Friday, October 19, 2012

Otter Creek Loop pt 2

SLBD continued:

My intention with this hike was to slow down, take some time to sit and listen and watch. I had packed a lightweight tripod stool  and snacks to help encourage me to stop and sit. I was carrying my camera on a monopod, and since it was threatening rain I packed a small umbrella--a rain coat would do little to keep my camera dry. A book, notebook and miscellaneous camera stuff rounded out my gear. My pack wasn't too heavy, but I dislike carrying a tripod or monopod as these make my hands tired and my shoulders get sore from resting them there while I walk, but it's the only way to get sharp images with my long lens. As a result I stopped frequently.

My first stop came before I reached Otter Lake. Had I realized how close I was I would have waited and picnicked on the shore. When I reached Otter Lake the day was still gray and fairly still, the water like glass.

Otter Lake

 On the shore was a downed white cedar, its root ball bare and long exposed to the elements.

I lingered by the water for a while. Within a few minutes I realized I could hear a dull roar coming from the west. I turned to see the tops of the trees swaying in wind that was also clearing out the clouds--blue sky dominated the horizon behind me. Just like that the day went from dull and quiet to bright and windswept.

I eventually continued around the lake. There are trailheads near Otter Lake that can be reached by a dirt road, and an unimproved boat launch on the lake. We kayaked here several years ago when Lori was Artist in Residence at the park.

As the trail curved around the east side of the lake I noticed this hermit thrush as it flew down onto a birch log near a small creek. I stopped and we checked each other out.

Hermit thrush

He finally hopped down off the log and onto the ground. I couldn't see him very well behind the grass but I soon realized there must be a puddle as he was taking a bath.

Splish splash!

Leaving the thrush I walked over to the shore of Otter Lake, this time looking west. What a difference 15 minutes makes!

Otter Lake from the east, now rippled with wind.

That was the last time I saw any water the rest of the hike.

I stopped several more times to have a snack and write a bit. At one spot I happened to notice this caterpillar munching away on a young white pine.

Northern pine sphynx caterpillar

The trail passed through several meadows where grasshoppers were active.

Common green grasshopper on bracken fern

This snake, not more than a foot long, was sunning itself on the trail, until I came along and disturbed it.

Green snake

There wasn't a lot of color in the area yet.  Lake Michigan helps moderate the temperature, so the frosts that had hit the central part of the state (and helped produced spectacular color on the drive up) hadn't had as great an effect here. But change was coming, for sure.

Maple leaf

 Back at the trailhead this fuzzy little butterfly was hugging the road, hunkered down out of the wind.

Yellow sulfur butterfly--love the green eye!

Back at the van I dropped off my gear, then walked back down towards the water to take an "after" picture of Platte Bay and Empire Bluffs. What a difference from the brooding sky that morning! (Check out the first few photos of the last post.)

I had decided halfway through this hike I was going to reward myself with a burger and fries at the Village Inn in Empire, which is right on M-22. They have great pizza too, and an ice cream shop that was unfortunately closed during the week now that summer was over. I would have loved a scoop of ice cream for dessert!

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