WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY
“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.” John Lubbock’s words enrich the days of summer as the Oakland County Parks, encompassing nearly 7,000 acres, bustle with nature-rich fun. Experienced adventurers and first-time visitors have opportunities to explore 70 miles of trails that meander through glacially sculpted landscapes of hills, lakes and meadows. Some trails are flat and paved, perfect for baby strollers or grandparents with walkers. Others embrace rough, hilly terrain that gets the heart pounding, strengthens leg muscles and sets the mind to dreaming of the Appalachian Trail. Of course, there are also equestrian friendly trails, bike trails and trails where one can walk in near solitude early in the day.
Summer is the season for camping and it’s easy to do that here in Oakland County. Addison Oaks and Groveland Oaks county parks offer sites for tent and RV camping. In addition, they offer rentable cabins and yurts that are no longer a secret, so book them ahead of time. Although these parks offer just small slices of wilderness, they are perfect for those that want to be introduced to the outdoor world. Both parks have small lakes with fishing opportunities and rental boats. Independence Oaks County Park has ever popular Crooked Lake, a favorite for fishing, kayaking and picnic sites with great views. Hike around Crooked Lake an hour before dusk and you’ll find a magical portal for viewing wildlife and waterfowl. Independence Oaks also has Camp Wilderness, a perfect setting for organized group camping with platform tents, pavilions, modern bathhouse, fire rings, benches, grills and picnic tables.
Nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts always find wilder side adventures along the more secluded trails of Rose and Highland Oaks but no matter which of the 13 parks you visit, the benefits are endless and summer family fun is just a short drive away. Nature education knows no boundaries and the system’s website includes special events and special offerings of two nature centers: one at Red Oaks, the other at Independence Oaks. Get outdoors this summer and find your passion. Whether it’s active recreation, sports, swimming, golf, a zip line or inflatable fun for kids, Oakland County Parks has something for you. Even if you’re simply looking for a place to rest and unwind, the diverse natural resources of the parks provide opportunities to do just that. How about disconnecting from the electronics of self-imposed tethers (smart phones) and celebrating the words of John Lubbock in an Oakland County Park? “Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
BONUS FOR OAKLAND COUNTY PARK 2015 PERMITS HOLDERS: The annual vehicle permit provides added value. In addition to providing entry to all 13 parks, the permit is valid for entry to the Fourth of July Fireworks: July 3 at Addison Oaks County Park and July 4 at Groveland Oaks County Park ($10/vehicle value). The permit is also good for entry to the Oakland County Fair on two Oakland County Parks Days: Friday, July 3 and Thursday, July 9 (also a $10/vehicle value). Permits can be purchased at parks sites and off-site locations including Bass Pro Shops in Auburn Hills. For a complete list of permit sales locations and details on all Oakland County Parks, visit: DestinationOakland.com.
Text and photos by Jonathan Schechter, Nature Education Writer for Oakland County Parks. Schechterj@oakgov.com