I have developed the habit of hiking along the Lowland trail in Waterloo State Park in early spring. So convenient to my home, the trail always delivers on the first distinct signs of spring with the rising of hardy gold-speckled burgundy claws in the wetlands. Oftentimes, I see this skunk cabbage peaking through early-spring snow. A big thanks to the skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) for the reassurance that spring has truly arrived. Soon, the forest bed will be sprinkled with dainty Trilliums and the outstretched green foliage of the skunk cabbage will be overlooked. Not its smell, though! It is a stinker once its leaves unfurl. Even so, I’m a fan because its a harbinger of spring in the woods and the stinky fragrance attracts certain insect pollinators. Learn more here.
This sweet doggy is 10 today. Moose came into our lives after our previous rescue dog, Libby, passed away from old age. Never in doubt that we would rescue another dog, we kept our eyes out for adoption day opportunities. We found Moose at an adoption event in downtown Pinckney. She was the only rust haired puppy in a litter of mutts, most of which resembled German Shepherds. (We learned mamma was likely a party girl with two suitors.) Her given name of Ginger was apropos, of course. There was something about her sweet eyes and shaky little body that drew us in. She was petrified. We decided to give her a big name of Moose, named for the tiny village amid the Grand Tetons in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a favorite family destination. Truthfully, we call her Moosie 99% of the time.
Ten years later, and she still has some anxiety around people coming into our home, though she is deeply loyal, loving, vocal, and protective. She loves kids and popcorn. She has no fear of hiking in below freezing temperatures, but has a hard time walking in the heat. Tug of war is her game of choice.
A morning hike after breakfast and a birthday treat from The Brown Basset Baker started her day. Another treat later today, some tug of war, of course, and an off leash run around the yard will wrap up her birthday fun.
I left my hiking boots in Holland (MI) this weekend, so I had to resort to an old pair that took a beating during my plantar fasciitis days. A bit discouraged, I almost skipped my planned hike. Fortunately, I was determined to walk Moose this morning. The sun was vibrantly beckoning, the morning was a toasty 23 degrees requiring less layers and the doggy and I needed exercise after an indulgent weekend. (Who can resist homemade bread???) We went to our easy access trail system at the Discovery Center and found ourselves the only adventurers this morning. Quickly heading to the Lowland trail, I stopped in my tracks when I saw the trail of ice. Not discouraged, I headed to another trail entry… and another. Unfortunately, the ice was prevalent. Determined to never have another injury in my life, I realized today was not going to be a trail day after all. The lower lip started to fatten and a frown started settling in, but damn that sun was bright and the air’s purity quickly flipped that hint of a frown.
I’ve learned a trick over the years: when I feel discouraged or sad for whatever reason, I quickly say, “I am grateful.” I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful I can walk. I am grateful for nature that surrounds me. I am grateful. Moose and I walked the ice-free drive through the park and basked in the sun’s glow as it shimmered through the trees. I am grateful.
There’s something about hiking in the woods on a just-below freezing fall morning. The 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!