I admit, I’m not a fan of winter. Earlier this year, while on a camping excursion across the country, I awoke on the first of September to find a leaf had fallen on the rug in front of my ten,t and I almost cried. Dramatic? Maybe, but I love the hot sun, and falling leaves are just the beginning. A few months later, the inevitable happened, and I found myself back in Michigan surrounded by a boat-load of white stuff. In order to beat the winter blues in the middle of autumn, this summer girl decided to get out and play in the freshly-fallen snow.
I scrounged through my parents’ basement to find buried treasure: not one, but two sets of snowshoes! My mom’s were made of metal with fancy clips and boot straps and even teeth on the bottom that moved with each step, biting into the snow. My dad’s were classic: old-school wooden, woven paddles with a flat bottom and leather stirrups, designed to fit right around the walker’s shoe. I stowed both pairs in the trunk of my car and made my way to Traverse City, Michigan in the middle of a blizzard for a few meetings and a little fun.
Upon arrival, I met, once again, with my dear friend Drew. This kid has been my best friend since junior high and is the older brother of another Tripleblaze writer, my other brother-from-another-mother, Matt. This is the second time Drew has made it into one of my blogs, and I guarantee won’t be the last as he is always down for an adventure. Drew lives in TC and always has a place for me to crash on his couch. With limited time on our hands, we hopped into Rosie the Riveter (yes, I name my cars) and drove to The Village at Grand Traverse Commons.
The Village is a great attraction in Traverse City. Formerly the Traverse City State Hospital (a.k.a super-creepy asylum), the campus has been undergoing renovations since 2000 to restore its original architecture and all its glory. The many completed buildings now house restaurants, shops, apartments, and condominiums. The true beauty, in my opinion, lies behind the Village in a spider-web of hiking and biking trails. While still relatively close to downtown Traverse City, the trails offer visitors a chance to escape the hustle and bustle, even if just for an hour or two.
Drew and I donned our snowshoes and followed a path riddled with the imprints of previous cross-country skiers and snowshoers leading to the trail system.
It took me a little while to get used to snowshoes. I felt like I was tromping around in big, floppy clown shoes, and I had to be careful not to step on top of my own feet for fear of tripping and falling into a frozen snowbank. After a few minutes, I was accustomed to the snowshoes and and loving it, back to the glorious experience of hiking through a forest.
For an hour, we didn’t hear car horns, but instead the incessant knocking of multiple woodpeckers. We were able to follow them through the woods, despite our heavy footfalls. Wandering curiosities lead us astray from the beaten-down paths, and a few times we were following the light steps of a Michigan deer. Previous engagements forced us to trudge back to my car a little earlier than either of us would have liked, but it was a great escape regardless.
A few days later, back in Ludington, Michigan, I was making my daily drive on M-116 out to the Ludington State Park. I don’t live out there in the true sense of the word, but have spent enough time hiking the dunes that it almost qualifies. As the sun peaked through snow-cloud skies, I slowly followed the winding road along the Big Sable River. At the end of one road that curves through the middle of the park, I turned around and began to make my way back out, pulled by the nagging feeling that I had other obligations to attend to. As I was about to head through the exit, it occurred to me that both sets of snowshoes were still sitting in my trunk! Obligations-smobligations, an hour spent outdoors is irreplaceable. I parked my car near the beach, strapped myself back into my trusty snowshoes, and set off to find some winter beauty.
I tromped as far west as I could, to the state park’s beach house. I stopped and admired the Big Sable as it dumped into Lake Michigan, a beautiful but dangerous culmination of strong currents. I curved around and followed the river back east, nearly twisting my ankle a few times on rocks hidden beneath the snowy blanket. I suppose this is one of the many reasons we are always advised to stick to the trails. As winter winds kissed my cheeks, the rest of me was sweating under my heavy coat–who knew I could feel the hot sun in the middle of November?
After a while, it was time to return to my vehicle. A short trip, again, but worth every minute. This second excursion forced me to set a new rule for myself: like I always stow a swimsuit and hiking boots in the summer, I will remember to keep a set of snowshoes in my trunk during the winter. There’s nothing like getting a taste of the warm sun even in the gloom of a winter afternoon.
Your Turn: What do you do to get outside this time of year?
For more winter activity ideas, check out mtbikerchick’s article titled “Winter Exercises for Hikers.”