A Late Winter Walk
One of the truly special treats about living in a quaint Northern Michigan village is its walkability, even in winter. Our streets are surrounded by mature, even ancient trees on both sides. Traffic, if any, usually drives very slowly. Not unlike the traffic, the pace of life here is also slower. We like it that way. Against such a back-drop we often set out for daily walks – to exercise our senses as much as our bodies – sometimes at night after the sun goes down, sometimes of a Sunday afternoon while the sun is fully out.
The air is often crisp and cold, brought in on fronts by an unrelenting north wind; the crisp air somehow makes us feel so fresh, so alive. Our once iced-in harbour, recently opened by strong south winds, returned to create a concentration-like camp for so many ice balls forced back after the winds shifted yet again to the northwest, herding them all into place against the shoreline. With plummeting temperatures, by March standards, even the river relented and froze over yet again.
|Elk Rapids’ harbour off of East Grand Traverse Bay,
socked in with ice balls and sheet-ice on March 12.
After leaving the confines of our quiet neighborhood, we walked along the lakeshore to a paved foot-path that lead to the beach, and the park farther east. We are often found here in the summer, usually with a blanket, beach-towel, and a book or two. The same scene today is filled with multiple parallel rows of snow-fences, not so much for snow, but to keep the beach sand from ending up in town, so driven by the often fierce winter winds blowing in off the bay from the north. Looking out over a still-frozen beach, I can imagine hearing the seagulls of summer, and the laughter of little children playing nearby that continue to echo off this still-frozen landscape, voices that were left there during the warmer carefree months of last summer.
|A frozen platform that will soon hold a
navigation light to mark the shelter
Elk Rapids Marina.
Today, we made our way over the old wooden footbridge that spans the Elk River, continuing along a paved path leading up to the Elk Rapids Library. It was once the private residence for Edwin Noble and his family in the 1800’s, one of Elk Rapids early pioneer founders. We walk up those old cement steps to the top; there’s no “I love you” card stuck on the handrail today (like what I wrote about last month). Not many walk this route yet in winter.
Working our way around to the front of the library affords a commanding view of the marina below, beyond which lies E. Grand Traverse Bay. A solo walk the other night revealed a proud US flag barely moving in a light breeze from in front of the library, standing watch over a serene landscape.
Leaving the library grounds, we made our way down the hill toward a large still-frozen pond, rimmed on the north side by a wide boardwalk leading to a small dam / spillway that helps relieve the pressure of the river; what doesn’t flow through the hydroelectric dam to the north flows through this point. The outflow of water seems slower than usual today; impending snow-melt and spring rains will change all that with the slow advance of spring.
|The Dexter St. dam and spillway in Elk Rapids. The street is
named after Judge Samuel Wirt Dexter, another early pioneer and
co-owner with the Noble brothers’ (Edwin and Henry) of the
Elk Rapids Iron Company. Dexter, MI was also named after him.
The sun felt so warm near this spot today, protected from the north wind by a high wall of steel ‘rip-rap’. We paused to sit quietly on one of the wooden benches near the water fall just to listen…and feel the warmth of the late winter sun on our faces. The sound of summer birds could be heard in the distance; the robins and red-wing blackbirds are back. Cardinals were calling back and forth. The temperature as of today’s writing was only about 20-degrees with a wind-chill temperature lower than that…but hearing the birds of summer somehow made it feel warmer as we sat there and took it all in.
We continued our walk back home, strolling through our sleepy little town. We stopped to look through some of the store-front windows that boasted everything from interesting antiques, to fine clothing…and lots of things of interest in between. I stopped to ponder the meaning of an old sign in one antique store that read something to the effect of: “Sometimes while on the road to your dream, you get lost…and find a better one.” Isn’t that the truth!
We continued walking west past the corner drugstore, making our way in front of the cinema; lots of cars out front today. Joe, the owner, must have a nice crowd inside to take in today’s offering in this venue that boasts the largest black-lit painted ceiling mural in the US.
|The Elk Rapids Cinema…where you will be treated
to classical music before the show, minimal ads,
really low prices, and locally-made soft drinks.
We’ll have another snow storm or two before spring finally arrives. Until then, we continue to appreciate the gentle ambience of our Northern Michigan winter on those daily walks through our quaint village, counting our blessings, and enjoying the simple beauty of living…Up North.