SLOW, SLOWER AND slowest; in these days of fast food, fast air travel, fast everything, going slow, slower or slowest is by far the best way to go. That applies especially to the times that find us exploring and enjoying the great outdoors.

I am not a snowmobile or ATV/UTV enthusiast. I don’t put down those who do enjoy their outings on the machines. I look at it as a case of each to their own.

My own is walking. I have often said that, turn me loose with an average snowmobiler or ATVer and in 4 miles of walking, I will see more of the woods and wildlife than that person rolling along at speeds of 25 miles per or more on trails or back roads will see in an entire day. That might be arguable, but I believe it to be true.

Now, let me just tell you about some of the things I see in the woods while moving at a turtle’s pace.

Just the other evening, my wife, dogs and I walked the quarter-mile trail from a parking lot to Warner’s Pier on Plum Lake. It is a walk we have taken many times. The path runs along an old logging railroad grade from the very early 20th century.

Where the grade hits the lake there is a triple row of pilings which have been in the lake since somewhere around 1910, give or take a little; pilings which supported a bridge the trains used to cross the lake. Atop those pilings there is a wide pier of about 75 yards in length. At the end are benches from which people can sit and watch Plum Creek gurgle its way out of Plum Lake. They can watch mallards swim quietly along the shore; at this time of year, some of the hens with a string of ducklings in tow.

It is a gentle, peaceful place, where sitting still for as long as one wishes almost guarantees the visitor will see and hear much of what makes the woods and water so special.

On occasion, I have seen a mink creeping silently along the water’s edge searching for a frog or some such tasty meal in the making. Otters sometimes work the area. Almost every time we walk slowly along the trail, we will see one or more deer in the woods or wading the water. One time, I even discovered a tiny fawn bedded down next to a stump in a clump of ferns, almost invisible to a passerby; even one ambling along in slow motion.

Sights like that are there almost only for those who choose to walk quietly. They are seldom seen by those in motorboats and pontoon boats cruising the lake.

On our most recent trip, we had to stop for several moments, searching for a bird that was singing from somewhere high in the branches of a cluster of tall oaks and pines.

It sang for us while we slowly walked until we could best peer into the top branches trying to get a glimpse, unsuccessfully, of the singer. I am pitiful at knowing songs of different birds, knowing only those of a scant dozen or so, but even without being able to identify it, that well-hidden soloist kept us entertained, making our little hike a very memorable one.

In almost 72 years of being on this planet, about 68 of them spent exploring woods and waters, I have seen much wildlife up close and personal.

Sneaking up on woods ponds here or prairie ponds in North Dakota, I have gotten to know hundreds, if not thousands of ducks up close and personal. By close, I mean bluewing teal swimming at the edge of cattails while I sit motionless 3 feet away from them. I mean wood duck drakes, the single most beautiful duck in the world, perched on a partially submerged log 6 feet from my shoreline hiding place without them ever knowing I was there.

When still-hunting deer, it takes me an hour or more to cover a mile, sometimes less distance than that and still I have sometimes found myself overlooking any sign of a deer until one jumps up from behind a miniscule pine sapling or shallow divot in the ground.

Working a trout stream is best done at a very slow pace. In days of old, I would creep along, sometimes on hands and knees to approach a good trout hole where a beautiful native brookie might just be waiting for me.

At times, my approach was slowed by stops to sniff wildflowers at bank’s edge or to watch swallowtail butterflies flitting from blossom to blossom or even to just listen to the roiling waters of the stream and maybe a blue jay screeching from a nearby perch.

I might be wrong, but even as I have found myself spending time thinking about what I might see and hear on the water or in the woods as I slowly make my way along, I have trouble envisioning a motor-powered enthusiast having such thoughts while concentrating on handling a machine clipping along at 30 per on a narrow trail or back road.

Again, though, each to their own. I know there are thousands of people who enjoy the woods without getting off the seat of their pants and I don’t begrudge them their pleasure.

 For me, as it has always been, I prefer my outdoors at a slow and purely joyous pace.

Hey, at my age, slow is the best I can manage anyway.