Archive for Nature

Mar
25

Life Goes On

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Better late than never, seems to be a slogan of mine throughout the years and now, at 37, some things never change. It has been a good 3 months since we moved back to Michigan and into the house I have owned since the turn of this century. Now that things are starting to settle down, our desire to be on the move is strong. Oh, its not that I don’t adore this state, but have you ever tried to move back to an old situation while in a new situation all the while losing about an hour of daylight a day and the sun in addition to about 50 degrees? It ain’t easy, pardon my slang.

Moving back to northern Michigan in the middle of December after living in desert environment in the Southwest for 2 years is a challenge to say the least. Now that our sunlamp has started to do its job in addition to an added dose of Vitamins from a bottle daily and winter, it appears, is loosening her grip, my anticipation for summer, and all the things we craved while living in El Paso is returning. I find myself begging to get out just to “see” what I can see. Drives with frequent stops so I can jump out of the Jeep to get a picture just because the clouds look so perfect are an almost nightly occurrence. Again, my art seems to be inspired by nature and all her glory.

Now, armed with gloves, extra warm boots, a super warm jacket and a High Definition camera, we are out exploring the beauty of our beautiufl state and trying to forget how much we are missing our friends in El Paso and the stunning mountain and desert views. I will NOT miss 118 days straight of no rain, though I will miss daily sunshine. I will NOT miss day after day of temperatures in the hundreds, though I will miss days of 90 degrees with no humidity. I will NOT  miss frequent and unexpected sandstorms, but I will miss seeing the storms come over the mountain from 10 miles away. I will and do miss so much about Texas and even more so, New Mexico, but every day I see something new here in Michigan, I remember what I missed about our own Great Lakes State!

Plans are being made for weekend getaways to the UP to see the waterfalls and after work trips to any of the dozens of lakes just down the road. Plans to catch 12 inch blue gills on my fly rod with just a yellow popper on quiet lakes with no sounds but the cicadas, the fish jumping on the surface, the whippoorwils in the nearby woods, and the call of the loon from some distant place. Summer is coming, spring is here and everyday is one day closer to natures splendor in an amazing state.

This is pure Michigan. This is what we missed. This is why no matter where we are, we are still Michigan girls.

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Jul
14

The Beauty Of A Bog

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grass-pink

grass-pink

It has been a week or two since I went to the bog at Hartwick Pines State Park. To some familiar with the park, it is a well known destination, but to others an unknown. The fragility of this stunning and varied ecosystem has made it necessary to, in many cases have guided tours as opposed to self guiding.

Fortunately for the bog, not just anyone is willing to go on the hunt unless they have a purpose, for me personally, that mission is to go on the hunt for some of the most amazing and/or rare wildflowers in the State.

As a one time employee of Hartwick Pines State Park, where I was employed as a ranger, I have developed a passion for this incredible ecosystem despite the constant barrage of mosquitoes. Wildflowers specific to bog ecosystems are found throughout this bog and as with any ecosytem, are constantly changing. I have been going to this particular bog for over 10 years now, though admittedly, until this year, it had been a couple of years. The change in it were stunning. The eye is getting smaller, the grasses and sedges denser and the trees moving in. A bog is constantly changing, not at a rapid rate, but without human disturbance, times march will eventually change a bog into rich soils which will support an entirely different ecosystem.

Watching how the bog changes without the impact of non natives is a special experience indeed. I have not yet been disappointed with what I have seen and as I get older, find myself even more inspired by its stunning variety and beauty.

We are extremely lucky as this are is not yet invaded by non-native or invasive species and is, as a whole, a pristine ecosystem, still growing and blooming with the same flowers that have bloomed here for generations.

This year’s treks to the bog have also not disappointed. While talking about pitcher plants to a fellow artist, who happened to be painting one at the time, I mentioned the bog. It was the beginning of June and my immediate thought was ORCHIDS! Yes orchids. In fact, three species to be exact. Each protected, each stunning and each found in our very own bog. I headed right out after that in the hopes that I wasn’t too late.

Upon arrival at about 7 pm, I emerged from a dense canopy of black spruce, balsam fir, cedar and tamaracks into the light. Sun sinking in the horizon the vast sea of pink flowers blanketing the bog were highlighted by the orange-red of the sun’s weakening rays. I had indeed, not missed it. More orchids than I could ever remember virtually coated the mat, and the song of the white throated sparrow and the hermit thrush welcomed me back with open arms.

I sat for a while in quiet contemplation, reminiscing of times long past, times when class work and summer jobs were my only worries. After the mosquitoes attack snapped me out of my happy place, I took some pictures of the blooms. Round Leaved Sundew, Rose Pogonia, Grass Pink, Pitcher Plants, Marsh Cinquefoil, Horned-Bladderwort and Small Bog Cranberry were everywhere. Though most bog flowers tend to be pink or red, if you look closely, you can see yellows, and whites as well.

The number of flowers living in a bog is quite vast and very specific to the area, offering those in search of great subjects for photography, a perfect location. If you have never been to a bog, find one. Enjoy the beauty. Get down on the ground and really study the flowers, they are truly intricate and illustrate the beauty of nature.

I leave you with this….

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God.

Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.
– ~Anne Frank

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Apr
13

Strolling In The Woods One Day

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Wetland

Wetland

Ok, so it wasn’t really a stroll, more of a drive, but beautiful none the less. Michigan astounds me every year with its diversity, both ecological as well as in the weather department. Two weeks ago it was 80 in April, now it’s been snowing, blustery and in the 30’s. Temperatures are beginning to stabilize with today’s being in the the low 50’s.

Taking advantage of the warm weather, a friend and I, grabbed the dog and hopped in the jeep in search of…..nothing in particular, but I did bring the camera. There is not really anything in my life that I enjoy more than the smells, sounds and feel of the woods on a warm sunny day. Waxing nostalgic, I set about snapping pictures.

Wintergreen

Wintergreen

The glorious white pine, the beautiful yellow birch, stunning white birch, all glistening in the sun. I can just feel my youth coming back, it happens every time.

This time of year, especially those exceptionally warm days, are a spectacular time to get out and explore natures bounty. Red and Sugar Maples flowering, animals scurrying about in search of newly exposed food sources, and a number of spring flowers and plants beginning to emerge.

Watch for the trilliums, morel mushrooms, arbutus, and many other species will be poking their heads up soon. Morels in fact are already being picked throughout Northern Michigan! Enjoy all that spring has to offer and explore Michigan’s beauty.

Categories : General, Nature
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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 and  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 more  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.

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May
30

‘Crazy Turtle Woman’ transforms graveyard into maternity ward

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Today I have been inspired by CNN to write about protection of species.

I believe that we are and should be stewards to the earth and all of its creatures. We decide now where things grow, when they grow, where they live and if they survive. Before technology, we were at mother natures mercy, today, we control almost all aspects, or at least think we do.

I believe as a civilization, we have a serious control  issue, scientists are always looking for a way to better manipulate something in nature for “the betterment of our society”. I use that phrase loosely. If society means only the people in it, then maybe they are right, but I am of the opinion that the web of life includes everything in it, not just the top of the food chain.

Stories like this about the ‘Crazy Turtle Woman’ inspire me. I have always loved protecting animals, down the the smallest insect. I am known to walk around after a rain storm, moving the worms off the road so they don’t get run over. I long to protect all species, not just the endangered ones. I am passionate about the preservation of species and management of areas for species.

I live in an area known for its population of endangered species, The Kirtland’s Warbler. They are a great example of a Michigan species dependent at this point on us and our ability to control the environment. This is why our control is important. If we were able to just let nature happen without our interference, we wouldn’t have this problem now, so the Kirtland’s  Warbler will survive, or become extinct based on our decisions.

If you are unfamiliar with the Kirtland’s Warbler here is brief introduction to them. They are a small warbler species known for its bright yellow breast and white eye rings. The exist solely in young jack pine plains. There have probably never been a huge amount of them, but their numbers neared extinction in the early 1970’s.

The Jack Pines are a fire dependent species. They grow in Northern Michigan and are a pioneer species that requires full sun. Their cones are are sealed with resin, and open only in heat, usually that means a fire. With our fire management rules, the jack pines do not grow the way they historically did, in large areas of pure stands. This is why we select areas to burn and then replant with jack pine. These artificial areas are the reason the Kirtland’s Warbler has a habitat at this point.

The Kirtland’s Warbler are ground nesting birds, which makes them susceptible to another problem, aside from their choosiness in habitat, which is the brown-headed cowbird. This bird historically followed the buffalo herds which roamed free until their massive slaughter. Now, the brown-headed cowbirds have found another way to survive. They are a bird which uses parasitism to survive. Ground nesting birds such as the warbler, lay their eggs and then so do the cowbirds, in the warblers nest. The cowbird chick is then raised by the warbler who takes care of the bigger chick and this means a loss for the warbler.

The cowbird population is controlled by constant trapping and disposal, which at this point is a necessary evil if the Kirtland’s Warbler is to survive.

Now, back to why I started writing in the first place. I know a lot of people that could be considered the crazy person who saves an animal, but if they don’t then who will? In a world with so much negativity, just look at the headlines, I appreciate stories like this about people making a difference to even the turtle. Here is the link to this story http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/05/28/cnnheroes.suzan.lakhan.baptiste/index.html

I will end by saying, thanks to everyone who sits on the beach here in Northern Michigan and watch the Piping Plovers hatch. Thanks to all the people who follow the sturgeon to spawn in the spring. Thanks to the people who forego speed on the lake to protect the Common Loon and its chicks. Thanks to the people who maintain the Warbler habitat. Thanks to the Crazy Turtle Woman,  and everyone else in the world who takes time out of their schedule to preserve and protect our wildlife.

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May
28

Northern Lights

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I was going to write about the maple tree tonight, but as I was sitting here listening to a new song, I saw a picture on the internet of the northern lights and immediately thought back to a wonderful memory I feel I need to share.

I was going to first reference a poem but I have decided not to. I will simply tell my story instead. My reasoning for this is,  this was my result from google: 1,080,000 for northern lights poems. Obviously there is much to inspire you if you search yourself, so I will let you choose your own inspiration, here is mine.

My family owns a cabin further north in Northern Michigan, near Mackinac. My better half and I have been traveling up there for weekends for going on 15 years now. Our journeys would always start late and one particular trip will always remain as one of the best memories in my life. I have had other wonderful experiences, but this one was just a series of perfect events that will never be outdone because it was provided to us solely by nature.

Our drive began as normal, nothing special until about Indian River at which point, the aurora borealis caught my eye. Faded at first, just an indication that something wonderful was going to happen, then the further north we drove the brighter they got. Greens, yellows and whites began dancing before our eyes. It was a show just for us.

As we drew nearer to the cabin, I got more excited to run down to the dock and see it with my own eyes, not through the windshield of a car.

We arrived and did just that, ran to the dock and just watched. It was magical, but what really made it amazing, was what happened next, and what makes me yearn for the wilderness. A pack of coyotes started to howl, that mournful sound that only they and the gray wolf can make. Then, the icing on the cake, our pair of Common Loons began to wail across the lake. It was everything that invokes peace, calm and serenity in our lives.

In a world of chaos, we all need to take advantage of all the calm moments provided by nature. They are gift to the world, when we as a destructive society do not deserve such a gift. That was our gift from nature, I made it ours and ours alone. I encourage everyone to go and find themselves a moment that in years to come, you can sit down in your busy world, hear a song, see a picture and remember the time that you had a moment as magical as we did.

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