a walk in the park.


from july 3rd-october 30th, i spent much of my free time walking the parks in ann arbor. i was initially surprised that there were over 150 parks in the city, but happy to discover the number. and so, with no sense of direction, and no expectations, other than to see what was out there, i wandered into the woods and stumbled into the greenspaces, open to whatever came my way.

 some of the things i discovered about the parks –

ann arbor has 152 parks, along with other recreational and activity spaces

not all of the parks were easy to find or to access, information and directions were vague at times – there were many secret entrances. during this adventure, i had to climb though brambles, through backyards, across driveways, park illegally, go over and under fences, across ravines, around hills, between fences, over water, under low trees, and behind school yards.

the parks total over 2,000 acres (more on that tomorrow)

they range in size from the tiniest pocket parks (postman’s rest and depot) to the largest- birdhills (161 acres) and the nichols arboretum (123 acres)

many different people/organizations help to care for them – the university of michigan school of natural resources, the boy and girl scouts, garden clubs, sportsmen’s clubs, land preservation groups, businesses, neighbors, schools, churches, anonymous individuals

they are used for all kinds of celebrations, get togethers, meetings, activities, sports in every season, as well as solitary endeavors

all kinds and ages of people and animals use the parks

there is a lot of water involved – rivers, creeks, streams, lakes

lots of trees, wildflowers, corn, berries, pine cones, apples, orchids, peonies, lilies, mushrooms, thistles, brambles, green spaces, vines, grasses, ravines, hills, fields, marshes, meadows

lots of rocks – from boulders to gravel

play areas of all kinds – for toddlers through adult sports enthusiasts

lots of structures – tree houses, forts, damns, benches, tables, huts, camp sites

lots of animals of every kind

incredible histories and memorials

lots of neighborhood parks – each has at least one park within it

at times i felt like i was in someone’s intimate space, like showing up and sharing their yard with them

other times, i was the only one in a large, incredibly beautiful space, in the middle of the city, or just on the outskirts, but deep in the woods, hidden away and far removed

some of the things i discovered about myself:

i am stronger and have much more stamina than when i began walking

i am apparently bite and injury resistant – never was bitten by any insect, animal, or human, only got scraped after my slide down a hill

i love walking deep in the woods in quiet solitude

it takes me about 40 minutes before i am deep in my zen zone when walking and then i could walk forever

i also love being amidst the wildlife and human activity in the parks at times

i went through 1 and 1/2 pairs of shoes

i discovered interesting lost/abandoned items along the way – mittens, socks, flip flops, shorts, underwear, glasses….

i am now a bit wealthier – (found 28 cents along the way)

i am able to walk in all weather conditions

i still have a horrendous sense of direction but always find my way back home

i found so much more than i ever expected, including an incredible sense of peace, and feel changed in ways that will stay with me forever

each and every park has a story, each one has its own personality, each one has very loyal caretakers, each one is valued by the community, each one is clearly loved by someone.

it was a long, but wonderful journey and when i finally reached the end of the list, it was bittersweet. along the way, i learned much about my city, the people who live here, the spaces within my community,  the nature that surrounds me, and even more about myself. thank you to ann arbor for providing such amazing places of beauty for all of us .

“many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased.”

-john steinbeck

88 responses »

  1. Thank you for reminding me how mind-changing getting out nature can be. I love your statement – at times i felt like i was in someone’s intimate space, like showing up and sharing their yard with them. I often feel that way whenever I am “out in nature”. I think about the history of the ground I am walking on.
    I was also intrigued by this – it takes me about 40 minutes before i am deep in my zen zone when walking and then i could walk forever. I want this to happen to me 🙂 Currently I struggle to get in a 15 min walk around campus where I work or around my neighborhood. I want to get to that zen zone.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved hearing and learning
    about your journey, Beth!!
    Michigan is a beautiful state and AnnArbor
    is such a special city. One of the things I
    miss most about Michigan is it’s fabulous

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Maybe next spring when the weather is warm and Sunny with no thought of snow, cold wind or any other stuff you might have in Ann Arbor (LOL) to visit some of those many parks and such. Thank you Beth I have come to look forward to your articles to see what you are going to write about next I am never disappointed. Thanks!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What an inspiration your walks have been to me. I find great solace and learn much on my walks about the preserves near me, and wherever else I manage to roam, but, there is something so personal about your odyssey to the parks that belong to you and to the folks of Ann Arbor. You always found your back and I’m guessing in more ways that just locating your car. Well done and thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This was such a wonderful undertaking. I have NO sense of direction, so my husband was trying to teach me how to use a compass when we went to Pokagon State Park. Glad you always found your way home after such transcendant experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is one of my favorite posts you’ve ever written. I am so happy you’ve gained so much through this project. I feel so inspired by this. Thank you Beth for sharing your journey 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve never been to Michigan, Beth, but now I feel like I know some of the parks very well! There is definitely something special about being out with nature. We do it often through hiking, camping, and backpacking. Lovely post. 🌲🌿🍂🍁

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great summary of your walking the parks of Ann Arbor. I love the things you learned!! Wow, I am glad you now know how the woods, forest and plains can be places that you find zen and peace. Someday maybe it won’t take 40 minutes to reach that, Beth.
    The flowers in the last photo are so pretty, I woul re-use them for a where have all the flowers gone? Peace rally!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you so much on your wrap-up report from walking the Ann Arbor parks. It sounds like a beautiful place to live. And the possibility of writing a book on your adventures, is exciting! Congrats on a project followed through on.

    Liked by 1 person

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