Take a hike!

11-17-17

If someone told you to take a hike today, you should not have taken their statement personally, because today is “National Take a Hike Day!”

So, here’s a little factoid for you – did you know there are a whopping 60,000 miles of trails across these United States?

So, it is easy to pick a trail – any trail – and go for it!

It is too bad that “National Take a Hike Day” fell on a weekday, and our Saturday is scheduled to be still another sogfest.  Sigh.

This morning I took to the trail at my favorite nature nook, Council Point Park.  There, I was joined by plenty of other walkers, along with my sidekick Ann Marie, who met me this morning.  You might recall that back in September my walking buddy and I decided to get together for a walk-and-gab session before the bad weather set in.  We got that walk done, and, happily, we are still waiting for the snow to fly, (those flurries a week or so ago, were just bothersome and didn’t accumulate), so we decided to have a second rendezvous.

Besides all the walkers, squirrels galore greeted us on the trail today, and those furry friends sure made out like bandits.  We counted three other people besides ourselves who were doling out peanuts to eager squirrels, who came right up to the tops of our shoes to grab their favorite treats.  We went around two complete loops, and, though the sun had not yet put in an appearance, if you were bundled up, it was not all that bad.  That blustery wind yesterday skimmed still more leaves off the trees and bushes, leaving them nearly bare and exposing all the big nests high up in the branches.

The heron is still missing, but there were geese grazing in the grassy areas and ducks paddling down the Ecorse Creek – it was so peaceful that we hated to tear ourselves away from the Park and get on with the rest of the day.

The perimeter path gave us plenty of steps – four miles worth of them.  I’ve already added these four miles onto my 2017 tally, as I strive to stride to 900 miles walked this year.

In conjunction with “National Take a Hike Day”, I’ll leave you with this quote:

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” – John Muir

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Fall aflutter and high hopes.

11-15-17

At 41 degrees, it felt almost balmy this morning, but boy was it blustery.  The leaves were drifting everywhere, and I scuffed through them on the sidewalks as I headed to Council Point Park.  All I heard was crunch, crunch, crunch under my heavy walking shoes, and I ended up with a few leaf specimens clinging to my wool hat once I got home.

It seems strange that some maples and oaks have lost no leaves, nor have they even begun to turn those glorious colors we so enjoy in Autumn, while other trees are now completely bare,  just like my neighbor’s tree that dropped all its leaves in one day.  My small ornamental maple has not turned red, nor lost a single leaf.  The first year it was planted, the nursery suggested plucking any remaining leaves from the branches before wrapping it up to protect it from the harsh Winter weather.  So, there I stood, stripping leaves from each branch, before swaddling that tiny tree in burlap from top to toe, er roots.  It survived that first Winter and 31 more Winters since then.

Leaves littered the asphalt path and grassy areas at the Park and the wily wind was whipping those remaining leaves straight from the trees and scattering them everywhere.  At least the pavement was dry and provided good walking weather, which is more than I can say for this afternoon, since it has been raining steadily here for hours now.

It’s still a scant crowd at the Park these days, human-wise anyway.  The squirrels were out in full force, begging and posing for peanuts.  I was happy to oblige them and took an extra Ziploc bag with me to ensure I didn’t short any of them.

As of today, my miles walked for 2017 tally 875.   I am excited that this is 120 miles over my original goal, so my next mini-goal is 900 miles.  900 miles or bust!!!  I think 900 miles is easy-peasy and then I’ll shoot for 955 miles for year end.  With six weeks left in the year, that seems doable, but … it is Michigan after all.

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Oh bother!

11-12-1017

Winnie the Pooh was pretty profound for a bear … one of his favorite expressions was “Oh bother!”  That exclamation fits the bill for humans too, in many exasperating situations.  Plus … you can feel free to utter it without raising any eyebrows.

Today’s “Oh bother!” was the leaves.  They come from a big maple tree at my next-door neighbor’s house.  It usually takes a few weeks for all the leaves to come down, but these recent blustery days, especially Thursday night’s wicked winds, caused the leaves to come down in one fell swoop.  They are everywhere, and, I might add, very few leaves landed next door where the tree is located … hmmm.

That is what I get for scoffing at that tree when the former owners planted it and nurtured it several decades ago.  They were newlyweds in a starter home and found a seedling growing in some dirt, the result of a “helicopter” maple seed drifting down and landing in a garden bed.  They dug a hole, planted it and put a little fence around it.  I remember rolling my eyes at the time, thinking it looked ridiculous and I gave it no hope of even surviving that first Winter.  But, that little maple seedling was tenacious and grew and grew.  Soon it was a sapling which was being staked so that tender young tree would not bend in the wind.  Now, it is a full-sized tree, with lots of leaves and it torments me by scattering them on my lawn and sidewalk, annually wreaking havoc with my free time and racking up costs for leaf bags to contain those spent leaves.  I guess I was in earshot of that tree when I predicted its early demise and my words have come back to haunt me.

Leaf-raking can be pleasurable, if you’re in a sweatshirt and jeans, or a light jacket, enjoying a fresh Autumn day, sun shining on your still-bare head.  I would have raked yesterday, but I had a mess of errands and grocery shopping, which kept me out and about until late afternoon.  At least it was more seasonable and the sun was streaming through the car window which made the weather much more tolerable than Friday.  I checked the pedometer when I got home and I’d logged nearly three miles on it, but, it was too late to start raking, so I tabled that task until today.

I did get to enjoy a walk this morning, albeit a very abbreviated one, since I kept glancing up to the gloomy-looking sky for those promised snow/sleet or rain showers predicted for late morning.  I think the weather folks at WWJ, as well as the online site The Weather Channel, weren’t sure what exactly would be sprinkling out of the sky this morning, so they essentially called for a mixed bag of precipitation.

There is nothing more fun than raking wet leaves on a cold day.  Before my neighbor Marge’s pair of flowering pear trees split in half and took a tumble after a 39 mph windstorm back in November 2014, they never dropped their leaves until after the final yard waste pickup.  So, I’d be out there grabbing leaves up and stuffing yard waste bags, then storing those bags in the backyard to weather the Winter, until yard waste pickup resumed in April.  What dark purplish leaves didn’t get raked up littered the snow the entire season.

Those plum trees are long gone, but a new maple tree was planted by the City on Marge’s property earlier this year.  The City’s Facebook site offered ten new maple trees on a first-come basis to residents.  Marge called and received the last tree, so it was delivered and planted a few days later.  Its sparse leaves have already fallen, but one day it will grow up to become just another reason for me to grumble “oh bother!”

The weather is to be more seasonable all week and we are promised no more Arctic blasts until next Saturday, so if you’ve not dug out all your Winter woollies and boots yet, better hop to it.

[Image of Winnie the Pooh courtesy of Creative Commons from Pixabay]

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I think it’s time to be a snow bird …

11-10-17

The folks who head to southern climes once the snow flies, a/k/a “snowbirds”, had better get a move on.

Unless you stayed hunkered down inside the house today, you know that Winter-like weather arrived last night with a vengeance.

The weatherman warned us yesterday to find the ice scraper and heavy outerwear because we were getting bitterly cold weather … and it arrived.  This morning we were twenty degrees below normal and tied the former record low for this date set in 1913.  Statistics like that on November 10th are a little scary, aren’t they?  I know it was 19 degrees when I set out on my walk this morning, and I was bundled up to keep the blustery winds and frigid weather at bay.

I arrived at Council Point Park and knew that a few more of the regular walkers had dropped off the map by virtue of seeing just two cars in the parking lot.  The last few weeks, the “regulars” … the stroller-pushers, bicyclists, joggers, and yes, even some walkers, have slowly disappeared, leaving just a handful of us diehard walkers.  Only six of us showed up this morning … four men, and another woman and me.

In the past week, the guys have gone from bare hands and baseball caps to heavy gloves and knitted hats.  As I passed Cheryl on the perimeter path, through frozen lips, I remarked she and I have gone from hoodies to parkas, earmuffs to knitted berets, and added scarves, gloves and heavier socks in the past few days, and, with all that warm-weather gear, it still felt a little brutal as you walked along the water’s edge where we paused to chat.  But, on the bright side, there was not a single drop of moisture on the perimeter path, so we were assured a walk devoid of wipeouts due to black ice.

I saw a pair of geese stray from the flock flying overhead to land in the middle of the soccer field, where they grazed and took a breather from the rest of the gang.  I’ve not seen the heron in the water this week, but one morning he was flying overhead.  The usual mallards were gathered near the cement landing and also hugging the Creek banks.  Still others had climbed aboard a partially submerged tree trunk to make it appear, at a glance, they were standing on the surface of the water.   They made me cold just watching them.

The squirrels came running this morning as I started on the perimeter path, sensing perhaps that pickin’s are slim these days, so better stock up on what the nice lady offers you.  They came bounding over to greet me like long lost friends, and were slipped an extra peanut or two for that effort, plus I’m such a softie for them.  I don’t even ask those peanut pals to say “pretty please” for their treat.

As I travelled around the circular path at the Park, the wind was rustling through the trees, stripping the colorful loose leaves from them.  It almost looked as if it was raining leaves since they were dropping down so quickly.  Similarly, most of the trees in the neighborhood had lost their leaves, a result of those 30+ mph winds that blasted through last evening.

I got a five-mile walk in this morning, and, just as I was nearing the house, the snow began to fly … the first flurries of the season, and I had to remind myself that yes, it was still Fall and we have a long road ahead of us until those balmy days will return again.

P.S. – If you check out the photo above closely, you’ll see a startled sparrow hightailing it out of his harvest décor hidey hole.  Perhaps the frost is on the pumpkin, or, he figured that once the homeowners haul out the Christmas décor, it’s time for him to head south to be a snowbird.

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It was a brrrisk walk this morning for sure.

11-08-17

I already knew today’s trek would not be toasty, despite the sun that was shining brightly.  Early this morning the weatherman declared it was our coldest start this season.  It was only 30 degrees when I left the house to head to Council Point Park.  Talk about a brrrisk walk!

That sun sure was welcome, but offered no real warmth.  In fact there was a frosty film on the grass and wispy vapors coming from my mouth and nostrils.  Once I arrived at Council Point Park, vapors were similarly rising from the water.  Yikes!

The ducks did not mind these frosty temps at all and were quacking with great gusto, along with a few raucous sounds erupting from time to time.  Those loud, quack-like outbursts not only startled me as I enjoyed my peaceful trek, but, as usual, made me chuckle.  It is as if these mallards occasionally take a notion to outdo one another in the noise department, while other ducks seem content to simply quietly plant their wide webbed feet on a partially submerged log, a perfect stance for preening, and a welcome respite from that chilly Creek water.

A trio of chickadees zipped right past my head and simultaneously landed on a tall thistle, bending that weed almost to the ground as they scrounged for the few remaining seeds that remained on the large stalk.  I can’t say I’ve ever seen chickadees at Council Point Park and they were delightfully animated, wriggling their tiny bodies as their feet sought to grasp onto the thistle, while hanging on for dear life in a struggle to find a few precious seeds.  I wished I had something to offer them.

My eyes were watering and nose was running from the cold air, and it took two entire loops to get myself warmed up to a point I felt comfortable, despite multiple layers of clothing.  As I began on the trail, I must admit I got a momentary warm feeling when my squirrel buddies came scampering over for peanuts.  I had toted a couple of peanut-filled Ziploc bags with me today and had nearly emptied the second one when I was on the last leg of the perimeter path.  However, I needn’t have feared running out of treats for them, because another walker, a gentleman who always feeds the squirrels, was resting on a blue metal park bench while pitching peanuts to two eager squirrels who were hovering nearby and playing grab-n-go.  The squirrels benefit from this gentleman and yours truly, and we often compare notes how these little critters pretend they’ve had nothing to eat for days – like today, they were scampering after his peanuts, and then, if those rascals didn’t come racing over to see me, sniffing and begging at the tips of my walking shoes, just like the proverbial kids in a candy store – so many goodies, so little time.

Speaking of time … I believe time may be running out for mild temperatures here in Michigan.  Our weather report is pretty dire for tomorrow evening, with temps in the 20s, wind chills in the teens and snow flurries.  I know that as I walked past this scarecrow, I caught a glimpse of him looking longingly at my heavy jacket, while shivering in his calico shirt and striped pants.

With that early appearance of the sun today, just like yesterday, I was able to get five miles walked and that pushed me to 855 miles walked thus far in 2017, a full 100 miles over my original goal!  The cold weather will not be a hindrance to achieving any more miles, so … if the weather stays dry, I’ll keep getting the steps in and aim for a new goal to end the year.  Onward and upward!

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Brrr and burrs.

11-06-17

Yesterday was a “stay in your jammies” kind of day.

I knew we were having crummy weather with no chance for a walk, so I didn’t even set the alarm clock Saturday night, which is very unusual for me.  I thought I’d see what time I’d wake up on my own, plus we got that extra hour of sleep.  I was reading an interesting article on sleep deprivation the other day and was amazed at how many hours of sleep your body REALLY needs, as opposed to how many hours of sleep you THINK you need.  In fact, the author provided a calculator to check out the hours of sleep you require, and I think you will be surprised:  http://sleepyti.me/

The article suggested that adults ages 18 to 64 are supposed to be getting nine hours of sleep per night, and, if you’re getting only seven hours of sleep, it can cause serious sleep deprivation.  That really surprised me.

Well, no sleep deprivation issues for me, yesterday anyway, because I nearly slept the clock around!  It must have been my comfy PJs that I was wearing – they’re the cat’s pajamas!

cats pajamas

Thankfully, that extra hour of sleep gave us plenty of time to turn back all the clocks.  It is a year since the guts sprang out of the kitchen schoolhouse clock, rendering it silent instead of striking out the hour and half-hour with Westminster chimes.  I was merely replacing the C battery when I went to adjust the hands back an hour, and the chimes mechanism broke.  This year the wind-up alarm clock I use in case the battery goes on the regular alarm clock, went kaput.  It has never worked properly since Day One, and you needed to wind it up twice a day or it conked out and stopped working.  Well, once again it had stopped, so yesterday, I wound it up like usual, but this time it died.  It just stopped ticking (obviously it is not a Timex).  My grandmother had a Big Ben wind-up alarm clock on the nightstand next to her bed for decades.  Whenever we visited, I always slept with her and I can remember her winding it every night before she turned in.  That clock was so loud … tick-tock, tick-tock all night and it drove me crazy, even though I’ve always been a sound sleeper.  I left this wind-up clock in another room because it, too, was loud.  But, this clock was an off-brand and I was so fed up with it, that I tossed it into the garbage, only to have it start ticking again.  Hmmm – well, hopefully it doesn’t resume ticking and the garbage man thinks there is a bomb inside the garbage bag and the police show up at the door.

So, I ask you – why is nothing easy anymore?

This morning, I was all geared up for a long walk thanks to the time change, but … I stepped outside for my walk and noticed the huge black clouds that loomed overhead.   The clouds were so low, it felt like I could reach up and touch them.  I hesitated on my departure, thinking it looked like a serious storm was brewing, more than just a splash-and-dash event needing an umbrella.  Of course it was the first day after the time change and I had my sights set on getting five miles walked every morning going forward, weather permitting.  I went back into the house, piddled around with a few things and went back out a half-hour later.  Well, the sky had lightened up a tad, so off I went.  By the time I got to Council Point Park, the sky was blue, so I was glad I didn’t stay inside the house.

It was cold on the trail and the breeze was blowing along, especially in the wide-open spaces – brrr!  I was thankful I added some extra layers and have decided that we have probably seen the last of those mild days we so enjoyed throughout most of October.

The trees are really beautiful at the Park and I should have taken some more pictures of them in their glory, because once a big wind comes along, those pretty leaves will be scattered everywhere, like those that I, and the other walkers, scuffed through as we walked along this morning.  The leaves from maples mingling with pear and apple tree leaves, as well as various bushes that appear along the perimeter path already are littering the trail.

And, there was something new skittering across that asphalt path – burrs.  They were everywhere, because no doubt the wind caused them to break off the tall and now-lifeless weeds that line the edge of the Ecorse Creek.  In fact, I remember taking pictures and writing about the Tiger Swallowtail butterfly earlier this year, as its delicate feet alighted ever so gently on a large burr:  https://lindaschaubblog.net/2017/07/24/summer-is-fluttering-on-by/

Well, those dead burrs are everywhere now and I saw them on the path, then later as I was walking home, when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something brown attached to my sock on the right outside ankle.  I had a little panic attack thinking it was some type of critter that hitched a ride home with me, then I realized it was just a brown burr.  In the meantime, my imagination was playing tricks on me and I was fearing the worst.  Whew!

[Image of boots in the leaves by freestocks.org and Pexel]

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Fall:  For the critters, is it feast or famine?

11-04-17 - header

The squirrels at the Park have become lazy of late, preferring to stay up in their nests peering down at me.  You know, I get a kick out of those little guys, but don’t like them enough to climb up a tree to hand feed them, though I do admit to gazing up to a squirrel perched on a branch over my head to cajole him into coming down to ground level for some peanuts.

Sometimes there is method in my madness, as I’m looking for a photo op for that day’s blogpost, but, most of the time I don’t need to coax them, as they come running over on their own.  I have been generous doling out the peanuts all year, so perhaps they have been tucking away more peanuts than I give them credit for, and this accounts for their rather blasé and lackadaisical behavior recently.

The weather has also gotten fairly ugly the past two weeks.  I know these dark, chilly and/or rainy mornings lack the appeal of a bright and sunny morn, so I’m less inclined to jump out of bed, eager to begin my day either.

I wonder if animals that scavenge for food to store for the Winter are letting their guard down, having been spoiled by our past two mild Winters?

What squirrels I do see scampering around my feet are roly-poly.  Yep, those peanut pals are downright pudgy, hardly resembling the lithe little buddies that have greeted me nearly every morning these past six months, thanks to me sharing the love … and a lot of peanuts.

squirrel on grass

It seems hard to believe that eating peanuts in the shell would increase your girth, and it sure wasn’t the one bag of M&Ms I gave my favorite squirrel on the blue bench this Summer.  Nor, could it be the worm-ridden apples or dirty old walnuts I see them noshing on occasionally.  The berries on the Park bushes were either enjoyed by the pair of woman walkers, or the birds.

squirrel sitting

Meanwhile, the squirrels in the neighborhood, that usually glean a good deal of their diet from raiding homeowners’ bird feeders, now are in hog heaven, feasting on the now-dilapidated Halloween pumpkins that still adorn front porches, awaiting the next trash pickup.  I watched the smaller black squirrels diving headfirst into the pumpkin’s cavity, or the larger red and gray squirrels, who might be a tad too big to fit into the opening,  chomping away at the pumpkin’s evil grin, or triangular eyes and nose.

I hurried out the door this morning, thankful that it was rain-free and checked out those few squirrels who still hustled for peanuts alongside me as I traveled the perimeter path at the Park.  I’m taking advantage of any and all nice weather to bulk up my steps, and that window of opportunity this morning was just perfect for doing so.

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