My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

A dark and dreary day

I woke up early this morning, thinking it was Monday and that I would have to go to work in the afternoon, but as I was pouring my first cup of coffee, I realized it was Sunday and had the day off. The thought of working must have put me in a bad mood for the day, as I am feeling just as dark and dreary as the weather outside. As I was pouring my second cup of coffee, I saw heavy wet snow falling, and I had to turn on an extra light when I did the dishes. I know it’s April, and snow is normal, but I am looking forward to spring, when the grass and the trees are vivid green, and I don’t have to wear a winter parka to go exploring.

We actually had a magnificent week in a way, 5 days in a row of 100% of sunshine, that’s the first time in 15 years that we have had that here in west Michigan. The thing is, even with 100% of the possible sunshine, it was still cold. The first two days, the temperature never got above freezing, and it wasn’t until Friday that we got above 40. The sun was sure nice though, and I managed to take a few good pictures, like this one.


Despite the sun this last week, I am still in a foul mood today. I do plan on get out later, there will be a break in the rain before real storms move in this evening, I hope. And normally a day like today wouldn’t be that big a deal to me anyway. I am out and about in weather that is much worse than today, but I am just tired of the cold, can’t you tell?

I didn’t venture out at all yesterday, it started off cold, wet, and windy, and that didn’t keep me in as much as the fact that I had decided that I had procrastinated long enough on some things around the apartment, like finishing my taxes, for one. I had already planned to meet Mike for a late lunch at 3, so that split the day up in such a way as to make any outdoor adventures difficult to fit in. It was good catching up with Mike, he is one of the truly great people in this world. His son, Jeremy, is over in Africa again, pursuing his dreams. I know Mike worries about his son a lot, but on the other hand, he supports Jeremy 100%, which is great. The kid is getting an education unlike any he received in college, not all of it good, but following your dreams and travelling the world is something I wish I would have done more of when I was younger. You can read about Jeremy’s adventures here in the states and in Africa, and see some really good photography he has done as well by visiting his website here.

 That gets me to thinking of what I would do if I were ever to win a big jackpot in the lottery, not that I play all that often. But it does give me something to think about on those long drives for work every night. The first thing I would do on my way back from Lansing and picking up the check would be to stop at the Subaru dealer and order up two new cars, an Outback for my outdoor adventures, and a WRX for around town. I had a WRX, loved it! And even with lottery winnings, a pair of Subarus would make me a happy camper, literally.

 The second thing I would do would be to contact the Little Traverse Conservancy and see how I could help. I would also ask them to identify a piece of property near the Pigeon River Country that they would like to add to their inventory at a later date, when I kick off. I would purchase the property, live there at least part-time for now, and will it to the conservancy when I die. I say live there at least part-time, as I am not sure where I would live. There’s a lot to be said for the Grand Rapids area, despite what Newsweek says about it being a “dying” city. I love the culture here almost as much as I love the out-of-doors, so it would be a difficult choice. I suppose I would end up with a nice cabin up north, and a modest 3 bedroom house near Grand Rapids. As long as I had a 3 stall garage for my Subarus, and a pole barn for woodworking, it would be enough for me, even if I were rich.

 I wouldn’t want too much house anyway, since I would be travelling a good deal of the time. I would start with the United States, and all the places I have never been but would like to go. Some are well-known, like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, but I would also find the lesser known places as well. I would do some travelling overseas, New Zealand, Australia, and I would spend a summer in Europe, and watch a Formula 1 race while I was there. But, I would spend a lot of time here in Michigan as well. The only thing we really “lack” is mountains, I could probably spend the rest of my life without ever leaving Michigan and still not see all there is to see here, but I would like to try. I know the Outback would be loaded permanently with my fly fishing, camping, and kayaking gear. The only time I would unpack is to re-pack for the next trip. When I tired of travelling for a while, I would come home to spend time in the shop on my woodworking, which I miss a great deal living in an apartment now, no place to work. Woodworking is almost as relaxing as being in the outdoors, and it would a good change of pace from life on the road. I would build furniture, then give it away to the poor.

Well, the rain has let up for now, even though it is still a dark and dreary day, I feel better now. A good breakfast and fantasizing for a while always helps. So, I guess it is time to head out for a good long walk, and see what I can find today.

An update….

I am back home now after a walk in Palmer Park, and it is still a dark and dreary day, but I am in a far better mood. I wasn’t so sure that it was going to happen with the way it started out.

My home is just over a mile from Palmer Park, where I went walking today, but by the time I got there, it was already raining. No biggie, I walk in the rain all the time, although I wasn’t in the best of moods for it today. I managed to get just over halfway through the park when I thought I heard thunder, but it sounded far away, and like it was east of here, which should have meant that I was safe, so I continued on. There were several other rumbles of thunder, again, far away, and they sounded like they came from the east. I still hadn’t seen any flashes of lightning, and as dark as it was, if the storms had been close, I would have.

All that changed about the time I started on the boardwalk along Buck creek. Then I began to see the flashes of lightning, and the thunder came from the west, a bad sign. I had been thinking of the best places for shelter, just in case, it was almost a mile back to my vehicle, so that was out. There are picnic shelters in the park, I could have gone for one of them, but decided to go to the end of the boardwalk instead. It ends near a very busy intersection, so I could have taken shelter in a business there, and there’s a bridge there too. I opted for the bridge, and hadn’t been under it very long before I felt the cold air from the storm’s downdraft, and sure enough, a few seconds later the sky opened up. I was as snug as a bug in a rug under the bridge, and I’m sure glad I had enough sense go there. When I first went under it, I was wondering if I would be able to hear thunder over the traffic noise, that wasn’t a problem, as the storm must have passed right overhead. A couple of the lightning strikes were very close by, too close for comfort if I had been in the woods yet, and I had no trouble hearing the thunder from them.

While I was under the bridge, a couple of ducks came through, I thought to keep me company, but once they saw me, the scooted off in a hurry. But that, and how comfy I was during the storm put me in a much better mood. This will sound silly, or even stupid to many people, but “surviving” always gives me a warm, happy feeling. Most people with any sense wouldn’t have been out there on a day like today in the first place, they have enough sense to stay out of the rain. Not me, although I don’t push it as much as I used to, I still like the challenge of being outside in horrible, even dangerous weather, finding a sheltered place to ride out the worst of it, then finish off my hike or paddle. It wasn’t all that long ago that it was everyday life for many people, just a few generations.

I waited until the storm had passed, and the rain was starting to let up, then resumed my hike. It was much colder than before the storm, and the wind had picked up too. On the way out, I hadn’t seen or heard much of anything other than traffic and the wind, but little by little, the woods came back to life after the storm. The birds began to sing, the squirrels started scurrying around, and it was turning out to be a pretty good day, despite being bundled up in a winter parka in April. Some of the first plants of spring, like the skunk cabbage were starting to poke up into the sunlight, giving me hope that spring will arrive soon enough.

Skunk cabbage


 At one point, I saw a duck off in the distance, or it turned out to be a duck, as I thought it was a muskrat when I first saw it, it rode so low in the water that I am sure it wasn’t a mallard, but I never got a close look at it to tell what species it was. I played cat and mouse with it for a way, but never got close enough for a picture or to identify it. A short way farther down the path and I saw a duck land in a tree. I knew what that was, a female wood duck. I was looking around for its mate, and sure enough, he was in the pond not very far from the tree. I played cat and mouse with him as well, seeing him for a couple of seconds now and then as he kept hiding in the brush on the bank of the pond, until they had both had enough of my presence, and took off.

 I got back on the trail, keeping my eyes on the water to the point where I wasn’t paying any attention to anything but the water, when I felt eyes on me, turned my head, and found I had walked right up on four does feeding.

As if you didn’t already think I was crazy, I can sometimes “feel” the presence of animals around me. I don’t know how to explain it, I can’t even tell you what goes through my mind, all I know is that I’ll be out walking, and my head snaps involuntarily around towards some animal that is watching me. It’s not like I hear something and turn to see what it is, that happens all the time too. The “feel” is something different, almost instinctive, it just happens. Spud said it was spooky, Larri said that her dad was the same way, and that it was spooky.

Anyway, here’s a couple of shots of the deer.

The mother whitetail deer


Her twin fawns from last spring

So what started out as a crappy down kind of day ended up as a very good day, as most usually are.

 Oh yeah, I forgot, today was the first day this year that my feet never touched snow or ice while out on a hike!

 And another thing I forgot, the deer were very thin, it was a tough winter for them, spring is getting here none too soon for them, either.


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