Monday, September 26, 2011

And So I Go....

"I have had my share of solitude....  It is beautiful to me, for it brings perspective and the sense of timelessness.  I come back to the friends I have left, stronger, better, and happier than when I went away."

Sigurd Olson
Reflections from the North County

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wet Meadow in Autumn

 I have to make a confession.  The photos you'll see in this blog were taken over a year ago.  That's right, I shot these when Lori and our friend Karin and I went for a walk on September 14, 2010.  I don't know why I never got around to posting them.  I may have been in the middle of something else, writing about our Ontario trip perhaps, but whatever the case enough time went by that I came to feel like they were no longer timely.  I have waited for the season to come around again so I could post them.

 I never tire of nature.  There are always, ALWAYS, new things to learn, places to discover.  Even people who have studied biology in school don't know everything.  I remember being out on one of the DNR's invasive plant removal workdays a few years ago.  Our team leader, being a botanist, was not very familiar with birds, and she asked me what kind of bird was making the raspy noise we could hear off in the woods.  I stopped and looked at her and said, "Uh, that's a tree frog."  So all of us have lots of room to learn from our explorations.

I had never heard of fringed gentian until we camped a few tears ago at Hog Island, up on the southern shore of Michigan's U.P., next to a wet meadow that was filled with the stuff.  I was blown away by this gorgeous little flower, even though we had to leave before the sun warmed the meadow enough to open them fully.  I was further unaware that we had it growing right here, practically in our back yard, until Karin found it while out for a walk.

 A lovely little plant with squarish buds, it opens up in a whorl, almost like an upside down umbrella.

 I crawled around in the mud for some time, studying and photographing it.

There were other plants in the meadow as well, such as boneset,

greater coreopsis,

and grass of Parnasis.

 But I kept getting drawn back to the gentian.

I must further confess that I have not returned to this place since last September.  I regret this, and the fact that I have gotten out very little at all this year.  Feeling a bit peckish, I am taking the RV out next week and going...somewhere.  North.  Not sure where yet, not sure I am feeling like going at all, but I know I need it.  I have to get out of The Compound (our home, so named because we rarely leave it) and stretch my legs.  I have not felt like writing, or hiking, or even reading the blogs that I follow.  I know that I need some space and some time to air out my brain and get excited about the world again.

So look for some new stuff beginning in October.

Happy Autumn!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Holly Wild: Bamboozled on Beaver Island

I've got to give a quick shout out to my partner Lori Taylor for the publication of her new book Holly Wild: Bamboozled on Beaver Island.  This is a very funny story about three kids and their adventures on Beaver Island.  Lori wrote and illustrated the book, and Lisa and I edited and offered constructive criticism.  We even created a subsidiary to Bear Track Studios to publish this and the rest of the Holly Wild series called Bear Track Press.  Who knows, maybe I'll put a book together some day!

Aimed at getting kids of all ages outdoors and into explorer mode, the book is available at  We will be offering school presentations as well as promoting the book at Michigan festivals and getting it into local bookstores.

Go on, now, get out there and poke it with a stick!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Snake vs. Toad

 I will warn you right now--if you are at all squeamish, DON'T LOOK!

I was working on updating the Bear Track website yesterday afternoon when I heard Lori hollering from the back deck.  Something about a snake and "HURRY!!", so I grabbed my camera and ran down the stairs.  I found Lori and Lisa peering into the tiger lily leaves.  There, head just visible in a gap in the foliage, was a mid-sized garter snake trying to choke down a rather large American toad.

It was clear that the toad was a goner, but we were not convinced at first that the snake was going to manage to swallow the toad.  The toad had filled itself with air and looked impossibly big.

The snake managed just fine.

 Lori has a snake, an orange "candy corn" corn snake, and I've watched it eat its mice.  This was different somehow.  For one, the toad had been a living, breathing creature not moments before this.  Kenny's mice come frozen in a box from the pet store. 


This was probably the same toad I'd come across on several occasions hopping around on the deck and had moved it out of harm's way--and the reach of a chicken--more than once, so I had the thinnest veil of a personal relationship with it.  I like toads--they eat lots of bugs.  Not that I don't like snakes, but I, like so many other people, have a tendency to identify with the victim, rather than the aggressor.  I don't claim to understand this as we are clearly a predator species, but it may have to do with an overactive imagination that puts us in the mouth of that snake, being eaten whole and, at least for a time, alive.

 Anyway, with some work, the snake got the toad's front legs in its mouth, and eventually the toad deflated, making the second half of it go down a bit quicker.

 As the snake retreated into the leaves, only the toad's toes remained.  The entire process took maybe ten minutes.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Of Bears and Froot Loops

The bears up at Oswald's ranch are, for all intents and purposes, wild animals. They do not breed bears at Oswald's but take in orphans and raise them from cubs. Therefore, they are quite used to humans and human contact. I must say, however, that I was quite surprised to see one of the ranch's employees in the enclosure with the five young bears. He was feeding them Froot Loops, and had one of the bears sitting in a plastic lawn chair, contentedly licking cereal off its belly.

More, please!

Some of the others tried to sneak in and lick up a few morsels.

What a sweet face.

This fellow was named Chewbaka because he roared like the Star Wars character--especially when he was trying to win a sucker.

Directly behind this enclosure was the cub pen. They were difficult to photograph thanks again to the chain link fence and the fact that the pen is covered, making it pretty dark.

The same fellow who had been feeding cereal to the adolescents was now in with the cubs. He shoved maple tree branches through the wire, which the cubs had to climb to get at. They then proceeded to play with and munch on the leaves. So many people think bears are man-eating monsters, but in fact black bears are primarily vegetarians.

We couldn't pass up the chance to go in the pen with one of the cubs, so we paid our $5 to have our picture taken with one. Lisa and Lori got to feed him while I petted his head. Awww....

I want one!