Peace In A Tin Can

Peace In A Tin Can

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

An Unexpected Find: Heritage Park

Last weekend my daughter, Nina had a soccer game scheduled in Adrian, Michigan.  After a 60 minute drive, we arrived at Heritage Park, where the soccer fields were located just past the entrance to the park.  Right away, I could see there was much more to the park beyond the soccer games.

That's the best part of traveling.  Finding the unexpected.  I had resigned myself to a long afternoon of sitting on another grassy field watching youth soccer, but found myself in the middle of a hilly, sweeping park with secrets hidden beyond the next rise in the dirt road.

We dropped Nina at her field, and with 45 minutes to spare before game time, I decided to explore.  My husband and I drove past the fields, following a dip and a curve on the gravel lane, and a flash from the corner of my eye grabbed my attention as a frisbee floated past my window.  Disc Golf!  Heritage Park has an elaborate and very long disc golf course, which winds between steep grassy hills, many of which appear to be man-made, and continues through old growth woods, a stream, and open fields.

We drove through the course, watching players hit and miss the basket, and continued on past an historic farm house and outbuildings, between the softball fields, and came upon a roadblock, skewed to the side. Thinking that the road is sometimes closed to traffic, but observing the block was pushed to the side, we drove on.  We probably shouldn't have done that.

I soon spotted a single track weaving through the woods on a ridge and thought "Bike Trail"!  Stopping the car, we got out to explore and found a well maintained bike trail, walking some distance to check out the potential level of difficulty.

The trail at Heritage State Park is a 9.4 mile loop of minimal elevation.  It is considered an easy level of skill and endurance, though the scattered 2x4 inch boards on marshy ground and fallen trees as obstacles suggest a more moderate difficulty.  Section 1 begins as a wide grass and dirt path through sparse tree cover, but quickly turns into a single track through dense growth with a peek or two of the stream.  Section 2 is more of the same, but increases in obstacles with a few slight inclines and declines.

Section 3 amps it up a bit, with muddy bogs and several stretches of 2x4's placed end to end to get past the standing water and mud.  The woods become less dense here, and low hanging tree limbs add to the challenge, though the elevation remains fairly steady; low and wet, with a few dips and rises to add to the fun. It is the longest section of the loop.

As we returned to our car, I was wishing I had brought my bike.  Heritage Park trail looked like a nice ride to get back into the habit of trail biking.  We continued along the road until we came upon the pavilion that acts as the trail head for the ride, only to find about 100 riders ready to go at the start line.  We had driven right into the start of an event.  With waves of apologies, we just kept going, embarrassed and wanting to get out of there.

We missed the start of the soccer game.  Sorry, Nina.  Sometimes when I find an unexpected delight in the form of a new trail, I lose track of time.  We lost the game 0-3, but gained the knowledge that there is a new place to go for a quick day trip on the weekends when we can't get away for a camping trip but still want a little adventure.

There are walking trails as well, and the town of Adrian is small, yet boasts three colleges and all the amenities of small town charm.  For some reason, on most of my adventures and camping trips, I manage to find a local business that makes homemade donuts, and Adrian did not disappoint me.  Driving back home with a tired soccer player and a warm donut, it occurred to me that I didn't see a snake either.  Heritage Park is a great place!