Great Lakes Hikes 2004 NCTA School House Gathering

November 13, Big Star Road to North Nichols Lake Road | November 14, 40th Street to Centerline Road (Echo Drive)

GLH Gathering, November 14, 2004 - 40thSt. to Centerline Road (Echo Drive)

It is now the final morning and we are enjoying light breakfasts of eggs and toast with plenty of coffee. The girls are dominating the conversation with discussions of the Zone diet, what dress size you should get when you get married (targeted toward Claudine who is marrying Paul Schilke next year), and how to not make eye contact with your baby so she'll relax. The guys are talking about who has what land where, the manners of mountain bikers, where we should go today, and quietly eavesdropping on the girls who are probably doing the same to the guys. No one is in a hurry to really take control of the morning which is again bright and clear following another clear, nippy night (we figure the low temperature was again in the mid-teens --- subsequent checks of weather reported for Big Rapids, Michigan which isn’t that far away peg the low temperature around 12 °F which is actually a tad cooler than the night before.).

We decided to do a short hike between 40th Street and Centerline Road (Echo Drive) a distance of about 6 miles. When we finally reached the starting point of the hike it was just a little bit after noon and 11 of us were ready for our stroll along the NCT. Claudine was going to hike just a short ways with us and then return to her car. The remaining participants were: me, Andy, Elwira, Julie, Siler, Abbey, John, Joy, Matt, Mike and Nancy. The hiking would again take us through oak, white and red pine, and spruce forests mixed in with meadows and perhaps a fen or two. Typical terrain for this region of Michigan: very pretty if you take the time to look around. The day was bright and crisp and we were in good spirits enjoying the gentle rolling hills we were ambling across. Our group, as often happens, broke into pieces and I found myself hiking with Nancy, Joy, and Mike. We had had some lively conversations while moving along. It was a fine day to take it easy. I particularly enjoyed walking through the occasional stands of pine and spruce. There is a sense of peace that you always get when walking through these stands and it goes beyond the mere fact that the needles layering the ground deaden sound.

While I did not see any wildlife I did hear some. I think the most notable was what sounded an awful lot like an owl calling. I don't know if owls hoot in the mid-afternoon but the vocal qualities just screamed owl to me. A short time later, while in the same spot, Joy and I both clearly heard the distinct call of a baby human being. It was Abbey - I hope it was cries of happiness.

Another highlight of the day has to be the stream crossings. The bridge across the old levy was nice enough as it goes, but the real winner was the next bridge. I hope other people also noticed (I wouldn’t have except for Joy pointing it out) the still ice that had formed on the surface of the shaded still waters of the small creek. With the shadow of the tree limbs hanging over the water the scene was just idyllic: a pleasing stream, intricate patterns on the water, a meadow surrounded by forests of pines and hardwoods, and except for the sounds of that owl and Abbey peacefully quiet.

We ended our hike around 3:30pm and the group pretty much said goodbye to each other at that point. Another Great Lakes Hikes Gathering has come to an end and it was another wonderful weekend spent with friends. The subsequent drive back to Ann Arbor was uneventful and John dropped me off just before 7:00 PM. Thanks, John. And thanks to Siler for organizing the Gathering again. Thanks also to everyone else for making this such a fine event. The Gathering would not be nearly as good as it is if the people attending it did not care about the event, the people, and the Schoolhouse itself.

 


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