JD Allinder

Archive for January, 2010|Monthly archive page

Snow Day!

In Posts on January 8, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Though it’s been snowing pretty consistently for the past few weeks in Southeast Michigan, yesterday marked our first big dump of the season. Unfortunately, we were spared the brunt of late December’s pre-Christmas blizzard that crippled much of the Midwest and East Coast, so yesterday’s mini-storm was overdue and enthusiastically welcomed by Jane and me (and apparently only Jane and me).

It started in the morning, and, by the time we got out for our post-lunch walk, it had reached near whiteout conditions. Granted, the timing may not have been the most convenient – people were at work, kids were still in school – but I was struck by how few  were out enjoying it. There’s nothing more beautiful than falling snow, and, on our two-hour walk around town, we saw exactly five people and three dogs outside. Ba humbug!

We started our walk through Depot Town. All the shops and bars were open, but nobody was doing much business. Then we headed to Riverside Park where someone had apparently flattened out this probably-stolen (and curiously Western European looking) Wise Man into a makeshift sled. Not sure if that’s sacrilegious or not, but it made me laugh out loud. Viva Ypsi!

Jane was a wonderful off-leash girl all through the park, and the waterfowl poop on which she ordinarily attempts to graze was, thankfully, covered by a fresh layer of snow. She certainly could have dug for the buried riparian delights, which she often does, but she was too busy running up and down the riverbank giving the ducks and geese the what-for.

There was an unusually large number of geese at Riverside, and I felt a little sorry for them having to stay in the freezing water rather than huddling together on the shore, but Jane would allow none of them on her turf. Click on the picture below to get a better view of the gaggle.

After almost being run over by a salt truck on Michigan Avenue – the driver didn’t even apologize when I yelled at him – Jane and I walked through the overgrown wastelands on the south side of town. Even the decay of abandoned houses and crumbling factories is given a fresh new perspective when covered in still-falling snow. Like the geese in the Huron, though, I felt sorry for the homeless people squatting in the bombed out, disused factories between Michigan Ave and I-94. I could see their tracks in the snow, coming and going from openings in barbed wire fences and various graffiti-covered buildings. It’s amazing that there is so much blight and human suffering right in my own backyard. As much as I love the snow and cold, not being able to return to my warm, cozy nest – with its taken-for-granted electricity and hot running water – would sour not only my appreciation for the season, but for every aspect of life. I’ll never understand why some, like Jane and me, are so fortunate while others are seemingly cursed. The distribution of blessings sometimes seems so random and out of whack.

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10 4 ’10

In Posts on January 1, 2010 at 8:34 pm

In celebration of the first day of 2010, Jane and I took a ten-mile walk at Crosswinds Marsh. (Actually, I walked ten miles, she ran 11 or 12.) Located in New Boston, Michigan, Crosswinds Marsh is one of the largest human-made wetlands in the country, and it’s a beautiful little secret. After Detroit Metro completed its expansion in 2002, the Michigan Department of Environmental Equality required the airport to create one-and-a-half acres of wetland for every one acre impacted by construction. They were also required to move away all threatened or endangered plants and animals to the new site. The result is the 1,100-acre Crosswinds Marsh.

Jane and I haven’t been to the marsh since late spring. (There’s very little shade, so summer hikes are out of the question.) It’s about 20 miles from home, so it’s not an everyday place. I’d been meaning to take her since the fall but, for whatever reason, never got around to it. Today was a perfect day for our visit, and it made the wait worthwhile. The temperature was in the mid-20s, which is my ideal for hiking. I can walk forever in the cold, and the 20s are still warm enough that I don’t require too many layers. There’s also a demarcation line in the 20s where people tend to stay inside. I like having the world to myself when I hike, and today’s cold fostered that sense of being in the wild. Most of the beasts are tucked away for the winter, too, which means there’s less competition for Jane’s attention. With fewer people and animals about, I’m better able to work with her off leash. Best of all about the 20s, though, is the frozen ground. (I’m not a fan of mud.) It’s amazing how just a few degrees can make such a difference. Yesterday it was 34, and the walking conditions were awful. The snow was wet and slushy, and the slop soaked through my pants and gloves. I was a wet, miserable grump. The planets were aligned today, though! Gorgeous. Walking was as smooth as glass. It was deeply satisfying to us both.

Crosswinds has 13 miles of trails, and Jane and I began with the six-mile horseback riding trail that circles the perimeter of the property. The trail is flat and wide – perfect for novice walkers – and we were the only ones on it. (No horses today, though plenty of frozen horse poop, which Jane, surprisingly, stayed out of for the most part.) Jane ran the entire six miles off leash (our four-mile interior walk was a combination of off-leash and 50-ft. lead), and she responded beautifully to my stop, wait, and come whistles and vocal commands. I was comfortable letting her walk about 300 feet in front of me. Beyond that, though, she seemed to sense that she was on her own, and I’d have to call her back. She got out of my sight twice, but she returned to my calls and whistles in under a minute. Jane loves walking with me, but her idea of with is very different from mine. She’d run miles ahead – literally – if I let her, so every day I try to convince her that being by my side is the best possible place to be. She understands in theory, but her migration and hunting instincts remain in fierce competition with my parameters and commands. There are days when I can’t believe that I’m seriously attempting to break a hound (a sensitive one at that), and then there are days, like today, when the walk is elevated to an almost spiritual level, and I think, “Wow, maybe I can actually do this.”