A Winter Season Appetizer?

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

On the sunny afternoon of Friday, November 9th, I hiked the heavily wooded northern section of the Ortonville State Recreation Area and was surprised to discover thin layers of ice had formed on small hidden lakes located between the steep hills of this State protected wildland. Dry leaves, pushed by gentle winds, seemingly danced across the frozen surfaces and my hiking companion and I joked that it almost looked like winter arrived early, especially when we noted traces of snow from the night before on fallen logs and fungi. Continue reading

Hike for Your Health at Ortonville State Recreation Area!

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of autumn.”

John Muir’s memorable words inspire adventurers to hike, and that’s a good thing. Hiking is excellent for our health and general well-being, and it doesn’t require a gym membership or any expensive equipment to get started. Being out in fresh air and away from the chaos of our daily lives, the frustration of traffic jams, and distracting technology allow us to reconnect with nature’s way, and that creates a feeling of peace and a sense of well-being. And any hike through a beautiful forested area, even when trails may be slippery as the duel between winter and spring accelerates, can calm nerves and lift our spirits. Hiking is also fun! Continue reading

Earth Day Weekend in “The Boonies”

Boonies Hike

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

On Earth Day weekend almost 300 Boy Scouts gathered for two nights of camping near Big Fish Lake in the Ortonville State Recreation Area for the 10th annual Boonies Hike. None of the young participants or many of the leaders were alive for that first Earth Day, held on April 22nd, 1970. It was an era when Americans were slowly becoming aware of environmental concerns and the need to take action. It was a time when rivers were so thick with oils that some burned. Massive V8 engines swallowed enormous amounts of leaded gasoline. Factories spewed rivers of chemicals and sludge without fear of much in the way of environmental or legal consequences. Scouting was a welcoming gateway to a changing outdoor world.

The need for environmental awareness accelerates again today as the world of scouting continues to move forward. This wilder side tale really starts with Boy Scout Troop 139 based in Ortonville. Scoutmaster Jeff Hafnt explained to his troop that he always liked hiking and exploring the 5,430 acres of Ortonville State Recreation Area. He explained this troop is the most northerly located troop of the Pontiac-Manito District of the Great Lakes Field Service Council. Ten years have passed since Hafnt invited more southerly located troops to join them “in the boonies” for a big day hike and the title stuck. The annual hiking event soon turned into a weekend long nature-embracing camping event. Michigan Department of Natural Resources gave the nod to allow the scouts to tent at Big Fish Lake. I was invited to hike with them for their grand 10th anniversary hike.

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Northern Border: A Year’s End Salute to Hiking

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

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Sixty-five! That’s how many times I set out on a trail within the boundaries of Oakland County this year. Most were short meanders of three or four miles that followed designated trails in our Oakland County Parks, the Huron Clinton Metroparks or wildlands managed by local units of government. Some hikes were adventuresome treks of ten or more miles in our State Recreation Areas and State Parks managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. All were pleasurable, even when mosquitos swarmed, thunder rumbled, the mercury plunged, or humidity glued my shirt to my chest. Song birds sang, snakes slithered, owls hooted, turkeys trotted, Sandhill cranes trumpeted, turtles sun bathed, and once at dusk a coyote yipped. On a snowy day, both a cardinal and a deer froze for photos as I meandered close by both of them. It was a good year and I met people who shared the passion of the wilder side of nature’s way. Continue reading