Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Deep in Gun Lake Tract

May 7 2012  Sometimes we have a destination pegged and researched before we leave for our weekly adventure, sometimes we decide as we pull out of the driveway. 
This week it was up in the air, Marie suggested Ebersol Environmental Center near Wayland Michigan.  Okay, sounds organized and maybe a bit fussy to me. 
Anyway we found Ebersol and were greeted with a big sign saying,
So we left.

We had read online about  Gun Lake Tract, a 360 acre area, with a loop trail, a peat bog, an emergent wetland, ooh sounds fun, just south of Gun Lake, so that's where we go.  I had done some research on this place but you never know what you will find.

We drove south of Gun Lake, parked, and nearby was a sign and a map. 

We couldn't take the map along so I took a picture of it and Marie quickly drew a rough sketch of the trail.  There was a peat bog marked on the map but as we soon found out most of the trails were obliterated. 

In we went and immediately we dove through a little woods to get to a wet area.  It's a beautiful woods, with ferns, Mayapples, frogs, trees, moss, and birds singing.  I like this place. 

We turned south (I think) and came to a small overgrown clearing.  I saw something low on a branch.  Was it bark?  A group of dried leaves? 

I pointed it out to Marie, who usually leads (and knocks down any spider webs).  She is a birder and recognized it as some sort of bird right off.  I finally saw some tail feathers. 

 The bird was sitting lengthwise on a low branch in an area crowded with young trees.  I didn't want to scare it off but I wanted a picture to help identify it.  I didn't get a very good shot but I thought maybe it was a Whip-poor-will, Marie thought a nighthawk.  What do you think it is?

We saw some pretty wildflowers.

We moved on in some unnoted direction, when we came to a post with an identification label on it for White Oak.  It also gave a few facts about the tree and what it is harvested for.  So at this point we must be on some sort of trail.

While Marie was studying some tree, she likes trees, I got ahead and a butterfly briefly landed on me.  It looked like a dried leaf then took off doing a rather wild fluttering.  It landed on a nearby tree.  I got a quick couple of snaps with the camera.  Later we did ID it as the largest of the Anglewings, a Question Mark butterfly! 

Somehow we ended up back near the car, so we savored a couple of chocolate chip cookies. 
We read the signs and studied the map anxious to get back out there.

We walked north under some power lines, we were following quad tracks.  It was a trail too though, so far.  This way took us out to the north crossroad, Wildwood Road.  Well we certainly didn't want to walk along some road!  Back in we go.  This time we turned south still trying to run into the peat bog.  We came to a point that we had been to earlier, sort of a trail then went west(ish). 

We continued to  follow a long, sort of road which was more of a creek. 

We heard the call of the Barred Owl, "Who cooks for you, all"!  We kept going and it was not easy but at that point, it was inconceivable to think about going back the way we came.   We plodded on.  We came to another tree with a label so at one time this was a trail, not a stream. 

Next we came to a big tree that had blown down and then we were more in the woods.  We were seeing plants blooming that kept us going and just the beauty of the woods, it was still fun.  So much green! 
 The trail turned southwest, I kept checking the compass and at this point I was sure we were on the trail loop marked on the map.  Pretty sure...   We were at this spot as far from the van as we could get, but Marie thought we were getting closer to the van. 

We were in an area that had more water than ground.  We stepped from hummock to  hummock, circling around the deeper wet areas.

Then the faint trail gave out, no obvious place to go.  We could see open sky and we sort of aimed for that, I felt we needed to turn north then east.  We were crossing over places with flowing water, as deep as our knee high boots.  The going got to be quite difficult, impenetrable almost.  We did use the compass.

Finally we got to firmer ground, but the bushes  didn't want to let us pass.  We actually found an east/west trail, perfect, head east to the car about one mile. We walked a long way then the trail dumped us out on Wildwood Road again.  This time we stuck to the road, then around the corner onto Marsh Road and back to the car.


I carry a compass (good thing today), I probably should carry the GPS in places like this.  We were OK and most of the time you could hear traffic noise, most of the time.  I have a fairly good sense of direction, usually. 
This was a fun adventure!


New Hampshire Gardener said...

Nice place but they should blaze the trails. I got lost in the woods for awhile once and don't want to do it again! What amazes me still is how easy it was.

Plants Amaze Me said...

New Hampshire Gardener, It is so easy to get lost but in this case we were boxed in by roads. The direction I wanted to go always had the deepest water.

Many years ago, my oldest son and I were hiking, and got lost for awhile, at Nordhouse Dunes (3,450 acres of National Forest). We knew Lake Michigan was to our west so that helped, it turned into a long, damp hike.

I would like to see the track of where Marie and I walked that day, it would probably be good for a laugh. :)
Thanks for stopping by.

Dave said...

i remember when i was a kid the question mark butterfly was a prized find.. sure looked like an adventure.

Plants Amaze Me said...

Flowerdave, that's really something that you remember the question mark butterfly was a prized find! All I remember, are Monarchs and June Bugs.

It was an adventure. It looks like that piece of property, Gun Lake Tract, is for sale, maybe that is why the trails weren't very clear anymore?

Thanks for visiting! :)

Anonymous said...

Gun Lake Tract wasn't the easiest place to find but it was grand, even without trails.
I'm still not sure what the bird on the branch was. Whip-poor-will or Chuck-will's-widow? We could use some help here. Anyone?
The Question Mark butterfly looked so much like a dead leaf, right down to the leaf veins! You perfectly captured the question mark on its wing!
Hearing the Barred Owl was nice and seeing all the flowers, too.
I'm glad you had the compass but look at all that green. It was worth being a little lost.
Yes, we do go where our feet lead us. And our eyes! Let's go see! That's our motto.
Your photos capture more than a thousand words ever could.
M :)

Bob said...

Great post! That's the first I've ever heard of Gun Lake Tract, and I've always fancied myself having a pretty good knowledge of the natural areas around Yankee Springs and the Barry County State Game Area.

Here's a tip for right now in early June: Drive to the far end of Gun Lake State Park, park your car by the pavilion, and then stroll north along the walkway by the lakeshore and look your left. You just might make a delightful discovery. But you'll have to look closely. :-)

Email me if you want more info.

Plants Amaze Me said...

Bob, Thanks! My next post is about Long Lake trail, we went there to see the Small Yellow Lady's Slipper because I read about it on your blog! That is a cool place, I had never been to before.

And we did drive around Gun Lake State Park but didn't get out of the car, instead we went over to Warner Sanctuary.

We will go back to Gun Lake State Park to find a delightful discovery!! I will email tomorrow to get details!

As far as Gun Lake Tract I saw it on this site, http://www.northcountrytrail.org/cnd/barry.htm
-Chief Noonday Chapter.

It seems the property is for sale.
So I'm not sure what going on with that, it was the first time I was ever there. Most of the trails were abandoned and overgrown, rough going, lots of water. But fun.

Thanks so much for your help with finding the orchid, and maybe more!!! :)

Anonymous said...

Another grand adventure! From your photos it almost looks like you could kayak the trail rather than hike it.

Plants Amaze Me said...

quietsolopursuits, you are right! For most of that hike we could of used a boat or raft, maybe a life jacket. Ha Ha
It was fun with just enough scary.

Anonymous said...

Another grand adventure! From your photos it almost looks like you could kayak the trail rather than hike it.