I did my walk today. I dressed for the weather; shirt, sweater, winter coat, gloves and winter boots. The typical blustery wind was present but something was definitely missing; the snow. I walked on completely clear sidewalks; no icy patches, no previously worn pedestrian path and no imperfectly shoveled trails. The only evidence of any accumulated snow was a continuous line of debris left over from a sidewalk clearing, much like the sediment layer from a melted glacier. This time last year I was trudging through mid calf snow drifts, stacked tall with rock solid ice chunks created by multiple plows of the busy road.
MLK last January
This year? Nothing. I must admit, this lack of snow has me in a bit of a panic. I’m wondering if this is just a La Niña type event. Or is this the new Mid-Michigan? This might offend some, but I really hope it’s just a fluke!! I can’t imagine a winter with no skiing, no sledding or no shoveling. There would be no showing my kids the frolicking nature of animals as we use our sleuth skills to track their movements. There would be no snow ice cream, snowmen, snowball fights or snow forts. Every year when the snow is packy I create some sort of creature out of the snow. Ellie still brags about my snow whale. Would this tradition melt away?
Our front yard March 2010
Closing in the on 25th day of January with only a total of five paltry inches of snow is disappointing at the least, devastating at the most. How am I supposed to work off the Christmas weight gain without a few hours of skiing, sledding and/or shoveling each week? In Mid-Michigan we need the snow. No, really, we do. The sight of fresh, clean, white crystals falling from the sky lightens the heart and soul. It covers over a multitude of trash and other unsightly objects. It creates a blanket of purity across the land.
Was it the last part about purity?
All right, I understand. Not everyone LOVES the snow. Can we agree that it’s really pretty though?
I can live with that.
Trees in front of my Cooper Ave. house many years ago.
Our driveway in the Fall Blizzard of 2011 (November 30, 2011)
Photo taken by Patrick O’Meara
We finally got snow!! Our last substantial amount was November 27, 2011; fall last year, if you want to get technical. It came and went so fast back then that it didn’t occur to me that I needed to take full advantage of it while I could. I told myself that if we do finally get snow I wasn’t going to let it melt away without getting in it. Despite having a nagging, multiple day migraine, today Pat, the twins and I put on our snow clothes and headed out to our favorite snow hill. I have been sledding at Gier Community Center since I was an infant. We would walk over from my aunt’s house and sled into the evening. When I started going to school at Gier, fellow classmates and I would meet over there before and after school and any possible weekend as well. We would sled on anything too; cardboard, each other, sheets of metal. I can remember running toboggans down that hill and metal railed wooden sleds. I remember one year my dad got skis and my brother Walter, Mike Apostle and I walked over and took turns downhill skiing. It’s the only downhill skiing I’ve ever done. We would build ramps and berms to increase the entertainment value of the activity. We would add obstacles and challenges as well. Sledding to us was an unofficial Olympic event. There was a natural skill set involved with great sledding. Anyone can carry a sled to the top of the hill, sit down, then proceed to zig-zag to the middle of the hill and explode in a pile of legs, arms, snow, and an overturned sled. To me the real skill, the true talent is creating the perfect trail and artfully riding that trail to the farthest edges of the hill; ride it to the sparkling, untouched snow, much like a surfboarder rides the wave from crest to shore. Here are my hints for creating the perfect sledding trail.
Create a trail-Use the smoothest sled with the heaviest person. Have them inch their way down the hill as far as they can. Get off sled, move a few steps off that path, climb to the top and do it again; and again; and again. After doing this a certain number of times and real path will begin to form.
Try to stay on trail-when sledding try to balance your body and even lightly use your hands to stay inside this track. Depending on the weather this track could even become icy and extremely fast.
Stay off the trail-if you are not on a sled do not walk on this trail. The footsteps and even other sled tracks disrupt the smoothness of your new trail.
Repair trail-If someone happens to try your new trail and falls off mid way, uses a foot to slow down, or any other activities that add pot holes to your perfectly smooth trail, just start over by going down the trail with a smooth sled as many times as you can carry your tired body up the hill.
This is my hardest one
Share your trail-After putting in all that work others will soon see that your sledding is far superior to theirs and want to try your hill and enjoy it as well. Be patient as most people don’t see sledding as an unofficial Olympic sport and will soon think you are crazy for constantly asking them to not walk on your trail. If this happens count to ten and make a snow angel, far away from the youngsters who might want to jump on its head.
If you find that your trail has been confiscated by a sea of untrained children, just start over. It’s not like you have anything better to do, right?
Once you’ve created, enjoyed, repaired and re-enjoyed that perfect sledding hill and your path is the farthest (not because you are the only adult sledding) trail, then you’ve earned the right, when you finally catch your breath at the top of the hill after the 100th time climbing up, to do the champion fist pumping motion, because you have truly become a sledding artist.
How I ended up on a street corner with my camera slung over one shoulder, a messenger bag full of extra forms (weighing about 20 pounds) flung over the other, two clip boards; one with an AARP sticker and a measuring tape (also AARP logoed) is a really long story. It started in 2010 at TEDx Lansing. One of the guest speakers from the event was Rory Neuner. Rory was the state network manager for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. The title of her TED talk was Creating a Livable Lansing. As someone who was putting together a project to walk all the city streets of Lansing, I thought she would be someone I might like to network with. The opportunity came a few months later. After introductions she informed me of a group that was also planning to walk all the streets in Lansing with the intent to collect data on the sidewalk’s walk-ability. They were looking for volunteers and asked if she could pass my information to them. I didn’t hear from anyone but I did learn about a volunteer meeting with Mid-MEAC and AARP who were coordinating this walkability audit and I went to that. At the meeting I ambitiously signed up for three sections. A month later I received my Walkability Study Volunteer Package. Since then I have been working that section into my City Saunters. Walking and promoting Lansing; making it safer and a place people want to come to is also the goals of many non-profits around this area. I have had the great fortune of connecting with quite a few of these groups. One of these connections has been with Mid-MEAC: Mid Michigan Environmental Action Council. This group was founded in 1993 to focus on environmental issues in the Mid Michigan area. They clean the rivers, promote green transportation and sustainable land use. They recently were awarded a $3 million Sustainable Community Regional Planning grant from HUD. This group also promotes and assists with one of Lansing’s newest and greatest summer events; the Capital City Dragon Boat Racing. All proceed from this fantastic event benefit Mid-MEAC and their efforts to improve the downtown river front area.
If you are ever interested in volunteering click here! It was through my photographic coverage of this event that I met the director of Mid-MEAC, Julie Powers. I have never been hugged by someone I hadn’t met like I was hugged by her! There’s a lot of love in Lansing if you take time to walk to it.
It was early. So early in fact, that my youngest child hadn’t even gotten up for school yet. He is normally wide awake and ready for the day at 6:30 a.m. I had hoped to say a quick bye to both of the twins before heading out this morning for a MarketLansing meeting. Unfortunately, as I walked out the door at 7:05, he was still sound asleep in his room. It was still very dark outside and cold. I scraped off the car and turned on the heat. As I drove out of the neighborhood I quickly synchronized my driving patterns with those too familiar with this commute. It helped speed along the trip. It wasn’t long before more cars clustered in around me and we all snaked our way towards the tall buildings at the center of our city. It was about 7:30 a.m. when I made it into downtown Lansing. I couldn’t quickly recall the last time I’d been in town this early*. There were people out but it wasn’t the normal hustle and bustle I’ve seen at other times of the day. Lansing wasn’t quite awake yet. I parked, fed the meter and walked across the street to The Grand Traverse Pie Company on Washington Square. I was greeted in a low key, “glad you made it out of bed”, morning type of way. The menu this early was simple smiles; cups of coffee and warm breakfast foods. It was nice. I watched in fascination as different types of people passed by the window; all had some place to be this early in downtown Lansing. As the night became less and less the car traffic increased more and more. I watched the sun begin to rise, glinting off the tops of the taller buildings. Lansing was waking up and I was there to see it blink its sleepy eyes and say, “Good Morning”.
*As I was typing this I realized the last time I was here this early was when I went into labor with the twins. It was 6:30 a.m. on November 6, 2005.
The plan was this. I would drive the almost 12 miles into town and park somewhere near the intersection of Forrest and Aurelius; one of my non-traversed sections of Lansing. I would connect back to the section of Aurelius I hadn’t walked and then continue south on Aurelius until I made it to Cavanaugh. From there I would walk west on Cavanaugh to Hawk Island Park; not to avoid the $5 parking fee (they weren’t collecting anyway) but rather to walk the section of Cavanaugh I hadn’t walked yet. The title of today’s post was going to be, “In Lansing, if it doesn’t snow, we make our own”; or something like that. I was planning to walk through Hawk Island to the new outdoor adventure hill and take photos (perfect photos) of snow machines blanketing the man-made hill in complete and perfect uniformity. Then I would continue through the dog park path and end up on one of the back roads between Aurelius and the park. As time allowed, I would walk as many of those as I could before returning to my parked car. My first hitch was not being able to find a place to park at my desired spot. I often take into consideration where I leave my car for the time I am away. I like to make sure it remains safe, un-ticketed, un-towed and un-vandalized. I also don’t want to leave it in a place that might be cumbersome to a business or home owner. All the streets that butt into the dog park have street parking prohibited. There is also no parking along Aurelius on any side. I continued my way down Aurelius and only found businesses and homes. Turning onto Cavanaugh, I found much of the same. Finally I pulled into the Dollar Store parking spot and made my way to the park; same walking plan as mentioned, just rotated around the block a bit. This park is still one of my favorite parks, even in the winter. I continued along the trail, passing a few winter exercisers. As I came closer to the new hill jutting into the sky, I noticed a lot of grass on it. Funny, I thought I just saw a news clip with snow machines gunning and lift chairs moving folks up and down the hill. The closer I got the more I realized that this hill wasn’t offering any fun times. Well, shoot. There goes the perfect photo. Still optimistic that I could at least get a few streets walked, I continued around the base of the hill to the Soldan Dog park entrance. This is where I watched in frustration as a man with a dog slid his entry card through a reader on a large wrought iron fence. He and his dog walked through the gate and continued their walk along the path while I stood trapped on the wrong side of the fence. At this point my choices were walk around to the Scott Wood’s side and see if I can get around to my desired road; knowing full well it will be pass-coded on the other end as well, or walk back to my car, defeated. This time, despite checking the fence line all the way back to my car, hoping to find a hole; I chose defeat. Next time will be better, I know it!
Here is a year in pictures for 2011! I hope you enjoy.