Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hepatica Hill is Blooming!

2011 03 21 First full day of Spring!  We haven't had much warm weather, so we didn't get our hopes up about seeing any wildflowers blooming, other than Skunk Cabbage, of course.

                                                            Secret Swampy Woods

We visited one of our secret swampy areas at the intersection of  M-40 and M-89 in Allegan County.  We stumbled across this place just last year (2010 04 12).  There is no parking area but wide enough shoulders to get safely parked along the road.  It is Allegan State Game Area property so we weren't trespassing, we wouldn't would we.
                                           Skunk Cabbage

Marie did find one pathetic Hepatica blooming here, no picture but YES she found the first blooming wildflower of the year.  We saw so many Skunk Cabbage, and a few new green leaves, maybe violets or saxifrage.

Walking to the west, we also came to Sand Creek and saw two American Woodcock.  We were in this mucky woods for about two hours, every minute was fun!
                            I know this is a bit silly but I circled the Skunk Cabbage in this picture.
                                            Sand Creek

Next we went north to Mark Cassino's "Hepatica Hill".   This Mark has a website (,  a photographer's journal,  that I visit sometimes to get info on what is in bloom to the south of us.  He has many places in the Allegan Forest that he wanders, Hepatica Hill is one of them.  It is a south facing hill along the Kalamazoo River so the mostly Round-lobed Hepatica tend to bloom here earlier than north facing hills, well they would, wouldn't they.

                                    Marie had to stick one of the petals back on this flower
                                     and I might have pressed it gently open with my finger.
And even though our hopes were not up to seeing blooming hepatica... there they were blooming on that cold blustery March day!  Wow!  They were a bit soggy and dirty from the rain the night before, poor sad little things. (I rinsed a few off with water from my water bottle).
                                    Round-lobed Hepatica

My new camera, as I anticipated is not good for close-up shots of wildflowers.  Not sure what I am going to do about that.  I really don't want a big  complicated camera - just my old, lens errored, point and shoot, Canon SD 1000.  Well I'll keep trying with the new camera for a while.  Anyway...

                                     Kalamazoo River

                                     Maple tree starting to wake up for Spring
We had a really nice walk along the Kalamazoo River to Bear Creek and back.  Sat in the van where we enjoyed a hot cup of coffee and some glazed cake.  I know I always say how fun it is to go on these adventures, it was fun.  Great to be outside, free from worries, enjoying the out doors.

After Hepatica Hill we drove home going on 133rd Avenue, a place where we saw Marsh Marigold blooming March 24 2009 early to be blooming but every year is a bit different.  We did find buds of the Marsh Marigold at the mucky woods site this year.
These are the buds of Marsh Marigold, soon they will be
big, beautiful, yellow flowers.  Maybe next week?    

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Sugar Day!

March 17 2011 A bonus day outside, this time with my favorite sister Sugar! (I have 3 favorite sisters).  We visited Rosy Mound Natural Area which is nearby and has lots of stairs over the dunes to Lake Michigan.

Arriving at Rosy Mound we found the parking lot clear so we pulled in and started off on a walk.  But we soon found the trail to be snow / ice covered and slippery.  We were wearing our shoes not boots, really it didn't matter, it would have been too slick on the steps.

There is a woodland loop before you get to the trail going up the staircase, so that's where we walked. It was a nice but short walk.

Planted Pines on the Woodland trail

We even saw wildlife here!  Look close.

Since our walk here was cut short by the iciness we went south  about 9 miles to Hemlock Crossing                                              
There is a new nature center here that we hadn't been to yet, actually I'm not sure if Sugar had been to Hemlock Crossing before.

Well, we went into the nature center and of course it was very impressive. Nicely done exhibits, informative, friendly employees.

                                                    Hemlock Crossing Nature Center
                     We went for a walk over the bridge to where I know the Skunk Cabbage live.

Take a peek inside a Skunk Cabbage

                     We found a Hepatica leaf, soon this plant will bloom.
And we saw Wintergreen with berries, we almost ate these berries but decided to stop at Ray's in Grand Haven.  I hope Sugar and I get more days for adventure!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Ada Bridge and Seidman Park

March 14 2011 Off we go 43 miles east to Ada where there is a  temporary bridge while a new bridge is being built.

                 Grand River from the temporary bridge in Ada Michigan
Now it is 9 a.m. where to go? Well, Chief Hazy Cloud Park is just up the road so we pass by the entrance but it is quite socked in with snow. We drive on.  There are some Michigan Natural Beauty Roads in this area.

                       Along a Natural Beauty Road in Kent County

If you are wondering how a road becomes designated as a Natural Beauty Road follow the link below.
If you don't really care, the name says it all, then you don't need to follow the link, although you will find a list of NBRs, and lists can be fun.,1607,7-153-30301_31154_32322---,00.html 
                     If this link does not work just type in Michigan Natural Beauty Roads into a search engine.

We ended up at Seidman Park, a Kent County Park.  We parked at the south entrance off Conservation St NE, that's Ada, MI. 
Nice, the parking lot is clear of snow.  And it is free to visit this park.

Seidman Park is mostly a rectangle shape ~ 1.5 miles north to south and 0.5 mile east to west. Some how I got the idea in my head that Seidman was dry woods and not many wet areas but I soon found that to be wrong. 

We didn't have a map of the trails and there was no map at the trailhead.  We started off on the snow covered path and soon we came to a footbridge over Honey Creek.

                              Honey Creek at Seidman Park
Honey Creek originates south of Ratigan Lake in a primarily forested area then flows west towards Grand Rapids where it joins the Grand River.
It is forested and hilly on the Seidman Park trails, alongside the trail are wet woodlands. We even came to some ponds on the property and finally found a sign with a  map of the trails.  We found Skunk Cabbage in the wet areas.  We walked about 3 miles looping around on the trails. 

Field at Seidman Park

Honey Creek

A beautiful day with sunshine and blue sky.
I definitely want to come back to this park.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Aman Park and more

It's March!  Of course it is still winter, but we had a good walk at Aman Park.  No wildflowers yet but they are coming soon.

Aman Park is in Ottawa County but is owned by the city of Grand Rapids (Kent County), it has 331 acres, and has been preserved as a natural area with hiking and cross-country ski trails. This park has interpretive signs and six self-guided trails ranging from .8 mile to 1.5 mile loops.  In recent years Marie and I have walked every corner of this property, not every inch but most inches.
                The Grand River as we drive over the bridge on M-45.

                      Sand Creek winding through Aman Park

      We had blue skies and sunshine, we walked a couple miles staying along the creek.

This is what's left of a Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) blossom from autumn.  The picture below is of Witch Hazel blooming at the end of September.
Below is an American Sycamore tree, see the cool mottled exfoliating bark.  It looks like camouflage to me.
I think this is from an American Basswood tree. 
We drove around after Aman Park, through Marne, and Coopersville.  There are many farms in this area, lots of neat old barns, long may they live.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Big Bend Adventures Day 5

We are gone from the Big Bend area and are waking up in the Executive Suite at Indian Lodge in the Fort Davis State Park. 
We didn't get a chance to hike here, and we had planned to attend a star party at the nearby McDonald Observatory located atop Mount Locke and Mount Fowlkes, but our time was running out in Texas.
We woke to another beautiful sunrise in West Texas.

 We had breakfast at the Indian Lodge then packed up once again. We all decided to visit the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center (their website ) about a 10 mile drive to the southeast. 

So it started off to be your typical nature center, the five of us toured the botanical gardens (20 acres) including some 165 species of trees, shrubs, and perennial forbs and a greenhouse containing about 200 species cacti / succulents,  interesting but flat with wide gravel paths.  A lot of work I'm sure.

Two of our group had to head back to catch their flight out of Midland, so we decided they would leave in the Mazda and we would continue to wander the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center. We said our good byes and two left for the Midland-Odessa airport.

As we got more into this place I realized it is well supported and dynamic, some nature centers get a little run down and have a lack of interest but that's not how it was at the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center. At this point we hiked the Modesta Canyon Trail, and the Outside Loop Trail.  What a surprise we got on these trails, a canyon here, with water at the bottom,  lots of rocks, and a fairly challenging trail.  Very nice!

            The trail at Modesta Canyon
 We climbed up out of the canyon and rounded Lion’s Head.
We walked up to the highest point (how high is it, I don't know) at the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center,  
Clayton’s Overlook.  Here we found an exhibit that opened in 2009, the exhibit focuses on the geology of the Davis Mountains.

Our Dynamic Landscape:
Geology, Culture, History   Exhibit
The View from Clayton’s Overlook

We got back to the nature center and had a snack, then toured the Chihuahuan Desert Mining Heritage Exhibit.
It invites visitors to explore the history of mining in a replica of a early 20th century mine. 

Wrapped along the western side of the nature center building was the Geological Timeline exhibit illustrating a story of oceans and volcanoes with rock samples.

We drove back through Fort Davis and had some lunch at, ah, um, the Stone Village Market?  Maybe that's not right, but the food was good and we sat outside to eat it.  We drove up highway 17, very scenic, it was about 170 miles back to Midland.  That was the 5th day of our trip.

The 6th and last day of our trip we toured Midland,  took Sabkha to the dog park, Andrew took us to KD’s Smokehouse for lunch, that  place has great food especially if you like meat, and I do like meat!  As we were sitting there eating we got a call that our American Airlines flight had been cancelled for the afternoon, (can they just cancel our flight!) it got straightened out and we took a later flight so more time at Andy's house. 
The guys messed around with the dirt bikes a bit, we packed up and headed to the airport.  Sad to say good bye.  What a fun and interesting vacation!  Thanks Andy! We had two flights home to Michigan.