A Fascinating MNA Odyssey Tour Through Parsons Memorial

By Tina Patterson and Dave Wendling

Group of hikers

The group, including young members Gaby and Gwen, hike through Parsons Memorial Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Tina Patterson

Wow, mushrooms, mushrooms everywhere!  What fun to see all the different colors and kinds of mushrooms that can be found at the Alta Warren Parsons Memorial Sanctuary.  After 15 sanctuaries we finally had a proliferation of fungus, and what fun to share the day with our youngest participants so far: the Sherwood girls of Farwell, Michigan. Gaby and Gwen showed great interest in all they were seeing and learned to follow a trail by looking for the blue diamonds. We were lucky to have the participation of so many knowledgeable hikers, helping the girls learn about what we saw along the trail. This was the first sanctuary that we visited where the hike was led by a family member, Buzz Parsons, whose parents, Mahlon and Alta Parsons, determined that these 80 acres should remain free from development. It was a special treat to be escorted by Buzz, whose sense of humor and knowledge was an invaluable asset. Continue reading

MNA Odyssey: A Church’s Mission and A Looking Glass Sanctuary

By Tina Patterson and Dave Wendling

Photos at A Looking Glass

Members of the tour group pause to take photos of some of the beautiful prairie plants at the sanctuary. Photo by Johanna Swanson

The skies cleared after a rainy night as we gathered on August 27. This was a very special Monday for both the Odyssey Tour and members of the Church of The Fellowship For Today as we came together at A Looking Glass Sanctuary. With much to be proud of, the members of this small church fellowship had decided that preserving the 13.63 acres along the pristine A Looking Glass River was of more importance to their mission than building a structure to be used “two hours a week”. What a joy to meet the people who made the decision to make a commitment to the greater community, as well as the future, by protecting something so very special. Under the leadership of minister emeritus Beth Monteith, funds were raised to purchase what was to become A Looking Glass Sanctuary and in 2006, it was entrusted to MNA for protection and stewardship. Still very involved in the care of the sanctuary, the members of the Church of the Fellowship For Today have much to celebrate. Special recognition must be given to our oldest participant up to this point on the Odyssey, Leon Harris. Mr. Harris, who will soon turn 95, walked part of the trail with us, and it was an honor to meet this gentleman who was instrumental in finding the property that we all can enjoy in perpetuity. We hope there are many more hikes in his future!  Continue reading

The Odyssey Explores Lefglen’s Prairie Fen

By Tina Patterson and Dave Wendling

Goldenrod at Lefglen

Goldenrod throughout the sanctuary. Photo by Dave Wendling

A hot and sunny Sunday, August 26 found 18 avid hikers congregating at the Wolf Lake Community Park in Jackson County before heading out to Lefglen Nature Sanctuary.  Many of the hikers were people who cared deeply for this sanctuary; some were neighbors like Sue Miller, who donated an easement to MNA on the north part of the sanctuary. One of the hikers, Val Vance, grew up here and used the sanctuary as her playground as a child.  Stewards Julia Van Aken, Craig Robson, and Heidi Doman, who have worked to make both the north and south trails welcoming, determined the longer south trail, which included a fen, would be of more interest as more would be seen after the hot dry summer we have experienced.

As we ducked and weaved to avoid the poison sumac, we were awed by the beauty of the prairie fen. This time of year is a great time to visit a prairie fen since many of the wildflowers are in bloom.  Shrubby cinquefoil with its beautiful yellow flowers loves calcified sites like this. Two special species of goldenrod thrive here – the Riddles goldenrod and the flat-topped Ohio goldenrod, and to our delight, both were in full bloom. Craig pointed out the dainty flowers of the Kalm’s lobelia. Special treats were finding grass-of-Parnassus and a lone fringed gentian.

Hikers at Lefglen

Hikers along the trail at Lefglen. Photo by Tina Patterson

After the fen some hikers decided they had had enough for the day and headed back for cold drinks and cookies while the rest of us then explored the upland oak hickory forest with its pockets of wet marshes.  The jewel-weed was spectacular along the edges of many of the wet areas. Craig, whose passion is birds, stated that the threatened Cerulean warbler is found here, along with many other birds like the scarlet tanager, pileated woodpecker, and many migrating warblers. Someone spotted a black and white warbler. Val showed us an artesian well that was drilled by her father, Fred Hurford, years ago that is still flowing into one of the marshes on the sanctuary.  We were thrilled to find the interrupted fern growing among cinnamon ferns in one of the marshes.

Our two mile hike allowed us to only see a small part of the 208-acre Lefglen Nature Sanctuary. Hikers were on the lookout for some of the 690 native plant species that thrive here as well as 50 species of birds, eight species of salamanders, ten species of mammals, and seven kinds of reptiles that make the sanctuary their home. One can only imagine how happy Lefty and Glenna Levengood would be to hear people share their personal stories about the Lefglen Nature Sanctuary and that will be cared for and protected for a long time.

We hope you’ll be able to join us on the remaining four Odyssey Tours in the Upper Peninsula  September 23-30! Details are on the MNA website.

The Odyssey Tours Genevieve Casey Nature Sanctuary

By Tina Patterson and Dave Wendling

Bender Creek

A glimpse of Bender Creek running through the sanctuary. Photo by Dave Wendling

Yes, on July 18 we woke up to thunder and rain, but no one was complaining. How wondrous in this July drought to find ourselves going on a hike after a welcome thundershower. The rain stopped 10 minutes before our hike, and everyone’s spirits were up and we were excited to visit the 53-acre Genevieve Casey Nature Sanctuary in Oceana County. With the smell of wet grass and pine needles under our feet, another special Odyssey day had begun. Our guide John Hendrixon, steward since 2008, was waiting for us, and once again, we were happy to welcome three first-time participants to the Odyssey, including MNA Life Members Robert and Clarice Williams, who came all the way down from Higgins Lake to join our hike!

John began by sharing the story of Genevieve Casey and how this sanctuary dedicated to her came to be under the protection of MNA. As we entered the sanctuary we passed through one of the pine groves that Genevieve Casey herself planted years ago. If you come here in June, pink lady’s slipper can be found among the pines. When we entered the barrens, John explained how this land was lumbered and once farmed until the thin top soil was blown away following a series of very dry years that left only barren sand.  He stated that this area looks a lot different now than when Genevieve Casey owned the property. Indeed, you can envision the succession that has occured as you stand on one of the few bare sandy areas left in the sanctuary. There are large areas where hair-cap moss and various lichen have stabilized the sand.  Here can be found rein-deer lichen, British soldier lichen, and the earth star mushroom. In other areas are large patches of club moss and bracken fern. The three club mosses that are found here are common club moss, blue ground cedar, and southern ground cedar. As the soil stabilized, the trees and shrubs started moving in and are now well on their way to reforesting the barrens.


A little rain didn’t slow this group down! Photo by Marianne Glosenger

John then took us through the new 2011 addition to the sanctuary, guiding us along the proposed new trail that he had flagged. This addition, which doubled the size of the sanctuary, contains a large area of floodplain forest which gave a sharp contrast to the dry barrens.  We were able to hike along sections of the meandering Bender Creek which flows through the sanctuary and eventually into Stony Lake, and then into Lake Michigan. MNA is proud to protect Bender Creek and its floodplain along with the sensitive freshwater species that live within the creek, including trout, sculpin, and stickleback.  The find of the day had to be discovering several orchids growing in the floodplain!

With two loop trails that are well-marked and a new trail under development, the Genevieve Casey Nature Sanctuary will long be remembered by the visitors who shared a morning in its quiet beauty. We also remember Genevieve Casey herself, who recently passed away, and the wonderful contribution she made to MNA and nature itself.

[Ed. note: This entry was updated on August 15, 2012 to correct two spelling errors. Our apologies for the mistakes.]