Saturday, January 31, 2015

Most of December 2014

Catching up with 2014, here are some highlights from my December.  Marie and I started off the month with a visit to Park Township in Ottawa County, Michigan.  This 20 square mile township is packed with over 21 parks!
This time we walked at Stu Visser Trails, previously known as Pine Creek Trail, we have been here several times in the past.  It's quite a neat park with Pine Creek running through it.  This park has 37 acres between Ottawa Beach Road and Lakewood Blvd..  We found picnic tables, nature trails, boardwalks, wetland observation decks, and a small pond connecting with Pine Creek.
We also stopped at Wendt Park.  Wendt Park has 20 acres, and is on James Street near Lilac Avenue, here you will find parking, picnic shelters, basketball court, softball field, Tot Lot, tennis courts, sand volleyball, soccer field, and a nature trail.  The first time we came here, several years ago, there were many garden plants around an old homestead lot.  Most of that is gone but there are cactus, Tulip trees, and a Beauty Bush still here.
We found Osage Orange at Wendt.   Despite the name "Osage orange" it is not closely related to the orange.  The fruit is about 3 to 6 inches in diameter.  Fun to discover. 

We made a brief stop at Hemlock Crossing, an Ottawa County Park, in Port Sheldon Township, just north of Park Township.  This is a great park with a Nature Education Center, and all sorts of fun activities.  "Hemlock Crossing offers 239 acres of woods and wetlands along the Pigeon River. Over six miles of trails meander through bottomland and upland forest, old pine plantations and along the river. Trails connect to Pine Bend County Park on the west end of this property. A pedestrian bridge and numerous overlooks offer scenic views. While you’re there, be sure to visit the Nature Education Center."

The next week of December we revisited Van Raalte Farm in the city of Holland Michigan.  "This city park contains a nineteenth century farmhouse and outbuildings set on a hilltop overlooking pasture and woodlands that include a valley and a branch of the Black River. Parking is located off both 16th and 24th Streets and Country Club Road, providing access to nature trails, picnic shelter, play structures, as well as winter sledding and cross-country skiing."

Here we saw one of the few wildflowers, you might find blooming in Michigan in the winter.  A dandelion.  Pretty little thing.

Mid December I flew to Texas to visit, Finley Rose, our new granddaughter.  Not many photos from Texas other than a few hundred of Finley.  She is as sweet as she looks!
                                      Finley Rose McCarthy  -  3 weeks old

Marie and I were able to get out again, here in Michigan, on December 22.  We headed east to Bradford Dickinson White Nature Preserve, located near Lowell, Michigan in Kent County.  This preserve is owned by the Land Conservancy of West Michigan.  We were here once before - over seven years ago.
             Farm field somewhere in Kent County, Michigan

We walked through the whole preserve and back again, probably a 1 1/2 mile walk.  It was a good walk and the sun even popped out a bit.
After this we drove around a few roads to Grand River Riverfront Lowell Township Park"The jewel of Lowell Charter Township, our 80 acre Grand River Riverfront Park (including two islands) is on the south shore of the Grand River off Grand River Drive between Lowell and Ada. We have a canoe launch, two softball fields, a lacrosse field, 8 soccer fields and a playground with equipment designed for ages 4 to 12. We have a mile-long paved nature/walking path, a scenic overlook and fishing pier on the Grand River, one large picnic shelter with restroom facilities and one smaller one without.  The park is open to the public every day from 8 AM to dusk, except for days that snow or water make driving in the park unsafe.  Restrooms are closed from late October until late March."
 We walked the whole park, admired the Grand River, tried to identify a tree, and looked at dried wildflowers along the way.  The day was gray now but still good for walking.
                             Fox Squirrel

Next we went to Cascade Township, a park named Peace.  "Cascade Peace Park is approximately 198 acres in size.  This property consists of floodplain and meadow areas with extensive old growth forest.  No improvements are on the property and it is intended that any changes to the property will only allow for passive recreational uses." 

Reading the sign, we saw that you might find a Yellow-billed Cuckoo here!  Marie was a birder long ago and she has actually seen a Yellow-billed Cuckoo!  One thing we did find at this park was hills.  Hills, hills, and more hills.  We walked for a hour and a half, then headed for the car.  This is a beautiful place with so many trees.

After Christmas Mike and I were able to get out for some walks in the sunshine.  First to Crockery Creek Natural Area, an Ottawa County property.  " The 331-acre natural area includes frontage on both the Grand River and Crockery Creek.  About two miles of hiking and cross-country ski trails meander along the creek, mature wooded ridges, floodplain forest, open hardwoods, wet meadows and buttonbush swamps. These diverse communities provide habitat for a wide variety of flora and fauna including bald eagles, sandhill cranes, red-headed woodpeckers and river otters. In addition to resident wildlife, the area provides staging areas for many migratory birds.  The existing farm house and barn are from a Centennial Farm and are currently closed to the public."

      Crockery Creek Natural Area in Ottawa County, Michigan
 I always enjoy seeing this oak tree when we visit here.  And below is a field at Crockery Creek Natural Area with an unbelievably blue sky.
 We also made a few trips to Riverside Park in Ottawa County.  We did see a Bald Eagle fly over but we were looking into the sun so I missed a photo of the eagle.
              Max Lake at Riverside Park.    

But wait Marie and I also got another day outside before the year 2014 was done! 
Gas prices are down, the roads are clear, so Marie chose Seidman Park in Kent County for our destination.  We have been to this park once before but it has been a few years.  We were on the road before 8 a.m. and went through Robinson Township to go east into Kent County.  The sun rise was colorful but only for a few minutes, so I snapped this photo on the way.
No - that color is not enhanced, it was that brilliant.  That is an elm tree in the center of the picture.  When driving this road we usually comment on its form.  The sign not so much.
This is as we were traveling along I-96 near Coopersville.  It took exactly one hour to drive to Seidman Park from Grand Haven and it was a cool 24 degrees.  

Sorry but I can NOT delete the text below.  Please disregard it.

The trail leads north through bottom land to a bridge over Honey Creek.  Actually the are several bridges and boardwalks here.

I found liverwort in a few places, Marie identified a walnut tree.  We had fun walking and exploring, going off trail to follow a creek, or to check out a pond.  We were out there for over 3 1/2 hours.

So after our walk at Seidman Park we had to decide where else to go.  Do we want to walk more?  We just walked for over 3 hours, almost 4 hours really.  But here we are on the east side of Grand Rapids and we still have time for another park.  So we checked out Dave Brown's Michigan County Atlas, it is a great book and has many parks and preserves for each county.
We were close to Knapp Valley Forest in Kent County.  We had also been here before briefly, but it was right there and we were right there, okay let's go!

                                     Knapp Valley Forest

I'm not sure how many acres this place has but it is all woods with ravines.  Very nice for walking.  And even though we were fairly close to traffic and city noise, it was amazingly quiet in the Knapp Valley Forest.  We walked for less than an hour.  Back in the car and Marie drove me home.  That was our last outing of 2014.  But don't worry.  We have been out again in 2015 and plan to keep it up as long as we are able to. 


Anonymous said...

That's a fine collection of parks that you visited, I must add a few to my list of places to go. One that doesn't need to be added is Knapp Valley, I grew up almost in sight of that park, and walked those woods often as a kid.

Plants Amaze Me said...

Peace Park and Riverfront Park were new parks for me. Peace Park is fun with all the hills and trees! I didn't know you grew up near Knapp Valley Forest, we didn't explore the whole place, just a short walk since we had already been to Seidman. That too is a large area of trees. Is there any marshy places there at Knapp Valley? Always interesting to explore west Michigan!