Commentary: The best ways to enjoy trails


Crunchy leaves. Image: Vladislava Sukhanovskaya

By Vladislava Sukhanovskaya

I love animals that live on trails near where I live.

Ginger fat squirrels with small fast fingers, white-tailed deer jumping out of your way into the bush and all kinds of goldendoodles with their owners.

Once I was gently and softly bitten by a curly white doodle while walking to the nearest Meijer supermarket on the North Tier Trail in East Lansing, Michigan.

Trails and their nearby dwellers change their appearance with the seasons, and there are ways to enjoy them even when it’s -4°F (-20°C).

When I went through 10-day isolation in the middle of the winter because I had Covid-19, I spent a lot of time outside. I wandered in the forest, picking up pine branches and cones, writing with a stick in Russian and drawing images of smiling cats and pigs in the snow

Another entertainment was to trap the shrews (Cryptotis parva) that chewed two holes in my wall and release them into the “Tree Hotel” – a hollow in the root of a tall tree. I didn’t want them to die, so I put in wool, hay, oatmeal and cantaloupe seeds for the shrews, which I named after musicians Letov, Freddy, Harrison and Evelyn Glennie.

Only later did I learn that shrews can be cannibals if left one-on-one without food.

When spring comes, I love to watch birds and learn their names. I use the BirdNet app on my phone to record the sound of a bird and determine its kind.

I’ve seen red cardinals and blackbirds along the trails. They are my favorites after Canada geese. There were around 30 goslings one time — little fluffy chicks that pooped all over the parking lot next to my apartment.

In summer, I walk on the trails carefully — all kinds of creatures pop up to warm themselves in the sun on the asphalt.

One time I gently poked a gray turtle with a long tail so it would come off the road. Otherwise, it could have been smashed all over the trail by a bicycle.

The fall is the time to pick up leaves.

I love red maple and bright yellow ginkgo leaves. I pick them up and stick them to the walls of my bedroom.

Running onto leaf piles is another adventure — you never know if you’ll step into crunchy leaves or dog poop.

Trails were the best places to spend my time outside my apartment whenever I needed a mental break from studying.

And they always surprised me with something new — whether it was a small possum with heart-shaped ears digging through the leaves in search of food or a squirrel building a nest for its future children.

You never know what you’ll find next time on the trails.

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