Parks/Recreation

367. Detroit RiverWalk / Cullen Plaza – October 6, 2018 – Detroit, MI

October2018DetroitRiverWalk2 (3)October2018DetroitRiverWalk4 (2)October2018DetroitRiverWalk1 (2)October2018DetroitRiverWalk6 (2)The Detroit RiverWalk + Cullen Plaza = I’m in LOVE!

Somehow I made it all the way to my 34th birthday without traversing the Detroit RiverWalk. It had been on my list of to-visits since the inception of 100 Places in the D in 2014. I’d walked the Windsor side of the Detroit River a number of years ago. I’d resolved to experience the Detroit side this summer . . . and summer came and went.

It was looking yet again like the Detroit RiverWalk would be relegated to the ever-elusive “next year.” And then Destiny intervened: an Eastern Market-themed cycling tour I’d signed up for through Wheelhouse Detroit started and ended at the bike shop’s Detroit location, which happened to be based along the riverfront in Cullen Plaza. The RiverWalk jaunt was HAPPENING! And it was happening on my birthday, which made it extra special.

What a treasure this slice of Detroit is! Until my visit, I had no idea just how gorgeous this area along the riverfront is, landscaped to feel like a natural oasis, a retreat from urban life.

This is one of those free public resources that begs to be used. And people were using it on the afternoon I was there: after furious bouts of rain throughout the morning, it had cleared up, and people of all ages were out walking, biking, chatting, playing, and enjoying the riverfront bounty. It was wonderful to see all of these folks mixing and mingling together, sharing this space.

Imagine the scene, one of gardens and benches and wild grasses waving in the wind; cyclists and scooters and dog walkers; families and elderly friends and pensive souls staring off across the water. See kiddos scrambling around inside a giant-sized sandbox, a captivating boardwalk carousel, display boards highlighting wildlife that call this area home.

And see the Detroit River, its majestic blue-green surface. I was surprised by how magnetizing I found its pull, how soothing its effect was on me. Maybe there’s something to be said for the school of thought touting the benefits of being around large bodies of water.

Not only does Cullen Plaza foster the above-mentioned splendor, it also offers these amenities: a playground; public restrooms; concession stands during warm-weather months (the carousel is also in operation during warm weather only, according to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy website); and the pièce de résistance: free lot parking.

And as mentioned, Cullen Plaza is home to the Wheelhouse Detroit bike shop – which in addition to offering guided tours, rents out bikes that can be ridden along the RiverWalk and elsewhere.

Try as I might here, the grandeur of the Detroit RiverWalk and Cullen Plaza can’t be adequately outlined in writing; both demand an in-person experience. Summer is the obvious time to visit the riverfront, but I’ll advocate for an autumn-time drop-in: the brooding beauty of the season is sure to provide a striking back-drop to the already stunning landscape.

1340 Atwater St.

Detroit, MI 48207

www.detroitriverfront.org/riverfront/east-riverfront/cullen-plaza

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364. Wheelhouse Detroit – October 6, 2018 – Detroit, MI

October2018WheelhouseDetroit1 (3)October 6, 2018: a gnarly-weather day + my birthday + the day I visited Wheelhouse Detroit for the first time and took a guided tour with them.

I embrace the birthday warm-and-fuzzies wholeheartedly, because what better holiday exists than one where you get to celebrate being born/still being alive? I like to do special stuff on my birthday, and a bike tour with Wheelhouse Detroit remained undone on my 2018 bucket list, so I decided to book a spot on its Eastern Market-themed outing that landed on my birthday.

I knew when I booked the Saturday tour earlier in the week that I was taking a risk with the weather. Cue to one-and-a-half hours before the start of the event and me staring gaping-mouthed from my living room couch at the torrential downpour outdoors. Rut-roh.

I was tempted to scrap the whole thing, chucking the $50 I’d paid for the tour ($35 for the tour itself, $10 for a bike rental, plus fees) to stay planted on my couch reading a novel. But that wouldn’t be a birthday adventure, would it? I called Wheelhouse Detroit to confirm the noon tour was still on (it was – I was told they only cancel when extreme weather of the thunder-and-lightning variety is involved), and did my best to surrender to whatever journey unfolded.

Arriving at Wheelhouse Detroit’s riverfront shop based in Cullen Plaza (formerly Rivard Plaza) on Atwater Street during a brief hiatus from the showers, I was glad to see that four other tour attendees had shown up. I was asked to sign a waiver, given my helmet and a poncho, and my bike seat was adjusted by a staff member.

Hopping on the bike, I was pleased with how comfortable it was. I’m no bike expert, so I couldn’t tell you what kind it was besides . . . standard bike? It was obviously quality but wasn’t some intimidating racing bike or anything. It was super comfortable and easy to ride, to my relief. To my memory, I’ve only ridden a bike once in the last three-plus years (since my Summer 2015 Nautical Ride excursion): on an extremely bumpy, zippy downhill mountain route that did not inspire confidence in my cycling abilities. I was seeking ease and comfort on this Detroit bike tour, and I found it.

The three-hour tour started with our guide, Henry, routing us to Eastern Market via the Dequindre Cut.

The Dequindre Cut – so MAGICAL! I want to cover it in its own post on 100 Places in the D – it deserves to be highlighted – but I wasn’t able to stop and take any photos of it during this ride. A return trip to adequately capture the beauty of this bike/pedestrian path running along the site of a former rail line under overpasses vibrant with artwork is definitely in order.

We approached Eastern Market after 20 minutes of riding, amidst a fresh downpour. We had two hours to explore the market independently, we were told by Henry.

I wasn’t especially enthused to learn that two hours of the three-hour tour were dedicated to exploring Eastern Market on my own, in a downpour, on my birthday. But hey, surrendering-to-the-adventure was the theme of the day, and after some initial crabby wandering in the rain outside Eastern Market like a wet dog, I adjusted my attitude and did just that. I’ll highlight what new-to-me places I visited during this time in upcoming posts.

When our group reconvened, we rode for another 40 minutes, back down the Dequindre Cut and along the Riverfront. It was a lovely ride – all sunshine and blue skies by that point (hooray!) – and I adored it.

Overall, this tour with Wheelhouse Detroit was great. Henry was a kind and pleasant guide, riding at an easy pace, signaling when we needed to turn, guarding our bikes during the Eastern Market sojourn, and providing interesting information about the Eastern Market and RiverWalk (including plans for the RiverWalk’s expansion).

Considering that the Eastern Market trek is the shortest of Wheelhouse Detroit’s tours in terms of mileage biked at five miles (most advertise mileages in the teens), I should’ve suspected that the shopping portion would occupy a considerable chunk of it. I’d love to explore some of the longer tours, including those that highlight Southwest Detroit, Belle Isle, and “Haunted Detroit” (a showcase of allegedly ghost-populated locales running this October in honor of the spooky month-end holiday).

Of course, Wheelhouse Detroit is more than a provider of tours. According to its website, the shop sells new and used bikes as well as a myriad of cycling-related products, including tires, tools, helmets, clothing, and biking-related accessories such as locks, cargo bags, and lights. Bikes can be rented independent of the tours for jaunts along the riverfront and throughout the city, as well.

1340 E. Atwater St.

Detroit, MI 48207

(with an additional location in Hamtramck)

www.wheelhousedetroit.com

360. TreeRunner Adventure Park – September 13, 2018 – West Bloomfield, MI

September2018TreeRunner1 (2)September2018TreeRunner3 (4)A workday spent frolicking above the forest canopy? Sign me up!

Last week, I got to fulfill a several-years-held dream of visiting TreeRunner Adventure Park in West Bloomfield – on my employer’s dime! My department at my day job was required to attend a six-hour retreat at the park. We spent half of the day on land, completing various team-building exercises, and the other half up in the air, navigating ropes courses and zip lines.

According to its website, “over 165 exciting obstacles and zip lines, five difficulty levels, and 10 different courses” constitute TreeRunner Adventure Park. Adding to the experience is the fact that the zip lining and obstacle maneuvering occurs in a wooded area, making one feel as if she is flitting among the treetops like a human-sized squirrel.

The ground-oriented team-building exercises (working a multi-person set of wooden skis in unison; figuring out how to get from one platform to another so as to avoid imaginary lava; etc.) were fun. But I was all about the aerial obstacles, which I performed during the second half of the day.

I completed a ropes course for the first time during a vacation in Ecuador earlier this year and LOVED it. I got the same rush from it that I did as an eight-year-old climbing the pine trees in my backyard. And I’d experienced the exhilaration of zip lining during a trip to Costa Rica a decade ago, soaring along routes strung over lush expanses of rainforest.

TreeRunner Adventure Park’s obstacles don’t reside in the mountains of South America, nor a tropical rainforest. They’re in a wooded area behind a Jewish community center in the Metro-D. But the intricate networks of platforms and ropes and pulleys hung at varying height levels among the leafy green canopy are fascinating to behold – and to navigate.

The navigating was especially interesting blindfolded.

The guides at Treerunner Adventure Park don’t usually facilitate blindfolded obstacle-course runs. My employer asked for this element to be added to the experience so that those not participating in the aerial activities (due to an aversion to heights or the park-imposed weight restriction) could participate as guides, shouting instructions from the ground to blindfolded teammates in the trees. Climbers were allowed to scale vertical ladders and perform the zip lines sans blindfold, but our eyes had to be covered for the obstacle runs.

I was resistant to the blindfold at first. The aerial activities I’d been gung ho about performing became nerve-wracking to contemplate without the benefit of sight.

I ended up, however, enthusiastically enjoying the added challenge of completing the obstacle runs blindfolded. My team’s guide offered great support with his descriptive directions, while I learned to feel with my feet for evidence of each hanging plank, block, and bridge I needed to navigate. Secured as I was via harness to the sturdy wire running the length of each obstacle, I knew that even if I did falter, I’d be caught.

Ditching the blindfold for the zip-line portions of the course proved worthwhile. The zip lines on the Level 3 run my team completed were much abbreviated compared with the loping ones I rode in Costa Rica, but they still delivered the rush of barreling airborne through the trees.

Overall, my experience at TreeRunner Adventure Park was super rewarding. Not only did it help me and my colleagues hone our teamwork, leadership, and communication skills, it also helped us connect to our inner-child selves on a day when we normally would’ve been hunched over our computers in our cubicles. Here’s to traipsing among the tree branches instead!

6600 W. Maple Rd.

West Bloomfield, MI 48322

(Open Friday through Sunday to the public;

group reservations available Monday through Thursday)

www.treerunnerwestbloomfield.com

338. Clark Park – June 19, 2018 – Detroit, MI

June2018ClarkPark1 (2)June2018ClarkPark2 (2)June2018ClarkPark3 (2)I’m fortunate to work at a company that allows us to spend a certain number of hours every year on volunteer initiatives. Thusly I found myself at Clark Park in Detroit on a Tuesday in mid-June to do some clean-up work through Summer in the City, a local volunteer organization.

Spending time outside on a summer’s day instead of hunched in front of a computer in my gray, florescent-lit cubicle – UMMM, yes, please! AND spending time visiting a new place, to boot, instead of hunched in said cubicle? Double-YES to that!

Clark Park is located in Southwest Detroit, in a part of town that I enjoyed with its big, beautiful old houses, community feel (cue kids running around at a cookout luncheon at a nearby school, people chatting in the street, moms taking their kids to the park), and a bomb ice cream parlor within walking distance (which I’ll totally be covering in my next post!).

The spacious park not only boasts baseball diamonds, a playground area, a community garden, ample fields, and paths for strolling and biking, it also has a ice rink!

I got excited upon seeing the ice rink, which according to Clark Park’s website is “the only regulation-sized outdoor ice hockey rink in Metro Detroit.” I realized it was the rink where the Detroit Red Wings have practiced on at least one occasion and played at least one alumni game. Pretty cool – especially to me as a Wings fan. I need to get over there the next time they grace that ice!

Loads of kiddos were running around Clark Park on the day of our visit, doing activities with volunteers and generally being adorable. The park seemed an ideal setting for such a day camp-type gathering, being as large and well maintained as it was. According to Clark Park’s website, it also hosts community events such as festivals and concerts throughout the year.

Our group did some weeding while we were at Clark Park in the afternoon, beautifying a concrete-paved play area. In the morning, we had done some mega weeding at a nearby Summer in the City garden site, which was super satisfying (I mean, we cleared some MAJOR plant debris!). It was my first time volunteering at a community garden, a long-held item on my to-do list.

I’m not sure how often Summer in the City coordinates volunteer outings at Clark Park, but its website is worth checking out if its mission of enriching Detroit via Play (fostering youth enrichment), Paint (creating murals in Detroit neighborhoods), and Plant (practicing urban gardening) intrigues you: www.summerinthecity.com. And Clark Park is certainly worth checking out if you appreciate green spaces that offer a sojourn from bustling everyday life.

1130 Clark St.

Detroit, MI 48209

www.clarkparkdetroit.com

 

248. Sylvan Glen Lake Park – May 23, 2017 – Troy, MI

20170523_13092620170523_123429After ordering delicious vegetarian Indian carryout from Neehee’s in Troy back in late May, my colleagues and I decided to enjoy our lunches on the grounds of Sylvan Glen Lake Park.

I’d passed this little park off of Rochester Road between Long Lake and Square Lake roads dozens of times over the years and had always intended to check it out. While it’s small, I found its vibrant green grounds nestled up to a lovely little lake a beautiful and tranquil place of respite. We ate lunch at a picnic table right in front of the lake, taking in the sunshine, pleasant temperatures, and views of people fishing and otherwise enjoying the grounds.

Now I know where to go when I need a momentary retreat from hectic suburban living.

5501 Rochester Rd.

Troy, MI 48085

189. Bald Mountain Recreation Area – September 4, 2016 – Oakland Charter Township, MI

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Hello, all! Happy Sunday! I hope wherever you are, the weather is phenomenal, as it has been here in the Metro-D this weekend. Fall is here, and it’s gorgeous!

I love fall, but I held on to summer kicking and screaming this year, because our summer was so wonderful. I was not ready for cooler temps! But with the official first day of fall Thursday, a flip switched in me. I was finally ready. I’ll be pulling out my autumnal leaf garlands and pumpkin couture today!

You know what one benefit of fall is? No mosquitoes. Seriously, the mosquitoes have to be dead by now, right? I hope so! I am the kind of person who sets bugs I find in my house free out of doors. But if mass exstinquishing by seasonal change is part of the mosquito’s natural life cycle, well, I’m not going to protest that – especially after my visit to Bald Mountain Recreation Area during Labor Day weekend. The little buggers were still alive and well then – in droves.

I went on a four-mile hike on a portion of the north part of the park’s trails with an outdoor-oriented Meet-Up group. The hike was in preparation for my recent trip to Portugal, which was a hiking-focused trip. I am not an avid hiker, and I wanted to break in my new boots before going. The boots were great, and the trail was gorgeous – manageable up-and-down terrain snaking through woods and a meadow with a pond in it, sprinkled with a few little boats. The mosquitoes, on the other hand, were absolutely disgusting. They swarmed us constantly. I applied bug spray three times during the duration of the hike, and still, the back of my neck was totally chewed up. So unfortunately, I did not enjoy the natural beauty of the park as much as I would have liked to. But you can learn from my lesson and visit the Bald Mountain Recreation Area trails during fall, when all of the mosquitoes are gone!

In case you are interested in hiking the same section of trail that I did (which is arranged as two loops that encompass about 7.5 miles), you can access it right off of a tiny dirt parking lot at the corner of West Predmore and Harmon roads in Oakland Charter Township.

Speaking of location, I had the hardest time deciding on the city to use for this visit. Because Bald Mountain Recreation Area is so huge – broken into a north and a south territory over 4,637 acres (!) – I’ve seen addresses for it given in Lake Orion and Orion Charter Township in addition to Oakland Charter Township. But because I visited the park within Oakland Charter Township, that’s the city I decided to count for my visit. So welcome, Oakland Charter Township, to the blog! Any of the three cities actually would’ve been a first for 100 Places in the D. I do not make it out to that neck of Oakland County very often – that will have to change!

Official park address:

1330 E. Greenshield Rd.

Lake Orion, MI 48360

(But the Bald Mountain – North trails that I hiked can be accessed at the corner of West Predmore and Harmon roads in Oakland Charter Township.)

http://www.michigandnr.com/parksandtrails/details.aspx?id=435&type=SPRK

133. Rochester Municipal Park – August 1, 2015 – Rochester, MI

Rochester Municipal Park

Yesterday, I ran in a 5K race at AdvoKate, a charitable event held in remembrance of Kate Hrischuk, a local six-year-old girl who died of brain cancer in 2007. Her family started this inspiring annual event to honor her as well as to benefit St. Jude and its research on pediatric brain tumors. So you couldn’t help but feel good running in this race! Not to mention, it was a gorgeous, clear-skied, sunny summer morning, and the Rochester Municipal Park – the race headquarters – is a beautiful facility. It contains a lovely pond, play areas for kids, and paths that are great for running, biking, and dog-walking. The race trail wound through the park, downtown Rochester, and surrounding residential areas. As you would expect if you’re familiar with Rochester’s topography, it was quite hilly – and okay, going up the hills really sucked at times. But the ease of the downslopes made those uphill battles totally worth it!

You can learn more about AdvoKate at http://www.advokaterun.org.

608 Seventh St.

Rochester, MI 48307

http://www.ci.rochester.mi.us/196/Municipal-Park

54. Waldenburg Park – August 31, 2014 – Macomb, MI

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I went to this little park today with the intention of taking a jog. It has some paths that wind around a wooded area; they’re not very long, but the scenery is very pretty. I only lasted about twenty minutes, however – and that was a stretch – because the mosquitoes were fierce! The way they were attacking me – it was unnerving. I would stop to take a picture, and several would immediately be swarming onto me, buzzing in my ears. It was a nightmare. I got so bit up! So my time at Waldenburg Park wasn’t exactly enjoyable. But if you bring bug spray, or go there at a time of year when the mosquitoes are less prevalent, you’ll likely be able to enjoy the natural beauty of the walking trails. Or you can just hang out at the basketball court or the playscape.

19225 21 Mile Rd.

Macomb, MI 48044

https://www.macomb-mi.gov/Parks%20and%20Rec/ParksOurParksPage.html

 

36. George George Memorial Park – July 17, 2014 – Clinton Township, MI

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What a gorgeous park. It’s funny, because it’s located in a busy area, but once you get inside, the traffic noises are muffled by the tranquil sounds of water fountains and nature. I could just feel myself decompressing after only a few minutes of being here.

There’s a path that runs through the park and beyond it a ways that is great for jogging (goes over several bridges – very pretty) and an awesome playground area for the kiddies.

40500 Moravian Dr.
Clinton Twp., MI 48036