“First Day” in a Swamp of Beauty and Mystery

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“Live in each season as it passes, breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” – Henry David Thoreau. Those timeless words set the mood perfectly for my “First Day Hike.” January 1st has come and gone, but I still smile about a hike under a spectacular crisp blue sky on the first day of 2020.

First Day Hikes are part of a nationwide initiative led by America’s State Parks to encourage people to get outdoors. That creative program began in Massachusetts in 1992 and went nationwide in 2012 under the leadership of the America’s State Parks alliance, a strategic alliance formed in 2010 that includes state park systems in all 50 states. They tend to be large gatherings on easily accessible trails that are billed as a healthful and fun way to connect with families, friends and communities, and that they are. The hikes are led by park staff and nature knowledgeable volunteers from supporting agencies. The closest official Michigan Department of Natural Resources First Day Hike for 2020 was at nearby Island Lake Recreation Area, but this year I opted out and instead headed to one of my very favorite places of solitude, peace and beauty to welcome the New Year on the Wilder Side of Oakland County. A swamp. Continue reading

Secrets of Late Winter Cedar Swamps

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Dismal, dreary, forbidding, impassable, impenetrable and treacherous. Those words have all been used to describe swamps. Just say the word “swamp” and the first image some conjure up is a muddy mire “infested” with mosquitos, alligators and snakes: a wetland that must be drained to make it safe for humans. However, swamps are in many ways like giant sponges that hold water, replenish aquifers, sustain life and keep our landscape healthy.

Continue reading