Yesterday, late afternoon, we left the toasty cottage to hike in the woods behind us. It was only meant to be a short hike, to have a look at the little lake that’s tucked into the trees back there. The woods would offer some protection from the wind that was picking up. When I was little, there was a trail that went all the way around that lake and I knew it like I knew my own image in the mirror. The spots where the trail kisses the edge of the lake, the clearing where local boy scout troops were allowed to camp, the marshy places where you needed to step carefully, the places where locals sometimes fished. The lake was filled with tiny frogs and fish and lily pads, and water skaters carved patterns on its surface. It was magical.
The land went through some ownership changes over the years, including a spell of logging and another spell of an owner who didn’t want anyone in there, so our access became limited. Now, though, a good part of it is owned by a conservancy, and I’m rediscovering it.
After we hiked the ridge that separates the dune from the woods, we made our way down to the water’s edge for our favorite view of the lake. On this occasion, we got to see three eagles soaring and dipping over the lake and into and out of the woods on the opposite end. Luckily, eagles are no longer a rare site here, but it’s never not breathtaking to see one (or three). So we watched for a while before moving on.
After that, we hiked off-trail toward the far end of the lake, noticing that it was getting darker and darker. And then the rain came, and with it a fierce wind that reminded us that the woods isn’t the smartest place to be, with old trees swaying and cracking, so we quickened our pace.
Once back up on the ridge, we could see how wild the weather had become. The wind pushed the remaining leaves from the trees up into the sky, where they danced and pitched and soared like the eagles we’d watched 30 minutes prior. But the sky was filled with them, like a murmur of starlings.
We pushed into the wind as we took our final steps back to the cottage, getting pelted by rain and sand and those soaring leaves, all to the deafening din of a now-roaring Lake Michigan.