Tom Writes . . .
Golden Friday – November 24, 2017 (Exactly One Month before Christmas Eve)
Grand Ledge, Michigan
In two years on the river, the town of Grand Ledge is the farthest downstream we have
Approach to Grand Ledge from the Grand, River with the town’s iconic water tower in the distance
paddled. Today we walked: Joe cannot paddle now, due to a shoulder injury. Today, the sun beamed and the temperature reached fifty degrees Fahrenheit (= 10 degrees Celsius). That is lovely and warm and comfortable for Michigan at the end of November. No rain, no snow, not even much mud, and no talk nor even thought of politics, to mar our happy hike in any way. (You might note that this 50 degree temperature is the same as on our September 1 paddle. In that September post, I wrote that 50 was pretty chilly, but now, three months later, 50 feels pretty warm.)
Joe’s life-long friend Dave Miller joined us. To me, he looks the same as he looked in 1970 (last time I laid eyes on him), except that his hair is white now (used to be sort of brownish or reddish). I forgave him for white hair because my hair is just as white. Note, though, that Dave and I still have actual hair. This cannot be said fully honestly about Joe.
Path from Island Park to Fitzgerald Park
We started walking downstream at a new-ish park (Editor’s note: Jaycee Park) on the left (south) bank of the river, on the east side of the town. There is an asphalt and partly wooden municipal path from here which leads to Island Park, on the west side of the town. At that place, the path changes into a narrow dirt path with rocks and tree roots, halfway up the slope of the river bank. Not a difficult path, and not steep either, but much more rustic than any urban river walk.
We saw the usual Canada Geese and Mallard Ducks. We also saw a Pileated Woodpecker, a good-size black and white bird with a bright red crest. We were happy and lucky to see it. Here is what the Audubon Guide says about this bird: “This elegant woodpecker is adept at keeping out of sight. Obtaining a close view usually requires careful stalking.”
Stone outcrops line the landward side of this path. And, across the river, we could see
Sandstone ledges on the north bank
grander outcrops. About a half-mile along the path, we could see the famous Grand Ledge, the biggest stone face. (Obviously, the town is named after this ledge.) These stone cliffs are unique in southern Michigan. We actually were walking in a mini version of the Grand Canyon, where the river has cut through old rock, and the rock rears up on both sides.
There is a high railroad bridge across the river. It has a sidewalk with a railing. If you climb up the cliff from the path, you can cross the bridge to Oak Park, and get to the high cliffs on the other side. We did not take the bridge, but if you take this path, I recommend that you take the bridge, and then walk back across, back to the path. It is not a long detour.
We continued downstream to Fitzgerald Park, and past, on subsidiary paths, to a big old dam. We found a place below the dam, where we will put our canoe into the water, when we continue our canoe trip. We plan to do this as soon as possible. Our friend Dave will join us. If Joe’s shoulder prevents him from paddling, we will put him in the middle of the boat, sitting on a cooler. Dave and I will paddle, and Joe can just loll amidships, similar to Cleopatra on her barge on the Nile.
We walked back the way we had come. We spoke with some families on the path on the way. When we got back to downtown Grand Ledge, we walked up to the main drag. There were three or four good-looking restaurants. We asked a woman on the street what her favorite restaurant was. She directed us to Cugino’s. We went there and had wonderful Italian food, with great friendly service, for cheap.
I must praise the town of Grand Ledge. It is attractive in a nifty preserved way, and it seems to be thriving. It compares well with many well-known “quaint” Michigan tourist towns such as Charlevoix and Saugatuck. According to its web site, Grand Ledge has 7,791 people, and 13 parks which cover 110 acres. Also, Eaton County and Clinton County deserve praise for their parks along the river.
I drove home. About an hour. I bought a Christmas tree and hung a Christmas banner on my front door. Happy holidays! May the River Angels give you great joy!
(Editor Joe here. After lunch Tom headed home to Grand Rapids while Dave and I drove to Lincoln Brick Park – on the north side of the river and downstream from the dam – and hiked along the river there. Lincoln Brick Park is another nice spot for watching the Grand. Earlier in the day I remarked that we hadn’t seen our usual Blue Heron, and speculated that they must fly south for the winter. Dave and I did, however, see a Blue Heron gliding over the river at Lincoln Brick Park. There is interesting information about Blue Heron migration here which points out that while most do migrate, there are always a few – the stubborn ones, apparently – who do not. As a further aside, I’m not at all sure one can – or should! – walk across the railroad bridge Tom mentions above. Even if it is possible to access the bridge, I can see the train scene from the movie ‘Stand By Me’ playing out high above the river.)
Above, left to right: pileated woodpecker, the dam at Fitzgerald Park in Grand Ledge.
Joe Neely, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Neely, email@example.com