Up North Blog

A Walk In The Woods… To School

Seven days before the Glen Lake Community School year ended, Colebrook, Hawthorn and I completed our annual walk to school.  I think this photo of our eleven year old taking a break at the Alligator Hill overlook perfectly captured this beautiful day and our world class commute.

Colebrook looking over Lake Michigan Colebrook looking over Lake Michigan.

We happened to walk by Grammy’s house at the start of our walk.  We caught her in her pink bathrobe on her way to pick up her paper.

Grandma Sutherland getting ready for the day. Grammy, getting ready for the day. We think.

The roads were still quiet as we headed on a new route to school that would take us over Alligator Hill and across the south west side of Glen Lake.

Colebrook and Hawthorn on some Leelanau backroads. Exciting times can be had while on a quite morning walk.

Just two years ago, this section was thickly forested in old growth hardwoods.  But that was before the August 2nd Sheer Storm that obliterated tens of thousands of trees.  Hawthorn found a branch of wood that was so splintered at one end, they worked like tail feathers for his makeshift spear.

No injuries were to be had on this day.

We found a beautiful hilltop covered with plush green grass at the southeast side of the Alligator.  Colebrook said, “Let’s call this place our own secret spot.  Nobody else can know about it… except maybe Mom and Michael Joseph (his best friend).”

Here is Hawthorn at the narrows bridge contemplating our next move.  We’ve been gone three hours and are still less than halfway to his classroom.  He fully realizes that Daddy’s idea to hike over Alligator Hill was a very long detour.  He also sees clearly for the first time, in five hikes to school, that Big Glen Lake continues to be a huge roadblock in our way.

Hawthorn looking over Big Glen Lake. Can we paddle?

There is a beautiful unmarked, unmaintained trail on Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore property, that skirts along the southeast corner of Big Glen Lake.  This discovery was the highpoint of our hike.  Beware, a half mile later, our trail ended and we were using zig zaggy deer trails or nothing to navigate the steep 400 foot ledge of fallen trees and washouts.

After the mile of breaking trail along the most remote southern shoreline of Big Glen, it was nice to hike the smooth and sandy beach along the east side of the lake.  This was a typical scene of our time hiking.  Hawthorn catching up with us after being distracted for the millionth time.  We’ve hiked for 4 ½ hours and nobody looks tired.

We made it! We hiked nine miles in 5 hours!  All we have to do now, is sign into school for the day.  And then, several seconds later, sign out of school for the day.  Mom is out of work early, so she can pick us up!

This family event started a half decade ago, to give my boys perspective on the challenges 70% of the worlds students face in getting to school.  Over the years, our reasons for this walk have changed.  Hawthorn loves this walk to school day because it gives him hours of freedom, and he’s asked for this day, at least 20 times over the school year.  Colebrook, who is fit as a wolf, loves this chance to roam and would explore the landscape much more, and even run most of it, if his fellow hikers could keep up with him.  I, of course, love the together time with two growing boys that share their dreams and struggles and endless questions.