Hiking the Boonies

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Hiking with Boy Scouts is never a quiet event. It just does not work out that way. And if the hike is an off trail adventure in “the boonies” of a snow-covered hardwood swamp, with each footstep crunching in snow or crackling over partially frozen puddles, you can be assured every deer and coyote will flee at the not so stealthy approach. Extremely fresh tracks in the snow confirmed my assumptions that our intrusion was quickly detected. But before I share this tale of an adventure like none other I have been on in my three decades in our county, I will mention Sammy, the six year old that hiked with us. He was quiet most of the time and very proudly crossed tiny creeks with a bit of parental help and was attentive to the surrounding landscape. His moment of pure joy was climbing up onto the seat of a rusted bulldozer that held half century old secrets about a peat harvesting operation in Oakland County.

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Wild Moments with Winter Trumpeters

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Seeing a Trumpeter Swan for the very first time can be an unforgettable and beautiful experience. They are truly majestic birds with snowy white feathers; jet-black bills, feet, and legs; and a wingspan of almost eight feet. They are stunning, even when at rest on an icy creek or at the edge of a partially frozen pond. Not that long ago, it was next to impossible to view a trumpeter anywhere in Michigan, let alone in Oakland County. Continue reading

A Winter Season Appetizer?

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

On the sunny afternoon of Friday, November 9th, I hiked the heavily wooded northern section of the Ortonville State Recreation Area and was surprised to discover thin layers of ice had formed on small hidden lakes located between the steep hills of this State protected wildland. Dry leaves, pushed by gentle winds, seemingly danced across the frozen surfaces and my hiking companion and I joked that it almost looked like winter arrived early, especially when we noted traces of snow from the night before on fallen logs and fungi. Continue reading

The Old Mill at the Top of Oakland County

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

If it was not for springs bubbling up through the glacially sculpted hills of what is now the Ortonville State Recreation Area, and Kearsley Creek meandering through fertile woodlands, there might never have been a Village of Ortonville. And there certainly would not be an Old Mill Museum located at the “top” of Oakland County. Brandon Township Supervisor Kathy Thurman described the mill to me this way last month, “The Old Mill Museum is one of the finest gems in downtown Ortonville.” I agree. Continue reading

Seven Trails for May

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” That often quoted sentence from John Muir takes on a special meaning for me in May, for May is the month that I am most often asked, “Where should I hike?” There is no easy answer, but May is the perfect season to enter the world of hiking for pleasure, and if the word “hiking” sounds too rigorous, just call it “meandering.” The results will be the same; for hiking is fun, healthful and there are bonuses in May: The beauty of ephemeral woodland wildflowers, the delightful songs of birds, and the choruses of frogs and trilling of toads will be your trail companions. Meander along slowly on your new adventure, stop often, look and listen and you will find more than you seek.

Today I share snippets of seven trails that are perfect for Oakland County trail meanderers, trails where the magic and music of nature’s way in May unfolds. Continue reading