BY GRETCHEN MURRAY Special to the Record-Eagle
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Gloria Halligan has a love-hate relationship with the great outdoors.
Part of her loves getting outside and exploring the myriad of hiking trails in Grand Traverse County, but there’s a part of her that is perfectly content in her stay-at-home comfort zone.
“I have to admit, when it comes to getting up and going, I have a really hard time getting started, but I get stronger as I go” said Halligan, who will be 69 at month’s end. “I never did sports and was never good at those activities, but I do know the trails.”
Halligan learned through years of exploring what she deems to be some of Traverse City’s best-kept secrets that it’s better to curb the impulse to sit home and instead opt for walking.
The Traverse City resident is sharing some of the scenic vista views, cool woodsy glens and rippling little streams she found just off the city’s beaten path during a series of free, community-guided walks. Halligan organized her hikes into 3- and 4-mile, easy- to moderate-walking tours she hopes to one day parlay into a part-time business.
Halligan said she plots her walking loops ahead of time by consulting various agencies’ websites.
“We have trails that are kept up by the DNR, Garfield Township, the Grand Traverse Conservancy, TART Trails, North County trails. It’s surprising that within a 15-mile radius of downtown Traverse City how many trails there are and how doable they are,” she said.
Halligan said trails are well-maintained, but underutilized.
“They’re pretty much empty,” she said. “I’d like people to get to know the beauty of these trails, whether they’re visitors or they live here.”
One of her favorite trails is Miller Creek Reserve that starts at the trailhead behind the Aldi store on South Airport Road.
“It’s gorgeous, and so few people know about it,” she said.
Halligan said she’s OK hiking alone, but finds it more fun with others.
“Time goes faster, and it’s more enjoyable. Plus, it’s very easy to get turned around on a trail when you’re by yourself.”
Walking with a group was the key incentive for the eight people, mostly women, who participated in Halligan’s first free walking tour of the trails at the Grand Traverse Commons on June 17. The consensus among the women was that they just felt better walking through the woods in a group.
Diane Presnell of Traverse City loves getting outdoors and walks area trails at least twice a week, but she doesn’t care to go alone. She’s more comfortable with her dogs along, but said the drawback to that is when she and her dogs encounter other dogs running off-leash.
“I know the trails are sometimes narrow, and people find it easier to just let the dogs run on ahead, but it’s hard to control my dogs on their leashes when other dogs run up to them. (And) I’ve seen dogs go after wildlife,” she said.
Larry and Diana Hathaway of Traverse City joined the walk along with their grandson, Cameron, 6. Larry Hathaway said they’ve hiked Traverse City’s trails since taking several Grand Traverse Senior Center-sponsored walks with Halligan.
“We believe in exercising to be healthy, and have looked forward to retirement so we could spend more time outdoors,” Hathaway said. “The bonus is this is something we can do with our grandchildren.”
Halligan said it’s not necessary to go fast to get health benefits from a hike. In fact, it’s better to go slow, take time and stop to look around.
“For me, it’s peaceful,” she said. “It’s uplifting, and I feel good when I’m done.”
For information on upcoming group walking tours with Gloria Halligan, call 231-944-3054 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook at Traverse City Walks, LLC.