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.
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.