running in the fall

There’s something about a cold morning when the sun shines on frost-covered grasses yet fails to touch one’s chill from fall temperatures. It’s not something I’ve ever taken the time to notice because this chica just doesn’t typically do cold temperatures.

lachica woldumar frost

And yet, here I was, bundled up with four layers, gloves and a long Tough Girl Skirt, meeting my two running mentors Brandess and Janet for an impromptu trail run through Woldumar Nature Center in Lansing, Mich. This might just be the kind of occurrence el husbando cites when shaking his head and saying things like “you’re insane.”

lachica woldumar selfie

Loca or not, I’ve committed to taking on trails in my quest to keep running interesting. The experience did not disappoint.

Woldumar has four well-marked loops, ranging from a wheelchair-accessible .7 miles to a longer 1.6 miles with excellent water views.

lachica woldumar trail map

Since I’d only been there once before, my friend Brandess took the lead and took us through leaf-covered trails surrounded both by bare trees and tall pines that have earned that spot the enchanted forest nickname.

lachica woldumar enchanted forest

Our pace was slow and we did some walking as we enjoyed the scenery, stopped to pet some dogs on leashes and talk to their humans, and planned our next adventure: the Bad Apple Ultra in October 2016.

A handful of us — maybe five or six friends — plan to train together so we’re ready for about 30 miles in this timed race in Greenville, Mich. I agreed to the insanity when I was promised real bathrooms on the loop course housed in Klackle Orchard. Let’s just say that Brandess can be very persuasive.

The run felt effortless and we stopped several times so I could take photos to share with you. Did I mention Janet and Brandess are really patient?

lachica woldumar boat

In the end, we covered about three miles, saw deer and Canadian geese, and increased my appreciation for an activity that allows one to enjoy such beauty with some of my favorite people … even if I dashed back into my Jeep right after we were done.

I may warming up to fall in the Michigan tundra, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the wonders of a seat warmer.

How do you feel about cold-weather running? About trail running? How much wildlife do you see on a typical run?

The weather was a bit chilly when I left our campsite and the ground was littered with golden leaves. I’ve been here many times before but usually not in late October when just the heartiest of campers — and duck hunters — make the trek to South Higgins Lake State Park in Roscommon.

Just this summer I enjoyed the beautiful trails on Marl Lake across the street from the state park, which for some reason inspired a 12 Days of Christmas-themed blog post. As I headed to the trail head, I saw a photographer, his camera lens trained on swans swimming near the shore. I smiled and picked up the pace only to stop in my tracks by the display behind the birds.

The same sky that had prompted me to figuratively shake a fist in its direction for dumping buckets of rain on our RV the day before was showing off with white, fluffy clouds back-lit in shades of gold and orange.

Marl Lake, Roscommon, Michigan

Marl Lake in Roscommon, Mich.

I paused for a moment but quickly continued, alert for the sounds of the white-tailed deer I spotted just minutes before since being hit by a deer while running on trails is apparently a thing.

Spotting no deer in the vicinity, I picked up my pace and focused on the trail in front, taking quick, darting peeks at the lake on my left. My feet made crunching sounds as I stepped on a thick layer of pine needles and leaves shed by the almost-barren trees around me.

lachica merl lake trail

My pace slowed as I picked my way through the root-iest (yeah, that’s now a word) areas of the trail, avoiding anything that could lead to a twisted ankle.

Watch out for tree roots while running on the Marl Lake trails.

Watch out for tree roots while running on the Marl Lake trails.

Thankfully, some of the larger roots were moss-covered and easier to avoid.

Tree roots in Marl Lake shown here covered in moss.

And then, Christmas.

I caught a very faint smell of something sweet as I neared a grove of firs. The scent magnified as I neared, giving me the feeling of having walked into December and momentarily making me forget my frozen hands. That’s when I spotted what I can only call a Charlie Brown sapling.

This sapling reminded me of Charlie Brown's Christmas tree.

I smiled once again and inhaled, enjoying the treat while it lasted.

The rest of the run was just as enjoyable and I chose to turn around halfway through the loop just to run through this area again. Thankfully, it didn’t snow.

I’ve often complained about fall in the 25-plus years I’ve lived in the Michigan tundra. I’ve always seen it as a time when everything around me dies and have seen no reason to join the chorus of fall-loving adoration. But as I spend more and more time outside, I’m feeling a glimmer of appreciation for its beauty.

I had just grudgingly reached this conclusion when I rounded the corner and saw another autumn display worthy of photographing.

lachica merl lake horizontal lake shot

A fall Christmas gift of sorts for this summer-loving chica.

What’s your favorite season? Do you have any favorite trails you like to run in during the fall?