Furstenberg in Winter
A road less traveled
by Bob & Jorja Feldman
From the February, 2020 issue
"He loved to walk here." This poignant line is chiseled in stone on a memorial boulder along the trail at Furstenberg Nature Area. Even in winter, Furstenberg offers a refreshing and peaceful walk along the Huron River.
Entry is from Fuller Rd. across the street from Huron High School. It can also be accessed from the first parking lot at Gallup Park.
Unlike Gallup, the most popular park in Ann Arbor, Furstenberg hosts just a few winter visitors. In recent walks we've never seen more than a half-dozen people on the pathways.
The trail starts near the winter-closed restrooms, curves around, and shortly comes to a fork marked by the memorial boulder. Take the right, unpaved branch to add a small eastward loop. Circling back along the river, rejoin the asphalt path briefly, then take the first right to reach the river. Navigating dirt trails, two boardwalks, and two small wooden bridges (the second is actually in Gallup Park), you emerge at Gallup's first parking lot. According to Becky Gajewski, a stewardship specialist for the city's Natural Area Preservation unit, the one-way trip is just about three-quarters of a mile.
Serenity, near-solitude, and a pervasive peacefulness prevail. On a calm afternoon, the loudest sound you hear may be the flight call of a single mallard or, less frequently, the wings of white trumpeter swans thumping as they taxi along and rise off the water.
Tree and plant forms, structures, and textures add visual interest. So does the weather; in one of our images, a dusting of snow and late-afternoon sun set off a patch of big bluestem grass.
While Furstenberg offers wetlands, woodlands, prairie, and savannah, it's small enough to make walking here an intimate experience. An interesting stump, a certain patch of moss glowing in the setting sun, a small grouping of giant oaks, may become acquaintances recognized on subsequent visits. And the river is easily and extensively viewable.
Though Furstenberg's natural landscape is carefully maintained,
the hand of man is seldom visible-some benches (many also bearing memorial plaques), a small wooden platform denominated on NAP's Furstenberg map as a fishing dock, three or four stepped parallel logs down to the river intended as a canoe landing, and nest boxes for birds. The park map, downloadable from the city's website, includes an interpretive trail guide keyed to numbered wooden posts.
Note that there is no winter maintenance on the dirt paths, and riding bikes is prohibited on the boardwalks. Leashed dogs are welcome. Those that we have seen seem to be as delighted as we are by this Ann Arbor gift, a river walk less traveled.
[Originally published in February, 2020.]
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