Nature’s Wilder Side Almanac 2019

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

JANUARY

The first days of January signal a New Year of adventures along the trails, and in the parks and wildlands of Oakland County. Snowy Owls, the denizens of the Arctic tundra irrupt into Michigan most winters confirming the season of snow has arrived – even when it’s delayed. Snowy Owls have already been sighted not far from our county. They perch motionlessly on fence posts and telephone poles near farm fields, spacious meadows and frozen lakeshores to wait for meaty entrées, perhaps mice and meadow voles, or a duck that did not wing south. January is the month that early rising hikers and trail runners find their favorite trails of solitude and solace, crisscrossed with tracks of our apex predator, the eastern coyote. It’s the season I look forward to sharing sunrises on a wooded, often snowy bluff that overlooks Buhl Lake, a four season gem of Addison Oaks County Park.

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Bewildered on the Wilder Side of Holdridge Lakes

A trail winds through a heavily wooded area. A trail marker indicates the entrance to the trail.

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Backwoodsman and legendary folk hero Daniel Boone is alleged to have said, “I can’t say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days.” I have new respect for Boone’s words, for during Monday’s wintery mix morning hike in the Holdridge Lakes Mountain Bike Area of Holly State Recreation Area, I reached a point on the trail when I realized I had no idea where I was. Lost? Not quite. I knew I was on a trail, just not the trail I thought I should be on, nor did I know where it would lead. To me the word lost infers hopelessness, and so I, like Daniel Boone, settled on bewilderment to define my predicament. But the bottom line is clear, for as series of events unfolded, some planned, some not, my two-mile hike became an 8.5 mile trek of endless adventure and natural wonders. I’m glad it all happened though, for the adventure reminded me there really is a wilder side of Oakland County. Continue reading

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

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

Independence Oaks Safety Path Opens!

Independence Oaks - North Safety Path Dedication

Wilder Side of Oakland County

“My early morning hike of solitude on a sultry summer day at Independence Oaks County Park – North was a magical experience. Wispy cirrus clouds added definition to the clear blue sky. Spider webs sparkled with diamonds of dew. Sandhill cranes trumpeted from a wet meadow. An American Goldfinch and an Eastern Kingbird perched in tree tops to bask in sunlight, as did a Red-tailed Hawk high up on a transmission line tower. The music of crickets, and the rustle of aspen leaves in the morning’s gentle breeze softened the rumble of traffic on nearby Sashabaw Road.” I wrote those words last August as an introduction to a “Wilder Side” blog about Independence Oaks County Park – North; a 188-acre addition to the main section of 1,285-acre Independence Oaks County Park, the largest of the 13 parks managed by Oakland County Parks. Independence Oaks – North is the only Southeast Michigan park with a catch and release special designation by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The park also includes natural features that helped the site be classified by the Michigan Natural Features Inventory as a Priority One Conservation Area.

Independence Oaks - North Safety Path Continue reading