A Mirror-Still Morning at the Clinch Park Marina
A Mirror-Still Morning at the Clinch Park Marina

By MIKE NORTON Every time I think winter is finally here, we get another beautiful week of warm November weather. A couple of days of cold rain - and even a little snow - had me thinking that it was time to say goodbye to fall. (And it certainly gave a nice sharp edge to the mountain biking course at Saturday's Iceman Cometh Challenge - those folks aren't really happy unless they get a lot of ice, snow and mud out in the woods.) But by Saturday, everything was starting to turn balmy again, and Sunday was absolutely delightful. Looks like we're due for a whole week of temps in the fifties (and even the low sixties) with lots of sunshine. Too bad we've lost most of the leaves, of course - but this clear November weather really showcases the blue of the bay and the lavender, pink and gold of the morning and evening sky. On the way to work this morning, we passed valleys filled with mist with flocks of geese flying high overhead, lit from underneath by the rising sun. And walking through the Commons I came across a pair of deer browsing at the edge of the woods. It was a perfect "thank you!" moment, where we stood and stared at each other, and went our separate ways. I could learn to like this month! Apparently, lots of other people feel the same way, because the downtown restaurants and bars were jammed to the rafters over the weekend with celebrating cyclists and other merrymakers. I wouldn't be surprised to see a few hardy souls take their sailboats back out onto the bay, just to enjoy this sweet weather. And as somebody pointed out, the hiking is splendid right now. The forest trails are suddenly full of light now that the upper canopy of leaves is gone, and some of my favorite trails in the cedar and pine woods are still green (and of course, they'll be green all winter.)

By the Stream at the Seven Bridges Natural Area
By the Stream at the Seven Bridges Natural Area

A special place this time of year is a little park called the Seven Bridges Natural Area, located east of Traverse City on Valley Road near Rapid City. The little Rapid River runs through this area of rolling hills - it looks a bit like Appalachia hereabouts - and at the bottom of the valley it makes is a 315-acre preserve with several beautiful trails that go over and around the river's braided branches in a deep, almost prehistoric-looking forest of tall cedars. There are a lot of bridges (I've never counted to be sure there's exactly seven!) and on the opposite side of the road a path takes you high above the narrow valley to the top of Rickers Mountain. It's a pretty neat place any time of year, but I love it best in November!