Fall and winter hiking is an exhilarating experience, especially after a blanket of fresh snow. Don’t let the chilly weather hold you back; unless perhaps you are visiting snowbound Buffalo. The important thing is to be thankful that you have the opportunity to “Opt OutSide.” Make the day after Thanksgiving, a day to embrace the concept of Opt Outside! I’ll be out there too, not long after sunrise. I might even have a turkey sandwich stashed in my day pack along with a mug of hot cocoa.
The #OptOutside movement was started in 2015 by the outdoor retail company REI. The basic meaning of Opt Outside is to enjoy the outdoors on Black Friday instead of a crowded shopping frenzy. Since 2015, REI has closed its doors on Black Friday—inviting employees and members to spend time outside rather than shopping. This year, REI just announced their Opt Outside movement will be permanent for all their employees.
Many other retailers have joined a similar movement to close their doors on Thanksgiving Day to encourage employees and early bird shoppers to stay at home with their loved ones. In addition, Oakland County Parks and Recreation also hosts one of their Park Appreciation Days on Thanksgiving, when visitors can enjoy free daily park entry with access to natural areas, trails, playgrounds, dog parks and all park amenities.
There are plenty of adventures on the wilder side of Oakland County this season, whether you are taking advantage of Oakland County Parks Appreciation Day on Thursday, or Opting Outside on Friday (or both)!
It has been said that October was the big spender, with the paycheck going to bird migrations, fantastic tree colors, and the fluff of milkweed pods floating freely in the wind. It was also the perfect weather for Painted Turtles to bask in sunlight, and that’s what they were doing. Some of them were even perfectly positioned to be captured by my camera, others coated with duckweed, slipped back into the water with barely a splash at my not-so-stealthy approach.
October has been a golden month; a time for hiking, cider making, leaf peeping, and endless adventure within Oakland County and beyond. I will miss those days that were punctuated by earlier sunsets, later sunrises, and clear, star-studded night skies. Mother Nature teased us a few times with snowflakes, hail pellets, and strong wind gusts, but sunny days and temperatures that climbed into the seventies in this final week dominated the month before rains came near the end. That rain fueled a final emergence of fantastic forest fungi, including shelf fungus that grows on trees.
“We need the tonic of wildness.” That timeless 1876 quote of Henry David Thoreau is increasingly important today for those of us that seek peaceful places to hike and embrace the ways of nature. Nature-embracing is an endless need of mine that will never go away. Now that crisp days and frosty nights are accelerating the artistry of Mother Nature and creating a kaleidoscope of brilliant colors, that need grows stronger.
October, the golden month, has almost arrived. It’s also the month we should not forget the need for situational awareness. A few years ago I failed miserably at practicing situational awareness, and things could have ended badly for me. Keep reading for that informative misadventure. I’ll also share a few words on poison sumac, Eastern massasauga rattlesnakes, and weather awareness.