By Dave Wendling and Tina Patterson
Hamilton Township Coastal Plain Marsh: April 30, Monday
Can one person truly make a difference in the world? If your name is Charlie Goodrich, you already have and continue to do so. Charlie has dedicated his life to the Hamilton Township Coastal Plain Marsh in a huge way. If you are walking on a trail there, Charlie carved it out. On a boardwalk? Charlie built it. Sitting on a bench and relaxing? Charlie put that there, too. Sometimes family and friends help Charlie in his work, but the hand of Mr. Goodrich is everywhere. His dedication and enthusiasm is boundless, and when he is not working in “his” sanctuary he is working at another MNA sanctuary or helping to restore the Historic Hamilton Grange Hall which adjoins the Hamilton Coastal Plain Marsh. Oh, one more thing about Charlie – his wife Nancy made the most delicious cookies in the shape of our “mitten” with a little candy dot to show where the sanctuary is! What a yummy confection our 12 hikers had at the end of the trail.
This sanctuary consists of a 79-acre recovering woodland that surrounds a coastal plain marsh. Charlie led the hike and also gave a bit of history as to how the plants, called coastal plain disjuncts, in the marsh came to be there. Only found on the eastern seaboard, and in southwest Michigan and northern Indiana, it is believed the plants were transported here 11,000 years ago as the last of the Wisconsin glacier receded, creating a drainage channel down the Hudson River connecting Michigan with the Atlantic coastal plain. Among the rare plants that grow here are meadow beauty, tall beak-rush, bald-rush, and seedbox.
Surrounding the marsh you can find Virginia chain fern, large patches of buttonbush, and winterberry. There is a large colony of black gum trees on the eastern edge of the marsh with drooping branches and leaves that turn bright scarlet to deep red in early to mid-September.
During Charlie’s 11 years of stewardship here he has noted that the woods are slowly healing from prior lumbering and farming practices. He pointed out that some of the spring wildflowers are starting to gradually return. He has also taken note of the large variety of trees that grow here from black and pin oak to beech. He thinks that historically this area was a transition area between a climax forest and an oak savanna. As we walked the trails, we saw many other ferns, clones of clubmoss, and many other beautiful mosses. Notable were the tree apron moss, the hair cap moss, and the patches of pincushion moss.
Trillium Ravine: Bonus Hike
Despite the rain that began to fall as we ended our delightful morning at Hamilton, 8 hikers quickly got into their cars and took up our offer to see what can only be described as an awe-inspiring sight. Literally millions of trillium in bloom as far as the eye could see were at the Trillium Ravine Plant Preserve near Niles. Along with a carpet of Trillium grandiflorum (common white trillium), two red “toad trillium”, Trillium recurvatum (prairie trillium), and Trillium sessile (toadshade) are a special treat here. The wood phlox was profuse, and the Virginia waterleaf was starting to bloom as well as the wood poppy. Even while the rain poured down, the hikers did not want to leave and continued to express their thanks for the opportunity to see such an abundance of beauty. Thanks to the efforts of steward Ken Kirton, the trails were perfect, and we saw very little garlic mustard or other invasive plants.
Join the Odyssey:
If you would like MNA to coordinate a bus tour to the last two of our Odyssey hikes in the Keweenaw please call the office now, as planning needs to begin, and we must know if there is enough interest. Call (866) 223-2231 and ask to speak to Laurie or Johanna.
Be sure to join us on our next round of Odyssey hikes, beginning on June 5 at Mystery Valley Karst Preserve and Nature Sanctuary! We hope we’ll see you there!