November is one of those fickle months that kind of defines life in the Midwest. One day it’s 60, the next it’s 30. One day we’re basking in warm sun, the next we’re dodging icy snowflakes. 

And while this meteorological back-and-forth is hard on the sinuses, there’s opportunity here. Those cold, blustery days are inevitably great for hunkering down with warm pumpkin spice lattes. But the warm days in between are great for getting out and enjoying the natural world. But how?

For those of us that hunt, this is the most wonderful time of the year, regardless of weather. There are more things to chase now than any other time of the year. But we’re a very small minority.

Fishing can be good. But for most weekend anglers, late fall isn’t exactly peak fishing season. 

For the majority, hiking and biking is where it’s at right now. It’s cool enough not to work up a gross sweat even after ticking off several miles. It’s great exercise, which is especially important considering how much we tend to eat through the next couple holidays. Plus, there’s lots to see out in the country with all the animals moving around and the crops no longer blocking sight lines. 

I talked to a retired friend of mine the other day and she told me about going with some friends out to Lake Geode to walk the trails there. At 4.5 miles, one friend suggested they turn back. My friend said, “we’ve gone this far, we might as well do the whole loop.” So they did. All ten miles of it. 

Let me restate that. A group of retirees hiked ten miles around one of the area’s most scenic lakes, without any real plan ahead of time to do so. When I asked my friend how she felt afterward, you know what her response was?


Proud that she could put on those kinds of miles at her age. Proud that we have places like that to make such a long hike so incredibly enjoyable. Proud that her friends were willing to stick it out and do the entire hike together.

They’re planning to go back and do it again before the snow flies. 

That’s the power of making the most of those beautiful days. Maybe a ten-mile through-the-woods, around-the-lake hike at Geode State Park isn’t for you. Don’t worry, there are lots of other options around the area.

The Perimeter Trail around Big Hollow Lake up by Sperry is only about 6.5 miles. There are about 2.5 miles of trails at Hunt Woods south of Burlington. The Flint River Trail (FRT) segment at Starr’s Cave Park and Preserve is about 1.5 miles from the nature center to Highway 61. So, out and back is about three miles. Even young kids can handle that. Bonus: they’ll sleep good after it.

The Flint River Trail segment from Flint Bottom Road to Big Hollow is about seven miles. It’s a popular one for both hikers and bikers in the area. It also goes through some of the most remote areas of the county, a real plus for folks like me who value some quiet time out in nature. The overlook at Hickory Bend Conservation Area, at about the midpoint of this stretch of FRT, is one of my favorite places in the whole county. Go there early or late in the day and enjoy the kind of quiet that’s hard to find in our noisy world. Look out over the landscape from atop the hill and imagine what early settlers or even Native Americans saw centuries ago. It’s hard not to appreciate the view.
There are also great walking trails at Crapo and Dankwardt Parks in the city of Burlington. And the city’s portion of the Flint River Trail extends from the Port of Burlington north out to Mill Dam Road. It’s all paved and an easy ride for families. Much of it parallels the river or Flint Creek (hence the name) so there’s lots of opportunity to see wildlife, especially birds. 

There are lots of in-town routes to walk or bike as well for those just looking to log some miles. 

November is fickle, yes. But instead of lamenting the inevitable slide into winter gloom, take advantage of mother nature’s occasional upward mood swings and get out and enjoy the warm days while they last. Come January, we’re all going to miss them. 

And pre-burning some holiday calories is never a bad thing, either. 

See you on the trail.

published Friday, November 10, 2023

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