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HERON Hike Reviewed 3/20/10

March 23, 2010

We had a great time at Holland Ponds this last Saturday. About 50-60 people turned out on a pretty cold afternoon. We had penny and Vicky from the Shadbush Nature Center fielding questions as we made our way through the Park. There was a Coopers Hawk nest, a Great Horned Owls nest and many other critters and plants we stopped to see as we made our way to the Rookery. The herons are still arriving from their Wintering grounds in Florida and some have already layed eggs and are sitting on the nests. After our Hike, a number of Hikers headed down Ryan road to the Shadbush Nature Center where they were treated to a second Nature hike, led by Park naturalist Dan Farmer. Andrew was on that hike and sent in a nice review of what took place below.

Nature Center Walk.

Mr. Farmer led a group of about 12 persons to the log cabin and then along a 30 minute walk down the stairs to the lower trails on a hunt for Skunk Cabbage blooms. Tree identification was the other major focus. Mr Farmer was informative and humorous the entire journey. Upon entering the unlit cabin a cordless screwdriver was used to open one of the windows for light. Mr Farmer remarked that one of the hardest things to overcome during pioneer times was finding the cordless screwdriver to open the window. After just three questions we would move on to the trails. The 60 steps down the wooden staircase were disputed, jokingly, by another hiker as we walked down, -later, on our returning journey, Mr. Farmer counted 61. Or was it 40 or 41? How many steps are there? I guess we will have to visit again to find out. Continuing on, describing the hike, it was mentioned that during a nature walk we would stop often. Not a through hike. Several times did we stop noticing some interesting fact. It was not going to be a ‘Sierra Club’ trek through the forest. Tree ID was a major focus. The dark potato chip like bark tree described was a Black Cherry. At several times during the hike we were quizzed on this particular tree, looking about, where we stood, always observing several. The Beech tree was discussed, that a disease was slowly making its way to Michigan. We were warned that this magnificent tree may by in danger over the next few years, like the others that have succumb to disease in the recent past. Other trees identified were Ironwood -the hardest wood in Michigan, Musclewood, Red Oak by its ‘ironed off ridges’, Maple and White Oak -whose bark was similar. Mr Farmer noted his love for trees and it showed. Meandering our way down the lowlands we entered what seemed to be the lowest point and we were asked to cup our ears in a particular direction and listen. What would we hear but the subtle sound of a creek, the calming gurgling sound of water rushing. “Do we get to hear enough of this sound?” “No”, everyone predictable remarked. We made our way to the Skunk Cabbage blooms. One was identified, then two then twenty, they were all around. Exotic, purplish green, when picked sends out a rather skunky smell to the nose, then, over time, the olfactory sense subsides and the smell becomes that of a pencil eraser. It was presented as great mystery, interesting and entertaining. Did native Americans eat this to subside? It was speculated but not substantiated. Time constraints limited the walk to this point. We headed back sometimes stopping briefly for one of the many quizzes as people asked questions, careful not to walk off the trails, stepping on the wild flowers which were not there yet. Earlier a family was spotted up the hill and redirected to the trail path as it erodes the hill, walking down the side of it. Many other interesting things were mentioned but will have to just be in the collective consciousness of enjoying the wilderness hike. It was an informative and humorous at times hike and I respect the out-of-doors even more than I did before.

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