A Walk in the Woods: An Invitation and a Preview

November 17 is National “Take a Hike” Day. This seems like a good occasion to offer a Walk in the Woods in Eliza Howell Park. Our “hike” will be a leisurely nature walk.

A mid-November walk provides an opportunity to observe things that often get missed or ignored when the leaves are on the trees.

The entrance to the largest section of park woodland is a colorful footbridge over the Main Branch of the Rouge River

Tree trunks stand out at this time of the year, calling attention to the great variation of species and of size. The next photo is of a large American Beech. The young beeches at its base gradually lose their leaves in November.

There is a formula for estimating the age of trees (based on the diameter of the trunk) that we can use on one of these trees during our walk. Some trees in this woodland were growing here before Michigan became a state.

American Beech

November is also a good time to observe the variety of squirrels in the park. They are foraging during most of the daylight hours (which are getting increasingly limted).

There are three species of tree squirrels in Eliza Howell, though it might look like there are four. The Eastern Gray Squirrel can be either gray or black. In most parts of the United States, the gray morph is much more common than the black morph. The opposite is true here.

From top left, clockwise: Fox Squirrel, Gray Squirrel (gray morph), Gray Squirrel (black morph), Red Squirrel

Many visitors to the park have never had the opportunity to see Bladdernuts. There is one patch of Bladdernut trees close to the river path and this is a good time to stop and get introduced.


As I walk the woodland path in the Fall, I often stop to examine logs on the ground, looking for mushroons that grow on the dead wood. They come in various sizes and shapes and colors and have an important role in decomposition, speeding up the breakdown of dead wood.

Black-footed Polypore
(identification not confirmed)

The river path can be walked both upstream and downstream from the footbridge. Near the end of the path downstream, there are some climbing vines with evergreen leaves and late-ripening berries (Winter Creeper Euonymus), easily missed in the summer but very visible in November.

Winter Creeper Euonymus

The leafless forest also provides great opportunity to examine a variety of vines that climb trees. Even with the absence of leaves, it is often possible to identify the vine species by the bark or by the method is uses to climb.

Virginia Creeper

Kathleen Garrett and I will be the guides on this walk. Persons of all ages are welcome.

We will meet at 10:00 a.m. and spend an hour and a half to two hours walking the woodland path, stopping frequently. Total distance covered will be less than 2 miles.

For more information or to sign up, please email 


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