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My First Fishing Experience; What An Adventure!A guest post written by Fishing Guy
I was reached out to recently by a man who refers to himself as Fishing Guy, owner of Reel Fishing Guru, a website filled with snook fishing tactics and amazing fishing rod reviews. He was excited to share with The Outdoor Soul his first fishing adventure, and what an adventure it was! It took me back to my very first fishing experience as well. Check out his story below, and reminisce about your first fishing experience. Feel free to share your story as well in the comments below. Take it away, Guy.
A few years back, I had made up my mind to enjoy my summer vacation at New York’s Harriman State Park, where I visited some years ago along with a good friend of mine. Now, Harriman State Park is enormous, with 31 lakes and reservoirs, 200 miles of hiking trails, a handful of beaches and public campgrounds, and multiple group camps. Our destination was to be the beautiful Lake Sebago. It was certainly a nice place decked out with tent platforms, a number of kayaks and swimming areas. As soon as we reached our destination, my friend began unloading the baggage, and passed me a scrawny 7′ fishing pole held jointly with spackle and tape. “This is yours,” he said.  I thanked him, without admitting concerns of my true thoughts of the tool. We checked into our accommodations, and shortly after, headed to the lake’s east side. I, myself was holding a rather damaged fishing pole. As I peered over at my friend, lying next to him was a brand new carbon fiber graphite injected rod with ceramic perforations. It glimmered brightly in the sunlight, and whispered harmonic, angelic notes in my head. Yet, I had to start somewhere and would eventually, one day, be able to call a similar type rod and reel set my own.
We unloaded his own personal kayak, which only entailed my rare, demurring assistance to get down off the roof of the car. However, I was having myself a substantial amount of enjoyment, though I may not have conveyed this to him at this moment. I wasn’t paying too much attention to the pole that he provided me, as I was just enjoying myself on such a peaceful, quiet, serene lake in southeastern New York. Eventually, I begged him to show me the best nearby fishing spot. He enthusiastically got underway with his feet leading the way, indeed. We arrived at what he assumed to be “the spot.” He cast his line into the water precisely where he wanted. After a few casts and reels in, he slowly pulled up the slack in his line and shouted “Nothing here! Let’s make an effort over there,” as he pointed a ways up the embankment. At which time we got to where he wanted, I had noticed the immediate area engulfed in blueberry bushes. It seemed to be the absolute best blueberries I had ever consumed in my life. After I had my fill, I positioned the raggedy pole in what I considered a casting position and attempted to toss the line in the water. After just a few failed attempts, I had it down. I pitched the lure into the stand, and at the very moment the spoon stroked the water, a 10-inch bluegill snapped at it. Like I knew just what I was doing…like I had been doing this for my whole life, I pulled it up and right to lay down the hook, then reeled in the slack as I positioned the tip toward the fish.
Of course, maintaining such nervousness, I start bringing it back to the dock I was standing on. The water was rather shallow, so the fish wasn’t able to fall down or really run with the line. During my struggle with my very first fish on, it jumped out of the water several times, but I was able to hold on and maintain my stay. He wasn’t a giant fish, but my first. My friend, however, thought the entire event was hysterical, and I agreed, of course. But what a rush! At this time, my friend began running around the dock like a child madly in search of something. I never realized what all that mania was. I placed the fish on the dock’s boundary as it started its death ballet. Not identifying how pointed those dorsal bones were, I gashed myself pretty good trying to take hold of it.
My friend frantically stated, “Hey man, you landed my dearest fish!” Wearing a pair of large boots, he gently laid the rod in his own hand down, just like he was a shooter setting down his rifle. He dropped down to his knees on the dock raising his eyes and his hands to the heavens. My fish’s guts were now strewn about all over. With my arms extended and hands up, my voice filled with annoyance, I cried, “I was just going to release that fish, man.” After such the debacle it was, I still got back into my kayak, trapped and let go of six more fish that day. As exciting as it actually was, I presumed I was still not a “fisherman,” yet simply a guy who knew how to catch a fish. That’s definitely sufficient for me, although. As a backpacker, and as a rarely flattering man, it’s good to know that I can catch some fish in the near future as well.
Fishing Guy has been writing fishing rod reviews for over seven years. His core area of interest is the outdoor lifestyle; including fishing, hiking, backpacking, and camping. He loves sharing his ideas and experiences with his audience about all his travels. At Reel Fishing Guru, you can find the best snook fishing methods and best fishing rods reviews.

The post Guest Post: My First Fishing Experience; What An Adventure! appeared first on The Outdoor Soul.

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MOUNTAIN CAREERS IS CHANGING THE JOB MARKET IN MOUNTAIN TOWNSHow a job board is giving ski bums the opportunity to make six-figure salaries
I was recently contacted by Aryn Schlichting, Founder and CEO of Mountain Careers. I had originally stumbled upon the website, https://mountaincareers.com, some few months ago and was excited when she reached out to me, wanting to write an article for The Outdoor Soul. If you’ve read my article, I Want To Live In The Mountains, you’d understand that as soon as I can talk my wife into moving to the mountains, I will be using Mountain Careers for my job search. Aryn, tell us more:
Mountain Careers is making it possible for mountain town locals to have high-paying jobs without moving to a metropolitan city. While mountain town locals may have the reputation for living the  “ski bum” lifestyle, full-time job opportunities are growing rapidly in these areas. “The truth is people are moving to mountain towns for real careers and the lifestyle it offers — not just to ski. The next time you are on a chair lift you may meet a local Computer Engineering, Director of Marketing, or another talented professional. Ski bums aren’t bums anymore and Mountain Careers is helping to change that,” said Aryn Schlichting, Mountain Careers Founder and CEO. Current mountain town economies are attracting talented professionals to stay and grow in their professions in these small communities. Take for example Bluetent, a digital agency for travel, tourism, and beyond. Located downstream of Aspen, Colorado, they have been featured as one of  Outside Magazine’s 2018 Best Places to Work in a town of less than 7,000 people in population. “Bluetent is committed to attracting and retaining talented professionals who are interested in working and living in the Roaring Fork Valley. “Mountain Careers helps us find the like-minded work hard/play hard individuals as we grow our team,” stated Amber Trzcinski, HR Manager at Bluetent. Mountain Careers has also picked up listings in Health Care, Education, Human Resources, Local Government, Outdoor Industry and more– just to name a few.
What’s next for Mountain Careers?
Since its inception, Mountain Careers has spread out of Vail with current postings from Steamboat Springs and Aspen, Colorado to Bozeman and Big Sky, Montana as well as Mammoth Lakes, California. “We found that by connecting mountain towns we are able to offer professionals more opportunities and show them career progression as well. We have tapped into a niche that has not existed before so we quickly became the ‘go-to resource’ for professionals seeking the outdoor lifestyle,” said Schlichting. This summer you can expect to see Mountain Careers events pop up in the Tahoe/Truckee region as well as see Mountain Careers presence and more outdoor industry type events. So, if you find yourself yearning for that real mountain-town, hit the slopes after work kind of lifestyle and just need to find that right position that’ll get you there, check out Mountain Careers to land that dream job.
Aryn Schlichting is a Chicago native and following graduation from University of Colorado Boulder,  she found herself teaching ski school to young kids and eventually looking for a career that would allow her to stay in the mountains.  Schlingting found her passion in sharing her love for ‘mountain life’ by being a recruiter for large organizations and helping others make the move to the mountains. In 2015 she had that ‘AH HA Moment’ and realized that there was not one central place for people looking for professional jobs in the mountains to find work — so she started Mountain Careers. Mountain Careers is the official mountain town network with a reputation for being a well-established professional resource for companies and job seekers alike.  Sign-up for their weekly newsletter at www.mountaincareers.com.

The post Guest Post: Mountain Careers Is Changing The Job Market In Mountain Towns appeared first on The Outdoor Soul.

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The weather hasn’t been very cooperative lately for hiking; at least in my neck of the woods. I guess you can say that Mother Nature has been having quite the mood swings lately. This winter has been harsh for a lot us; bringing atmospheric disturbances like we have not seen in countless years. We Michiganders had to deal with a bomb cyclone or bombogenesis as also named this recent February. The snow has been relentlessly targeting our driveways and roadways just long enough to cause white-knuckled tension in the weekday commute for drivers for a few days, requiring our snow-shoveling attention in the evenings or early mornings. This has lasted a couple of days, then warms up to a thaw-out point to make the grass just visible for a day, then another annoying dump of the white stuff. Just enough for the inconvenience, but not lasting long enough for enjoyment with the kids, unless we want to bring them out in the subzero windchill temps when the snow is perfect enough for sledding. I mean, it never really even got deep enough for snowshoeing really. At least in our Southeastern Michigan region.
Here we are now, mid-March, and finally, we get a well-deserved break from this relentless disaster of a winter season. Temps are beginning to climb as soon as we are able to turn our clocks forward an hour and get back some of the daylight we have been longing for over the last four months. The snow is melting away and bringing colors back into our daily commute. The grass is able to catch its breath and regain its precedence and life once again. Even though the Spring season, we know, is set to bring rain, it is necessary to bring life back to many things that have been hibernating over the past few winter months. I am okay with this. I mean, one can still hike comfortably with a good pair of waterproof hiking boots and gaiters.
Once we finally had the break in the cold weather for a gorgeous weekend, I was on cloud nine when my daughter asked me if we could head outside for a hike. Jackie wasn’t feeling well, so I was happy to take the girls off her hands and hit the trails. After a quick peek on alltrails.com, I found a good little hike available at the Troy Community Center on Big Beaver Road and Livernois. It was one and a half mile loop trail. Perfect for getting our legs moving and blood pumping for a start-of-the-season warm-up hike. The only thing left to do before we packed in the car was to find my backpack and pack up some energy snacks, water, and first aid kit (just in case). It was a bit of a chore since I should have kept this all together at the end of the season, but we found what we needed, packed up, got dressed for the weather, and hopped in the car for the short drive from our home.
When we arrived at the parking lot, it was tough to find the trailhead without a sign pointing us in the direction of where to start, but with the alltrails.com map and GPS, we made our way around the northern side of the Troy Family Aquatic Center building, up the hill, and were able to see down to an opening in the leafless trees where the trail picked up. It was really neat to see a tree fallen over where the trail began, where Allie could walk right underneath without even ducking her head, but Abby and I had to make our way underneath to catch up to Allie. Once we got further into the trees, the trail was still covered in snow, so I’m glad we still wore our boots. The girls were in their glory, however, and I was in my glory seeing their faces glow with excitement in getting outside and on the trails again. We definitely were feeling trailsick, and were elated to find a cure.
This trail was actually one of those trails for most community centers that have the exercise stations along the path with bars for pull-ups and such. Of course, the kids just wanted to hang on them and play around with. I am so okay with this, as it gives them a change of pace and something to look forward to up around the next bend. They got to act silly for my photos, as you can see. But, it kept them occupied and wanting to move on to the next station as well. It was still a bit cold out, so we didn’t stay out and hike as long as I wanted to, but it was the first hike after the long, bitter-cold winter season here in the great mitten state. I mean, you gotta start somewhere, right? I could have pushed on, but it would have been a chore to keep the kids happy, so we ended our hike a bit early. However, once we returned to the car and got the heat pumping again, we were able to reminisce about this hike and what lay ahead of us as the temperatures kept climbing in the coming months. I have to say that I am getting anxious for my kids to get older so we can begin trekking on some more difficult trails, and for them to gain the strength to be able to handle some greater distances. I’m already beginning a list of future trips to National Parks, chock full of mountain trails and more. Soon. We’ll get there soon. Until then, I will still enjoy this nature-time I have with my kids and continue our hikes as much as I possibly can.

The post Is It Hiking Season Yet? A Hike In Hopes Winter Is Over appeared first on The Outdoor Soul.

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I know that many of you wait impatiently, tapping your toes, sweating profusely, pacing back and forth, anxiously checking your email box for the next blog post from The Outdoor Soul. I understand how breathtakingly exciting are my stories; how in-depth and mesmerizing are the piecing together of my words. I would love to be able to provide you all with much more of my fascinating pieces that add to the whole of my oeuvre. Yet, I am only one man. One man with a full-time job and a family, I might add. I wish that I had more hours in a day to be able to accomplish everything I would like to. I am opening up my blog to be able to introduce to you all some other bloggers and writers that share in my passion for and expertise of the great outdoors. I want to allow others to share their voice with you as well. I was recently contacted by Billy Trotter with Perkin Knives, who was enamored to share some of his own camping safety tips. Safety should always be on your mind when camping in the wilderness. Let me allow Billy to further explain:
There is no activity which is risk-free and camping especially because it involves experiences in the wilderness. The outdoors has all kinds of challenges that you need to face and risks that you need to prepare for. On your camping and hiking trip, there are several risks and challenges that you might face and you should be well equipped and aware to deal with them and keep yourself safe. Here are some of the common risks that all campers and hikers should be prepared to face.
1. Risks of a Fire
Most of the campers and hikers are going to light a campfire, strum a few strings and dance around. So that means the probability of fire-related risks increases. To avoid getting interrupted by the fire while you’re enjoying singing Summer of ‘69, always have your campfire away from your tents and in a contained area. You will have to keep a check on your fire to ensure it doesn’t spread too much. Never leave a campfire unattended unless it has absolutely burned out. Keep flammable items like liquids, paper, etc. away from the fire.
2. Wildlife
There’s always a risk of bears, dogs and other wildlife attacking you. The main thing to keep in mind to prevent any bear attacks is to not leave any food outside. If you thought you were a foodie, wait till you leave some out for the bears in the wild. Keep the usage of products that might have odor which can attract bears, to a minimum and only when it’s absolutely necessary on your camping trip. In case you have an encounter with a bear, do not replay the film The Revenant in your head. Make sure you do not approach it and keep your distance from it. Ensure that all your food and hygiene products are stored in a bear canister or hung from a tree far away from your camps. Also, always keep a pocket knife with you at all times during a camping or hiking trip. It can come in handy to fight bears or fix up a shelter. They come in handy not only during emergency situations but can be extremely useful for first-aid tasks like removing a deep splinter or trimming some moleskin. In my personal experience, a pocket knife can simplify the process of making fire-friendly splints and can definitely be a blessing if hunting is on the menu.
3. Weather Conditions
Although you can always ask Alexa or Siri about the weather before you head out for your camping or hiking trip, it can still be very unpredictable and change within minutes. Keep tracking the weather of the place that you’re heading to for your camping trip and understand what kind of clothing you will need there to protect yourself from extreme weather conditions. Always be prepared for risks like hypothermia, dehydration, heatstroke etc. In case of heavy rains, never camp near water bodies like lakes and ponds unless you want to wake up breathing water. Always camp away from the water, as these areas can easily get flooded in times of heavy rains. Carry blankets, warm clothes and always carry an extra set of change on your camping and hiking trip.
4. Plants and Trees
In the wild, there are all kinds of plants and trees which can be harmless or extremely poisonous. Do not attempt to eat wild berries or any other plant produce if you are not sure whether it’s edible or not. You can get sick or have severe poisoning if you end up consuming the wrong plant. Best is to stay away from any plants or berries that you are not sure of or don’t know anything about. Remember what happened at the end of the film, Into The Wild. Yeah, while happiness is only when shared, it’s also only when you know what you’re eating.
5. Communication
Keeping someone informed of your whereabouts is extremely important when you’re out camping or hiking. If possible, you should inform someone on a daily basis of your well-being. It’s important to do this if you want to be able to receive help in case of an emergency. In case of getting lost in the woods, someone will at least notice your long absence and send a search party for rescue.
In Conclusion
Going camping or hiking is only fun if you are well prepared and safe. Safety is most important when you’re venturing out into the wild because there are a lot of risks in the woods. Right from natural dangers like wildlife, poisonous plants to health emergencies, anything is possible in the wild. The only way to encounter them, have a good experience and return home safely, is to beware, take precautions for all the risks you are exposed to and not to forget, have loads of fun!
Guest Post Contributed by Billy Trotter Having been on the Perkin Knives team for several years as a marketing executive, Billy has been part of a great many top-of-the-line projects. Not only has he personally contributed to the service in every way, but he also happens to be one of the most revered members of Perkin Knives.

The post Guest Post: The Risks In Camping and How to Stay Safe: Written by Billy Trotter appeared first on The Outdoor Soul.

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You’ve probably noticed lately that I haven’t written much. You’re not wrong. I’ve noticed it too. This winter has been a weird one. Lots of rain. Temperatures fluctuating quite a bit. No snow. Sickness moving from person to person to dog to person, consistently in our homestead. I haven’t had any energy to get outside on the weekends per my usual. I’ve been feeling a bit down in the dumps that we haven’t had enough snow to go snowshoeing or sledding. When the temps this winter have climbed into the 40s and even 50s, I haven’t been able to peel myself off the couch to enjoy a warm weather winter hike. I have even found myself sitting at my new writing desk, pen in hand, staring blankly at the empty page in front of me with barely a glimmer of a thought to transfer any ink to the page.
With it getting dark at 5 pm, the lack of sunlight is hitting me like a ton of bricks this year, for some reason. This must be a bad case of the winter blues…a sickness that plagues many. Yet, this is the first time this illness has made its way to my body, and I don’t like it one bit. It’s weird for me, as the winter blues can seem like a mild depression. However, I don’t really feel depressed. I just feel unmotivated. Unmotivated to do much else besides sit and watch the boob tube and go to bed early. This lack of motivation is starting to bother me quite a bit. The weather this year isn’t really helping much either. Last year, we had a decent winter with snow that stuck around for a bit for us to enjoy and play in, but it did end a bit early. This year, it took some time for winter to arrive or at least snow. However, so far, after a decent snowfall, it’s been warming up pretty quickly, turning to rain, and melting into a nasty slushy mess. It’s not very fun, not enough for snowshoeing, and you need to really try and catch a good snow day for sledding.
This couple inches of snow then melt thing is really getting to me. Plus, some sledding hills are remaining closed due to what they say is lack of enough snow. This really puts a damper on things when I can see there is plenty of snow on the ground, we pack up the kids and the sleds, get bundled up in all of our gear and drive 45 minutes from home just to be welcomed with closed gates and a big sign that states “sledding hill closed.” How disappointing. And for those of you that enjoy snowshoeing, you know it takes at least 6 good inches of packed snow to make snowshoeing worthwhile. I wish I had the plentiful opportunities to snowshoe as much as Amanda Phillips of Every Two Pines blog. I mean, what is really happening to Michigan? There used to be a saying about Michigan’s seasons. Our 4 seasons used to be Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter, and Road Construction. That has just completely gone out the window this year for us Metro-Detroiters. We’ve been teased with a short-lived snowstorm and then it heats up the next day, rains, melts, then it’s gone for a couple days, then back at it again with another tease. It’s just not fair, I tell ya.
What Exactly Is The Winter Blues?
First, understand that the winter blues is really more of a general term, not a medical diagnosis. This isn’t going to last long, folks. It’s not a serious issue and it’s much more common than you think. Due to a perfect mixture of shorter days, the lack of sunlight, and colder temperatures, we northerners are more prone to that blah feeling that comes every winter after the holidays have wound down. Some characteristics of the winter blues include:
 * Less than chipper attitude  * Hesitance toward change  * Little to no motivation  * Foggy thoughts  * Lacking creativity  * Excessive sleepiness
What Can I Do To Beat The Winter Blues?
Hang Out With Friends and/or Family Beat the urge to become a lump on a log. Get your lazy butt off the couch and shut down the Netflix for a while. Playing online games on the Xbox with your buds does not count. Call some friends to catch up over breakfast or coffee at Old Port Inn in Clawson, Michigan or your local family restaurant or coffee shop for instance. Spending time with others helps prevent mental health problems. Munch On Some Dark Chocolate Who woulda thunk it? I think I can down with this one. Dark chocolate, in reasonable amounts, tells the brain to release serotonin and dopamine into the system. Dopamine helps with bumping your motivation, reduces depression, and can even help with losing some unwanted pounds. Find or Make More Sunlight The lack of the usual amount of sunlight our bodies are used to getting this time of year has a big impact on us. It gets dark outside early, causing us to want to go to sleep earlier than usual. It makes us want to stay in bed longer in the mornings. Sunlight and bright light boost serotonin levels in the body. Find ways to get outside, bundling up of course. Direct sunlight on your skin for at least ten minutes per day can prevent Vitamin D deficiency. Another option would be to build a lightbox in your home. Also, although I don’t partake myself, limited ultraviolet exposure from a tanning booth can provide a serotonin level booth as well. Travel This is a good time of year to plan a trip to a warmer climate. Ever wanted to complete the Inca Trail to Peru’s Machu Picchu? How about a multi-day hike, enjoying the views from the base camps of Aconcagua in Argentina? Whatever your fancy, as long as it’s someplace warmer than where you are, will help lift your spirits. Get the Blood Pumping Physical activities help the blood to pump through the body, making you a healthier and happier individual. Head to the gym, walk the dog or the kids or both, hit the trails for a hike or create your own trails on some snowshoes if there is enough snow, go sledding, host a dance party in the family room, or brush the dust off the ol’ treadmill or stationary bike. Keeping active can really do wonders. Laugh If you know me, you know that I truly believe that laughter is the best medicine. Laughter stimulates the lungs, your heart, and your muscles. It increased your body’s intake of oxygen and also boosts the endorphins that your brain releases. Get some close friends together for a game of Cards Against Humanity. Enjoy a show at Go Comedy! Improv Theater in Ferndale, Michigan or your favorite local comedy club. Any which way you can, find ways to laugh more. I don’t just limit this activity to the winter either.
However you want to call it, if you feel down in the dumps for a prolonged period of time of three weeks or more, have a chat about it with your family physician. The doc can offer assistance getting over the winter blues and getting yourself back to the wonderful, smiling, joyous person you are used to being. I have to say that now that I am posting this, I can now feel a tiny itch inside of me. No, it’s not that kind of itch. I can hear a little voice inside saying “Come on, Bob. What are you doing? Your love for writing hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s just been hibernating.” I have a feeling I will be back into my old routine in sharing my stories, ideas, and experiences with you all. I hope any of you with the winter blues can climb out of your slump as well. Soon. We just got a good amount of snow on the ground now and the well-below freezing, Arctic cold that has touched Michigan recently has provided an opportunity that doesn’t look like it will last very long. So, I think I’m going to take that opportunity to head out for a good ol’ snowshoe hike, clear my mind, and get the blood pumpin’. Take your soul outdoors, my friends. It’ll thank you.

The post How To Bust Through The Winter Blues appeared first on The Outdoor Soul.

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It was just a few days before Christmas 2017 and I had some time on my hands to sit down and write. I remember we had snow on the ground, a roaring fire in the fireplace, a nice hot mug of hot cocoa in hand, and my laptop in front of me with a blank template ready for my next big story. The Christmas spirit was immense in me on this particular day, and I was picturing myself reading the classic Twas The Night Before Christmas story in front of my family on Christmas Day. But I wanted to make it a bit different this year. I wanted to make it a little more personal. With my love for the outdoors, I wanted to put a bit of an outdoorsy spin on the story. So, I dug deep in my thoughts and began to type.

I knew that Santa would still visit those who are out camping or hiking on Christmas, and I wanted to share that story with the world as well. Even though I finished the story just in time for Christmas last year, I understood that not too many people would be able to enjoy it, so now, I am going to put it out a little earlier, and I am going to make it a Christmas tradition to share with all of my readers. Enjoy, my friends, and have a very Merry Christmas and a tremendously Happy New Year!

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the woods,

All the creatures were stirring, just because they could;

The bear bag was hung by the high branch with care,

In hopes that no bears would know it was there;

The hikers were nestled all snug in their tents,

While visions of summit views danced in their heads;

And my wife in her down bag, and I just the like,

Had just settled down after a full day’s hike;

When out in the distance there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my mummy bag to see what was the matter;

Away to the tent door I stumbled, one-eyed,

Quickly opened the zipper and threw up the fly;

The moon and the stars lighting up the night,

Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects in sight;

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer;

With a little old driver, wearing snow shoes and trekking poles,

I knew just who he was as he chuckled, “Ho, ho, ho”;

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

“Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!

On, COMET! on, CUPID! on, DONNER and BLITZEN!

To the top of the peaks! To the top of them all!

Now trek away! trek away! trek away all!”

As I stand there in awe at the sight lain before me,

I couldn’t believe what my own eyes had seen;

St. Nick even hiked the backcountry, too?

And even he was geared up from his head to his boots;

A red, black and white internal framed pack,

With a hydration bladder and tube from the back;

He pulled out his compass and map for a moment,

Gaining his bearings, then pulled out a document;

My eyes opened wider than they ever had,

Was this the famed list of who’s good and who’s bad?

Does Santa really know where everyone is?

Even deep in the backwoods, we couldn’t miss Christmas;

I hid back in my tent, swiftly switching off my flashlight,

As the fat, jolly man approached the campsite;

He unclipped his sternum strap, the waist strap, and then,

Let the backpack slip off of his shoulder just then;

With the fire still smoldering within its own pit,

He set down his pack and began to unzip;

The side pocket opened and a bright glow appeared,

As he stuck in his hand, his whole arm disappeared;

He reached in so deep and pulled out a small thing,

Wrapped in bright colored paper, a bow, and D-ring;

Next, he made sure that the pack was well-propped,

As he unclipped the straps, and opened the top;

More presents emerged, all so pretty and shiny,

But just like the first gift, they were all pretty tiny;

I think Santa knows the importance of lightweight,

And the strain that the over-abundance of stuff can make;

He piled them all under a small pine tree,

Each with a tag written to my wife and me;

Then he closed up his pack, and hoisted it up on his shoulder,

Connected all the clips and climbed up on a boulder;

He looked over the campsite and the gifts that he left,

With a twinkle in his eye and a grin on his cleft;

A sip from his hydration tube coming out of his pack,

But I noticed a white liquid, and in his hand a cookie stack;

I noticed his footprints disappeared, left no track,

And the words “Leave No Trace” were stitched on his pack;

He spoke not a word, as he wandered away,

Trekking back to his reindeer and tiny red sleigh;

He grabbed the reins of his sleigh, and to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle;

But I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight,

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND ALWAYS PACK LIGHT!

As the sunrise began, and my wife soon awoke,

Christmas morning was here, and not a word I spoke;

She noticed the presents ‘neath the small pine tree,

Interlocking our fingers, and kissed my cheek

We opened the presents to see what Santa brought,

Wicking base layers, hiking boots, and a cot;

A new fire steel, and how did he know,

That I needed more white gas and a new lightweight stove?

Compression bags, multi-tool, a new knife and more,

A spork, some new gaiters, and some paracord;

More gear for more journeys was just what we needed,

Some dehydrated food, as our stash was nearly depleted;

We packed up our site and returned it how it was,

And continued our adventure with a Christmas Day buzz;

Merry Christmas from The Outdoor Soul to you,

Take your soul outdoors. It’ll thank you;

I hope you enjoyed this wonderful spin on an old classic. Feel free to share it with your family and friends this Christmas. I would greatly appreciate hearing your feedback and seeing a bunch of links to this post all over the internet world. Merry Christmas to all you outdoor lovers!

The post A Christmas Tradition For My Outdoor Family; Twas The Night Before Christmas Outdoors appeared first on The Outdoor Soul.

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*Read through the story for a promo code for 35% off plus free shipping on Yukon Charlie’s website. While most normal people may be dreading the upcoming cold of the winter season, I sit here on the other side of the fence with a giddy grin on my face and butterflies in my stomach, knee bouncing, toe-tapping, anxiously awaiting the first big snow dump of the season. I don’t consider myself normal in any way whatsoever. I understand that I am one of those so-called diamonds in the rough. When the deep freeze hits and the fluffy white stuff covers the land, I’m not at all one of those who bundles up in the house on the couch and becomes a hermit. Nope, I layer up and head outside as often as I can take advantage of the opportunity. Winter is my wonderland, and I take it on with gusto in my belly and snowshoes strapped to my feet.
I can hear my Yukon Charlie’s crying, pleading for me to take them out of storage and introduce them, yet again, to the thick snow covered hills that welcome them with open arms every year at this time. This year will be very exciting for me as well, as I got my wife her own pair of Yukon Charlie’s for her birthday this past January. However, once she opened them up, I could see the excitement in her, but it failed to snow again in our area. So, her snowshoes still go unused and virgin to the powdery hills to this day. I’m eager as all get up to take her out to experience this winter wonderland and continue our hiking adventures well into this winter season. Abby, my 7-year-old, has already been exploring the trails on snowshoe adventures with me. I’ve even gone ahead and asked Santa for a pair of Yukon Charlie’s this Christmas for little Allie, my two-year-old. Making snowshoeing our family winter tradition would be spectacular. What makes snowshoeing so exciting for me, you may be asking? Well, it provides a different perspective on some of the areas we have grown to enjoy during the warmer seasons on our family hikes. We can still enjoy getting outside in these areas even with many inches of snow on the ground. The snowshoes allow us to walk well above our typical vantage point, on top of the blanket of white powder that covers the ground. Abby has even told me,
“It’s like walking on the clouds.”
If you’re in Michigan when the snow is deep, make sure to check out the multitude of trails that our wonderful mitten has to offer. Most people think that you need to head up to the Upper Peninsula to snowshoe in Michigan but are misinformed in this aspect. There are many places to enjoy a grand snowshoe adventure in lower Michigan with at least 6 inches of snow on the ground. I may look to take both my girls and my wife back to Lost Lake, where Abby and I snowshoed last year. You can read the story here. You would be pleased as pie to know that you can find many groomed trails in any of the multiple County Parks, Metroparks or State Parks and Recreation Areas. However, the great thing about snowshoeing is that trails aren’t required. You are not bound to stay on any trails and are free to explore and blaze your own trails. Make your own adventure and take to the woods. Just don’t forget to bring a friend and plenty of water and snacks, as you will break quite a sweat and build up a good size appetite with this winter activity.
If you don’t have your own pair of snowshoes, you can find that many places rent out snowshoes for you to use. I would recommend just utilizing Google to search for snowshoe rental locations in the area you are planning on since they aren’t easily found without the use of the internet. If you do plan on purchasing your own, I highly recommend Yukon Charlie’s brand. Check out their website here and you will see that they have quite the selection for all ages and sizes, as well as different designs and builds for any type of snowshoeing you can think of. I even have a deal for you if you are in the market. Just use promo code YUKONLOVE-RK1819 at checkout on the website to receive 35% off plus Free Shipping, good through 3/1/19. Get yourself a pair.
So, you may be asking what locations I may recommend for snowshoe adventures in lower Michigan? Well, I hear that Ann Arbor and Jacksonville have some great spots such as the Nichols Arboretum on the U of M campus or the Falling Waters Trail. I personally am looking forward to staying a little closer to home with my little one by exploring Stony Creek Metropark in Shelby Township. My neighbor has also recommended the parks along the coast of the thumb such as Caseville or Harbor Beach. I have also heard great things about the Waterloo State Recreation Area as well. However, you may just want to follow the blue blazes of the North Country Trail through the Huron-Manistee National Forest, and rack up some miles toward the NCT Hike 50 or Hike 100 Challenge and gain your badge. I hear that the trails of the NCT are well-groomed, challenging, yet gorgeous. Wherever you choose for your Michigan snowshoe adventure, as long as you have some inches of snow under your feet, I’m sure you will enjoy yourself. Just remember to bundle up, stay safe, and have fun. We only usually get a short window of opportunity every year for this, to be able to adventure in new territories that may be impassable by foot during the warmer times. Enjoy your winter wonderland this winter. Don’t let a little snow stop you from taking your soul outdoors. It’ll thank you.

The post Snowshoe Season Is Coming…Are You Ready? appeared first on The Outdoor Soul.

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Growing up in my parents’ household, there was always a lesson to be learned…and my father made sure of it. I remember clearly, many of the lessons he was trying to teach were mainly short little sentences that didn’t always make sense to me as a young boy. However, they were instilled in me time and time again, over and over, burning a spot in my brain.
I always wondered where he came up with these things, and often wondered what many of them actually meant, but he used them often and they stuck with me. My father was a proverb man, and so was my father’s father. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, huh? I looked up to my dad and always thought that he was a really good man, one I always wanted to be like…well, for the most part. I mean…like father, like son, right? He is a great man indeed. And as they say, behind every great man is a great woman…and my mother stood by every word he said. I mean, a house divided against itself cannot stand, right? I truly believe this, and I hope my wife knows I believe this as well, as I don’t know what I would ever do without her, and don’t know who I would be if it weren’t for her.
Not all of the proverbs my father had used were a mystery to me. Many were self-explanatory but decidedly important nonetheless. I have to say that my dad was a very smart man, savvy with many proverbs. He knew exactly when to use them at just the right times, even if I didn’t understand why in the moment. I would later realize the importance and timeliness of them all. I mean, don’t they say there is a place for everything and everything in its place?
Now, please don’t shoot the messenger, but life isn’t always fun and games…but life is what you make it. I believe I have made a good life for myself and my family, and I have my father’s proverbs…er, lessons to thank. I love my family and I am thankful to have such an amazing one. I’d better think that because you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family. Am I right? I’m just kidding. I really do love my family to bits. I’m not trying to burn the bridges behind me or count my chickens before they hatch, and I’m definitely not going to bite the hand that feeds me. That would be bad.
Proverbs are fun, aren’t they? One can learn many things with them, and use them in many different situations. I believe that if you use them to teach your own children some lessons, and use them over and over, and often enough, your kids will remember them in the future and be able to use them themselves in their own unique situations. However, you must also learn to practice what you preach, as actions speak louder than words, and talk is cheap. It’s not easy to teach children the lesson of “do as I say, not as I do.” By the way, haven’t you heard that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones? This means that you can’t criticize others for faults that you have yourself…a very important proverb to remember as a parent.
Now, let’s talk about the friendships I have built in my life. I have some really interesting and trustworthy friends, even though I only trust them as far as I can throw them. Just kidding. My friends are like family to me, and they help make me who I am today. A person is known by the company he keeps, and my friends and I are as thick as thieves. We are there for each other in times of need, and a friend in need is a friend indeed. We joke around a lot and laugh until we cry, and laughter is the best medicine. We’re honest with each other, knowing that honesty is the best policy. I’ve learned a lot from my friends as well. I mean, you learn something new every day, don’t you?
The constant learning of new things is important to lead a fulfilling life, and you have to start somewhere. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In order to learn, you must ask questions, but ask a silly question and you’ll get a silly answer. Learn as much as you can, but don’t try to walk before you can crawl. I have learned many things from my father, including how to fish. It goes without saying that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach him how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. This is the reason my father never really just bought or gave me the things I wanted, but taught me to earn my keep and ways I could earn the things I wanted. He made sure I wasn’t one of those “handed everything on a silver platter” kind of kids. I am truly thankful to him for that. He taught me many things that would last, and still to this day, will last me a lifetime.
This also brings me to the point of explaining the benefits of hard work. Hard work never did anyone any harm and there’s no such thing as free lunch. So if you want lunch, you gotta put in an effort to do some hard work to earn your keep. So if you must work, whatever it is you do, if it is a job worth doing, it’s worth doing it well. My father and his proverbs also taught me financial lessons that I will not forget. For instance, a penny saved is a penny earned. Even though it took me quite some time to realize the benefits of savings, I still learned the lesson. It took time for me not to be foolish with my money, realizing that a fool and money are soon parted and money doesn’t grow on trees. I guess that in my foolish days, I kept thinking another day, another dollar, but not about where I should put those additional dollars. I guess I was putting all my eggs in one basket, but it was the spending basket instead of the saving basket. But, that lesson was one I learned from experience as I have made my bed and so now I must lie upon it.
I have also come to realize, in life, that money isn’t everything. I mean, you can’t take it with you when you die, right? If you must cheat to make your money, you will not end up living a fulfilling life but will live a life full of regrets instead, as cheaters never win and winners never cheat. You must do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Think about this one as well…a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Let that one sink in a bit. What does it mean? Well, it means that you should think about what you already have, and if it’s worth losing. Sometimes, you should just be content with what you have, and not risk losing it for the chance at something more. That’s an important lesson that many people these days need to pay attention to a little more often. How about this one? A rolling stone gathers no moss. A person who does not settle in one place or on one thing will not accumulate wealth, status, responsibilities, or commitments. There comes a time when one must just make a decision, and slow down. Take a seat. Take note of your priorities and your passions. Trust me when I tell you that it’s not always a good thing to just be a Jack of all trades, but Master of none. Take the time to look before you leap, and then make an informed decision on if the leap is worth taking a dive for. The intent may be good, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and remember, the grass will always be greener on the other side of the fence.
Be patient in life. Your time will come, and things will turn out all right. Patience is a virtue, my dear reader, and a watched pot never boils. All good things come to he who waits. Also, be humble and grateful for what you’ve been given, as you should never look a gift horse in the mouth, and beggars should not be choosers. Now, I hate to be the bearer of bad news and I know that bad news travels fast, but it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. Too many people complain way too much about anything and everything, yet do no actual good themselves, not even in the slight, in the face of hopelessness or displeasure. With the onset of social media and the constant need for the attention of others, everyone is quick to complain and ungratefully react in a negative, disagreeable nature whenever they don’t agree with someone else’s viewpoints. One half of the world does not know how the other half lives. It’s okay to disagree, but just let sleeping dogs lie. Let bygones be bygones. There’s a time and place for everything, and disagreements do not need to be made in public. And even if the other person may be in the wrong, two wrongs do not make a right.
Now that my time in this story is coming to end, I understand that there are many other proverbs that have gone unsaid. But that would become a very long story indeed, and I don’t want to beat a dead horse. I don’t want to bore you. Better safe than sorry, right? I also don’t want to get to the point of changing the story just to add a few more proverbs. I mean, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Am I right? Plus, ignorance is bliss. So it is best to be on the safe side and begin winding down. Less is more, so they say, and I guess you can have too much of a good thing as well. You can always do a quick Google search for additional proverbs if you’d like. Seek and ye shall find.
Before I conclude, let me just put a few more things in perspective. Life isn’t always easy or perfect, so when life gives you lemons, make lemonade, and when the going gets tough, the tough get going. You can’t just worry about things as worrying never did anyone any good. Remember, in life, you win some, you lose some. Just keep putting your best foot forward, count your blessings, don’t sweat the small stuff, and take your time, as good things come to those that wait. I mean, Rome wasn’t built in a day, was it? Don’t get down on yourself if something doesn’t go as planned. If at first, you don’t succeed try, try, and try again. Just keep your chin up, live and learn, and never put off until tomorrow what you can do today…but tomorrow is another day. My dear reader, all good things must come to end and all’s well that ends well, and so this article ends here. Man, time flies, huh? So, how many proverbs was that? Were you counting? Which ones stood out to you like a sore thumb?

The post Words To Live By…My Life, Guided By Proverbs appeared first on The Outdoor Soul.

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What do you do for release when life gets tough? Sometimes, life can seem like it just gets in the way of you being able to enjoy it. Yes, it happens to me as well. It’s not always easy. It’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Nature can help. We all have those tough moments that seem to stretch your patience, grab a hold of your feelings with the grip of a grizzly, and really test your ability to cope with the giant, dark storms that life can throw at you at any moment. This is just part of being human, and it’s how we subsist and manage during these times that define us. It’s during times like these that I turn to nature and take an opportunity to just step away from the situation. Nature helps me to release the pressures that are weighing me down and allows me time to breathe and put things in perspective. Nature is my psychiatrist or therapist, so to say, and nature therapy does wonders for me.
There’s something strange about the woods that calms my soul and soothes any pains that are ailing me. When I step foot onto a dirt or stone path surrounded by trees, nothing but the serene sounds of the wildlife inhabiting the area, I notice my shoulders drop, my breathing slows to a manageable pace, my spirit lifts, and my issues begin to fade. My senses heighten and become much more noticeable to myself, down to the feeling of each individual breath, the sounds of everything around me and which direction it is coming from. All kinds of smells become more intense, and I can feel the breeze along every inch of whatever skin may be exposed. Sometimes, it feels like my eyesight gets clearer, and colors become bolder and more intense. Hiking truly refreshes me from top to bottom, inside and out and all around. It allows me to focus on one thought at a time, instead of having every thought, issue, and task scrambling around in my head all at the same time, each one fighting for the spot on the top of the list. There are no distractions when I’m on a hike, and I can take my time to sort through what I need and resolve any unresolved problems that may have come across my plate. Hiking has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and improve mental health. I wrote about the benefits of hiking in my post, Oh, Go Take A Hike, Would Ya’? Click here to read the article. These are just two of the benefits a good romp in the woods can provide.
I sometimes wish that I had more time and more opportunities to do longer solo adventures such as overnight backpacking trips or camping adventures. I have quite the bucket list. The crazy thing is that sometimes I feel that I’m neglecting my duties as a father and husband when I solo hike. I hope my wife and kids understand that sometimes I need a little bit of time alone with my thoughts to reset and recharge. I just read an article recently on one of my favorite blogs, Potty Adventures, called Selfish Husband Syndrome – Balancing Solo Adventures and Family Experiences. I can truly relate to this article in many ways; age, family status, etc. I wished I had a close group of friends like he does, who would go out on backpacking trips and adventures, as this is why I stick to day-hikes when I’m not adventuring with my family. It can be tough sometimes to get out there by myself when I need to recharge my batteries. Especially when I know how much effort my wife puts into being a stay-at-home Mom for our amazing kids while finding the time for a couple of gigs of her own to bring in some bacon. She is such an amazing woman and doesn’t get enough credit for what she really does and what she really means to me and our family. She is definitely Super-Mom in my eyes, and I hope she knows that. I don’t know what I would do without her. That being said, I hope she doesn’t ever think that I am trying to neglect my duties or leave her holding the bag with the kids and the dog whenever I need to get out on a solo hike. I also hope that she gets enough of her own solo time to unwind and recharge herself. For her, I think it’s shopping where she finds her release.
I’m curious…what do you do for release from life’s heavy moments and overwhelming pressures? Do you have a go-to place or go-to activity that you would like to share? I look forward to hearing your comments below.

The post Nature Is My Psychiatrist; My Form of Release appeared first on The Outdoor Soul.

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As I have stated before, many, many times, fall is by far my favorite season of the year. Especially during peak colors, it is when I look forward to spending time with my family outdoors. Whether it be hiking wooded trails, camping for one of the last times before the bitterness of winter succumbs our Midwest region, or just taking a leisurely drive through the many natural areas that the wonderful state of Michigan has to offer. This past weekend, we had the amazing opportunity to load up the kiddos in the Flex and head up to the northern Lower Peninsula for our family Fall Color Tour. I had booked a room for us in Gaylord for Saturday night. The plan was to hit the road Saturday morning and drive three hours to Gaylord, check in, have lunch, then begin our drive. I’m sure that most of you with families and youngins understand that it’s not always easy to get everything together and everyone out the door on time as planned. Well, this weekend was definitely one of those times. We left the house a bit later than I wanted to, but my usual plan of telling my wife the time we needed to leave by being earlier than what I really wanted kind of fell through by fault of my own. Shhh. Don’t tell her.
The expected three-hour drive turned into four hours with multiple extra stops that I had not planned for. We arrived at the Downtown Motel in Gaylord and I was able to check in and get the key since I knew that we wouldn’t arrive back at the motel from our tour until much later that night. After that, we filled up the gas tank and decided on Panera for lunch. I have never really purchased food from Panera myself before, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It was a little pricey for my liking, but we ordered our food as well as a couple of kids meals, which are really just half portions of their regular menu items. My seven-year-old agreed on a salad with a baguette and we ordered the mac and cheese with a Gogurt for our soon-to-be two-year-old. My wife and I split a full Cuban sandwich and bowl of broccoli cheddar soup. When the food arrived at our table, the salad came with a vinaigrette dressing. I just have to ask; what seven-year-old really enjoys a spicy vinaigrette dressing? This is what Panera believes a kids meal salad should have? We also didn’t think about the very loose front tooth Abby has when we requested the baguette, which was very tough to bite through. So, we traded the broccoli cheddar soup for the salad so she didn’t go hungry. The mac and cheese was not your typical Kraft brand either. It was made with Vermont Cheddar and White American cheese with a Dijon mustard base that Allie wasn’t too fond of. So, she ended up just having the Gogurt and some crackers that we happened to have in her diaper bag. What a mess that $40 lunch turned out to be. After that whole debacle, we schluffed it off and packed ourselves in the car and began our tour. The plan was to begin in Gaylord, head northwest toward Charlevoix, drive along the Lake Michigan Coast and Little Traverse Bay to Petoskey, up and around the bend to Harbor Springs so we could experience the Tunnel of Trees to Cross Village, then begin to make our way southwest through the towns of Pellston, Wolverine, and back down to Gaylord. Not far out of Gaylord, we finally came to a point where the electrical wires ended, and the road seemed to disappear ahead of us into a sea of bright orange, yellow, and red leaved woods. It was such a magnificent sight. I do have to say that I am quite perturbed with the quality of my photos, as I do not yet have a good camera for times such as this. I am at the mercy of using my phone to take photos, which does not even come close to providing justice for the spectacular views we encountered.
It was at this point that the road took on a mind of its own, as it curved tightly this way and that, soaring and dipping sharply with no rhyme or reason to its methods. It had turned into a roller-coaster ride, and I chose not to waver or slow and just settle in and enjoy the ride. Little Allie could feel every hump and divot we encountered, as her screeches of joy could be heard throughout the vehicle. We were enclosed in the natural splendor of the forest that was bursting with color this time of year. The trees seemed to be engulfed in flames with how bright and bold the yellows, reds, oranges, and golds were. And the trees were still almost completely full, like a crowd of overweight giants leaving just one path to barely make it through, and that path was narrow and not just a straight line. We were having a blast cruising along these winding and twisted roads. Once we made it out, the land opened up to beautiful rolling farmlands. It was a glorious change of scenery compared to the city views of what I am used to on a daily basis. Not long after, we came upon the southeastern edge of Lake Charlevoix. From the direction we came, it seemed like a river, but as we continued, the lake opened up more and more. Some of the homes we passed here were absolutely gorgeous with some amazing views overlooking the lake. My wife and I began dreaming of one day owning a place like this. One day. One day. As we got closer and closer to downtown Charlevoix, traffic began to pile up. We didn’t know what was up ahead, but something was causing a major backup. With Lake Charlevoix on one side of us and Lake Michigan on the other, we didn’t have any other option but to sit in this traffic in order to cross the Round Lake Channel through the heart of downtown to head toward Petoskey. As we finally arrived in the heart of the city, we noticed a street festival with vendors lining the streets selling all kinds of things, including pumpkins, gourds, caramel, and candied apples, apple pies, apple strudel, apple cider, and even more apple items that can’t continue to list. There were tents with local artwork and craft items. It was the Apple Fest Art & Craft Show. I wished we had the time available to stop, but I was really looking forward to at least experiencing the Tunnel of Trees, and traffic had already set us back almost an hour. We finally made it through traffic and were driving toward the beautiful town of Petoskey and up and around Little Traverse Bay to Harbor Springs. At this point, it was starting to get late in the day, but I knew that Tunnel of Trees began just beyond the city limits. We were on the well-known M-119, and the trees began to creep closer and closer to the sides of the road as we continued on. Finally, the road narrowed and the road’s center line disappeared. We had arrived, and I was not prepared for what we were about to encounter.
Even though the speed limit signs said 45 mph, myself and the other drivers refused to continue at any speed greater than 30. There was too much beauty to miss. There were very few spots without a canopy over the road. The only times the trees opened up were to reveal breathtaking views looking out over Lake Michigan. Not far up the road, we noticed a sign pointing toward Thorne Swift Nature Preserve, which I couldn’t ponder passing up. There was still plenty of daylight left for us to take a detour to visit this preserve and enjoy a short hike with my wife and kids. As we pulled into the parking lot of the preserve, we were greeted with ear-to-ear grins of the two women who were manning the park and small nature center. One of them was tossing apples over the parking lot railing, calling to the deer that they had named, who inhabited the area. They were extremely friendly and happy to show us a map of the hiking trails within the preserve that would take us through the wetlands and to the bluffs overlooking the great lake and down to the no-footprint beach area. This was such an amazing opportunity to spend some quality time outside of the car, stretch our legs, and take in some amazing views. We started our hike and the kids took to it with the brightest smiles on their faces that I had seen in quite some time. They were so excited that I had to tell them to calm and quiet down just a bit or they were going to scare away all of the wildlife before we had a chance to see them. The trail was very well managed and kept up. There was a small wooden bridge that we had to cross to get over a stream that I am sure would fill with much more water once the season continued with more rain or just after the snowmelt of the winters in this upper-Michigan location. It was quaint and cute, though. Not far after, there was a spot to rest, with a wooden bench that the kids immediately ran toward to sit and snuggle with each other for just long enough for me to capture a quick photo. Further..
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