JD Allinder

Dog Day Afternoon

In Posts on August 16, 2009 at 6:34 pm

Huron Jane

It’s miserably hot today. I’m not complaining, though, because it’s been such a mild summer. It’s really been perfect: warm, sunny mornings, afternoon showers, cool nights – it’s felt more like spring than summer. Today is a different story, though. The dog days have finally arrived. This is typically the warmest week of the year – summer’s unforgiving climax – but I’ll be rewarded next week as we begin our downhill slide toward fall. I am not a summer person. Never have been, never will be. This may be one of the reasons I get along so well with dogs: they’re as invigorated by cold weather as I am.

Despite my abhorrence of heat, I refuse to let it lick me. (I try never to allow the weather to interfere with my objectives.) So I slather on the SPF 70, keep myself hydrated, and brave it (relatively) uncomplainingly. Jane’s not a fan of heat, but she’ll still hike five to eight miles if she’s got continual access to a body of water where she can swim. The Unnamed Trail is perfect for days like today, because it runs parallel to the Huron River and much of it is shaded by mature trees. So that’s where we headed for this afternoon’s lunchtime outing.

After arriving at our starting point at St. Joe’s, Jane and I made our way through the woods and down to the river as usual. Rather than heading north like we always do, Jane tugged me south. So I followed. Sometimes it’s good to let the dog lead. Like children, dogs can be empowered by making choices. Jane took me off on a short sub-trail that we rarely travel and out to the railroad tracks. We don’t often walk by the railroad tracks this time of year, because there’s no shade. But this is what Jane wanted to do, for whatever reason, so I went along. We walked north along the tracks for about a half mile and then had to walk on a trestle where the tracks cross the river. We made our way across despite this warning.

No Trespassing

The sign both confused and irritated me. First of all, whose private property were we on? (They’re railroad tracks!) And what’s the harm in our walking there? We were being respectful, minding our own business, and having an adventure.

Outlaw Jane

Once safely across (and avoiding prosecution) I walked on, still following Jane’s lead, for about another quarter mile. We came to another overpass, much smaller and narrower, and made of stone. Jane led me off the tracks and down the east side of a brush-covered embankment (whereupon my feet got tangled in the remnants of an ancient, rusted fence and I fell flat on my face). Once down the hill, we were greeted with the sound of a swiftly running brook (I was instantly transported to childhood – North Carolina – mountain springs) and the sight of this beautiful stone bridge and boardwalk.

Secret bridge

I felt as if we’d entered a secret, magical place. It was silent, save the sound of running water, and a little bit mysterious, too. We followed the boardwalk over swamp and peat for about half a mile out to the Huron.  At the river we happened upon this shelter.

The Love Shack

Despite being covered with knife-carved devotions of undying love and requisite Kilroy scribblings, this weather-beaten, graffitied shack had a good energy about it. The plywood remains were surely saturated with memories of secret rendezvous. If those boards could talk!

After following the winding boardwalk for another mile or so, Jane and I took a deer path through a small copse that dumped us out on a paved trail in Parker Mill Park (which eventually converges with Gallup Park). We jumped back in woods, though, and followed a hobo path that led us back out to the railroad tracks. We crossed over finding ourselves at the Ann Arbor Water Treatment Plant. From here we walked west, parallel to Dixboro Road, and then back into the woods again along the Huron, walking two or so miles south to our starting point at St. Joe’s. It was one of the best adventures Jane and I have had yet (she gets full credit for it), and it’s especially interesting to me that it took place on the most miserable day of the year…

When we got back home, I checked the map to discover that our secret find is known as Forest Park. I’d seen it on the map before and had been curious. You can park your car on Geddes at the entrance to Parker Mill and walk or bike your way through to Forest Park, but I prefer Jane’s back door discovery. We will be visiting again soon.

(And now I have to give a shout out to Ann Arbor. Though complaining about the gentrification and dominant bourgeois culture of A2 is one of my favorite pastimes, the city must be commended for dedicating so much land to nature. Ann Arbor’s commitment to green makes it a truly livable city.)

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  1. Another fun-to-read story. I’ll be looking forward to continued reading about Jane, far after class has ended. Yours was my favorite blog. I saw it mentioned in several of the other blog essays. I think others enjoyed it as well. Yeah, Jane!

  2. Wow. Thank-you so much for your nice comment. That’s really thoughtful of you, and it made my day. Cheers!

  3. Are you sure that they (In the owner of the property) won’t convict you for crossing the railroad, and the crossing of the ‘private’ property?

  4. Hi Justin: Thanks for your comment. I’m pretty sure Jane and I won’t get in trouble for walking on the railroad overpass. If we do go to jail, will you bail us out?

  5. ooh, i want to go to that shelter and that cool stone bridge. colin and william would love it! take us there soon, and we can picnic!

  6. Your blog is fun, educational. Well done. From an old dog who learns “new tricks” not well.. if at all.

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