Hi Friends! I have a story today that will take your breath away!
Last week, I visited Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens in Midland, Michigan, with the longest canopy walk in the USA!
Herbert Dow, founder of the Dow Chemical Company started the beginnings of this amazing 110 acre area with just 8 acres back in 1899. With a fascination for agriculture and design, he incorporated ponds, hills, an orchard and gardens with the philosophy they hold to this day, “never reveal the garden’s whole beauty at first glance”.
Eventually as they acquired more property, it was left to Helen Dow Whiting and her husband Macauley Whiting, hence the name, “Whiting Forest”. They built their home (which is now the Whiting Visitor Center) and raised their 6 children there. When they retired in 1980, they donated the land to the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, which would eventually open it to the public.
Dow Gardens have grown to include all sorts of additions, the latest of which is the Whiting Forest Canopy Walk which opened a year ago in October of 2018. This is a picture tour of what I discovered on my journey at The Dow Gardens Whiting Forest Canopy Walk.
There are 2 separate parking lots for Dow Gardens and for the Whiting Forest Canopy Walk, but one admission gets you in to both locations. In addition, you can purchase an annual pass for $20 which is very reasonable. Kids 5 and under are free, kids ages 6-17 are $2, and college students are $2. An adult pass for one day is $10.
The staff was extremely helpful. And I noticed this quote massively displayed right inside the visitor center.
They provided me with a map to the gardens and canopy walk, and I was off!
Plenty of signage pointing where you might want to go, and I had a map in hand. I wanted to head to the canopy walk first so I would be sure to get that in in case I ran out of energy! One last look back at the beautiful visitor center, a mid century modern design that sets the tone for more ahead.
Onward! I passed several groups large and small of people enjoying the park!
Oh my word! I saw how high up it went! At it’s highest point, it is 40 ft off the ground! That is like 4 stories high! The lady assured me there were no stairs, it was all wheelchair accessible! The canopy is about 1,400 feet long!
Can you see the canopy nestled in the trees?
As I walked up the slowly climbing sidewalk, I noticed people of all ages enjoying this day!
The smell of fresh pine welcomed me gently lifting the burdens and cares of the day from my shoulders.
Today was a day for the soul, a day to be a kid again wandering in the wonder of nature! A day for adventure!
It was a bit overcast, maybe about 55°, and the leaves were just beginning to change.
The Whiting Forest Canopy Walk was designed by Alan Metcalfe and the team at Metcalfe Architecture and Design. The goal was to create an experience for people to interact with beautiful nature in a way that was fun, and felt like play.
The limestone slabs remind you that what you are entering is something born of nature, as old as time.
I entered the canopy, climbing slowly as the path ascended. I walked amid giant beams that hold the structure that look almost like tree trunks, and surprising pops of color and modern architecture which made it feel like the coolest tree fort ever. And me with my rather unsteady gate would be able to navigate this entire structure! How cool is that?
I saw people pushing strollers, pulling wagons, pushing wheelchairs, young kids laughing, teens smiling, moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, every age and stage fulling enjoying this experience!
The canopy has basically 3 different outstretched arms you can explore. I followed all 3!
The beauty everywhere just took my breath away! I just kept saying, “Oh my stars!”
I asked the lady at the Visitor Center what the orange pipes were about, and she said she had heard that the designer made them to be reminiscent of cattails, but she said she heard another explanation that the designer’s favorite color was orange! Whatever, they are cool, and they invite you to reach out and touch them!
The creativity with which the modern structure fully embraced the landscape was such a delight!
You are literally right up in the trees!
Down below is the path I walked to get here. Do you see those little trees down there? Those are young apple trees! Off to the left, though not very visible is an apple tree over 100 years old, still producing apples. This is a place for all ages!
Ok, here is a moment to face your fears (safely) in a glass bottom overlook, 40 ft high!
I saw a man with his wife in a wheelchair stand there in the overlook together for the longest time. When they stepped away, it was my turn!
I stepped in! And I reached out and touched the tree branches!
It was breathtaking! So this is what it feels like to be a bird in a tree! What a view!
And I walked on! To the next outstretched arm of the canopy!
Through a tunnel of trees! A reverence and a hush in our hearts as we tried to imprint every sight, sound and fragrance of this place so we would never forget!
The gentle rustling of leaves and the deep fragrance of fir trees mixed with the song of beautiful birds who always leave yesterday’s troubles behind with the rising of the sun.
And nestled at the end of this next arm was a veritable playground high in the trees for any and all who wanted to play!
This young man was showing me how fast he could run across this net!
Everyone I locked eyes with had a big hearty smile and a warm hello! And maybe a story of what they just saw! And on I walked.
Breathtaking views everywhere you looked.
Smaller tree fort “pods” to explore, with fun challenges for those who wanted them like this hammock style net bridge.
I confess, I did not cross this bridge… when my ankle is a little more healed I will definitely give it a go!
But there were some pods that were easy to access!
So in I went!
Architecture, art and nature woven into a playground for all ages!
And still one more arm of this amazing canopy structure remained. Through the trees I walked on .
And up ahead, one tree that had turned brilliant gold before any others signaled there was something really special here.
A breathtaking view from above overlooking a gorgeous pond surrounded by trees!
What did I do to deserve this masterpiece view? Nothing… it is a gift. A beautiful treasure!
I just stood there trying to take it all in! Amazed that I could be enjoying this thrill of a lifetime! And so thankful!
As though the designers knew I might need it, benches were ready so I could sit and just let this moment wash over me like a waterfall.
But I had not even entered the gardens yet, so I walked on!
Down from the canopy and back towards the Visitor Center to cross over the bridge to the Dow Gardens.
And I couldn’t help but notice as I walked, how many beautiful creative spaces were provided for people to just stop and sit and enjoy a beautiful view!
A bridge stretched over the road to the Rose Garden. I just love walking across bridges like this!
Another bird’s eye view!
And the rose garden was right over that bridge!
I was amazed how many blooms remained in October in Michigan!
There were so many plants and flowers, and little signs in each bed told you what they were.
And I walked on.
The beauty was stunning, and the experience, the longer you walked, the therapy worked a little deeper in your heart and soul, helping you find the real you deep within.
Let me show you more…
All this is for you!
Who creates something this lovely? How did I get so blessed to be here right now?
I felt like a kid with the Christmas that never ends, new surprises were around every corner!
How fun is this little red bridge?
As I was walking, birds were singing their little hearts out!
Every detail of this park lets your own story blossom.
As I came to this staircase, a young teen was ahead of me with her mom, and she said, “Come on Mom, let’s go check it out!” Mom said with a smile, “Go ahead, I’ll meet you around the bend.” And the girl leaped up the stairs laughing, totally shedding any cares or worries for this moment. Mama did too!
I walked through the Boulder Pass. Little chipmunks played hide and seek in the crevices of the boulders! I heard a waterfall ahead.
It was a little waterfall that fed into a stream…
That you could walk along.
Far away from the hustle and bustle. Just experiencing every glorious moment!
Every stunning view making space in my heart, soul and mind for new perspectives on life.
And finally, my body told me, “Amy, you can come back and explore the rest another day. It’s time to go back home before it gets dark.” And I turned to make my way back.
The lines of nature woven with beautiful landscaping guided me back, gently.
My heart and soul now full to bursting! This is the ultimate Thanksgiving Feast!
I’m definitely coming back!
When was the last time you just put aside your worries and let yourself be a kid again? Do you remember your parents telling you you could stay out until the street lights came on? And we loved it! Sneakers on the ground, fresh air filling your lungs, working up a huge appetite for dinner! Each of us has a kid deep inside, still there, just waiting for an invitation to explore and be wowed by nature. There is not a vitamin or health regimen that can do more for your body, mind and soul than spending time just having fun in the great outdoors! I promise it will come back just as though you were 8 years old again! And it will be positively amazing!
I cannot encourage you enough to make time and space in your life to get out and just enjoy the outdoors as much as you can! And if at all possible, I encourage you to make a trip to the Dow Gardens and Whiting Forest to experience this incredible place for yourself!
The colors of autumn will be bursting the next few weeks, and I hope you and I both can get out there and enjoy it!
Have a wonderful weekend!
I’ll be back next week for another Tasty Tuesday!
Into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul. ~John Muir