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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Snowshoe or Cross-Country Ski with MNA!

Snowshoeing at Black Creek Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Janet Lins

Snowshoeing at Black Creek Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Janet Lins

Winter doesn’t slow us down at MNA! We will be exploring Michigan in a variety of ways this winter, including special opportunities to snowshoe and cross-country ski through some of the state’s most unique landscapes.

Last winter, MNA members and friends enjoyed snowshoe hikes in the Keweenaw.  Hikers experienced the beautiful snow-covered dunes, frozen rivers and Lake Superior shoreline. The snowshoe hikes were so popular that MNA has planned more of them this winter! We hope you’ll be able to join us to experience one of Michigan’s most picturesque areas – the Keweenaw Peninsula!

Snowshoe hikes this winter:

Saturday, January 6 – Redwyn’s Dunes Nature Sanctuary, near Eagle Harbor

Saturday, January 19 – Black Creek Nature Sanctuary, near Calumet

Saturday, February 2 – Gratiot Lake Overlook Nature Sanctuary, near Copper Harbor

Saturday, February 23 – Rooks Memorial Nature Sanctuary, near Copper Harbor

Sunday, March 3 – Robert T. Brown Plant Preserve, near Painesdale

Email nancy@einerlei.com to RSVP or for details about the snowshoe hikes. Please RSVP so MNA can advise you of any emergency cancellations.

Snowshoe hikers explore Mystery Valley.

Snowshoe hikers explore Mystery Valley.

This year, MNA is also offering two cross-country ski opportunities. On Saturday, January 26, join steward Mary Probst for a cross-country ski along the Eagle Harbor Township Recreation Trail in Keweenaw County.

In the Lower Peninsula, steward Patricia Pennell will lead a cross-country ski trip through the beautiful Five Lakes Muskegon Nature Sanctuary in Muskegon County on Saturday, February 2. If there is no snow, Patricia will still lead a hike, a rare opportunity to explore this unique sanctuary. For details about either of these trips, please visit MNA’s website.

Keep checking MNA’s event calendar for more winter events. We hope to see you in the field!

Black Creek Snowshoe Hike

By Megan Clute

Photo courtesy of Nancy Leonard

On January 14, 2012,
29 nature enthusiasts enjoyed a snowshoeing journey through the Black Creek Nature Sanctuary Trail. Despite 18 degree temperature and blustery morning weather, participants experienced the beauty of the snow-covered dunes, creeks and rivers leading to Lake Superior. From Michigan Tech students to retirees, the group consisted of both novice and experienced snowshoe hikers. The trip was guided by stewards Peter and Jill Pietila along with MNA member Nancy Leonard. They trekked through the fresh snow of Keweenaw County in conditions that were “pleasant but not too warm” according to Nancy. She also described the trip as picturesque, featuring the frozen rivers and Lake Superior which appeared as if “it could turn to ice in a moment.”

Throughout the journey, participants stopped for pictures on benches conveniently located along the trails for visitors to rest and take in the sights. After reaching Lake Superior, Peter and Jill led the hikers along the shoreline to their home located on a dune in the area. Participants were able to warm up from the hike and enjoy refreshments provided by the stewards.

Photo courtesy of Nancy Leonard

The Black Creek Sanctuary has been owned by the MNA since 1991, and in 2011 it was named one of the 20 Showcase Sanctuaries throughout the state. The sanctuary features two loops of trails, which are both two miles long, that show off the sanctuary’s sand dunes and lagoon formed by the combined waters of the Hills and Black Creeks. Visitors are welcome year-round to participate in activities such as hiking, taking photos, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Join MNA at our next snowshoe hike at the Gratiot Lake Overlook Nature Sanctuary located in Keweenaw County. The hike will take place Sunday, March 25 from 1-3 p.m. Please visit our website for further details!