Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnakes of October

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The woods and lakeshores of Oakland County have accelerated their seasonal transition with cool breezes and colorful leaves, luring hikers and cyclists to our trails, picnickers and late season kayakers to our parks and lakes, and large numbers of residents to our cider mills. Just like humans, wildlife creatures are soaking up the sun during the shortening days of our autumn season, including the only venomous snake found in Oakland County, the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake. Continue reading

Easy Hiking at Crooked Lake

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

October is not the time to stay indoors and wish you were outside. In the past few weeks I’ve had inquiries from folks that are new to the world of hiking and want to start the hiking experience on trails that are “easy to hike” while enjoying the splendor of October. Easy can be interpreted in different ways by different people. It’s been ten years this month since I hiked up what was billed as the “easy” side approach of Mount Kilimanjaro. I struggled at times in the thin air, but made it to the 19,340 foot high summit. It was not easy. Let’s forget the word easy for now; if you are looking for a trail that’s family-friendly, embraces nature, and perhaps most importantly, won’t get you lost, I have one for you. It’s a real gem with great lakeshore views, and if you hike on the weekend you will never be alone.
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Poison Sumac: An Autumn Beauty to Avoid

Autumn is the season for a plethora of nature-embracing outdoor activities under canopies of kaleidoscope colored leaves and restless winds. It’s the time to hike the woodlands, explore our network of cyclist friendly trails, fish, camp, share a quiet picnic on a lakeside hilltop, and kayak our beautiful lakes in a soon to be mosquito-free environment. It’s the season when young children chase after long-leaping leopard frogs hidden in moist meadows and collect colorful leaves for their parents. Autumn accelerates our hunt for wild mushrooms, with chicken of the woods being at the top of the list, and entices foragers to gather the last of the wild blackberries. We dodge falling black walnuts and bid farewell to Ruby-throated hummingbirds, Sandhill Cranes and Ospreys in these early days of autumn. Perhaps best of all, we are at the cusp of the season to embrace pumpkin-spiced everything! Continue reading

A First Look at Holly Oaks ORV Park

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) was tasked many years ago with developing an opportunity for off-road vehicle recreation in southeast Michigan, a venture that would also reduce illegal and dangerous riding on utility corridors and railway beds, as well as in parks and on private lands. Oakland County had depleted sand and gravel mines that were unlikely to ever be redeveloped for residential or commercial use because of noise from I-75 and challenging topography. It was a marriage that was meant to be and after years of labor pains, the result will soon emerge as Holly Oaks ORV Park, the first ORV Park in Oakland County.  It will be the second state park in Michigan to be jointly managed by the state and a county parks agency. Continue reading

Ten Signs Summer is Fading

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The beauty and wonder of nature’s way as summer slowly fades welcome us to the trails, woodlands, wildlands, rivers and fields of Oakland County. Walk slowly, stop often, look and listen and it’s easy to sense the slowing pulse of the season. The official end of summer does not occur until the Autumnal Equinox; that’s on September 23rd, but the approach of Labor Day weekend signals that summer is in its waning days. And with next week being the final full week of the unofficial end of summer, today I salute ten signs of the season’s transition from summer to autumn. Some are subtle, and some can’t be missed.

This Top Ten ramble was inspired by Dmitri Schoeman who shared his encounter with nature’s way with photos captured last week in Columbia, South Carolina. “I was walking the dog when I saw something in an odd shade of green and went over to see what it was.” For the next hour he watched the emergence of a cicada as it wiggled out of its exoskeleton. His photos might well be entitled “Alien Birth,” for they capture the emergence of an other-worldly looking winged creature as it slowly abandoned its exoskeleton. Continue reading