Friday and Saturday: March 28-29, 2019

Five Mile Road in Newaygo County to Cleveland Drive Just North of Nichols Lake

Total miles: On the trail total mileage was 12.8 miles.

I walk the roads of Greater Grand Rapids, rain or shine, hot or cold, sunny or rain, chalking up ten plus miles a week. This was my first hike in the woods in 2019.  Jeff and I spent two days in the Manistee National Forest.  It was an experience of anticipation.  There were still patches of snow.  The lakes and ponds were still iced over although melting along the edges.  The only thing green was Winter Green and lush green moss along the trail.  The forest was somber and sleeping.  There was no movement.  Silence!  Solitude.  There was no wind, no sound of leaves blowing in the wind.  The trees and bushes were still bare.  It was a great time to really note the frequency of the frozen rusty brown ferns of the wetlands.  

Newaygo County is full of small lakes, ponds, and wetlands.  Since 1850 over fifty percent of all the wetlands in North American have been filled in.  The wetlands act as a sponge absorbing heavy rainfall and releasing water over time to the subsoil reservoirs.  It should not be a huge surprise that we have massive, never-before-experienced, massive flooding in some of our urban areas where the wetlands have disappeared.

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It was cool and cloudy.  The temperature was 42 during the day, dropped to freezing at night.  There was no bright shining sun.  No buds were popping out and yet, one could feel the anticipation of warmer weather.  Spring was not quite there yet.  Winter was holding on for dear life but knew it was all over.  

I heard no birds tweeting or singing.  Several chipmunks and black squirrels exposed themselves briefly wondering who might be hiking at this time of year.  As Jeff drove off to find where the trail intersected a road several miles ahead, I walked west on Eleven Mile heading in the wrong direction.  I was a good mile down the road before acknowledging my error.  Maps are supposed to help navigate.  In my case, they seem to tell me when I am wrong.  

We made camp about 7:30 camping in the Benton Lake National Forest campground.  We build a huge fire, cooked a meal, and put up our tents in the dark.  It was black as coal outside the perimeter of our fire pit.  We could see the towering leafless Red and White Oaks soliloquized against the dark sky.  We felt alone, vulnerable, content as we crawled into our sleeping bags protected against the cold and pelting rain during the night.  I loved it.  

 

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