building once to video a communion, and then last Tuesday at 7AM, I bravely entered a small store for groceries. Otherwise, it’s been home-deliveries and neighborhood walks. But on Friday, a good old day off, and with great trepidation from us both, we headed to the woods of Fort Custer State Park, about 20 minutes drive from our house.

We took face masks, but expected to only wear them if there was no way to avoid another human (e.g., passing people walking towards us on a narrow trail).

Our first shock came as we headed to the park: at 10:30AM, the Meijer grocery store had about 200 cars in its lot. And, oh, the traffic on the road! It was busier than a normal pre-pandemic Friday day-off day out.

Our second shock: Oy-yi-yi! The park itself was incredibly crowded, and we didn’t even go to the more popular places.

We bumped down a dirt road towards the Kalamazoo River. Usually when we’ve gone there, the small dirt parking lot is empty. Last Friday? Three cars. Crowded! We parked away from them and were getting ready to head for the river when a truck pulled in with three teens who popped out and headed to the out-of-the-way trail going along the river. The very trail I thought no one would be on.

Looking up the hill from our parked van, I spotted a bushed-over trail going away from the river…and away from people.  It looked like a deer trail, but as bushwacking is not unfamiliar to us, and the woods beaconing, up we headed through the brush. It connected to an equestrian trail. The thing about hiking on an equestrian trail is if you aren’t diligent about watching your step, well, horses are big old free-soilers, you know. I kept thinking we’d see someone, or need to step off-trail for a horse which had right-of-way. We didn’t see either person or horse.

We heard a lot of birds, and saw two tiny blue butterflies. Spring wildflowers were blooming,

and the mayapples were starting to bud.

Trees hadn’t started to leaf, so the walk was rather open, even going near a swamp.

Over one section, the path cut through grass. There was woodland before and after it. So, knowing the history of the park, and similar places in other Michigan parks, I’m guessing that was once someone’s lawn, although the brambles grew thickly around it. If I were curious enough, I’d research it.

But then (and now) I’m simply delighted that the two of us were able to be alone in the woods, and forgetting about the world for just a moment, to take one glorious hour’s hike.

 

Indoor-Outdoor Adventures During the Time of a Plague

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Of course, the Coronavirus-19 is not called a plague, but it might as well be considered one. Shelter-in-place. No close human contacts. Keep clean. Stay safe.

But there are ways to have outdoor adventures with even staying indoors. You could watch birds from inside your house.

You could look at nature shots.

You could draw or paint nature shots. You could write a memory of an adventure you had. You could read about unfamiliar adventures in books.

Whatever your Indoor-Outdoor adventure may be, stay safe.

Hiking Around the Double Dammed Lake

 

Actually, this lake within Fort Custer State Recreation Area has no name. It is labeled on the top of the map as a green-colored maps wetland. Therefore, I gave myself permission to name it: Double Dammed Lake, for at one end there is the man-made dam, and further downstream there is another dam, constructed by beavers. Hence, Double Dam. With all my stops for photos, it took us about an hour and a half to hike the wooded trail around this lovely, peaceful place.

 

There were 20-30 mph winds last Friday when we hiked it. You’d think walking through woods would make it less windy. I thought so. It was not so. I suppose leaves are needed to barricade the wind force. But because of the wind and the lack of leaves, we listened as the trees spoke to us — creaked to us might be more accurate — as they rubbed against each other.

 

After our quite winter, it was lovely to hear the voices of birds speaking. There were crow, red-winged blackbirds, and hawk. We saw duck last Friday, too. Other days we have seen geese and trumpeter swans there and an abundance of birds.

Sometimes when the water level is low, like last Friday, an abandoned road is revealed through this wetland-lake. It gives me pause, wondering about people who used this road long ago to reach their homes and farms, this road which is mostly under water these days.

 

As we headed over the man-made dam, Jeff asked if I wanted to take the road back to the van (the slightly longer route), or bushwack over the hill. I chose the more direct line, following what looked like a deer trail through the tall grass. About one third of the way up the steep hill, I got winded and asked, “Who picked this way?” But going that way confirmed my guess, first by the flattened grass and then by the piles. This was indeed a deer path, with deer beds and piles of droppings, hidden out of sight until you suddenly came upon it.

 

All in all, it was a wonderful little adventure with my best friend on a late winter day.

 

 

Northern Winter Beaches, Changes and Playtimeu

[THIS was in my drafts folder. SERIOUSLY? It was the last time we travelled, actually. And here, sheltered-at-home, crocuses and daffodils are starting to pop up. Where HAS my mind been lately? I’m sure you all can guess. So stay home. Stay safe. Love to you.]

Friday. Jeff’s day off. Sunny day. Off to South Haven and Van Buren State Park on Michigan’s western coast. A very favorite place of ours in all seasons, especially not in busy summer – when it is crowded with people, dogs, and bugs. We went to three beaches: the state park, and South Haven’s south beach and north beach.

It was briskly-cold. City temp was 30 degrees with a wind chill of 17. But there on the beaches, the wind roars mightier, and the temperature is colder yet. After only a few minutes of photographing waves, my iPhone simply shut down. It couldn’t stand the cold. So I stuck it in my jean’s pocket to warm up. Have you ever held a baggie of ice in your pocket? Similar feeling. Makes your eyes go cross.

The water level is high, with some docks in the channel marinas being washed over with incoming surges. (Earlier I also posted about the high water level four hours north of us in Leelanau County, at Fishtown. I wonder if the high water is also happening across the pond in Wisconsin?)

But with all the changes, and a day off now and again with cooperating weather, we still love to play outside (Jeff skipped ice on the lake.) We hiked the narrowing beaches, listened to the lapping waves, and talked to hungry gulls…well, I talked, anyway.

Jeff skipped flat ice vs rocks.

The splashing waves onto the pier rails seemed nature-artsy. There were a number of other people out and about taking photos, including a man in waders on the south beach.

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 Besides the seasonal variations, our western coast has changed over the past couple of years. For example, Van Buren State Park beach has vanished, due to high water and erosion. Part of me wants to say how awful this is; another part knows this is nature.

A Before Shot of the beach, which doesn’t even show the end of the sidewalk; and a couple taken this weekend, showing how the sand is eroding underneath the sidewalk’s end.

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Michigan’s shoreline has Critical Dunes. That means they move – with the wind, with the snow, with the rain. Here is a favorite little building of ours, taken in both summer, and this past winter weekend. Seems like this particular critical dune is moving in on the outhouse, soon to make it a buried house. Bye-bye, sweet little, dependable house.

 

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Life is full of changes. A dramatic one for us is happening this year as we move this fall to the other side of Lake Michigan. That will be a big change with plenty of unknowns, but will also carry with it family, exciting new adventures, and more places to explore.

Return to Fort Custer

Our last three Fridays (free days) have been kind of bizarre. With the January bleak-and-dreary weather and drippy trees with muddy-slushy ground, we haven’t done much hiking. Today, though, we were blessed with a 90-minute hike at Fort Custer recreation area. Besides a ranger removing a life jacket from a drain and an orange-capped hunter in a car, we had the park to ourselves. Blessed.

With the snowy-melted-refrozen ground, every step was a crunch.

We did discover something new to us: At the group campsite area, which we have passed through dozens of times in the past 16 years, we found a lake access spot. It’s sloped down to the lake and only good for kayaks or canoes to be put in. But new discovery!

It was a quiet hike (except for our crunching steps). Nothing much to comment on, so here are some other photos from today:

 

Allegan State Game Area, Swan Lake Trail

Since our “hike” this past week was to walk around and do Christmas window-shopping, and the snow on the ground is rather light, anyway, I thought I’d post an adventure we took one October (and again, one spring), halfway around Swan Lake in the Allegan State Game Area (DNR), in Allegan County, near…you guessed it…the town of Allegan, MI. And guess what else? There are even swans on the lake! Well named.

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This is an out of the way place to find and to hike in, and were you to blink, you’d pass right by the hidden trailhead. But simply wonderful for Carlson adventures. In fact, going on the nearby backroads (even on residential roads) our van’s GPS map only showed our little you-are-here marker blinking in the green wilderness of the screen.

The hill trail around the lake is difficult to capture with photography. On a long stretch, one slippery step, and into the lake we’d go. The lake is just out of the first picture range. We would have grabbed trees on the way down, of course. If. But no need.

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Part of the trail takes you through the woods and out of sight of the lake for a while. Squirrels, birds, mice, deer. This detour away from the lake is in order to get to a place easy to cross over the stream leading into it. I would imagine in springtime, the snow-melted stream would require passage over this bridge.

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There were also some of the barkless trees we’ve spotted throughout Michigan, revealing the petroglyphs in the ancient language of Wormtongue. <– Jeff’s term. I’m pretty sure this one refers to a bison.

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Because the trail was unkept, both times we could only travel halfway around it before decided to turn back. The area is intended more for hunters and fishers than for hikers.  After climbing over and under and between branches, and assending steep hills to get around several downed trees on the trail, after an hour we decided it would be easier to return than to proceed further into the unknown. Besides, climbing around fallen trees gave us a good workout besides just hiking. The second time doing it, besides different fallen trees, the ground eventually became too soggy to proceed.

But I would hike this trail again and again, hoping someday to complete the route around the lake, enjoying every moment of solitude (with hubby and swans), and deciphering the Wormwood codes, no matter how much of the trail we covered.

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Merry Christmas to all! Stay safe and warm.

 

 

Fall Hike Revisited; Leelanau County Parks

 

I traveled to Wisconsin over last weekend, which meant no Friday hike with my awesome hiking partner. so I shall revisit two short hikes we took at the end of October up in Leelanau County, near Empire Michigan: Chippewa Run Natural Area and across the road (M22) to the Beaver Pond Trail.

Because of my aching knee, we only hiked part of the Chippewa Trail, through the field, into the windy woods, and over the creek crossing and just beyond.

We lingered around the creek, as we became engulfed in the beauty and natural silence of fall.

We crossed the road just to check out what Beaver Pond Trail was like. It was just a sampling of the trail, but, as always in Leelanau County, well worth even the taste.

 We lingered a while overlooking the beaver pond in reflective silence, away from sights and sounds of other humans.

It also rained every day up there (with gale warnings and power outages), but that couldn’t stop us from getting outside. Also, rain grows mushrooms!

It’s always great to discover mushrooms. I’m now on chapter three of a fantasy dealing with mushrooms. They can be very inspirational, don’t you think?

 May you find time to hike in nature or sit and rest in the out of doors. May you find peace at this season.

The Story of Walking Tree

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The forecast was for partly sunny skies. So we drove the 90 minutes to Michigan’s West Coast only to find it foggy. We wouldn’t have left home if we knew it would be foggy. But once there, and surrounded by December fog, we were up for the adventure. 

It had been a while since we had walked that particular beach. We could only see a few yards ahead of us. The ghostly silhouette of a large tree loomed in front of us. We certainly didn’t remember there being a tree in the middle of the beach, standing tall between the edge of the sand dune and the waves. But it was foggy. Perhaps so were our memories.

Our second thought, separate, yet the same idea struck us, that the water was quite high. It must have been to be so near the base of the tree.

We’d agreed that the turnaround point of our walk was at the tree. However, as we reached it, I had the urge to see it from the other side. I twisted between and beneath the dripping branches. It was then, from that other side, that it became much clearer what had actually happened: the tree had walked down to the beach.

Two other whole trees lay on their sides nearby, their spidery roots exposed to the white air. Following up the sand dune, we noticed other trees, bent out at angles over the dune’s edge. Enlightenment! Through erosion, The trees had slid down the dune. 

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We’ve been on mountain roads where there are signs warning of falling rocks. I recalled the story of Sleeping Bear Dunes and a man walking his dog when the dune collapsed. With the streams of water flowing from the dune base and headed for Lake Michigan, I became a little nervous of other tipped trees anxious to take a walk down to the beach. There ought to have been a warning sign: Beware of Falling Trees. 

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I hope the people in power will leave the tree alone — particularly that one which walked down the dune, remaining upright. It has a chance to continue growing, for it is sure to have sufficient water for its roots, which were fairly covered by the sand. Clear away the debris from the beach, but allow this graceful tree have its second life. Please?

New Fav TV Series – Time Team

Alright. I know I am four years (or 24 years) behind the times here. But I only recently discovered a marvelous British documentary series called “Time Team”. I’m sure it is marvelous to anyone interested in history, especially British history. The show aired from January of 1994 to September of 2014, but with my recent discovery of it, it has shot up to be my new favorite TV series. Each episode has professional archaeologists who go to various locations on a three-day dig (although some of the sites are on-going digs). The totally fun part of it is that “Baldrick” (from Blackadder, a Brit comedy from the 1980’s; aka actor Tony Robinson) is the narrator.

This week on Episode 51 of “Time Team” I learned for the first time about Doggerland. This was a land mass between Scotland and Denmark and the Netherlands before England-Scotland-Whales became an island. The fertile and populated Doggerland was flooded first by a tsunami about 6,000 BC, followed soon after by rising ocean levels from the last glacial retreat of the Ice Age.

Hearing about Doggerland for the first time made me feel like it was a fantasy world, only it was real. It also made me feel stupid for never having heard of it before. And, oh, but what a lovely diversion I have from NaNoWriMo.

I’m a little behind in my word count (of the 50,000 word goal for the month), but I seriously hope to finish my next War Unicorn novel by then, at least the rough draft of it, at least if I can be disciplined to write and not be glued to “Time Team”!

End of Year Writing and Marketing

2017 was busy; hence, my long silence on my blog. Two of my books were published this year: THE POWDER HORN OF MACKINAC ISLAND (MG time travel, published in March) and WAR UNICORN (upper MG fantasy re-published in October through Books We Love Publishing). Both books need reviews, if you’re so inclined, since reviews on Amazon are like golden nuggets to a book.

I took a sabbatical this year from my War Unicorn series (I’m now working on the third book) to write what has turned into my memoirs. Hopefully, it will come out before Christmas. Yes, I’m talking Christmas of this year! It has the shockingly long title of THE ROAD LESS-TRAVELED OFTEN INVOLVES SMACKING FACE-FIRST THROUGH SPIDER WEBS (subtitle: A Life of Animal Encounters). It includes wild boar, bear, moose, otter, cattle, ticks, snakes, hawks, and bees, to name a few…and me, of course…and often my family. The book is 50K (50,000 words). That’s a lot of animal encounters!

Each of these books require a different marketing plan, different bookstores to contact, online sites, blog hops, ways to promote, etc. I am so foolish, and would never, ever recommend another author to do so. Why, oh, why didn’t I stick to just one genre and age group of readers? Why?

My end of the year writing and marketing tip: Stick to one genre and age group of readers and keep on writing.