A Night to Remember


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

Mystery of Stony Creek’s Osprey Trail

A photograph of three interpretive signs and their wooden posts in Stony Creek Metropark. Two smaller signs to the left show maps. A large dark brown wooden sign on the right shows an arrow pointing up. The text reads: Osprey Trail 1.8. Mile Loop. Underneath in a smaller font, it reads: Primitive Trail-Foot Traffic Only Expect Wet Areas-Uneven Ground and Minor Obstacles Follow Blue Dots


“Get that ‘up north’ feeling without leaving the suburbs at top-rated Stony Creek Metropark. Extending across Oakland and Macomb counties, the park’s 4,435 scenic acres abound with opportunity for outdoor recreation all year-long” (Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority). There’s so much more than an up north feeling that Stony Creek offers, but just the words “up north feeling” was enough of a reminder for me to head back to the eastern edge of our county for a final hike of summer. Continue reading

Oakland County’s Yellow-Necked Reptile: The Blanding’s Turtle!

Blanding's Turtle

Wilder Side of Oakland County

Looking for a yellow-necked timid dinosaur? I’ve got the next best thing: A Blanding’s turtle! Signs of these ancient creatures may be a slow-moving dome lumbering across the road or a mysterious shell appearing like a glistening algae coated rock at the edge of a marsh. If the turtle’s long neck is extended and the dazzling golden-yellow throat and chin are exposed, the confirmation is certain, you are viewing a Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii); a “Species of Special Concern” in the State of Michigan. Species of special concern are generally described as:

“any species of fish or wildlife that does not meet the criteria as endangered or threatened but is particularly vulnerable and could become a threatened, endangered or extirpated species due to restricted distribution, low or declining numbers, specialized habitat needs or limits, or other factors, or is a species likely deserving of threatened or endangered status, but for which insufficient data are currently available.”

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Leopards in the Grass

Leopards in the Grass


Summer is almost here, it’s the season leopards stalk through moist meadows and tall grass fields in search of prey. They are stealthy, well-camouflaged predators with powerful legs, keen eyesight, and voracious appetites. If prey comes within range, leg muscles tighten and in a lightning fast move, they lunge forward and strike; for that’s what ambush predators of all sizes do. Whether it be a bone-crushing leopard at Serengeti National Park in the wilds of Tanzania or a bug-swallowing northern leopard frog with a long sticky tongue on the wilder side of Oakland County.

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Earth Day Weekend in “The Boonies”

Boonies Hike


On Earth Day weekend almost 300 Boy Scouts gathered for two nights of camping near Big Fish Lake in the Ortonville State Recreation Area for the 10th annual Boonies Hike. None of the young participants or many of the leaders were alive for that first Earth Day, held on April 22nd, 1970. It was an era when Americans were slowly becoming aware of environmental concerns and the need to take action. It was a time when rivers were so thick with oils that some burned. Massive V8 engines swallowed enormous amounts of leaded gasoline. Factories spewed rivers of chemicals and sludge without fear of much in the way of environmental or legal consequences. Scouting was a welcoming gateway to a changing outdoor world.

The need for environmental awareness accelerates again today as the world of scouting continues to move forward. This wilder side tale really starts with Boy Scout Troop 139 based in Ortonville. Scoutmaster Jeff Hafnt explained to his troop that he always liked hiking and exploring the 5,430 acres of Ortonville State Recreation Area. He explained this troop is the most northerly located troop of the Pontiac-Manito District of the Great Lakes Field Service Council. Ten years have passed since Hafnt invited more southerly located troops to join them “in the boonies” for a big day hike and the title stuck. The annual hiking event soon turned into a weekend long nature-embracing camping event. Michigan Department of Natural Resources gave the nod to allow the scouts to tent at Big Fish Lake. I was invited to hike with them for their grand 10th anniversary hike.

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