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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Wild Moments with Winter Trumpeters

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Seeing a Trumpeter Swan for the very first time can be an unforgettable and beautiful experience. They are truly majestic birds with snowy white feathers; jet-black bills, feet, and legs; and a wingspan of almost eight feet. They are stunning, even when at rest on an icy creek or at the edge of a partially frozen pond. Not that long ago, it was next to impossible to view a trumpeter anywhere in Michigan, let alone in Oakland County. Continue reading

“First Day” in a Swamp of Beauty and Mystery

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“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

Nature’s Way Almanac 2020

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

January

January is the month that some lament the onslaught of winter storms, but for those that love the ways of nature, it’s a month of grand adventure and discovery. It’s a time to hike and breathe deeply under evergreen trees and, if Mother Nature cooperates, snowshoe on backcountry trails. It’s a refreshing time of renewal. Pileated Woodpeckers, our red-crested forest giant and the largest woodpecker of North America, chisel deep rectangular shaped holes into dead trees in their search for carpenter ants and other meaty morsels. January 10th bring us the wolf moon. There are no wolves in Oakland County, but listen for the night howling and yips of eastern coyotes that have adapted to our ways on that full moon night. January is full speed ahead for cottontail rabbits. Some scrounge under bird feeders for food while others stay hidden under shrubs, venturing about after dark in a world full of predators. Continue reading

Winter Solstice Wonders

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The arrival of astronomical winter, the Winter Solstice that occurred on Saturday, December 21st at 11:19 p.m. EST, reminded me that the phrase, “the dead of winter” is an oxymoron. Winter is never dead, a fact that comes to life with excitement for those that make an effort to enjoy the wilder side of our county during the days of diminished daylight, days when even those that do not arise early can watch spectacular sunrises at 8 a.m. Winter brings treasures of nature to be discovered, from sparkling ice under clear blue skies to eastern bluebirds fluffed up against biting winds, and of course the deep soft hoot of Great Horned Owls, sometimes accompanied by the yips and howls of our “song dogs,” the eastern coyotes that have colonized our county.

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