A Walk in the Park

(submitted by guest – Molly) We – my partner Riely and I – just came back from an October stay at Lakeside Melodies. We had the Folk Cabin, the one that is situated creekside. We cracked the window, piled on the blankets, and slept with the creek murmuring in our ears all night long. If that isn’t where the melodies referred to in the resort’s name come from, it could be.

Our stay was during the time of the full moon, and, although the days had intermittent sunshine and drizzle, the sky cleared at night. The beauty of the moon shining on Little Pleasant Lake got me up and out of that nice warm bed several times; I just had to have another peek at the silver water and the moon shadows. I can see it now as I type, like Wordsworth’s dafodils.

Hosts Bill and Carla are bicyclists, but when we asked for advice on where to hike, they had several suggestions. Their first suggestion was simply a short walk around the western perimeter of Little Pleasant Lake. Easy enough. All we had to do was put on our shoes and walk out the cabin door. After admiring the view of Lakeside Melodies Resort from across Little Pleasant Lake, we drove about a mile to Suggestion Number Two.

The second walk, surprisingly, turned out to be even shorter than the first; it’s a relatively new ‘trail’ at the Coon Hollow Preserve, with a big sign, a little parking lot, even a bench at the trailhead. According to the sign, the trail’s four-acre wetland was gifted to the Southwest Michigan Nature Conservancy. After we finished walking to the end and back – which took at most 20 minutes, Riely commented, “They must be expecting more gifts in the near future.” It is a pretty place, with lots of ferns and a little narrow high road above the regular path. The bench is perfectly situated for birdwatchers and photographers. Just don’t go expecting a workout.

But we got one at Meyer Broadway Park, our hosts’ final suggestion. A county park about two miles south of Little Pleasant Lake, it has wide hiking trails crisscrossed with even wider disc golf paths. We love South Bend, and deeply appreciate the wonderful growth it has been undergoing in the past decade, but it’s still so flat that if you want a cardio workout you have to find some stairs to climb. So the hilly trails and deep ravines of Meyer Broadway were a treat. Not a threat – they aren’t that steep – but a treat for us flatlanders.

Riely noted that the trees there are big, bigger than our usual stomping grounds in our Indiana county parks. “Probably too steep to log easily,” he proposed. We identified wild cherry, hickory, black oak and white oak, maples, one extra big sugar maple, a stand of something that might have been quaking aspen. The hickory trees, at their color peak, looked like they had sunlight tangled up in their leaves.

We walked two abreast comfortably on the nice wide trails. We scooted down and clambered back up, we stopped and lolled in sunny clear spots, even did a few yoga poses. We watched a couple of young men play one hole of disc golf, pretending to be their gallery and clapped discreetly at their prowess. It was fun.

As we headed back, we found ourselves walking down what must have been a country lane back when that part of the park was a working farm. The path was gently rutted and lined with trees that had pleached voluntarily overhead. Some of the barbed wire fence posts were old iron columns filled with concrete; others were cedar posts that had been worked over pretty thoroughly by time. We found a row of farm machinery just off the path: a hay rake, a seeder and a harrow, all made of iron, all horse-drawn. They could have been artfully placed by the park’s designers, but it’s just as likely the last farmer to use them parked them beside the field in anticipation of future need.

By the end of that third hike, we had worn out our legs and worked up an appetite. We went into Three Rivers to find some dinner. There aren’t a lot of good choices downtown, but all you really need is one, and we found that at Paisano’s, the Italian restaurant next to Lowry’s Bookstore (more about them later). By good, I mean accommodating and friendly. Our waitress, who was young and small-town lovely, didn’t roll her eyes when we ordered hot water with lemon slices for our ‘cocktail.’ And when I asked for spaghetti and meatballs “but hold the spaghetti and serve it over spinach instead,” she smiled bravely and said, “I think I can get them to do that.” And she did.

After dinner, we stopped in next door at Lowry’s Bookstore, which has a very messy, unprepossessing entrance. We had to squeeze past one dead plant and one broken plastic planter that literally crowded their doorway. Once inside, I realized that they were just making sure you know what you were getting into; the whole place is an enticingly messy warren of books, with an owner who knows where everything is located, right down to the rooms in the basement. Riely inquired after “books by or about Seneca, you know, the Roman . . . . “

“I know who you’re talking about,” the owner replied, and told Riely exactly where to go; through two rooms, down the stairs to the basement, and over to which shelf in which corner of which basement room. I never got more than a dozen feet from the front door, where I found more than enough books to boggle me. I got a book on symbolism, one on knights and art from the Age of Chivalry, and the first of the Junie B. Jones books for my grandson Jackson who is just learning to read, and Riely got his Seneca. We took our new books and our old, tired legs back to the Folk Cabin at Lakeside Melodies, where we played cribbage, read, and watched the moon rise again over Little Pleasant Lake.

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