Category Archives: Nature and the Great Outdoors

Stage Nature Center

It has been a little while since we have indulged in one of our favorite lunchtime pastimes: finding a new city park to explore. We tend to do this a little more in Tallahassee, but we have found that there are quite a few local parks in Troy which are beautiful and fun to explore – particularly in summertime. Today, we returned to the Stage Nature Center – where we had seen the mink earlier in the year – to see how it looks when everything has had a chance to green up.

This is the Rouge River, as it is here in Troy, a little more than a creek.

We only had about 30 minutes to spend at the park during my lunch hour, so we made a quick trip around the Sugar Maple loop. It was really neat to see the different colors of green in the leaves and how the sun lit up the trees. The part of the loop that we walked also had a display of the various stages of tree/forest lifecycle, with logs in various stages of decay and decomposition.

The nature center has programs in the winter/early spring where you can rent a tap for a sugar maple tree, then collect the maple syrup produced from the sap.

We spent a few minutes at this crossroads in the paths to watch some chipmunks. They are FAST little ones! One of them ran up a tree and started chittering very loudly for quite some time. At first, I didn’t know what was making that sound and ended up recording it on my Bird ID app. I’m not sure if he was mad or excited, but he certainly wanted everyone in the forest to hear what he had to say!

Just as we were about to move on from the chipmunk area, we spied four deer running parallel to our path. Donald’s phone has much better zoom on the camera and he was able to get this incredible photo.

A view of the Rouge River from the other side of the Sugar Maple loop.

We just did the short 0.4 mile Sugar Maple Loop today, as I only had an hour for lunch. It was really pretty and we want to come back after work one day to see what animals are active in the early evening, as well as spend more time in the back half to see if we can spot our mink friend again.

I love seeing all the different colors of green!

This was a very BIG bee on this flower. It’s in an area of the nature center which has been planted as a monarch butterfly migration station.

I love when parks make boards like this to help people know what kinds of flowers and plants are indigenous to the area, and to promote planting native plants in gardens. Sometimes, you will see a companion board, where they will inform you of invasive species in the area and ask people visiting the park to help remove the invasive species if they are seen during your walk.

This was just a quick out and back visit, but we had a lot of fun. It was great to take a break and get away from the house for a bit, as well as to enjoy the warm, sunny, non-humid weather while we have it!


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In Search of Fall Colors Paroxysm of Giggles

This episode is also available as a blog post: https://cadyly.com/2022/09/21/in-search-of-fall-colors/
  1. In Search of Fall Colors
  2. Stage Nature Center

Early Morning at Lake Ella

We had talked about making nutrition and exercise a priority, and thought that – on an ideal day – we could go for a walk in the morning, hike a bit at a local park during lunchtime, and then get some additional activity after work (maybe another walk, tennis, swimming, etc.).

We were both up early this morning and were still motivated for this, so Donald made us coffee and put it in travel mugs, and we drove over to Lake Ella. It is about 0.6 miles to walk around the lake, so that was our goal for the morning.

All of the Crêpe Myrtle trees were flowering and so pretty! We want to learn more about the flora and fauna we see around us, and become more familiar about what is indigenous and what is invasive to Tallahassee/Northern Florida. I did just a quick search, and it appears that the variety of Myrtle trees which have white flowers are known as Natchez Crêpe Myrtles (sometimes spelled Crape, but I prefer the French spelling 😉).

It was a beautiful sunrise, and many of the ducks and geese had little baby ducklings and goslings following them around. Lake Ella is known for its population of Muscovy ducks, but they also have common Mallards and Canadian geese. According to All About Birds, male Muscovy Ducks frequently mate with other species and often produce sterile hybrid offspring – we think that we have seen some of these hybrids around the lake!

We’ve been to and around Lake Ella dozens of times so far, but this is the first time I was paying attention enough to the signage to see that there was a map of the area! What we did take more notice of was the proliferation of Spin scooters in the area. There was a *lot* more scooters around the park now than before we left for Michigan. It’s as if they knew we are a little hesitant to ride them again (at least not before we get helmets!) after my tumble, and they are trying to entice us to ride them. 😊

This is probably one of my favorite views of Lake Ella. I love all of the Spanish moss in the trees!

After our leisurely stroll around the lake, sipping on our homemade coffees, we headed back home to start the work day. Mornings here tend to be a little cooler and less humid, so they are great for taking walks outside. We both really enjoyed our outing and hope to do it more frequently. Such a great start to the day: caffeine, exercise, fresh air, and beautiful views!

Quarton Lake: Lunchtime Walk

It has been rather chilly in Michigan these past few days, and while the temperature was still on the low side, the lack of cold winds and bright sun made it feel good to be outside.

So, when lunchtime came, Donald and I decided to make a quick trip down the road to Quarton Lake for a walk around the water.

These bright blue flowers were blooming in yards surrounding the lake. Siri thinks they are called Scilla. 😀

The birds (mostly robins) were chirping away and foraging, and the squirrels (both black and red/gray) were having fun running in and around the trees.

Quarton Lake is in the middle of a residential area in Birmingham, surrounded by large houses of varying architectural styles.

There are so many different species of pine tree here in Michigan. This one reminded me of the Torreya pines in Florida which are very rare. However, the needles on this one were a lot softer than on the Torreyas.

On the Maple Rd side of the lake, there is a small park that includes this white fish sculpture. And, of course, the waterfall. 😀

The watershed from Quarton Lake feeds into the Rouge River (or so I would assume from the signage on the bridge 😜). Some of the houses in the neighborhood were lucky enough to have the river on their backyard.

I’m no nature expert, but I think these yellow flowers may belong to a Forsythia bush.

This pine tree had thin, delicate branches with soft, short needles. Very pretty!

At the south end of the lake, there is a grist wheel and a plaque to let people know that Quarton Lake used to be called Mill Pond and was the site of a grist mill which ground grain into flour for the Birmingham community.

Just a couple of the beautiful houses surrounding the lake.

Looking back at the park entrance and Maple Rd
Yet another species of pine tree. This one had cool pinecones forming.

This view is from the north side of the lake. Our lunchtime walk took us completely around the lake. It was great to get out of the house for a bit and enjoy the sun on our faces!

Love, Jenn and Donald

Florida – Lake Ella

After work today, we decided to get out of the house and spend some time at Lake Ella. We stopped by Black Dog Cafe and got a couple of their Lattes of the Day and some small snacks. We sat on their deck (which has a new roof/awning) and enjoyed our bagel and pastry and read awhile. Once our pastries were finished, we wanted to walk around a little.

Muscovy Ducks that live by Lake Ella
All of the trees are greening up with the new growth of spring
Spanish moss in the afternoon sunlight
Plants at the edge of the water near the gazebo
View from the east side of the lake, looking west
Cypress tree with all the knees – so pretty!
Bench swing

We stopped for a moment and sat on this bench swing, taking in the peacefulness of the afternoon. We saw a couple Spin scooters nearby and I joked about renting one for another ride. They are a lot of fun, but after Donald’s near-miss and my accident (which I’m still recovering from), we think that we should invest in some helmets (and perhaps other protective gear) before we ride the Spins again.

View from the bench swing
Low-hanging branches, near Black Dog Cafe

I hope you enjoyed seeing a few of our photos from our walk! We will certainly have more adventures to share soon!

Love, Jenn and Donald

Florida – Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park

It had been a little while since we had taken a hike during lunchtime, so we were eager to get back out there – even though our time was very limited.

We had visited the Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park during a previous lunch excursion, but hadn’t had the time then to climb the two mounds. This trip, we only had time for the mounds. 😂

It’s such a beautiful time of year here in northern Florida. Spring is already well under way and the forests are brightened with the colors of flowers and the intense green of new growth. The first flowers I saw were these tiny purple flowers in the parking lot. There were also small yellow flowers scattered throughout and occasionally a white flower on a 4-5 inch stem (making it taller than the surrounding ground cover). Unfortunately, I didn’t get a great photo of the white flowers, but they were very cute.

Purple parking lot flowers
Tiny yellow flowers (as well as white, blue, and purple) dotted the landscape

Right off the parking lot is the smaller of the two mounds. There are stairs built in, which both help people ascend to the top and help to prevent damage to the mound caused by foot traffic.

Looking up at the smaller mound

We spend a couple minutes at the top of the mound looking around and speculating what they could have been used for. Perhaps a high ground in case of local flooding, or where the people would have a tactical advantage in defending their homes? Maybe a place of honor for important individuals in the community?

Since we only had a short lunch break and I had a meeting immediately following, we quickly made our way further into the park and across a small creek to see the larger mound.

A small creek with quickly flowing water snaked between the smaller and the larger mounds
Stairs up the larger mound

I happily jogged up half the stairs (then got tired and walked like a normal person). The views from the larger mound were even prettier than from the smaller mound. I took a short 360 degree video clip of the view, read the sign posted at the top about what the area had looked like (or could have looked like?) when it was inhabited by the indigenous people.

Too soon, it was time to head back home.

On the way back down the stairs, I spied a lizard! I love these fast, little guys. Donald pointed out that this was a green one, which is the good kind. These lizards (or well, anoles) are native to the area and can change color from green to brown to help camouflage themselves from predators. There are other anoles which are only brown, and these are an invasive species that competes with the green anoles for resources.

Our lizard friend

Donald got this next photo of the anole – a great close-up! It looks like our little buddy is looking right at the camera!

Close up of our friend, the green anole. They are native and can change colors.

It was just a quick stop, but it felt great to get out of the house and take some time to see the nature bursting forth practically in our backyard!