The following was an entry from my 2009 Journal. My wife and I took a small vacation in October. I was anxious to try hiking. It's almost that time of year again. I thought I'd share the experience of my first hike.:
I had researched the Hoist Lake National Forest for our first hike. It had both long and short trails. We didn’t know what to expect going in, so I wanted something with options.
The trail was very clearly marked, which I was relieved to see. There were a few other cars in the lot, but we didn’t see any other people until the hike was over.
Heidi insisted on taking the lead. We moved really fast at first. The forest seemed very quiet at times. It didn’t take long before a deer snorted at us. The official guide at the parking area stated that the forest was full of deer, coyote, fox, and black bear.
It took us about 45 minutes to travel what the map said was 0.75 miles, which seemed long to me. I had actually gotten the compass out to start trying to pinpoint where we were on the map. I was afriad their were no actual numbered markers like the map indicated. I thought we might be lost. We soon came upon the marker for point #2. Another unseen deer let us know where he was. There was a clearing there, and the trail forked. This was our first opportunity to get lost, and we had to decide how short we wanted to make the hike. We opted for the shorter, 3 mile route.
As we continued, we went over a small ridge hill. As we were going down hill, we both heard twigs start snapping from directly behind us on the other side of the ridge. We could no longer see anything on that side. We froze. There was another twig snap followed by a kind of grunt. My mind was racing. I’ve heard deer snorts many times, and this didn’t remind me of those. All I could think of was black bear. I started talking loud, shouting out, “Hey bear!” From the other side of the trail (still over the ridge and out of sight), I heard another grunt, which made me feel like there were two of whatever was over there. We decided to get moving quickly. I kept shouting “Hey bear!” as we left the area. We never saw or heard whatever it was after that.
After a short while, we paused along a swamp that was down in a valley. A chipmunk caught our attention. We talked loudly about it.
When we started moving again we both heard movement down by the swamp, not more than about 20 feet from us. At that point I saw a white flurry of movement from a deer’s white tail. I couldn’t see anything else due to the brush. It moved on quickly and more amazingly to us, quietly. We didn’t hear it as it moved through the dense brush. We had heard it stand up but we didn’t hear it as it left our area. Amazing that such a large animal could move so quietly around us. We were also surprised that it hadn’t decided to leave earlier as we stood noisily talking about the silly chipmunk.
We did see some things we were curious about. There were a lot of trees that had obviously been cleanly cut down - probably for anyone needing fire wood. Camping is allowed as long as it’s not done too close to the actual trail.
What was strange were the trees that appeared to have been broken off, many about 5-7 feet up. The strange part? They were all leaning in on one another in a tee pee like formation. We saw many of these, some in clusters, some as singles. The biggest was near the first clearing at marker #2, just before we had our animal encounter.There were also trees, some very large and tall, that were arched. What causes that? Is it just snow fall, ice?
I’m not trying to suggest anything by my curiosity. It was just strange to see what could have been man-made constructs in areas that likely didn't see humans too often. More experienced outdoorsman might know exactly how these things happen. Whether they were made by people or just naturally fell that way, I just found them strange, and if man made, pointless.
We didn’t encounter much wild life after that. We thought we saw a deer at one point, but we weren’t sure. A black squirrel tried to jump on my head, effectively scaring the crap out of me. I thought a limb was going to hit me or something. We also heard what was likely a woodpecker pretty far off in the distance.
We were pretty tired by the time we reached the parking site. We were glad we hadn’t decided to go a longer route.
We ran into some hunters in the parking lot who had once lived in Flint. Hunting is also allowed in the forest, which makes hiking a bit more interesting doesn’t it?
Overall, it was great exercise. It was also relaxing. The wildlife encounters added some excitement. It was beautiful and peaceful.
I miss that wild, mossy, oaky smell already. Maybe I should have grabbed a limb or two.