A First Look at Holly Oaks ORV Park

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) was tasked many years ago with developing an opportunity for off-road vehicle recreation in southeast Michigan, a venture that would also reduce illegal and dangerous riding on utility corridors and railway beds, as well as in parks and on private lands. Oakland County had depleted sand and gravel mines that were unlikely to ever be redeveloped for residential or commercial use because of noise from I-75 and challenging topography. It was a marriage that was meant to be and after years of labor pains, the result will soon emerge as Holly Oaks ORV Park, the first ORV Park in Oakland County.  It will be the second state park in Michigan to be jointly managed by the state and a county parks agency. Continue reading

The Great Skunk Cabbage Swamp

Just the very word swamp can conjure up images of danger lurking behind every tree, venomous snakes slithering over logs, gators hungry for human flesh, monstrously large spider webs slapping against faces and squadrons of blood-thirsty mosquitos almost making the air too thick to breathe. I prefer the words of Henry David Thoreau, “I enter the swamp as a sacred place.” Continue reading

Exploration of the Davisburg State Wildlife Area

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Situational Awareness. That is the one item you must have with you before setting foot in the Davisburg State Wildlife Area. Never heard of this beautiful wildland gem in Springfield Township? Most people have not. If you are looking for a place with a trail system, signage, established parking lots, creature comforts, and other hikers, this is not the place for you. Want to get lost? This might be the place. The landscape has diverse terrain with rolling hills, abundant wetlands, including murky soils that can just about suck boots off your feet, an icy cold stream, a wooded swamp, a hidden lake and excellent habitat for our federally protected swamp rattler, the eastern massasauga rattlesnake. And don’t forget patches of poison sumac at a face-slapping height and skin-scratching thorns. 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

A Night to Remember

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

A spectacular sunset accompanied by the primordial symphony of Sandhill Cranes settling in for the night was the crowning and most memorable moment of my spring-embracing adventure last Friday evening. That “wilder side” adventure however started four hours earlier in the Goose Meadow parking lot of the 5,900 acre Highland State Recreation Area in White Lake Township.

Flashback four hours. Continue reading