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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A Magical Wintery Morning

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

December 1st, Sunday morning at 7:30 – Misty rain was falling across most of the county, but in the higher elevations of northernmost Oakland County, snow was winning out over the hail pellets that bounced off my porch railings. Chickadees and Downy Woodpeckers switched into a feeding frenzy mode at my window feeder in response to my offering of sunflower seeds. They were restless and so was I. I am an unabashed partisan of hiking in almost any weather, even when others would rather stay home. With that thought in mind, I called a friend who would likely be up for an early morning snowy adventure. Forty-five minutes later we were en route on back roads through a world of swirling white to the Lost Lake Nature Preserve, a 537-acre sanctuary that encompasses sections of Oakland County’s Holly Township and Genesee County’s Grand Blanc Township. It first opened to the public in the fall of 2015 and I had been there three times since then, but always as an attendee at official events sponsored by Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy (SMLC) and never in wintery weather. Continue reading

Wandering Lyon Oaks on a Winter’s Day

A man walks along a winding trail in the woods on a gloomy winter day.

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Lyon Oaks County Park is tucked away in Lyon Township in the far southwestern corner of Oakland County. It’s best known perhaps for its Arthur Hills-designed 18-hole golf course and a very popular 13-acre fenced dog park. The busy I-96 Freeway parallels the southern property line. An industrial park saddles up to a large section of its eastern perimeter, and a major underground natural gas pipeline bisects the park almost straight down the middle in a north-south orientation. With those thoughts in mind I decided to wrap up my weekly 2018 “wilder side” trail treks with a slow-paced 5.8 mile “discovery” meander at Lyon Oaks to see what secrets of nature would be exposed on a cold and heavily overcast end of December winter’s day, my first time at Lyon Oaks in over four years. Continue reading

NATURE•SCIENCE•EDUCATION – And a Cabin in the Woods

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The morning was perfect for a winter exploration. Fresh snow fell much of the night and continued well into dawn. My trailhead greeting party consisted of cascades of accumulated snow sliding off the boughs of white pine trees, and what sounded like the excited warning chatter of an eastern fox squirrel. I stopped to assess the situation.

Squirrels don’t just sit on tree branches talking to themselves. I decided the squirrel’s concern was the motionless Cooper’s Hawk that I noted seconds earlier perched on a nearby tree. I trudged forward, the hawk flew off, and the squirrel scampered down about ten feet, leapt over to another branch and continued to watch me closely. Perhaps the chatter was a welcoming greeting for me after all. I chattered back and we shared pleasantries for a few moments.

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Stony Creek’s Habitat Trail: A Winter Wonderland

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

We only had three hours to hike and Stony Creek Metropark offers 27 miles of tempting trails. That made for the most pleasant dilemma on a bright, blue sky day on the wilder side of Oakland County. With those thoughts in mind, a fellow nature enthusiast and I headed to the 2.5-mile-long Habitat Trail in the northwest corner of the park, for a slow-paced journey into nature’s way in winter.

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