A Bonus Hike Through Cedar River Nature Sanctuary

By Dave Wendling

Cedar River Nature Sanctuary

A glimpse of the Cedar River.

Monday, July 16:  Whenever I travel in Michigan I try to visit MNA sanctuaries that are in the area.  On this trip I was able to visit the Cedar River Nature Sanctuary while I was in the northern part of the L.P. This remote 80-acre sanctuary in Antrim County has three habitats—river, cedar swamp, and deciduous woods.

When I got out of the car at the sanctuary the first thing that I heard was the Cedar River as it flowed under the bridge.  The river is one of the few remaining classic small trout streams left in Michigan. I was pleased to find a marked trail along the river and through the cedar swamp.  I found myself walking quietly on a cushion of mosses and liverworts that covered the ground and the moist logs that were in various stages of decay.  Add to this the meadows of ferns, the cedar trees, the birds singing, and the river, babbling in places and quiet in others, and it felt like I was in a magical place.

I spent so much time exploring the river and cedar swamp that I did not have time to visit the deciduous woods that makes up the remainder of the sanctuary.  There is something special about spending time in nature by yourself with no modern distractions.  Do not catch “Nature Deficit Disorder”; join us at some of the remaining Odyssey events or sign up for MNA’s Fall Adventure and visit several northern Michigan sanctuaries including the beautiful and secluded Cedar River Nature Sanctuary.

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The Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary and the Niagara Escarpment

By Tina Patterson and Dave Wendling

Purple Coneflower

The purple coneflower that Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary is known for. Photo by Marianne Glosenger

Sunday, July 15, was an especially hot day for the U.P. as we welcomed new Odyssey participants and reunited with some of our favorite folks from previous sanctuaries at the Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary near Brevort.  We were especially grateful to Board members Aubrey Golden and Gisela Lendle King who joined us at the Dye. This was our 11th Odyssey stop, and there was very different terrain than we had experienced previously. Our first “north of the Bridge” sanctuary did not disappoint as we quickly spotted a profusion of the pale purple coneflowers that this sanctuary is known for. A variety of butterflies were visiting the coneflowers along with some other flowers that were hanging on in this dry and hot summer like wild bergamot, black eyed Susan, and pale spiked lobelia.  It was also interesting seeing tamaracks growing here.

Aubrey, who is also the president of the Michigan Karst Conservancy, was a wealth of information as he helped lead us through this sanctuary.  Sitting on the exposed dolomite he explained how the cracks and caverns are formed and how unique these geological formations are.  He explained that the exposed bedrock here is part of the Niagara Escarpment and consists of dolomite (limestone with the addition of magnesium) formed from sediment of the Silurian age.  Of interest is that the same escarpment forms Niagara Falls and Drummond Island. The geological feature called karst is easily seen here because the bedrock is exposed, and the cracks in the dolomite are evident. Water drains into these cracks which further erodes the rock over long periods of time. Many species of lichen and mosses grow on the exposed dolomite, including the foam lichen. Thank you, Aubrey, for sharing your knowledge and enhancing our experience here.

Karst at Fred Dye

A glimpse of the karst geology at Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Dave Wendling

For a great description of this area and the pioneering town of Kenneth, now a ghost town, please see MNA’s Sanctuary Guidebook. There is some fascinating history surrounding this sanctuary.

At the conclusion of our tour people scattered in a variety of directions, some to visit other sanctuaries, others to return to tents and campgrounds, while still others went on a mission to find that perfect U.P. pasty.  We can’t wait to go back to the Yoop in September to explore four more wondrous MNA sanctuaries.  Won’t you join us?

Check out MNA’s Flickr for additional photos from the visit to Fred Dye!

A Hike Through Estivant Pines

By Nancy Leonard

Hikers amongst the towering trees

Hikers amongst the towering trees. Photo by Nancy Leonard

On July 21st, steward Hannah Rooks led an enthusiastic group of 28 hikers through the 508-acre Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary that protects one of the last remaining stands of old growth forest in Michigan.  As the daughter of well-known naturalist Jim Rooks, (the nearby James Dorion Rooks Memorial Sanctuary is named in memory of him), Hannah brought the added dimension of sanctuary history to this gathering.  Along the trail, she shared some of the stories that her dad told her as she tagged along on outings.  One recollection of a moment in the history of the sanctuary was particularly poignant and the group reacted accordingly.  Hannah pointed out the very spot where her father had stood, with legal papers in hand, to block the encroaching lumbering operations that would have taken these grand old trees.

Lunch Break

The group stops for a lunch break on the Memorial Grove loop. Photo by Nancy Leonard

We listened for birds, compared bilberries to huckleberries that grow side by side, and admired blooming orchids. On the Cathedral Grove loop, Hannah pointed out a prehistoric mining pit, dug some 4,000 years ago by indigenous people searching for copper. She led us down a side trail to an old mid-19th century mining camp where we viewed a few remaining relics. We continued on to the  Bertha Daubendiek Memorial Grove Trail and stopped to pay homage to Bertha in the Memorial Grove.  A little further on, picnic lunches were shared as we rested on smooth rock outcroppings, a favorite stopping point on the Memorial Grove loop.

Along the trail, we had passed trees growing here for centuries…..towering white pines, red oaks, maples, birches, and hemlocks.  No matter how often one visits this sanctuary, the old-growth giants never fail to inspire the fortunate visitor.

If you’d like to experience the majestic pines for yourself, MNA’s 60th Anniversary Odyssey Tour visits Estivant Pines on Saturday, September 29 at 1 p.m. All are welcome to participate in a tour of the sanctuary and anniversary celebration. Visit the MNA website for details or to RSVP.

Kayaking the Les Cheneaux Islands

By Dave Wendling and Tina Patterson

Kayak Tour Group

The wonderful group of kayakers! Photo by Marilyn Keigley

On July 14, fifteen MNA members and two guides began, for many MNA members, their first kayak trip. At 10 a.m. we all gathered in quaint Hessel, Michigan, to meet Jessie Hadley (owner/operator of Woods and Water Ecotours) and her assistant for the day, Jake, a personable young man who had just arrived from Illinois to work with Jessie for the summer. We also got to know Adrienne Bozic, MNA’s Regional Stewardship Organizer for the UP, as she joined us in the kayak adventure. You can meet her too, if you join us on the Odyssey stop at Twin Waterfalls on September 25, since she will be leading the hike.

Tina is an experienced kayaker, but this being my first time I appreciated the comprehensive orientation, lifejackets, and the care that was taken to get first-time kayakers ready for the guided tour through the quiet bay.  With lunch provided by Jessie, we took a break on Marquette Island where some took advantage of the exceptionally hot weather to take a dip in the warm waters of Lake Huron.

Kayakers

Having a great time! Photo by Jan Wanetick

Following lunch we continued our trip into a shallow marsh area where we learned of the cooperation between many nature organizations (including MNA) to keep this area free from degradation. Passive use of the lake and marsh is being encouraged because of its critical role for spawning fish, migratory birds, and waterfowl.  We were delighted to see great blue herons, a bald eagle, and other birds using the area.

Jessie explained to us what “ecotourism” is and how it promotes travel to natural areas to help people understand the cultural and natural history of the environment, taking care not to alter the integrity of the ecosystem while producing economic opportunities that make the conservation of natural resources beneficial to the local people.  She explained how she works closely with local businesses and homeowners to make environmental tourism beneficial to their local economy.  MNA supports these efforts, as we all should.  One way to do this is to participate in one of their wonderful outings and nature programs which include kayaking, hiking, snowshoeing, biking, and even snorkeling.  Contact Jessie for a program that fits your interest and skill level.  Custom trips can even be arranged.  What a wonderful way to learn about Michigan’s natural wonders.  There are also, of course, many outings through MNA as well.

Adrienne Bozic

MNA’s Adrienne Bozic enjoys a beautiful day on the water. Photo by Marilyn Keigley

Returning at 3 p.m., we were glad to get back to shore as thunder rumbled in the distance.  MNA participant comments included, “My first trip on a kayak but not my last”, “I am going to go buy a kayak”, “Awesome, can’t wait to come back”, “I didn’t know it would be this much fun”, and “This was so much easier than I thought it would be.”  Thanks to our great guides, Jessie and Jake, our photographers Marilyn and Jan, and to all the MNA members for coming out to experience a great day, learn a new skill, and make new friends.

For an album of photos from the trip, visit the MNA Flickr page.

MNA and Woods and Water Ecotours are working to put together another some kayak outings for next summer and fall. Keep your eye out for details!

MNA’s Swamp Lakes Moose Refuge Impacted by Duck Lake Fire

By Adrienne Bozic and Chelsea Richardson

Swamp Lakes Moose Refuge Fire Damage

Some of the fire damage at Swamp Lakes Moose Refuge. Photo by Adrienne Bozic

On May 23, a lightning strike sparked a wildfire that burned more than 21,000 acres in the eastern Upper Peninsula, the third largest Michigan wildfire in modern history. This fire burned for 20 days before it was considered 100 percent contained.

The toll on local homeowners was devastating; the fire destroyed 136 structures, including 47 homes, a store, and the famous Rainbow Lodge at the mouth of the Two Hearted River. The fire stretched all the way to Lake Superior, almost thirteen miles north of its southern extent. At final tally, the fire burned 21,069 acres, making it the third-largest wildfire in modern Michigan history after the 25,000-acre Mack Lake Fire (1980) and the 72,000-acre Seney Fire (1976).

A total of 300 personnel assisted with the Duck Lake Fire, building 42.6 miles of fire line, almost half of them dug by hand. Cooperating agencies included the Michigan State Police, Luce County Sheriff’s Department, Luce County Emergency Management, Wisconsin DNR, American Red Cross and Salvation Army. Many news reports noted that Luce County and Newberry residents would line the streets in the evening as fire personnel drove home for the night, cheering loudly and holding signs thanking them for their hard work.

Bracken Fern Sprouting

Some signs of life at the sanctuary as bracken fern sprouts from the soil. Photo by Adrienne Bozic

Many natural areas in Luce County were affected by the fire, which can have potentially positive ecological responses in fire-adapted ecosystems such as those found in the Duck Lake fire area. Many ecosystems throughout Michigan are fire-dependent and require periodic fire to maintain their specific ecology and function. According to the DNR website, prescribed fire is also used to maintain habitats such as prairies. Many endangered species depend on warm season grasses and prairie remnants for their survival. Fire is also used to maintain large openings and oak savannahs. Savannahs are open, park-like areas with scattered trees. These areas need periodic fires to keep brush and trees from turning them into a forest.

A portion of MNA’s Swamp Lakes Moose Refuge was burned in the Duck Lake fire. On June 26, MNA’s Upper Peninsula Regional Stewardship Organizer Adrienne Bozic visited the sanctuary to survey the fire damage. Approximately 40 acres of the 160-acre sanctuary were affected, mainly along the southern tier of the property. The fire exhibited interesting behavior south of Pike Lake, possibly due to varying forest types present which have differing levels of combustibility and burn at different rates. For example, in Swamp Lakes, the fire abruptly stopped at areas dominated by broad-leaved hardwoods such as maple, which presumably formed a fire break of less-flammable material. Continue reading

Michigan’s Unusually Warm Summer: Climate Change or Just Weather?

By Chelsea Richardson

2012 Duck Lake Fire

Some of the wildfire damage at Swamp Lakes Moose Refuge.

With all of the extremely hot, dry weather we’ve been having this summer in Michigan, many people are wondering what is going on. Some argue that it’s global warming and others argue that it’s just a hot summer, but here at the Michigan Nature Association we were curious about what the experts were saying about this topic.

Michigan weatherman Jake Dunne talked about the weather back in March; he said “Folks, we are in the midst of a HISTORICAL run of weather… an event that will put March of 2012 in the record books, not to mention a month that will be talked about for decades.” No one could have predicted the string of over 100 degree days we would be getting. Scientists won’t say if global warming is the cause of these 100 degree days or if it’s responsible for the 3,215 daily record high temperatures that were set in June. Linking individual weather events to climate change takes a lot of time along with intensive study, complicated mathematics, and computer models.

According to an article in Time Science, since 1988 climate scientists have warned that climate change would happen. Along with the heat rising, it would also bring more droughts, more sudden downpours, and more widespread wildfires.  So far this year 2.1 million acres have been burned by wildfires. MNA’s Swamp Lake Moose Refuge Sanctuary was affected by the Duck Lake fire in the U.P.; a good portion was completely burned (we’ll talk more about this in a blog post later in the week).

Sometimes weather conditions like this are not caused by global warming, although it is too early to say exactly what the cause of this freak weather is, weather is variable and weird things happen. While at least 15 climate scientists told The Associated Press that this long hot U.S. summer is consistent with what is to be expected in global warming, history is full of such extremes, said John Christy at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He’s a global warming skeptic who says, “The guilty party in my view is Mother Nature.”

Brad Garmon, director of conservation and emerging issues at the Michigan Environmental Council, wants everyone to “start reading up on this stuff; it’s going to happen more often in the decades to come, whether we like it or not.”

Though the experts disagree on what is causing the extreme weather conditions, one thing is certain: organizations like MNA must continue to work to protect and maintain Michigan’s special natural areas, a task that can be harder in extreme weather. If you’d like to help, consider joining MNA for a volunteer day to help out at a sanctuary near you.

June 24 Botany Walk in the Keweenaw

By Nancy Leonard, Keweenaw Shores II Steward

Purple-Fringed Orchid

Lesser Purple-Fringed Orchid. Photo by Nancy Leonard

Twenty-seven people joined Karena Schmidt and myself for a Sunday afternoon of botanizing at Keweenaw Shores II at Dan’s Point in the Keweenaw.  This Class C plant preserve is on an ancient conglomerate beach at the northernmost edge of the Keweenaw Peninsula.  Tilted rocks and hidden crags create depressions for collected water but also provide high and dry exposures. An unusually large number of plant species ranging from bog plants to those preferring exposed dry rock as their home can be found here.

Although we were concerned with such a large number of explorers having a negative impact on a sensitive area, our worries soon diminished as enthusiastic botanizers spread out naturally in small groups, moving with great care across the rough beach terrain. Before entering the preserve, we had reviewed the importance and fragile nature of the preserve, what plants might be found here and their ranking, and how best to navigate without doing harm.

The showiest find of the day was the Lesser Purple-Fringed Orchid  (Platanthera psychodes).  In a good year, dozens of these colorful orchids can be found here.

Common Butterwort

Common Butterwort. Photo by Nancy Leonard

The Pale Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja septentrionalis), a state-ranked threatened plant, was in bloom and everyone was thrilled at their abundance to be found here.

Even though the bloom time had passed for the tiny insect-devouring Common Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris), a plant of special concern, a few still-blooming plants were discovered in a protected place beside a liverwort.  The lichen-covered rock captivated some members of the group and Karena readily shared her knowledge of lichen lore with them.

Weather-wise, the day was just as perfect.  A slight breeze off Lake Superior kept participants cool and comfortable even though it was sunny.  Most were reluctant, even after more than two hours of exploring, to leave this beautiful preserve.

If you’d like to join MNA on a field trip at a sanctuary near you, visit MNA’s Calendar of Events. We hope to see you in the field!