Weekend Roving: Bay View Trail (late winter)

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One of my wishes is that those dark trees,
So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze,
Were not, as ’twere, the merest mask of gloom,
But stretched away until the edge of doom.

I should not be withheld but that some day
Into their vastness I should steal away,
Fearless of ever finding open land,
Or highway where the slow wheel pours the sand.

I do not see why I should e’er turn back,
Or those should not set forth upon my track
To overtake me, who should miss me here
And along to know if still I held them dear.

They would not find me changed from him they knew —
Only more sure of all I thought was true.

— “Into My Own” by Robert Frost

Heading out into the woods again, recently, I found myself pondering what exactly it is that I enjoy so much about hiking. What is it that possesses me to leave the fireside; abandon convenient, four-wheeled transportation; essentially subjecting myself to the harsh realities of a clear and bright winter’s day? It’s difficult to pin down a solid answer, honestly.

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As our dear friend and former neighbor, Nicole, deftly pointed out while joining us on our recent hike of the Bay View Trail: hiking is not necessarily a thrill-a-minute endeavor. Unlike the zoo or a museum exhibit where your gaze is met by one astonishing thing after another, IMG_4760barely giving you a moment for repose before being presented with the next thing, hiking spreads the joy out — perhaps dividing it into very singular joys light-years apart if your feet happen to be tired.

Maybe there’s more to hiking than scenery, though. Perhaps I’m drawn there for the quiet — to witness the woods’ ability to immediately squelch that modern itch to be entertained and distracted at every possible moment.

Rather than clusters of microscopic, colored pixels and tired, digitized sounds, sometimes the soul yearns for something real. In search of that something, you might find yourself being propelled forward down a living, wooded corridor surrounded by — if nothing else — a deep, meditative silence. In that silence, you can find all sorts of things you didn’t realize you were thinking, your mind catching up with itself.

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It was a beautiful day for a hike, the very unseasonable lack of snow cover notwithstanding. We began our hike near the trailhead just inside The Homestead Resort which is nestled right into the park boundaries of Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. I plotted out a 6.5-mile hike that would take us north on the high trail along the bluff to the Lookout Point and then turning to head south along the low trail IMG_4752which follows M-22 for most of the way.

Almost immediately, we began a fairly steep and winding path upward before arriving at the section known as the “Moosewood Trail” which continues through some beautiful restored woodlands. For having gone a week without snow and enduring unseasonably warm temperatures, the forest had maintained an amazing amount of its snow cover. Our progress was slow, at first, as we learned to plod through snow which was about five inches deep and weighing us down a bit.

Upon reaching the high trail running along the bluff, things leveled off a bit and the snow nearly disappeared — especially in the less wooded areas. Walking through the open fields of Leelanau County’s historic farming communities, it looked a bit more like autumn than winter!

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The sun illuminated the endless fields of golden grass strands, Lake Michigan’s Good Harbor Bay echoed the very clear blue of the nearly cloudless sky while speeding along a brisk breeze that rushed over us, rattling the hollow and crackling pods of last year’s milkweed. Far off into the distance, you could see the Manitou Islands, and imagine this same sound washing across an even quieter and isolated landscape. Though we were a bit winded from the steep climbing a few steps back, we were mesmerized. We paused here for a while, just to take it all in.

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By and by, the high trail led us to the scenic Lookout Point and we felt as though we were standing atop the world, the entire countryside bathed in sunlight with the impossibly blue lake on the horizon.

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If I had realized in that moment, while standing there on that beautiful hilltop, the best of the hiking scenery was pretty well over at that point, I likely would have planned to simply circle back and head for the trailhead. Instead, we descended from the ridge down a beautiful corridor of trees, headed for the “Farms Trail” and the low trail not knowing what awaited us.

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The high trail had led us high along a ridge, surrounded by quiet woods and the waters of Lake Michigan almost always in view. The low trail afforded us with a different sort of scenery. It swiftly, descended into the valley of the ridge where the historic farms stood majestic yet solemn and empty.

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The quiet of the flatter landscape and woods was periodically interrupted by the light traffic along the well-traveled M-22. Not to mention, we’d neglected to bring any snacks along and so we all grew quiet and stared ahead, seeing a steady, snow-covered path in front IMG_4791of us with little exciting scenery to beckon us forward.

I pondered, in this silence broken mainly by the rhythmic crunching of our plodding steps, how many relationships and friendships have periods just like these — when energy is low, excitement is low, and conversation topics have all been exhausted. In those times, what is it that draws us forward and keeps us on course?

Maybe the answer is different for everybody though we’re all on the same path? A fascinating thought. For some, maybe it’s the thrill of having seen something through to completion, to have that sense of accomplishment. For others, perhaps, the good times and the bad times are all a part of the joy of being together — we stay together for the joy of being together. And, perhaps, it’s also the promise of caffeine and an actual bathroom at the end of the trail!

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~ by Jason on February 14, 2012.

5 Responses to “Weekend Roving: Bay View Trail (late winter)”

  1. A great read, Jason. I think that those of us who like to hike all share similar reasons for doing so, probably each with a differing hierarchy of those various reasons. Challenge, companionship, solitude, the “something real” you mentioned — each seems to ebb and flow and re-prioritize from hike to hike (or even from mile to mile in the same hike).

    I especially like the photos in your post. Doesn’t a photo always seem better if you had to hike six miles or climb a couple thousand feet of elevation to take it? Knowing the “back story” of an image makes it more meaningful.

    Very good writing (and recipes!).

    Best wishes,
    Bruce

    • Thanks for reading, Bruce! I definitely agree that my own reasons for hiking tend to shift or perhaps even come and go even during a hike. Sometimes, especially near the end of the trail, it’s not hard to find myself simply working toward that goal of “completion”… and burning (hopefully) enough calories to warrant a victory dinner. 😀

  2. I really enjoyed your post, especially the end where you compare relationships to hiking!
    On an unrelated topic, I thought you might be interested in an NY Times article our son pointed out to us about gardening: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/23/garden/living-off-the-land-in-maine-even-in-winter.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2. It’s probably a bit more than you want to do, but quite amazing either way.
    See you on the Lane sometime,
    Shelley

    • Thanks for reading, Shelley!

      And thanks for the link to the article, too. I actually have the newest edition of Eliot Coleman’s book (The New Organic Grower), so it’s interesting to read this account of how he got started. He really only alludes to his beginnings here and there in his book, but it is a veritable mountain of information and observations about growing food. I’m only about half of the way through it, in fact. Only some of it applies to me, of course — not only due to the scale of his operation, but also because he grows food for market (something I’m not sure I’ll ever do) — so I do have to skim a few parts. But, I have learned a lot by reading of his methods.

      I can already tell that he and the other master gardeners who use beds rather than rows for growing food are definitely onto something. The one year I was able to have a garden in IL, I put a lot of their methods to the test and got some pretty spectacular results for a beginner. Now… a hoop house? That’s not in the works as far as I can tell. 😀

  3. Hello! I just nominated you for the Versatile Blogger award, congratulations! Here’s the link http://delicio8.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/versatile-blogger-award/

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