A Park on a River, Placemaking, and Pizza

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

One hundred and ninety-six years have passed by since Aaron Webster became the first permanent European settler along the banks of the Clinton River in what is now the City of Auburn Hills. He died of typhoid fever just two years later in the summer of 1823, but before his death he constructed a dam on the river that captured the power of the water’s flow to operate a saw mill.  The timber from his saw mill was then was used to build a grist mill to grind grain. That’s how Auburn Hills began.

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Secrets of the Lakeshore Trail

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The Lakeshore Trail of Holly State Recreation Area does not qualify as the “path less travelled,” or as wilderness, but if you wish to explore a small slice of the wilder side of Oakland County in the closing weeks of summer, this two-and-a-half mile natural surface loop trail will not disappoint. You need not be a tree-hugging naturalist to enjoy the natural beauty and secrets of the trail, which embraces the shoreline of Wildwood and Valley Lakes, but a spirit of adventure—and a bit of sure-footedness—will help. The State Recreation Area, though located in Oakland County, is managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and a Recreation Passport sticker is required for vehicular entry.

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Palate Pleasing Secrets Of Staghorn Sumac

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

It was late summer in the rolling hills of Western New York State when I came upon the sun-soaked field of staghorn sumac that accelerated my path of nature education after a near stumble. Back then I was a long-haired, bearded 20-year-old. I was happy to be the nature specialist for Camp Lakeland during my summer break from college, but I was even more excited to share “nature’s lemonade” with kids on their hikes. My hair is a lot shorter now, but my foraging enthusiasm remains. This little flashback to Camp Lakeland is necessary to set the stage for this tale from the wilder side, for in the world of nature all things are connected. Continue reading

Mighty Multi-Use Mullein: A.K.A. Rabbit Ears!

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) has been involved in an ongoing relationship with humankind for thousands of years. Greek legends say that Ulysses was given a mullein stalk by ancient gods to defend himself against the ways of Circe. Circe was the beautiful enchantress who turned the companions of Ulysses into swine. Pliny the Elder, of the early Roman Empire, linked mullein to witches, while others from his day believed the plant would ward off curses and evil spirits. Mullein remains a noxious weed to some modern-day humans, but a plant of great beauty that is respected for its medicinal and near-magical powers by others. The plant is very much a part of our Oakland County landscape, but sadly it is often passed by unnoticed.

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A Shiawassee Basin Preserve Early Morning Adventure

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Black-eyed Susan

A few fireflies still twinkled on the dark side of dawn as I prepared to head to the Shiawassee Basin Preserve, a 515-acre sanctuary managed by Springfield Township Parks and Recreation. My plan last Saturday morning was simple. Drive 20 miles from my house to the Village of Davisburg and then head north on Eaton Road to the northernmost access point of this heavily wooded, glacially sculpted preserve to capture summer sunrise images and trail tales amidst its moraines, meadows and wetlands. Things did not go as I planned, but sometimes that happens when exploring on the wilder side of Oakland County.

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