The Odyssey’s Finale at Black Creek Nature Sanctuary

By Tina Patterson and Dave Wendling

Group along the shore

The group enjoys a beautiful sunny day on the shores of Lake Superior. Photo by Dave Wendling

September 30 was another amazing day in copper country as blue skies and the fantastic fall color welcomed us to the 241-acre Black Creek Nature Sanctuary just outside of historic Calumet. With 1,300 feet of Lake Superior shoreline, Black Creek Nature Sanctuary boasts forested sand dunes, a lagoon, two creeks that empty into Lake Superior, and a beaver dam.  There is also evidence of stamp sand, a barren, and leftover of copper mining in the Keweenaw. Black Creek is home to wolf, moose, black bear, beaver, and of course, the dreaded black fly. While we would have enjoyed spotting any of the aforementioned mammals, we were happy to visit after black fly season!  We are told that this sanctuary is also a perfect place to enjoy winter with snowshoeing and skiing along the softly rolling terrain.

Once again, our expected 20-25 hikers grew to more than 40 as car after car pulled up alongside the road. Our host stewards, Jill and Peter Pietila, had invited friends and neighbors to join us on this easy and well-marked hike, which promised to be a wistful ending to a perfect summer Odyssey. Special guests were Jim and Joy Ziemnick (Jim was the first steward at Black Creek and started the sanctuary on its way to becoming a “Showcase Sanctuary” with his dedicated stewardship) and Bill and Nancy Leonard, who are stewardship coordinators for the Keweenaw Peninsula. After an enjoyable hike through the forested dunes and along the lagoon, our hikers lingered along the beautiful shore of Lake Superior. No one was in a hurry to leave this special place.  Peter even brought his fishing pole and told us of his many fishing adventures here.

Group at Black Creek

We did it! Number 20! Photo by Marianne Glosenger

This is a fitting time to thank every Odyssey steward who is devoted to the cause of protecting one or more of our magnificent sanctuaries. Without them, there would be no “Showcase Sanctuaries”. Thanks to our Regional Stewardship Organizers, Matt, Katherine, and Adrienne, who so strongly supported the adventure, to Dick and Marianne Glosenger who devoted their summer to the Odyssey going on 19 of our 20 hikes and taking amazing photos along the way for all to enjoy. Thank you to Aubrey Golden, MNA Trustee and President of the Michigan Karst Conservancy, who added so much to the 13 hikes he participated in.

Also recognition and thanks to our office coordinator Johanna Swanson who prepared all our materials and kept us well supplied all summer, and to Allison Barszcz who worked behind the scenes to make the blog possible. But most of all thank you to each and every participant from MNA’s Executive Director Garret Johnson, President Steve Kelley, and to all of you who came out to hike with us. Thanks also to those of you who took out MNA memberships or made a pledge to MNA in support of the Odyssey. It has been a once-in-a-lifetime adventure!  Thank you, one and all, from Dave “Turtle Man” Wendling and Tina “Super Bee” Patterson. See you on the trail!

PS: As we look back just one week from our last hike we truly recognize how lucky we were–from perfect t-shirt hiking weather, it is now getting cold and blustery along the Lake Superior shore line with snow, sleet, and freezing rain. How fortunate we were to share the beauty of a fall day just before winter arrived!

PPS: If you weren’t able to join us, you can still experience the excitement of the Odyssey! Visit MNA’s YouTube page for videos from several of our Odyssey Tours.

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The Odyssey Visits Majestic Estivant Pines

By Tina Patterson and Dave Wendling

Estivant Pines

The trunk and roots of one of the large trees at Estivant Pines. Photo by Dave Wendling

It did not take much to get us excited about our trip to Estivant Pines; while the point can always be debated, for many MNA members this is the crown jewel of MNA’s 172 sanctuaries. Located just outside of Copper Harbor, the 510 acres of old-growth eastern white pine forest is truly awe inspiring. The trail offers the opportunity to stand next to 500-year-old pines standing more than 125 feet tall.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny as we celebrated our good fortune to be heading out on such a perfect day. There is never a guarantee of good weather in the Keweenaw; in fact, one old joke is “we had a perfect summer in Calumet: it was on August 14th”.  September 29th was going to be another exceptional day as the highs were in the 60s with no breeze, no bugs, and the fall color was spectacular throughout the Keweenaw. We were delighted as the 25 people that we expected continued to grow as more cars arrived until we had more than 40 participants.

Working together

Working together to build a new boardwalk at the sanctuary. Photo by Marianne Glosenger.

Steward Ted Soldan, who has been involved with the care of the woods since the beginning, spoke passionately of the Pines and then offered participants the unique opportunity of helping to build a boardwalk that needed replacing. Almost everyone volunteered to participate, and Ted, assisted by his wife Alice, handed out boards, nails, and tools to each volunteer to help carry into the woods. For most people it was the first chance they had ever had to participate in this kind of stewardship project, and much laughter and encouragement ensued. Our youngest hiker was the first to span the bridge. When finished, the hike resumed with the knowledge that “many hands did make for fast work”. How proud we all were to know in a small way we had helped to make Estivant Pines a more welcoming sanctuary.

Following our two-hour hike, we met at the Copper Harbor Community Center, which Ted had reserved for us, and with the help of Bill and Nancy Leonard, and Joan Chadde, we enjoyed a delicious assortment of food from the Keweenaw Co-Op.  MNA Board President Steve Kelley spoke about long- and short-range goals for MNA, and Executive Director

First steps

Our youngest hiker, Flora, was the first to cross the new boardwalk. Photo by Marianne Glosenger

Garret Johnson also shared information about a legislative proposal that we should be aware of that would make all of our sanctuaries accessible to off-road vehicles and snowmobiles. While it is not expected that this bill will be passed by Michigan’s legislature, it is something we do need to be kept apprised of.

With our thanks to Ted and Nancy, and hugs all around, 14 of us wished to continue the fellowship and went across the street to The Mariner North for dinner…and still wishing to continue the “good vibrations” of the perfect day, nine of us and three beautiful dogs went to watch the moon rise over Hunters Point, a township park.  It was hard to believe we had just one more day of the Odyssey. Could it be true that this marvelous adventure was less than 24 hours from coming to an end?  How could we have imagined how hard it would be to say goodbye to all the wonderful people who had made the Odyssey greater than all our lofty expectations?

[Ed. note: Our friends at the White Sky Woods blog shared additional photos and details from the Odyssey Tours of Estivant Pines and Black Creek Nature Sanctuary. Pay them a visit!]

[Ed. update (3:48 p.m.): in an earlier version of this blog post, Alice Soldan was misidentified. We apologize for the error and have corrected the mistake in the text above.] 

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!