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.

Continue reading

An Early Morning Lake Sixteen Environmental Adventure

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

150 Tennis Balls, 91-Acres of Water, 18 Volunteers, and the Ghost of Mastodons: An Early Morning Lake Sixteen Environmental Adventure

Oakland County would be a lesser place if it was not for our beautiful lakes, wetlands, rivers and streams. With those thoughts in mind, I loaded my kayak onto the roof of my jeep on the last Wednesday of August for a bit of participatory, investigative reporting on Lake Sixteen.

The early morning fog lifted just as I pulled into the small parking area near a fishing pier and a non-motorized boat launch site on Lake Sixteen, a 91-acre lake on the east side of Orion Oaks County Park. Lake Sixteen is one of the hundreds, or some say more than a thousand local lakes that sparkle in the early morning light of fading summer. Here’s what Oakland County’s Prosper Magazine wrote last October about the numerous lakes that enrich our lives, and provide diverse habitat for hundreds of species of wildlife and great outdoor recreation for residents of our county.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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

Independence North: The Northern Jewel Of Independence Oaks County Park

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

My early morning hike of solitude on a sultry summer day at Independence Oaks County Park – North was a near magical experience. Wispy cirrus clouds added definition to the clear blue sky. Spider webs sparkled with diamonds of dew. Sandhill cranes trumpeted from a wet meadow. An American Goldfinch and an Eastern Kingbird perched in treetops to bask in sunlight, as did a Red-tailed Hawk high up on a transmission line tower. The music of crickets and the rustle of aspen leaves in the morning’s gentle breeze softened the rumble of traffic on nearby Sashabaw Road. That all happened in the first ten minutes last Sunday morning. The next ten minutes were well-spent grazing on juicy blackberries, suffering some significant scratches in the process. A sudden faint buzzing sound near the base of the shrubs made me wonder if there was a hidden cicada down low. Or perhaps, just perhaps, an Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake thought I was too close. The blackberry thicket would be a good place for a rattler to ambush a mouse. So I hiked on, that mystery unsolved. Continue reading