I am torn about writing the following, as the low number of people that use the area I’m about to describe is one reason it’s such a gem. We are often confronted with this catch-22 in the U.P., which has many treasured local spots we might hope to keep to ourselves. This selfishness is unhealthy and far too prevalent in current society. The Native American concept of un-ownable land makes good sense, allowing everyone to share in its abundance.
So I’m going ahead and sharing information on one of my favorite hiking and cross-country ski trails which is hidden in plain sight – the Fit Strip, a half-mile by half-mile plot of land bordering Park Cemetery. On a first-of-spring jaunt through this easy, meandering trail winding past stunning white pines and other conifers, maples and birch, a jogger approached. He pointed and asked whether I saw the red fox grazing just fifty feet off the path. We both stopped and enjoyed the view for a moment before this sleek critter with a white patch on the tip of its full tail slipped back into denser thicket.
The park is home to an array of four-legged foragers, including deer, skunk, raccoon, squirrel, chipmunk, and mouse. I’m always pleasantly surprised when I venture into this woodsy park. Nearly every year brings a new and exciting sighting. Once while traversing the soft wood chip trail, I turned a sharp corner and spotted a great horned owl a mere twenty feet away, busily devouring a chippy or mouse. He seemed perturbed by my sudden appearance, yet determined to finish his delectable meal. I stopped quickly and slowly backed away around the same corner so I could watch him without triggering his early departure. He turned his head toward me with an intensely fierce stare that penetrated my being, and then continued shredding the helpless rodent.
Several years ago, a six-hundred pound moose yearling wandered into this forest haven and claimed it as home. Park Cemetery offers three beautiful ponds filled with water lilies, so this massive adolescent would sleep in the fit strip, forage, and then go to the pond to drink and feast. At first a handful of us watched his every move. Then the crowds grew each week until finally, after several months, hundreds would await his timely arrival. This gentle giant had to navigate through the crowds three times a day, causing concern from local authorities about possible danger.
These crowds are not what I am seeking, but if you are looking for a close-to-home, nature-filled, peaceful adventure, this mid-city gem is worth the trip. It offers entrance from every side and trails that wind gracefully through a gently sloped city forest of endless nature-watching possibilities.
To contact Kevin McGrath, see-male him hiking about enjoying the great outdoors.
This article was reprinted with permission from the Spring 2014 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2014. All rights reserved.