dogs, hiking

Bishop Lake (Kahchin Trail)

The past week Michigan was in the clutches of a deep freeze with temperatures during the day in the negative numbers and dipping to -40° F with windchill at night. Since Mellow and I aren’t built for these low temperatures, we were trapped inside for days. School was canceled for the entire week due to snow and frigid temperatures, so I stayed home to feed our wood stove, helping to offset the increased cost of heating our home during the cold snap. Normally our wood stove keeps the house at a toasty 75°; this past week, it held steady around 70° with help from the furnace.

Today the temperature was 44° F at 2:00 p.m. When I took Mellow outside, it was a heat wave compared to the past week! I wore a fleece and hat and felt warm enough. Mellow was comfortable without bundling up in her fleece hoodie and Weatherbeeta dog coat. All week I spent as much time gearing her up to stay warm as I spent outside with her for potty breaks. It was great to walk outside without my nose freezing together or Mellow awkwardly holding her cold paws out of the snow.

After a week of being stuck inside, I couldn’t wait to take a hike in the woods with my pup. Even though the temperature was above freezing all day, there was still plenty of snow on the ground. That meant we couldn’t hike at our “home” trail because it is groomed for cross country skiing. So we headed to another favorite trail close to home: the Kahchin Trail at Bishop Lake in the Brighton State Recreation Area.

The Bishop Lake unit is a popular destination for family swimming and mountain biking in the summer. Often the parking lot is full on the swimming side, and the lot on the trail side has many vehicles with bike racks. Today the swimming side was empty, but about five or six vehicles were parked on trail side. I saw a couple at the trailhead wearing snowshoes as I parked the car. They must have felt the same urge to get outside that I did.

Mountain bikers and hikers share the same trailhead for a short distance until the hiking trails split off to the right. There are two hiking trails that are accessed from the trailhead: the Kahchin and Penosha Trails. I hike the Kahchin Trail most often because it is about two miles which is a good length for a quick session in the woods. I’ve hiked the Penosha Trail a few times; it is five miles. Every summer I tell myself I will make it a habit to hike the longer Penosha Trail; maybe this summer will be the one where I actually do it.

Before we headed out onto the trail, I had the same debate I always have on days like today: to wear a coat, or not to wear a coat? I wore a wicking running tank, a thermal long sleeve shirt, and one of my warmest fleece layers. I planned on wearing a hat and gloves too. I often regret wearing a jacket when the temperature is above 40° F because it makes me too warm once I get moving. In the end, I left the jacket in the car which was a good call.

Now that I have a dog with a thinner fur coat, I have the same debate about which layers she should wear. I ended up dressing her in a lighter Kurgo jacket. Next time I will layer a fleece hoodie underneath the Kurgo jacket at this temperature because she was shivering a little at the start of our walk.

The trail was snow-covered and icy. Not bothered in the slightest by the conditions, Mellow eagerly pulled on her leash. I envied her four-wheel drive as I struggled up and down icy stretches. I remembered too late that Matt gave me traction cleats last winter. They would have been perfect for today’s hike. The footprints of other hikers left the trail uneven, and the downhill portions were slippery. I turned sideways and moved slowly to navigate the slick downhill sections; Mellow impatiently matched my slow pace.

Mellow at the start of the two main foot trails at Bishop Lake Unit in Brighton State Recreation Area.

One thing I appreciate about winter hiking is the solitude. The Kahchin Trail is busy on Saturday afternoons in the summer. Today I met few others on the trail: the snowshoeing couple at the start, a woman and her dog, a solo hiker, and a family with their dog. Mellow and I had the trail to ourselves for most of our walk.

Mellow remembered the trail from last summer. I was sure of it because when we approached a bench in the middle section of the trail, she gracefully leapt onto it and walked the length without hesitation. She tightrope-walked the same bench every time we hiked the Kahchin Trail last summer. I thought the bench was a good place to stop and enjoy a few minutes alone in the woods with my pup. I took a photo to capture our happiness at getting back outside after being stuck in the house for so many days.

Mellow and I take a break on her favorite bench/tightrope on the Kahchin Trail.

Overall, Mellow and I thoroughly enjoyed our time in the woods after having cabin fever this past week. Tomorrow the forecast says a high of 46° with drizzle in the morning, but it should stop by 8:00 a.m. It’s looking like another opportunity for an afternoon winter hike.

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