… no raindrops or snowflakes were falling, so happily I set out to glean some steps, amass a ton of photos and simply enjoy myself. It was a perfect Autumn day and I aimed to make the most of it. I knew the beautiful leaves were slightly past their peak and mild weather was on the wane. There was talk of the “s” word and snowflakes a’flyin’ in the coming week.
At the end of that day, worn out from walking at three parks, then working in the yard for four hours, the pedometer registered a little over seven miles, since heading out in the early morning hours of November 6, 2021.
My first stop of the day was the 44-acre Refuge Gateway of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge (“DRIWR”) located at the Trenton Channel of the Detroit River in Trenton, Michigan. I follow the DRIWR on social media and they had touted a hiking event from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.; I wasn’t participating in that event, thus I wanted to be early to beat the crowd.
You probably noticed that DRIWR has the word “international” in its official lengthy moniker and this is for a reason: it is North America’s only international wildlife refuge, with the U.S. on one side of the Detroit River and Canada on the other.
This was my fifth trip to this venue since my initial visit in October 2020, shortly after it opened. Even before gas prices were sky high, I usually made a weekend morning out of visiting these three shoreline parks: Lake Erie Metropark, the DRIWR and Elizabeth Park as they are all located within a six-mile area.
Unbelievably this visit to the Refuge would be a totally critter-less trek. How could that be possible? I failed to see a single Ring-billed Seagull, usually a perpetual visitor at any shoreline park. I had hoped to return home packing photos of the abundance of roosting Double-crested Cormorants I spied in the trees across from the fishing pier during the “Walk for the Wild 5K Challenge” on October 9th. Evidently they had flown the coop with just the many nests dotting the trees.
The weatherman said it was 32F/0C with a heavy frost and high humidity. As I dressed I decided another layer or two was in order as I’d be down by the breezy shoreline and likely would be grateful I had bundled up.
As I walked down the hill from the parking lot and past the Prairie Habitat, I noticed the Milkweed pods were either closed up tight or spewing wisps of white fibers which glommed onto the frost-tipped grass and, even in the dim light, on the horizon I saw Humbug Island’s trees were either blah or bare.
In the distance, the sun was slowly filling in the sky casting its rays ever so slightly onto the 700-foot/213-meter-long Korneffel Fishing Pier.
As I peered down that pier that juts out into the western Trenton Channel, just a few fishermen dangled their lines, hopeful for a bite from some of the 113 species of fish in these waters. The Korneffel Pier is able to accommodate 100 persons at a time, so I wondered if the rest of the anglers begged off due to frozen fingers or they had other fish to fry on this frosty morn?
As I stepped onto the Pier, I felt my lug-soled hiking boot sllllllide a little and I went to grab the railing. I had been momentarily blinded by the sun and failed to see this layer of frost on the Pier, which is comprised of metal and a Trex-like material. Suffice it to say, I backed up posthaste – no way was I going to walk that Pier until the tail end of the trek.
So, I hiked back up the hill as the sun was climbing high in the sky. I passed the Visitor Center where I saw the scrawls in the frost, likely the handiwork of the Visitor Center workers.
As I meandered along, I began noting that the heavy frost had left leaves looking like Frosted Flakes cereal and in spots, the grass looked like Mother Nature had sprinkled icing sugar onto it.
I approached the Monguagon Boardwalk which crosses over the Delta. I was hoping to take photos of any Herons or Egrets fishing for breakfast, but I struck out and once again was thwarted by heavy frost that had slickened up that walkway.
Call me a ‘fraidy cat, but I won’t cross the Boardwalk if there’s any wind, because, as you can see, there is no railing and it is a similar material to the Fishing Pier, so I had no intentions of crossing the Boardwalk with this frosty glaze and perhaps slipping and falling into the water.
Finally the sun was up and bright so I got some photos showing the reflections on the water at the Delta. The entrance to the DRIWR and a sizable portion of the Refuge run along West Jefferson Avenue, in the heart of an industrial area, so I am usually careful not to include nearby industrial plants, nor the red and white “Trenton Stacks” which rise from the Trenton Channel Power Plant, in my photos.
I made an exception today due to awesome reflections and to illustrate how industry and nature co-exist here at the DRIWR.
There is some artwork that appears on the fringe of the Monguagon Delta. I scoured the internet to see what this is and who created it to no avail.
This area is the part of DRIWR that hints that industry once was king. The Trenton Refuge Gateway was originally the site of a Chrysler manufacturing facility that was deactivated in 1990 and unbelievably it took two decades to morph from that former industrial site into this natural Refuge. In this photo you see how the picturesque background is marred by the Trenton Stacks mingling with a row of tall trees
The landscape was blah as we had a hard freeze earlier in the week which zapped most of the vegetation, though the occasional wildflowers or colorful weeds had been spared.
Humbug Island was wearing its Autumn colors and some trees were already bare.
At a glance, the ever-present Phragmites resembled shafts of wheat.
Perhaps a jaunt at Humbug Marsh would not be slick and net some photos?
I figured I’d hike over to Humbug Marsh, a pristine 410-acre parcel of land that contains the last mile of natural shoreline along the U.S. mainland portion of the Detroit River. The other 97% of the Detroit River shoreline has been disturbed or otherwise destroyed.
There are several wooden outlooks, one with a pair of high-powered telescopes hidden within a bird blind that resembles a bird’s-nest. Other wildlife observation areas are outfitted with Adirondack chairs, including one near Eagle Point, where, if you’re lucky, you’ll see a pair of nesting Bald Eagles. The remaining outlooks all offer a superb view of Humbug Island, the waterfowl and a total of 300 species of birds that frequent the shoreline, migrate through and/or flit through the forest. Every visit I’ve looked around to find such hidden critters as deer, mink, otter or even an Eastern Fox Snake. I’ve not seen any of these four critters, nor the eagles and I can live without seeing the snake, though I’d like to see it from a few paces away . Within Humbug Marsh is the “Old Growth Forest” so named for its 300-year-old trees, including some very tall and spindly Shagbark Hickory trees. As I approached that area I thought to myself “surely, frost will not be an issue here – I’ll just walk on the Orange and Green Trails in the forest and stay off the elevated walkways which are made of the same material as the Pier and Boardwalk.”
So how did THAT work out Linda?
I passed this new contraption at the entrance to Humbug Marsh which subtly announced to me that the trails might be muddy, so here was something to scrape the mud off your footwear.
Still grimacing a little over the aspect of muddy shoes, I stopped to read this posted sign.
Well, I was disgusted and quickly turned on my heel to leave. While it is already disconcerting to me, a nature lover, to hear the barrage of gunshots from nearby Pointe Mouilee during duck-hunting season, I sure didn’t like reading that waterfowl hunters were right along the shoreline of the Refuge … that didn’t sit well with me at all.
I made another stop at the Pier to check on those Double-crested Cormorants. The early frost was gone, but the walkway was still slick. No worries as there were nests, but I didn’t see any birds.
At least I saw a contrail over the Visitor Center as I headed to the car, after what was a very unremarkable trip here at the Refuge.
I was hopeful for a better i.e. more interesting walk at my next stop, beautiful Elizabeth Park, a venue that never disappoints. That trek will be next Monday’s post.