Last Friday — my husband’s day off for the week — we headed out in 88° weather with threats of thunderstorms overhead, to a state park, or as many are called here in Michigan, a Recreation Area. Yankee Springs Recreation Area is about an hour north of us.
On the way we passed through the town of Dowling, which has about five buildings at an intersection, including a library just one building over. There was a sale going on that day. We serendipitously decided to stop to support tiny Dowling Library. What fun! The basement was full of old books. I didn’t see any children’s, so asked. The woman’s eyes lit up and said, “Oh, sure,” and took me to a back room nearly the size of the first. It was loaded with old children’s books. Many of them were from an elementary school a few miles away which had closed in the past few years. I wish I’d taken a picture of this delightful little library for you.
We moved on. I was delighted with my bag of fifteen books and a new Dowling Library T-shirt, and grinned all the way to the park.
We’d packed a picnic lunch and picnicked in a secluded spot of Yankee Springs on one of two picnic tables near the lake, far away from the beach goers and campers. Just as we started eating, a black, dark-windowed pickup truck pulled slowly into the little lot and parked, not in any of the other five spots, but off to the side, immediately next to our van. It took about ten minutes before the person inside finally climbed out, during which time Jeff and I speculated about what sort might be in the truck and what he might be doing. When he climbed out, he had a metal detector, which I know are illegal in other Michigan state parks, but didn’t know if it was illegal in all Michigan state parks. We didn’t want to call him out on it because he had a military-grade serrated knife, about 8″ long, which he used to dig with about every four feet. He told us his father used to pull in to this spot thirty years ago with his boat. Jeff speculated later that perhaps his pirate father had buried his treasure there and his son was now searching for it. As he walked around us, he asked if he was disturbing us. Neither of us responded for a moment, but eying that knife in his hand, we both nearly shouted at him, “No! Of course, not!”
We swallowed the remainder of our lunch in two bites and packed up. We drove to the end of the peninsula, as far away as we could in that lake area from the detector guy. We were still shaking when we got out of the van, but nature laid her magic on us. About a hundred yards away, a group of seven deer ran and leapt into the woods. It’s a tiny peninsula, so we were surprised to see the deer there. We decided to take a slow walk down a path near where they’d entered the forest, but didn’t spot them again. When we exited the woods on the other side of the path, we found ourselves in Monarch Butterfly Realm — a wide field of milkweeds. I spotted two young caterpillars and six monarch butterflies. Very cool.
After that short hike, we wanted just a little more before going home, and more secluded, as in away from other people who may or may not creep us out. We stopped at the Hall Lake Trailhead. No one was there. No cars were parked in the tiny lot. Perfect. We’d hiked the full trail several times in the past. We walked only the twenty minutes along the poison-ivy lined trail to reach the lake instead of doing the entire trail before the mosquitoes at last turned us back to our van.
After I returned home, I downloaded the shots taken that day and noticed something odd about one of the forest photos. It looked like a small Hobbit tree in the background, screaming and running off to the right, while the adolescent trees marched onward to the left. It was as if they heard our quiet footsteps and froze so we wouldn’t notice them. Of course, if it were a Hobbit tree, it was probably running towards the battle, not away. Looking at the photo, I’m sure you’ll agree with my assesment. (And now you know part of my reasoning for believing I’ve seen mythical creatures in the woods. I just may have. You can decide for yourself on this one, but I know what I saw!)
At the end of the day, back home safe and sound, Jeff barbecued some chicken while I cooked one of our yard-grown acorn squash along with some sweet Michigan corn-on-the-cob. Our diets were rather blown that evening, but it was Jeff’s day off, after all. He commented afterwards: “It was a sublime meal, worth it especially after a day of travel and hiking.” I couldn’t agree more.