Leopards in the Grass

Leopards in the Grass

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Summer is almost here, it’s the season leopards stalk through moist meadows and tall grass fields in search of prey. They are stealthy, well-camouflaged predators with powerful legs, keen eyesight, and voracious appetites. If prey comes within range, leg muscles tighten and in a lightning fast move, they lunge forward and strike; for that’s what ambush predators of all sizes do. Whether it be a bone-crushing leopard at Serengeti National Park in the wilds of Tanzania or a bug-swallowing northern leopard frog with a long sticky tongue on the wilder side of Oakland County.

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Getting Lost in Nature at Camp Agawam

Camp Agawam

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Camp Agawam, located in the heart of Orion Township is one of the newest kids on the “nature block” when it comes to easily accessible multi-use parks enriched with heavy doses of natural wildness and existing infrastructure. Agawam is on the south side of Clarkston Road between Joslyn Road and M-24 and was previously owned and operated by the Boy Scouts of America. In 2014, Orion Township took ownership and it’s now managed by Orion Township Parks and Recreation. Upgrades and improvements are underway and this very attractive park won’t be a secret much longer.

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The Hunt for Morel Mushrooms is On Again!

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The hunt for elusive morel mushrooms is underway. With a bit of knowledge, and the willingness to walk slowly while scanning the forest floor, your gourmet reward of fantastic fungi might just be sizzling in a frying pan before the lilacs bloom.

Safety First: If you are not 100% certain you actually found a morel mushroom, don’t eat it. That is just common sense. A Facebook posting may not be the best way to make a positive identification. Morel mushrooms vary in size, color and sometimes shape. And of course never mix different kinds of mushrooms in your collection bag. Michigan State University Extension has identified at least 50 types of poisonous mushrooms found in Michigan, among them the false morels.

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Hawk Woods – Not Just For The Birds!

Hawk Woods

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The distant din of traffic from M-24 and I-75 was barely audible when I heard a rather odd sound. It seemed to come from a small pond nestled away on the west side of Bald Mountain Road in Auburn Hills. It sounded something like a hoarse frog struggling to sing an unknown melody. I knew it wasn’t a spring peeper, wood frog, or chorus frog, the three species most likely to have been singing in the last weeks of April. I tried to peer through a thick wall of invasive phragmites for a better view of the hidden songster, but had no luck. As I advanced off trail, my steps made a crunching noise on dried sticks. Then, in a burst of speed and flurry of wings the “frog” and his companion erupted into flight. That’s how my unforgettable and most delightful early morning exploration of the 80-acre Hawk Woods Nature Center began.

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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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