By Nancy Leonard
On August 4, nine hikers joined Karena Schmidt for a day of hiking and learning at Grinnell Memorial Nature Sanctuary at Bare Bluff. This sanctuary is the home of a giant stone monolith known locally as Bare Bluff and rising almost 600 feet above Lake Superior. The hike followed the loop trail in a counter-clockwise direction allowing us to enjoy the rugged lichen-covered rhyolite bluff early on in the day.
At one point as we stood below the soaring cliff, we could observe an amazing colony of Umbilicaria lichen that covered many square feet of the pinkish-colored rock; some specimens were larger than a saucer. Other lichens included the reindeer lichens, (Cladina or Cladonia), lungwort (Lobaria Pulmonaria), and dog-toothed lichen (Peltigera species).
Bare Bluff, even though exposed to the harshest of Lake Superior weather, is home to a wonderful array of unusual plants. The unique environment supports several Western disjunct plant species including small blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia parviflora) and the Oregon cliff fern (Woodsia oregana). The fern-lovers in the group found many other specimens here to enjoy, including the holly fern (Polystichum lonchitis), the black spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes) and the state-threatened male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas).
By the time we had reached the top of the bluff, it was time to rest. Picnic lunehes and an incredible view from our vantage point high above the lake were enjoyed equally. It was nice to have the time to talk over what wonders we had seen, including dozens of lichens, unique plants, several newly-hatched spring peepers, and an aerial acrobatics display provided by peregrine falcons.
The return trip took us down on a gently-sloping trail through the park-like woods. Along the access road, we were granted one last treat as we grazed greedily upon the ripe thimbleberries (Rubus parviflorus) and wild raspberries.
If you’re interested in joining a field trip at Grinnell Memorial Nature Sanctuary at Bare Bluff, keep an eye on the MNA Events Calendar.