WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY
An early morning walk through this 640 acre protected wildland in the northwest corner of Oakland County at the dawn of December offers rich rewards, reaching beyond the obvious benefits of healthy hiking and fresh air. Solitude, natural beauty, and a chance to embrace silence without distractions are three of them. The radiant glow of morning sunlight on trees enriches forest stillness, and warms the human spirit.
Rose Oaks can be accessed from the west entrance on Fish Lake Road (easiest for equestrians) or from the more popular entrance on the east side from Buckhorn Lake Road. Both sides have trailhead signs, and primitive restroom facilities. An online map is perfect for pre-hike planning. I started my visit by first walking across Buckhorn Lake Road to the dock that extends out into Cogger Lake. From that vantage point I noted a trio of Sandhill cranes that remained at the wetland’s edge, perhaps drawn by the movement of meaty meadow voles before it was time to finally take wing and follow geese south.
Whether you plan to meander all five and one half miles of the looped trails, or just explore shorter segments, pay close attention to the maps that are posted at almost all trail junctions. A missed turn may have you circling around the small lakes and abundant wetlands for longer than planned.
Equestrian-friendly boardwalks provide trail connectivity for all users in the heavily wooded park. They serve as viewing points for hikers to pause and reflect on the wetlands that teemed with tree swallows, waterfowl, frogs and sunning turtles not that long ago. Silence on the boardwalks is broken only by the rustle of cattail stalks stirred by wind, or perhaps an overflight of geese on their southern journey. In the woods however, the persistent drumming of a Pileated Woodpecker or the sharp cry of a Red-Bellied Woodpecker are common along the primitive trails, and inquisitive Black-Capped Chickadees may flit above and chatter if you pause to rest on a trailside log.
Eastern Bluebirds overwinter in the park, and are often noticed near the beaver lodge along the northwest shore of Richardson Lake, and at the edge of the meadow where the trail nears Big School Lot Lake. The sleek Cooper’s Hawk zips after birds in the woodlands and turkeys may be encountered trotting on a trail. In a few more weeks, adventuresome cross country skiers share the same trails that elusive coyotes tread after dark.
TRAIL SAFETY: It’s best to stay on the designated trails, and if a dog is your hiking companion, it must be leashed at all times (even if you believe you are alone in the park). It’s the law. Wearing orange or yellow is wise until the end of December, the end of the seasonal archery deer hunt. When encountering equestrians on the shared trails it’s important to step to the side, but stay in view and talk to the horses so they know you are a human and are not startled.
I will return on snowshoes this winter for a picnic, and give the lonesome table on the glacial moraine above the west side of Richardson Lake some companionship. The weathered picnic table is the perfect place to reflect in silence on the words of William Wordsworth, “Come forth into the light of things. Let Nature be your teacher.” Rose Oaks County Park, your four-season wildland gem managed by Oakland County Parks and Recreation, is waiting on the Wilder Side of Oakland County.
Jonathan Schechter is the Nature Education Writer for Oakland County Government and blogs weekly about nature’s way, trails, and wildlife on the Wilder Side of Oakland County.