December 28, 2015
As the year winds down and we wait for winter to someday come to Michigan, I am enjoying my first two week span off of work since, well probably ever. While I love to travel, I also love being at home and spending time with my family. These two weeks have given me a lot of quiet time to read and write – pretty rare in my life.
Part of this time was spent exploring my picture archives and adding entries to the blog while I still have 3% of my memory left (that is what it feels like sometimes anyway). In doing so, I felt very grateful for the life I have and the amount of travel I get to do. It was not too long ago, that I might get only one trip per year. Heck, I had never even been on an airplane until after college. Now, I am able to sneak away for long weekends or tack a day or two onto business trips quite a few times during the year. We have a great little farm with lots of awesome animals, so we limit whole family vacations to every couple years, thus I am ever so thankful that my wife and son put up with me taking off from time to time – and even more thankful when they get to come!
Looking back on 2015, I have visited some amazing places. I thought I would make myself a top 5 list. These may not have been the most amazing places I had been, but the places with which I most connected. One amazing place that does not make the top 5 by this definition but was probably the most spectacular was The Narrows in Zion National Park. Truly amazing. Yet, for a place to truly connect with me, it has to do so one on one. The Narrows, even late in the year, just have too many people to for that connection.
This was a short hike at the end of a long day that saw me out at Red Rock for sunrise, then attend a convention walking about 10 miles on concrete, then back out to Red Rock at sunset. As I left Red Rock, I still had just a bit more time before closing time, so I stopped by a deserted parking lot and hiked up the very short White Rock Spring Trail. Once I turned around to come back, the stars and the gentle song of the wind enraptured me. I laid down on the trail and just enjoyed the stars and the solitude for about 30 minutes.
I was in Minneapolis for less than 12 hours, but I still had time to find my nature connection. I took a few hikes within the Mississippi River National Recreation Area, yet it was in the city that I found that connection. Minnehaha Falls are beautiful any time of year, but I was stunned by the beauty of the falls when I hiked up and behind them. I had only seen pictures of blue ice on the internet previously, and thought it would not be until I visited the arctic or Antarctica that I would see it for myself. But, there it was. While the area around the falls was fairly busy, not too many people made the treacherous hike up and behind them, so it was there that I had a bit of solitude with that amazing ice.
I have never been a Florida fan. Humid, way too many people, and mindlessly flat. I had certainly enjoyed my time in the Everglades and at Biscayne Bay, yet it was a 4.7 hike in Little-Big Econ State Forest along with a great paddle with my niece of the Wekiva River that really turned my disdain around. Here, just outside the throngs of people in Orlando, was a bit of nature’s best. Lush vegetation, winding trails, river views, solitude, and even a bit of elevation change. The Kolokee Loop was a great hike, and I can see why the part that shares its path with the Florida Trail is considered one of the best stretches of that long distance trail.
Kolob Canyons, while being just off of the interstate and much closer to the flow of humanity than Zion Canyon, receives just a fraction of the traffic. True, Zion is simply awe inspiring, yet this little section of the park inspired me even more. I have a really hard time sitting still in my life, and as with Red Rock Canyon above, once I reached the top of the Timber Creek Overlook Trail, I knew I would spend most of my day there. It had captured me and did not let me leave until I was truly relaxed and reenergized. Three hours just enjoying the views, enjoying my book under a tree, and taking photographs. And just breathing that refreshing air.
#1 – Home Sweet Home
As much as I love to travel, and as much as I can’t sit still, there is really no place like home. We are lucky to have 5 acres on a dirt road about 5 miles from Michigan Stadium and the heart of Ann Arbor. National parks and other amazing scenic places will always extend their gravity to me, yet home with my wife and kids (and dogs and my wife’s goats and chickens) is where I find the most connection in my life. Now if only winter would come and make our house look like this again!