Long before Spring arrived, I scheduled myself for three virtual 5K events to take place during this season. To date, I’ve completed two of them and have up to June 15th to do my Fishes & Loaves 5K, which event raises money for a local food pantry.
I follow a lot of nature sites on social media, so when the Michigan DNR’s “Happy Little Run for the Trees” appeared in my news feed, that event called out to me. This trek could be taken between Earth Day (April 22nd) and Arbor Day (April 30th) at the location of your choice. I signed up, lured in part by the very cool swag: a fun finisher’s medal, (which is a reproduction of a painting by Bob Ross during “The Joy of Painting” series 26, episode 1, “In the Stillness of Morning”) …
… plus a tee-shirt emblazoned with the likeness of Bob Ross.
But that frivolous reason aside, all funds raised help to fill the coffers at Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources and will be used to replenish the trees in Michigan’s many forested areas.
A little background info about the “Happy Little Trees” program.
As I write this post, the maple seeds, a/k/a “helicopters” are fluttering down from the trees, collecting on rooftops, in gutters and all over the mulch and sidewalks – grrr. And, if you think those mini maple seeds will never amount to much if you don’t weed them out of your garden, I’m here to tell you they will indeed grow up to be towering maple trees. My neighbor has one such tree. Long ago, the previous homeowners, a young couple in their starter home, were ecstatic to see a maple seedling embedded in a bare spot on their City property lawn. First they put a jar over that seedling, then, when it was bigger, they secured it to a stick, put a fence around it and fertilized it. It seemed every time I was doing yard work out front, they were either admiring that maple seedling or fiddling with it. Suffice it to say it got a lot of TLC. I must admit to having secretly rolled my eyes at the time when I witnessed those antics, but that tree two decades later, yields at least a dozen or more 30-gallon yard waste bags every Fall … on my property alone! That’s what I get for rolling my eyes and many a time I have wished I’d pulled that seedling out when no one was looking. My neighbor is not enamored with the tree either and has mentioned cutting it down, so I shared this little story with her.
But, because we can’t always depend on this method of growing trees, nor leave it up to the many squirrels who hide nuts, then forget to dig ‘em up, the DNR, in conjunction with the foundation of the late painter and PBS star Bob Ross and the Michigan Department of Corrections, instituted a tree-growing program to first grow the seedlings, then there is a contingent of volunteers to plant them.
The seeds are placed in the care of MDC inmates who are enrolled in an educational program where they learn horticultural practices and help to raise new trees for replanting. To ensure the trees will survive in the local communities, only native seeds are collected, (as well as seeds for shrubs and plants), then once the seedlings have morphed into saplings, they are planted in Michigan’s many state parks.
To date 2,100 trees have been planted in 20 state parks across Michigan. Through the DNR’s partnership with Bob Ross Inc., this is the third year 5K race participants raised funds to plant “happy little trees” throughout the Mitten State. A whopping $600,000.00 was raised through the 2019 and 2020 5K events.
So I was all in, and, after wavering for several weeks, on whether to venture to a state park, like Belle Isle or Sterling State Park for my trek, I decided to just go to the Rouge River Gateway Trail that winds through a lovely forested area.
I began my very long meander at Ford Field Park.
It was a beautiful morning when I set out to walk at least the equivalent of 3.2 miles/5 kilometers, and I did just that …
… and more (double in fact) by the time I returned to the car three hours later.
I parked at Ford Field Park in Dearborn.
I roamed around that scenic venue for about an hour. The beautiful Willow and Redbud trees caught my eye.
This small wooden footbridge traverses the River.
When you look down, you see the water churning as it hurries over a collection of rocks just beneath the bridge. Though I saw no waterfowl near the bridge, a Great Blue Heron had positioned itself down the River to catch some fish for breakfast. Unfortunately he was too far away to get a good shot.
Adjacent to this footbridge is a playground and a small pond, the latter which always guarantees a few photos of ducks or geese, either paddling or foraging together companionably. Such was the case on this morning. I wished I had some treats for them, but judging from the ground near the pond, they were well taken care of as I saw fruits and veggies … even watermelon slices. But this array of produce held no appeal for the geese and ducks who continued to forage and do a series of feathery-butt-in-the-air-dabbling moves, much to the delight of a few children who erupted into giggles at their foraging tactics.
I stayed a few minutes then continued on my way out of the park, then through the neighborhood.
Along the Rouge River Gateway Trail.
Though I long knew about this trail, I never walked it until 2019 when I participated in the “Mutt Strut” 5K event to raise money for the Friends for Animals of Metro Detroit, a huge, no-kill animal shelter in Dearborn. I enjoyed walking this calm and peaceful trail, which begins parallel to busy Michigan Avenue in West Downtown Dearborn.
This sign along the trail suggests that in this corridor I may encounter these birds …
… but I didn’t see a single critter, feathered or otherwise. Just the path and the trees.
As I walked, I stopped to take photos of a few trees, still unfurling their leaves, as we had uncharacteristically cool recent weather.
And, since this post is about trees, I included a few tree-related items as well.
There had been a family of bicyclists on the trail at the onset, but by the time I reached the forest area, it was just me, myself and I, as that saying goes. The sun’s rays filtered down through the trees and the sky was a brilliant blue … so peaceful. Though I didn’t see any songbirds, I heard the non-stop warbling of Michigan’s state bird, the American Robin. I whistled back at that unseen Robin and we did a back-and-forth songfest for a good five minutes, then the warbling stopped – perhaps he caught sight of a worm.
In the sudden silence, there was just the crunch of last year’s leaves underfoot as I continued on my journey.
I found myself at Fair Lane, the grandiose estate of Henry and Clara Ford, so since I intended to explore those grounds, I decided to see how many miles I had walked and was surprised to see the pedometer registered 6,800 steps – exactly 3.2 miles/5 kilometers! I had to get a photo of this for this post and for any other post where I might participate in a virtual 5K event.
Wandering around Fair Lane.
When I participated in the Mutt Strut in May 2019, one of the highlights for me was walking past the estate and extensive, flower-filled grounds known as “Fair Lane” long the home of Henry, (Ford Motor Company founder) and his wife Clara. The beautiful Redbud trees were everywhere and in the apple orchard, an abundance of trees were in blossom. I returned in August to explore the 1,300 acre estate from behind the fence and was chattin’ it up with a guard who said “you must return when the lilacs are in bloom.” So, here I was two years later to do so. (It was closed due to COVID last Spring.) My visit to the Ford estate and its many gardens, established in 1915 and currently undergoing extensive restoration, will be in an upcoming post.
After logging in a few more miles at the Estate, it was time to go back to square one and I must admit my steps were not as lively as when I began around 8:00 a.m. – whew!
This 5K Run for the Trees event was a success!
All participants received a “thank you” e-mail from the Michigan DNR in early May. We learned that 18,000 people registered for the event. A whopping 70% of the participants hailed from Michigan, runners and walkers from all 50 states participated, as well as 150 people who participated internationally (England, Australia and Mexico).
I’ll leave you with a quote by Bob Ross that appeared on the event’s website:
“I like trees that don’t just look like future telephone poles. They’ve got character. Some of them, they’re like people. Some of them have a few flaws in them, some of them are a little heavier, some are a little skinnier, something like so, and some of them maybe have a little tilt in their world, and that’s okay.” – Bob Ross, “The Joy of Painting” series 26, episode 1, “In the Stillness of Morning.”
[Quote and header image from Michigan Department of Natural Resources website]