Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

5 favorite activities that spring brings May 7, 2017

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Love hiking in the woods!

The spring weather is slowly trying to make a steady presence in Michigan. The temps have been a sporadic but I’m grateful for the days filled with sunshine and mild temperatures. I’m loving that the days are staying lighter longer. More time to play outside after work and on the weekends!

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With spring comes opportunities to participate in some of my favorite activities. Here are few that I enjoy. What are some of your favorite spring/nice weather activities?

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Biking. I love being on a bike. Whether it’s my road bike or mountain bike, I enjoy the ability to explore the area on a bike. From the physical rush to the mental clearing of my mind to great views to the simple joy of feeling the strength of my legs, biking is definitely a favorite activity. Our mild winter let me get several rides in even during traditional winter months, but it’s much nicer to bike in sunshine and warming temps!

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Hiking. Nothing chills me out faster than spending time on the trails, surrounded by trees, plants and friendly animals. It’s such great physical exercise and mental relaxation, but rarely feels like either since I’m usually enjoying myself so much.

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Logged this geocache find!

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Geocaching. This GPS outdoor scavenger hunt is a fun past time to do with friends, family, or alone when I have some time to spare. I especially love taking my nieces and nephew on this treasure hunt and also logging a cache when I visit new places.

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Gardening. It’s not quite warm enough to plant flowers but it’s soooo close! I’m getting excited to plant bright flowers in my new pots and put them on the porch and deck. Flowers always bring a smile to my face.

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Grilling. Yes, I know that many people grill year-round, even in the snow and cold. But…..I don’t! I have a great new grill that will be often used to make yummy vegetables, burgers, chicken, and much more to enjoy while eating on the deck.

 

Riding into spring April 2, 2017

HHBike32017It was a long, physically tiring week. I pushed my leg (with a titanium rod) too much and the days of rain didn’t help. I felt exhausted enough that I assured my body a weekend of rest if I could get through it. And I had very good intentions to honor that assurance. Except then I didn’t. Because it was SO beautiful this weekend! Sunshine, warm temps, no rain, soft breezes. How can a nature lover be expected to stay indoors and not be active?? I needed some fresh air to clear my mind anyway.

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And Ruby needed some loving. Um, yes, Ruby my bike. It’s been a few weeks since we shared a ride so today seemed like a wonderful day to get fresh air, test Ruby’s gears, and stretch my legs. The great news is that despite my leg aching all week (I mostly blame this on the ongoing rain and chilly temps, not the heavy lifting), it felt fine while riding. No pain, no ache. And I didn’t completely beat myself up….I stuck with a shorter ride of 10 miles. I didn’t even wear my cycling shoes so there wouldn’t be any pressure on my leg when I unclipped from the pedal (although my brain must be wired to clip now when I ride Ruby because I caught myself doing the motions every time I came to a stop! I’m sure I looked funny to passing cars).

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I recently discovered a nearby neighborhood and school are great for biking. The school is empty on the weekend and has a large parking lot and straightaway so I like to do some loops as I practice higher speeds, turning quickly and clipping/unclippping (not today). The neighborhood is usually fairly low on traffic, which makes it safer for biking. It was wonderful to see so many people outside enjoying Michigan’s spring weather. Neighbors were doing yard work, children were playing basketball and riding bikes, dogs were lounging on the lawn. I love this time of year when people start venturing outdoors and become a community again.

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It’s supposed to rain again this week so I’ll be sure to give my body some rest time. As long as Mother Nature doesn’t change her mind……

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What fun activity did you enjoy this weekend?

 

A few of my favorite charities (#GivingTuesday) November 28, 2016

We’re familiar with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, days that promote retailers and shopping. Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday, a day to promote and support nonprofits that make a difference in your local communities and the world around us.

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Celebrated the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (in the U.S.), Giving Tuesday kicks off the charitable giving season as many people make donations this time of year to charities. Giving Tuesday is a way to donate time, money, items and more to charities in your community and beyond. According to the #GivingTuesday website, last year more than 700,000 people raised $116,000,000 online in 70 countries for charities. That’s amazing! What a positive impact.

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hh_livestrongwalkI’m a firm believer that we can all give back in some way, whether donating a few hours of your time or giving money or sharing information with others or whatever else you decide. Charities provide a positive social impact on the lives of thousands of people and animals every year. So if you’re looking to support some great charities that make big positive impacts, here are some of my favorites:

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LIVESTRONG: The free navigation services offered to people with cancer and caregivers are so very helpful and informative. Whether you have questions relating to fertility, survivorship, insurance, life during treatment and so much else, LIVESTRONG can help. Other programs include LIVESTRONG at the YMCA (helping people stay active during and after treatment) and LIVESTRONG at School (helping schools provide information about cancer to students). I’ve shared my support for this organization in the past and it remains strong (check out my blog about the LIVESTRONG Challenge in October).

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Imerman Angels: This organization provides one-on-one support to people with cancer and caregivers. Mentor Angels (cancer survivors and caregivers) are matched with individuals needing support who are experiencing similar cancers, treatment and more. In 2016, Imerman Angels celebrates 10 years of providing support, making more than 29,000 matches worldwide.

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Horses Haven: This all volunteer-run organization has helped hundreds of horses, ponies, HH_Sheckyheadshot 1009donkeys, goats and more over the years by providing a home (temporary or permanent) to these animals who need some love. The animals are owner surrendered, rescued, abandoned or in need of a safe place. I’m in awe of the hard work and dedication that goes into running this farm on a daily basis. I sponsored a gorgeous retired Thoroughbred for years before he passed on and have helped at several volunteer days on the farm. I love it there.

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Camp Casey: This organization brings two of my favorite things together – horses and supporting people touched by cancer. Camp Casey provides horseback riding experiences for children and teens with cancer. My favorite program offered by the organization, Horsey House Calls, brings a horse, pizza party and arts and crafts to the home of a child or teen going through cancer. Along with siblings and/or friends, the child gets to ride a horse in their neighborhood and have a great party experience. We’ve traveled throughout metro Detroit and now spread into west Michigan. Nothing makes my heart swell bigger than seeing the smiles that these horses bring to the kids’ faces.

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American Cancer Society: The ACS has been a leader in all things cancer for a long time. From getting information on specific cancers to learning about research to finding local support groups, the ACS offers all this and more. I volunteer for the ACS’ Cancer Action Network, which is the non-partisan advocacy affiliate of the ACS working to make certain that cancer issues are state and national priorities.

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Local libraries: As a self-declared book/reading addict, I spend a lot of time at my local library or using the library’s Kindle app to borrow books. I also love the quiet corners I can find for reading, writing, working and sometimes just escaping from the world. After so many city cuts, many libraries rely on private funding to help maintain hours, books, and more.

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Stage Nature Center: This nature center has become my favorite local spot to hike and escape into nature. The nature center isn’t large but it’s welcoming, educational and provides some perfect spots to sit and enjoy nature both indoors and out. The trails offer a quick opportunity to both get exercise and fresh air, while usually encountering wildlife (check out my blog on hiking these trails). Perhaps this isn’t your local nature center, but I’m sure your local outdoor center will greatly appreciate some support.

 

A weekend of hiking and biking November 13, 2016

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Hiking in fall is the best!

Another good weekend for the outdoors is in the books! I spent quite a bit of time in the woods hiking at the local nature center trails, and then biking through one of my favorite parks (if you missed my recent post on my new road bike, check it out here). We were fortunate to have two nice days land on the weekend!

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Last week was a long one. Between some friends fighting cancer, another diagnosed with the stupid disease, work projects going awry and the presidential election results, my head was filled with emotions and thoughts that were leaving me weary. When I need to clear my head, my go-to places are outdoors in nature.

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I’m so tickled that Michigan’s mild temps continue to let me play outdoors. I’m usually forced indoors for activity once the weather gets crappy due to the titanium rod in my left leg. Can’t risk falling and injuring the leg. But the weather hasn’t been crappy, so I promise that I am enjoying every minute in the fresh air that I can add to my schedule!

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It’s been a while since I was in the woods. Since I bought my new road bike, I’ve been antsy to ride it to get comfortable. Plus it’s so much fun! But I do love hiking in nature so when I had a small window of time yesterday to get some outdoor exercise, I grabbed it and headed to the local nature trails. It was a bit breezy so my thought was that the tree coverage would block some of the wind. And, yes, that might have been the case…. a few weeks ago when there were leaves on the trees! Duh. The beautifully colored leaves filled the trails, but the wind wasn’t too bad once I got deeper into the woods. I used my hiking poles since the leaves can make the trails a bit slick. The nice thing about hiking this time of year and in the late afternoon when I went is that there weren’t many people on the trails. I saw a few of my deer friends (no pun intended!) and some wild turkeys, but otherwise it was quiet and peaceful. Just what I needed. Since the trail system at this nature center isn’t very extensive, I looped a few times to get some miles. I felt awesome when I left.

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Cheers to sun and fun!

This morning I woke again to sunshine. It was high-40s w hen I left my house for Stony Creek Metropark with my bike, but felt much warmer with the sunshine (and even warmer once I started riding against the wind!). Stony Creek in November is much different than in June. During the summer, the park is filled with people enjoying the beaches, boat rentals, hiking trails, bike routes, picnic tables, golf course and more. In November, the parking lots are sparsely filled and you encounter a fellow cyclist or walker every so often. It’s kind of perfect!

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Today I decided that I wasn’t going to worry about how fast I biked, how far I rode or anything but simply enjoying being on the bike. I didn’t want to set goals. I wanted to relax. And I did. Okay, I admit I turned on my Garmin and glanced at my speed and distance several times, maybe even saved the ride. But since I didn’t have a goal in mind, every mile was an accomplishment and good enough for today. At the end of my ride, I sat for a while in the sunshine, eyes closed, listening to the wind in the trees, feeling thankful for these moments.

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What are your go-to activities to clear your mind?

 

The freedom of my new bike November 11, 2016

Filed under: Life Lessons — Heather @ 8:56 am
Tags: , , , , ,

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I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know how to ride a bike. My sisters, friends and I rode bikes all the time during childhood. It was a wonderful way to have fun, get exercise, go somewhere without relying on our parents to drive us, and simply enjoy freedom around our town.

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My new bike provides lots of fun!

I owned a pretty red bike with a banana seat when I was younger. I called her “Rose” and pretended she was my horse (this was before I started riding real horses!). I eventually grew into a 10-speed bike which was a dream because it meant I was old enough to bike alone to my friends’ houses. I spent HOURS on that bike during high school, riding all over my small hometown with friends. We had so much simple fun. I bought a mountain bike in college and loved the freedom it provided to get away from stresses of college life.

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Then came cancer when I was 21 and a senior at college. In between chemo treatments, I graduated from college and had surgery to replace my femur and knee with a titanium rod. It took nine weeks of intense physical therapy to remind my leg muscles how to walk again. Then more chemo. When treatment finally ended, I was anxious to resume normal activities. But that wouldn’t happen exactly as I’d hoped because of the need to be careful with the rod. Plus, not even two years after treatment I fell on ice at work, popping the glue that kept my rod in the remaining part of my femur. Another surgery sidelined me for 15 weeks as my bone grew around a custom rod, and my muscles and leg learned to walk yet again. So for a few years, I cautiously participated in activities that I deemed safe – walking, canoeing, weight training. I was bored out of my mind. I finally vented to my surgeon that I wasn’t active enough and missed my former activities such as riding horses and biking. He asked why I didn’t bike. I just assumed it was a ‘please do not attempt’ activity. He didn’t see a reason why I couldn’t ride a bike as long as I was cautious and did my best not to fall (note that this is always a goal of mine, two good legs or not; I have never been a daredevil cyclist.). I left his office with a newfound feeling of giddy anticipation and excitement.

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Roads to explore while on a bike.

I soon found myself in a bike shop and promptly bought a hybrid mountain bike with all the shocks and comfort I could afford to provide added protection for my leg. And I rode my bike. It was thrilling! Nothing hurt from riding (uh, maybe my thighs that needed some serious exercise). So I rode miles and miles on my favorite trails. Over the years, I would see other cyclists fly by on road bikes that reminded me of my old high school bike. I have no idea why I thought those bikes wouldn’t work for me. I guess I wrongly listened to some people who assumed my leg couldn’t handle it or the clip pedals intimated me or some other reason I convinced myself of (the mental doubts are sometimes the hardest for me to overcome). Last year I stopped in a bike shop to inquire about a new road bike. I received helpful info but, alas, soon put the interest aside as other life stuff was happening.

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I can’t share my new bike story without telling about my summer trip to Iowa because it was the final push/inspiration. Earlier this year some friends talked about this bike event across Iowa that Team LIVESTRONG participates in. The Register’s Great Annual Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) takes cyclists more than 400 miles across Iowa over seven days. Each day ends at a different town where huge campgrounds are erected, entertainment, food and drink are available, and you meet cool people. I was intrigued but that little voice in the back of my head said I probably couldn’t bike that many miles (such an annoying voice at times). So instead I made a plan to head to Iowa to meet up with my girlfriend to road trip with the team.

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It was one of the best decisions I’ve made this year. First, the girl time was amazing – we laughed, shared stories, found adventures only we could together, laughed more. And not only did I reinforce some amazing friendships and make many new, but I was inspired. As the days progressed across Iowa, I listened to the team members’ personal stories and stories of stops along the road. I began to ponder how I might participate with the team in the future and designed a possible pitch to my surgeon. It was the last day that really added to my interest….after the bikers left camp, a small group of us finished packing and hit the road to meet the team. When we stopped for breakfast, I sat with another young adult cancer survivor who shared his story. We talked about overcoming physical limitations from cancer and our mutual frustrations at having these physical side effects at times slow us down when we don’t want to be slowed down! We also talked about the things that motivate us to move and overcome our side effects any way that we can. There was something in this conversation that really touched and motivated me.

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Cancer never leaves any of us who have been affected by this disease. I was reminded on this trip that I will never be alone on this journey. With more than 16 million cancer survivors in the United States, there is always someone to say, “I get it. I understand.” And while I wish none of us had to go through cancer, I’m grateful to have so many beside me.

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So much fun!

When I returned home from Iowa, I made a decision to get that road bike and tell that doubting voice to take a nap. Helpful friends patiently answered a LOT of questions (and still do!). I received great customer service and information sharing at several local bike shops. I test rode numerous bikes to determine which provided the best comfort and reliability for my leg. And I finally opted for my Specialized Ruby Elite.

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Let me tell you what I like about Ruby (yes, I named her, although not very original). She’s light so I easily can carry her (which is awesome since I’m not supposed to carry heavy weight). She is fast and smooth. And she makes me feel alive. And proud of myself. It may sound silly but, if you haven’t faced a physical limitation (whether from cancer, another disease or injury), you may not understand the satisfied feeling of accomplishment when you overcome anxiety and push caution to the corner. I do that every time I hike a trail, climb a rock wall, attend a Zumba class, ride a bike.

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I’ve been trying to take advantage of every mild temperature day to bike. Last weekend, I set my alarm to make sure I was on the trail with the sun. It promised to be a beautiful Michigan fall morning – brisk yet sunny. I unloaded my bike from my car’s rack, slipped on my bike shoes, strapped on my helmet, looked at the empty trail in front of me (surrounded by pretty colored trees!) and pushed off. I smiled when I easily clipped my shoes into the pedal. And then everything else seemed to click. As the trail rolled in front of me, my bike felt smooth and…..like freedom. I felt free. Completely free. My head cleared, the endorphins kicked in, my heart strongly pumped. I couldn’t stop the smile spreading across my face. Slowly the anxiety slipped away as the miles increased. I practiced clipping in and out of the pedals. I caught up to and passed other bikers. I rode alongside another biker who gave some helpful tips. I biked my mileage goal, then added five more, then a few more…because I could. I didn’t want to stop. I eventually did of course. And I tucked this feeling of accomplishment and freedom into my heart and mind, to recall when I need a confidence boost in the future.

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Lots of people ride bikes, including lots of bone cancer survivors. So while I don’t consider myself any more special than any of those people, I count these small victories. Because they are victories for me. My biggest struggle with being a cancer survivor is the physical restrictions from the titanium rod in my femur, which in turn sometimes causes mental frustration and anxiety. Yes, I am incredibly grateful to have both of my own legs. I know the alternative so I appreciate that I had this option. I also know that I do more physically than some people who never had my surgery. But I’m human and can admit I sometimes get frustrated. Because I know before cancer I was able to do so much more. So biking 10, 20, 30+ miles on my new bike is a victory for me. Heck, getting up on a bike and pedaling a few feet is sometimes the best accomplishment of the day. I plan to enjoy every minute that I’m able to be ride my bike, hike in the woods, whatever I choose to do. I will enjoy every minute that I walk on my own two legs. For these are victories for me. And I choose to celebrate every little victory.

 

Biking Belle Isle Park in Detroit November 6, 2016

hh_bikebelleisleI’m in love. With this mild, sunny weather. The beauty of nature. My new road bike. Life. I accomplished so very little responsibility-wise this weekend because I indulged myself with outdoor activities. We all need weekends to splurge and live life to the fullest, right? Yep, I think so too.

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I kept having this great idea all summer to take my bike downtown to Belle Isle Park but it seems like the months flew by and it never happened. So I was tickled with the mild temps and sunshine that graced metro Detroit the past few days. I’ve been able to get outside on my new road bike and I decided (at about 3am during a bout of insomnia) that today would be a great day to head to Belle Isle.

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I arrived on the island a little before 9am, instantly in awe of nature’s beauty appearing all over Belle Isle. Seriously, Mother Nature isn’t messing around this fall with the vibrant colors splashed all over Michigan. I biked throughout Stony Creek Metropark yesterday, loving the deep fall colors on trees and bushes.

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Belle Isle is located on the Detroit River between the United States and Canada. My sister and I visited Belle Isle last spring to explore the aquarium and conservatory (read my blog about that visit). These are worthwhile destinations if you’ve never been. While the city of Detroit still legally owns the 985-acre island, Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources began operating Belle Isle a few years ago, making it Michigan’s 102nd state park. A lot of maintenance occurred and I was impressed with the cleanliness, nicely paved roads (except for the two small pot holes I narrowly avoided in the bike lane!) and several patrol cars seen driving around the island.

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I had so much fun riding around the state park. I arrived early enough that hardly anyone was there yet, which made biking all the better. There was strong wind along one end of the island that provided some serious resistance but, once I pushed through that and rounded a curve, my legs felt relief and my speed increased. A good friend tells me that my speed and strength will increase with practice so that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m on limited time with biking outdoors since crappy weather is too risky with the titanium rod in my leg. But it wasn’t crappy today so I enjoyed every minute I was outside on my bike. I pushed myself on several loops around the island, then rewarded myself by cruising around taking pictures. I decided that I can’t share just one or two photos because it was so pretty everywhere I looked! I hope you enjoy one of Michigan’s gems.

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Exploring outdoor spots in metro Detroit September 5, 2016

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My ‘deer’ friend hiked with me!

It’s always a little amusing to me when so many people complain that Labor Day weekend is the ‘end of summer.’ The end of the summer season doesn’t actually occur until fall starts at the end of September (Sept. 22 this year). And while I understand that teachers and students must return to work and the classroom, those activities do not mean it’s the end of summer for everyone.

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Since the end of summer doesn’t happen for a few more weeks (and Mother Nature appears to agree since Michigan is expecting temps in the upper 80s this week), I have enjoyed being active in the outdoors as much as possible this long holiday weekend, and I plan to continue to be as long as I can through the upcoming weeks.

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It never ceases to amaze me how being outdoors can change one’s mental and physical outlook. I can feel the tension and other stress fall from my shoulders when I step into the woods or pedal on my bike. I soak in the breeze on my skin and listen to the voices of nature. For example, I felt a bit sluggish yesterday when my alarm sounded and I considered enjoying another hour of sleep. But that would mean skipping a hike with a new group of friends. So I kicked the covers off and headed to the trail. And I felt a sudden burst of energy and positive attitude as I stood ready at the trailhead. I was so happy to be outdoors.

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I found all of this fun at local parks and trails. We’re so fortunate to have some great locations throughout metro Detroit. I thought I’d share these recent spots in case you’re looking for a push to get outdoors too.

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Macomb Orchard Trail, Shelby Township: This is one of my favorite biking trails. The 24-mile paved trail has less intersections to stop your pace or distract you with vehicles. It is popular for biking, walking, running and even rollerblading so I like to be on the trail early. I usually pick up the trail at 24 Mile/Dequindre (park at the ice arena), then head east. I love that the further you ride, the more countryside you ride through with trees, orchards, dairy farms and crop fields.

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Maybury State Park, Northville: This almost 1,000-acre state park has some great wooded and gently rolling hiking trails. Some of the bike and horse trails intersect with the hiking trails so do pay attention to trail signs. There also is a paved bike path, fishing pond, and horse stable (you can rent trail horses). Be thoughtful if you encounter horses – no yelling or fast movements to spook these awesome animals. You do need a recreation passport or to purchase a day pass.

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Stage Nature Center, Troy: This 100-acre park is located close to my home so these trails have become my go-to whenever I need a quick ‘nature pick me up’ (read my previous blog post about this location). The trails are relatively short so I usually loop several times to hit any significant distance. But I like this location as it’s rarely busy when I’m there, I often encounter deer and other wildlife, and I feel comfortable hiking alone.

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In my encounters with other people this past weekend, I learned of some new outdoor spots for me to check out so stay tuned! Did you get outdoors this holiday weekend? If so, where did you go?

 

 
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