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On My Own Two Feet

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

I'm home from Wisconsin and happily painting blue jays and eating leftovers in the quietest of quiet houses, deliriously glad not to be huddled in a corner of some gray airport. Written while on the road:

I like travel. Even though I'm writing this as I'm finishing a 7-hour airline stranding in Detroit, and it's pushing 10 pm, and I have another four hours to go before I collapse in my own bed, it's usually good. There are a few things about travel, besides airport strandings, that I'm not crazy about. One of them is being stuck so I can't go wherever I want. As in: being deposited in a hotel without a car. In those cases, I look around for places with trees and meadows and head out on foot to find them.

Early Sunday morning, I had three hours before I had to be back at the hotel to catch the airport shuttle. My room was beautiful--huge, modern, well appointed. But I wanted OUT of this glass and granite box, so clean and sterile that a spider in the shower elicited an exclamation of wonder from me. How in the world did it get there? How could it survive? I peered out my second floor window and eyed a long low ridge that in Wisconsin is referred to as a "mountain." Well, OK, thought this Midwesterner-turned-Appalachian-hillbilly. They can call it whatever they want. It's a rise. It'll do. The ridge was covered in forest, except for some ski runs cut down its flank. Got a rise? Put a ski resort on it. I figured I'd walk to it. There should be access or maintenance trails that run under the ski lifts.  Then I'd walk up the trails and get a view from the top.

I figured right. It took me about an hour to get to Rib Mountain Ski Area, but by gum I got there. And there was a wonderful trail that went right up the mountain. I met two women who were walking two doodle-crosses and a friend's Boston terrier named Willie. He was beee-utiful. They said Willie was on his third home. And he was so well-behaved and sweet that all they could think was that he was surrendered because he farts so much and so badly. Well. I know all about THAT. I told them to put his food dish on a paint can, so he wouldn't gulp so much air as he eats. And to put a couple tablespoons of canned pumpkin in his food every day. They were so excited to learn all this, and promised to pass it along to Willie's owner. It made me feel good to offer help, but not as good as it felt to run my hands over a Boston terrier again. Willie was only the second Boston I'd encountered since Chet had to leave me on August 30, 2017. He seemed puzzled that I wanted to touch him so badly, but being a perfect gentleman, he suffered my attentions. And I hope my advice changed a few  lives for the better. Being a good Boston, he'll still fart, but maybe it won't be as potent.

Farther up the trail, a woodchuck flowed out of the weeds and stopped to look at me. I took it as a very auspicious sign. I love woodchucks and always try to pass them mind-pictures when we meet. He's the dark loaf on the right of the path.

 There were harebells on the way up, and tall bellflower on the top.

At the top, I was a bit more than 2.5 miles from my hotel, much of it in a climb. In this photo, my hotel is the long black rectangular building on the far right, below the lake.

It felt pretty amazing to have gotten myself that far away, with only the power of my two feet.
To be up among the migrating indigo buntings, Swainson's thrushes and yellow-rumped warblers, and out of earshot of the damned freeway.
To have exactly an hour and a half to get myself back to get on a bus, then a plane. It was time to turn around, as much as I wanted to explore the next thing I discovered: Rib Mountain State Park! Trails everywhere! None of which I had time to take!

In this photo my hotel is the black rectangle. I'm gloating that I'm in a high meadow and not in it.

I thought to myself that more people should try and see where their own two feet can take them. Big granite and glass boxes are fine for a little while, but they aren't my habitat. On a beautiful day with three good hours to spend, I'll go outside every time.

It's not just for exercise and health. It's for my mental health. I figured a lot of things out on that hike. I saw my path forward just as clearly as I saw the dirt trail under my feet. I saw where I should and shouldn't be spending time and energy. I met myself on the trail. And you know, that happens pretty much every time I put a few miles behind me. 

As I descended into the subdivision, I could hear the freeway roaring again. A small, lithe whitetail doe burst out of a backyard and crossed the wide quiet street in front of me. I could hear her hooves tickering on the hard surface.

She stopped in the scant cover of tree shadows between two houses and hesitated. Her ears were swiveling and her tail was switching. I stopped still to give her as much room as I could. She thought for a little while then wheeled and galloped right back the way she'd come, crossing right in front of me, headed back to Rib Mountain.

Oh how I longed to follow her! I had to go back and start my 15-hour journey home. I didn't know it was going to take that long, but we aren't given to know much in the wonderful world of commercial aviation.

Back to the big glass and metal box. Collect your stuff and go.

 I wouldn't soon forget that hike. I closed out the day with 18,000 steps on my Fitbit, about 12,000 of them happy hiking steps in pellucid September air.

As I rotted in Detroit, writing blogposts to pass the time, I was so thankful that I'd chosen an adventure for those three Sunday morning hours.

If I ever find myself in that hotel again, I'm going to head straight out and climb Rib Mountain again.


ha ha, I adore your words and phrases, as always - "As I rotted in Detroit" and "tickering" to name just a few that made me smile or laugh out loud as I shared your journey. I have been working on sending mind pictures to Snitzi Lynne and other creatures since learning about it from your blog. You share good truths. onward!

Wish I'd known, as I could have picked you up for a meal and a walk in the woods! We have two really cool nature preserves in Southfield, on Detroit's northern border.

I can't imagine giving up a dog because they fart. I want to say, "You got a dog, it's not a stuffed animal." I'm also puzzled about the farting Boston terrier claim. I've had bunches of people tell me about lethal BT farts. I've got a great sense of smell (It's so good I've been hired to sniff out dead things), so it's not that I don't smell my dog's farts. She does occasionally fart and she's had one or two memorable ones, but it's not something that twists my head around on its stick.

One time I was in Germany taking a train trip with my dad. We arrived somewhere - Frankfurt? - where he took an afternoon nap before giving a speech that night. I escaped from that exquisite glass box, climbing over tall fences and dodging past security, and ran into the woods. Soon I found myself on a fabulously forest-covered golf course, just the place to lift my binoculars and grab a couple of hours for European birding. I was 51 at the time, haha.

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