Mom Report: Spring Hike at Great Parks!

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Spring is about new beginnings! Mom reporter, Nyketa Gaffney, explored one of Great Park's spring hikes, and left with fresh air and more knowledge of nature!

“Unorthodox weather calls for an unorthodox hike!” says Tom Hughes, Sharon Woods’ nature interpreter. The experience of taking to the beautiful trails at the Sharon Centre and Heritage Village was enlightening and all around fantastic, despite cloudy skies and low temps. On a typical spring hike you’d expect to see flowers blooming and many birds actively chirping their spirit songs. However, provided the unique circumstances of the day, a different approach had to be taken to create a thrilling trek.

Hughes led the curious group of 15 to the Cummins Historic Cemetery, a little known place to even many local residents – discrete and unassuming (well, aside from the obvious signage). Along the way, he shared interesting facts about nature that clues us in to the arrival of spring.

Did you know that there is a very short harvest for maple syrup? It only lasts from December to February; once the Red Sugar Maple Tree begins to bud, that’s all she wrote! Hughes explained that the budding is a true indicator of the arrival of spring. He then led us along the trail passing by families grilling and enjoying scenic views. We began to learn about: the many classes of trees that exist on the property; how the beaver is a pesky little rodent who shows up during the season to gnaw at cotton wood; and that there is a small migration of spotted salamanders about this time each year on the estate. We talked honeysuckle, turtles and even the leach’s millipede. This particular millipede is interesting arthropod that when irritated, emits a scent of cherry coke and glows in the dark!

We met our final destination at the Cummins Cemetery about an hour into the trail, discovering a small piece of land designated for a prominent family of the late 1700s. Stone markings are now difficult to distinguish, however, nature interpreters are able to gather that the head of the family was Mr. John Cummins – a distinguished man who fought for the North in the Civil War. There’s an unfortunate tale of vandalization over the years, which has taken a toll on tombstones causing them to dissipate and bare little resemblance of a memorial. Thankfully, Sharon Woods is in position to preserve the site as long as possible.

We may not have had the standard spring hike of warm weather with colorful passages, but we certainly were educated and entertained by the very enthusiastic Tom Hughes who is a well of knowledge. Sharon Woods is the perfect atmosphere to uncover the beauty of nature and the spring season – especially when the weather decides to cooperate! It’s a trek the entire family can appreciate. I’ll definitely be back next year to see what unveils during a time considered to be of new life and new beginnings for all creatures.

For more information about Great Park’s upcoming spring events and more, go to greatparks.org.

Nyketa is proud mother of a 15-year-old daughter who is bright, funny and an aspiring actress. She is a local freelance writer, enjoys creative environments and colorful personalities. Nyketa aspires to tour the world, write books, eat great food and inspire children to be their best selves!

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