FENTON: Daytrippin!

9 Sep

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It’s a hotter than expected September day, a good excuse to escape the city and head north for the day!  We are taking a northwesterly scenic route through the country; roads wind, twist and turn past long-standing barns, fields of corn, old-time churches and historic homes. The mild summer has left the landscape green, horses graze behind split-rail fences, here and there maple leaves are thinking about changing colors, the ride is peaceful and relaxing. We arrive at the Heavenly Scent Herb Farm in Fenton, an unexpected surprise on White Lake Rd. A 1910 barn is painted to look like three European storefronts; the rustic, quaint, interior is filled with lovely things for the home; candles, cement statuary, charming decor items, body care products and spices. Pumpkins and Halloween items are on display. There’s a buzz of activity; chairs and tables are being set up for a wedding that will take place later in the evening. We head outside for a stroll through the gardens, there’s beauty in every direction. Pathways lead us through a series of themed gardens; metal sculptures, ground covers and annuals fill large beds, hanging baskets overflow with pastel-colored flowers. An old shovel has been transformed into a piece of art; a hummingbird design as been laser cut into the rusty metal blade, items on display are available for purchase.

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We find ourselves in a charming mushroom-themed garden, it’s the kind of place I imagine Tinkerbell and her friends would live in. Wandering through a narrow gateway we pass a small pond, wood benches encircle large tree trunks, mounds of Hostas show off their lavendar-colored blooms. Mobiles hang from decorative hooks, climbing vines cover arbors, flowering shrubs and funky metal roses grow side by side. The pergola is quite a sight, a gravel pathway is laid out underneath; purple and white flowers are tucked in among lime green leaves in raised beds that run along each side of the structure. We hear the gentle sound of trickling water, up ahead an elegant fountain serves as a focal point. Enormous dahlias in peach, yellow and pink are stunning, bunches of white alyssum perfume the air, a statue of an angel is nestled among the greenery, sedum are beginning to bloom. It’s worth a drive to just come and see this place.

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We park on Shiawassee Ave in Fenton’s downtown area, there’s a lot of activity going on here these days; new shops and restaurants are joining picturesque neighborhoods in drawing folks to town. We amble down the sidewalk, mature trees cast shadows over manicured lawns, enchanting Victorian homes are decked out with urns, flowerbeds and hanging baskets. Each house is architecturally different, some sport columns, others have turrets or balconies, windows are leaded glass, many exhibit sizable American flags.

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Near the Jeep, a row of cute little shops have open doors, inviting people to take a look inside. La Petite Maison is a pretty, little, home decor store. The space is set up like a home with different rooms; new, old and repurposed items accessorize each room in shabby-chic style. The Iron Grate features home goods such as candles, linens and pillows along with an adorable kids section done up in primary colors. Next door is Fenton’s Open Book, you guessed it, it’s a bookstore and next to that is Sweet Variations chocolate shop. We walk through each shop satisfying our curiosities, its late afternoon, time to catch lunch.

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Fenton Fire Hall on Leroy St is the latest addition to Fenton’s growing restaurant scene. The building has stood on this spot since 1938; behind the building is a park and a waterfall, across the street is the fetching Community Center designed by Eliel Saarinen. Brought to us by the same folks who run Clarkston Union, Union Woodshop and Vinsetta Garage, it’s an extremely popular eating spot, which is why we are having lunch at 3 pm on a Friday. To our relief, we are seated immediately, the place smells wonderful, a mix of wood-fire and meat. The menu offers a nice variety without being overwhelming, we decide pretty quickly. The interior pays homage to the origins of the buildings, much of the stylish decorating features the color red, old hoses make up a light fixture, the firehouse theme is carried out well throughout. It doesn’t take long for our food to arrive, metal baking sheets piled high with food are set down before us, just looking at it makes my mouth water! First up, the Korean Pork Tacos; three Detroit-made flour tortillas are filled with the house pulled pork combined with their own Korean bbq sauce, topped with cilantro-lime slaw, the tacos are outstanding, nice choice Kris! The Gather is a house-made vegan patty, wood-fired veggie goat cheese spread, broccoli sprouts, shitake bacon, all stacked on a house-made bun, it’s really good. Then we come to the fries, freshly hand-cut and perfectly deep-fried they are wonderful as is, dipping them in the Fire Hall mayo, takes them up to a whole other level.  When we are finished, we walk up to the roof-top deck strung with lights overhead, you can eat up here, have a drink at the bar, shoot a game of pool or just have a seat and overlook the park. In the stairwell, black and white photos of Fenton’s crew of firefighters hang on the walls, a nice tribute. The lower level has a cozy lounge area with original wood paneling, tables line the wall of roll-up doors, funky red upholstered barstools are pulled up to the bar.

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Just outside is the original pump house, today it serves as an ice cream stand: Pumphouse Custard. What makes this unique is the house-made ice creams, custards and sorbets are made with liquid nitrogen… really! The list of flavors is long: Faygo Rock n Rye, CEO Stout, 24 Carrot Cake, Blue Moon, Gimme S’more, well, you get the idea. You can get it in a cup, cone, sundae, malt or shake. After many samples and much deliberation, Kris chooses the honey cinnamon flavor to have as a malt and I try the Strawberry Basil Bash…. tasty!? Umbrella’d tables with milk crate legs are set up on the patio, eat there or go for a stroll like we are. We walk across the bridge to the park, metal sculptures and colorful potted plants dot the landscape, ducks float in the stream, a photographer is busy taking senior pictures for a group of girls. Yep, it certainly is a nice set up they have here.

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Back on Holly road we pass a sign with an arrow directing us to the Great Lakes National Cemetery, we make the turn to check it out. Off Belford Rd we spot the stone wall and avenue of flags; American flags as far as the eye can see. Turning into the cemetery we are taken aback by the rows of white headstones. Open to the public during daylight hours, we realize we don’t have much time as dusk is beginning to fall. We drive as far as the main road will take us, the landscape is one of rolling hills and a lake, 544.3 acres in all. Burials began in 2005, by 2013 there were over 16,000 interments; any member of the armed forces of the United States who dies in active duty, or  discharged veterans, are eligible to be buried here. A public information center is located about midway into the cemetery, specific gravesites can be found using an automated gravesite locator kiosk.

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We get out of the car and begin to walk around, it’s beautiful, solemn, peaceful; benches overlook the lake, ducks, swans and other waterfowl are having conversation. Rows of above ground columbariums are near the water, we read the names of those who have passed on. Meandering on, we pass hundreds of gravesites, all branches of the armed forces are represented, as are wars ranging from WWII, the Gulf War and Afghanistan, along with Korea and Vietnam. The oldest birth year I spotted was 1911; many of the deceased were moved here from another place when this cemetery opened. They say they average 10 burials a day, which surprised us. One feels very patriotic walking these grounds, feelings of both gratitude and sadness fill my heart. 

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