By Tina Patterson and Dave Wendling
Wow, mushrooms, mushrooms everywhere! What fun to see all the different colors and kinds of mushrooms that can be found at the Alta Warren Parsons Memorial Sanctuary. After 15 sanctuaries we finally had a proliferation of fungus, and what fun to share the day with our youngest participants so far: the Sherwood girls of Farwell, Michigan. Gaby and Gwen showed great interest in all they were seeing and learned to follow a trail by looking for the blue diamonds. We were lucky to have the participation of so many knowledgeable hikers, helping the girls learn about what we saw along the trail. This was the first sanctuary that we visited where the hike was led by a family member, Buzz Parsons, whose parents, Mahlon and Alta Parsons, determined that these 80 acres should remain free from development. It was a special treat to be escorted by Buzz, whose sense of humor and knowledge was an invaluable asset.
As we walked through these beautiful woods and along the lake, Buzz shared stories of his parents and their love for the sanctuary. When he showed us the spot where his dad made maple syrup, he told of how the neighborhood children would help out after school. When they got off the school bus, instead of going home, they would run out to the woods to help Mr. Parsons gather the sap and cook it down to make the maple syrup. Parents did not have to worry when their children did not show up after school because they knew where their kids were. How many of our children have an opportunity to do something like that in this electronic age? Is there an app for that???
If you do visit the Alta Warren Parsons Memorial Nature Sanctuary, be advised that the easement is not easy to find, and the sign cannot be seen from the road. It would probably be best to contact the office before going so that exact directions can be given. While hard to find, the Parsons Memorial Nature Sanctuary is worth the effort as the lake shoreline, thick bog mat, cedar swamp, and scenic views make it a not-to-miss sanctuary.
A side note, if you are looking for a great pastry or light lunch while in the Clare area, don’t miss Cops & Doughnuts restaurant, owned and operated by nine Clare police officers. Officer Dave went out of his way to welcome Odyssey participants and even joined us on the Parsons hike. If you like Michigan crime history, you may even get a tour of the basement where the Purple Gang hung out during the 1930s and sold bootleg rum. This was an unexpected treat for Dave and me, and while Cops & Doughnuts did not ask for a plug, they supported us and we support them!