Archive for December, 2009

Dec
29

Happy Holidays!

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The snow is fallling, the glint of the sun is beautiful and all is wonderful. Wishing all a happy new year and a great 2010.

Categories : General
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Dec
17

Hartwick Pines State Park Beauty

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I have decided to write about one of my favorite places in the world. Beauty is in the eye the beholder, most travel blogs are about larger or more famous places, but what about the less well known special areas with their own amazing history? Hartwick Pines State Park holds a very special place in my heart. I have been exploring the area for over 10 years and still love it. The history of the area is very obvious when you explore off the main trail.

History of Hartwick Pines State Park

Created in 1927, 8236 acres were donated to the State of Michigan by Karen Hartwick, who after her husbands death, decided that the remaining old growth timber needed to be protected. Though the area was logged heavily, a small area of the Old Growth timber was left, not really sure why, except that people had already started coming to the area to picnic in the early 1900’s.

For whatever reason Karen Hartwick decided to protect the area, it then continued to grow in both size and popularity. It now encompasses 9,672 acres, making it the largest State Park in the lower peninsula of Michigan. It has a variety of ecosystems including some of the rarest and most well preserved natural features in the state.

Amazing ecosystems

Hartwick Pines is most well known for its Old Growth White Pine stand. 40 acres of 200-400 plus year old White Pines in an almost pure stand invoke visions of the past. On a warm summer day, when you step into this part of the park, it takes you back to a time when Michigan was new. The smell invades your senses, warm pine, cool soil and a sense of almost loneliness make you forget everything else. The sound of the breeze through the treetops, some almost 200 feet tall, sounds like the ocean. It is one of the most serene places in the world in my opinion.

Further down the trail, you come to a choice, stay on the well traveled path or take the spur to a younger, less traveled trail in the park. The AuSable and Mertz Grade Trails take you upland into younger, mixed forests, up large hills, and down into damp valleys. Through marshes, wetlands and deeper into the habitat of a variety of species of wildlife including, black bears, bobcats, coyotes, ruffed grouse, foxes, and perhaps even an elk.

These areas represent what Michigan is more well known for today. Beautiful mixed hardwood forests, which are the dominant natural forest type today, block much of the sun from ever reaching the ground. In fact, only about 10 % of the sun ever reaches the forest floor in the Beech-Maple forests common in this area. Rich in food sources, this area is beautiful and unique in its own way, but far less mystical than an ancient pine forest. A variety of wildflowers and bird species bring you almost overwhelming smells and sounds.

The Bog

Perhaps one of my favorite areas is the bog. located across the street, this is a bit more difficult to reach and a guide is helpful. An ancient peat bog, this small area was once a lake. A lack of fresh water allowed the area to become closed in and over the years, peat formed on top of a small lake forming the bog today. Bog formation is actually quite interesting, as are the amazing flora that exist only in this type of area. In fact, three species of carnivorous plants are found here including the pitcher plant, horned bladderwort, and round leafed sundew. I once did a floristic quality assessment on the area and found that the area has very little invasive species, and is considered a very high quality bog. Located near the old Mertz Grade Railroad, the area is home to a large number of specialized plants and ecosystems which are very interesting to explore. Flora is varied andĀ  includes black spruce, eastern hemlock, tamarack, some white birch, sedges, grasses, sphagnum moss, a variety of shrubs and much more. Bog exploration is an amazing thing.

This post is inspired perhaps by nostalgia, as I used to work at the park, but also by the fact that right now I am looking out at feet of snow and missing the warmth and peacefulness of summer and times gone by. When I was there, we had many first time visitors, but the returners were the ones who enjoyed it the most I believe. Once you experience this amazing natural area and all it has to offer, it will leave you yearning for more.

My hope here is that moreĀ  people will explore and fall in love with what nature has to offer. Beauty, uniqueness and a sense of peace that is hard to find in today’s world are all just a step away. Find what makes your heart soar.

Categories : Nature
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