Tag Archives: hiking

Hiking in southeast Michigan

Our community college offers enrichment programs for retirees at very reasonable prices. I signed up for a summer series of five events (a lecture and tour of the Zoo’s Penguinarium, a talk on hiking in Southeast Michigan, two hikes and a canoe trip on a voyageur canoe).

The hiking talk was at the Community College on Monday, and I learned loads of useful information that would have helped when I was hiking in the Cotswolds (without a cell phone or map) or in the Lake District in northern England in November (when it got dark much earlier than in July) or in Sedona last January (where it was so cold when we left it did not occur to us to bring water). I came away from that talk thinking that I could be the poster child for what not to do when hiking. Note to self–always bring cell phone, printed map (in case my cell battery dies), compass, water, snack, flashlight.

The first hike was this morning at Stony Creek Metro Park, one of a network of thirteen parks in Southeast Michigan.

Stony Creek encompases more than 4,000 acres and has trails and paths for walking, running and bike riding. We walked along a trail through prairies and woods for a little more than two miles. Here are some pics I took along the way.

Bees seemed to love these flowers.


Adventures in Britain

My first trip to England was to hike in the Lake District with three friends. One friend had been to Grasmere several times for Wordsworth conferences, and he was our leader. With his trusty guidebook in hand, we set off.


Unfortunately, he neglected to take into account that the length of days in summer (when the conferences were held) was different from the length of days in November, when we were visiting.

This became apparent on our first hike. We went out in early afternoon, when he thought we would have six hours to ramble through the countryside. But the light quickly began to fade around 4 p.m. and we were soon plunged into darkness. We had no flashlights and this was before cell phones, so when I say darkness, I mean darkness. There were no visible lights from houses and no streetlights to guide us to a road. We were sunk.

I remember telling myself that I was on an adventure with three friends and had nothing to fear.

Somehow, we got back to town safely.

The next day, we left much earlier and remained cognizant of the time.

After two days of hiking, though, I decided to stay in town to poke around the shops and visit Dove Cottage, Wordsworth’s home. When I announced my plan at breakfast, our leader said, “You can’t.”

“Why can’t I?”

“We came to hike,” he said emphatically.

“And I have hiked,” I replied.

He found it incomprehensible that I would take a day off from the very purpose of our trip. But I was not deterred.

Don’t get me wrong—I like to hike. But hiking in the Lake District is arduous.


When the book instructed us to scramble across a brook, it neglected to mention that in November the rocks in the brook would be covered in ice. The same with scaling rock faces. After two days, I had had enough and wanted a day off.

Besides, I enjoy poking around in little shops and visiting museums.

At the end of that day, I met up with the other three for drinks at the local pub.

Intermittent rain had made their hiking even more challenging (and less enjoyable), and they were exhausted.

I was happy I hadn’t gone hiking, as I enjoyed shopping in the village, visiting Dove Cottage and walking around Lake Grasmere.


My next hiking trip to England was to the Cotswolds where the Cotswold Way sounded much gentler than the Lake District walks. I went in the summer when the days are long, but I still had unexpected challenges—like not being able to find the gate in a field and having to climb a tree to get over a barbed-wire fence (hoping no one was capturing this escapade on video).

Being more of a city girl, both trips challenged me and gave me a sense of accomplishment.

Next year, I am going to the U.K.—this time to Wales, where I plan to walk leisurely around gardens.


A walk in the woods

Leading up to my trip to the Cotswolds, I watched multiple episodes of a British detective show called Midsomer Murders, set in a fictional English village. Although the murders are often gruesome, the detectives who solve them are soft-spoken and polite.

After watching about a dozen episodes, I was left with one key question: “Why do Brits go into the woods?”

Many of the murder victims are just walking through the woods surrounding the village when disaster strikes.

I vowed that I would avoid the woods.

But, the truth is, I did go into the woods in the Cotswolds—it was the only way to get to the next village or to the gardens I wanted to visit—and I went alone.travel-trust-freedomVisions of Midsomer Murders accompanied me, and I was aware that this might not have been one of my brighter ideas, but, when in Rome….

Going into the woods alone is something I would never do at home. I avoid places that are isolated or secluded; I stick to the beaten (paved) path. But there is something about traveling—to another country and culture—that enables me to be more open, daring and trusting.

As I walked through the woods in the Cotswolds, I remembered a trip to Kruger Park in South Africa. I was traveling with two other women, staying at a lodge on the Crocodile River. One evening, three South African men picked us up for a night Safari. Off we went into the growing darkness, in an open safari truck. The men had guns—in case we encountered lions.travel-trust-freedom

Once inside the park, we drove on the paved road for a while, spotting a leopard, elephants and other wild animals.

Then our driver turned off the paved road onto a rutted path and past a sign announcing that the road was closed. Yikes!

Here we were, three women, heading into the deep bush with three armed men we did not know. I remember thinking that this would never happen back home. But, when in Africa…

We drove about a quarter mile into the dark woods and then stopped. The men jumped out of the truck, helped us down, and led us on foot deeper into the bush—until we reached a clearing about a hundred yards away.

In the clearing were three more armed South African men, standing around tables filled with food. Several types of barbecued meat (Kudu is the one I remember most clearly), a variety of salads, breads and desserts were set out for us. It was a veritable feast.

We sat at a table covered in a chintz cloth. We ate, drank wine and chatted with our guides (mostly about American pop culture). I felt incredibly blessed—and incredibly grateful.

Foreign travel is usually that kind of blessing for me. Once outside my comfort zone, I am open to new experiences and able to see things from a different perspective. I can let go of fears that usually hold me back.


Which path?

My bucket list included the Cotswolds, so when I was planning to visit friends in Ireland, I decided to tack on a few days to explore English villages with thatched-roof cottages and hillsides dotted with sheep.

trust-God-vulnerabilitytrust-God-vulnerabilityI had been hiking in the Lake District of England some years ago, so I had a basic understanding of how hilly the English countryside can be and how difficult it can be to follow hiking directions. On that trip, our “leader” was a friend who had hiked in the Lake District several times before and assured us his guidebook was reliable.

We got hopelessly lost the first day, and since it was November, the sun began to set in late afternoon (our “leader” had only hiked there in the summer and had not taken into account the shorter days of November). His confidence waned along with the daylight. Fortunately, we found our way back to our village, but we were a bit more skeptical the rest of the trip.

Over the next few days, I came to understand that the guidebook was written with locals in mind—people who had grown up hiking these hills and would know which stile was the one just past where MacDonald’s barn used to be. We were in the dark, and I quickly began to mock the guidebook. Turn left after the second black sheep, I would offer, because that was about as helpful as the directions in the book.

Walking in the Cotswolds seemed more reliable because there is actually a path called the Cotswold Way, a walk of about 100 miles from Chipping Campden in the north to Bath in the south. I planned to hike only the first part of the Way and thought, “How difficult could it be to follow a path with a name?”trust-God-vulnerability

Silly me.

My B&B host gave me maps with the local hikes clearly indicated and instructed me to follow the signs for the public footpaths which would take me to the top of Dover’s Hill and the start of the Cotswold Way. There I would find signs decorated with acorns to indicate the Way.trust-God-vulnerabilityI crossed through the first two fields with no problem, but the third gateway was surrounded by sheep, and I was hesitant to scatter them—not out of fear, but out of politeness. Why should they have to move just for me?

So I turned right and followed the fence line up the hill. Eventually, I found the footpath again and managed to find the start of the Cotswold Way.trust-God-vulnerabilityThe walk from Chipping Campden to Broadway is 4.5 miles and I knew that walking across the fields would take longer than a straight 4.5 mile walk back home. But after more than an hour of walking and no sight of Broadway or the Broadway Tower (which I expected to be able to see from a distance), I was getting discouraged.


Broadway Tower

Just then, I met a young man walking in the opposite direction and asked if I was on the path to Broadway.

“Yes,” he said. “You go on this path another quarter mile and then cross through two wheat fields.” He paused before adding, “Broadway will be on your right.”

At the end of the two wheat fields, there was still no sign of Broadway—only another field on my right.

Eventually, I found my way to Broadway and enjoyed an afternoon in the village.

I decided to take the bus home.

The next day, I planned to visit Hidcote Garden which was three miles in a different direction. Rather than risk getting lost on the footpath, I decided to take the bus to the town a mile from Hidcote and then just walk from there. Armed with my map and directions from my host, I felt confident—only to walk much more than one mile with Hidcote nowhere in sight.trust-God-vulnerability

Fortunately, lots of people walk the paths, and I am not averse to asking for directions. Sure enough, I was on the wrong path. Once pointed in the right direction, I found the garden with no problem.

By then, I had begun to reflect on the paths as a metaphor for my life.

At the end of that day in Broadway, I had allowed myself a little pity party. I am alone, I whined to myself. Oh, I have loving family and friends, but since Jim and Ted died, I am not loved in the way I once was. I am not important to anyone in the way I once was. Poor me.

Here I was in England, staying at a lovely B&B, visiting churches and museums built hundreds of years ago, wandering through exquisite gardens and enjoying fine meals—and I was feeling sorry for myself. That was not the path I wanted to follow.

Rather, I want to be on the path that continually calls to mind my blessings, the path that invites me to gratitude and generosity.

Perhaps, like Broadway that first day, the destination is not visible as quickly as I want, but my days in the Cotswolds remind me to relax and trust that God is guiding me, and if I can do that, I can appreciate wherever I am along the path and eventually get to where I am meant to be.

Learning compassion

Nova Scotia was my summer vacation destination this year, and Peggy’s Cove was my first stop.

This small fishing village sits on a rugged coastline; its lighthouse is set upon huge boulders. Although the ocean was calm that day, I could imagine how treacherous a nor’easter or winter storm would be. “These are people who know how fragile life is,” I thought as I pondered rain, wind and waves lashing their homes.

peggys cove

Peggy’s Cove lighthouse

From Peggy’s Cove, we stopped at the nearby memorial for Swissair flight 111 which crashed into the ocean on September 2, 1998, killing all 229 passengers and crew. I remember this plane crash and how the people from Peggy’s Cove got into their fishing boats and searched for survivors. They were the first responders, and their empathy for those who had lost loved ones was apparent in the news coverage I watched. The memorial sits on a rather desolate piece of the rocky coastline, a somber site.


Swissair flight 111 memorial

This memorial was the first stop on a “tragedy tour” that peppered my days in Nova Scotia.

The next stop was Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax where more than one hundred bodies recovered from the Titanic are buried. Some of the dead are named, but other tombstones bear only the numbers assigned to bodies as they were pulled from the ocean. Almost a hundred years before the crash of the Swissair flight, fishermen from Peggy’s Cove responded to this earlier crisis in the waters off their coast.

titanic 2

Five years after the Titanic sunk, the people in Halifax faced with a more personal tragedy—two ships collided in the Halifax harbor. One was filled with munitions on its way to the war in Europe. The resulting explosion killed more than 1500 people and injured 9000. More than 13,000 homes and businesses bordering the harbor were destroyed.

Another fishing villages we visited was Lunenburg, where we came upon a memorial to locals lost at sea. Some families have lost many members, and I again thought of how a people living so close to the northern sea know the fragility of life.


Lunenburg Memorial

But Nova Scotia is more than its tragedies. Parts of the coastline are lined with beautiful beaches that are bordered by fields of wildflowers or dense forests. Inland, Nova Scotia is rolling hills dotted with farms and sheep and forests. We hiked through salt marshes, city parks and sandy beaches. The waterfront in Halifax is lined with restaurants and outdoor cafes, and a busker festival that weekend brought throngs of people out to enjoy the summer nights.

salt marh

Salt Marsh trail

There are also music festivals and gift shops filled with locally-made items—pewter, hand-knitting, crafty home goods and jewelry. I sensed a certain pride and independence, perhaps a resilience shaped by suffering.

The juxtaposition of the natural beauty, the spirit of the people and the many memorials touched me deeply. The people of Nova Scotia seem to have become compassionate through vulnerability and hopeful through sorrow—valuable life lessons. I hope to visit again.