JD Allinder

Archive for March, 2010|Monthly archive page

Stinchfield Woods

In Posts on March 25, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Stinchfield Woods is, hands-down, my favorite hiking spot in all of Southeast Michigan. Located in Dexter on 777 pristine acres of rolling hills covered in hardwoods and evergreens (plus several hundred acres of additional adjacent land), Stinchfield Woods is the granddaddy of dog outings, the creme de la creme. At about 30 miles from home, visiting Stinchfield is a special occasion, too, which I like: it adds to the excitement. I’ve been hiking Stinchfield since 1996, and I never tire of it or take it for granted. Its majestic beauty always fills me with a hushed awe.

Jane and I visited yesterday after lunch, hiked about ten miles, and left exhausted and satisfied. We even discovered new trails – a special thrill as I thought I had every inch of the property committed to memory. It was a very special day for Jane, because it was her first time to hike the woods with complete liberty. During our first year together, she was always tethered to a 50-foot lead. In December, our last visit, she hiked sans lead but was weighted with a 15-pound backpack that kept her focused and unable to perform her amazing (and terrifying) vanishing act. Yesterday she did it all on her own. Twice she stuck her nose to the ground and took off running, but both times I was able to call her back. Sweet girl. She so desperately wants to run away, and I feel badly that I can’t meet that need of hers. She can run around me, parallel to me, and in front of me, but the hound in her wants to run away from me. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to satisfy that desire of hers.

At any rate, we enjoyed ourselves tremendously, and I was exceptionally pleased by Jane’s obedience and restraint. The temperature rose to the upper 50s, and we worked up quite a sweat on the steep trails. Stinchfield’s trails are moderately to very challenging, so I don’t recommended them for beginners. There is a wide, mile-long “boulevard” of a trail with a moderate incline that bisects the property that is appropriate for the casual walker, hiker, or runner, but the best workout and the most beautiful views are found deep inside the woods, accessible only by secondary and tertiary trails and deer paths. There’s an old gavel pit in the middle of the site, and Jane and I hike out to it every time to take in the best view in Washtenaw County.

Yesterday we climbed down into the middle of the pit, and the temperature rose five or ten degrees. Jane loved nosing around in the tall grasses and weeds down there – I suspect it’s a rodent superhighway – and I spotted my first garter snake of the season. It lifted its head to check me out, then slithered away moving in and out of the dead grasses. I followed it for a bit trying to get a decent photo, and it stopped every few feet or so to stand up and rescrutinize me. When I suddenly heard several other snakes moving around underfoot I hightailed it out of there. As fascinating as they are, I respect the privacy of a nest. That’s a bit too up close and personal for me.

If you haven’t been to Stinchfield Woods, I strongly recommend a visit. It’s perfect in all seasons. (It’s especially nice and cool on hot summer days.) Be sure to wear sturdy shoes, carry food and water, and allow yourself to become completely lost. Trust me, it’s the tonic for all that ails you.

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Fun with Duke and Jane

In Posts on March 19, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Although it’s technically still winter, spring-like weather has invaded southeast Michigan. Temperatures have been about 20 degrees above normal for the past week or so, and the melting snow mixed with last week’s heavy rains have turned most of our favorite trails into mudslides. We still walk them, though. It doesn’t seem to bother Jane much, and it’s actually easier on my calves than the deep snow. It’s just so…muddy. (Another reason why I always lament the end of winter, the only time of year when I feel truly content.)

Jane and I took our post-lunch walk this afternoon with neighbor Annika and her 18-month-old chocolate Lab Duke. We’ve just recently become acquainted with Annika and Duke, and they’ve joined Jane and me a few times on our outings. Duke is a very sweet dog – still a puppy, really – and has enormous amounts of energy. He’s faster and stronger than Jane – and they both know it – but she pulls rank with him over the really important stuff, like sticks, and he yelps like a pup receiving maternal correction. Duke is excellent on the trail. He keeps a tireless eye on Annika, Jane, and me, running back and forth. He probably runs two miles for every one we walk. Jane, on the other hand, has her own coonhound agenda. Sweet, sweet Jane.

Today we went to Marshall Nature Area, 87 acres of hilly woods at the corner of Dixboro and Plymouth Roads in Ann Arbor. (Here’s a satellite view.) Jane and I just discovered Marshall this winter, and we’ve been there about ten times now. It was Annika and Duke’s first visit, and they proved to be spirited companions. There are about four miles of established trails in the woods plus a few miles of secondary deer paths. There are also quite a few steep hills that provide a decent workout for both dogs and humans. Duke ran the entire time. Jane ran in fits and spurts, mostly with her nose to the ground searching for dead things with which to anoint herself (she was successful) and occasionally wandering completely out of sight. (Duke kept close tabs on her, though.) The walk was punctuated by the occasional wrestling match and game of tug. (Duke always won the former, Jane usually the latter.)

Beyond the nature area are an additional 100 acres or so of woods and wetlands belonging to Fr. Gabriel Richard High School. We traversed these trails, and the dogs enjoyed splashing about, harassing geese, and scrutinizing the occasional dead thing. Annika found a beautiful, intact deer antler. I discovered its companion but stuck it in a tree because Jane wanted to make a meal out of it. We wondered how the antlers came to be on the ground. The rotting carcass was nearby in the woods, but why would his antlers have been in a different location? Was he hit by a car and straggled into the woods to die, shedding his antlers on the way?

On the way home, Duke passed out while Jane rested her chin on the open window taking the full breeze in her face. They’re a pretty good match, Duke and Jane. It’s funny to me that Jane seems like such a mature dog next to Duke. I still think of her as my little puppy, but she somehow graduated into adulthood without my noticing. Their sweet little lives are so accelerated by human standards. A year for us is like a decade for them. Jane’s passed out on the sofa right now. While I’m writing this, I find myself missing her. I think I’ll go and join her.