The Weeping Willow.

We’ve had a very hot Summer here in Southeast Michigan. I could wow you with lots of stats, but I’ll keep it simple … we have had three times as many hot, (as in over 90F/32C), days this year. I say this year, because we had a handful of sultry days before Summer even arrived on the calendar.

The weather has worn me down.

It seems Mother Nature has had a bee in her bonnet for a while now.

As I get in my steps on these hot and humid mornings, I often wonder aloud “did we have scorching hot days back in the day, like we’ve endured this Summer of 2020, or is this really the result of global warning?” I concede, yes it was hot, but perhaps we were so engrossed in doing fun things with our friends that we never noticed the heat and humidity that we often grumble about in adulthood. It has seemed like an endless stretch of weather warnings and much angst over worrying about a tornado or derecho or trees toppling over onto the house. I shudder when I see photos in the news of decades-old trees taking out a garage, house or car, when they are uprooted from soggy ground after a torrential rain.

Our City has a lot of old and established trees, and, as I’ve driven or walked through the neighborhoods this Summer, I have seen large tree branches scattered everywhere. Some of the branches were so large that the tree was left not only lopsided, but now dangerous and in need of being cut down. Some days I’ve gone through the ‘hood and all that remains is a pile of wood chips or sawdust, in the space where a tall and regal tree graced the homeowner’s property just a few days before.

While I am a nature lover, I’m not what you would call a “tree hugger” per se, but it does make me feel sad to see these gentle giants torn apart, their branches scattered about.

Recently I went down a side street and came upon a scene that really hurt my heart. Wow! Not only did I see a tree ravaged by Mother Nature, but this was a tree I could identify with. My mind quickly flashed back to Summertime, circa 1966 and maybe even 1967, when I whiled away the hours at Buckingham Park with other kids from the neighborhood.

I last visited this park in 2014 and wrote a post wherein I waxed nostalgic about the good times spent with my pals during Summer break from school. My post was how that park was still wearing its Winter-weary hues and the only spot of color at that venue was the majestic Willow tree that had already leafed out. I was so struck by how green this tree was amidst a still-dull landscape, that I took a photo of that Willow, which you see up top in black and white – the color version is found in the original post – you can click here if you’d care to read it.

Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end.

Well here’s the backstory about discovering the ravaged Weeping Willow tree. A couple of weeks ago, while at Council Point Park, the grass-mowing crew arrived. Well, that put an immediate kibosh on the peace and tranquility at the Park. Once the crew fires up their respective noisy mowers, the squirrels immediately hightail it to their nests and the birds likewise flee the scene. I generally hightail it as well, exiting the Park and disappearing into the ‘hood.

On that morning, for a change of pace, I meandered over to Ford Park, formerly known as Buckingham Park when I was growing up.

Our City has 22 parks altogether. That’s pretty amazing since the entire City is just a smidge over five square miles. Council Point Park is one of a kind, a cozy nature nook tucked in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Lion’s Park is similar, on a much-smaller scale, also along the Ecorse Creek but geared for disabled children to have a place to play. There are parks dedicated to Little League with few amenities and still other parks have playscapes but nothing else. There’s something for everyone.

But back in the 60s, there was no better place for kids to spend their Summer vacation days than a daily trip to Buckingham Park.

Right after breakfast, just like clockwork, the three girls down the street arrived at my driveway and would call out my name. I’d go out and open the garage to get my bike and off we’d go. We could have walked – it was not far away, but our bikes were our “wheels” back then, a means to whisk us away from the street to wherever we wished to go. My bike was blue with white fenders and I had a snazzy white wicker basket adorned with flowers. I’d toss my brown bag lunch in there and off we went.

It seemed as though this Willow Tree was weeping.

Willow trees are majestic and graceful and may grow as tall as 50 feet, their slender branches and thin, lime-green leaves sweeping the ground … like this.

Weeping Willows can live as long as 75 years if they are located in a spot where they are able to grow tall and wide, with roots stretching endlessly underground. While I walked around the sad remains of this gentle giant, I felt sad.

I spoke to a neighbor who saw me taking photos and together we were tsk-tsking over the fate of this beautiful Willow. I told him my history at the park and he said the tree’s demise was not due exclusively to the volatile weather and high winds, but it was running with ants.

So, I made it a point to take some photos up close of the ant damage, even though I knew what it would look like. We lost two tall Oak trees in the backyard and a beautiful Honey Locust out front, all the result of the ravage of Carpenter Ants. They are destructive insects that chew, but do not eat, the wood. They then tunnel through the tree to make nests. The empty tunnels create instability in the tree trunk and branches, until one day a stiff wind will cause the tree to snap.

Here, have a look at the damaged wood that is exposed. You can see the tunnels from the Carpenter Ants in these shots.

I stepped around to the other side of the tree with a different view of the damage the Carpenter ants had wreaked on the Willow; I saw a huge swath of bare wood and a broken branch hanging perilously off the tree.

In recent years, after my 2014 photo, a perimeter bench was constructed around the Willow’s trunk. You can see just how large that tree trunk was.

I meandered around the grounds, reminiscing as I went along.

Many hours were spent at Buckingham Park, either on the playground equipment or sitting cross-legged on the grass under the shade of that old Willow tree where we interacted with a college-aged girl, whose Summer job was to engage our young minds with fun activities like games and various crafts. It was like a mini version of Summer Day Camp, a place to go with pals and meet other kids. Our parents never worried about us. We munched on our brown-bag lunches while we chattered away and when the park closed for the day, we returned to our respective homes in time for dinner.

The only item we paid for was supplies for crafts. It cost just a few pennies for plastic lace which we bought in various colors by the yard and was woven together to fashion lariats and keychains. We purchased our supplies through a half-door at this little building which still stands.

We climbed around on playground equipment like this pair of abstract structures, which are now faded and peeling, but remain nonetheless after all these years.

I remember thinking this one looked like Swiss cheese ….

… and this one resembled a weird-shaped pretzel.

I checked out the swing set.

I am sure this is the original metal swing set, only now it has been outfitted with baby seats, one of which was in disrepair. I remember we would swing to our heart’s content, reaching higher and higher into the sky, kicking our legs to gain momentum and dragging the toe of one white canvas “tennie” into the dirt to “brake” and come to a stop.

These are two newer playscapes – we never had something so modern back in the day.

If it was hot, we were cooling off to our knees in the shallow wading pool, which cement structure still has the sloped sides, but now serves as a rudimentary basketball court.

Famous final scene.

I have returned a few times to Ford Park since that day when I took all these photos, zigzagging from my regular route home from Council Point Park. I wanted to see if the big Willow tree had been removed, but it remains, half of a hulking giant and a sad image of its former self and yes… I do believe this Willow is weeping.

If you’re still here after this lengthy post, thanks for time-travelin’ back with me on this Throwback Thursday.

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Early morning stroll along the Detroit River. #Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday – allow your photo(s) to tell the story.

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Baby Blue Jays!

Even though the baby Blue Jays I watched at Council Point Park were quite amusing, they did not give me the warm fuzzies like ducklings and goslings do. But they did give me a chuckle, a lot of photos and fodder for today’s post.

Perhaps calling them “babies” is a bit of a stretch. Actually they were fledglings, which, under the tutelage of Mama Blue Jay, were learning the art of stealing peanuts off the perimeter path, much to the squirrels’ chagrin.

Here in Michigan, and, I suspect, in most other states in the Union, as back-to-school time approaches, there is much controversy over in-seat schooling versus home schooling due to the pandemic. Well, sometimes the most-important lessons, including life lessons, are learned from your Mama and that was certainly the case on a very warm Saturday morning as I watched the interplay between a few fledgling Blue Jays and their Mama.

First, there was a kerfuffle

I meandered along the perimeter path, bemoaning the lack of squirrels once again, though I conceded that due to the extreme heat and humidity, perhaps my furry friends would be lounging along a tree branch as I’d often seen them do. Suddenly, a Fox squirrel appeared out of nowhere, likely alerted by a whiff of peanuts from my open bag and he slunk down the tree trunk to investigate. I tossed out some peanuts in anticipation of his/her arrival.

Soon, just a few feet away, I heard a flurry of activity in that same tree. I saw the branches moving and a flash of blue between the leaves. It is not unusual to see a Blue Jay or two staking out a good perch to study squirrel activity once peanuts are tossed down on the perimeter path.

The rustling noises in the tree continued – what in the world was going on?

Those are wily birds those Blue Jays. Unlike the more-subdued and very cautious Northern Cardinals, as mentioned, Jays love to snatch peanuts right from under a squirrel’s nose. It is amusing to see. They are always watching, waiting ….

Then a whole lot of squeaky noises were goin’ on

Suddenly a cacophony of squeaky noises erupted from that same tree and the sound filled the moist morning air. I didn’t recognize the noise and knew it was not a squirrel distress call, so Your Roving Reporter’s interest was piqued enough to investigate.

The call of a Blue Jay is intense and loud. It is not a pretty trilling sound like a songbird, but more of a screechy call. It has been referred to as a “jeer” or sounding like the word “thief” – if you’ve never heard their call, you can listen by clicking here. The “alarm call” is especially loud.

I staked out my own spot, near a tree, camera at the ready.

It finally became obvious to me, there were multiple birds in the tree – were they fighting? The odd-sounding squeaking noises continued. I was stymied, but then discovered it was several Blue Jays once the leaves parted enough for me to glimpse inside. It looked like one large Jay and at least two smaller ones. But, for my investigative efforts, and, while I was pondering this mystery, I was rewarded with a nasty look by Mama Blue Jay whose demeanor seemed to suggest I should not be questioning her parenting skills. 🙂

(Note: with Blue Jays, even experienced birders have a tough time distinguishing males from females, unless they’re side by side – the male is larger. I’m NOT an experienced birder, so I’m going to assume this was Mama, not Papa, sharing these prized parental skills.) Soon Mama swooped down again and swiped a peanut as if to flaunt her peanut-grabbing prowess and say “watch me … this is how it is done!”

Unfortunately, the tree cast a lot of shade on the path, so, in anticipation of more photo ops, I tossed down additional peanuts anyway, then quickly stepped aside once again and I looked to see if I could find a spot with a little more light, to no avail.

The treetop squeaks continued in fits and spurts, as did the wiggling of the tree’s leaves as the peanut-retrieving class was ready to begin.

So, were the students quick learners?

Suddenly the first youngster appeared on the pathway. I knew it was a juvenile as the bright and colorful markings that easily identify a Blue Jay were missing. The plumage was more gray than blue, the crest was not as prominent and it was much smaller than an adult.

Soon the youngster was joined by a sibling and they both paused near the peanuts, but hastily flew back up to the tree, causing me to step back even more paces in case I was scaring them.

A second fly-by-and-sit-down-and-ponder-peanuts resulted in a near collision. This isn’t the greatest photo, but here they tried to queue up, after they nearly bumped bodies, or noggins – peanuts were examined, but once again they returned to the tree, empty beaked.

The art of the deal (the trading-peanuts-for poses-deal that is).

So, did an exasperated Mama next scold the kids or coach them more on the art of stealing the squirrels’ peanuts knowing I’d be taking photos, so more peanuts would miraculously appear on the pathway? Believe me, Blue Jays are not bird brains. They are in the Corvidae family, (as are crows) and have exceptional intelligence.

Likely Mama took her youngsters under her wing and said “look and watch me carefully.”

She flew down again, grabbed a peanut with ease, then returned to the tree.

Soon, there was lots of activity on the path as two young Blue Jays zoomed down to the ground over and over again. Mama must’ve counseled them in bird speak, by saying “that girl, the sucker, just put out more peanuts, so you guys get your butts down there and grab ’em up like your Mama just did!”

Finally, the kids caught on

Meanwhile a few squirrels seized the opportunity as well and the nut supply was dwindling, so it was time for me to intervene with more peanuts so that this valuable peanut-stealing lesson could progress. They soon were adept at this food-gathering ritual, but alas, Mama and her youngsters tired of the peanut-retrieving game before I did, so I moved along when there was no sign of them on the path for about ten minutes. I glanced at my watch – it was the top of the hour, so I reckon the “How to Grab a Grub in Ten Seconds or Less” lesson was about to begin.

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Time’s a-tickin’ …

Well, it’s July 31st and it’s been four months since I last reported on my miles walked to date. That occasion was National Walking Day (April 1st) when I crowed about how far I had walked toward my goal (323 of 1,255 miles/519 of 2,020 kilometers).

I have walked a lot of miles, taken a ton of photos and written endlessly about my treks so far in 2020. Those walks and writing about them have been a wonderful distraction from our “new normal” existence.

The beginning of this year, before the COVID-19 crisis, we had a mild Winter, but there were some mornings I still didn’t walk as we had dealt with freezing rain, which left an icy glaze, so I didn’t venture out, except perhaps to run the car. I rallied back on weekends when they were clear and dry and recouped those lost steps, sometimes walking six or seven miles each weekend day.

Then the Coronavirus came knocking at the door. I wavered on whether to walk at all at the Park, though it was hardly what you’d call crowded. So my angst over whether to continue my walking regimen there, or in the ‘hood, or not at all, caused me to lose some steps to my total as well.

Luckily we had the sunniest June on record, so I was just a walkin’ fool during that month. We also had one of the hottest Julys to date. In the past, oppressive heat would have sent me scurrying to the aisles of Meijer, the grocery store where I shop. This store is big enough to walk huge laps around the perimeter of Meijer to get my steps done. But, like most everyone else, I’ve tried to stay clear of public places, unless it’s a necessary trip. So, I soldiered on, in the heat and humidity, garnering steps along the way.

We have a beautiful and cool, almost crisp, Friday morning, so I plan to walk six miles and will reach 725 miles (1,166 kilometers) walked to date. I still hope to reach my goal (1,255 miles/2,020 kilometers) by year end. I will push forward this next five months. From mid-November to year end is never a sure bet for walking due to potential ice and snow, and, believe it or not, on occasion, there has been slipping and sliding on the perimeter path due to black ice as early as October. October brings the beautiful Fall colors, but rain-slickened leaves on concrete while walking through the hood gives one cause for pause as well.

Fall and Winter are on the horizon … ugh!

On July 21st I was walking at Council Point Park and saw the first tinges of yellow and red in some bushes lining the Ecorse Creek. Oh no – say it isn’t so!

No worries … I was not surprised as these raggedy-looking bushes start to turn color every Summer and I’ve noted them in my blog before. I took some photos of my watch and the colorful leaves, but then decided a few days later, I should really document the colors in the background while wearing the watch to be more accurate. That is the image you see up top.

I’ve been watching squirrels squirreling away peanuts since the Park reopened on June 2nd, but I have a theory that they worry the walkers will disappear again, leaving them to fend for themselves. I hope their nut-burying diligence is not a precursor of a horrid Winter and they know something that the meteorologists do not. The year has wreaked havoc enough.

As a side note, I turned 7,700 miles on my car this week – I think that is worth noting since my car will be 11 years old in September!

Onward and upward!! P.S. – Check out these well-worn shoes, which feel like slippers to me. 🙂

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Woods, Wood and Wildflowers #Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday – allow your photo(s) to tell the story.

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I was all over the map!

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I embarked on a journey that encompassed four different parks located at various sites along the Huron River. I walked almost seven miles that day!

You will recall, I started off my day at Huroc Park. Before the day was over, I would go to Willow Metropark, Oakwoods Metropark and Lower Huron Metropark. Though I don’t usually do posts three days in a row, for continuity sake, I’ll do it just this time.

Today I’m going to write about Willow and Oakwoods Metroparks – tomorrow, for Wordless Wednesday, it will be all the beautiful wildflowers I saw while I wandered a few trails and along a split-rail fence at Lower Huron Metropark.

Then I’ll give the long blog posts a rest for a few days — except I’ll report on my steps to date at month end. 🙂

Willow Metropark.

As previously mentioned, I had spoken to fellow walker Arnie at Council Point Park on the previous Friday about local parks with walking trails. He extolled the virtues of the Huroc Dam and superb walking trail at Huroc Park and the peace and serenity of Washago Pond at Willow Park.

Arnie is also an avid bicyclist and fond of riding the loop called the Iron Belle Trail. It is 24.5 miles (each way) (or 49 miles round trip) and connects four different Metroparks; three are located along the Huron River and the fourth is Lake Erie Metropark on Lake Erie, one of my favorite venues to visit.

Willow Park is 1,531 acres, with not only a nod to nature, but also with many non-nature amenities, like golf or swimming, but I just honed in on the bike/walking trail and a visit to Washago Pond per Arnie’s recommendations.

The 4 ½-mile trail was easy walking as it was paved and wound through a woodsy area.

I went about a mile and turned around and headed back because a contingent of recumbent bike riders was on the trail and I had to keep sidestepping them. They were not all traveling together, but instead arrived in fits and spurts. They were fun and I was chatting with them as they took breaks. Here are two of them.

Since I planned to walk at two more parks and I’d racked up some miles already, I decided to double back and head over to Washago Pond to check it out.

It was a pretty large pond – 17 acres in fact. How peaceful and serene is this photo? A couple rowed across the Pond, stopping every so often to drop a line in the water.

A fisherman in chest waders cast out his line, equally hopeful for a fish. He seemed to be enjoying that sport though I never saw a fish dangling on the end of that line.

The biggest draw at the Pond for me was the paddle boats, though I just checked them out and did not rent one. It’s been years since I was on a paddleboat – 1969 along the Rhine River and accompanied by my father.

There was an assortment of paddleboats and character paddleboats like this Mute Swan and Sea Serpent.

And, if you wanted to exercise your arms instead of your legs, you could rent a rowboat or kayak.

There were even bicycles available to rent.

I headed back to the parking lot to get the car and drive to Oakwoods Metropark. As I approached the car, I heard “hey Linda, is that you?” I turned around to find another Linda, a walker I see and occasionally walk or chat with at Council Point Park. She walks two days a week and bikes at the Metroparks the other days. She was wearing a neon yellow bike shirt and sitting astride her bike. We chit-chatted a few minutes and she said she was headed to Oakwoods Metropark next and I said “so am I – maybe I’ll see you there.” Well, I passed Linda a couple of times on the road, then missed the sudden turn for Oakwoods and had to circle back … we arrived at the same time to the parking lot where the trail begins … Linda on two wheels, Yours Truly on four wheels.

Oakwoods Metropark.

My next stop was Oakwoods Metropark, which is also in New Boston. I was at this Metropark last August when I attended the “Walk, Talk and Sketch” event where we wannabee artists hiked into the woods with sketchpads in hand to do pencil drawings. So, I was already familiar with the layout of this scenic and woodsy 1,756-acre park.

I went past the hut made from bark …

… and said “hey” to the owl and hawk, then bypassed the Nature Center, which is home to a menagerie of critters, but it is now closed due to the pandemic. I headed right into the woods, picking and choosing which of the five short trails they have available.

I decided to walk three of those trails (Big Tree, Sky-Come Down and Split Log Trails) as I had one more park on my agenda.

It was a scenic hike through the woodsy setting. Here are a few photos taken along the way.

This was at the overlook – you can see the water lotuses were beginning to grow on the surface of this part of the Huron River.

I meandered through the woods and saw no one on the trail, just as I like it – unbelievably there were no squirrels, or birds either. It is not a dense woods so no chance of seeing deer.

It was getting warmish and I must admit I lost a little spring from my step that I had when I set out many hours before. I had one last stop and I had to drive there. I wanted to scope out the butterflies at the Butterfly Viewing Nature Trail, so named due to the abundance of flowers that helped it to be designated as a Monarch Butterfly Waystation by the organization Monarch Watch. Well, it was one of those ideas better left in my head – while I never saw anyone in the woods, it seemed everyone was at the Cedar Knoll Picnic Area viewing butterflies. There was nowhere to park and people seemed to be bumping up against one another anyway, so I tabled that part of my trek to another time.

Lower Huron Metropark.

Above were the highlights from Willow and Oakwoods Metroparks. Finally, my last stop of the day was at Lower Huron Metropark in Belleville, which I discovered by accident last year, after a fork in the road, then a honking driver behind me and my eventual frustration, got me turned around bigtime. In the end I conceded it wasn’t a horrible ordeal … even the getting-lost part, because, though I never made it to the DeBuck Sunflower Festival, I had a long road trip in the country and checked out the roadside stands, which brought back a lot of nice memories of Sunday outings in the country with my parents back in the day. You can read about that trek here. Along the way that day I stumbled upon Lower Huron Metropark and that’s where I spent hours walking around.

Each of these Metroparks have one great identifiable featured attraction – Lower Huron Metropark is a beautiful park with water amenities, not just natural niceties, like taking a trip down the Huron River in a kayak, canoe or boat, but there’s a very large water park known as Turtle Cove Family Aquatic Center. Plus, this 1,258 acre park has plenty of room for camping at Walnut Grove Campground, so there’s something for everyone.

For this gal, the peace and solitude of a quiet walk in the woodsy areas was just perfect. So, I’m going to highlight the wildflowers aplenty I saw along the way on that multi-mile trek … I collected so many photos too many photos, to tack onto this already-lengthy and picture-laden post, so you’ll find those photos in my Wordless Wednesday post tomorrow. The split-rail fences are part of the trails or overlooks, but some simply run parallel to the walking or biking trails. Here wild flowers grow in abundance, poking their blooms through and around those wooden fences. Tomorrow’s post is simply entitled: “Woods, Wood and Wildflowers” – hope you enjoy it.

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I had a dam fine morning!

I spent most of Sunday, July 12th moseying around the Huron River. I sure was grateful for that weekend, which turned out to be a couple of days’ respite from the unrelenting heat and humidity. So I set out early to make the most of the day and in the process, I aimed to fulfill two items on my “Park Bucket List” by going to Huroc Park in Flat Rock then to visit Willow Metropark in nearby New Boston. Earlier that week I was chatting with fellow walker Arnie at Council Point Park about nearby parks and he asked if I’d been to Huroc Park or Willow Metropark. I said “they’re on my bucket list” so he gave me the scoop on what to see and do at those two venues. I did not originally intend to visit any other Metroparks, but since they are clustered together within a few miles, I thought “why not have a Parkapalooza today?”

So, with a cup of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal under my belt I ventured out.

The Huron River and Huroc Dam.

The Huron River has been in the news a lot recently since several persons have drowned in 2020 after their boat or kayak was overturned and they were lost due to swift undercurrents and higher-than-usual water levels. No problem for me as I was just a landlubber, only intent on meandering along the various trails at or near the Huron River.

The Huron River is 130 miles long and goes through six Michigan counties and ends at Point Mouillee on Lake Erie. This is just one bend in that River’s journey.

My first stop was Huroc Park.

I paused to check out the life-sized bear and the tribute plaque just inside the park.

There were American Black Ducks and a few Mallards milling about on the banks of the River. Signs everywhere warned against feeding the waterfowl.

In the distance the Flat Rock Dam was visible – it is pictured in the header as well. It really was not very scenic from my vantage point, so I walked to the railroad tracks, (not visible in these shots), to get a better view and some photos, but I was confronted with “private property – no trespassing” signs, so I scurried away rather quickly.

But no worries, because the better dam for viewing the churning water that rushes from beneath the covered bridge, definitely was this structure known as the Huroc Dam. It is located 900 feet (270 meters) downstream from the big dam.

See how the water gushes from beneath the covered bridge?

It was a sight to see and as I stood there on the banks, a few times I had to step back as water was spraying onto the camera and me. Look at the force of the water in these photos!

And then I saw him.

… a Great Blue Heron who was fishing for his breakfast and he was comfortable with me being there, unlike the skittish Harry.

I know I’ve included far too many photos of this guy, but I watched him studying the water which was roiling about those long skinny legs. He seem unperturbed and his body swayed as he fought to keep his balance with the strong current.

Finally he moved to where he seemed more sure-footed and then the hunt for breakfast was more intense as he crouched down lower to the water, his spear-like beak not too far from its surface. Droplets danced around the end of that beak while he studied the water intensely; I swear he didn’t even blink.

He was successful, albeit a skinny fish, which he quickly sent down the hatch and he returned to “fishing mode” once again.

Well I stood there watching him fishing and caught a glimpse of a human fishing on the River as well.

But I had a long day ahead, so I tore myself away and went across the covered bridge.

The bridge crosses from the mainland onto a small, man-made island a/k/a Huroc Park, where there is a circular loop that encircles the entire park, in addition to a trail which bicyclists can use to access four local Metroparks.

I walked over this bridge …

… and along that bike trail for a mile or so, then returned back to the main loop. It was okay for walking, however, it is a popular trail for bicyclists, so it was a little jammed up walking in between them.

As mentioned, Huroc Park has been on my Park Bucket List for a while. I was going to go there this past Spring, but it was closed for a month as it was deemed unsafe for proper social distancing because of the narrow walkways along the covered bridge and wooden overlook bridges like this one. There were signs about social distancing everywhere.

And there are the usual warnings to not eat the PFAS-contaminated fish at this locale.

The heron seemed humiliated with his wet feathers, but he got past it.

On the way back to the car, I retraced my steps and my head swiveled to see if the heron was still around. Well, yes he was, but clearly he’d either made a misstep and fallen into the River or gotten splashed pretty badly. 🙂

He was wearing this rather sheepish look that seemed to say “ya, I was dumb and got really wet – it messed up my ‘do!” Of course I had to take a picture of this humiliated heron.

I don’t know if this pose was a way to streamline feather drying, but it looked pretty funny.

But he rallied back to his usual self, then went in search of another fishing spot.

He moved over to the concrete slabs of the embankment and though it was a fairly steep incline …

… he caught another little fish – yay!

He then returned to studying the water once again.

I left Huroc Park and went to the first of three Metroparks which you’ll read about in my next post, so stay tuned!

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How does your garden grow?

I have already written two posts (on July 17th and 20th) in conjunction with this particular morning spent getting in my steps and checking out the usual haunts at lovely Heritage Park.

I have stopped to check out the Community Gardens at Heritage Park twice this year. The first was when I participated in the 5K walk back on May 9th. Due to the pandemic, the gates were locked and signs advised that a directive was forthcoming when gardening would begin again.

The Community Gardens are located on the Heritage Park grounds, halfway between the historical village and the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. The Community Gardens consist of personal plots of land where folks can garden ’til their heart’s content for an annual fee. Also found in this area is the Good Will Garden.

The purpose of the Good Will Garden is two-fold. In 2002, through a program developed by Judge Geno Salomone of the 23rd District Court in Taylor, Michigan, community service workers have tended large garden plots and all produce is donated to the Downriver Fish & Loaves Community Pantry. Planting begins in May and the last harvest is in October. The community service workers maintain the gardens throughout the growing season. It is a win-win venture to give back to the local community.

The Community Gardens got off to a slow start

I am sure many wondered if and when plants and/or seeds could be planted – what would happen to everyone’s crops in 2020? Well, when I bopped by to check out the personal plots and community service plots over Fourth of July weekend, was I in for a surprise! After the lifting of various restrictions imposed by the Governor during the pandemic, the growing season had begun in earnest. Between bouts of torrential rain, the sunniest June on record and a horribly hot start to July, the veggie gardens were already producing. Here have a look.

These are the work force detail gardens.

These are the personal plot gardens.

I love the ambiance here – for example, this quaint wooden chair with the flowers planted where the seat would be and a cheery-looking birdbath.

There are garden doodads and other homey touches in most of the personal gardens, an extension of the owners’ personalities it seems. The nature lovers often put out bird feeders, houses and baths to cater to their feathered friends. Others have brought along Adirondack chairs to take a load off their feet. You may recall last year I chatted it up with Mike who was watering a double plot on an equally hot and humid Sunday morning. You can read about my visit with Mike and see some of the garden photos if you click here. Mike told me one of their plots was dedicated to flowers and tended to by his wife. Mike was in charge of the veggie plot. He enlightened me on the whole process, as I had no clue that regular folks could own these plots. I thought the produce was grown strictly for donation to the food pantry. Mike explained that 20-by-17-foot plots cost $50.00 apiece to lease from May through October each year.

As I walked along the fence, I decided the gardeners must have slept in, likely the result of neighborhood fireworks going off in and around the Downriver area until all hours of the night. I was the only one walking around the garden area and boy were the mosquitoes making a meal of me due to the heat and humidity. I wondered if the gardeners here don’t mind tending to their gardens in the heat of the day?

Of course a few lucky gardeners have raised beds for their gardens, so no stooping or bending is required to tend to their crops or flowers. This is the way to go and easy on the knees too!

I did concede, as I ambled along, that someone had been by to water the raised gardens before I arrived, as all the greens had a fresh and dewy look. Here’s a close-up of those raised gardens nearest the fence – it’s like stepping up to the salad bar.

Was the corn knee-high by the Fourth of July as that expression goes? From my vantage point, I eyeballed those rows of corn, while trying to figure the height on the morning of the 5th of July. What do you think? I know fellow blogger and Michigander Ruth, or Diane with her huge garden in Ohio will know the answer.

It’s not all about the veggies – one plot had nearly ripe berries peeking over the fence.

And this one lone Coneflower had grown mightily in the few short weeks since the garden had commenced. Perhaps this gardener has a perpetual plot filled with perennials?

There are farm implements that were used long ago and now serve to enhance the garden area. I’m pretty sure these gardens will never need the likes of large implements like these. The bales of straw are spread over the soil by the community workers to keep the soil moist between waterings.

I wrapped up my long morning by heading back to the parking lot and sitting in the air-conditioned car a good ten minutes before taking off – whew! I’m no fan of the intense heat and humidity, but it is sure to help your garden to grow. I’ll leave you with this quote: “Garden as though you will live forever.” ~ Thomas Moore

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Why not sit and sip a bit? #Wordless Wednesday #Orangeade!

Wordless Wednesday – allow your photo(s) to tell the story.

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I went to a garden party …

In a recent post, I alluded to my forays into the various gardens at Heritage Park during a morning spent meandering around that venue. You may recall I visited the Taylor Conservatory Botanical Gardens and Goodwill Gardens.

It was a very warm morning, with lots of humidity, just perfect for checking out the beautiful tropical flowers. Even in an outdoor venue like this one, multiple signs encouraged safe practices for COVID-19.

Today I’m going to spotlight some of the beautiful blooms. Later this Summer, I’ll return as they have a garden with purple flowers that the Tiger Swallowtail butterflies adore, but unfortunately that large purple perennial was not ready for prime time yet.

Sigh … hummingbirds remain on my bucket list, just sayin’.

Sadly, Homer, the Hummer has not put in an appearance at my two feeders in a while. I am left feeling like the hot dog vendor who cooks up a bunch of hot dogs and has them on the steam table in his cart, wilting away, while no one shows up. I dutifully make up some fresh sugary brew three times a week in anticipation of a visit, but there have been no sightings. I guess I should have tempered my expectations a little more. With the squirrels, you usually know where you stand – bring peanuts, happy squirrels come running over to greet you. 🙂

In lieu of hummer paradise at the house, I made the long trek from the historical village to the Botanical Gardens, hoping to see a few hummers sipping on nectar in some of their favorite flowers. So, I was happy to find Cannas and Cardinal Flowers already thriving and in bloom – these are like magnets for hummingbirds.

I walked around and around the grounds and through the huge latticework Conservatory. On that moist and humid morning, as beads of sweat began forming on my forehead, I thought “surely a hummer or two would be stopping by these flowers” … but nary a hummingbird, butterfly, or even a bee, was around the entire time I was at the Gardens. Was I giving off bad vibes or something? Hmm.

Roses – beautiful blooms which smelled heavenly!

The roses here at the Botanical Gardens are always plentiful (and a good way to practice using the “flower setting” on my camera). I gazed at these beautiful blooms and bemoaned my poor red Home Run Shrub Rosebushes, which are just limping along, despite copious amounts of fertilizer in the form of spikes, liquid feed and magic organic nuggets sprinkled around the base of the bushes. Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, they bloom, between the dead canes, so as long as they show a sign of life, I will nurture them as best I can.

As to the roses at this venue, I saw them in every color, but these were my favorites.

The annuals were all the colors of the rainbow as well.

I could have taken another 50 shots of the miscellaneous and sundry annuals, including the petunias that were overflowing out of pots and trailing toward the ground; these were the most gorgeous in my opinion. This planter, just like the header image, screams out “Summertime” doesn’t it?

There was a plethora of purple and yellow flowers, a glorious combination whether paired or on their own.

This venue was decked out for the 4th of July.

Yes, it seems hard to believe that the Independence Day holiday was only two weeks ago. If you’re like me, you may feel that once 4th of July has passed, in a four-season state the days begin to shorten ever so slightly as we now begin our slow crawl toward Winter. Ugh! It was a festive atmosphere at the Gardens with the patriotic swag marking the 244th birthday of the U.S.A. and interspersed between the colorful annuals. While there were no sparklers, loud kabooms, nor cake and ice cream, there was a flavor for the Fourth as you see below.

My next pit stop was at the Community Gardens and I’ll tell that tale in Friday’s post.

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