Spring Awakening: A Hike at Landis Arboretum

By Morgan McClary

As we made our way up the hill, a glimpse of pink stood out against the pine back­drop. A slight breeze helped the aza­leas wave hel­lo. I knew it had been too long. It wasn’t on pur­pose. Moth­er Nature seemed to be dish­ing out an end­less sup­ply of gloomy days. The brief reprieve from the rain meant the per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty to take a hike and clear my head.

Sam in front of the Weeping Alaska Cedar.
Sam in front of the Weep­ing Alas­ka Cedar.

At just under one mile, the Fred Lape Trail is well suit­ed for vis­i­tors inter­est­ed in a grad­ual stroll with ample oppor­tu­ni­ty to be immersed in plant and bird life. Adven­ture seek­ers look­ing for some­thing more stren­u­ous at the Arb have plen­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ty to add mileage by includ­ing oth­er trails.

It was a Sun­day morn­ing in ear­ly May when I brought my hus­band Sam and our Pomeran­ian, Lil’ P, for our first hike of the sea­son. Boots were a must, giv­en the wet weath­er we’d been hav­ing. The weep­ing Alas­ka cedar, which is part of the Choice Conifers Col­lec­tion, has to be one of my favorite trees. Its Seuss­ian-like branch­es are a sight to behold.

The aza­leas and rhodo­den­drons are on a lit­tle path that veers off the Fred Lape Trail. These beau­ties are sur­round­ed by the Pine Shel­ter — anoth­er one of my favorite spots at Lan­dis. You may hear a serene trick­le from a sea­son­al stream con­trast­ing with the cack­le of a pileat­ed wood­peck­er in a neigh­bor­ing tree. This bal­ance offers an ide­al loca­tion to gath­er your thoughts as you peer up into the tow­er­ing pines. Sam agrees. 

Lil’ P enjoying Willow Pond on a previous trip to Landis Arboretum
Lil’ P enjoy­ing Wil­low Pond on a pre­vi­ous trip to Lan­dis Arboretum.

After we left the Pine Shel­ter, we turned right to make our way past the oaks and lilacs. The lilacs pre­pared to open, while the oaks remained leaf­less. Although it was a bit ear­ly for their show dur­ing this vis­it, the full-bloom lilacs (I’d esti­mate mid-May) are a must see when explor­ing the Arbore­tum. The dain­ty pur­ple and white flow­ers release a sweet, flo­ral scent that is almost intox­i­cat­ing. Blue­birds and tree swal­lows swooped above our heads, seem­ing­ly in com­pe­ti­tion for a prime nest­ing loca­tion this season.

Sam often has to catch up with Lil P’ and me because he gets dis­tract­ed by their songs. Crabap­ples and pines are in view as you vis­it the Fred Lape Memo­r­i­al, hon­or­ing the Arboretum’s founder. We stopped here to admire the vista and reflect on the man who found­ed this nat­ur­al sanctuary.

Daffodils blooming in the Van Loveland Garden
Daf­fodils bloom­ing in the Van Love­land Garden.

Since it was our first out­ing this year, we didn’t cov­er as much ground as we antic­i­pat­ed. But we couldn’t pass up a peek at Wil­low Pond and the Van Love­land Gar­den. Wil­low Pond is absolute­ly serene. Walk­ing the perime­ter of the pond, we like to play a game. Instead of Where’s Wal­do?” it’s Where’s Frog‑o?” and we search for green friends cam­ou­flaged amongst the aquat­ic foliage. Plop, splash. Lil’ P must have star­tled a hid­den turtle. 

Yel­low-green buds just start­ed form­ing on the wil­low tree bor­der­ing the pond. In the sum­mer months, its wispy, cas­cad­ing branch­es will pro­vide a shady reprieve.

Our last stop took us through the pale yel­low daf­fodils and pur­ple cro­cus­es bring­ing life back into the Van Love­land Gar­den. I was remind­ed of a pas­sage from one of my favorite child­hood books The Secret Gar­den” by Frances Hodg­son Burnett:

Some­times since I’ve been in the gar­den I’ve looked up through the trees at the sky and I have had a strange feel­ing of being hap­py as if some­thing was push­ing and draw­ing in my chest and mak­ing me breathe fast. Mag­ic is always a push­ing and draw­ing and mak­ing things out of noth­ing. Every­thing is made out of mag­ic, leaves and trees, flow­ers and birds, bad­gers and fox­es and squir­rels and peo­ple. So it must be all around us. In this gar­den — in all the places.”

Each time we vis­it the Lan­dis Arbore­tum, it’s as if there is always a new trea­sure to dis­cov­er. It could be because of the sheer num­ber and vari­ety of the plants at Lan­dis — or just the pure joy we McClarys get observ­ing the nat­ur­al world.


Summer 2021

Volume 39 , Number 2

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