Walking in Our Winter Wonderland

By Rebecca Calappi / Photography by Rob Weir & Anne Nicolazzo

Taking a walk is one of the most basic, fundamental things a human can do. It clears the mind, improves heart health, strengthens the body and fills the lungs with fresh air. Still not sold on the idea of taking a walk? Just search “health benefits of walking.” Thousands of articles pop up—the Arthritis Foundation, Harvard Health, Healthline, Prevention, the list goes on. In fact, in 2020, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article that concluded the more steps a person over the age of 40 took, the lower their mortality rate. Seems like a good enough reason to get on some walking shoes or snow boots if needed. In addition to physical benefits, there are mental health benefits as well. Exercise, even low-aerobic, can help improve memory, ward off depression and even erectile dysfunction. So, put down the remote and get off the couch. Put your phone in your pocket. Grab your gloves and hit the trails.

Luckily for us Macomb County has a number of beautiful locales to take a stroll.

If you’re up for a nighttime adventure, mark your calendar for Dec. 19. The Sterling Heights Nature Center is hosting an evening illuminated walk. The family-friendly event features a one-mile loop with the path lit. Walkers can stop at different stations to learn about different aspects of the environment.

Brenda Suchenek, is the naturalist for the city of Sterling Heights.

“It’s amazing. Sometimes, especially at twilight, it’s so calming walking out there,” she said. “It’s unique to walk in the winter outside. It’s quiet and peaceful—something everybody should experience.”

The Nature Center is also home to juncos, birds that migrate from the northern tundra to Michigan for the winter. Birders should drop in during the day with binoculars to catch a glimpse of them as well as red-breasted nuthatches, blue jays and, “We have a famous screech owl on the P-loop, which is the one mile trail,” said Suchenek.

Fox, deer, coyote, muskrat, beavers and mink also call the Nature Center home during the winter months.

At Holland Ponds Park in Shelby Township, walkers can also get an eyeful of nature while out for a walk. Mike Adams, sports coordinator for Shelby Township Parks and Recreation, recommends bird watching at Holland Ponds on Ryan Road south of 23 Mile Road. “It’s probably some of the best bird watching in the state,” he said. “The rare blue herons are there, and you can see their huge nests up in the trees. They look like dinosaur nests.”

To promote the outdoors in Shelby Township, and give residents active ideas during the pandemic, the township launched an urban wilderness website. The site hosts information on parks, trails and other outdoor activities to enjoy. Check it out for the maps of the Iron Belle Trail and the Macomb Orchard Trail, which both run through Shelby Township.

Want a bigger dose of fresh air? Try Lake St. Clair Metropark or Stony Creek Metropark. Both locations offer plowed paths for winter exercise as well as nature trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Your family can enjoy a full day outside with sledding hills, ice skating, ice fishing and you can even try identifying the tracks of the many creatures that call the parks home year-round.

Feeling like the water is calling to you? In St. Clair Shores, Veterans Memorial Park has a beautiful, paved loop that takes you lakefront. Walk in peace as you enjoy waves or ice, watch the ice fishermen and look for birds. The path is less than one mile, so go around a few times to help shake off the winter doldrums or walk away those holiday cookies.

If you’re feeling especially brave, you can walk out onto the ice (Lake St. Clair) and chat up the fishermen, enjoy the crisp air and the thrill of walking on water. Just be sure to check the ice thickness and weather before venturing out. On a cold, sunny day don’t be surprised to find a whole other community of shacks and people on the ice.

And if you just want a little peace and quiet the Nicholson Nature Center in Clinton Township is a great spot for a walk to help you recharge your batteries. Nicholson Nature Center is located off Dunham Road by the Macomb County Public Works Building. It’s a conservation easement, which means the land must always be preserved for nature complete with hiking trails, a boardwalk and a bridge along the north branch of the Clinton River. When the leaves are fully off the trees you might be able to see the backside of CJ Barrymore’s from the hiking trail.

With all the above walking choices, plus many others that are throughout our local communities you can’t let cabin fever get you down this winter. Macomb County has too many places to go and explore. Take advantage of the beauty the season has to offer and the health benefits of walking!

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