JD Allinder

Archive for May, 2010|Monthly archive page

Kosch-Headwaters Preserve

In Posts on May 21, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Yesterday was rather warm – somewhere in the low 80s – and one of our first glimpses of the summer weather that’ll be here any day now. The parks were packed with people playing soccer, baseball, and basketball. Young lovers walked hand in hand along the river bank while overweight 40-somethings in stretchy outfits powerwalked ’round Frog Island. The line at Dairy Queen completely obscured the sidewalk and dangerously spilled onto Michigan Avenue. Jane and I, used to having the world to ourselves, were in shock.

We went to LeFurge for a post-lunch hike, but Jane was a sourpuss for the two-hour duration of the outing. She panted and sulked and refused to keep up with me. I know she was hot – I was, too – but she’s got to relearn how to exercise in the heat. We both must daily earn our calories. So I pushed her, she complained with hound dog stubbornness, and neither of us had a very nice time. Interestingly, though, she was completely engaged and excited during our evening walk around town. True, it was a bit cooler and the sun wasn’t boring a hole through our heads, but it was far from what I consider comfortable. It’s something I’ve noticed about her before – her interest in our evening routine. No matter what her day’s been like, she always marches on our night time walks, tail erect, ears pricked. We usually cover the same three or four miles of city streets and parks, and she’s perfectly content (which is antithetical to her daytime need for variety and novelty). I suspect she thinks our walks around town are part of our job, battening down the hatches, as it were, before we retire for our feeding and slumber.

Today was cloudy, drizzly, and 15 degrees cooler. We took advantage of the weather by visiting Kosch-Headwaters Preserve, 160 acres of woods, wetlands, and crop fields near the corners of Prospect and Ford Roads. This was just our second trip to the preserve. I stopped at the entrance a couple of years ago but was dissuaded (and dismayed) by the inclusion of dogs on the list of prohibiteds posted on the bulletin board in the parking lot. (There is a large, vocal, and perplexing pro-nature/anti-dog population in the Ann Arbor area.) A guy I see regularly on the trails behind St. Joe’s, though, told me a couple of weeks ago that the man who manages the preserve runs his two Rhodesian Ridgebacks there regularly. Empowered by this unconfirmed bit of guerilla hiking gossip, Jane and I took our first visit last week and our second today.

It’s a relatively small property, but diverse enough to be challenging, interesting, and fun to both man and dog. Jane loves it there. She’s fascinated by the hunting hawks – she seems to intuit that she might happen on a free meal if she zeroes in on their circling pattern – and the geese, ducks, blue heron, and numerous song birds. The woods are small, but easy to maneuver, and the crop fields are currently open for traversing, though very wet and muddy. There are patches that are a couple of inches deep in standing water, and some of the muddier trails completely swallowed my feet like quicksand. Jane especially enjoyed the fields of tall grasses. She ran through them like a puppy. It really made my heart glad.

Kosch-Headwaters Preserve abuts Springhill Nature Preserve to the north. Springhill is just 30 acres, and it’s virtually impossible to tell where the boundaries are. Jane and I ended up walking a good distance onto private property before a man emerged from an enormous farmhouse asking if he could help us. (When it comes to walking on private property, I follow English law. So far I’ve not ended up arrested or shot.) Springhill is bordered on the north by Berry Road. Berry is a dirt road, and, as we both love dirt roads – me for the views of country estates I’ll never be able to afford and Jane for the chance to flush a pheasant from the brush – we followed it east for about a half mile where it dead ends at Cherry Hill Road. There were lots of old farm houses on Berry, some situated on enormous properties with ponds and woods. Every house, every gate, and many trees, though, were papered with no trespassing,¬†keep out, and attack dog signs. Almost every house advertised its home security system, too. Is there really that much rural crime or is it just paranoia? Here were all these lovely old country homes, but the people were locked up and barricaded inside. The vibe was distinctly out-of-sync with the setting. It was a little sad.

So we headed back to the preserves with the fussing geese and the sopping wet grass that kept Jane cool and hydrated. We had a really lovely time, and the Kosch-Headwaters Preserve is just stunning, but we probably won’t visit again until the fall. Today was perfect with the slight chill and intermittent showers. Soon, though, it’ll be too hot for my sensitive lady. She needs lots of shade and proper bodies of cold water for frequent bathing. Here comes summer…

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Dolph Nature Area

In Posts on May 10, 2010 at 7:28 pm

What a beautiful weekend! It felt more like fall than spring (which is, obviously, fine by me). It was blustery and cold – not just chilly – with intense wind gusts (50mph?) and sub-freezing night time temps. Just lovely enough to put a spring in Jane’s step and keep me in a perpetual good humor.

If only the whole spring and summer could be so desolate and dramatic. The aforementioned winds blew all day Saturday and took down many trees in the wild as well as a sizable branch of an ailing crabapple tree in my back garden. (Which actually saved me the trouble of pruning. Thanks, Mother Nature.)

After cleaning up the yard debris, Jane and I went to Dolph Nature Area in Ann Arbor near the corners of Jackson and Wagner Roads. It’s a 57-acre plot with two lakes – First Sister Lake and Second Sister Lake – and a large pond. There are several wetland areas bordering the lakes and a mile or so of wooded trails featuring both hardwoods and evergreens. It was our first visit. (We tried visiting once in the winter, but there was suspicious activity going on in the parking lot, so we didn’t stay.) Jane loves novelty, so she enthusiastically checked out every nook and cranny. I even perched myself in a pine hoping Jane would tree me, but she just gave me that puzzled look that dogs give their human companions when they’re acting out of character.

I’ve been told by a friend that the water and land at Dolph are heavily polluted by industrial waste, but I can’t find any documentation to support that. It certainly looks fine, but I kept Jane out of the lakes just in case.

Unfortunately, Dolph is too small to warrant another visit any time soon. Jane and I combed the entire property – twice – in about an hour. The trails are unchallenging, and I couldn’t get the thought of toxic waste out of my mind the entire time we were exploring. I’m glad we checked it out, but it’s definitely the kind of place to check in with once per season.

We finished our afternoon at the lush and pristine Saginaw Forest across the street. We had the entire place to ourselves, and Jane ran freely and beautifully minded my commands. The sky spit rain on us from time to time, but the showers were always followed by blinding bouts of sunshine and cold breezes. I would have sworn it was late October had it not been for the foot-tall dandelions, the at-their-peak trillium, the almost-there-but-not-quite-yet lilies of the valley, and the absolutely exploding honeysuckle. Large swaths of trail were practically engulfed by honeysuckle, and I was almost overwhelmed by their fragrance. (I can’t imagine what they smelled like to Jane whose olfactory system is 1,000 times greater than mine.) I broke off a small branch of the flower (after asking the shrub for permission and subsequently thanking it) and carried it with me for a mile or so, smothering my face in it, becoming nearly intoxicated. I thought, “Oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful if Jane smelled like honeysuckle?” I asked her if she’d like that, and she responded by laughing at me and immediately rolling in the fetid and rotting carcass of some less fortunate quadruped.