Fire & Ice Festival in Oakland County

The Fire & Ice Festival in Downtown Rochester is back January 18th–20th for another year of family fun and winter festivities that you can enjoy for FREE. The three-day community celebration will be packed with events like tube sledding, ice skating, dog sled rides, cross-country skiing, ice sculptures along Main Street, fireworks on Friday and Saturday night, The Big, Bright Light Show, live music, TasteFest, and so much more!

Take a look at our video for a preview of the fun:

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Why Hike Now? Why Not! Here’s Why.

An asphalt path winds through a wooded area

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

If you aren’t a hiker, you may hold unanswered questions as to why your friends seem excited about meandering through the woods for an hour or two on a chilly and overcast day, or look forward to spending a week trekking backcountry trails with a backpack tugging at their shoulders. Perhaps it’s the words of T.S. Eliot that drives the latter group, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” Today’s nature ramble however will focus on those that want to get started in the nearly cost-free, extremely healthful and lifelong, often nature-embracing, activity of hiking. Continue reading

Mysteries of Red Efts and Red-Spotted Newts

A red eft, red and orange in color with small black spots, sits on a log.

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The lifestyle and behavior patterns of the elusive red-spotted newt (Notophthalmus viridescens) is very strange, at least in the eyes of humans. The red-spotted newt, and its reddish-orange terrestrial sub-adult stage known as the red eft, is perhaps our most beautiful salamander, a creature herpetologists refer to as a “gape-limited predator.” For the lay person, that translates as “If it fits in your mouth, its food.”

Most people have never seen an adult red-spotted newt in the wild, unless they are an amphibian lover that flops down on their belly and stares into a vernal pool in the early days of spring on a rainy night, hoping for a glimpse of their underwater courtship ritual. That takes planning, persistence and patience. Encountering the juvenile land-trekking terrestrial form of the red-spotted newt, known as the red eft, is far more likely for those that wander woodlands with an eye to the ground, watchful for movement among leaves on the forest floor. Continue reading

Orion Oaks: An Easy Autumn Meander

Fallen leaves cover a dirt path leading through trees. The rising sun can be seen through the trees where the end of the path opens up to a meadow.

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Hiking can be daunting for those that never wandered off pavement or experienced any trail adventures; and at times it can be discouraging for those that have. Weather conditions change. Darkness comes early. Trails can be narrow and slippery. The visuals, perhaps comforting cues of sidewalks, buildings, road signs and urban activity are also absent. And then there is the matter of time. “My life is so busy, I only have an hour to hike and I don’t know where or how to start?”

Start now.

I’m not talking about planning an all day hike, nor suggesting a hike that takes significant planning. And I’m certainly not suggesting you do what I did a few weeks ago and set off on a 40 mile trek on the Appalachian Trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. A trek that included total elevation changes of 8,650 feet over steep rocky terrain while keeping an eye out for sunning Timber Rattlesnakes, and then before darkness fell, hanging food bags high enough between trees to make things tough for hiker-savvy black bears. “Why am I doing this?” I experienced that feeling momentarily on day two, but I trekked on, for I am hopelessly addicted to outdoor adventure. Continue reading

Our Wilderness of Little Things

A photo taken from the edge of a swamp on a cloudless day. Tall trees surround the swamp. Foliage is just starting to turn from green to fall colors.

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Three weeks have raced by since the position of Planet Earth in relation to the sun signaled the autumn equinox; except during much of this week, we have been bathed in sultry summer-style heat with the mercury soaring into the 80s. Some of nature’s creatures became briefly “confused” and were stirred into off-season activity, with spring peepers sounding off from the edge of wetlands and well camouflaged gray treefrogs calling from moist foliage. A walk in the woods to the edge of my marsh reminded me of the timeless words of John Muir, “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness” and got me thinking. Continue reading