Trail Offers Best Qualities of Familiar Family-Friendly Destinations
Possibly unknown to many new residents, the West Bloomfield Trail brings back memories of our favorite places to spend summer with friends, fun and even food.
When was the last time you visited Greenfield Village, the Detroit Science Center or the Detroit Zoo? It’s been quite awhile for me. I think it's safe to say that many of us don’t take full advantage of these and other great cultural destinations simply due to distance.
There’s a jewel in West Bloomfield that combines many of the same attributes of these fine institutions — history, science and real live animals — that is within walking distance of our homes and, in some cases, in our own backyards.
The West Bloomfield Trail, known to many as the Rails-to-Trails walking path, encompasses all of these traits, and it's free.
Good news for trailblazers
I usually frequent the stretch that runs between Orchard Lake Road and the gazebo at Arrowhead Road, which is about a three-mile round trip. I don’t usually gain any aerobic benefit on this particular stretch because I end up stopping several times to converse with friends I inevitably bump into along the way.
Actually, the thing that really gets my heart pumping is the anticipation of finishing my walk at a few of my favorite food destinations — Starbucks, the Village Palace and the Yoz yogurt shop are all within a stone’s throw of the path.
The trail is expanding, which means I'll be able to add another food destination to my exercise regimen. Grant money has provided 70 percent of the funding which allowed for the purchase of land once owned by the Michigan Airline Railway to extend the trail by 2.37 miles from Arrowhead Road to Haggerty Road.
Upon completion, the West Bloomfield Trail will be slightly more than 6.5 miles from start to finish — which is not far from Eddie’s Coney Island on Haggerty Road in Commerce.
Susan Reeves, public information coordinator for West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation, informed me that while the new stretch is rough-grated and hasn’t been packed down with limestone yet, it is open and passable. In time, the trail will include boardwalk crossings and observation points, much like the existing Nature Preserve off the current path.
More views of the wetland areas and woods will offer better chances of wildlife sightings, such as the one I encountered a couple of weeks ago. A fawn and I actually stared each other down for several minutes with only 30 feet separating us. After a while, the fawn pranced away, just as the paparazzi arrived — just me trying to take this beautiful creature’s picture on my cellphone.
This particular “man vs. wild” moment was certainly more invigorating than the usual run-ins I have with what seem like perpetually stressed out chipmunks. Those poor guys just can’t seem to relax.
New friends abound
That same day, I had another animal encounter that was more domestic in nature. I came upon a gentleman who was sitting on the path, gently stroking his aging Labrador retriever, which laid by his owner’s side.
I stopped and said, "So, that’s what they mean by dog tired, huh?” He proceeded to tell me that his 10-year old dog had severe arthritis and needed to take frequent rests. (At this point, I took my foot out of my mouth.)
He then filled me in on the sad but heartwarming story of how this dog became this man’s best friend. While driving in downtown Detroit a decade ago, he happened upon a young, underweight, shivering, homeless pup. He scooped up his new frail friend, had him checked out by a vet and after 10 years of nurturing, the two are inseparable.
The vision of this kind man and his best friend sitting quietly on the trail was the stuff of a Norman Rockwell painting.
Rockwell might also have set up his easel to capture Gary and his son Adam, whom I met on a special father/son bike ride during the Fourth of July weekend. Adam was making only his second trip down the trail since learning how to ride his bike just a few weeks ago. He told me he likes the trail because he "can see a lot of different things."
His dad added that Adam also likes the donated park benches to rest on. Well, that made two of us.
So, maybe the next time you’re about to hit the gym, hit the trail instead, the West Bloomfield Trail. I guarantee you’ll walk away with a great memory each time — and maybe even a new friend or two.