Deep breaths

There’s something about hiking in the woods on a just-below freezing fall morning. TLight through the fall treeshe wool layers go on and the cozy hat and mittens are a must, but after a few brisk moves, the chill is utterly refreshing and the bod is toasty. Moose and I were in need of a good hour hike and Mill Lake always delivers. Sun beams sprinkled the trail today with dancing light bursting through the trees dressed in late season foliage. The breathtaking beauty required a few moments of gratitude and deep breaths of fresh air at one of my favorite stops along the lake loop on the Oak Woods trail.

The Mill Lake loop is a favorite four-season hike just minutes from downtown Chelsea. I highly recommend it after you explore the Discovery Center trails and feel confident in your whereabouts. I like to park off Mclure to hop on the trail. Let intuition guide you; just keep following the trail closest to the lake. (If you start walking away from the lake… alert, alert!) To make the loop, hike on the Lakeview trail, portions of the Waterloo-Pinckney trail system, Oak Woods trail and through Mill Lake campground. Once out of the campground, walk a brief moment on Mclure to complete the loop back to the boat launch lot. The instinctive loop is counterclockwise, though the reverse is a fun outing as well. Just stick to the trails closest to the lake. Get outside and take a hike!

Garlic & Roses

Now tucked away in the cozy earth are 10 garlic cloves by my new roses. Another 10 cloves are in my raised garden bed. Next spring, I can look forward to scooping up whole garlic bulbs for soups, sauces and virtually anything I’m cooking. While hubby is not a fan of garlic wafting in the kitchen, it just cannot be helped. I feel it is essential to many homemade meals.

Though sometimes not welcome in the home, garlic is a friend to many in the garden. Roses especially appreciate the strong, odorous protector that helps keep pests away. Besides garlic, I installed wire fencing as another defense strategy.  I adore bunnies in the yard. Even so, I do not want them eating my roses, nor do I want other animals and pests digging in — I’m looking at you chipmunk.

My newly planted rose plants honor my dad, who recently passed away. I have not felt up to writing about the loss yet, but am sure to share thoughts on my dad’s absence from my life and the many fond memories in future posts. Meanwhile, my roses and garlic are paired up and ready to hunker down this winter.

Fabulous 40s

Taking a page from my lovely friend Angela Berent, I thought I would reflect on three favorite moments of my 40s.  Angie wrote List Your Life: A Modern-Day Memoir, a journal-like book that provides thoughtful prompts for you to write down three related life experiences. With just a few more days before I turn 50, this pause to appreciate happy moments of the last decade fills me with gratitude.

Travel. Thanks to my husband’s work travels, the frequent flier miles pile up. It is because of those miles — which means he is away often during the year — that my family and I have enjoyed several amazing adventures in the last decade. I am grateful for travel, a necessity to me for my mental well being. Even though I am quite the homebody, I love frequent immersions in varied settings and cultures. Travel — lumped under one favorite moment — over the last decade included two trips to Jackson Hole, IMG_1803Wyoming, one to celebrate my parents’ 50th anniversary five years ago and, more recently, to celebrate my 15th anniversary with Kris. The Wild West calls to our family thanks to my dad’s western foray in the 1950s that prompted his baby sister, Rosemary, to move to Wyoming at 18 where she fell in love with a cowboy.

Travel also included two adventures to Europe, one in 2012 and the other this past summer. Our travels in 2012 took us to Paris; Champéry, Switzerland, and Villanova, Spain. This summer, as an early celebration for my 50th, we ventured to the Dalmatian Coast and Plitvice National Park of Croatia; Ljubljana, and the mountains and Soca River of Slovenia; Venice and the Amalfi Coast of Italy. More on all these adventures later.  Travel was big in my 40s. I am sure hoping to experience more in my 50s.

Parenting. Another huge moment, I witnessed my eldest daughter graduate high school (2014) and college (2018). I am astounded at her passion for learning and for her life goals after she wraps up a second major this December. I am in awe of her ability to juggle multiple, impressive work experiences, volunteer work and school work. I cannot wait to see her launch her career in the new year. My youngest just entered high school and I can see her blossoming. The next few years will be exciting to see her passions evolve.

Writing. Lastly, one of my most rewarding writing experiences was earning a Michigan Notable Book award in 2008 with my writing partner, Lorri. Our book (now out of print), From the Vine: Exploring Michigan Wineries, was an experience I cherish. It was a blast to write and photograph for the book and the award put us on the road meeting people during numerous presentations in small and large communities throughout Michigan.

My top three memories of my 40s encompass a lot of subtopics, which I promise to delve into more deeply in future posts. For now, though, I’ll just feel grateful.

Cattails

TheCattailsre is something about the sight of cattails. The soft, buoyant “hotdogs on a stick” remind me of my childhood in northern Michigan. These spongy plants were used for many make-believe moments with my siblings that typically involved roasting hotdogs over a fire. Even the simple joy of the buttery fur between my fingertips made a lazy autumn afternoon seem magical.

Since those days, I have learned about all the marvelous uses of the cattail. The dense flower provided bedding comfort for Native Americans and pioneers, and helped ignite fires for cooking and warmth. During World War II, the flower was used to stuff life vests. Experts at the Outdoor Channel say we can forage the “shoots, flowers and pollen” for eating and enjoy similar tastes to “corn and cucumber.” So, the charming cattail does not taste like a hotdog after all.

On my weekly autumn hikes, I will continue to keep my eye out for cattails. And, as the frosty breath of winter settles in, the frozen stalks amid the wetlands will provide a welcome reminder of home.

Hello, 50

Ten years ago, I trained for the Iceman, a 28-mile mountain bike race in November in Traverse City, Michigan. My bestie, Todd, and bro-in-law, Michael, and I were set to meet up with our families in northern Michigan to celebrate my big 4-0 by conquering this rough-and-tumble ride renowned for some oft-times wicked weather.

Mountain biking was pure joy for me. Not the speediest or the most technical, I simply found joy in the maneuvering of rocky, rugged trails through forested nature preserves and mountainous canyons. Over years of riding, I earned several nicknames thanks to Todd, whose daughter with lovely Alisa now calls me Auntie PigPen. This affectionate name was well-earned as I was often the last in a pack of friends riding in the mountains of California back in the late 1990s. (Picture a swirling kick-back of trail dirt.)

Training for the Iceman in my home state of Michigan, I spent hours on the trails in Pinckney State Park with many trips through Hell. (Yup, there’s a Hell, Michigan.) As the big day neared, I felt mentally and physically ready — well, for at least a portion of the 28-mile ride. Race day arrived, and my joints and I decided that my body was not ready for that massive feat after all, so instead I entered the 8-mile Slush Cup. While that sounds super wimpy compared to the Iceman, I felt spectacular in that race. The highlight was coming around the final corner and seeing my family crazily cheering me on and *quite distinctly* hearing my eldest daughter shout, “Go, Mommy, Go.” I felt like a champion. I loved that day. Shout-out to Todd and Michael who completed the Iceman, the later of whom has accomplished it many times and is tackling it again this year.

The Slush Cup was my last time on the trails on my bike — until this year. I had stopped riding because of chronic pain (as a result of cumulative injuries). Yet, recalling the pure joy of trail riding, when a friend suggested we try to “get back on the saddle,” I ventured out this year to nearby DTE Trail in Chelsea. Taking my time, I rediscovered how much I love riding while immersed in nature. As I turn 50 this month, I plan to keep finding happiness on my two wheels in the woods.