Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Wilderness Meadow

The day after my forest/fungus walk I rode my bike west toward the end of the point. Waugoshance Point Road is unpaved much of the way, and leads out to five state park cabins and a few parking areas. Essentially a dead end, there was almost no traffic. The road was flat and pretty smooth for being dirt, so the pedaling was easy. I haven't ridden my bike much, and it felt good getting out for a ride.

The road winds through cedar and black spruce, coming to a parking lot five miles or so from the campground. I tethered my bike to a post, covered the seat in case it rained, grabbed my snack/camera bag, and headed for the shore.

The Mackinaw Bridge, linking the Lower and Upper Peninsulas, was visible in the distance.

I crossed several gravelly berms to get to the water. I realized as I crossed the last one that these were old shorelines, left high and dry by the receding waters. Levels in the Great Lakes have been falling for years, and here was evidence of that.

My plan here, if I really had one, was to try to walk to the end of the point, a mile or so to the west. But the scenery wasn't doing it for me, and the wind was a bit brisk from the northwest. I looked to the treeline that bisected the point and noticed a faint trail. So I headed that way, and emerged through thick white cedars on the edge of a wet meadow.

It all looked rather desolate at first. But as I made my way to the two-track that cut through the meadow, I began to realize this place was full of grasses and flowers, now dried and stiff in the breeze. The "upland" areas were covered with clumps of little bluestem, its fuzzy seeds glowing in the afternoon light.

Small, stunted cedars clung for life in the rocky soil, and clusters of them provided shelter for other plants to gain a foothold.

I followed the track as far as I could, but as the trail slowly lost what little elevation there was, it filled with water.

I decided to cut across the meadow to the south shore of the point. I had to pick my way carefully as there was a great deal of standing water.

This side of Waugoshance Point is more protected from the wrath of Lake Michigan's storms and featured a multitude of tiny islands. I bet this is prime waterfoul/wading bird habitat in summer. The critically endangered Piping plover is known to nest here.

The plants changed as the ground became wetter. Cedars and bluestem were replaced with dogwoods and goldenrod.

I did not see much in the way of animal activity here. Some chickadees and nuthatches worked the treeline where I first crossed into the meadow, and I did flush a Common snipe from the grass at one point, but I half expected to see a fox. Here at least was a well worn trail.

This old nest was firmly woven in amongst the grasses.

I love big skies. I grew up on a lake and became accustomed to wide views. This area really appealed to me. I think that a lot of people would see this as a wasteland, but it is not. It's the kind of place that forces you to slow down and look carefully, to notice the small things.

The following day I packed up and hit the road. It was nice having a few days of quiet and solitude but I was ready to be home. Wilderness State Park is certainly a place I will visit again.

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