Peace at the Park.

parker in mulch

On the first day of this newly minted year, I arrived at Council Point Park, just a little later than usual.  That’s because firecrackers in the ‘hood were going off ‘til the wee hours of the morn, so I figured I could indulge myself and sleep in later.

I decided to drive and pulled into the parking lot to discover I was the only one there – the other walkers either took the day off, or arrived much earlier than me.  (The gentleman who proclaimed the squirrels were too well fed arrived about an hour later.)

To access the perimeter path to the first loop, I must pass through the pavilion area.  This is where I put all the seed treats on the picnic table under the pavilion roof.  As I approached that area, two things immediately caught my eye:  1)  Parker was scrambling over to meet me, and 2)  the memorial tree for Brian Skinner looked very different.

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I went over to look at that tree, with Parker trailing at my heels like a faithful dog.

You’ll recall the day after Thanksgiving I did a post about Brian Skinner’s memorial tree and the red and white wreaths that adorned it.  Here it is to refresh your memory:

Unlike many of the other memorial trees at the Park, this one is tended to all year around by Brian’s loved ones.  It is weeded, mulched and decorated for all the seasons or holidays.  I noticed immediately that one of the wreaths had been replaced by a new wooden plaque with a picture of Brian.  I perused the plaque carefully.

plaque

I saw some heartfelt words …

plaque close up

… and a collection of what looked to be some things that defined Brian.

Seeing the plaque, and reading the tribute verse, made me a little sad on this first day of 2019.  The heartache for those left behind was obvious.  Brian was a Mason, a Boy Scout leader, an avid sports fan and he loved his country.  I decided then and there to have a few minutes to reflect on this man who was taken at age 41, and then take a few pictures of this tree to share with you.

But first … some peanuts for Parker, who had stood at my side, patiently awaiting his treats, and, amazingly, whether it was because it was just him and I at this venue, and not a single soul – furry or otherwise – close by, he never danced around, climbed on my shoes, or looked up at me with pleading eyes.  He was content to sit there quietly at my side, as if he, too, was part of this reverent occasion.

Peace and tranquility sprinkled with a few peanuts.

I scattered a half-dozen of peanuts on the nearby path.   Parker went and got one, and stayed, so unlike his usual self that scurries off to bury one or two.

parker

Next Parker headed over to the mulch area beneath the tree, where he munched and watched me as I took some photos.

whole tree and plaque

I must also mention that there has been a hairbrush laying in the mulch beneath the tree for a few weeks now.

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At first, I thought someone just dropped it, and it remained there, but obviously a family member had returned to take away one wreath and replace it with this plaque, yet they did not discard the hairbrush – perhaps it was Brian’s?  I understand from other walkers that they have seen family members gather around the tree, perhaps those loved ones mentioned in the tribute verse, and one walker told me he had been a Boy Scout leader, as had Brian, and the two had taken their scouts camping many years ago in this very Park.

Parker slipped away from beneath the tree, but still within my peripheral vision, and he took another peanut and jumped up on the adjacent blue metal Park bench seat portion where he continued to watch me.

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He was just a stone’s throw away the entire time I was taking pictures.

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Check out the fuzzy tail trailing out the back of the park bench.

proximity of bench

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While I took a few more pictures, Parker continued watching me with rapt attention.

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At times, he never moved a muscle.

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Should I feel his forehead?  Where is the little squirrel who is usually a bundle of energy?  Parker seemed content to sit nearby, and, when I was done taking the pictures of Brian Skinner’s tree and plaque, I was reluctant to leave.

So we both stayed there a little longer – after all, what was our hurry to go anywhere on this peaceful morning, each alone in our thoughts?  The serenity was finally broken when I decided we should probably move on and head down the perimeter path.  Parker once again walked alongside me until we spotted the rest of his pals and then bedlam arose, with furry bodies scurrying every which way – you all know that familiar scenario by now.

I thought of Brian Skinner today as I walked past his memorial tree – today was the 17th anniversary of his untimely passing.

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Tuesday Musings.

tuesday-musings

Overheard at Council Point Park today:  “Those squirrels eat better than I do!”

Hmm.  This gentlemen was strolling along the perimeter path.  He was not watching me feeding my little buddies, but happened to come along after I had just left some peanuts for a bunch of them.  Of course, the squirrels are like Pavlov’s dog sometimes, and, if they see another human with a friendly face, they conclude this person might be packin’ peanuts, so maybe it is worth sidling up to them as they might be a potential benefactor.  It doesn’t matter if they are already eating peanuts either …with the squirrels, it is all about working the crowd.

This walker evidently didn’t buy into that idea and repeated his statement again:  “those squirrels eat better than I do!”

It was very quiet in the Park and his voice carried, so I heard those words clearly.  Actually, I was way ahead of him on the path, and well within earshot, so I snickered to myself, and didn’t own up to who distributed the goodies, nor was I going to.

I continued walking on the second loop, and, unbelievably if I didn’t hear him utter the same words the next go around.  Only this time he was fat shaming the poor squirrels as well!  I must share this story with the regular walkers tomorrow … I was later than usual and none of them were around when I arrived.  I suspect this fellow is a “newbie” at the Park and I don’t know if he was jealous, or just incredulous, of the squirrels and their goodies.  His protestations did make me laugh however.

This squirrel looked a little ticked off that someone would insinuate they are too well fed.

Who can resist this face

Now, if this gentleman took issue with the geese, I would really “get it” because look what they did to me this afternoon.  There was a large gaggle of them as I walked by, minding my own business and one hissed at me.  I couldn’t get the camera turned on quick enough to capture the look of disdain and the wagging pink tongue, so instead I looked over and said “Happy New Year to you too Bud” and kept on walking.

But a little further ahead, there was a potential roadblock as two geese were snoozing in the middle of the path.  If I moved to the right, I’d be close to the Creek bank.  If I moved over to the left, there were lots of geese (likely with similar attitudes) grazing.  So, I took a picture of the pair of geese that were fast asleep, then waited a few minutes, while enjoying the scenery, to see what would transpire.  This was the scenario:

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The goose in the last picture was not only mad at me, but terrorized one of its brethren.

Goose terrorizes the others

I eventually just moved through the throng where I got a stony stare from one of those geese who couldn’t hiss at me because his mouth was full of grass.

Goose Grass

I told him he lost his credibility a little with grass hanging out of his mouth … kind of like the spinach-in-your-teeth faux pas we humans must endure sometimes.

So that was my first day of the new year.  I did get six miles walked because I drove to the Park and the last mile it started to rain a little, but I stayed the course.  I had already put in a good amount of steps and was ready to head home anyway, so no harm, no fowl, er … foul.

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!

2019 greetings

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The year 2018, like this snowman …

mug one snowman

… is going, going, gone!

This snowman is smiling.  That’s because he didn’t know his fate once photographer Jill Wellington snapped this picture and he dissolved into the hot chocolate – ouch!

But his marshmallow face mirrors mine, because I’m all smiles after tallying up my walking miles.  I’ll wait ‘til the end of this post and then I’ll crow about my total share those stats with you.

In the meantime, looking at this cup of hot chocolate with the cute snowman makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about Winter – me too.  But, yesterday and today when I embarked on my walk, Saturday night’s freezing rain and a light dusting of snow snatched away some of the joy of these walks – in fact this morning I just stayed in the ‘hood because I knew walking would be slick and icy on the perimeter path like yesterday.  The snow and ice is gone now – it’s been pouring raining for hours!

Winter is just snow fun sometimes!

Saturday night’s freezing rain made a little glare ice on the cement and asphalt pathway, then the light dusting of snow made it difficult to see exactly where that ice was.  I decided to just drive down to Council Point Park and walk on the grass next to the pathway.

On another note, snow is a tell-all sometimes, and Sunday morning that snow told me that some critters came callin’ between the time I threw out about eight peanuts on the porch, got suited up, then left on my walk.  Well, I wonder how I knew?

tracks

So, the chickadees may have been scoping out the porch to see if any more cashews were there, but upon a closer inspection, I think these big bird tracks likely belong to a blue jay or a cardinal with a penchant for peanuts.  Hope they were able to grab at least one of them.  The large paw track told me the Fox squirrel had been by, likely intruding on little Grady’s share of peanuts.  That made me mad, and this time I didn’t see him so I could chase him away.  Nor did I see Grady, as I would have slipped that gray squirrel a few peanuts on the side.

That little dusting of snow sure changed the Park’s landscape.

I arrived at Council Point Park to be greeted by Parker just as soon as I stepped out of the car.  His little bit of attention warranted my digging into the Ziploc bag for extra peanuts for my favorite Park pal, and he guarded that cache of nuts while chomping on a few, then took off to bury the rest of them.

I cut across the parking lot with its low points where glare ice has gathered – grrrr.  And what’s this – no one grabbed peanuts from the stash I left on Saturday morning at the drinking fountain?  Those slackers stayed up in their nests I guess.

fountain

Once on the perimeter path I noticed two things:  the asphalt pathway was slick in spots and the police vehicle had already been by checking out the Park – whew, that meant I could amble and take photos without holding up production.

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I walked in the grass, and soon realized it would’ve been smarter to wear my hiking boots.  Well, surely no squirrels would be nuzzling up against my shoe tips with all those frosty crystals on them.

snow on top of show

A couple of my peanut pals did come down from a tree after deciding they weren’t going to let the snow-covered grass prevent them from begging for peanuts.

squirrel in snow

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A hint of sun even made a decent shadow in that dusting of snow.

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The landscape is rather blah this time of year, but the bright-white snow freshened up things a little.

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desolate

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I got five miles walked at the Park yesterday, though I sidestepped the slick asphalt path (and hopefully the goose poop that was underneath the snow as well – I kept doing a sole check every lap!)

poop check

I made it home in one piece and without incident, my pockets lighter from doling out peanuts.

This morning I decided to stay in the neighborhood and avoid the icy paths and besides … rain was predicted by mid-morn.  I got four miles walked, so I wrapped up and put a bow on my 2018 walking miles.

Ta-da!  And now the year-end tally.

Well, here it is, the last day of 2018 and just a few hours away from a brand-new year.  Did you fulfill all your goals and aspirations you made on January 1st?  I did, as far as my walking goal, but not all items were checked on the rest of the list.

So, my 2018 goal was to walk one more mile than the previous year (1,050 miles in 2017), and on December 6th I crossed that threshold since I had walked 1,051 miles.  At times in October and November I worried that I wouldn’t reach my end goal because the weather was just plain “lousy” due to intermittent rain, ice, and minor snow accumulation.  But, the Detroit area went on to have a great December weather-wise, in fact the third least snowiest Winter in history.

So, all this good weather prompted me to keep on walking and I only lost a handful of December days due to rain.  It also helped we had the extra holiday days and my boss was on vacation for a week, so I got an extra mile in each morning.

My FINAL total was 1,162 miles (1,870 kilometers) walked.  This was 111 miles over my original goal.  Next year I’m going to shoot for the moon and instead of just one more mile walked, I’m going to try and walk 80 more miles … this would equal 2,000 kilometers.  Many of you use the metric system, so this will be a fun way to keep track of my miles.  I do think this goal is doable because I’m going to start walking in the rain sometimes – not that torrential stuff though … baby steps first.   While I’ve never been one to embrace being out in the rain, having commuted to work by bus for many decades and being forced to endure the elements, I realize that I could have walked more had I gone out in those raindrops, instead of whining about them.  That said, I still can’t promise I’ll be “Singing in the Rain” like the late Debbie Reynolds … 

… but I’ll give it a go anyway.

I may not have checked off those other items on my “to do” list, but I drove a lot of miles in my car (962), and if you think that low amount of mileage is funny, for years I aimed to walk more miles than I drove the car and that was when my total hovered in the 400-500 miles walked range.

I tried out many new parks this year, and took way too many pictures as I walked through them.

This is my 200th blog post for 2018 as well.

So, tomorrow it begins anew … a new year to walk, explore, take photos and fill this blog with tales of squirrels, and birds, and memories too.  I wish each of you …

mug-joy

… health and happiness in the coming year and beyond – may YOU always fulfill your wishes and goals.

I’ll leave you with this quote:

Life is more meaningful when our goal is fulfillment rather than gratification. ~ Gayle Lynn Goodman

 

[Images by Jill Wellington]

 

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As we slowly slide toward 2019 …

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I have finally gotten my ducks in a row with all the photos I took in early December.  This is the last batch of belated photos and stories.  If you like ducks, well today’s post will be right up your alley then.

I was originally going to call this post “Slip-Slidin’ Away” or “Bridge Over Icy Water” and then I thought two Paul Simon song references in one week might be over the top, though I do like him.

This trek was on Sunday, December 9th – it was another bitter cold morning, just 15 degrees.  I was at Heritage Park bright and early.  I could see a thick layer of frost had coated the grass and railings on the wooden walkway over the lake.  I headed straight to the village area, because I had hoped to take pictures of the historical village and covered bridge aglow in their Christmas lights, but it was sunny, so you could not really see them.

I decided to check out Coan Lake to see what waterfowl were hanging around this over-sized, man-made pond.   It was strictly ducks this morning and what a treat it was to see them all huddled together trying to keep warm.

Now that I think of it, I’ll just bet they were all snugged up tight so their feet would not give out from beneath them!

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Do they really think ice is rather nice?

When I was at Lake Erie Metropark recently I watched and took pictures of the geese walking precariously on the glazed-over, low spots of a grazing area.  They took baby steps to avoid wiping out on the slick surface

So it was with the mallards at Coan Lake as well.  With those wide-webbed orange feet, they plant themselves on the ice and kind of shuffle along slowly.  Here have a look:

strutting on ice

up close

You may recall from my prior posts about this scenic Park, that Coan Lake is a large pond located in the center of Heritage Park’s historical village.  This man-made lake celebrated its 30th anniversary this year and is home to many ducks, geese, cormorants and seagulls too.  There is plenty of room to accommodate all these beautiful birds, because it covers three acres of the Park and has depths varying from 9 to 18 feet.  In the Summer, people love to settle in with their fishing pole in hand to catch the fish, but it is strictly for fun, since it is catch-and-release only.  In the Winter, due to varying depths of Coan Lake, some portions freeze solid, while the deeper areas remain unfrozen.

This means you will see ducks in the foreground on the ice, while others are swimming in the background.

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half ice half water

huddled together

Or do they prefer the ice-cold water?

On this morning, some of these dabbling ducks chose to paddle around, dip and dive, while others huddled together in the water, teeth, er  … beak chattering.

lots of ducks

Still others either preened or napped (or pretended to nap).

chilly nap

being with your buds

taking off

This female mallard stood at the edge of the seawall pondering whether to jump in the water or not.

female by herself

Now, I could write about  how cold that Sunday morning really was, and, if you’ve ever lived in a cold-weather state or country, you are probably nodding your head right now – yup, I know what you mean, but I think pictures speak louder than words.

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Just looking at these pictures of the wooden posts on the overlook give you an idea.

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froze post2

wooden walkway

Even the old-fashioned lamp post’s glass panes were frosted up.

frosty gaslamp

While enjoying my stroll through the historical village area, and admiring the Christmas décor …

decor

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… you’ll recall that this is when I met Shelley and Beauregard, her Bouvier.

bo final

We struck up a conversation and lingered on the pathway, while “Bo” pulled on his leash for her to get going.  Yes, we are ruled by our pet’s demands, be they furry or feathered, even domestic or wild … yes, I know you are nodding your head in agreement again.  So Shelley and I walked the outskirts of Heritage Park to finish our conversation.

It was an enjoyable morning and I was happy to go warm up in the car and then I headed down to the River to freeze my bum off just a little bit more.

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Had I known …

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Well, had I known the weather would be so cooperative throughout December, I probably would not have gone on a marathon walking-and-photo-taking session back on the weekend of December 8th and 9th.  Who knew?  But, on that weekend, it was finally sunny for a change and I was happy to see that bright orb, and, who cared if there was a 15-degree wind chill when I left the house, and the fact that Lake Erie Metropark is right along the water?  It is Michigan and there was no snow, so I bundled up and off I went because it was time to:

get out and play

I’ve already cherry-picked some photos from the Saturday, December 8th jaunt.  You will recall the gaggle of geese that numbered at least a hundred, the seven swans a swimming and I introduced you to the fisherman that I was chattin’ it up with, while we mingled with the mallards in the marshy area just off Cove Point.

Mother Nature had sprinkled snow, Jack Frost was by with ice.

We didn’t have any snow or ice where I live on that frosty morning, but just sixteen miles away, there was some snow along the many pathways.

Over by the Marshlands Museum is a weathered-looking shed.  I don’t know what they keep in it, but I like how it sits on that wooden walkway and looks so rustic amongst the bulrushes and reeds.

green house

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As you can see, the wooden walkway had a light covering of snow and the lookout point jutted over the shallow marsh where the water was frozen solid.

frozen bulrushes

frozen marsh

The boat launch area.

I stopped by the boat launch site where I visited back in late September just after Hawk Week.  At that time many photographers and birders had set up tripods, and/or were gazing at the sky through their long-lens cameras or binoculars, waiting for the next birds of prey to pass overhead.

The boat launch site and pier area were devoid of people, even though the water was deeper and not topped with ice.

boat launch pier

It looked desolate, with the Hawk Week sign covered with snow and the picnic tables turned on their sides.

boat launch sign

boat launch picnic tables

The Cherry Island Trail.

The Cherry Island Trail meanders through the marshy areas, most of which resembled a skating rink.  The walking path runs parallel to the Lake Erie shoreline.

sign

frozen leaves

It was quite windy that morning and the Phragmites’ feathery-looking seed pods were rustling in the wind.

phragmites

In the background you see the dark brown seed pods of the lotus plants that bloomed so beautifully in July and August.  I was there several times to see them in bloom and they were amazing as you can see if you click here.

There are two lotus beds here at Lake Erie Metropark and they encompass about two acres and five acres respectively.  Their leaves can be 20 inches in diameter and the flowers, which rise above the leaves, can  be up to 8 inches in diameter when in full bloom.  When the blooms die off, all that remains is the dried pod with black seeds.  Because the lotus is an endangered plant, it is illegal to pick the flower, or take its seed pods, so that is why these dark brown pods remain embedded in the ice in the marsh or still floating in Lake Erie.

phragmites and lotus pods

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snow covered

Cove Point.

Cove Point was similarly desolate when I arrived.

sign

I stopped to take pictures of the huge gaggle of geese, then walked along the rocky shoreline.  This is where I saw the swans in a row and there were more geese that decided they liked flying better than risking their lives by walking on the slippery ice in the area where they had been grazing.

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Here is the larger lotus bed, shrunken down, and reduced to seed pods, a much-duller and smaller version of its Summertime beauty.

rocks and lily pods

I spent a total of five hours walking around Lake Erie Metropark on the day these photos were taken – the skies were blue, the walk was brisk, and it felt really good to get out and enjoy nature.

trail with snow

 

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A Winter’s day …

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… In a deep and dark December.

I am alone
Gazing from my window

To the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.

[“I am a Rock” by Paul Simon]

Before starting this post, I looked back at the weather a year ago – we were in the midst of snow, and in the deep freeze with a brutal-feeling Polar Vortex … now THAT is what you call a “deep and dark December.”  I was hustling to fulfill the last walking miles goal I had made for myself, struggling to get those steps done, in what was deemed the sixth snowiest December on record.  I wrote in a blog post “I am sure I am not alone in concurring with William Shakespeare’s phrase  ‘now is the winter of our discontent’ even if the intention for these words is not the same.”

Now, fast forward one year later …

December 2018 is quite the opposite – we have had just one-tenth of an inch of snow this month and will not see any flakes until New Year’s Eve.  The weatherman said this morning that Detroit will be warmer than Phoenix, El Paso, or even Las Vegas today, with temps nearing 60 degrees.

I e-mailed the temperature stats to my boss who is flying home today from a week spent in  Los Barriles, Mexico where he and his family have enjoyed sun and fun in 70-degree temps.  I told him he didn’t even a jacket for re-entry to Michigan.

Since warm temps might be equated with the seashore, the closest to the seashore I can offer you are these photos taken along the boardwalks at Bishop Park and John Dingell Park – if you stroll along the shoreline, and close your eyes while you hear the seagulls screeching, you might believe it was a Mid-Summer day, a little breeze off the water, a boat or two bobbing in the waves.  But, once your eyelids flutter open again, you’ll see the bare trees and the drab Phragmites waving in the breeze in the background.

These photos are from Bishop Park and Dingell Park on a sunny Sunday, December 9th.

Bishop Park in Wyandotte, Michigan:

walkway

riverfront

seagull on the railing

seagull flying

John Dingell Park in Ecorse, Michigan:

shoreline

seagull

seagull 1

seagull landing1seagull mud island 1

 

 

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