April 17: The Odyssey Tour Visits Two Sanctuaries

By Tina Patterson

4/17 Tuesday morning: The day started with promise, clear and cool as we headed out to meet steward Larry Detter at the Rizor Memorial Sanctuary.  What a nice surprise to see he had made up very professional signs directing people to the sanctuary, and then we were treated to even more surprises as carloads of people kept arriving. Initially we thought that if 5 people joined us for a weekday hike it would be a success, so we were not prepared for the 30 energetic hikers who could not wait to hit the trails.  Larry, a retired school teacher turned out to be a very impressive guide who led us through the beautiful 20-acre sanctuary. A highlight of the tour was seeing a bridge that Larry and a group of friends had built over crystal clear Cornell Creek completing it just in time for our visit.  At one point the group split in two each going a different way up a pine ridge, crossing in the middle and coming back to our starting point.

Rizor Bridge

The new bridge at Rizor Memorial Nature Sanctuary. Photo: Tina Patterson

A creative and fun way to keep people engaged. Having John Smith, a birder and naturalist, along was an added bonus as he was also able to be an excellent resource.

With its interconnected and well-marked trails, bridges, streams, and multiple habitats, Rizor seemed like much more than 20 acres to us.  This sanctuary is jam packed with interesting plants and animals.  Larry told a story of seeing coyote cubs on the sanctuary and how special that moment was to him.  A screech owl is using the sanctuary as well as many other birds including wild turkey.  We heard a leopard frog calling from one of the wet areas.  The butterflies, especially red admirals’, were flying.  Patches of wildflowers were noted, and the first of the golden ragwort were in bloom.

But the trees and shrubs dominate this sanctuary’s various habitats.  In the southern floodplain forest you can find tamarack, swamp white oak, basswood, blue beech, ironwood, highbush cranberry, nannyberry, elderberry, hazelnut, ninebark, and red-osier dogwood.  In the upland areas are white and red oak, black cherry, big tooth aspen, shagbark hickory, sugar and red maple, serviceberry, flowering dogwood, witch hazel, and maple leaved viburnum.

As soon as our Rizor hike was complete Dave hopped into his car, and thanks to Mapquest, quickly reached the 245-acre Timberland Swamp. The largest MNA sanctuary in southeast Michigan, Timberland is truly a “must see”. There we met up with Walt Kummer, one of MNA’s most dedicated stewards, who has cared for Timberland for more than 27 years! While we had hoped to hike here on Sunday, due to the threatening weather that day we decided for the sake of safety to postpone our visit until today.

The group at Timberland Swamp

The group at Timberland Swamp Photo: Marianne Glosenger

For those who were lucky enough to change their schedules and join us, we found what an amazing experience a swamp hike is, and when it is highly suggested to wear waterproof boots we all learned there is a good reason. Walt certainly knows his swamp, and the group following him was delighted to experience this eco-system with a true expert. Some of the group decided (regrettably) that after almost two hours of hiking they had to head back to the parking lot, but others enthusiastically went on even further with Walt. We saw our first snake on the trail thanks to the sharp eyes of Maura Jung, and after looking the brown snake over we quickly released it back into the muck.  If anyone wants a picture of Tina kissing a snake please contact the office and they will share it with you.  We were sorry to have to say goodbye to the swamp and Dick and Marianne Glosenger who had to head back home and had been our unofficial photographers for our first three showcase sanctuaries.

Walt not only is a dedicated steward but is very knowledgeable about the sanctuary, the forest ecology of the swamp, and the island of beech maple forest that exists here.  He explained how farmers once tried to grow potatoes there but did not succeed because of many wet years.  One can still see their attempts to drain a portion of the swamp by the semi-straight streams that are now again part of the swamp ecosystem.  He explained that once 10% of the trees were ash, but they have all died by now at the hands of the emerald ash bore; and indeed, many of the fallen trees were ash.

White Trillium at Timberland Swamp

White Trillium at Timberland Swamp. Photo: Dave Wendling

He also explained how shallow-rooted trees in swamps were and can be blown down quite easily.  These trees give much back to the ecosystem, as they form vernal pools at the root bases, and as the logs decay they support life and nourish the soil.  This sanctuary was once covered in wildflowers, but they are in decline in large part due to excessive deer browse.  He explained that MNA is now starting a deer browse management program there in hopes of turning this decline around.  In spite of the deer, we saw many wildflowers, including acres of sedges and skunk cabbage dotted with the yellow of marsh marigolds, white trillium, dutchman’s breeches, trout lily, may apple, spring beauties, and violets.

For additional photos from the Rizor Odyssey tour, head over to Parshalville.com and visit MNA’s Flickr page!

There are still many opportunities to join us on the Odyssey Tour! Visit the MNA website for a complete list of upcoming dates. We hope to see you there!

Odyssey Tour at Timberland Swamp Has Been Rescheduled!

By Tina Patterson and Dave Wendling

The weather did not cooperate as we kicked off the Odyssey at Timberland Swamp on Sunday, April 15. Despite our best attempts to guarantee perfect weather, we had to call the hike off as thunder showers threatened all day. All on the RSVP list were notified (a reminder to everyone to please RSVP the office of your intent to join up on any of the hikes). In spite of the showers, six intrepid hikers braved the elements to venture into a very wet sanctuary and were privileged to see lots of wild flowers, including spring beauties and white trillium.

Timberland Odyssey Hike

Hiker Marianne Glosenger snapped a few beautiful photos during Sunday's rainy hike at Timberland Swamp.

We don’t want to miss any of our spectacular Showcase Sanctuaries so we have rescheduled our visit to Timberland Swamp for Tuesday, April 17, at 1:30 p.m. following our 10 a.m. hike at Rizor Memorial Nature Sanctuary. Don’t forget to call the office and let them know we can look forward to having you join us at either or both sanctuaries. Maps will be provided at Rizor to help you find the easiest route to Timberland. It will be about a 45 minute ride from Rizor to Timberland. After all this rain, waterproof boots are a must. Insect repellant would be a good idea as well.

Don’t forget your brown bag lunch! Drinks and dessert are provided courtesy of MNA. T-shirts and passports will be available at all sanctuaries. Souvenir t-shirts are just $15.00 each, or free with a $100.00 pledge to MNA (plus a cool photo book of the visits at the end of the entire tour).

For more information, visit the MNA website or call (866) 223-2231. We hope to see you on the Odyssey!

Reminder: The Odyssey Begins on Sunday!

By Mitch Lex

The celebration of MNA’s 60th anniversary and most treasured sanctuaries begins this Sunday, April 15. The Odyssey, a year-long tour of MNA’s showcase sanctuaries, makes its first stop in Southeast Michigan, where four of these 20 treasured sanctuaries are located.

Timberland Swamp, the largest sanctuary in the region, will kick off the tour at 10 a.m. on April 15. Timberland Swamp has two trails that are 1 mile and 0.5 miles in length, and is the MNA’s sixth oldest land acquisition. Odyssey organizers and MNA members Dave Wendling and Tina Patterson will spend a few hours giving guests a tour and history of each sanctuary. Following the event, attendees are encouraged to spend as much time at the sanctuary as desired. Following the opening event at Timberland Swamp, the first leg of the tour will continue with Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary (April 16), Lyle and Mary Rizor Nature Sanctuary (April 17), and Wilcox-Warnes Nature Sanctuary (April 18).

All Odyssey events are free, and we encourage you to make as many fit into your schedule as you can!. Guests are encouraged to RSVP on the MNA website or by calling the office at (866) 223-2231 prior to each event so you can be notified of any last-minute changes. For more information on the Odyssey, visit www.michigannature.org for future dates, locations, merchandise, and how to make a donation. We hope to see you there!

Let the Odyssey Begin!

By Tina Patterson and Dave Wendling

We can hardly wait until Sunday, April 15, for our first stop on the MNA 60th  Anniversary Odyssey tour of twenty special MNA sanctuaries. On Sunday, we will visit the largest MNA sanctuary in Southeast Michigan, the Timberland Swamp Nature Sanctuary, 245 acres of prime secluded nature.

Timberland Swamp

Timberland Swamp. Photo: Jeff Ganley

Join us on a two hour guided tour beginning at 10 a.m. and share the delight of spring ephemerals, birds, and all the wetland creatures that make Timberland home.  After the hike, stick around for a picnic (bring your own bag lunch) and socialize.  MNA will provide drinks and dessert to celebrate MNA’s 60th Birthday.

Don’t forget to wear hiking boots, preferably waterproof since Timberland can be wet.  We will be able to carpool to bathroom facilities at the nearby Indian Springs Metro Park.  Dogs are not permitted.

We’ll also be visiting Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary, Rizor Memorial Nature Sanctuary, and Wilcox-Warnes Nature Sanctuary successively after our Timberland visit to complete our tour of the Southeast Michigan showcase sanctuaries.

Please call the MNA office at (866) 223-2231 to RSVP or click here.   If you can’t attend, you can follow our journey on this blog.