Spring Walkabout

By Jane Greiner
Sun staff writer
There’s nothing like a couple of 50 degree days in a row to give you the urge to get outside for a Spring Walkabout. I use the term broadly to include anything from putting on hiking shoes and taking a real walk to grabbing a rake and clearing some leaves from the yard. I even include piling in the car for an old fashioned Sunday drive.

Recently Lyn and I were both infected with the spring bug. It came on gradually. It started two weeks ago when Lyn announced that “the light is changing.” Lyn is an artist and notices things like the way the light has a different quality during each season of the year; it has a sharp edge in the winter, there is more light in the spring and it has a warm feel to it, the air is softer and rounder in the summer, blurring the hard edges, and it has an incandescent, almost glowing effect in the fall.
For me spring became real when I saw a ring-necked pheasant crossing the road north of Lake Ann. It was a male who looked handsome with his bright green head and white collar. For some reason the sight of a pheasant was a harbinger of good things to come, perhaps because pheasants used to be so plentiful downstate and have now mysteriously disappeared. Until this sighting, I had not seen a single pheasant since I moved her three years ago.
Another sign that spring is on its way was our first motorcycle sighting, followed shortly thereafter by the first bicycle sighting. Human beings change with the seasons just like the rest of nature. The urge to ride in the open air is a sure sign of spring in Leelanau County. One day we even saw several canoers and kayakers on the Crystal River. I could hear spring in their laughter as they paddled the sparkling water.
One weekend we felt the need to get outside. We put on our walking shoes and headed for Alligator Hill. It felt so good to leave the heavy boots behind. This was our first time on Alligator Hill this season. On the way we saw the ice melting back from the shores on both Big and Little Glen Lakes. From the top of Alligator Hill Lake Michigan looked green and blue again, like it does in summer.
Two days later we hiked the Bay View trail. It was cool but sunny up there looking out over the lake and hearing the fog horn blowing in the distance The lake was almost completely free of ice. There was only one narrow shelf of ice along the shoreline below Pyramid Point.
On our way home we went for a drive on firming gravel roads. We drove to the end of Thorson Road and later over to Port Oneida Road. At one spot we saw a small flock of robins in the weeds and trees beside the road – a whole gang of springtime messengers.
In another place we saw a falcon-like bird on a fence. It was probably an American Kestrel, a small falcon with a lot of white on its head. They flash considerable red in flight. My bird book tells me that they range into our area in the summer. Maybe this one was a little early.
The drive did not completely cure our Spring fever. When we got home Lyn and I took a stroll around the house so she could show me the first crocuses she had seen pushing up their green tips.
The weather made backyard work look attractive. We both got out rakes and went to work. Lyn started cleaning out her flower beds. I began to uncover the various trails I have laid out through the woodsy part of our back yard.
Just being in the woods felt good. The sun came through the un-leaved trees bright and sharp. I left my jacket inside and let the sun warm my back through my sweatshirt.
We let the dogs out to play in the yard as we worked. They grew bored with the raking and ran off to chase squirrels and chipmunks. They never catch the little critters, thank goodness, but they get a great deal of pleasure chasing them up trees. The dogs spend a lot of time camped out at the base of a tree staring up into the branches where a squirrel was last seen. Of course the squirrels are long-gone, but the dogs never seem to figure that out.
I played at leaf raking until the sun dropped a little lower and lost its magic touch. We brought the dogs inside and kindled up the fire in the woodstove. What a fine day it had been!
Spring has that kind of effect. It gets us up out and urges us to get busy with old activities “put away” since the previous summer. We look for the first crocuses, the first robins, the first buds on the trees. We remember how good it feels to be outside and realize how long the winter has been. It’s absolutely the best time of the year for that walkabout in the back yard.