A Winter Walk at Hawk Woods

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

I almost did not attend. A gloomy overcast sky had painted the world in dreary shades of gray. The weather forecast suggested a cold drizzle of rain, not my favorite conditions for hiking or photography. I had all but decided it would be a miserable day for the hike being offered by the Hawk Woods Nature Center to explore “seasonal changes” and look for signs of wildlife. However I had promised my old friend Mike Mansour, the long-term naturalist at Hawk Woods that I would be there. And so I went.

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West Bloomfield Parks’ New Nature Room!

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, water bugs, tadpoles, frogs, mud turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb. Brooks to wade, water lilies, woodchucks, bats, bees, butterflies, various animals to pet, hayfields, pine-cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets; and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of education.” ― Luther Burbank

That powerful quote from Burbank came to mind last Friday afternoon while I waited in the hall outside of the newly renovated Nature Room at the West Bloomfield Parks Recreation Activities Center for its grand reopening ribbon cutting ceremony. The unbridled enthusiasm of the children in attendance was contagious and increased as the clock counted down to the cutting of the ribbon by Parks Director Jennifer Tucker, with park commissioners and park staff in attendance. While waiting for that moment, some of the excited children, and adults too, posed in the hallway’s monarch butterfly face cutout board for photos while others explored the exhibits in the hall. Continue reading

Solitude, Simplicity, and Situational Awareness

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.” – Henry David Thoreau

Simplicity, solitude and slowness of motion, spiced with a healthy dose of situational awareness are the core ingredients of some of my very best and most rewarding winter adventures. Every now and then I hike with a group, but my strong preference in both faraway mountainous wilderness areas or within Oakland County is to hike alone in silent solitude, or with a companion that appreciates the simplicity of solo hiking as the automatic “reset” button we often need in a busy world of work and distractions.
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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

“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