One Awesome Christmas Gift!
I discovered it as if it had been hidden and forgotten beneath the Christmas tree still waiting desperately to be opened. Although, in reality, it was a front page story that I’d wandered across while sipping my coffee on the morning of the 27th. There was a small color picture of a sign down at the shore reading: “Nature Preserve: No Motorized Vehicles”. The sign was a bow on the greatest gift of the season, and the gift tag read: “To: Everyone.”. Just in time for the holiday, it had become official that a treasured piece of shoreline in these parts had become open for public recreation and was to be held in conservation for future generations. Only two years previous, this natural wonder was under ominous threat of development – at that time it was doomed, and there was little hope for preserving it. When the economic storm hit, though, it carried a silver lining – the developer began to lose money by the boatload and was willing to negotiate the sale of this land for public use. Miracle of all miracles, in a state that ranks top in economic woes, public and private interests came together to purchase the land, and it was official two days before Christmas, that it was to be preserved for all of us to share.
Through my slowly waking eyes I suddenly realized what an awesome gift I’ve yet to open! Within minutes I was bundled to venture out into the blustery winter weather, my dog leaping with enthusiasm at my side. The drive to the shore was quick, though the roads resembled and functioned more like a snowmobile trail than a county highway. Swerving into the unplowed parking lot deep with snow, I halted at the far end of the lot where the parkland ends and our new gift awaited us.
The skies were low, the snow falling steadily, the rollers off the lake, long and lazy. Visibility was cut drastically short, but as I ventured down across the threshold, face into the stiff north wind, I could make out the old signs marking private property standing sentinel upon the first ridge of dune. Venturing beyond them felt a bit naughty; I found myself looking around for others, and reviewing what I’d read in the paper mentally just to make sure I understood it correctly. All the while, my dog was racing about, tossing up clouds of white powder in his wake. Up on that first ridge, I stood to survey the landscape around me, a place I’d only viewed from a distance outside of the boundaries in all these years of hiking the area. New to me was the long stretch of untouched beachfront, the seemingly endless fields of open duneland, some hidden marshes, shoreline along a lagoon, and a good piece of riverbank including a sheltered cove.
It will take months for me to find the time to explore it all. I am wondering what new loops I might discover, connecting trails in my old stomping grounds with those found in this new unfamiliar area. I’m reflecting on all the decades upon decades when this land was held in reserve by a single family, and in recent times when a new owner dreamt of putting it all under a bulldozer. Yet in the present it is a whole brand new world of splendor, and I imagine that generations to come will discover it in the same ways that I am just beginning to.
What an awesome Christmas gift! I can’t wait to pull my boots on, and go out to play with it, and in it again!