Walking with Ewoks at Timm Preserve

Timm Preserve is located in St. Joseph County near the intersection of Mintdale and Engle Roads in Sturgis. (Kay Davis|Watershed Voice)

Walking at Timm Preserve is an excellent choice for anyone yearning for a stroll in nature; easily accomplished after a full day sitting at a work desk or on a weekend afternoon as a break from technology screens. 

Located in St. Joseph County near the intersection of Mintdale and Engle Roads (65724 Engle Road, Sturgis, Michigan), parking is free for county residents. There is a donation box meant for the maintenance and development of the park. A trail map is posted at the trailhead. Dogs are permitted on a leash, and if you’re walking with a baby, bring a baby carrier rather than a stroller as there are uneven surfaces and small stones in some places.

The first remarkable feature at Timm Preserve is the approach to the bridge over the Fawn River Drain. Memories of playing “Poohsticks” at every childhood bridge crossing threw me into a nostalgic mood. I preserve the ritual by dropping a leaf in on the upstream side and waiting for it to appear under the bridge. 

Directly after crossing the stream the path follows a rooty berm. During my first visit to this park, the exposed roots and ground were wet and looked slippery. That day was warm with heavy, misty air which caused a steady tapping in the tree leaves and thick vegetation, similar to the Star Wars scene in which we were first introduced to Yoda. 

The fact I recognized it as such was the indicator that my entire walk on that summer day would be associated with the original movie trilogy. Today this landscape is much different. The air is wintery crisp and the path is dry. I consciously pick my feet up a little higher to avoid tripping on roots on the wavy path.

The boardwalks are sturdy and curvy enough to keep me intrigued. At the end of the second boardwalk, I’m expecting another Star Wars character to greet me in the shape of an 8′ tall tree stump with an unmistakable resemblance to Admiral Ackbar. I see that since I was here last the Admiral has toppled. I am able to find one of the prominent eyes on the fallen, broken trunk and grieve for a moment at the loss of this favorite sight. At one time, I had hidden a painted rock at the base of this stump. I wonder if someone reading this may have found it?

(Kay Davis|Watershed Voice)

Continuing on the main path (right at the fork), the trail whimsically winds until I arrive at a tall stand of pines. In a Star Wars state of mind leftover from my first visit, I remember the summer foliage at the base of these pines had me imagining a Speeder Bike Chase zigzagging over this trail two feet above the ground. I’m suddenly aware I’ve come here with expectations of reliving my first impressions of the preserve. I beat back the images of Ewoks in the forest and focus instead on the beauty of these pines during this frosty January evening.

During the summer months, the outer edges of the park are not so clearly visible as they are today. I see neighboring fields as the trail loops around the west edge of the preserve. A rooster lives somewhere near the furthermost turn in the trail. 

(Kay Davis|Watershed Voice)

Approaching the wetlands again, there is a low spot that can be muddy during the high-water season. I walk in mesh trail runners and have at times come home with muddy soles, but it wasn’t high enough to seep in to wet my socks or suck the shoe off my foot. There are several downed logs that offer a peaceful place to sit and observe the wildlife activity in the wetlands.

Soon I’m back at the Admiral Ackbar memorial site and the close of the loop. Here is the boardwalk that leads back to the parking lot. For an extra bit of exercise, take the side loop after crossing the creek bridge.

More information on St. Joseph County Michigan parks can be found at: stjosephcountymi.org/parks/.