Use of the Forest

Public use of Saginaw Forest is encouraged. Rules for the public's use include (but are not limited to):

Monday, August 31, 2015

We fly slowly.

I've generally considered myself a very adaptable person. I would claim a genuine appreciation for change--seasons, school years, jobs. In theory, I accept the fact that change is the only certainty in life, and that you might as well make transitions gracefully.

But the truth is that I have been dreading tomorrow since the first day I moved into cabin, on August 15th of 2013.

I write to you tonight beside my last bonfire. The wood was a bit wet from our recent rains, and I burned through match after match in an attempt to kindle a lasting flame. I'd like this night to last forever, but I know it will burn out, just as I always knew I would have to leave here.

Two evenings ago I laid on the dock with Leto, welcoming the dusk. I was waiting, anticipating my favorite residents of the woods. Sure enough, it wasn't long before we heard the strange, slow staccato of the cranes calling to each other, sweeping over the canopy from the southwest. They made an elegant arc over the lake to land in their favorite corner, the shallows by the old "arboretum" to the west. They settled. Even from the dock, they are beautiful to watch. Their silver gray color stands in stark contrast to the dull browns and greens of the evening. Their lovely figures fit so well with the surrounding vegetation that, when still, they could be sculptures. One began stalking along the edge of the lake, lifting each leg slow and deliberate, pausing at the top before slipping toes back in the water. The mate followed ten feet behind. They came to a stop, five feet apart, and just stood quietly. Separate but together. Not touching. Not speaking. I was completely captivated by them, as I am every night they come.

After sometime watching, I began to feel uncomfortable. Like I was trying to steal a piece of something that didn't belong to me. The only thing that could make this evening ritual they share better, more precious, would be if they were truly alone. That they could share that quiet without prying, curious eyes. The feeling was persistent, so I left them quickly.

The idea of leaving the forest, of leaving this house I've come to call my "own," has been agony to come to terms with. But when I think of how much better it felt to leave the cranes their privacy, I feel slightly better. Perhaps the only thing that could improve this place would be my absence. Letting it exist free of my porch lights, my fires, my whoots and hollers as I ski the paths on dead winter nights.

So I accept that tonight is my last here. And in whatever way it is possible to thank this piece of land, I do. I thank it for helping me to grow up, for helping me understand what I need to be happy and what I don't. For making me aware of subtle changes, and simple beauty. I thank Saginaw for forcing me to learn how to sharpen tools, fix a lawn mower, and use a chainsaw. I'm grateful for all of the people I brought together here for dinners, walks, and workdays. For the lovely hikers I met walking the trails. And I am indebted to this place for the hundreds of moments I shared with my best friend Leto: cold January mornings wrapped in blankets on our futon, boat rides, hikes, and evenings on the dock with my head propped on his furry rump.

Though tomorrow ends my residency here, I will still be visiting these woods, contributing to their history with my footsteps. As a parting gift, I've planted a number of wildflowers here in the hopes that they will someday take back some land as invasive plants are removed in the years to come (the cardinal flower is doing particularly well!).

To those who have kept up with my intermittent blogging, thanks for joining the ride. And for those of you I've shared the trails with, look after them for me.


Jenny & Leto

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Summer Storms.

Last night after dinner Leto and I wandered down to the dock to enjoy the cool breeze. The ruthlessly hot day afflicted even our very early morning rounds, leaving us panting and guzzling water. That late evening breeze was the breeze of salvation. Watching the hoards of tiny mosquitos attempt hopeless flights to my exposed skin was equally satisfying.
We enjoyed an interesting mix of soft hues stirring amongst patchy clouds for nearly an hour. I noticed an ominous block of gray coming in over the northwest corner of the lake. Dog seemed content to stay out all night, but I got him up for our last visit to the outhouse/grassy patch. In the time it took to walk to the outhouse and emerge, the clouds that had hung to the northwest already completely covered the sky.

The house was still uncomfortably warm. I opened the window, turned on the fan, and tucked in for the night. I barely made out the sound of the wind rustling leaves over the whir of the fan. I drifted off. I typically find storms in Saginaw to be calming. Like a tranquilizer. But at 1:30am I was cracked awake by thunder so immediate it sounded less like a rumble and more like two trucks crunching together head first. My tiny window was alive with light. The noise from the fan, right next to my bed, was so imperceptible that the only reason I knew it was still on was the soft, rhythmic brush of air against my face. My phone lit up with a tornado warning. Nestled as I am right at the base of a hill in the lake valley, the house isn't likely to see tornado damage. Nonetheless, the warning made me hyper aware of the wind, and I started running through the condition of the trees on the hillside just beyond the walls from me. I stayed awake, watching the lights.

It felt like an eternity, but eventually the sound of the fan started coming in to sharper focus. The thunder was becoming a distant rumble, the rain a soft patter. I fell back asleep.

The forest I woke up to was something entirely different. Sun blazed through the trees. The lake was brown from the flush of sediment. The flashy creek is down to a very gentle trickle, but I imagine at 2am the water ripped violently through it. A pine had come down across the trail to the southwest, jutting out jagged into the trail at waist height. Despite its size and proximity to other tree trunks, it was actually quite easy to simply lift and move. Another laid across the trail by the cabin. This one proved too difficult to shove aside, wedged as it was between tree trunks. I wasn't disappointed. It had been a while since I last broke out the ax. The last deadfall was back when we were still under snow and ice. It felt good to grip it in my hands again, and to get covered in rich smelling earth while lifting and throwing the cut tree.

Around the other side of the lake I picked up trash left by visitors who had likely hurried out. I grumbled a bit, but at least it was more time to enjoy the beautiful day before returning to my desk job.

The large old ash tree that fell last week is still down. It is low priority on my work list, being that it is easily skirted. I plan to get to it this weekend, chainsaw willing. I also plan to start hacking back growth crowding the trails.

Enjoy the day, all.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Whoa! Too long.


It has been a long while since I last posted. Many apologies to any regular followers. Other work here always felt more pressing, and then eventually I just kind of forgot about the blog altogether.

It has been a very flowery spring.

Hikers have had the pleasure of passing bloodroot, spring beauty, wild geranium, solomon's seal, starry solomon's seal, wild columbine, galium, jack-in-the-pulpit, mayapple, dogwood, and cherries. Some less desirables are also putting out their blooms--the honeysuckle, dame's rocket, and garlic mustard. I pulled a fair bit of the mustard, but am well behind on the dame's rocket after a weekend up north. I'm hoping to make some progress on that over the next several days.

On a less happy note, someone stole the trash can yesterday.

I'll use that as a transition for reminding all of our visitors to engage in stewardship for this special place. Help us keep Saginaw Forest a pleasant place for all users.

  • To protect other animals, people, and vegetation, ALWAYS keep your dog on a leash. Your dog is no more special than mine.
  • Follow the posted signs--don't bicycle on the trails, fish, or hunt.
  • Do not park at the gate.
  • Do not use university equipment without explicit permission.
  • Stay on trail.
  • Do not pick wildflowers (unless they are invasive, pull that *&^% up.
If you would like to help out with invasive species removal on the property, you are absolutely welcome to take that next step and join in.

See you on the trails this weekend.