JD Allinder

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.”

  1. Followed by veggie chili and hot coffee! Heaven!

  2. We followed up with rawhide and green tea. The next best thing?

  3. […] Duke to the 1,100-acre Crosswinds Marsh in New Boston. (I’ve written more about the property here.) I try to visit Crosswinds at least once per season, and we’d been talking about getting out […]

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