Hiking the Boonies

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Hiking with Boy Scouts is never a quiet event. It just does not work out that way. And if the hike is an off trail adventure in “the boonies” of a snow-covered hardwood swamp, with each footstep crunching in snow or crackling over partially frozen puddles, you can be assured every deer and coyote will flee at the not so stealthy approach. Extremely fresh tracks in the snow confirmed my assumptions that our intrusion was quickly detected. But before I share this tale of an adventure like none other I have been on in my three decades in our county, I will mention Sammy, the six year old that hiked with us. He was quiet most of the time and very proudly crossed tiny creeks with a bit of parental help and was attentive to the surrounding landscape. His moment of pure joy was climbing up onto the seat of a rusted bulldozer that held half century old secrets about a peat harvesting operation in Oakland County.

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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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Be Thankful for Our “Wilder Side” Lands

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Oakland County has a diverse array of protected wildlands and hundreds of miles of trails, thanks first to the forces of nature, and then to the dedicated work of planners and civil engineers, and finally the support of trail advocates and the general public. And so today, on this Thanksgiving week, I’ll profile ten of my favorite wilder side sites for outdoor adventure and “nature embracing” in any season of the year, starting with Kensington Metropark.

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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