Sunday morning Matt showed up on his bike, knocked on the door and said lets go for a ride! Of course he was not to be denied. Today’s recon actually started in January with our city of Detroit parks tour. Our goal was to explore on bike a way to connect people from west to south Detroit with the suburbs via trail and side streets so that the existing Mountain bike trail in Rouge Park could be interconnected all the way out into Southfield, Beverly Hills and Birmingham trials that we frequent. Starting form Lathrup Village it was great to be headed out to the woods again. Crossing over the Lodge on Mt. Vernon we snaked our way through the neighborhoods and into a woodland section at the corner of 9 mile and Evergreen. A wonderful place that took 7 weekends to re-open all of the trails last year.
With the dry spring so far this year the trails were hard and fast. If you have never been you do not know what you are missing! There is a parking lot off of 9 mile for those who are interested in taking a hike or brining your bike to ride. Entering in from the East we made our way through the forest to the Western edge boundary it was there we turned left on the asphalt walkway and exited into the adjacent neighborhood. Following the bike path route signs we made our way onto Lasher and with a quick left we found our way across 8 mile once again.
The way along Lasher south to 8 mile is wide enough for a bike lane so we felt at ease with the space that was afforded to us as the amped up spring air brought out a few ‘would be’ fellows kind of close for an automobile revved up look se- exhaust spray. Next time we will jump on the first side street to avoid all the commotion and fumes. Crossing over 7 mile along Billy Rogell golf course we made the first right turning onto Margareta following the edge of the boundary fence of the golf course. It is here that the rhythm of the watershed topography has remained intact and starts to flow up and down. Huge trees overshadow the magnificent homes that skirt the Rouge tributary. The finest Split field stone house I have seen in the City is situated there resplendent in its historic magnificence! Flowing left then right then left again we made our way onto Beaverland and slide across McNichols without even needing to look both ways.
Bevearland south of 6 mile is an old river ridge trail. The homes here begin to reveal the history of cottage’s as one can easily understand by the scale and periods of architecture that the cottages now turned homes were built to take in the peaceful splendor of the flowing river back in the day. The ridge is about 50’ higher than the Rouge River below. Up and down we made a flowing hard right onto Ridge road and took it back north over the river to the sidewalk that runs adjacent to 6 mile. Turning left we headed up hill to the first side street River Dale Drive West. This is beautiful; you can feel the old cottage atmosphere as you snake along the western ridge. Avoiding a washed out section of road we came down hill to the corner of River Dale where Dehner Park can be found. There is a trail entrance that leads along the water’s edge that is just begging for a Ranger run and some volunteers to open this up. It appears that this was a Park that was developed after WW II and that after they built it nobody came to play? The original Baseball backstop has trees that are plus 30 years old growing through it. Climbing up on Dehner Street there is a beautiful historic Catalpa Allie’ that lines both sides of the street creating an imposing over-story atmosphere, a fine magnificent collection worthy of the viewing. As we came around the corner and turned left on Riverview we came to a section that must be opened up to make the bike route viable.
Verne Street is where the old Riverview trail used to continue and soon as we can schedule it, will continue once more. But for now we had to make a hard right and turn left again on the Alley that runs parallel to Telegraph road. Turning left onto Florence east you can see right were the trail will eventually come through. Flowing right onto Riverview once more you have to keep your eyes open for a partially washed out access road that leads down to a fence section over a large storm water discharge shoot that vents into the Rouge. We got off the bikes and walked down the steep slope and in-between the wood retainer wall and fence along what little side walk was left as provided. A little work here and she will be open once more. Stopping to take a break Matt pointed out numerous Buck rubs and huge track marks from what Matt suggest is a ‘Monstrous Buck’. Along the river heading south it truly looks like and feels like up north as you travel down what could easily be mistaken as a rail for trail conversion path. This path exits at Fenkell right across from the east exit of Eliza Howell Park.
Entering into the park we took the roadway to the right and enjoyed saying hello to the folks out walking hiking with dogs and golf clubs and sticks. As we came around the Western Edge Matt caught out of the corner of his eye a huge Virgin Oak Tree. (Okay, next time I will be bringing a camera proper so that I can post the pictures right here, sadly I cannot email from my Black berry this morning and in turn add it to the blog) You can count on the fact that this is simply the largest Virgin Oak I have ever seen within the confines of the city. It is situated high on the Bluff along the Rouge tributary that comes in from the west, carrying along with it Livonia and parts of Redford water shed. The base is 10-12’ in diameter as measured 12” up from the ground, the crown soars to 100’ x 100’ as I estimate it to be some 350-375 years old. For the Pagan in you please venture forth and feel-to-receive the power! Down below along the far rivers edge is an equally magnificent triple Sycamore that soars even higher in search of the light. Hugging and photo’s all done we picked up the obvious car trail that led into the forest and continued on with our journey of discovery. Yet again we saw more monsters. A somewhat matching pair of Father and son just 40 years younger, red Oaks 275+ years old. Turning left then a quick right down hill Matt stopped to talk to a fine fellow who was out with binoculars in hand, bird watching. Crossing over the Rouge on a Pedestrian only Bridge that has been there from the 40-50’s we made our way across and turned left on the trail and into a magnificent Forest section.
For those of you that have been following our journeys The Ridge in Southfield I once held as the most magnificent forest in Metro Detroit. The elevated perspective is a release point back unto Mother Earth but this place a little down river I now hold to be in equal stature to the Ridge area some 7-8 miles to the North. I had to stop peddling and get off my bike and walk, WOW! More of a clearing than a release point, many a magnificent fellow stand tall and wide. A true Climax collection of Oak, Sugar Maple and Beech right here in our city. Ok stop the press, if you get this then get out there as soon as you can and get it in person.
Heading up the east slope we came upon a ridge and a new trail indicated by a rainbow colored hand painted neighborhood sign which said “Welcome to the Eliza Howell Nature Trail” as fresh wood chips painted the way North West we exited out to the east and into the awaiting subdivision to say hello to many a fine citizen.
From there we crossed over Lasher/Outer drive and made our way to Burgess where we turned left towards Old Redford. Burgess as do most of the streets near Redford flow with the lay of the land as the once farmers fields never succumbed to the railroad engineers turned street planners philosophy of gradients all over the land-Spam place.
Into Old Redford we snaked our way around Grand River and back onto Burgess were we went until the dead end had us turning east to Bentler Street from there we again went left and headed north. Crossing North of Seven mile we made our way to Trojan and turned right in search of Tuttle Park. Looping around the entire Park I explained to Matt that this is the only true Virgin Oak Beech Climax Savanna I have seen within the city limits. Even the text books I have studied will suggest the only place you can still experience virgin landscapes is on Walpole Island. Ooops myth dispelled all you have to do is explore Detroit. From there we headed further east along Trojan crossing over Evergreen and on by Henry Fiord High School we entered in from the North and on into the Nature Preserve where big Mike and me re-opened the trails 6 weeks earlier. In the Center of this forest we stopped to do a set of pushups, stretched and enjoyed the feelings that surrounded us. Matt was amazed.
From there on we headed north and out onto 8 mile were we turned right and made our way down to the Roseland Bar for a beer and the first period of the Red Wings game. Yet again another great place to stop and once again our bikes came welcomed in along with us. From there on we headed up hill and back home with the great memories and experience carried with us from this day forward.
J. Meyers bike explorer