Snowshoeing at Black Creek Nature Sanctuary

By Nancy Leonard

Hiking along the lagoon at Black Creek Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Nancy Leonard

Hiking along the lagoon at Black Creek Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Nancy Leonard

With the snow having finally returned to the Keweenaw, the trail at Black Creek Nature Sanctuary is finally packed with fluffy new snow just in time for the afternoon snowshoe hike. On January 19, 27 hikers eagerly donned their snowshoes. Led by stewards Peter and Jill Pietila, they trekked along the trail to where Black Creek and Hills Creek join to form a picturesque lagoon.

The sanctuary acquired its name from Black Creek that flows in a northerly direction through the sanctuary before emptying into the lagoon where it enters Lake Superior. Hills Creek also flows through the sanctuary, entering on the eastern boundary and flowing westerly until it converges with the Black Creek at the lagoon.

Ruth Sablich, formerly of Calumet, donated the first 121 acres of this jewel of a sanctuary to MNA in 1991.  Driven by her perception of increased private development in the area and concerned about the future of public access to Lake Superior, Ruth spearheaded a project to raise funds to expand the sanctuary. With her persistence  additional parcels were added in 1992 and 2002 to increase the sanctuary size to 242 acres.

Our snowshoe hiking companions! Photo by Nancy Leonard

Our snowshoe hiking companions! Photo by Nancy Leonard

Natural communities known to occur here include dry northern forest, dry-mesic northern forest, back-dune forest, emergent wetland, northern wet meadow, rich conifer swamp, northern shrub thicket, volcanic cobble shore and sand and gravel beach.

That cobble shore and gravel and sand beach in its winter coat is now obscured with fantastical ice hills and valleys and curious “volcano vents” formed by the ice building up along the shoreline.  Curious hikers couldn’t help themselves and many trod carefully upon the otherworldly topography, being careful, though, to not venture too far out.

Peter led the group along the shoreline to the Pietila home. Here, the somewhat tired but very happy hikers were treated to an array of refreshments and a chance to rest, warm , and share their trail stories.

MNA will lead several more snowshoe hikes this winter! Check the Events Calendar to find a hike in your area. We hope to see you there!

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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.

Superior Shoreline listed in “Top 500 Scenic Drives”

By Mitch Lex

Photo: U.S. National Park Service

Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula shoreline was recently highlighted in National Geographic’s 500 Drives of a Lifetime book as one of the premier destinations for scenic areas that can be enjoyed on long stretches of paved roads. The majority of the routes along this path are set right on breathtaking Lake Superior Shoreline, letting you take in the vastness and supremacy of the lake on these quiet roads.

The route begins in the town of Marquette, the largest city in the Upper Peninsula. Here visitors can take in the cities coastal culture by visiting the Marquette Maritime Museum, or tour the nearby Marquette Harbor Lighthouse. The Maritime Museum houses a large collection of artifacts showcasing Marquette’s unique maritime history. The Harbor Light was constructed in 1866 and is still used today to aid in navigation.

Travelers get a different view of the Upper Peninsula’s boating past when they arrive in Munising. Visitors can get a first-hand look at some of the many shipwrecks that have occurred in the area, such as the Bermuda, a 150 foot vessel that saw its final days near the shores of Munising in 1870. A relic of the fur-trading days of the Hudson Bay Company, the nearly untouched Grand Island is also a special nearby attraction.

Photo: National Park Foundation

Outdoor enthusiasts will be captivated by Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, just east of Munising. Sandy golden beaches, majestic blue waters and the steep cliff shorelines draw kayakers, hikers and wildlife observers to its exceptional beauty. Historic lighthouses, rolling sand dunes and several waterfalls are just a few of the highlights that make Pictured Rocks one of the highlights of the Superior shoreline.

Just east of Pictured Rocks in Munising lies MNA’s own piece of natural beauty. Although small in size at only 15 acres, visitors to Twin Waterfalls Nature Sanctuary are welcomed by two breathtaking waterfalls, where they can hike behind the cascades and marvel at the ancient sandstone cliffs surrounding them. An abundance of unique plant species are also found throughout the sanctuary.

Road-trippers conclude their tour of the Upper Peninsula shoreline at Whitefish Point, where the infamous Edmund Fitzgerald was headed on the eve of its sinking in 1975. The museum and lighthouse still in operation recognize the Edmund Fitzgerald and several other Superior shipwrecks.