Lovely November — And a Hiking Trip to the Seven Bridges

A Mirror-Still Morning at the Clinch Park Marina
A Mirror-Still Morning at the Clinch Park Marina

By MIKE NORTON

Every time I think winter is finally here, we get another beautiful week of warm November weather. A couple of days of cold rain – and even a little snow – had me thinking that it was time to say goodbye to fall. (And it certainly gave a nice sharp edge to the mountain biking course at Saturday’s Iceman Cometh Challenge – those folks aren’t really happy unless they get a lot of ice, snow and mud out in the woods.)

But by Saturday, everything was starting to turn balmy again, and Sunday was absolutely delightful. Looks like we’re due for a whole week of temps in the fifties (and even the low sixties) with lots of sunshine. Too bad we’ve lost most of the leaves, of course – but this clear November weather really showcases the blue of the bay and the lavender, pink and gold of the morning and evening sky.

On the way to work this morning, we passed valleys filled with mist with flocks of geese flying high overhead, lit from underneath by the rising sun. And walking through the Commons I came across a pair of deer browsing at the edge of the woods. It was a perfect “thank you!” moment, where we stood and stared at each other, and went our separate ways. I could learn to like this month!

Apparently, lots of other people feel the same way, because the downtown restaurants and bars were jammed to the rafters over the weekend with celebrating cyclists and other merrymakers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few hardy souls take their sailboats back out onto the bay, just to enjoy this sweet weather. And as somebody pointed out, the hiking is splendid right now. The forest trails are suddenly full of light now that the upper canopy of leaves is gone, and some of my favorite trails in the cedar and pine woods are still green (and of course, they’ll be green all winter.)

By the Stream at the Seven Bridges Natural Area
By the Stream at the Seven Bridges Natural Area

A special place this time of year is a little park called the Seven Bridges Natural Area, located east of Traverse City on Valley Road near Rapid City. The little Rapid River runs through this area of rolling hills – it looks a bit like Appalachia hereabouts – and at the bottom of the valley it makes is a 315-acre preserve with several beautiful trails that go over and around the river’s braided branches in a deep, almost prehistoric-looking forest of tall cedars. There are a lot of bridges (I’ve never counted to be sure there’s exactly seven!) and on the opposite side of the road a path takes you high above the narrow valley to the top of Rickers Mountain. It’s a pretty neat place any time of year, but I love it best in November!

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About mikelovestc

These days, I’m the media relations guy for the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau, but before that I spent 25 years as a reporter and columnist at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, a job that frequently took me out into the most remote backroads, forests, beaches and islands of the beautiful Grand Traverse Region. My strategy was pretty simple — just drive, paddle, ski or walk until you’re certain you’re lost, and then find somebody to talk to. It was a great job! I never intended to live in Traverse City. I grew up in Grand Rapids, spent four years in the Coast Guard in places like Miami Beach, Monterey and San Francisco, and when I finally graduated from college I took a summer job at the Miami Herald. To my surprise, I discovered I didn’t like the tropics nearly as much as I thought I would — and when the Record-Eagle offered me a job I took it, figuring I’d put in a year or two and head off to someplace like Seattle or Portland. What I discovered very quickly is that this place gets to you in a variety of unexpected ways. The beaches here are as lovely as anyplace else I’ve ever been, the weather is mild all year round — warm enough for swimming in September and cold enough for skiing in December — and just about the time you’re getting tired of one season you get another one every bit as pleasant. The people are laid-back and friendly, the music and arts scene is awesome, and the place still hasn’t gotten so sophisticated that a guy like me feels out of place.
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