Sap’s Still Running in Oakland County!

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Legends crediting Native Americans with the “discovery” of maple sap flow into our history as easily as sap drips into a bucket on a sunny day on the dawn of spring. My favorite maple sap legend embraces the ways of nature, and salutes the keen observations of the first Americans. It goes something like this: Squirrels licking at sap, dripping from broken sugar maple twigs, in the waning days of winter attracted the attention of Native Americans. The liquid was collected to use in cooking and the process of evaporation sweetened the sap. The rest is history. I accept that as factual, for I often note “sapsicles” forming from broken maple twigs as the duel between winter and spring accelerates. I have also witnessed squirrels lapping at this gift of nature. When hiking in the early days of spring, I follow the behavior of squirrels and sample the trailside treats.

Photo Credit: Library of Congress

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Navigating Nature Centers in Oakland County

If you’d like to learn about the wilds surrounding your everyday life, you’ll love our map of nature centers in Oakland County. This interactive map, created by Oakland County’s award-winning GIS team, will lead you on a journey across the county, from center to center, helping you plan a trip to any one of these great locations to learn about the natural world. Sunshine or rain, summer or winter, these nature centers are there for you to help grow your pool of knowledge!

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Heritage Park in Farmington Hills. Photo credit: Jonathan Schechter

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Hiking the “Hiker T. Moose”

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Hiker T. Moose, that’s the name of a trail, not a moose that hikes. This was my destination on the wilder side of Oakland County two weeks ago under a quiet gray sky, a scene enlivened by serenading songbirds birds, the emergence of woodland wildflowers, and the overhead flight of Sandhill Cranes. Almost six years had passed since my last trek on that oddly named trail and back then my exploration was on cross-country skis. On that day the shoreline of the Shiawassee River was laced in ice and all but obscured in swirling snows. And just like back then, there were no encounters with moose this time either along that meandering portal to nature’s way known as the “Hiker T. Moose” trail.

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NATURE•SCIENCE•EDUCATION – And a Cabin in the Woods

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The morning was perfect for a winter exploration. Fresh snow fell much of the night and continued well into dawn. My trailhead greeting party consisted of cascades of accumulated snow sliding off the boughs of white pine trees, and what sounded like the excited warning chatter of an eastern fox squirrel. I stopped to assess the situation.

Squirrels don’t just sit on tree branches talking to themselves. I decided the squirrel’s concern was the motionless Cooper’s Hawk that I noted seconds earlier perched on a nearby tree. I trudged forward, the hawk flew off, and the squirrel scampered down about ten feet, leapt over to another branch and continued to watch me closely. Perhaps the chatter was a welcoming greeting for me after all. I chattered back and we shared pleasantries for a few moments.

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Groundhog Day and Signs of Spring: Fallacies, Facts, and Fun

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

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THE BIG DAY IS ALMOST HERE! Crowds will soon gather around televisions for the final countdown. When will he appear? What will he do? Punxsutawney Phil, the furry weatherman from Pennsylvania has been slumbering in his hibernating den since late autumn. But on February 2nd Phil will stop procrastinating and make a statement at Gobblers Knob in front of an array of cameras. As crowds surge forward for a better view, he will yawn once or twice, and then without further ado will predict the weather. If he sees his shadow, he dives back into his den and we have six more weeks of winter. If there is no shadow, he lounges topside and that signals that spring will soon embrace the countryside. It’s a great tall tale, and Phil always has a 50% chance of being right.  Continue reading