"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Revisiting the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail for Surcease

Trust me. The view will get better if you keep reading.

I always feel like I'm repenting when I go hiking. With the exception of this past June, my hikes have usually been preceded by much procrastinating. My body is too easily disposed to lethargy, and reaching my mid-30s has not helped. With some ironical gratitude, I thank Michigan's Democrat and Republican gubernatorial candidates for getting me back out on the trail.

The two guys fighting it out for governor in Michigan have both demonstrated weak negotiating skills by initially failing--and then barely managing--to negotiate one measly debate. With big money playing an even bigger role in this election, debates are essential to provide the public a reasonable chance to evaluate the actual candidates. But if these two men can't even agree on a set of debates with each other, can we expect them to be any better at negotiating a state budget with scores of opponents and a multitude of competing interests?

After spending a few hours over several days familiarizing myself with candidates, I felt dispirited. And this gave me the needed shove to get back out on the hiking trail. Yesterday I came home from the office, changed into hiking attire, hastily made a peanut butter sandwich for supper, and headed back to the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail.

Many sections of the trail effectively belong to hunters until April. Nevertheless, several safe trail heads remain available beginning at the Gerald Eddy Discover Center. I did the Lakeview Trail, a horseshoe-shaped byway that skirts lovely Mill Lake. Here is a peek at what Mother Earth offered this weary pilgrim.

With leaves changing colors, a rich golden shimmer penetrated the forest in sporadic patches. On a cool Wednesday evening, I had the trail to myself--at least as far as human contact is concerned. I never hiked more than a few yards without hearing a rush of leaves as a nearby chipmunk or squirrel darted out of sight. The funny thing is, in the thick underbrush, I didn't even notice them until I heard them scurrying away. I even stirred up a doe as I headed to my favorite spot along the Mill Lake shoreline.

Why do I have to cajole myself into taking a couple hours every week to visit this place? Can I really be that wrapped up in the mess of our "civilized world"? I can. We all can. People who are passionate, people who give a damn--each of us is susceptible to being overcome by the unhealthy frenzy of a general election’s closing weeks.

So if, like me, you catch yourself getting feverishly frustrated with the election, take a breath. Better yet, take a walk. You will see this country is still big enough and rich enough to sustain us all. It is a durable landscape capable of supporting people with conflicting views. Still, to keep a level head in days to come, I expect I'll need a few more excursions to enjoy what Lord Byron called, "the pleasure in the pathless woods." If you are reading this blog, whatever segment of the political spectrum you fall within, I encourage you to do the same.


  1. This is a wonderful blog entry. I felt this with my rainbow encounter last night and planned to blog on it today. All these pictures are wonderful. Thanks Jake!!

  2. Glad you enjoyed it, Mom. I'll look forward to reading about the rainbow. We had a couple of spectacular ones last month after early-evening rainstorms. What a visual treat!

  3. o weary pilgrim... the political climate down here is just as frustrating. Glad to see other folks take solace in nature too! It's so calming... I think I'll also be making it a point to hike around a nearby lake come election time!

  4. There you go, forsaking the "h" and spelling just "o." :) Hey, that rhymed! Thanks for stopping by and empathizing. On the optimistic side, I had a nice visit with a local candidate last night, face to face, beginning and ending with a handshake. It was the most pleasant bit of politicking I've been subjected to all year.