The evening started like any other, with Nancy and me meeting friends at a small local restaurant for an early dinner. The dinner was wonderful. I had Pasta Mediterranean, and she chooses a pork dish with grilled vegetables and real mashed potatoes. They both were great, except a lot more than either of us needed. We were stuffed. When the desert menu arrived, the girls decided to order a gluten free, rich and wonderful (read very rich) chocolate torte. The guys ordered coffee. We weren’t good boys; we were just too full.
When Nancy and I arrived home, her first words were, “OK Ware, get your walking shoes on. We are going out to Presque Isle to walk some of that dinner off.”
We decided on a rather short walk, and the Multi-Purpose Trail was a bit crowded, so we settled on parking at the Stull Center and walking out the old beach road. It has been a while since I took this particular route. It was quiet and with little or no breeze. This is one of the oldest areas on the park. By that I mean that the trees and other vegetation have been here for years.
We didn’t get more than 10 yards down the road when we both realized that the sweet aroma surrounding us was the spring bloom of the Black Locust trees growing in this area. Many people say the smell is very much like a very intense orange blossom. It sure did take over the whole area. The tree produces large clusters of white flower in late May and early June. It has been said that the flowers are edible; however I would not really want to try them,
As we walked, I started looking skyward at the old Cottonwood trees that lined the road. Three or four times I stopped to take in the magnitude of these gentle giants of the park. Now from being on the park all the time, I’m used to seeing big Cottonwoods, nevertheless, the ones here were not just big, they were huge. Funny, I never really noticed their size before. Some of the trees were at least 130 feet tall and towered over their little cousins in the surrounding woods. Normal Cottonwoods on the park are 50 t0 60 feet tall. These giants must have a 70-foot spread or canopy.
The Cottonwood tree can live over 100 years in the right environment. I am sure all of us that visit Presque Isle and relate to the summer snow that these trees bury the park in from mid-may until late June. It is no wonder that the park looks like it’s snowing, because a single normal size tree can produce 50 million of these snow-like seed pods each year. Can you imagine how much all the giants here must produce? I started counting how many of these huge trees were along this road. I stopped at 40 in just a short distance. No wonder it looks like it is snowing.
A little further down the road, I saw a tree I did not recognize. My wife was quick to let me know that it was a Hops Tree. I wondered how the heck she would know this. She said that Bob Harris, the park’s resident plant guru, just pointed one out to her last week.
The Hops tree, some call it a Wafer Ash, is normally a shrub with multiple trunks. They usually are about 12 feet in height. This one was at least 25 feet. Big trees, big shrubs– could it be something in the water? The tree/shrub produces many small white flowers each spring, and they turn into flat green seed pods over the summer. Sometime in early winter they drop the pods when the strong winter winds shake the tree.
It has been said by birders that, for some reason, Cardinals love the tree. This must be true, because without a loud call from a male Cardinal flitting around its branches, I might not have even noticed the Hops Tree. It blended in among the many bushes along the road.
The walk was just what Nancy and I needed, and the quiet sure hit the spot. On the return trip, along the Multi-purpose Trail we walked a bit slower, as my bad ankle started acting up again. However, a folk, a great walk like this proves to me again that Presque Isle truly is “A Place for all Seasons.” Come join us on Presque Isle. Spending just an hour will brighten your day.
See you on the park!!
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