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,
SCHOOL PROPERTY - NO TRESPASSING.
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!