Harbor Country Hikers encourages solo hiking during this time of social distancing–both for the exercise and for the peacefulness of walking in nature. To reproduce our group hike experience, in a small way, Hikers President and frequent hike leader Pat Fisher has put together guides for some of the popular preserves and parks we hike. Print them out or keep them on your phone and learn as you hike. Return to this page from time to time for more virtual guides.
Warren Dunes, April 10
The most interesting thing you’ll discover while hiking Warren Dunes is the wide range of ecological climates and micro-climates. You can hike sand and gravel beaches, open dunes, remnants of an old oak-hickory forest, interdunal wetlands, streams and swamps. A different wildflower arrangement around every bend.
This hike was not as photo friendly as the last one. The bright and cheery sun was a monster that created hard shadows, distracting backgrounds, and strong colors. And my camera focused on everything but the subject. Otherwise, the hike was awesome and the wildflowers were plentiful.
We (my son Matt and I) started our hike from the beach parking lot and headed east on the Mt Randall Trail. This is where the most interesting wildflower sightings were, including the flowering bloodroots. These early spring bloomers have a fragile flower that lasts for a relatively short time (probably gone by now). The red juice from the underground stem was used by Indians as a dye for baskets, clothing, and war paint, and as an insect repellent. Please do not disturb these plants as they are protected by request of the Michigan Garden Clubs.
The west end of Mt Randall Trail has swamps and a challenging dune climb, but the climb is not my cup of tea these days. From here we traveled northeast on the Nature Trail which is wide and was unusually dry. We headed westward on the challenging Red Squirrel Trail, around the panne wetland, and down to the beach. To finish our hike we followed the heavily eroded shoreline back to the beach parking lot. The waves were coming in strong and loud with a periodic sneak attack on our boots. A word of caution, this is a 6 ½ mile hike which may be felt the next day (or two)!
Today’s wildflower list: (I’ve added one or two observations from the holiday weekend): Marram Grass, Sand Reed, Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus, Sand Cherry, Sandbar Willow, Bloodroot, Yellow Trout Lily, Round-lobed Hepatica, Spring Beauty, False Solomons Seal, Rue Anemone, Duchman’s Breeches, Common Blue Violet, Large Flowered Trillium, May Apple, Wild Columbine, Toothwort, Blue Flag Iris, Skunk Cabbage and Marsh Marigold.
For more photos of the hike, go to: https://bit.ly/3b89rHa
For a map go to: https://bit.ly/3b9yzN
Three Oaks Conservation Area and Kesling Preserve
I chose Kesling Nature Preserve and the Three Oaks Township Conservation Area because of its unusual natural history, its diversity and because these properties are rarely explored. Just so you know, today’s photos turned out to be vibrant because the best time to photograph the woodlands is during or after a rain, IMHO. Oh, and I may have left the trail once (or twice).
The south branch of the Galien River flowed south as the last glaciation was coming to an end. Fact is, south is pretty much the only direction it could flow. Things changed as the glacier receded north. The ground rebounded and the meltwaters were finding new spillways, forcing the Galien and St. Joseph Rivers to find new courses. Harbor Country owes the last Ice Age for all of the ground we stand on down to the bedrock. The gifts left in the Three Oaks preserves have everything to do with what you will discover when you hike here. You will be traveling over and along several types of debris. The geology of your hike will include clayey silt till deposits of the Lake Border Moraine, lake-bottom deposits of glacial Lake Baroda, stream terrace deposits, swamp and marsh deposits, and more recent alluvium deposits. The pre-settlement vegetation included beech-sugar maple forest, mixed hardwood swamp and black ash swamp. We can still see remnants of these environments. It amazes me to find such contrasts in such a small area.
If you are going to visit any of the parks and preserves to view wildflowers, keep in mind that things change every week. Once the trees start to leaf, the wildflowers move on to the next stage of survival. We could spend hours talking about each of the plants and still not cover everything, so I’ll leave the research to you. My list of wildflowers includes May Apple, Prairie Trillium, Wild Columbine, Toothwort, Yellow Trout Lily, Ramp, Spring Beauty, Wood Betony, Turkey Tail, Wild Geranium, Round-lobed Hepatica, Rue Anemone, Common Blue Violet, Sedges, Mosses, Christmas Fern, Stinging Nettle, Jewelweed and Marsh Marigold. To see this hike in living color, go to https://bit.ly/2JDyGom For a map, go to https://bit.ly/2UK6igY.