Thursday, January 30, 2014

Guest Blogger: Cindy Evans Snowshoes at the Commons

Happy Polar Vortex Part II, everyone! Our guest blogger this week is Cindy Evans, who works at Grand Traverse Industries and lives in the Traverse City area with her husband and two children. Cindy took on winter (and a lot of hills) during her recent snowshoeing adventure at the Grand Traverse Commons. Read on for some advice about snowshoeing the Commons and a lot of pretty winter eye-candy that will encourage you to get out and explore this season! - Mo

I love Traverse City; I have always loved the area and its charm. This city has so much to offer in terms of opportunities to be active and ways to enjoy its unmatchable beauty in all seasons.

A few years ago I had found myself really disliking the winter season and the fact that I wasn’t out enjoying it either. I decided that I was going to find a way to get out there again and change my perspective because, moving was not an option that either my husband, myself, nor my family was going to consider. I looked on the community events page and thought, well what can I do? My children were young, my husband has a reconstructed knee so his activities are limited, I had suffered from Asthma as a result of contracting the H1N1 flu, and honestly, I was not in great shape after having two children and a few too many pounds I hadn’t done anything about. So needless to say, choices were limited.

One day someone at work told me about guided snowshoeing at the Sleeping Bear Dunes and that equipment was provided if you didn’t have your own. So I called my husband and asked him to sign us up: I wanted to give this a try. This was a great opportunity to see if I could do it before investing money into equipment of my own. That one trip was all it took, and I found this was the perfect activity for my family to be able to participate in together, while also being something I could do while not being in the best shape. I will say that after that first trip I was hooked, and it was the spark I needed to get back to enjoying our majestic winters. I was able to lose some that weight and start feeling better, in part, due to our many winter adventures snowshoeing.

One of my favorite areas to hike with my family in the fall is the trails in and around the GrandTraverse Commons. Since I hadn’t been snowshoeing there yet, I thought I would give it a try. I headed out this past Saturday after the big storm that dumped more than six inches of snow and left us in very low temperatures. I didn’t take my kids since it was so cold, but I am a diehard, right? I can do this, why not!

I was surprised to see that there was more activity on the trails than I had thought there would be, and once I got moving the cold was not a factor. The Village is nestled among 480 acres of preserved parkland, and has a vast array of trails. Thetrails are well marked and have maps at the access points. It’s a great place to get out and meet others along the trail. You will come across frozen creeks, old historic buildings, and see lots of wildlife. If you love to take photos of nature or unique settings, this is the place for you. There are moments to enjoy some solitude and quiet, and just to pause and listen to the wind in the trees. Some trails lead to some old abandoned historic buildings that are now the canvas for local graffiti artists. (Warning: if you are with children there is inappropriate language and images that come with this graffiti work, so just beware.)

I started out on the Tangle Wood trail, which is a fairly easy trail with some rolling hills and a moderately packed pathway from use. The trail meanders through the woods and past a creek. This would be a good place to start if you’re only looking for a short hike. I then headed over to the Cistern Spur trail because I wanted to get some pictures on the higher elevation and of the big round abandoned cistern that is hidden in the woods there. There is an easier path to get to the same area but I opted for the short cut, which includes going up the very steep hill to get there more directly. I don’t believe that was a great idea for snowshoeing but, I will claim frozen brain for that decision. I did slip a few times and needed to use the rail so I didn’t fall or slide down, but after much determination, I did make it to the top, a little….ok, a LOT…out of breath. But I made it, and the view was worth it.

In areas I could see down across the Village and the sights were just amazing. I could have opted to take the easy path down, but I decided I just wanted to see if I could ski down and not fall, knowing full-well this was not how snowshoes were meant to be used. Again, frozen brain mixed with a little stupidity. I do not recommend this because it could lead to injury. Matter of fact, it most likely will lead to injury. I did however have a blast skiing down the trail and, will boast I did not fall but I am sure if my chiropractor ever saw this blog it would make him cringe. I assure you my form was not good, and it was very dicey at moments.

Whether you like to snowshoe with a group or by yourself, the Commons is the ideal place to go. You can head directly out of the trail and over to Higher Grounds for a warm up with coffee or grab a bite to eat at the various eateries. You can adventure into the Mercato to warm up and enjoy some great shopping, or take a stroll and view the artwork along the walls. There is something for everybody here. Click here for a map of the trails.

Also worth mentioning is the Experience 231 app. This app has all the hiking, biking, bird watching, x-country skiing, paddling, and snowshoeing trails in the area. It allows you to enter search criteria such as distance, or experience level; it will pull up all the trails that meet that criteria. It also gives some information on the trail and its surroundings, along with distance from your location. I found some new places I didn’t know about and it’s worth checking out since it’s free. I hope to see some of you out on the trails, and happy snowshoeing!

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