So I’m not exactly new to the area, but I’m new to sticking around Northern Michigan for more than a week at a time, especially in February and March. To celebrate my third week in the Glen Arbor area I went for a hike on what I’d heard was one of the less populated trails of the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.
Indeed the Valley View trail was deserted when I arrived (and when I hiked, and when I left). In fact, it was so deserted there was no obvious starting point to the hike. I should say, there was no obvious trail. The starting point was clearly right by the sign, but rather than using common sense I began walking on the first well-traveled path I found. This turned out to be a game trail, well-traveled by deer. A scant forty minutes later, I was back on course. A portion of the real trail:
I knew from extensive research (i.e. ten minutes of peripatetic Googling) that I should not expect spectacular scenery. This hike was not the Bay View, the Dunes, or even the beach insofar as providing gasp-worthy glimpses of glassy blue water and elegant, shifting sands. But as with any quality trail, it provided a sense of solitude and tranquility. No joke there. I’ve been alone on a lot of trails, but I have never felt lonely on any of them.
I have, however, felt my shoes slip and slide in crusty, frozen snow. When that happened on the Valley View, I deciding to try something I had never tried before: Snowshoes!
Whether here in Northern Michigan, out west in the Rocky Mountains, or out east in the White Mountains, most of my hiking has been in summer or fall. Thus the inexperience with snowshoes. But from the 1981 Charles Bronson adventure film Death Hunt–a monumental marker, I daresay, in the mental landscape of any boy who was thirteen in 1981–I knew I could travel quickly in them, and fool any pursuers by putting them on backward. I did not put them on backward. I had enough trouble putting them on forward. But, once safely ensconced, my feet felt lighter, as if lifted by air and I even began to jog while wearing a pack. This, too, was inspired by Death Hunt, which featured Lee Marvin as the grizzled Canadian Mountie who pursues Bronson, a man wrongly accused of a crime, across snows and mountains and generally breathtaking winter scenery.
At some point, I took a break from being pursued by Lee Marvin, hunting dogs, and sharp shooters in airplanes to snap another photo. At another point, I realized I was no longer 13 and neither were my knees. Still, I had a feeling of satisfaction at the end of the hike–and there’s something that hasn’t changed since 1981.