in hindsight

July 30, 2022

[Cathead Bay Trails, Leelanau State Park: hike with James, 11:15-12:20pm]

Jason T. McKinney
Jason at Leelanau State Park

The last time we walked this trail, there was six inches of powdery snow on the ground. The trees were bare, and the sun shone through to the forest floor. It was January 1, 2020, and the New Year was full of promise — the vast blank slate always offered by January.

Had we known what was coming, I’m sure we would have still walked the trail — perhaps even more fervently — but I’m sure we would have been so consumed with worry and planning we wouldn’t have had time to marvel at the sheer beauty of that cloudless winter day. Maybe hindsight is a greater gift than foresight?

Today, our feet fell on a much different trail — surrounded by greens and bright explosions of purple, white, and gold wildflowers. Rather than bundling up and bracing against the wind and cold, we slathered ourselves in the summertime sauces of sunblock and mosquito repellant. Seeing these woods at their most alive, in the height of summer, the contrast is nearly unbelievable.

Mud Lake, Leelanau State Park

Mud Lake was fully visible and in full glory with waving cattails and delicate waterlilies. We stood on the shore to take in the fulness of the scene, both of us cataloging the contrasts. In that long ago January, it was impossible to see the lake gleaming white along with the fresh snow and everything it covered. But, now, it was rippling in the breeze and alive.

Tamarack Cutoff

Coming to the woods on a busy summer weekend, we were pressed for time as usual. So, we charted a shorter course by turning at the Tamarack Cutoff. My quadriceps remembered this steep climb into the forest, my eyes the deep ravines running in so many directions — like fire escapes placed haphazardly.

As we reached the thickest part of the forest, where the hemlocks and oaks nearly block out the sky completely, I remembered that walking in these woods feels like walking through the pages of a notebook. The scurrying of eleventy chipmunks and the lushness of the greens, though a stark contrast to the hush and muted nature of winter, still encourage the mind to quietly sift through lines of thought and ideas unexplored. The mind busies itself while the feet dutifully move forward largely unsupervised.

For the first time in many months, James and I talked about the future — hopes, plans, ambitions bouncing off green boughs. We stopped at the lake overlook to gaze out over the aqua expanse of Lake Michigan. The air was clear enough that we could see the Fox Islands in the distance. In more ways than one, I felt we had come full circle at last. Finally things are beginning to be clearer and we dare to stare ahead again… and to dream.

Lake Michigan Trail, Leelanau State Park

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