Writing by David DeGraaf
Last Wednesday, I drove 20 miles north to hike in Mt. Pleasant’s 90-acre Mill Pond Park. The early morning weather was cloudy with a temperature of 27 degrees and a slight breeze out of the west. From the parking lot, I headed south along the edge of the Mill Pond that was beginning to ice over. Along the way, a solitary Milkweed plant with a few seeds yet to be dispersed reminded me of the warm days of summer when it had fragrant pink blossoms and was sometime visited by Monarch Butterflies. Just ahead, I spotted some squirrel tracks in the snow as well as some of their nests high in a leafless maple tree. From near shore, I paused to observe some Sugar Maple leaves submerged in the murky frigid water. Retracing my steps back to the beginning, I turned east and followed the main trail where a few White Oak leaves were scattered on the paved pathway and a few leafless Buckthorn trees displayed some of their black berries. The presence of these berries at this late date indicated they were not the most desirable food source for wildlife. Even though the seeds are mildly poisonous, birds will eat them and their laxative effect helps with seed dispersal trough their droppings. Also, I noticed a few Musclewood (Blue Beech) trees were still clinging to some of their leaves. As the path continued east along the bank of the Chippewa River, I paused to watch the gently flowing current. Based on the current flow rate data from Mt. Pleasant, the water was moving at a rate of 387 cubic feet per second compared to a high of a little more than 2000 feet per second back in March. In contrast, further ahead I came to the river’s edge to look and listen as it passed over a dam and spilled north over some rocks. Crossing a pedestrian bridge, I turned around and walked along the south river bank where off to my left I could see how the snow helped outline the contorted trunks and branches of mature Box elder trees that were a dominant species in the flood plain. Not surprisingly, a few female trees still held on to some samaras. As the path turned south along the riverbank, I spotted a few wispy seeds of the invasive Clematis shrub (Old Man’s Beard). After turning around, I proceeded north over another bridge and retraced my steps west back to the car.