Explore the Natural Beauty of Harbor Country


Saturday, June 3
Warren Dunes State Park
Sawyer, Mich.

About 15 hikers turned out for this trek over Warren Dunes’ famous dunes. The lower-than-normal attendance may have been due to the hot weather or the Hikers’ warning that the sandy side of the dune would be rough going. Hike leader and Hikers President Pat Fisher talked about dune succession and the plants that hold dunes in place, and passed out a handout with a list of dune-building plants The trip up the backside of the dune looked pretty much like a typical Southwest Michigan forest, but the lake side was completely different–a new set of vegetation and a much more strenuous walk on loose sand, especially on the way back up. (Photo by Pat Fisher)

Saturday, May 20
Mt. Tabor Trails
Baroda, Mich.

The hike started with the Corkscrew Trail–up the “Hill” of Tabor Hill. We stopped at the top of most of the steeper climbs to give everyone a chance to catch up and catch their breath. Other stops were to talk about wildflowers and the special conditions that make Southwest Michigan good for grapes…and wine. On the way home, we stumbled on a family of wild turkeys. About 30 hikers turned out for this beautiful and educational hike. (Photo by Pat Fisher)

Saturday, May 6
Coffee Creek Preserve
Chesterton, Ind.

A bit nippy, but otherwise a beautiful day in Chesterton. Turnout was small–about a dozen hikers–but there were plenty of different habitats to explore and a variety of spring wildflowers still in bloom. (Photo by member Mark Piper)

Wednesday, May 3
Bendix Woods

About a dozen hikers made it to our first Flash Hike of the year at Bendix Woods in New Carlisle, Ind. They were treated to what seemed like acres of white trilliums, interspersed with prairie trilliums (also called wake robins, red trilliums and stinking benjamins) and assorted other wildflowers in white and purple. The weather was in the fifties, and Bendix Woods, a St. Joseph (Ind.) County Park, impressed the group. Flash Hikes are occasional hikes, announced by email a few days before they occur and without a theme or formal leader.

Saturday, April 29
Love Creek County Park
Berrien Center, Mich.

Love Creek has one of the finest wildflower displays in the area. Some are hard to find; others cover entire hillsides. The 40-50 hikers who turned out for this hike were not disappointed. The pace was just right, but Love Creek’s hills challenged some in the group. The good news–everyone made it back safely. The forecast called for rain at 2pm, and it came just in time. Fortunately, it amounted to nothing more than sprinkles. We even had some sun before the hike was over.

Saturday, April 15
Warren Woods State Park
Three Oaks, Mich.

Some morning sprinkles gave way to sunshine by the time the hike began, and the rain held off until most of the Hikers were on their way home. Other than a few mud crossings and some downed logs to maneuver over or around, the trails were in great shape. Somewhere between 40 and 50 people showed up, including a visitor from Holland (the country, not the city in Michigan). At the start of the hike, Hike Leader Pat Fisher handed out sheets with lists of 48 plants, and challenged the Hikers to find as many as they could along the way. They found three within the first 20 feet of the trailhead, and over half during the course of the hike.

Saturday, March 11
Covenant Farm
Sawyer, Mich.

Since parking at Covenant Farm is limited, this was a members-only hike with pre-registration required. Covenant Farm’s Charlie Havens led the group through the farm’s sugar bush and talked about the processes of maple syrup collecting and boiling. The trails were a little wet, but the sun was out and there was no wind. The smaller group made for a lot more interaction than usual, and all 10 Hikers who attended enjoyed themselves.

Saturday, February 4
Hoadley Nature Trail
Three Oaks, Mich.

About 50 hikers turned out on this cold but sunny afternoon to hike the Hoadley Trail and learn about the area’s ice-age megafauna. Hike leader and Harbor Country Hikers President Pat Fisher kicked off the hike with a brief talk about megafauna, the giant mammals that once roamed Three Oaks. Many of them had been in North America for hundreds of millions of years, but half of them went extinct between 13,000 and 10,000 years ago. The rest stuck around or moved on. Some think megafauna species were hunted to extinction by early immigrants to North America, or wiped out by a killer pandemic or an asteroid impact. Others think shifts in climate and vegetation were responsible. Among the megafauna species that once roamed the area were mastodons and mammoths, beavers the size of black bears, giant ground sloths, muskox and giant, long-horned bison. Some references for those who want to learn more: E.C. Pielou (1992). After the Ice Age: The Return of Life to Glaciated North America. University of Chicago Press. Steven Mithen (2003). After the Ice: A Global Human History, 20,000-5,000 BC. Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Saturday, January 21
Chris Thompson Memorial Preserve
Three Oaks, Mich.

On a balmy day for late January, about 50 hikers turned out to walk the trails at the Chris Thompson Memorial Preserve and learn how to recognize signs of wildlife. Hike leader Grace Ball, education and outreach coordinator for Chikaming Open Lands, provided a high-energy narrative that kept everyone alert and entertained, children and adults alike. With no snow cover to highlight animal tracks, lightweight critters’ tracks didn’t show up, but Ball found plenty of tracks left by deer, carnivores and larger omnivores, and scat they’d left along the way. It was obvious foxes and coyotes are well-fed in this preserve, based on the amount of scat the hikers found. Some hikers mentioned they are beginning to notice nature is all around them, even in their own back yards, now that they know what to look for. (Photo: Grace Ball–facing the camera in the center of the photo–showed hikers how to recognize signs of animals. Photo by Pat Fisher)

Saturday, January 14
New Buffalo Lakefront Parks and Beach
New Buffalo, Mich.

A warm snap and overcast skies threatened both parts of this hike. Most of the lake ice had melted, but hike leader Pat Fisher came equipped with photos and stories of ice formations, and the 30-some hikers who showed up for the event shared their own stories. Just as the hike began, the clouds broke and left us with a dazzling Lake Michigan sunset. For a better view, and to get the blood flowing, the hikers climbed to the top of the dune on the new New Buffalo Dune Walk. (Photo by Harbor Country Hikers member Mark Piper)

Sunday, January 1
Robinson Woods and Flynn Woods Preserves
Three Oaks, Mich.

First Day Hikes originated at a state park in Massachusetts as an attempt to get people outdoors during the winter. They have since grown into international events. More than 50 hikers came out for the Harbor Country Hikers’ First Day event on a cloudy, but mild, New Year’s Day. Apart from the normal things like club mosses and fresh woodpecker holes, we came across a “wanted” snowman from the Mitten Gang who has been accused of rough snowball fights and generally causing a ruckus on Chikaming Open Lands’ preserves. We passed multiple family hikers, and about a dozen of us continued on to Flynn Woods on the muckier side of East Road. We’ve gotten a request or two for the title of a pocket guide hike leader Pat Fisher showed at a previous hike. It’s Track Finder: A Guide to Mammal Tracks of Eastern North America by Dorcas S. Miller and Cherie Hunter Day. The book is available on Amazon, and if you order through AmazonSmile, the Hikers gets a cut. See the home page to learn how.

Saturday, December 17
Warren Dunes State Park
Sawyer, Mich.

On a cold December Day, with a light and fluffy snow in the air, around 20 Harbor Country Hikers took on the great Warren Dunes. We started with short sections of the Yellow Birch Loop and the Nature Trail. Then an up and down to White Tail Loop. While in the dunes valley, we stopped and talked about wintry sights and sounds, why the red oaks are endangered, the many pileated woodpecker holes, and why hemlocks are found in the park. Next we took the Oak Ridge Trail to the Blue Jay Trail. Several of the hikers made their way up Blue Jay Trail to get a view of the lake, the rest of us made our way down Blue Jay Trail and back to our cars. All in all, another great hike under our belt.

Saturday, December 3
Hikers Volunteer for Fernwood Lights

For the second year in a row, members of the Harbor Country Hikers volunteered to help out at Fernwood’s annual LIGHTS at Fernwood event. Members worked in the ticket booth, helped visitors park, sold crafts at Fernwood’s Education Center, helped entertain kids, stoked fire pits and more. Volunteers on December 3 included Mary Burke, Cindi and Pat Fisher, Nancy and Bob Fournier, RoseAnna and Bob Mueller, Evie Rowley, Marsha Stevenson, Tenison Stone and Bob Vondale. Although December 3 was officially Harbor Country Hiker volunteer night, members Sherry Brenner, Jann and Steve Conrad and Stacy Hornacek helped out the previous evening, either because of scheduling conflicts or because volunteer spots on the third were filled. Stacy also volunteered for December 21 and 22. The lights, incidentally, were beautiful. Thanks to VP Bob Vondale for setting things up. Photo: Bob Fournier (logistics rover), Nancy Fournier (visitor center volunteer) and RoseAnna Mueller (education center volunteer)

Saturday, November 19
Grand Beach Nature Preserve
And Grand Beach Marsh Preserve
Grand Beach, Mich.

Despite 10 degree wind chills and a snow shower on the way back to the parking lot, about a dozen hikers showed up for a walk through the Grand Beach Nature Preserve, one of the area’s newest, and the adjoining Grand Beach Marsh Preserve. The Nature Preserve officially opened in July, and includes 45.8 acres of forest and prairie. It was acquired by the village with state grants and private donations. The Marsh preserve, initially acquired by the Nature Conservancy and later passed on to Chikaming Open Lands, includes a globally rare coastal plain marsh formed by glacial action. Before the hike, Treasurer Bob Mueller gave a brief talk on the history of Grand Beach. President Pat Fisher led the group through the preserves’ trails.

Sunday, November 6
Galien River County Park
New Buffalo, Mich.

About 25 hikers–including some newcomers–showed up for a rare Sunday outing at the Galien River County Park after a hike the day before was cancelled due to high winds and a predicted thunderstorm. Hike leader and Hikers President Pat Fisher gave a brief talk on how and why leaves fall from trees (or, in a few cases, don’t) as he took the group through the heavily wooded Ridge Trail, onto the park’s famous, and slightly wobbly, canopy-level observation platform, and finally along the marsh-level boardwalk. Fisher explained how the river and lake Potawatami–now the New Buffalo Harbor–were formed, and how marsh water levels correspond to Lake Michigan water levels. Despite the mild weather, there wasn’t much wildlife on view–just a few mallards.

Saturday, October 29
Madeline Bertrand County Park
Niles, Mich.

County Park Chief Naturalist Derek Pelc (tan shirt in the center of the photo) led about 30 hikers on a 2.2 mi. trail through Madeline Bertrand County Park in the second of three Fall Colors hikes. Along the way, he pointed out some trees and bushes with colorful foliage, such as burning bush (a bright red invasive) and sumac, whose leaves range from bright red to purple during peak leaf season. Pelc also took note of some unusual species. Norwegian maple, like the more common sugar maple, has a sweet sap, but it’s milky instead of clear. Syrup connoisseurs claim they can tell the difference. Leaves from black oaks are unusually large and the caps on their acorns cover nearly half the nut. Paw paws, which usually grow in wet areas, bear a green fruit with a custard-like flavor, but by the time of year the hikers viewed them on the trailside, their fruit-bearing period had passed. And, witch hazel bushes, common along the trail, are one of only a few plants that flowers in the fall, Pelc said.

Saturday, October 15
Love Creek County Park
Berrien Center, Mich.

The Hikers couldn’t have asked for a better day for a fall hike. After several rainy days, the weather was dry and calm with moderate temperatures, bright blue skies and an awesome display of fall colors. Lamanda Hilty, Berrien County Parks naturalist, led the group of about 20 on our first of three Fall Colors hikes in the County Parks. She stopped from time to time for breathtaking views and a look at a variety of large mushrooms. Most of the trails were covered with multicolored leaves, but at least one section was carpeted in bright red maple leaves. Next stop: More fall eye candy at Madeline Bertrand Park in Niles.

Annual Membership Meeting
Saturday, October 8
Tower Hill Camp
Sawyer, Mich.

The Hikers held its annual Member Meeting at Tower Hill Camp and Retreat Center in Sawyer. Following a short hike through Tower Hills’ preserve area, hikers members retreated to a bonfire and got updates from President Pat Fisher, Vice President Bob Vondale, Secretary Cindi Fisher and Treasurer Bob Mueller. Afterwards, there were s’mores and cider for all, and music by member Ron Arturi. Special thanks to Tower Hill Director Tracy Heilman for making the facility available to us, providing firewood, opening bathrooms and telling us about Tower Hill’s history. (Photo by Laurie Meyers)

Friday, October 7
NBAS Nature Study Trails
New Buffalo, Mich.

Mushroom enthusiast Charlie Havens (white hoodie in the center of the photo) led a group of 15 hikers on a mushroom march through the New Buffalo Area Schools Nature Study Trails. Fungi, Havens said, tend to go unnoticed unless you’re looking for them; the hikers took that as a challenge, and periodic shouts of “mushroom!” rang out along the way. Havens offered at least a tentative identification of each. In his opening remarks, he mentioned many thousands of fungus species have been found and classified, but many times that number remain undiscovered. Of all known species of mushroom, only about two percent are poisonous. But, Havens said, if you eat one, you’re pretty much a goner–there’s no known cure.

Saturday, October 1
Harbert Road Preserve
Three Oaks, Mich.

Alex Schrader, former facility manager for Chikaming Township Parks (that’s him in the orange and blue jacket), led about 30 hikers on a walk through the Harbert Road Preserve. Schrader talked about how individuals can help wildlife and birds survive during the winter months. He pointed out that native plants have evolved alongside local wildlife and provide nutrition. Invasive plants also have edible berries and seeds, but they are usually less nutritious than native species.

Harbor Country Hikers Donates Trail Benches
To Chikaming Open Lands, Local Park Districts

The Harbor Country Hikers has donated 10 trail benches that will be installed along trails maintained by Chikaming Open Lands, Chikaming Township Parks and Three Oaks Parks. The benches follow a design by Aldo Leopold, an early twentieth-century American conservationist, environmental ethicist and author. Leopold benches are popular for their ease of construction, durability and relatively low cost.

Providing trail amenities is a key item in the Hikers’ statement of purpose, according to President Pat Fisher. Fisher points to the uniform trail markers installed at many local preserves and parks as another example of how the Hikers are helping to improve local trails.

An additional 12 benches have been requested and are under construction. The benches were built by Hikers members Bob Fournier and Bob Mueller. Photo: Alex Schrader, Chikaming Township Parks facility manager, with one of the new trail benches donated by the Hikers.

Saturday, September 10
Luhr County Park
LaPorte, Ind.

A beautiful day for a hike–low 70s, sunny, no wind. Hike leader Niki Schmutte (in the blue shirt on the right in the photo) started off by opening the nature center for us to check out. We then walked along the main loop, which is paved and pretty much flat: an easy hike for the two hikers with rollators. Niki stopped along the way to point out where a wind shear had ripped out an area that was subsequently replanted and on the road to recovery. Other stops along the way included the man tree, which we won’t talk about here. After we hiked the meadow, Niki offered fishing poles and bait to anyone interested in trying their luck at fishing. They were slow biting, but almost everybody caught one. I haven’t seen so many shagbark hickory and black cherry trees in one place.

Hikers Director Janet Schrader
Featured at Michigan City Oktoberfest

Janet Schrader, a member of the Hikers Board, is known to many at the Sand Pirate. Schrader gives lessons on sand sculpting, a skill she’s honed over the years and frequently shares with private clients and community organizations. Recently, Schrader was featured at the Michigan City Oktoberfest celebration. to learn more, click here.|

Saturday, September 3
St. Joseph Charter Township Parks
St. Joseph, Mich.

The Hikers began this late summer outing at Maiden Lane Park, Once a lobe of a never-built cloverleaf off I94. Two of the three other lobes are also parkland. While Maiden Land Park consists mostly of playing fields and a picnic pavilion, trails from it lead to an old interurban railroad right-of-way, today a pathway and high-voltage power line corridor called June Trace, that connects several township parks. Hike leader and Hikers President Pat Fisher explained how the area was once covered by a series of “proglacial” lakes, including Lake Baroda, created by glacial meltwater and bounded by ice. Lake Baroda once covered much of Berrien County. As the glaciers receded, the lakes emptied, ultimately into Lake Michigan. Around two dozen hikers, including several first-timers, showed up for this clear, early September morning hike.

Saturday, August 27
Grand Mere State Park
Stevensville, Mich.

Hikers President Pat Fisher kicked off this hike with a short talk about the different types of coastal habitats in the area, and remarked that Grand Mere contains a generous number of those habitats. Along the trail, Fisher talked about the natural forces that created Grand Mere and pointed out how the area was used in the past. Nine hikers of the approximately 30 who attended went on past one of the park’s lakes and over a dune to the beach, while the rest, led by members Ed and Susan Ravine, hiked back to the parking lot.

Saturday, August 6
Chris Thompson Memorial Preserve
Three Oaks, Mich.

Dan Engel (on the left in the photo), stewardship coordinator for Chikaming Open Lands, led the hikers through this mix of prairie, flood plain forest and developing savannah. Engels said the land was acquired from a neighboring property after it decided not to develop the land. Most of the preserve was originally farm land. Through a mix of mowing and controlled burns, COL removed much of the original vegetation and replanted the field with prairie grasses. Towards the rear of the preserve, some forest lines a stretch of the Galien River, and a savannah is in the works for an area of the preserve between the prairie and forest. The forest, incidentally, provided the 34 hikers who attended welcome relief from the morning’s stifling heat and humidity. In response to a question, Engel said COL is planting trees at the preserve from more southern climates, in anticipation of warming over the next 50 years.

Saturday, July 30
Burns Prairie Preserve
Galien, Mich.

About 40 hikers showed up on a sunny morning for a walk through Chikaming Open Lands’ Burns Prairie Preserve. The preserve is home to a gorgeous display of wildflowers and an expansive former agricultural area turned tall grass prairie, bordered by forest and pockets of wetland. Hike leader Ryan Postema, executive director of COL (at the center of the photo facing the camera) told the story of how the preserve was created and explained the various habitats it contains.

Saturday, July 16
Bluhm County Park
LaPorte County, Ind.

This 90-plus acre park near Westville, Ind. has a little something for everyone–paved (!) hiking trails, bike trails, a dog park, a covered picnic pavilion and a host of environments, from wetlands to prairies. The 18 hikers who turned out for this event walked a loop trail that went around a small pond, then an out-and-back trail through forest. Among the highlights: a green heron and a kingfisher at the pond, and some elderberries and not-quite-ready paw-paw fruit. (Photo: Hikers check out and photograph some paw-paw fruit, not quite ready for picking.)

Saturday, July 2
Sugarwood Preserve
Three Oaks, Mich.

Forty-five hikers and four dogs turned out to hike the trails of Chikaming Open Lands’ Sugarwood Preserve. Sugarwood, acquired just last year, is one of COL’s newest preserves and contains a little over 40 acres of wooded uplands, deep ravines, maple stands (for which the property is named), and a former agricultural section, which is being converted to prairie. The trail goes around the field, past an area of wetlands and uphill to a forest of beeches, maples, cherry trees and “muscle trees,” named for their sinewy trunks. Hike leader and Hikers President Pat Fisher recounted a story about how Indians learned to make sugar from maple sap. They watched squirrels scratch at maple bark to expose the sap. The sap dried to make maple sugar, with which the squirrels supplemented their diet in winter, when nuts were scarce.

Saturday, June 18
NBAS Schools Nature Trails
New Buffalo, Mich.

About 30 hikers, including some first-timers, walked the New Buffalo Area Schools Nature Study Trails and learned from Hikers President Pat Fisher about how the trails were created and are used by local school children. Fisher talked about his experiences connecting children and adults with nature before leading the group on a two-mile hike. Along the way, hikers got a look at the 60-acre preserve’s variety of habitats–mature forests, ancient dunes, ravines, vernal ponds, prairie and more–and learned about the plants and animals that populate them. In the photo, Hikers member Meg Piper tries out the rollator, a wheeled walker with oversized tire for unpaved areas. The rollator is available on a first-come, first served basis.

Saturday, June 4
Leonard Wildlife Preserve
Union Pier, Mich.

Alex Florian, Invasive Species Coordinator for SWxSW Corner CISMA (that’s him on the right in the photo), pointed out invasive plant species along the trails of this fairly new Chikaming Open Lands property. The preserve consists of 108 acres of woodlands and wetland, and working farmland. Invasives–Florian identified garlic mustard, multiflora rose, autumn olive, privet and others–often crowd out native plants that provide food and shelter to birds and other fauna. When they produce fruit, it is often not as nutritious as what grows on native flora. At the end of the hike, attended by about 30 people, Florian handed out brushes for cleaning the soles of boots and shoes so seeds from invasives aren’t carried to other locations.

HCH Board Member Wins Michigan City
Sand Sculpture Competition

Board member Janet Schrader took first prize in the semi-pro division for her sand sculpture at the recent Singing Sands Festival in Michigan City. She also won the Peoples Choice award in her division. Next year: the Masters Division, she hopes.

Saturday, May 21
Mt Tabor Trails
Baroda, Mich.

The Round Barn and Tabor Hill wineries, both owned by the Moersch Hospitality Group, has cut some new trails through their properties to give the public access to some beautiful woods and vineyard views, Moersch’s Brian Schueneman told the group of about 30 hikers who showed up for a morning trek. Schueneman (that’s him in the center of the photo) answered hikers’ questions about the vineyard-to-wine process. The trails went through hilly country–glacial moraine, said hike leader and HCH President Pat Fisher. Despite heavy rain the night before, most of the trail was dry except for a few muddy spots.

Saturday, May 7
Chikaming Township Park & Preserve
Three Oaks, Mich.

The hike began with a talk on controlled burns by Buffy Dunham. In nature, prairie fires clean up invasive species, but leave native grasses and trees unscathed because of their deep roots and thick bark. Controlled burns duplicate these fires under carefully monitored conditions. Following Dunham’s talk, Alex Schrader, son of board member Janet Schrader, led hikers on a walk through the preserve. Rain during the days preceding the hike left the trails very muddy, and limited attendance.

Saturday, April 30
Love Creek County Park
Berrien Center, Mich.

The wildflowers were close to their peak for our group of three dozen hikers on a threatening, but generally dry, late April afternoon. Hike leader and Berrien County Parks Chief Naturalist Derek Pelc (facing the camera in the photo) pointed out some of the gaudier blooms, like trilliums and marsh marigolds, as well as a host of smaller flowers that lined the trail–Dutchman’s breeches, hepatica, spring beauties, trout lilies, violets, Solomon’s seal (false and true) and many more. These earlier spring flowers are called ephemeral flowers because they don’t last long. Once the canopy fills in and they’re in the shadows, the flowers are pretty much done for the season. Derek got a round of applause at the end of the hike, and proclaimed the Hikers his favorite hiking group.

Saturday, April 16
Warren Dunes
Sawyer, Mich.

Warren Dunes is always a fun hike, and our enthusiastic hike leader, Mike Latus (foreground in photo), made it even better. We stopped often along the way to learn about shrubs, trees and even a local beaver. Mike reminded us that, like all Michigan residents, he owns the park, and he encouraged the group to visit as many times as it could. The route we took was mostly packed sand, some loose sand and several short stairways. It’s called Randall Trail, named for the dune it crosses. There were around 40 hikers, some donning brand new Harbor Country Hikers hats. The trail was tough, but we beat it. (Photo by Mark Piper)

Saturday, April 2
Lydick Bog
South Bend, Ind.

Lydick Bog is one of the most biologically diverse properties in the Shirley Heinze Land Trust portfolio, despite its relatively small size. The trail, a loop trail with a turnoff to a floating pier over the bog, is about two miles long, but there’s lots of evidence of ancient glacial activity–hilly terrain underlain with gravel; glacial eccentrics, rocks brought to the area from potentially distant points in North America, and of course the bog itself. The bog was formed when a large chunk of glacial ice formed a depression in the ground, which filled with water when the ice melted. There are no real inlets to or outlets from the bog–its level is controlled by rainfall and evaporation. Because of the large number of attendees–a little over 40 people including quite a few first-timers–Hike leaders Doug Botka and Eric Bird (that’s him with the yellow gloves at the center of the photo) split us into two groups. We were privileged to be among the first hikers to try out the preserve’s boardwalk and pier over the bog.

Saturday, March 27
Tower Hill Camp
Sawyer, Mich.

Fourteen hikers walked the trails of the Tower Hill Camp in Sawyer, Mich., despite temperatures that hovered around the freezing level and light snow. Tower Hill Camp was donated to the Congregationalist Church by the estate of E.K. Warren, featherbone inventor and Three Oaks patriarch, in 1923. The site includes a 55-acre tract and 200 feet of lakefront, and is operated today as a summer camp by the United Church of Christ, a successor group to the Congregationalists. Trails through the wooded portion of the property go over ancient dunes, among maples and oaks. Flash Hikes are hikes without a theme or leader, and are called a few days before the event.

Saturday, March 19
Covenant Farm
Sawyer, Mich

The weather made this hike a bit difficult and very muddy. Rain the day before and misty conditions during the hike challenged the small group of hikers who showed up. Hike leader Charlie Havens taught the group enough about making maple syrup to be dangerous. Havens is an avid amateur mycologist, and the wet weather brought out plenty of mushrooms and other fungi. At the river, the group split into two. Some walked down onto the Galien River floodplain and Ox Bow Island. Others continued on the upland trail. On the way back, the group hiked through the Sugar Bush–a stand of maples used for collecting sap for syrup. The Sugar Bush was an indigenous camp set up for several weeks each spring when the sap began to rise. Covenant Farm operates a traditional sugar bush where all the trees are hand-tapped and the sap is boiled over wood fires. (Photo by Louis Price)

Saturday, March 5
Jens Jensen Preserve
Sawyer, Mich.

With temperatures near 70 and clear skies, you couldn’t ask for a better afternoon for a hike–at least not in early March. A record 52 people turned out for the Hikers’ 100th scheduled hike. Treasurer Bob Mueller gave a brief talk about the Harbor Country Hikers’ history, then discussed Jens Jensen, for whom the preserve is named. Soon after immigrating to the U.S. from Denmark, Jensen went to work for one of 22 forerunners of the Chicago Park District. He started a private landscape design business in 1920. Jensen’s use of native plants and landscapes resonated with Prairie School architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and George Maher, with whom he worked. He was also a founder of the Prairie Club and an early dunes preservationist. Hikers President Pat Fisher led the hikers on a 1-1/2 mile walk through the preserve–with an extension for those who wanted to walk a bit further. Along the way, Fisher pointed out a number of tree species and talked about the geology behind the preserve’s clay soil–soil that made for occasional puddles on the trail.

Saturday, February 19
Hickory Creek Preserve
St. Joseph, Mich.

Cold, windy weather and snow- and ice-covered trails kept attendance down for this event, but those who did hike with us learned about Lake Baroda and a now-defunct interurban railway whose right-of-way the trail follows. Lake Baroda, hike leader and Hikers President Pat Fisher explained, was created when an ice age glacier trapped water inland from what’s now the Lake Michigan shoreline. The lake ran the length of Berrien County, but drained when the glacier receded. Much of the land around the lake bed is now moraine, the rocks and other debris pushed forward by the glacier’s leading edge. Fisher also spoke briefly about the St. Joseph and Benton Harbor Electric Railway, which created the right-of-way the group hiked. In addition to transportation, the company provided electricity to the cities, and power poles and electrical substations still line the trail. Like nearly all interurban rail systems, the St. Joseph and Benton Harbor went out of business in the first half of the 20th century.

Saturday, February 5
Three Oaks Township Conservation Area
And Kesling Nature Preserve
Three Oaks, Mich.

About two dozen hikers turned out for a slog through foot-deep snow at the Three Oaks Township Conservation Area and the adjacent Kesling Nature Preserve, the latter maintained by the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy. Each has a bit over a mile of trails, though the only trail on this hike was a beaten-down path, laid out by following deer tracks through the snow. On the Kesling leg, the deer proved unreliable, and hike leader Pat Fisher eventually navigated back to the parking lot by following the ravine that separates the two preserves. The Three Oaks Conservation Area has mostly clay soil, remnant of an ancient glacial moraine.

Saturday, January 29
New Buffalo Beach and Parks
New Buffalo, Mich.

Mid-teens, sunny, and a lot of snow-covered ice to see. The only disappointment was that the sun ducked behind clouds before it set. Hike leader Pat Fisher ran through the list of ice formations found on Lake Michigan’s lakefront–blue ice, ice balls, ice caves, ice circles, ice curtains, ice mountains, ice shards, ice tsunamis, ice volcanoes, ice ribbons, sand hoodoos, shelf ice, ice foot, snow rollers and whale burps. Whew! Pat gave a brief explanation of how each was formed. As the 30-some hikers walked the beach, they saw examples of several of those formations.

Saturday, January 15
New Buffalo Area Schools Nature Study Trails
New Buffalo, Mich.

Around 30 hikers gathered at the Nature Study Trails on a brisk but sunny day. Hike Leader Pat Fisher spoke about recent research into Crows and Ravens (Find out more HERE.) before leading the group onto the trails. Even though most of the snow had melted, our walk was a bit slippery since most of the trails had been rolled and groomed for cross-country skiing. This left a thin layer of packed snow and ice. Fisher pointed out an ancient beachfront and three different types of wetlands along the way, including an area that resembles a tree graveyard. The group saw no crows, but heard many caws meant for other crows–or the hikers–along the way.

Saturday, January 1
Robinson Woods/Flynn Woods
Three Oaks, Mich.

The first scheduled hike of 2022 happened to fall on the first Saturday of the year–and the first day of the year. About 40 hikers gathered in the parking lot to attend our First Day Hike. Since everyone was dressed for the weather and it wasn’t windy and as long as we were moving, the temperature was just right. As predicted, it started misting, sleeting and then snowing about midway through the hike. Even a snow-covered Robinson Woods was not a disappointment. When we reached the parking lot, a smaller group of the hikers continued on to Flynn Woods Preserve. Since Flynn Woods has a clay surface and the wet snow was building up on the trails, there were damp areas and standing water to hike through. That didn’t stop anyone, however. (Photo by Pat Fisher. For more pictures by member Mark Piper, click HERE.)

Saturday, December 18
Grand Mere State Park
Stevensville, Mich.

At least 20 hikers turned out to explore this park and learn about its history, from the creation of Lake Chicago to the creation of the dunes and the Critical Dunes Program. Hike leader and HCH President Pat Fisher pointed out the many natural features and ecosystems of Grand Mere as the group passed through them. He noted that the southern tip of Lake Michigan is one of the most diverse places on earth and Grand Mere is one of the best places to observe this. The weather was a bit iffy, with rain, sleet, snow and sunshine, but a break in the weather held out for the hike. Happy Holidays and we’ll see you all next year! (Photo by Pat Fisher.)

Saturday, December 4
Hoadley Nature Trail
Three Oaks, Mich

About 30 hikers, including a number of first-timers, turned out for our walk through Hoadley Trail at Three Oaks’ Watkins Park on a brisk Saturday afternoon. After a talk on winter hiking preparedness by HCH President Pat Fisher, the group walked around the Schwark Drain, a man-made wetland designed to ease flooding, and into the wooded trail area. Though one of the area’s shorter trails, at a little over a mile, Hoadley Trail offers diverse vegetation and, somewhat curiously, some overgrown exercise stations left over from when the trail was originally set up as an exercise trail in 1980. If you’d like to see member Mark Piper’s outstanding photos from the hike, click HERE to view them.

Hikers Help Out
At Fernwood Light Show

A group of HCH members pitched in on December 3 to help register visitors, direct parking and keep fire pits stoked at Fernwood Botanical Garden’s “Lights at Fernwood” event. The event, which runs through January 2, takes visitors along paths and past trees lit with thousands of holiday lights. Hikers members who volunteered include Ron Arturi, Sherry Brenner, Pat and Cindi Fisher, Alan and Lisa Haag, Ellen Holfels, Bob Mueller, Kathy Orris, Evie Rowley, Tenison Stone and Bob Vondale.

Saturday, November 20
Glenwood and Calumet Dunes Trail
Chesterton, Ind.

Temps were in the mid forties with glimpses of sunshine. After a short story about the major glacial events that had everything to do with the topology of the trails we were about to hike, we got underway. We stopped several times as we reached the different ancient beaches and associated lake beds to discuss what we were seeing. We had three firsts on the hike! First was moving aside for a young lady training her sled dogs by having them pull her and her fat tire bike through the woods. Second was dodging horse poo and then standing aside for two horses and their riders. Third was finding a native American Holly bush. They stand out in the fall woods since their leaves are a glossy green color. We also saw plenty of common briers with berries for the winter birds. Overall, it was an enjoyable hike. (If you’ve hiked with us recently, you’ve probably noticed Mark Piper. He’s the guy with the serious camera gear. Mark’s put together a collection of photos from the November 20 hike–click HERE to view them.)

Saturday, November 6
Galien River County Park
New Buffalo, Mich.

On what was probably one of the last 60-degree-plus days of the year, about 40 hikers followed Berrien County Parks Chief Naturalist Derek Pelc (with the binoculars in the center of the photo) over the boardwalks and trails of the Galien River County Park. Starting with the marsh boardwalk, Pelc pointed out that the marsh and the river were both low, thanks to a lower lake Michigan level. The low water in the marsh, he said, had chased out the cattails and the muskrats that use them to build their lodges, but a big flock of mallards was making the marsh their temporary home. Along the trails, Pelc noted that many plants–some of them invasive–had produced fall berries, most inedible by people, but popular with birds.

Saturday, October 30
Warren Dunes State Park, Sawyer, Mich.

Despite cool weather and a light mist, about 14 hikers turned out for our first Flash Hike in awhile. The rain lowered the branches on Whitetail Trail, creating an tunnel-like effect, and highlighted colorful fungi. From Whitetail, the hikers marched up the dune on two other trails, then split into two groups, one returning to the parking lot and the second sticking around for a longer hike along the beach to Mt. Randall Trail and the backdune Nature Trail. In the wetland areas, the group came across three large trees and several smaller ones that had fallen due to the heavy rains the previous day. Consensus was that occasional longer hikes–this one about six miles–were worthwhile, especially in cooler weather. Flash Hikes are announced only by email a few days beforehand. There’s no theme, no leader–just a walk in the woods with like-minded people. (Photo by Pat Fisher.)

Saturday, October 23
Madeline Bertrand Park
Niles, Mich.

Our late October trip to Madeline Bertrand and the St. Joseph River didn’t have the expected colors this year, but the well-attended hike wasn’t disappointing. Derek Pelc, our hike naturalist and hike leader, pointed out clues along the way on how the forest prepares our local fauna for winter. Many of the trees were just starting to pop their colors so a collage of colors could be seen on the individual trees. As a bonus, there was a bright blue sky above the tree crowns with a generous assortment of white clouds. The fall berries were brightly colored and plentiful and a wide range of mushrooms could be found along the way. (Photo by Phil Eichas.)

Hikers Member Ed Ravine
Shows New Watercolor Based
On 2019 Madeline Bertrand Hike

Ed Ravine, Harbor Country Hikers member and part-time watercolorist, often bases his landscapes on scenes from HCH hikes. The painting above is from a 2019 hike at Madeline Bertrand County Park. Ed’s work is on display at Local Color Gallery on Red Arrow Highway in Union Pier.

Saturday, October 9
Love Creek County Park
Berrien Center, Mich.

This hike, the first of three this fall in Berrien County’s parks system, was originally billed as a leaf hike. Thanks to some unusually warm and wet weather to start off the fall, only a few sumacs and dogwoods were showing off much color. Instead, hike leader Derek Pelc, head naturalist for the county parks, showed off the many types of fall berries on trees and bushes along the trail, and the two-dozen hikers saw a spectacular variety of mushrooms–white, gold, red–growing on the ground and on dead trees. Pelc, who cautioned he’s not a mushroom expert, pointed out a few dangerous species. For many of the hikers, however, the highlight of the walk was the discovery of four eastern box turtles on the trail–an unusual number for a single hike. Pelc said three of the turtles were males, one female, and told how to tell them apart. He noted that box turtles hibernate during the winter, and dig burrows, as many as three feet deep, to avoid freezing temperatures. (Photo: Derek Pelc, in the black shirt facing the camera, shows off some vines climbing on one of the park’s trees.)

Thursday, September 30
Chikaming Township Park and Preserve
Three Oaks, Mich.

About three dozen people–Hikers members and others–walked 1.5 miles of the nearly 10 miles of mountain bike trails in this 269-acre property, which also includes hiking paths, ponds, a picnic shelter and garden plots. Before the hike, board member Janet Schrader told the story of the bike trails, championed by her late husband, Kirk. She noted that the trails were built mostly with donations and sweat equity, rather than tax dollars, and she showed off some of the tools used to construct them. The trails are narrower that the park’s walking trails, and go more deeply into wooded areas and along ravines. Some hikers remarked that the bike trails gave a whole different perspective on the park’s flora plant life and geologic features. (Photo: A group of hikers looks across a ravine.)

Saturday, September 25
Harbert Road Preserve
Three Oaks, Mich.

One of the ways invasive plants damage local environments is by interrupting the food supply of insects, birds and other animals, Hikers President Pat Fisher told a group of about 25 hikers at the Harbert Road Preserve, a Chikaming Township property. Wildlife is conditioned over centuries to rely on the fruit and nuts of native plants for nutrition. Invasives crowd out those sources of food and replace them with less-nutritious alternatives, and animals can starve. Along the trails, Fisher pointed out the preserve’s extensive wetlands, where vernal pools and seasonal rivulets abound on the preserve’s clay soil. Forested areas include cherry, paw-paw, poplar, hickory and other tree species, all typical of new-growth forest–the preserve was fairly recently cleared farm land. (Photo: A group of hikers looks out over a wetland area.)

Sunday, September 12
Red Mill County Park
La Porte, Ind.

La Porte County Parks Chief Naturalist Niki Schmutte (that’s her in the Salmon shirt at the center of the photo) shepherded two dozen hikers through the 160 acres of Red Mill Country Park, a former Girl Scout camp just south of Michigan City named for a defunct sawmill. The park includes a State Dedicated–i.e., protected–Nature Preserve and acres of wetlands and open water, including a pond that’s the source of the Little Calumet River. Along the way, Schmutte pointed out the park’s variety of flora, both native and invasive. The trail included some hills: the park lies on the Valparaiso moraine, an elevated landscape deposited by ancient glacier. At the end of the walk, she handed out nets and invited the hikers to fish around in a pond’s sediment for microinvertebrates. Among the day’s catch: dragonfly larvae, a couple of snails and a baby bluegill.

Saturday, August 28
Burns Prairie Preserve
Galien, Mich.

About two dozen hikers, including a couple of new members, turned out to walk the prairies of this Chikaming Open Lands preserve on a hot and humid morning. Part of the preserve, planted in native wildflowers, was a little past its prime but still blooming with ragweed, butterfly weed, some black-eyed susans and more. Along the way, hike leader Pat Fisher pointed out plant species, including some edible berries, with some help from member and botanist Arch Hopkins.

Saturday, August 14
Merritt Family and Younger Family Preserves
Union Pier, Mich.

The Hikers–including a few first-timers–explored two of the newer Chikaming Open Lands preserves. According to Ryan Postema, COL Executive Director and hike leader, the 35-acre Merritt Family Preserve was donated by the Merritt family, which had used the property as a natural getaway for decades. COL acquired the adjacent 25-acre Younger Family Preserve around the same time. The Younger Preserve, once a farm, has been uncultivated for nearly a century, and has older stands of trees. The newer Merritt Preserve was cultivated up until the 1970s, and its forest is consequently much younger. Before setting out on the trail–made up largely of old fire roads–Postema (that’s him in the yellow shirt) talked about a regional project to adapt preserves in Michigan and Indiana to the anticipated effects of a warmer climate. He noted that the two preserves are separated by a ravine from the Chikaming Township Park and Preserve, and said plans are underway to bridge the ravine and connect the trails from the two properties. About 20 hikers showed up for the event.

Saturday, July 31
Heron Rookery Trail
Michigan City, Ind.

About 20 hikers, including some new members and some first-time guests, walked the Indiana Dunes National Park’s Heron Rookery Trail along the Little Calumet River. Hike leader and HCH President Pat Fisher discussed the flora along the heavily wooded trail, and talked about how the trails and river formed a transportation network for Indians in pre-settlement days. Many of the trails, he said, were so well laid out that modern roads followed them when early Europeans surveyed the area. The weather was perfect for hiking–low 70s all the way.

Saturday, July 10
New Buffalo Area Schools Nature Study Trails
New Buffalo, Mich.

HCH President Pat Fisher led about 30 hikers, including some new members, through the Nature Study Trails at the New Buffalo Elementary School. Rains earlier in the week made things a bit buggy, but the weather was perfect for hiking. Before starting the hike, Fisher showed off the school’s newish prairie flower meadow, a former ball field prone to mud and standing water. He also gave a very detailed talk about monarch butterflies, their dependence on milkweed plants and their epic annual journey from the U.S. to Mexico.

Saturday, June 19
Jens Jensen Preserve
Sawyer, Mich.

About 30 hikers, including some new faces, turned out to learn how lake-bottom deposits–from Lake Chicago, a precursor of Lake Michigan–formed in Jens Jensen and the adjacent Pepperidge Dunes Sanctuary Preserves. Not only is lake-bottom soil unique to begin with, but a thin, flat layer of clay pools enough water to form vernal pools on the surface and supports the surrounding acidic sandy flatwoods ecosystem. These flatwoods and vernal pools were once prevalent along our Southwest Michigan shoreline, but most have been drained. (Photo by David Johnson, Harbor Country News.)

Saturday, June 5
Upland Trail, Pinhook Bog
Indiana Dunes National Park

About 15 hikers turned out for a walk along the top of a glacial moraine formed 15,000 years ago. Much of the trail was shaded by old-growth trees, often growing in clumps–maple, beech, cherry, tulip poplar and more. A surprising number of wildflowers were still in bloom, including daisies, honeysuckle, multiflora roses and more. Ponds and creeks along the way created multiple environments, and the Pinhook Bog was visible from some points on the trail. Since the Park Service is limiting the number of visitors at the bog, our group was to large to explore it.

Saturday, May 22
The Forest Primeval
Warren Woods State Park

Hike leader Bob Tatina gave a fascinating introduction to our trek through Warren Woods. Starting 20,000 years ago when this area was under a mile of ice, Tatina walked the Hikers through the invasion of nearby plant life as the glacier receded and the progression to brush and trees and finally old-growth forest. European settlers began clear-cutting the forests for lumber and farming starting in the 19th century, but somehow the northern section of Warren Woods survived and left a prime example of what the area looked like pre-settlement. Tatina’s lecture drew a standing ovation. (Photo: Bob Tatina–baseball cap and backpack–prepares the Hikers for a trip through history in the Warren Woods parking lot. Photo by Pat Fisher.)

Saturday, May 8
Endangered Ecosystems of the Dunes
Miller Woods, Indiana Dunes National Park

Miller Woods is an endangered Black Oak Savanna, an environment where eastern hardwood forest meets western tall grass prairies. Trees are fairly sparse in this environment, and consist mostly of fire-resistant species like oak. As recently as the previous month, a wildfire had burned in Miller Woods, but the Hikers were surprised by how much of the burned area had already returned to green. Along the way were several beaver lodges and an abundance of wildflowers, including some not found in previously hiked venues. Two dogs that accompanied their owners on the hike received honorary Bark Ranger badges. (Photo: A beaver lodge in a trailside pond.)

Sunday, April 24
Gotta Love Spring@Love Creek
Love Creek County Park

Calm sprinkles and mild temperatures prevailed, so, as Winnie the Pooh might say, “When life throws you a rainy day, go play in the woods.” Derek Pelc, Berrien County Parks Chief Naturalist, led us through three miles of hills and valleys (wetlands and old-growth uplands), and showed us more wildflower blooms than I have ever witnessed on one hike. The weather kept attendance low, but that didn’t stop Derek from pointing out dozens of plants and telling us some interesting facts about each of them–a real treat! (Photo: Hike Leader Derek Pelc, kneeling, talks triliums. Photo by Pat Fisher.)

Sunday, April 18
Moon Valley Trails

Moon Valley is a mix of properties, some privately owned; some owned by Long Beach, Indiana, and some owned by a conservation group. People in the community fear some of the property will be developed and are working to acquire the privately owned land. The trails lead between and over dunes, and the 20 or so hikers who made the trip spotted some early spring blossoms, wetlands and portions of dune devoid of vegetation. The area is a surprise for many who walk its trails because of its proximity to fairly dense housing.

Saturday, April 3
Habitat Adventure
Indiana Dunes National Park

More than 40 hikers turned out on a beautiful Saturday morning to hike the Dune Ridge Trail near Kemil Beach and view some decaying roads adjacent to the trail. The roads were originally meant to serve dense housing in Beverly Shores, but that never developed and the Park Service acquired the property in the 1960s. The trail gave a spectacular view of the Great Marsh, which extends all the way from Gary, Ind. to Mt. Baldy near Michigan City. Hike leader and HCH Treasurer Bob Mueller explained how the marsh developed as Lake Michigan’s level retreated, creating a new foredune and locking water between the new dune and an earlier one. Along the way, Hikers noted charred tree trunks from a controlled burn. The walk through Beverly Shores demonstrated how narrowly the area avoided becoming built up. At the end of the hike, several hikers took a short walk to the Century of Progress houses, five then-futuristic houses shipped from a Chicago world’s fair in the early 1930s. (Photo by Louis Price.)

Wednesday, March 24
Great Marsh Trail

Not a bad evening for the birds–a group of about 10 hikers, perhaps discouraged by thick clouds at first, found a pair of sandhill cranes and ducks and Canadian geese galore. Along the trail from the parking lot to the marsh, the clouds broke up and lighted the water dramatically, as a croaking chorus of frogs provided accompaniment. Hikers shared the story of the marsh. Once drained and on its way to dense development, the land was saved by local conservationists, the drainage systems were removed and the swamp, now a part of Indiana Dunes National Park, reverted to its natural state. It lies on a migration path for birds and is a popular place among birdwatchers.

Saturday, March 20
The Trails of Harbor Country
Chikaming Township Park and Preserve

About 40 hikers, including some new members and first-timers, turned out for a talk by HCH President Pat Fisher on the many geological and environmental features of the parks and preserves of Harbor Country. The region’s story began about 14,000 years ago as the glaciers that covered us began retreating north, Fisher said. Over time, our scraped bedrock was dumped on by glacial poop, flooded with meltwater (trapped between the glacier to the north and the Valparaiso Moraine to the south), dumped on again, under water again and again as drainage outlets opened and closed, dried up to the point that Lake Michigan was a mere puddle and its shoreline was about 30 miles out from where it is now. What all that left us, he continued, is sand and gravel beaches, dunes and blown-in sand, moraines and flats of clay and gravel, wide and deep ravines filled with ephemeral streams and redirected rivers, glacial lake bottoms and glacial river sediments, a wide variety of wetlands, flora that we wouldn’t expect to be here and a close-knit mix of diversity that is unique in the world. Fisher also introduced an exhaustive list of publicly accessible trails in the area (click HERE to view) and a map that shows their location (click HERE).

After-School Hiking Program
Resumes at New Buffalo Schools

The Hikers has resumed its children’s hiking program for BASE, the Bison After School Enrichment Program. The program, designed to familiarize youngsters with nature through hikes at the New Buffalo Schools trails and teach hiking etiquette and respect for the environment, was temporarily suspended because of the COVID pandemic. The group meets weekly after school on Thursdays. Hitting the trails on the season’s first hike (photo, from left) were fifth graders Henry Gadiel, Grace Payne, Kai Hymes, Colten Lijewski; third-grader Dahlia Martinez-Muckey; fifth grader Adam Dali; HCH President Pat Fisher; fifth gradeers Colt Payne and Joseph Edwards, and fourth grader Abigail Edwards. (Photo by Janet Hayes.)

Sunday, March 7
Early Bloomers
Robinson Woods Preserve

A look at patches of greenery that stay that way through the winter or bloom early was the aim of this hike at Robinson Woods, a Chikaming Open Lands property in Three Oaks Township. Hike Leader and HCH President Pat Fisher pointed out various mosses, Christmas ferns, wintergreen and other plants that give an early hint of the wildflowers and other vegetation that will be poking through the soil soon. About 40 people joined the hike. Trail conditions were fair–a little slushy snow and some mud–but the sun was out and the temperature was pleasant.

Wednesday, March 3
Warren Dunes State Park

Sixteen hikers came out for a late-afternoon hike on the beach at Warren Dunes. Despite some warm days earlier in the week, there was still ice on Lake Michigan and shelf ice along the shore, where lapping water from the lake had carved out interesting ice formations. On the way back to the parking lot, the hikers got a view of another fabulous Lake Michigan sunset. Flash Hikes are announced two or three days before the event, by email only. If you’re reading this, not getting Flash Hike notices, and would like to, send your email address to harborcountryhikers@gmail.com.

Saturday February 20
Grand Marais Embankment
Grand Mere State Park

Around 30 hikers gathered at Grand Mere State Park on a cold but very sunny afternoon. We shared the trails with many others who were out for the day snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, hiking and making their way to sled the dunes. Hikers President Pat Fisher explained the history of the unique wetlands and how they become trapped between the Lake Border Moraine to the east and the very large dune system to the west. With the leaves off the trees, we had great views of the moraine, inland lakes and snow-capped dunes. On the return trip, about half the group broke off to climb the steep dunes and take in the beauty of Lake Michigan.

Saturday, February 6
Ancient Beaches of Indiana
Glenwood and Calumet Dunes Trails

Despite the frigid weather, nine hikers walked around 3.5 miles on snow-covered trails. Stepped aside for several skiers and turned around once as the hike leader missed a turn. Everyone stayed warm and enjoyed the workout.

New Group Hopes to Acquire, Preserve
Harbert Road Woods

A group called Save Harbert Road Woods is attempting to raise $1.375 million by April 1 to purchase 14 acres of wetland, forested wetland and ridges of magnificent woods near the Harbert Public Beach. The group is working closely with Chikaming Open Lands (COL) to acquire the property, which will connect three other COL preserves to form a 30-acre conservation corridor. For more about the project, and to donate online, visit https://chikamingopenlands.networkforgood.com/projects/112769-save-harbert-road-woods. You can also donate by mail: make your check payable to Chikaming Open Lands and send it to COL, Attn: Ryan Postema, 12291 Red Arrow Highway, Sawyer, MI 49125.

Saturday, January 23
Winter Hiking Tips
New Buffalo Area Schools Hiking Trails

About three dozen hikers turned out an a sunny winter morning to learn how to stay safe and warm for winter hiking, and to hike the New Buffalo Schools’ trails. Hikers President Pat Fisher noted, “You can live for 30 days without food and three days without water, but the cold can be deadly in a few hours.” Fisher recommended dressing in layers, with an absorbent cotton layer next to the skin, then wool for warmth and a waterproof outer layer. He also showed off some specialized winter gear–crampons for walking on ice, snowshoes for walking on deep snow and some specialized military mittens. Along the trail, Fisher pointed out geological features left behind by ancient seas and glaciers. The trails were mostly dry and ice-free.

Thursday, January 15
The “Greats”
Zoom Presentation by Carol Line
Fernwood Botanical Garden and Preserve

Fernwood Executive Director Carol Line gave an online talk about the “Greats,”–55 naturalists, botanists, plant explorers, preservationists and more–who are memorialized at Fernwood’s Sims Education Center. For those who’d like to do further research on the 55, here’s the list:
Janaki Ammal, Indian Botanist; John James Audubon, American ornithologist, naturalist and painter; Liberty Hyde Bailey, American horticulturalist and botanist; Joseph Banks, British naturalist and botanist; John Bartram, American botanist, horticulturalist and explorer; William Bartram, American naturalist; Basilius Belser, German apothecary and botanist; Kathryn Boydston, Fernwood founder; Luther Burbank, American botanist and horticulturalist; Roberto Burle Marx, Brazilian landscape architect; Rachel Carson, marine biologist and conservationist; Dale Chihuly, American glass artist; Thomas Church, American landscape artist; Charles Darwin, British naturalist, geologist and biologist; Marjory Stoneman Douglas, journalist and environmentalist; Andrew Jackson Downing, American landscape designer; David Fairchild, American botanist and plant explorer; Beatrix Farrand, American landscape gardener and landscape architect; Harrison Flint, American author and professor of horticulture; Clarence Godshalk, American landscape architect; Jane Goodall, British primatologist and anthropologist; Asa Gray, American botanist; Dan Hinkley, American horticulturalist and nurseryman; Joseph Dalton Hooker, British botanist; William Jackson Hooker, British botanist and botanical illustrator; Alexander von Humboldt, German naturalist and explorer; Gertrude Jekyll, British horticulturalist and garden designer; Jens Jenson, American landscape architect; Dan Kiley, American landscape architect; Aldo Leopold, American author, philosopher and environmentalist; Carolus Linneaus, Swedish naturalist and explorer; Warren Manning, American landscape designer; Mildred Mathias, American botanist; Maria Sibylla Merian, German naturalist and scientific illustrator; Andre Michaux, French botanist and explorer; Henry Moore, British sculptor; J. Sterling Morton, American founder of Arbor Day; John Muir, father of American national parks; Frederick Law Olmstead, American landscape architect; Piet Oudolf, Dutch garden designer; Roger Tory Peterson, American naturalist, ornithologist and educator; Beatrix Potter, British children’s author and conservationist; Peter Raven, American botanist and environmentalist; Pierre-Joseph Redoute, Belgian painter and botanist; Charles S. Sargent, Founder of the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard; Ellen Biddle Shipman, American landscape architect; Edwin Way Teale, American naturalist and photographer; Henry David Thoreau, American essayist and naturalist; Calvert Vaux, American architect and landscape designer; Edward Voss, American botanist; Warren H. Wagner, American professor and fern expert; Alfred Russel Wallace, British naturalist and explorer; Aaron Montgomery Ward, American mail-order catalog king and protector of Chicago’s lake front; E.H. Wilson, British plant collector and explorer, and E.O. Wilson, American biologist and naturalist.

Saturday, December 19
Dune-Pocked Wetlands
Warren Dunes State Park

About 30 hikers, including several new members, walked the trails of Warren Dunes, ending with a climb up a dune and a panoramic view of Lake Michigan. Along the way, hike leader and HCH President Pat Fisher pointed out areas of standing water where the ground level is lower than the lake and ground water has filled in the depressions. The wetlands are part of the Grand Marais Embayment, a relic of Lake Chicago. Lake Chicago was a precursor to Lake Michigan, and it covered much of what is now shore land. Now that the trees are bare, it’s easier to get a sense of the magnificence of the park’s 260-foot dunes.

Friday, November 27
Green Friday at Fernwood
Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve

The Hikers’ “Green Friday” ramble through Fernwood’s nature preserve was meant to offer an alternative to the traditional post-Thanksgiving start to holiday shopping, and about three dozen people agreed with the idea. Fernwood’s Steve Bornell, facility and grounds keeper, led hikers through the trails of Fernwood in Niles. Along the way, Bornell spoke about the different habitats in the nature preserve’s 55 acres, and the plants and wildlife that call those habitats home. He also gave a short history of Fernwood along the way. The hike followed a series of trails downhill to the St. Joseph River, then uphill 125 feet to the preserve’s reconstructed tallgrass prairie.

Saturday, November 7
Fall along the Galien
Galien River County Park

In the third of its round of hikes in Berrien County parks, about three dozen hikers walked the trails of the county’s newes property, the Galien River County Park. The park is probably best-known for its canopy-level overlook, but its ravine trail and marsh boardwalk to the eponymous river are equally instructive. Hike leader and county parks naturalist Derek Pelc again led group, and noted how the marsh changes with varying water levels. Since the level of Lake Michigan has gone down over the past few months, the large swaths of duckweed have virtually disappeared. So have the cattails, and with them the muskrats that use cattails to build their lodges. A highlight of the hike: a stag either swam, waded or both across the marsh in the distance.

Saturday, October 24
Fall in Madeline Bertrand
Madeline Bertrand County Park

madeline bertrand 10-20

For the second of its fall visits to Berrien County parks, HCH members and guests visited Madeline Bertrand County Park in Niles. The 121-acre park includes rolling hills and forest trails that lead to a view of the St. Joseph River. Madeline Bertrand was the Potawatomi wife of Joseph Bertrand, a French fur trader who established a trading post in the area in the early 19th century. Included in the park is the “Parc des Vaches,” or cow pasture, a reference to the buffalo that used to graze the pasture. Hike leader Derek Pelc, a county parks naturalist (that’s him in the dark jacket and baseball cap), pointed out native and invasive plants along the trail.

Saturday, October 10
Fall in Love Creek
Love Creek County Park

love creek 10-2020

The Hikers journeyed to Love Creek County Park in Berrien Center for the first of three outings to Berrien County’s parks. Led by naturalist Derek Pelc, the group of about two dozen trekked the trails in what some consider the county’s finest park. Love Creek offers mountain bike and cross country ski trails and 170 acres of meadows, forests, marshes, creeks and ravines.

Saturday, September 26
Bird Migration at the Great Marsh
Indiana Dunes National Park

sandhill cranes 2

Egrets, cranes and herons–oh my! About 30 hikers (and other groups of birdwatchers and oil painters) got a closeup look at sandhill cranes, majestic birds with wingspans of up to seven feet. The Great Marsh is on a migration path for the cranes and other waterfowl as they make their way south for the winter. After a talk on the history of the Marsh and Beverly Shores and some sandhill facts from Hikers President Pat Fisher, the group hiked the trails and spotted a family of sandhill cranes feeding about 50 yards from the trail. Despite some parking problems, the hike turned out to be quite entertaining.

Saturday, September 12
The Fifth Season
Chikaming Township Park & Preserve

chikaming 9-12-20

“The fifth season,” Hikers President Pat Fisher explained, is the few weeks between summer and fall when plants and animals put on a burst of activity to prepare for winter. For animals, it may mean adding winter fat or storing food for the cold months. For plants, it may mean ripening fruit and dispersing seeds. The group of about 20 people walked a section of trail unexplored so far by the hikers, and saw wildflowers–asters, sunflowers, goldenrod and more–and a few stray monarchs that hadn’t yet begun their journey south. Sue Petterson, a member of the Chikaming Township Parks Board when the preserve was created, gave some insights into its development. The weather was cool but humid. Several first-timers showed up and three new members joined.

Wednesday, September 2
Flash Hike–Brincka Cross Gardens

brincka cross

The Brincka Cross Gardens and house in Michigan City is a popular destination, especially in the spring and early summer when its daffodils are in bloom. This time of year, the hostas and wildflower gardens are out in force. The hikers walked about two miles of trails behind the house and gardens during this early evening Flash Hike. One Hiker commented that the woods looked like “something out of Jurassic Park,” with their occasionally unusual species and natural, minimally maintained vibe.

Saturday, August 29
Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve

8-29-20 hike

Not a lot of hikers on Saturday, but those who did show up were treated to wonderful weather and a pretty assortment of wildflowers. Coffee Creek, so called for its dark brown color, meanders through the preserve’s 157 acres. The creek creates sections of wetland with pawpaw trees getting close to dropping their fruit. The hikers encountered other walkers, runners, bicyclists and dog-walkers along the way: the preserve is very popular with those in nearby communities, but there’s enough trail–three miles’ worth–that it doesn’t feel crowded. The preserve also has an ADA-compliant trail that runs around a large pond.

Saturday, August 15
Goldberry Woods Trails

8-15-20 hike

Hikers turned out on a glorious morning for a walk through the trails of Goldberry Woods, an inn/bed-and-breakfast in Union Pier. Innkeeper Julie Haberichter (center in photo above) led the way along the banks of lake Potawatomi, a natural lake that partly silted in during the early days of settlement thanks to overcutting of timber for growing cities along Lake Michigan. New Buffalo’s yacht basin is a small remnant of Lake Potawatomi. Goldberry also has trails that lead to the banks of the Galien–a future hike, perhaps. After the hike, Haberichter spoke to the group about ticks and lyme disease, and how ticks can be controlled without indiscriminate use of insecticides. Some of the hikers made tick tubes, toilet paper rolls stuffed with insecticide-laced cotton. According to Haberichter, mice play a role in tick lifecycles. The rodents take the cotton from the tubes and use it for bedding–killing any ticks they carry. 

Prairie Seed Mix
Several people who attended the Butterfly hike on August 8 asked for information about where to find seeds for prairie flowers and grasses like those used at the New Buffalo Elementary School’s recently planted prairie. The seeds came from Shooting Star Native Seeds (shootingstarnativeseed.com). Seeding rate: 3 lbs. per acre (21.7 seeds per square foot). Acres to plant: 5 acres. Total forbs lbs.: 5. Total grass lbs.: 10.

Saturday, August 8
Butterfly Hike, New Buffalo School Trails
(Sponsored by the Friends of the New Buffalo Library)

8-8 FOL hike

About 15 people, including kids, turned up at the New Buffalo Elementary School to learn about butterflies, check out the new prairie flowers and walk the school trails and the adjoining Turtle Creek Preserve. President Pat Fisher gave a detailed account of the lifecyle and migration patterns of monarch butterflies, and talked about how a well-balanced prairie builds the monarch population by providing milkweed for caterpillars and flowers for the nectar that monarchs and other butterflies need to survivie. Along the trail, Fisher pointed out different tree species that populate local forests and ground-hugging plants like ferns, poison ivy and skunk cabbage.

Saturday, July 25
Building and Restoring Environments
Chris Thompson Memorial Preserve

7-25-20 hike postema

Chikaming Open Lands (COL) acquired the Chris Thompson Memorial Preserve about a year-and-a-half ago. The 49 acres were originally farmland, with some forest and floodplain along the Galien River. Currently, COL is in the planning stages of turning the preserve into a prairie and a wooded area, according to the group’s Executive Director Ryan Postema. Invasive species are common in the preserve, and building materials and stacks of felled trees and bushes, left over from a development planned before COL bought the property, litter one area. Postema noted a lot of work lies ahead, including removing invasives and seeding the prairie portion with native grasses and other plants. About two dozen hikers, including some newcomers, showed up for the walk along a newly-mowed trail, and sampled the wild blackberries along the way. The preserve includes a half-mile loop trail and a second loop of a little more than a mile. In the photo above, Postema shows off a teasel, an invasive plant whose prickly tops, when dried, were once used in the manufacture of cloth.

Mary Burke writes:


I found this moth (deceased) next to my deck. I Googled info about it. It is the largest native moth in North America (hyalophora cecropia). I haven’t been on a HC hike in a while, but maybe nature is just showing up at my door! Be well. Mary 

Saturday, July 11
Butterfly Refuges
Burns Prairie Preserve

burns prairie 7-11

About 20 hikers showed up on a hot afternoon to view a gorgeous prairie, planted with native grasses and summer-blooming wildflowers–black-eyed Susans, cone flowers, butterfly bushes, asters and more. The recently blazed trail through the prairie let the hikers get up close with monarch butterflies. Hikers President Pat Fisher gave a detailed talk about the migrations, stages of development and lifecycle of monarchs.

Saturday, June 27
Three Oaks Township Conservation Area
And Kesling Nature Preserve

6-27 hike

The Hikers took their first planned trek since the COVID-19 shutdown at the Three Oaks Township Conservation Area and the adjacent Kesling Nature Preserve. The Conservation Area trail started with prairie, then followed a ravine into woodlands. The Kesling Preserve trail, with its entry a short walk away, followed a branch of the Galien River. Both trails covered what was once farmland–remnants of fence posts and barbed wire were reminders of that. Despite torrential rains the night before, the trails were practically mud-free, and the bugs weren’t too noisome. About 20 hikers showed up and, as the photo above shows, wore masks and followed social distancing guidelines.

Sunday, June 14
Flash Hike
Galien River County Park

galien river park 6-4

Our first hike in what seems like forever–about 20 of us turned out on a beautiful afternoon for a flash hike at the Galien River County Park. Michigan just changed the rules of outdoor gatherings: it now allows groups of up to 100 people, as long as all keep six feet from one another–and we did (see photo). All also wore masks. Water was high in the river and the adjoining wetlands–not surprising, since the lake is so high–and there was lots of duckweed growing in still areas. Not many signs of wildlife, though a few hikers saw a muskrat making its way across the river a little later in the afternoon. Hikers President Pat Fisher announced that we’ll have our first regular hike later in the month. Keep an eye on the Events page of this website and on our Facebook page for more information, and expect an email announcement as we get closer to the event.

Rock Art Rocks, 5/16
From Pat Fisher

Rock Art

Last week I was asked if I would be willing to help spread the word that a fun-loving neighbor of the NBAS Study Trails had painted a bunch of rocks and placed them along the trails for people to enjoy, take, leave or move. I thought this sounded like a fun family thing to do. I researched it and found Rock Art is enjoyed by all ages and in many places. I also found a few considerations we should be mindful of.

Things to consider:

  • Properly plan for your rock-placing outing. Have the items or equipment you need to safely enjoy your adventure.”
  • If you place a rock, make sure it’s legal in your  area. National Parks are banning this activity as they view the painted rocks as not being part of the park environment.
  • Be conscious of where rocks are placed (durable surfaces).
  • Be mindful of how traveling to and from a rock can cause trampling, erosion, etc.
  • Consider the impact that placing a rock can have on both plants and animals (e.g., use non-toxic paints).
  • Be mindful of other visitors who may also enjoy the same areas as you.
  • As always, get out, enjoy the outdoors responsibly and leave no trace

I have been told there are other good neighbors painting rocks. Take your children and/or grandchildren on a hike through the Nature Study Trails, and don’t be surprised if you stumble onto a game to play along the way. For a map, go to NBAS Nature Study Trails Map

From the New York Times, 5/14
The new ‘get out’ push

When the coronavirus lockdowns began almost two months ago, the outdoors seemed like a scary place. It was where you could get infected by a neighbor, jogger, public bench, doorknob or any number of other things. The better move, as a popular hashtag put it, was to #StayHome.

As more virus research has emerged, however, the outdoors has begun to look safer. It still brings risk (like those doorknobs). But they are fairly small. One study of 1245 coronavirus cases across China found that only two came from outdoors transmission.

Beside the research, something else has also begun to make outdoors seem more attractive. People have started to go stir crazy.

This combination is leading to a surge of new expert advice that might be boiled down to: Get out.

Wear masks when you do. Be careful about getting close to other people or touching surfaces. But experts are arguing that it’s time to think about how to move more activities outdoors–including socializing, eating, shopping, attending school and holding work meetings.

…Marty Makary of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health put it this way…”The outdoors is not only good for your mental state. It’s also a safer place than indoors.”

Many cities are now expanding outdoor activities. Oakland has closed almost 10 percent of roads to traffic, CNN noted. Cincinnati is closing parts of 25 streets “so restaurants can expand outdoor seating”…San Jose may let restaurants open in parking lots and public parks….Several states are reopening beaches, parks and golf courses.

Tell us about Your Solo Hikes

These days, all of us are hiking solo, and we’ll miss one of the best things about Harbor Country Hikers–sharing our experiences with others. To make up for that, we invite you to share your solo hiking experiences here on our blog page. Email us at harborcountryhikers@gmail.com and tell us where you went and what you saw. Please keep it to 50 words and one photo. The following folks (names in red) have already responded.

Mary Burke, Her Woods


Walking around my woods last week, I disturbed a turkey, which ran away. Yesterday (4/24), near the same spot, I found an egg in a nest of leaves. Googling it, I found that turkeys are skittish nesters, so I doubt she will be back to lay more eggs. Food for a hungry racoon?

Beth Beson, Moon Valley Trail, Long Beach Park Preserve


Dry and wide. A very pleasant path.

Patricia Rowan, Potato Creek


Last week I drove south to Potato Creek State Park. Dark, windy and cold day so a little daunting at first. Began with Porter Cemetery, then took Trail 4 for one of the most satisfying hikes I’ve done. Easy clear trail. No need to hurry. Met only two other people. Many spring ephemerals popping up, so took lots of photos. Sense of peacec and healing pervaded.

Bob Mueller, Warren Woods

spring beauty

Went out to Warren Woods yesterday (4/19). Happy to report that the wildflowers are out in force and should be in full bloom in a few more days. Plenty of spring beauties and trout lilies. The trillium are almost there–some open, some almost open. The May apples still have a couple of days to go. There were lots of people in the park on Sunday–maybe a dozen cars in the parking lot. Everyone we encountered was in good spirits. A great day for a walk in the woods.

Kate Mell, In the Woods


Just walking in my woods. Saturday there were field of just green leaves. Sunday there were flowers. What a difference a day makes in the spring. The Trilliums are already budding, too. Mayflowers opening and skunk cabbage everywhere!

Ellen H., Warren Dunes


Since the weather was perfect, Loesken and I enjoyed a hike in Warren Dunes State Park on Easter Sunday. As you can see…we were careful to stay 6 feet apart at all times.

Bob Mueller, Jens Jensen Preserve


RoseAnna and I walked the trails at Jens Jensen yesterday (April 10). Two other couples left just as we arrived, and we had the place to ourselves. Despite the recent rain, the trails were dry. Not much sign of wildflowers except for these Mayapples (I think) about to bloom.

Mary Burke, Tending Trails


Hello fellow HCH. I hope your are well! I’ve been running amok on our 13 acres trying to keep the wooded trails open by cutting back/cutting down honeysuckle bushes, Russian olives, multi flora rose, before the hot weather arrives. Ducks in the wetland, wild ramps on our burgers–life is going along. I miss our exotic hikes! Enjoy Spring and be well!!

Lynne Chmura-Siemon, Her Hayfield


Dear  Hikers,
I joined the group a couple months ago. I have yet to go on a hike, but I am walking 7 miles a day around my hayfield. I am looking forward to meeting some of you in the group! Stay safe!

Edward Ravine, Warren Woods


Dear fellow Harbor Country Hikers,
Above is a photo of Warren Woods last fall. “Live life like a river flows, continually surprised by your own unfolding.” My best to all.

Shelley Stern Grach, Friendship Gardens

grach (2)

Mark and I had a lovely 2-mile walk today at Friendship Gardens. We saw some crocus, daffodils and many bushes just starting to bloom.

Beth Beson, Chikaming Township Park and Preserve

beson (2)

A 4.4-mile solo hike. Wet but wonderful!

Jean  DeWinter, Lydick Bog

dewinter (2)

Today my son and I, along with our dog, hiked the Lydick Bog. We went early and saw no one except a giant crane overhead. We caught up to him in the field where he was stalking something. We enjoyed the quiet hike immensely.

Saturday, March 21
What You Would Have Learned about Flatwoods
If We Hadn’t Have Had to Cancel Our Hike at Ambler Flatwoods

club moss ambler flatwoods

Unfortunately, we had to cancel our hike on March 21 due to the corona virus threat, but here’s what you would have learned from hike leader Pat Fisher (gathered from a variety of sources):

Flatwoods occur on level or nearly level terrain in landscape position above the floodplain and are underlain by a subsurface layer that limits permeability (hardpan). Soils are low in available nutrients. Poor drainage results an a seasonally perched water table and ponding in microdepressions, especially during the late dormant season. During the summer months, due to evapotranspirational drying of the soil, the habitats can become extremely dry. Because soil moisture fluctuates widely by season, the moisture class is not included in the classification. In sand flatoods, the slowly permeable horizon (i.e., lakebed) may be below depth of classified soil horizon units.

What kind of plants grow in this habitat? At least four varieties of club mosses, lots of hair cap mosses, turkey tails and shelf mushrooms (conks). The size of some of the trees is stunning. Large specimens of sassafras, cherry, tulip poplar, birch, beech and maples, and plenty of white and red oak. Muscle and iron wood trees are always fun to see. The numbers of hummocks (pit and mounds) and vernal pools, and the widths and speeds of the rivulets is amazing. To get a feel for just where the water table is, just look around. The tops of the vernal pools all around you is the height of the immediate water table.

In the spring, the wildflowers should be amazing. More trillium and May apples than you can count, and pretty much every woodland wildflower and fern you can find in the Calment region. Wetland plants such as skunk cabbage, marsh marigolds and Jack-in-the-pulpits can also be found.

Repeating a comment I heard, “This place is like a wonderland!” (Photo: club mosses at Ambler Flatwoods. Photo by Pat Fisher)

Saturday, March 7
Flash Hike
Ambler Flatwoods


Around 20 Hikers and several canine friends crunched through the western Ambler Flatwoods trails as winter birds were singing and drumming their morning sounds. Even though the frozen ground made for a mud free hike, we were able to see an assortment of mosses including ground cedar, ground pine, northern running-pine and shining clubmoss. We also saw lots of hair-cap moss, some wintergreen and even a holly plant. We decided it would be fun to revisit this conservation area through all four seasons. So far we’ve visited it in fall and late winter and we’re anxious to see wetland wildflowers spring to life in another month or so. Eight of us hiked another three miles through the eastern Ambler Woods trails. We saw more green stuff and running rivulets, frozen vernal ponds, several chipmunks and deer. (Photo by Pat Fisher)

Tuesday, February 25
Hiking and Health
New Buffalo Township Library


Dr. Margaret Bailey, family practice specialist and Hikers member, explained how a good walk in the woods can restore physical and mental health better than almost anything else.  Hiking, she said, improves cardiovascular health and strengthens bones and the body core, especially for senior citizens. She cited studies that show that people who spend time in nature recover from the wear and tear of daily life much more quickly than those who remain in an urban environment.  (Photo: Dr. Bailey with HCH Secretary Evie Rowley and President Pat Fisher. Photo by Janet Hayes.)

Saturday, February 22
Winter Botany
Lydick Bog, South Bend, Ind.

lydick bog2

A warm, sunny day for late February helped draw a good crowd, including some newcomers, to the Lydick Bog Nature Preserve. Doug Botka, with the Shirley Heinze Land Trust (That’s him in the blue-green coat and sunglasses near the center of the photo.) explained that lighting conditions can make identifying trees by their bark misleading. Better, he said, to consider alternating and opposing branches, leaf placement and bud and twig identification. An interesting fact about Lydick Bog: It was rediscovered by a botanist using Google Maps when the property just happened to be for sale. The hike ran about two miles and took about two hours with multiple stops along the way. The Hikers encountered hills, snow, ice and mud on the trails, but everyone made it back with smiles on their faces. (Photo by Pat Fisher)

Saturday, January 25
The Postglacial History of Robinson Woods
Three Oaks, Mich.


The weather was a bit chilly, flurries were falling and the trails were slushy, but 10 hardy hikers–including a first-timer–showed up to learn about the glaciers that shaped our landscape. Hike leader and HCH President Pat Fisher talked about the moraines (glacial ridges) left behind as the glaciers retreated, and how lake levels–much higher than today’s–deposited sandy soil and dunes. Large puddles and a rapidly flowing drainage ditch served as a reminder that Robinson Woods contains many wetland areas, and club mosses provided a few patches of green in the otherwise gray landscape. (Photo: What is this? Some hikers thought it was a small animal skull someone had stuck on a tree, but a lack of teeth and parchment-like texture led others to think otherwise. If you think you know what this is, write us at harborcountryhikers@gmail.com.)

Appalachian Trail, Anyone?

Member Mike Brown writes:
I would like to team up with anyone wanting to hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail–I have hiked many parts of the trail over the years. Thinking from 1 to 3 weeks, April through October. I’m 67 and don’t hike at a blistering pace–but I eventually get from A to B. Generally 8 to 12 miles per day. I prefer to be the driver–room for 3 more. Let me know if you’re interested and we can work on an itinerary. Email owner@bluebirdmeadows.com.

Wednesday, January 1
Flash Hike
Warren Dunes State Park
Bridgman, Mich.

new year's 2020

A bit more than 20 Hikers turned up to welcome 2020 with a New Year’s Day Flash Hike. Plenty of sunshine and a temperature near 40 made for pleasant hiking, though leftover snow and puddles turned parts of the trail wet and muddy. The remaining snow was nice to look at and the leafless trees allowed for rare, unobstructed views of the park’s wetlands and huge dunes. What better way to start off the New Year than a walk in one of the region’s wonderful parks and preserves? (Photo: Hikers walking a Warren Dunes trail. Flash Hikes are announced only by email a few days beforehand. There is no theme and no leader–just a group walk in the woods with friendly people.)

Saturday, December 22
Christmastide Hike

New Buffalo Area Schools Nature Study Trails
New Buffalo, Mich.

christmas hike 19

Our first annual Christmas Hike drew more than two dozen hikers, kids included, to the Nature Study Trails behind the New Buffalo Elementary School. We got an amazing, sunny, warm (for late December) day as children and adults walked the trails and looked for pine cones, spider webs, birds and other objects on a nature bingo card for prizes. Afterwards, everyone gathered in the school cafeteria for hot chocolate and prizes and gifts from Santa’s helpers. (Photo: Santa’s helper and HCH President Pat Fisher points the way.)

Saturday, December 7
Little Calumet River Trail
Porter, Ind.

little calumet

Two dozen hikers walked the historic Indiana Dunes National Park trails in the Little Calumet River area near Porter, Ind. Well before there was a country, the river and trails were important migration routes for local Indians. French-Canadian fur trappers and traders later roamed the area, among them Joseph Bailly, whose family house still stands on park land. Bailly moved to the area in the early 1820s and opened a trading post, which became a gathering place for trappers and Indians. Nearby, the Chellberg farm, owned by Swedish immigrants, is also maintained by the Park Service. The hikers visited the Bailly cemetery, a square structure about eight feet tall, filled with earth and the bones of early Baillys, and topped by a large wood cross. Although one can see US12 from atop the structure, it seems isolated and out-of place in the woods. (Photo: Hikers make their way along the Calumet River Trail.)

Hikes Inspire Art

HCH member and artist Ed Ravine writes:  I’ve so enjoyed these brief journeys through the gems of southwest Michigan. Quick study of our Grand Mere traverse.


Ed’s work is on display at the Local Color gallery in Union Pier.

Sunday, November 17
Grand Mere State Park
Stevensville, Mich.


A touch of remaining snow from the previous week contributed to some gorgeous vistas in this little-visited portion of Grand Mere. The Hikers climbed the back side of a foredune for a look at Lake Michigan on one side, and one of the three  inland lakes left behind by the glaciers. Originally, there were five such lakes, but two have silted in over the centuries, and the remaining three eventually face the same fate. Other trails led past swampy areas adjacent to the lake, filled with fallen trees. Tracks in the snow showed the presence of deer and other animals. About 15 hikers came out for this chilly, but sunny, outing. (Photo: Hikers climbed a high dune for a look at the Lake Michigan shore and one of Grand Mere’s inland lakes.)

Sunday, November 10
Flash Hike
Moon Valley, Long Beach, Ind.

moonvalley 3 (2)

Moon Valley is a 200-acre collection of preserves and parks in Long Beach, mostly owned by the town but partly privately owned. A group of local people is looking for ways to prevent the privately owned property from being developed, and to discourage the town from opening the portion it owns to development. The group is inviting individuals and groups in the area to hike the preserves, in order to develop awareness of it and to gather support to keep Moon Valley undeveloped. More than two dozen HCH members and guests showed up for this hike among the dunes, our largest attendance so far at a Flash Hike. (Photo: Hikers work their way up a dune near the entrance to Moon Valley during a November 10 Flash Hike.  Flash Hikes are announced only by email a few days beforehand. There is no theme and no leader–just a group walk in the woods.)

Sunday, November 3
Fernwood Botanical Gardens and Nature Preserve
Niles, Michigan


The Hikers got a private look at the trails of Fernwood, led by Fernwood Naturalist Corey Hopwood. Following a warm welcome by Executive Director Carol Line, Hopwood–whose knowledge of local flora and fauna seemed encyclopedic–took the group along the Ridge Trail, to the River Trail, through the Wilderness Trail and finally gave the Hikers a quick look at Fernwood’s Prairie (the subject of a future hike, we hope). He pointed out the different species of trees, and how some (oaks, beeches) prefer dry environments while others (sycamore, paw paw) prefer wetter surroundings. Wildlife stayed well-hidden, but Hopwood pointed out evidence of their presence: a tree nearly gnawed through by a beaver, for instance. Along the way, he gave a brief history of Fernwood. The preserve’s original 12.5 acres were bought in 1941 by a family called Boydston. Mrs. Boydston was an avid nature lover, and her property became a gathering place for those who shared that love. She planted some species, like ferns, that weren’t originally native to the property, and gave the place its name. The property was acquired for a botanical garden in 1964 and grew to its present size of 105 acres. Many of the hikers, even some who visit Fernwood frequently, were surprised at the extent and variety of its trails. (Photo: How do you tell a male spider from a female? Fernwood Naturalist Corey Hopwood explains. Photo by Maggie Galloway.)

Saturday, October 26
Flash Hike
Ambler Flatwoods, Michigan City, Ind.

flash hike 10-26

A great morning for a hike. Brisk fall weather, leaves falling like snow and carpeting the trails. Fourteen people, including some newcomers, turned out for our third Flash Hike. Ambler Flatwoods is a Shirley Heinze Land Trust property–more that 500 acres and almost five miles of trails–with some rare species and trees commonly found at more northerly latitudes. Flatwoods are characterized by low, flat topography, poor drainage, and acidic, sandy soil. (Photo: Technicolor leaves paved the trails for our third Flash Hike. Flash Hikes are announced only by email a few days beforehand. There is no theme and no leader–just a group walk in the woods.)

Saturday, October 19
Sarett Nature Center

sarett 1

About 20 Hikers showed up on another gorgeous fall morning for a trek through Sarett Nature Center. The trail was a little treacherous here and there, but everyone made it back from the two-hour, two-mile hike tested but unscathed. Rob Pearce, Sarett Grounds Manager and Naturalist, led the hike through the center’s upland and lowland trails. Rated moderate, some of those who hiked the trail said it felt more like moderate-plus. Half the group followed Pearce to the end of the River Trail, which added another 1.6 miles to the hike.  (Photo: Rob Pearce, Sarett naturalist, shows off the different shapes of sassafras leaves. The leaves come with one, two or three lobes; the two-lobed leaf  is said to resemble the state of Michigan. Photo by Janet Hayes.)

Saturday, October 5
Great Marsh Trail
Indiana Dunes National Park


Twenty hikers turned out on a beautiful fall morning for a walk through the Great Marsh, part of the largest wetland complex in the Lake Michigan watershed. Drained for development in the early 20th century, the Park Service began restoring the marsh in 1998. The Marsh Trail follows old roads created in anticipation of residential building. The Marsh is a resting stop for migrating birds that follow the Lake Michigan shoreline, and it is popular among birders. The hikers saw a hawk, many red-wing blackbirds, woodpeckers and Canada geese, and heard–but did not see–sand cranes. (Photo: Hikers listen as HCH President Pat Fisher talks about the history of the Great Marsh)

Sunday, September 29
Members-Only Social
Galien River County Park
And New Buffalo Township Park


Hikers turned out for our first members-only social. The party started with a hike through Galien River County Park, followed by a bonfire, s’mores and games across the street at the New Buffalo Township Park. To close the evening, Garth Taylor, president of the School of American Music in Three Oaks, led the group in campfire songs. (Photos: Taylor on the pavilion stage and members enjoying the bonfire)

Saturday, September 7
Building Wetlands
Watkins Memorial Park


Hikers heard from Berrien County Drain Commissioner Christopher Quattrin, who spoke about the advantages of creating wetlands as part of a rainwater drainage system. Wetlands, he said, create natural filtration and quickly soak up–and slowly release–water. They also slow the flow of water and prevent erosion and host many plant and animal species. Quattrin noted that the system of drain commissions in Michigan preceded statehood, and was a successful effort to create farmland. After Quattrin’s talk, the Hikers–two dozen of them on this trek–viewed the Schwark Drain, a manmade wetland, and hiked the adjacent Hoadley Trail. The trail originally was set up with exercise stations along the way, and the equipment, mostly overgrown lumber and pipes at this point, still exists. Hikers President Pat Fisher pointed out plants, invasive and native, along the way. Hickory nuts were plentiful on the trail. The nuts, by the way, are edible and sometimes tasty. They were a popular forage food for local Indians, who valued them for their high calorie content and either ate them raw or boiled them in water to make a kind of porridge. Pecans are the nut of the southern hickory. (Photo: Hikers have a peek at the Schwark Drain from at overlook. Photo by Janet Hayes.)

Wednesday, August 28
Our First Flash Hike

flash hike 8-28

A small but convivial group walked the trails of Jens Jensen Preserve and the adjacent Pepperidge Dunes on the Hikers’ first Flash Hike. Flash Hikes are informal walks through local parks and preserves, and are announced just days beforehand by email only. The Wednesday evening hike featured nearly perfect weather and not too many bugs. Along the way, the hikers reviewed how to read the trail markers designed by HCH President Pat Fisher. Those who joined the hike agreed the Flash Hikes should continue and remarked that the format was great for socializing and offered a measure of safety that solo walks in the the woods might not.

Sunday, August 25
What Tree Is It?
Warren Dunes State Park



Arborist Christian Siewert of C&A Arborists pointed out stressed trees along the trail, and noted that stressors may include lack of water or disease. Symptoms of stress include dried or curled leaves and premature leaf shedding. Overwatering isn’t usually a problem, he said, in our locally sandy soil. Siewert advised against pruning unless an overhanging limb threatens a roof, for example. “All pruning wounds the tree,” he said. Another threat to trees is compacting soil around their roots. This can happen when vehicles or construction equipment drives over root systems. A recent threat to oaks, Siewert said, is oak wilt, a fungus spread through roots or by beetles that carry the fungus. He recommended severing the roots of infected trees and avoiding pruning in the summer when the beetles are active. The hikers ran into a recently fallen tree that blocked the trail until member Bob Vondale found a way around it. Altogether, more than 50 people showed up for the hike–our biggest attendance ever. (Photos: Top–Christian Siewert points our a stressed tree along the trail. Bottom–A fallen tree blocked the trail, but the hikers found a way around it.)

Saturday, August 10
The Sights and Sounds of Dusk
Chikaming Township Park and Preserve


About 20 hikers, many of them first-timers, came for a dusk hike at the Chikaming Township Park and Preserve. Hikers President Pat Fisher ran through a list of nocturnal animals native to the area, and pointed out the sounds of cicadas and frogs along the way. Most of the critters stayed well clear of the group, but a bat and some water birds put in a showing, and a gibbous moon provided plenty of light after the sun went down. 

Far-Flung Hikers Send Greetings

Harbor Country Hikers Joe and Marian Kelly are hiking the foothills of Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) today [August 9]. Cannot wait to share our adventures when we get back.

Sunday, July 28
Hiking for Those with Limited Mobility
Glenwood Dunes Trail
Indiana Dunes National Park

accessible hiking (2)

Jim Dolph, an intrepid hiker who lost his legs in an industrial accident, shared his hiking experiences before and after his accident. Kim Swift, from the Park Service, presented a list of existing trails that are ADA friendly and one that is still in the planning stages. She brought along a Freedom Trax, a device that transforms a conventional wheelchair into an off-road vehicle that can traverse sand, snow, gravel and mud. Dolph strapped his wheelchair onto the Freedom Trax and joined us on a one-mile hike that took us up and over hills and through the woods. He remarked that this was the first time he’s been in the woods since his accident, and that he will certainly add a Freedom Trax to his Christmas list. (Photo: Jim Dolph talks with the hikers. A Freedom Trax is in the foreground. Photo by Pat Fisher)

Saturday, July 20
Genetically Altered Species
Harbert Road Preserve

7-20-19 hike

Invasive species educator Jared Harmon spoke on genetic species alteration on a hike through the Harbert Road Preserve. About 10 Hikers showed up–warnings of excessive heat may have kept some away, though it never got above the 80s during the hike. Harmon said genetic engineering can, for example, make mosquitoes or rats infertile in a location within a few generations. The danger is that the genetically altered species can spread to other locations, where they may form an important part of the ecosystem. New techniques, he said, are addressing that problem. Along the trail, Harmon showed off a variety of locally invasive species like autumn olive, barberry and some types of thistle. (Photo: Harmon explains the differences between invasive, hybrid and native species of cattail.)

Lake Michigan Water Level
Ties Record for July 

Wonder where the beaches went? The water level in Lake Michigan has tied a July record set in 1986, according to a July 5 report from the Army Corps of Engineers. Currently, the lake is three feet above its long-term average for July. The July figure is four inches above the comparable figure for June and 15 inches above last July’s level, and the Corps of Engineers is predicting the lake will rise another two inches in August.

Saturday, June 29
Pinhook Bog and the Valparaiso Moraine


The Hikers visited Pinhook Bog, part of the Indiana Dunes National Park, then hiked the surrounding trail up and through the Valparaiso Moraine. Both the bog and the moraine are artifacts of glacial activity thousands of years ago. The bog formed when a chunk of glacial ice fell and made a dent in the area’s clay soil. The clay formed a lining which is impervious to water, and since the bog has no inlet or outlet, its only sources of water are rain and snow. Over the millennia, the bog filled with moss and other plants that give it the appearance of solid land, even though it is not. Carnivorous plants abound in the bog, as do species of orchid. Seven hikers continued on to the moraine hike, perhaps our toughest trek yet. The moraine marks the edge of the glacier, and is one of the highest points in northern Indiana. But the trip through multiple environments–forests, a pond, grasslands–made the tough walking well worth it. (Photo: Unusually heavy rains caused bog waters to splash over the boardwalk at Pinhook Bog, as this photo of the entrance to the boardwalk demonstrates.)

Hiking Tips (and More)
For Walking the Camino de Santiago


Mary Rooney, a retired hospital worker from South Bend, told the story of her five pilgrimages on the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile trail that starts in France and ends up at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. Speaking at a program sponsored jointly by the Hikers and the Friends of the New Buffalo Library, Rooney told the audience she packs lightly–a maximum of 12 pounds. She carries one change of clothes, a pair of sandals, a sleeping bag and little else. Even the journal she keeps is made of tracing paper, to keep weight down. On slow days on the trail (depending mostly on geography), she walks eight or nine miles; on her best day ever, she hiked 28 miles. For aspiring pilgrims, Rooney said, some things have gotten easier since she began walking the trail in 2001. The albergos (inns) have gotten better, and there are more places to find meals. Rooney’s favorite things about walking the Camino: the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, being in nature and living in the present, without everyday distractions.

How Much Nature Is Enough?
120 Minutes a Week, Doctors Say
(From the New York Times, 6/13/19)

It’s a medical fact: Spending time outdoors, especially in green spaces, is good for you.

A wealth of research indicates that escaping to a neighborhood park, hiking through the woods, or spending a weekend by the lake can lower a person’s stress levels, decrease blood pressure and reduce the risk of asthma, allergies, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, while boosting mental health and increasing life expectancy. Doctors around the world have been prescribing time in nature as a way of improving their patients’ health.

One question has remained: How long, or how frequently, should you experience the great outdoors in order to reap its great benefits?…According to a paper published…in the journal Scientific Reports, the answer is about 120 minutes each week.

The study examined data from nearly 20,000 people in England who took part in [a survey] from 2014 to 2016, which asked them to record their activities within the past week. It found that people who spent two hours a week or more outdoors reported being in better health and having a greater sense of well-being than people who didn’t get out at all.

Spending just 60 to 90 minutes in nature did not have as significant an effect. And five hours a week in nature offered no additional health benefits. “…Two hours a week was the threshold for both men and women, older and younger adults, different ethnic groups, people living in richer or poorer areas, and even for those living with long term illnesses,” [according to Matthew P. White, an environmental psychologist who led the study].

Saturday, June 1
Beach Appreciation
Beaches of Chikaming Township

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Hikers who walked the Chikaming Township beaches on June 1 got a first-hand look at the effects of beach erosion and the unusually high waters of Lake Michigan. Originally set for Townline Beach to Warren Dunes, the route was changed, from Cherry Beach to Warren Dunes and back, because there were spots along the original route where there was no beach. In many places north of Cherry Beach, the sand was only a few feet wide. Before the Hikers set off, David Bunte gave an update on efforts by the Township to acquire additional lakefront adjacent to Cherry Beach. Chikaming Fire Chief Mike Davidson spoke about beach safety and the township’s marker system that helps guide emergency teams to beach-goers in trouble. As if to underscore high-water problems, the Hikers passed a tent recently pitched on the beach that had been partly dismantled by the lake’s waves. (Photo by Janet Hayes)

Saturday, May 18
Ecological Restoration
Mud Lake Bog, Buchanan, Mich.


Mud Lake Bog began as a kettle lake, a glacially formed depression that filled with melt water as the glacier retreated. When kettle lakes have no outlet, their water becomes acidic and plants like sphagnum mosses grow on the lake’s surface, intertwine and create the vegetative mats characteristic of bogs. Hike leader Jack Pizzo, an ecologist and landscape architect, pointed out native and invasive plants to the 30-plus hikers who showed up for the outing, and noted some of the species that favor the habitat–carnivorous plants like pitcher plants and sundew, and orchids among them. Pizzo also noted that the boardwalks and other structures in the preserve are in need of repair, and that volunteers and donors are being sought to bring them up to par and to help control invasives. (Photo: Ecologist Jack Pizzo–in the orange cap–explains bog environments to the Hikers)

Sunday, May 5
The Micro World of Vernal Ponds
NBAS Nature Study Trails


Ecologist Brock Struecker led about 18 hikers to a pair of vernal, or ephemeral, ponds along the trails behind the New Buffalo elementary school. Vernal ponds form in depressions in forests and prairies, and last long enough to serve as nurseries for larvae of amphibians and insects, Struecker said. Because the ponds have no inlet or outlet, they have no fish that might prey on the larvae. Strueker showed photos of a variety of frogs, toads and salamanders that reach maturity in vernal ponds, and he spoke about the environments the amphibians prefer. After Struecker’s talk, the Hikers continued to turtle pond, through fields of wildflowers and skunk cabbage. (Photo: Struecker shows off a red-backed salamander found near a vernal pond)

General Membership Meeting
May 2, New Buffalo Township Library

Harbor Country Hikers members re-elected incumbent officers (President Pat Fisher, VP Stacey LaRocco, Secretary Evie Rowley and Treasurer Bob Mueller) at a general membership meeting on May 2. Fisher gave a report on hikes and other events the Hikers have sponsored since the group’s inception in 2017, and presented a list of planned hikes for the next several months. He also said the club’s trail marker program should include most of the trails in New Buffalo, Three Oaks and Chikaming townships by the end of the year, thanks in part to widespread buy-in by parks and preserves authorities and donations from civic groups and individuals. Mueller reported that the Hikers is in good financial shape, with most of its income coming from member dues and donations. He added that the club currently has 126 members, many from well outside the boundaries of Harbor Country. Member input included suggestions for a social event, so members could get to know one another better, and hikes at more distant locations. Fisher said the board would consider carefully both suggestions.

Sunday, April 28
Spring Wildflower Walk and Talk
Warren Woods State Park

wildflower hike

Arch Hopkins, HCH member and PhD botanist, led 23 hikers for a look at the many wildflowers in bloom at Warren Woods. Hopkins noted that the flowers bloom only briefly–once the overhead canopy fills in, they can’t get enough sunlight to flower. Among the species he pointed out: wild ginger, purple violet, wild geranium, white and red trillium, Jack-in-the-pulpit, May apple, Dutchman’s britches, spring beauty, bloodroot and round-lobed hepatica. Hopkins said some wildflowers were considered medicinal because some feature of those plants resemble parts of the human body. Bloodroot, for example, has red sap, from which early pharmacists concluded it was good for the blood. An unusual late snowstorm the day before the hike left patches of white in the woodlands, but most had melted by the time hikers headed back to the parking lot. (Photo: Arch Hopkins, on the right, points out a wildflower species.)

Saturday, April 6
Prairie Management
Chikaming Township Park and Preserve

4-6-19 hike

Two dozen hikers came on a glorious spring Saturday to learn more about how controlled, or prescribed, fires help preserve native prairie plants. Chikaming Township Parks Board member Deborah Hall-Kayler described how her board tries to do a prescribed burn of the prairie lands in the Park and Preserve every three years. She described a recent burn, and told how the experts controlled the fire, taking into account winds and types of vegetation. Hike leader Buffy Dunham, an experienced monitor of prescribed fires results, noted that some native plants are fire-dependent–that is, they depend on fires–deliberately set or natural–to clear the landscape of invasive species. She counseled balancing the effects of prescribed burns to take into account not only plants, but animal and insect species living in the burn area. After Dunham’s talk, the hikers walked around some of the burnt prairie, then worked their way into the wooded portion of the property. (Photo: Buffy Dunham stands in front of a portion of burnt prairie.)

Saturday, March 30
Forgotten Skills–How the Indians Survived Michigan Winters
Warren Dunes State Park

warren dunes 4

Ever wonder how Michigan’s Indians survived winter without central heating and trips south? Turns out some actually did head south–to southern Michigan, that is–to better winter hunting and fishing grounds. Snow made tracking game easier, and kept meat fresh longer. Some lived on fish caught through holes in the ice. Local Indians lived in wigwams or long houses, which kept the wind out, and they kept fires going. They dressed in layers and avoided sitting on cold ground. And some–the old, the infirm, the careless–didn’t survive winter. Some tribes developed good weather forecasting abilities that enabled them to predict snow and blizzards and stay indoors when they came.

Despite rain just before the hike, about 20 hikers showed up on the 30th. A few tried their hands (and their knees) climbing dunes like the one pictured. (Photo by Pat Fisher)

Thursday, March 21
HCH/BASE Program 
Enters Second Year

BASE 3-19

The signs of spring were subtle, but definitely there as volunteers from the Harbor Country Hikers led a dozen youngsters from the New Buffalo BASE (Bison After School Enrichment) program through the educational trails behind the elementary school. The ravines were full of burbling water and the crows were busy alerting the animal kingdom to our invasion. We even heard a chipmunk rustle through the leaves, and deer tracks and scat were also in evidence. After checking out the budding beech trees–still holding onto last year’s leaves–we ventured into a ravine to find the skunk cabbages that were everybody’s favorite last year. The partnership between the Hikers and the BASE program is meant to provide children with exposure to nature and to promote trail safety and etiquette.

Saturday, March 9
Sugar Maple Hike
Bendix Woods County Park


About 14 hikers made the trip down to Bendix Woods County Park in New Carlisle for a look at how maple syrup is made and at the trees that ultimately produce it. The group traveled over some fairly rough terrain and climbed the steep Carlisle Hill, the second-highest point in St. Joseph County, Ind. The hikers passed through a “sugar bush”–a stand of maples used for making syrup–and visited the park’s sugar shack to see how maple sap is turned into maple syrup. They also walked through the Studebaker pine forest, a group of pines that spells “Studebaker” when viewed from above. (Photo by Janet Hayes)

Bendix Woods will be making maple syrup next weekend, if the weather cooperates. see http://www.sjcparks.org/1185/Sugar-Camp-Days for more information.

Wednesday, February 27
Ice Formations in Lake Michigan
New Buffalo Beach

ice hike 2

Unfortunately, no sunset for this evening hike and presentation, but plenty of ice in the lake. Twenty-eight people showed up for the presentation on ice formations and most walked to the ice shelf afterwards.  A few walked to the end of the beach, up the dune stairs, across the walkway and back down the parking lot stairs. It wasn’t an especially long hike–we rated it “easy”–but it was a nippy evening. (Photo by Phil Eichas)

Mild Weather (for February) Brings Out
Hikers for Animal Tracking Lesson

2-17-19 hike

More than 30 hikers, including some first-timers, turned out on February 17 at the Jens Jensen Preserve in Sawyer to learn about animal signs from Chikaming Open Lands’ Casey Struecker. The weather was balmy by mid-February standards–just above freezing with light snow. Despite the fresh covering, the hikers were able to find some tracks and everyone learned a little about tracks and scat.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Changes Last Name to ‘Park’

From the South Bend Tribune

The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore has changed the last word of its name to “Park.” President Donald Trump on Friday signed the name change into reality, tucked into the broader bill from Congress that provides $1.4 billion for Mexican border fencing.

For two years, regional leaders in Congress had been pushing for the word “Park” as a way to gain greater recognition for these 15,000 acres along Lake Michigan, which already are a national park. 

The change, which is immediate, won’t affect how the park operates or its funding, apart from signs and literature, but leaders are hoping that it will boost tourism, drawing more people who seek out national parks. It is now the 61st such “National Park” in the U.S., and the first in Indiana.

“This action provides our shoreline with the recognition it deserves,” said U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, “and I hope further builds momentum to improve open and public access to all of our region’s environmental wonders.”

The park contains some of the most diverse flora of the national parks, ranging from dune grass to forests, oak savannas, prairies, a bog and wetlands, some of which are considered globally rare.

Websites about Helping Birds in Winter


Saturday, December 15
Helping Birds Survive Winter
Harbert Road Preserve

Harbert Woods 12-15

Nearly 30 hikers turned out on a sunny, late fall Saturday to learn about helping birds through the winter and walk the trails of the Harbert Road Preserve. HCH President Pat Fisher talked about how to create backyard habitats from brushwood. The habitats can provide shelter in bad weather and hide birds from predators. During winter, Fisher said, birds need food that’s high in fats and proteins–definitely not bits of stale bread and crackers. He also showed some pictures of bird feeders made from discarded materials like plastic milk and soda bottles and even worn-out shoes. The trails were muddy and sometimes covered in water. Trails in the Preserve, Fisher explained, cross a moraine, where the soil drains well, and a lower-lying area where the soil contains a lot of clay, which does not drain well. HCH Member and Chikaming Township Parks Board member Deborah Hall-Kayler pointed out “bluebird boxes” along the trail. The boxes, and others like them in local parks and preserves, provide shelter and food for the bluebirds, which otherwise might have died off in our area.

Tuesday, December 4
Wild Lake Michigan
New Buffalo Township Library 


The Hikers and their guests learned about the recreational opportunities our own Lake Michigan offers, and also about the environmental threats to it and the dangers it poses. HCH Director and owner of Sand Pirate Janet Schrader spoke about the environmental threats to the lake, from plastics and agricultural chemicals to invasive species and sewage brought by unusually heavy rainfall. Stacey LaRocco, HCH vice president and project coordinator for Chikaming Open Lands, listed some of the dangers the lake poses and how to avoior escape them. She discussed different types of currents that can threaten swimmers, dangerous weather and infectious bacteria, among other potential dangers. HCH President Pat Fisher spoke about hiking the Lake Michigan beaches safely and with respect for lakeside landowners. He also discussed winter hiking and some of the equipment he uses for his cold-weather hikes. Eve Moore won the door prize–a collection of photos of the lake by Phil Eichas. Eichas’s photos appear in the Harbor Country News and he is official photographer for Friendship Gardens.

Saturday, November 17
National Take-A-Hike Day
Hoadley Trail, Three Oaks

hoadley 11-17

Despite a light drizzle and a soggy trail, 15 hikers–including some newcomers–showed up at Hoadley Trail in Three Oaks to hike in honor of national Take-A-Hike Day. President Pat Fisher gave a brief talk on trail safety, and showed off the new trail markers installed the previous Saturday. Our youngest hiker so far, Sean Nicka, age 2, came along to check out the scenery, along with parents Emily and John.

Tuesday, November 13
Hiking the Appalachian Trail with Fred Jolly


Nearly 70 people, both HCH members and non-members, showed up to hear New Buffalo resident Fred Jolly talk about his experiences through-hiking the Appalachian Trail. Jolly started his hike last March 25, his 62nd birthday, and hiked 2,190 miles through 14 states to become one of fewer than 500 people over the age of 60 to complete the trek since the trail was created in 1937. One of the biggest surprises, Jolly said, was the number of hills the trail runs over. Although there were bears and snakes along the way, a larger annoyance were bugs–ticks and mosquitoes–and mice chewing through gear in search of food. One of Jolly’s goals was to raise $25,000 in donations for the National Park Foundation. Although he’s exceeded that goal, he still encourages giving to the Foundation. Check out his website, http://www.athike.jollyoutthere.com, to read the full story of his hike and to make a donation. (Photo by Pat Fisher)

Saturday, November 10
Hoadley Trail, Watkins Park
Three Oaks, Mich.

hoadley trail 3

A hardy band of Hikers and members of the Harbor Country Rotary Club braved cold weather and mud to install trail markers along Hoadley Trail in Three Oaks. The markers, designed by Hikers President Pat Fisher, are meant to give uniform guidance throughout parks and preserves in Berrien Country, with directions forward and back to the trailhead and a unique number that can pinpoint the location of hikers in trouble for emergency services. The Hoadley Trail markers, contributed by the Rotary Club, are the second set installed so far. (Photo: HCH Secretary Evie Rowley drives home a trail marker while Fisher and Treasurer Bob Mueller look on. Photo by Janet Schrader)

Saturday, November 3
Dune Ridge Trail
Indiana Dunes/Beverly Shores

dune ridge trail2

Thirty-three hikers turned out on a partly sunny day to hike the Dune Ridge Trail and enjoy the beautiful fall colors. Along the way, they discussed the glacial history of Northwest Indiana and the more recent history of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. After the hike, President Pat Fisher led a caravan of five cars that stopped to view the Century of Progress houses in Beverly Shores, the National Lakeshore Lakeview Picnic Area and the Great Marsh. (Photo by Janet Schrader)

Saturday, October 13
Amazing Fall Migrations
Warren Dunes State Park

warren woods 4

A dozen-and-a-half hikers turned out on a glorious Saturday morning to spot birds along a Warren Dunes trail. Lisa Doyle-Schaller (that’s her in the red coat) gave a brief talk on fall bird migrations and called out birds–visually or by their calls–along the way. Areas like Warren Dunes provide refuge for migrating birds as they head south.

Saturday, September 29
Fall Ravine View Hiking
Love Creek County Park

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Kip Miller, chief naturalist for Berrien County Parks and property manager at Love Creek Park (in the black shirt at the center of the photo), led 27 hikers through about 2-3/4 miles of Love Creek’s six miles of hiking trails. Along the way, hikers got spectacular views of beech-maple climax forests, saw some late-blooming wildflowers, peered into deep ravines from atop trails that followed them, and learned a little about Love Creek Park. Miller noted that the park offers off-road bicycling and cross-country skiing in season, as well as hiking. 

Saturday, September 16
Shifting Sands: The Film and the Hike
(New Buffalo Township Library and Cowles Bog)


In this two-part event, the Hikers watched an excellent film called Shifting Sands, about efforts to preserve Northern Indiana dunelands from industrial encroachment–efforts that eventually led to state and national parks. The film did a fine job of presenting both sides of the story, and of tying together the stories of many small groups that, together, saved this diverse region. Rumor is the New Buffalo Township Library is getting a copy. Following the film, the Hikers walked the 3-1/2 mile trail at Cowles Bog, one of the areas mentioned, and saw an egret, sand cranes, lots of monarchs and some unfamiliar plants and flowers.

New Buffalo Resident Nearing
End of Appalachian Trail Hike

New Buffalo resident Fred Jolly reported on August 22 that he had covered 1700 miles of the Appalacian Trail, and had another 490-odd miles left in New Hampshire and Maine to complete the 2190-mile trek. Jolly, 62, will be one of fewer than 500 people over age 60 to have hiked the length of the trail when he completes it. He set out in May from Georgia, partly with a goal to raise money for the National Parks. See Jolly’s website, http://www.athike.jollyoutther.com, to learn how to contribute. We hope to persuade Jolly to talk to the hikers about his experiences when he returns.

Saturday, August 25
Ecosystems and Biodiversity
Chikaming Township Park and Preserve

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More than two dozen hikers turned out for a Saturday morning hike through the Chikaming Township Park and Preserve. Before the hikers set out, HCH VP Stacey LaRocco spoke about how wetlands improve water quality. Wetlands filter out nitrogen, phosphorus and pesticides from agricultural runoff. They slow the flow of water and prevent downstream erosion and flooding. They also provide habitats for birds and mammals. Afterward, hikers had a look at some of the many ecosystems the park and preserve contains–a planted bluestem tallgrass prairie, a pond, wetlands, the Galien River floodplain and more.

Saturday, August 4
New Buffalo Elementary School Trails

8-4 hike

On a hike co-sponsored by the New Buffalo Township Library,  hikers learned a little about how trees survive Michigan winters–and how trees may communicate and what they say to one another.

Hike leader and HCH President Pat Fisher explained that different trees have developed different strategies to deal with cold weather. Some develop bulb-like underground structures that store nutrients for the winter. Others create sugars that dissolve in water carried by the tree’s vascular system. These act as a sort of antifreeze that lowers the water’s freezing point.

Some fairly new research suggests trees can communicate with one another. Trees are connected by microscopic networks of mycorrhizal fungi that attach to their roots. These symbiotic networks, the researchers say, allow the trees to share water and nutrients and send each other distress signals about disease, insect attacks and drought. Some trees also release pheramones when they’re attacked by insects or even leaf-eating animals. The pheramones inform other trees of the attack and, in some cases, cause them to release chemicals that make their leaves bitter and unappetizing to predators.

Saturday, July 14
Robinson Woods Preserve

trail markersTrail Markers_0001_LI (2)

The Hikers got a preview of a new trail marking system developed by HCH President Pat Fisher. The system is being tested at Chikaming Open Lands’ Robinson Woods Preserve, and the plan is to roll it out into other COL properties, as well as township and county parks. The goal, according to Fisher, is to have common, easy-to-understand signage throughout Harbor Country parks and preserves. 

Each marker carries a unique location number that will eventually help emergency services locate lost or injured hikers. It also gives directions to the next marker, identifies the trail and carries other information when appropriate. Separate trailhead signs show a trail map, list rules and identify the type of trail–hiking, cross-county skiing, biking and so on. 

Saturday, July 7
Spicer Lake Nature Preserve

spicer lake 2

The Hikers journeyed to Spicer Lake Nature Preserve in New Carlisle, Ind., home to two kettle lakes, swamps, and numerous plants and animals. Michaele Klingerman, a naturalist with the St. Joseph County (Indiana) Parks, explained that kettle lakes formed when large chunks of ice fell off retreating glaciers during the last Ice Age, and left a water-filled dent in the ground. The three-dozen Hikers who made the trip also saw evidence of beavers and several different bird species–Spicer Lake is known as a good birding destination. Klingerman told the story of how an Audubon Society member raised money to buy the original 70 acres of preserve. Some came in nickels and dimes raised by children. Today, additional land purchases have expanded the preserve to 300 acres.

Saturday, June 16
Kesling Nature Preserve

bird sign

About 20 hikers explored the unusual geology and thick forest of the Kesling Nature Preserve last Saturday. Kesling is regarded as a prime bird-watching location.

A Thank-You Note from
Andrea Brown and the BASE Kids


Friday, May 25
Mt. Baldy Sunset Hike

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The Hikers–along with scores of others–scaled Mt. Baldy for a nice view of the sunset the Friday before the Labor Day weekend. Along the way, a Park Service Ranger explained some of the geology behind the dune’s formation. Mt. Baldy, he said, is actually two dunes–an ancient dune that goes back 8,000 years and a newer dune–less than a thousand years old–that sits on top of it. Mt. Baldy is a “living dune;” that is, it continues to move southward. Plants, especially marram grass, bind the dune together with their roots. Buried trees, according to the ranger, were responsible for creating the hole that swallowed and nearly killed an Illinois boy in 2013. The tree trunks decompose, leaving a hard crust around their circumference that keeps the hole from filling in with sand. Park officials are still looking for other holes, and parts of Mt. Baldy are still off-limits. From the top of the dune, the ranger pointed out the Valparaiso Moraine to the south, a ridge that marks the edge of an Ice Age glacier. (Photos by Andrea Brown)

Thursday, May 24
Turtle Pond with the BASE kids

BASE 5-24 hike

Turtle Pond, a small patch of preserve connected by trails to the New Buffalo Elementary School and Turtle Creek Preserve trails, was the destination for the school’s after-hours hiking program, sponsored by HCH. The trails were wet and muddy, and the hikers got a good look at animal tracks along the way. The pond itself was home to noisy frogs, but the turtles kept well-hidden–and quiet. That’s BASE director Andrea Brown in the sun glasses and HCH President Pat Fisher lurking in the background.

Thursday, April 26
New Buffalo Elementary School

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Christian Siewert, certified arborist and founder of C&A Arborists (in the yellow teeshirt), donated a tulip tree to the New Buffalo Elementary School, and he and the after-school BASE kids–along with local boy and girl scouts–helped plant it on the school grounds for Arbor Day. The children decided the tree needed a name, and called it Bob. After the planting, Siewert led the group on a walk through the trails behind the school and pointed out different tree species and facts about them. (Photo by Janet Hayes)

Saturday, April 21
Spring Wildflower Hike, Warren Woods

4-21-18 hike

Two dozen hikers made it to our Wildflowers Hike April 21. Member and botanist Arch Hopkins led the group through Warren Woods, Michigan’s last surviving beech-maple climax forest. At one time, Hopkins said, beech-maple forests extended all the way from the East Coast to the Great Lakes. But the climax forests thrive on exactly the same sort of soil that makes ideal farmland, and most were cleared for agriculture. Wildflowers in the forests are around only briefly, according to Hopkins. Once the overhead canopy fills in, there isn’t enough sunlight for them to bloom. Along the way, hikers discovered cut-leaved toothwort, wild leek, Dutchman’s britches, bloodroot, round-lobed hepatica and trout lily. Hopkins suggested hikers return in about two weeks—around May 5—when additional spring wildflowers will be in bloom.

Harbor Country Hikers Partners
With New Buffalo Elementary School
On ‘Connecting with Nature’ Program

Harbor Country Hikers and the New Buffalo Elementary School BASE program have joined forces to get students onto local trails. We will be presenting the program from a naturalist’s perspective during the third trimester at BASE. The nature hikes will take place on Thursdays from 4:45 to 5:45pm for 10 weeks, starting March 12. Since this time period spans the spring months and American National Wetlands Month (May), we will concentrate on observing the re-leafing of trees, awakening of the wildflowers and hibernators, and exploring the surrounding wetlands. This program will provide casual exposure to nature and promote trail safety and etiquette.

New Buffalo Resident Plans to Hike
Entire 2200-Mile Appalachian Trail

Fred Jolly, who recently moved to New Buffalo, is planning to spend this summer hiking the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine. The 62-year-old former Chicagoan recently visited all 59 national parks during a 2-1/2-year road trip. Though no stranger to hiking–Jolly has been on several HCH hikes–he admits to very little experience camping out on trails. He points out that the average age of those who walk the entire 2200-mile length of the Appalachian Trail is 29, and that fewer than 500 individuals 60 or older have completed the trail in its 81-year history. Jolly is hiking the trail in part to raise funds for the National Park Foundation, and is asking HCH members and others for their support. Donors can find out more at crowdrise.com/freds-athike or on his Facebook page, Fred R Jolly. If you’re interested in following Jolly’s progress, you can do so at his Facebook page, on his website, athike.jollyoutthere.com, or on Instagram @jollyoutthere. Jolly has agreed to give a talk to the Hikers about his experiences when he returns in the fall.

Saturday, March 3
In Like a Lion: Ice Formations of Lake Michigan


This evening’s hike had some good news and some bad news. The bad news: a streak of unusually warm weather has melted most of the ice on the lakeshore. A collection of photos, most taken locally by President Pat Fisher, showed the most common ice formations, the hazards some represent and the protection they provide for our beaches. The good news: another terrific sunset with views of Chicago and the sun reflecting off the glass in the Willis Tower. (Photo by Pat Fisher)

Saturday, February 3
An Introduction to Off-Trail Hiking


At least 15 hikers showed up for a cross-country, off-trail hike on the New Buffalo Elementary School and Turtle Creek preserves. No snow for snowshoeing, but the hikers were able to traverse the frozen wetlands without getting their feet wet. Hike leader and HCH President Pat Fisher pointed out natural features and winter plants. The pileated woodpeckers have been busy pecking at the trees. Hot Chocolate and wafer cookies were delivered at the end of the hike. (Photo by Janet Hayes)

Clean Your Boots, Other Gear
To Prevent Spread of Invasives

Jared Harmon of SW X SW Corner Invasive Species Management Area writes: The New Year is a time where individuals make an effort to address their personal flaws or change their behavior to better themselves or the world around them. Many will attempt to make these changes but unfortunately most will falter and slip back into their former habits after a short time period.  One change I encourage everyone to make this year is to be mindful of spreading invasive species into the natural areas they visit by decontaminating their gear and equipment when entering and leaving natural areas. When we think of the principle of “Leave No Trace” we often think that applies only to human recreational impact to the environment but we should also include the introduction of invasive species from human activity. Decontamination not only applies to hikers but includes cleaning off tires, gear, equipment, clothing, pets, and anything that comes into contact with soil that could contain seeds and pathogens. An easy way to decontaminate boots is to keep a hoof brush/pick or a simple boot brush in a hiking pack to use before and after a hike. The recent detection last summer of Japanese Stiltgrass on a trail in Niles demonstrates how important it is to decontaminate in order to protect our local ecosystems. The only other introduction of Japanese Stiltgrass in Michigan was in Ann Arbor with the closest populations being found in parts of Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana.

New Year resolutions can be difficult to keep but decontamination takes only a couple minutes and is an important measure to protect the natural world that we enjoy so much. Sadly many gyms will soon be empty as resolutions are broken but fortunately keeping our gear and clothing clean is easy and requires little effort on our part.

For more information, contact Harmon at jared.harmon@macd.org.

January 6, 2018–Cross-Country Skiing
At Love Creek County Park

love creek

The Hikers’ first activity of the year was a cross-country ski trip to Love Creek County Park. Turnout was good, considering the weather–some experienced skiers, some first-timers. The trails were well-groomed with plenty of snow, though there was no wind and no falling snow while the group was there.

Love Creek  County Park a ‘Huge Destination’
For Cross-Country Skiers

About our January 6 cross-country ski trip to Love Creek Park (see Events page), Mrs. Daniels of Porter Country, Ind. writes, “You say ‘this place is in the middle of nowhere’ but Love Creek County Park is a HUGE destination for us X-C skiers. Anyone who X-C skis knows that Love Creek is the only X-C ski facility, within a huge area, that grooms their trails for classic style and skating technique.  We drive for hours in the winter to get to Love Creek. No place in NW Indiana grooms, nor other trails in Berrien County nor SE Chicagoland.  The next X-C area that grooms is Madeline Bertrand Park in Niles and the adjoining park directly south on the Indiana state line and in Indiana–St. Patrick’s Park. A further drive for many of us. Love Creek rents X-C ski equipment, fat tire bicycles and snowshoes.  We X-C skiers who wait in anticipation for Love Creek to open their winter trails have our own equipment. Enjoy the trails of Love Creek County Park; you should have plenty of snow.”

New Cross Country Ski Trails in New Buffalo

Ski Trails Xmas Day

New Buffalo has some brand new cross-country ski trails on several blocks of undeveloped city right-of-ways, a portion of the New Buffalo Area Schools’ Nature Study Trails and Turtle Creek Preserve. Bring your own skis and be patient: this is a voluntary effort by local residents and friends. You can access these trails from the corners of Washington and Chicago or Eagle and Clay. Limited parking is available at New Buffalo’s Turtle Pond Nature Preserve. The trails are also accessible from the Elementary School, where more parking is available. The photo above was taken after our Christmas Eve snowfall. Imagine how nice they are with all the snow we’ve had since!

Follow this link for maps and driving directions. (Scroll down for second map.)

December 13, Night Hike at the
New Buffalo Area Schools Nature Trails

night hike

Despite chilly winds, 14 hikers showed up for our first night hike. HCH President Pat Fisher led the group past a network of ravines created when the prehistoric Lake Baroda broke through its banks and created rivers and streams headed ultimately for Lake Michigan. Fisher also spoke about ecological succession, how grasslands gave way to oak/hickory forests and, eventually, beech/maple climax forests. He also noted that many tree species native to climates further north could be found in Southwest Michigan. Cloudy skies prevented a look at the Geminid meteor shower, but after the hike, participants paused for a cup of hot chocolate and a talk by VP Stacey LaRocco on where to look for the meteors in coming days. When and if the clouds dissipate over the next day or two, look to the northeast sky, near the constellation Orion.

In case you didn’t finish the grip on your hiking stick at the library last weekend
(or if 
you’d like to try on your own), check out this video.

November 19, The Great Marsh Trail


The Hikers showed up for this trek to the Great Marsh in Beverly Shores, Indiana, but the birds…not so much. Hike leader Stacey LaRocco, HCH VP and Chikaming Open Lands Project Coordinator, explained how migratory birds use the Lake Michigan shoreline to help navigate on their way south, and how this helps funnel them into the marshes of Southwest Michigan and Northwest Indiana. After a cold front comes through, birds hitchhike on northerly winds, and this can lead to a large concentration of them on the lake’s southern shore.  LaRocco also gave a brief history of the marsh. Early in the 20th century a real estate developer drained the marsh with a view to building high-end houses near the lake. Environmentalists blocked development, but only recently were the drainage channels blocked and the marsh restored.

Exotic Fungus Threatens Local Oak Trees

Oak wilt
Oak wilt fungal spore mat courtesy of MSU Extension

Oak wilt is an exotic fungal disease that impacts both red and white oaks but is particularly deadly to the red oak family. Oak wilt kills trees by clogging sapwood vessels and inhibiting the transport of water, and can kill red oaks as quickly as one to two months. Oak wilt has two methods of spreading and this is done by grafting through tree roots or transportation by beetles visiting wound sites on infected trees. The DNR recommends to not prune or damage oak trees from April through July when the beetles are most active. However, these beetles are known to be active when temperatures are above 40 degrees and will visit oaks as quickly as a few seconds after being damaged. If trees are to be pruned it is recommended to immediately cover the wound with latex paint or wound dressing. Symptoms of oak wilt include premature leaf drop in the summer, cracks in bark, and the presence of fungal pads. There are a number of pests and diseases that resemble oak wilt and it is recommended to consult a professional for identification and diagnoses. The best way to prevent this disease from further impacting our forests and landscapes is continual education of the public and proper tree management. For more information about oak wilt please contact me at jared.harmon@macd.org or DNR-FRD-Forest-Health@michigan.gov or by phone at (517) 284-5895.

Additional Resources:
Oak Wilt in Michigan’s Forest Resource
How To Identify, Prevent, and Control Oak Wilt

October 21, Galien River County Park


Thirty-five hikers. some from as far away as Utah, took advantage of a beautiful fall Saturday to walk the trails and boardwalks, and of course visit the canopy overlook, of the Galien River County Park in New Buffalo Township. Hike leader Kip Miller, naturalist with Berrien County Parks, pointed out ash trees that had fallen to the emerald ash borer and muskrat lodges built of cattails in park’s marsh. He also explained how the marsh waters rise and fall with the water levels of Lake Michigan.

Saturday’s hike attracted our youngest hiker yet, Sean Nicka of Bridgman, pictured above with parents Emily and John.

October 15, Chikaming Park and Preserve


A small but hardy group of hikers braved a drizzly, windy day for a look at the flooded Galien River, swollen by heavy rains the day before. They discussed some future stewardship projects (more on this later) and took in the changing leaves at this outstanding park and preserve.

What gives fall leaves their color? Turns out that despite all the hues we see on trees during this season, only three pigments color leaves: chlorophyll, carotenoid and anthocyan. Chlorophyll, of course, is the green chemical in plants that enables the conversion of sunlight and carbon dioxide into the energy that supports plant growth, stored as carbohydrates. An important byproduct of the process is most of the oxygen we breathe.

Carotenoids are yellow and orange pigments, the same chemicals that color corn, carrots and bananas. Carotinoids are always present in leaves, but are masked by chlorophyll during the growing season. When trees stop producing chlorophyll in the fall, the carotenoids show through, and leaves turn yellow, orange and brown.

Anthocyan is present in only some species, and is produced as a form of protection. It allows the plant to recover nutrients in the leaves before they fall off, and helps prepare the tree for the next growing season. Anthocyan is responsible for the bright shades of red, purple and crimson in maples, sassafras and sumac.

September 30, Grand Mere

9-29-2017 HC Hikers Grand Mere (11)

Two dozen hikers hit the trails of Grand Mere State Park last Saturday, and got beautiful, early-fall weather for exploring this little-visited collection of landscapes found nowhere else in the world. Grand Mere contains three ancient lakes formed by glaciers 10,000 years ago. Originally, there were five, but two have filled in over the centuries and the remaining lakes will, too, eventually. The park includes a mile of Lake Michigan shoreline, backed by high dunes, and spectacular views. Its wetlands and dunes are significant for migrating waterfowl and songbirds. Grand Mere was made a National Natural Landmark in 1976. (Photo by Phil Eichas)

September 17, Cherry Beach

Janet Schrader, Harbor Country Hikers and Chikaming Parks Board Member, led hikers in a beach trash cleanup at Cherry Beach in Harbert. The stewardship project was part of a Great-Lakes-wide cleanup day sponsored by the Great Lakes Adopt-a-Beach program. After filling buckets with bottles, a few stranded beach toys and lots and lots of styrofoam, the hikers were treated to a typically spectacular Lake Michigan sunset.

September 16, Hoadley Trail/Watkins Park

Jared Harmon, Berrien Conservation District Invasive Species Specialist, led hikers through this Three Oaks trail, pointing out invasive plant and insect species along the way. The biggest threat invasive plant species like phragmites (a reed) and Japanese knotweed pose is that they crowd out native species that provide food and shelter for insects, small animals and birds. Insect invaders like the emerald ash borer already nearly have destroyed the native ash population, and the Asian longhorn beetle threatens maple trees, Harmon said. Oak wilt, an invasive fungus, could decimate the area’s oak trees.

Robinson Woods Preserve

Chikaming Open Lands Executive Director Ryan Postema walked about 20 hikers through the process of trail construction. Postema said he tries to keep trails away from areas likely to get wet or muddy, and makes sure they lead hikers past interesting plant and geological features. His trails avoid endangered species and, when obstacles like streams get in the way, he looks for simple ways around or over them. The most important trail-making tools: pruning shears, loppers and rakes. Trail blazing, he told the group, refers to marking new trails, not constructing them.

August 19, Warren Woods

Warren Woods is the last remaining climax beech maple forest in Michigan. When early European settlers arrived in the area, this type of forest, now rare, was common. The climax beech maple forest is the final stage in an ecological succession that might start with weeds, progress to conifers, then oak hickory and finally beech maple–all over a period of centuries.

The Harbor Country Hikers walked part of the 3-1/2 miles of trail in the 311-acre forest, and discussed plant and insect pests, deforestation, wetland draining and extinction of wildlife in Southwest Michigan. The conversation ended on a hopeful note, with an update on the successful reintroduction of wildlife and conservation practices that have kept it in our area.

August 12, Jens Jensen Preserve & Pepperidge Dunes Nature Sanctuary

jens jensen 8-12-17
Hikers got a beautiful Saturday afternoon for walking the trails at Jens Jensen Preserve (administered by Chikaming Open Lands) and the adjoining Pepperidge Dunes Nature Sanctuary (a property of the Michigan Nature Association). These two properties, connected by common trails, now densely forested, once lay at the bottom of Lake Chicago, a precursor of Lake Michigan.

Lake Chicago, formed by a retreating glacier 11,000 to 13,000 years ago, once stretched 10 to 15 miles inland from the present-day Lake Michigan shore in Michigan, and covered all of Northwest Indiana and stretched as far west as La Grange, Illinois. 

Before the hike got underway, Dave Johnson, news editor of Harbor Country News, gave a brief talk on digital photography for nature photographers.

August 5, Three Oaks Conservation Area

DSCN1831 (2)

Two dozen hikers followed trails through a prairie and woodlands at the Three Oaks Conservation Area last Saturday. The Conservation Area is part of an ancient lakebed. The lake, Lake Baroda, eventually drained into Lake Michigan, substantially raising its water level and creating several rivers in the process, including the Galien. 

Note that kids and teens are always welcome and encouraged to join HCH’s hikes, as long as they’re accompanied by an adult. So, bring the kids or grandkids for a few hours in nature.

July 29, Grand Beach Marsh


Chikaming Open Lands’ Grand Beach Marsh Preserve was a hit. More than 30 people walked the trail, and COL’s Casey Strueker and Stacey LaRocco helped set the scene with a talk about rare coastal plain marshes and the environments they create. Along the way, hikers sampled wintergreen leaves and wild blueberries, spotted ghostly Indian pipe and watched baby toads hop off the trail. Thanks to member Ellen Frankle for letting visitors park on her property near the Marsh.

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