“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 →
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.
“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” Aldo Leopold
If Leopold was still living I believe I would have greatly enjoyed his company on my “Walk to Big Valley.” It was my first introduction to an eye-opening, nature-embracing 157-acre Michigan Nature Association sanctuary, hidden away amidst the glacially sculpted rolling hills of Rose Township, one of Oakland County’s most rural townships, a township with 25 lakes and just under 6,500 residents. Had Leopold reached the bluff that serves as a natural overlook of the sanctuary I am rather certain he would have smiled and thanked those who worked so diligently for the Big Valley’s acquisition and protection. Continue reading →
Dismal, dreary, forbidding, impassable, impenetrable and treacherous. Those words have all been used to describe swamps. Just say the word “swamp” and the first image some conjure up is a muddy mire “infested” with mosquitos, alligators and snakes: a wetland that must be drained to make it safe for humans. However, swamps are in many ways like giant sponges that hold water, replenish aquifers, sustain life and keep our landscape healthy.
Rains on the first day of May accelerated the growth of delicate woodland wildflowers and the spring prize of the fungi world, morel mushrooms. It sent frogs to every puddle and pond, and skunks meandering for grubs at dusk. May sees Sandhill Cranes and Osprey back on their nests. Turkey Vultures now perch on rural barn roofs to catch the morning sun. Turtles bask on logs and goslings explore their shoreline world. Snapping turtles and northern water snakes swim through the shallows. Fawns wobble in dappled sunlight, and beavers come on shore in the cover of darkness to fell trees for their home improvement projects. This is the way of the magical month of growth and birth and renewal, a month we call May, a time to discover and share nature’s way. Continue reading →