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

Summer Camps and Outdoor Fun in Oakland County

School is out and that means kids all around Oakland County are searching for fun activities to keep them entertained. Luckily, there are a wide variety of summer camps and outdoor entertainment happening in our area. Whether they’re interested in boating down a steady stream, hiking in the hills, crafting pieces of art, or practicing robotics indoors, communities in Oakland County have something for everyone.

For a complete list of summer camps and outdoor activities, visit our master list below.

List of Summer Camps and Outdoor Fun in Oakland County

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Confessions of an Accidental Birder

Red-eyed Vireo

Wilder Side of Oakland County

I am not a bird-watcher or at least I did not think I was. Here is what I do know:

Hundreds of thousands of folks across our country, maybe even millions, are serious birders that create what the birding in-crowd knows as a ‘Life List.’ That cherished list is a record of every bird species they have ever seen and identified with absolute certainty. I would be ruled out from those prestigious Life List clubs almost instantly because of the words, ‘absolute certainty.’ To my untrained eye and short attention span, a warbler is a warbler, even though 54 different species of warblers are found in North America. I even struggle to find subtle identification marks on many of our common song birds of summer such as the Red-eyed Vireo.

One could say I am just too restless and easily distracted by furry and fanged creatures to focus on a list of birds; I don’t even make shopping lists. People that pursue their personal hobby of chasing after birds to put another name on a list, will think nothing of driving hundreds or even a thousand miles to view a rare species a few days drive away. “Hey Joe, Judy just saw a rare Blue-Beaked Bobolink in the Florida Keys, up for a road trip?” And they are off, driving day and night to add one more name to a list. That’s not for me.

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Trekking for Turkey Tails

Turkey Tail

THE WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Turkey Tail mushrooms (Trametes versicolor) are fantastic forest fungi that are easily located in the dead of winter and in the sultry heat of summer. As forest foliage thickens during the early days of summer, these extremely common mushrooms may be eclipsed momentarily by the shadows created by dappled sunlight. If you want to photograph them, simply bring along a nature-inquisitive child on a trailside turkey tail hunting foray. It won’t take long until the excited cry of, “I see one!” is followed by an outpouring of enthusiasm to explore nature’s way at the dawn of summer.

Turkey Tail Continue reading