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With most of the leaves now sitting on the ground, the Haven Hill area looks much different. This special time allows us to see the lay of the land and just how the Estate and it’s features where set up.

I have discovered many things on the Hill and surrounding areas at this time of year. You can see those things that where so well hidden by the overgrowth of Trees and ground cover.

When the Ford family where living at the Estate, there where many young trees. Almost 80 years latter, the long views of the Lake and Farm, from the hilltop, are now obscured by the growth of these young trees to mature ones. Not only have the long views been blocked, but so have even the short views of just where everything was at.

At this time of year, it is easy to find the Dog Kennels, or walk the entire length of the Toboggan run. It is also a great time to discover the many walking and riding trails the Ford family created for themselves, that are now abandon and buried beneath the growing hillsides.

Walk slowly……wader off the main trails, and remember that what was very visible almost 100 years ago, is now……in many cases, buried under or obscured from view, by a quickly growing Mother Nature. Exploring Haven Hill is always a fun time.

History is not always right there in front of your face. In many cases, the older the historical site, the more time nature, weather and Man has had to change the surroundings. Storms bury things. Erosion and man-made things, change what was there in historical form. Sometimes it is as simple as heavy Forest and ground foliage growth.

This is one of the biggest cases at Haven Hill in Highland Recreation area. The forests around the hilltop Estate and Farm in the lowlands meadows, have been increasingly buried by the ever growing foliage in the Park, where the Estate is now located.

Carriage-house-side-bestSevere neglect from the State DNR has not helped matters either. Bury an old log building in ground foliage and do nothing about it, and it does not take long before the Forest literally eats the building.

But along these same lines, there is much that has been completely engulfed in Foliage and unless looked for in detail, one would never know they where even there.

For instance: The Ford family enjoyed Horseback Riding and Nature Walks on their

FordFarmPump

own private Trails. A few sections of these Horde & Nature Hiking Trails still exist as part of the regular marked Trails at the Park. But most must be discovered.

FenceTopThere are some remnants that you can find and follow that end up showing you Horse resting places, & Hitching Posts buried in the foliage. There are extensive Nature Trails with Board walks and Bridges and Gazebos, where the Fords would stop along their Nature Trail adventures. But it takes some exploring and close examinations.

You do not have to destroy anything to explore and search a Historical area like Haven Hill, and still discover exciting things buried in the Forest trees. It is a wonderful feeling to discover things dating back over 100 years, and know that it was YOU, that are the first one to stumble upon these things.

Remember to leave them as you found them, for the next possible person to come along and have the same thrill you experienced while exploring and then discovering historical sites and items.

Recently, I have had the same conversation with many different people. That conversation is all about watching after our Heritage and Natural resources. Not just ignoring bad behaviour while out on the Trails, or in a Historical setting.

One of the biggest things destroying Haven Hill, besides the years of neglect from the State DNR, is Vandalism of all sorts. I am not just talking about Punks, spray painting the Carriage House or Pump House. I mean stuff like crawling on the roof of the Carriage House to cut away the copper flashing around the Fireplace for scrapping money.

Then there are the the Metal Detector people. It is illegal to use these devices absolutely anywhere on the state designated Historical areas. Which means the entire Hill-top and surround hill-sides +. These people digging up even door hinges that were hand-made for all the different Doors at the Estate, are just plain STEALING from all of us.

DO NOT HESITATE to report thieves and Criminals like these. Take their pictures, and maybe walk back to the Parking lot and take down their license plate numbers. These criminals that are stealing from all of us, including our children and future generations, deserve Jail time. Their thinking only includes themselves, and no one else. That is how they should be treated in return.

If we all do not watch out for our Historical places and special grounds, there will be nothing left for others. DO NOT be afraid to report these people. They are quickly destroying many of the Historically unique places at Haven Hill. And then there will be nothing.

In 1954 the state designated the Haven Hill area, a State Natural area and Nature Study area. They did this because of the diversity of habitats there, and because of the big push from the Michigan Botanical Society.

11MarkerMost people do not know that the Haven Hill area is not just a state designated Historical site, due to the remains of the old Edsel Ford Estate that was located primarily on Haven Hill, but actually made up what is now the entire eastern side of Highland Recreation area. That’s right…..all the park lands that are east of Duck Lake road was once the boundaries of the Ford Estate there, with the Lodge and main Estate buildings located on top and around the edge of the main hill.

But……all the lands north of Haven Hill and that surround Haven Hill Lake are part of the state Natural Area. The many natural Springs, the swamps, the deep cuts in terrain and rolling hills have produced many diverse ecosystems. Some of which only exist in more northern areas of our state.

As Spring starts to break and everything goes into blooming stages, it is a wonderful time to take a Hike around Haven Hill Lake. There is a good solid, maintained Trail that encircles the Lake and will also take you through the main Estate on Haven Hill for your return Trail leg. A beautiful Boardwalk takes you around the northern most Swamp areas of the Natural Area. Many small creeks exist here, due to the many Natural Springs through out the northern and western side of Haven Hill Lake.

There are many rare flowers and plants along the way. Just like exploring for remnants of the Ford Estate on Haven Hill, you need to look closely as you Hike the Trail loop around Haven Hill Lake. The Fords did very little to the north and far western side of the Lake Edsel created by damming Cedar creek. So the primary focus on this Trail surrounding the Lake are ecosystems and different environments. If ever you carried Nature ID guides along on a Hike, this would be the place to do so. There are examples of almost every Tree that grows in the state of Michigan, somewhere along this main loop Trail.

Download one of the Maps from the web site and get started not only exploring the past in History, but the present in the extensive Natural world in and around Haven Hill.

DOWNLOAD A GPSED MAP OF THE NATURAL AREA AND HISTORICAL AREA HERE:

HavenHillTrailsMap

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Time to EXPLORE!

OK…..here we have the 1909 Survey Platt map of White Lake Twp. and what was to be eventually the Ford Estate and then Highland Recreation Area. In 1909 the area was all still mostly private lands, held by some of the original Homesteaders and a couple of small Investment Groups. The Investment Groups used their holdings for a number of things, from private Hunting preserves, to Logging and other interests.

The still private lands were mostly Farmed out by this point, although there where still some on-gong family Homestead/Farms in existence. The last of the Native Americans in the area were located in the far southeast corner of what would be the eventual Ford Estate.

Hunting was pretty good around the Haven Hill area because of the many natural springs and Cedar Creek which flowed steady year round. At the time of this 1909 Map, Cedar creek flowed unhampered west to east, until it dumped into Cedar Lake on the far southeast corner of the Map. Beatty Lake was part of this watershed as well, and was also part of the purchases made by the Ford family when the Estate was being established.

Milford,MI1909

Download a printable version of this 1909 map here:

Ford representatives would not start purchasing lands in the area for another 10 or so years yet, and when they did start buying lands, they did so secretly under a trust company, as not to show the locals just who was buying up the land in the area. Knowing that the Ford family was purchasing land in White Lake would have driven up the price of these individual parcels tremendously. And with so many different owners of so many individual parcels, the costs for just what Edsel ended up buying, would have been outrageous.

In the 1920s after all the land purchases where complete, and the Boundaries you see indicated on the 1909 Map, in red, the first thing Edsel got working on was the Huge undertaking of Damming up Cedar creek and forming what is still, Haven Hill Lake. It took much more then just the Dam to produce this Lake. Look closely at the new Map of the Estate/park and notice just how many Empoundments were also created to be able to form the Lake and hold back all the flowing waters of Cedar creek. It was an enormous undertaking.

HavenHillTrailsMap

Download the modern Highland recreation Park Map here;

Print out the two Maps we have here and head out to the Park and EXPLORE. Some of the small ponds and Lakes still exist. Some of the flowing smaller creeks around cedar creek are still in place. Others have dried up or vanished completely. Notice on the 1909 Platt Map, that there are small black squares. These black squares indicate old Homes and Farms, or buildings of some sort. Most are gone now, but with some investigating and exploring you can still find the remnants of these structures. Foundations, old fence lines and Farm implements appear in the middle of what is Forests now.

Remember as you explore and discover, that you should leave what you find, where you find it. This is a Historical area, and these places are protected by state law. Just your integrity should stop you from disturbing these historical places and items. leave them for others to also discover. Just maybe eventually some real Historical work will take place at Highland and these places will serve great purposes in revealing what once was, at Haven Hill. Please be respectful here. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you see Vandals or people with Metal detectors, please either stop them, take their pictures and report them. There has been much lost at Highland to self centered thieves and treasure hunters, looking for something for themselves.

We print these maps and give everyone this information because History is an important part of all of our lives. Lets all pull together and stop the few from ruining that for all of us now and for future generations.

Staircase copy

Enjoy the discoveries……Have Fun with the Explorations……decipher what you have found…..and then

leave it where you found it, for others to discover. You are exploring an area over 104 years old since the original Platt Map above was first produced.

As a challenge…..see if you can find these amazing stairs, built right into the side of a Hill on what once was the Ford families private Nature Trail system. The staircase is a wonderful place. There is much more to be discovered around these stairs, so look closely at what might be hiding in the underbrush. Sit for awhile and imagine what the area would have looked like some 90 years or so ago, when the Fords created their Estate.

We are again in our early Spring planning stage for our first History HIKE of the year. We try and do one every Springtime because of what we talk about here on the Blog, all the time. The foliage is way down and so much more can be spotted while roaming the Estate at this time of year. This year we will be doing our Spring History Hike a little PoisonIvyclose to early Summer, like the first week in May. The only real foliage we will need to be concerned about will be the Poison Ivy.

Poison Ivy has become almost rampant around the Haven Hill, main hill area of the Park. Although found everywhere at Highland Rec., it is very prominent around the Hill itself. It is about the only concern I have when Bushwhacking around the Estate.

This years History Hike will have a couple of twists to it. We have been talking about doing a dual Hike day. One group will head for the Haven Hill top and explore the main Estate features, including the Pump-house, Well house, Formal Gardens and some of the Man-made ornamental Ponds located on the Ford’s private Nature trails, just off the main Estate Hill top.

Full-WELL-PUMP

1PumpHouse

FishPond

FenceTop

The other Group will head for a few places we have never taken people before. The Hiking will be pretty tuff and will take us off any map of the Park. We will expl

ore some abandon Cabins dating back to the 1800s, as well as some possible Native Hunting camps and areas. We will circle back and crawl up the North side of the Estate Hill, using some of what is left of the old Toboggan run. But before we do that, we will show everyone where the actual Toboggan run ended and some of what was happening down there when there wasn’t any snow going on.

Bow drill hand hold 1These places are not easy to access, but are very interesting in the whole History of the area known as Haven Hill. Before Edsel and family, there where local settlers. Before and during the Settlers, there where Hunting Camps. before the settlers and Hunting Camps there where Native American encampments and wanderings.

There has even been some talk at one time, that the Huron river came through the back side of Highland Rec. area, and not it’s present day course. This would have made this area of the Park even more attractive to the Natives then it already was. With a water route in the area, the game and many plant & tree species, all the fresh natural Spring waters, this section of Highland Rec. area would have been the perfect Native hunting/Homestead grounds. Just what the white-man made it as he settled into the area.

So this is what we have been discussing as this years dual History HIKES. This is still in the planning stages and we are not sure if it would be best to do two separate Hikes or ParkingLotPeopleone dual Hike afternoon. We will see what response we get from all of you. Our last History Hike had a little over 85 people attend, and we had to split into two separate groups to accommodate the large number of people. Those kinds of numbers would not work on the heavy Bushwhacking Hike. The terrain is much to ruff, and we would loose people for sure. And that is not the point of these hikes. :-)

So stay tuned for further developments, and in the meantime, head out to the Park and do some roaming. Be cautious while you explore. There are some heavy snow accumulations still hiding in the deeper ravines in-between the many ridges around the main Hill. Enjoy yourself…..EXPLORE…..and BE SAFE!  See you all in May for our first History Hike of the year. One last thing…….we have something very Big coming this Summer. A History Event/Hike like we have never done before. You will not want to miss this one. That’s all I am saying right now. :-)

It is always a great time to wander Haven Hill around the old Ford Estate, or the State designated NATURAL area. Which is basically the areas that surround the man-made lake that Edsel made by damming Cedar Creek and forming Haven Hill Lake. As a side note: The Dam project at Haven Hill Lake, was the first thing Edsel started at the Estate. The project was immense! Take a close look at one of the free Maps from the Haven Hill Project web site and look closely at all the empoundments that where built, as well as the Dam, to truly create Haven Hill Lake.

RetainingLakeWall

Remnants of some of the many impoundment retaing walls, buried along side the Trails that surround the Lake. Look closely as you walk around these Lake Trails.

JustHillMap

Why is this this extra special time of year so special at Haven Hill? Because right after the winter months, and the leaves are gone, and the landscape has been washed clean, much is exposed around the Estate.

FordFarmPump

Things that where buried in the thick growths of summer foliage and ground cover are revealed. Benches and old Horse Trail buildings become apparent. The Ford family had an extensive Hiking and Horse Trails system through out the Estate grounds, complete with rest stops, Water pumps, Benches and small rest stops. Not to mention small creek bridges and many other small Trail structures.

Most have been lost to age. Others are no longer part of the regular Trails system marked on any of the Parks Maps. But remnants of these places are everywhere, and can more easily be found at the time of year, just after the winter months.

FishPond

Ornamental Pond built at one of the Bench rest-stops on a Trail that was for the Ford Family use only.

So…..right before all of those Spring flowers and young growth start to pop up around the Park, take a visit around the Haven Hill Estate and explore. Truly explore there. Wander off the main Trails, and keep your eyes open for a Horse Hitching post, or that old resting Bench. You will be very surprised at what you will discover while you enjoy what the Fords loved so much of their home and this once beautiful Estate and Grounds.

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