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Friday, April 9, 2021

Coastal Plain Marshes

  Today, I'm backing up to tell you about the wetlands I encountered on my hike Wednesday. They are something special, and I didn't even realize it before. And this is despite the fact that there is a 4x8-foot interpretive sign that's been there a long time. Now I'll justify my ignorance. I have hiked this particular piece of trail at least twice before Wednesday. Both of those times I was walking from south to north. The sign is positioned so that it's almost invisible when walking in that direction. Going north to south (and I walked both directions on Wednesday), it's easy to see.

Here's the deal. You may only see a damp, shallow pool with a bunch of grass-like stuff. What you are really seeing is a place that is so unique there are only 42 of them in Michigan. I don't know if all of the wetland ponds along the trail in this section are counted in the 42, or if the area counts as one. I'd need to go back, probably with multiple days of exploring to differentiate the ponds. But it's so interesting, I may contact the Forest Service biologist about a "tour" or a day of volunteering for plant inventory. I'm sure they don't want amateurs stomping around in the most unique without a good reason. Great Lakes Coastal Plain Marsh

Still looks like a shallow pond, right? These 42 wetlands are characterized by acidic conditions in shallow depressions in sandy soils associated with glacial outwash channels or post-glacial lakes. They have very gently sloping edges which are alternately exposed and covered with water. The thing that makes them SO unique is the plant communities they support. Are you ready for this? Great Lakes Coastal Plain Marsh

The plants they support shouldn't be here in the Great Lakes. The plants are more properly found along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. They aren't strung out from the coasts to here. They are just missing in between. This is called a disjunct. Great Lakes Coastal Plain Marsh

How did the plants get here? There's a mystery! Some experts believe the seeds were carried by birds, and then the seeds found satisfactory conditions, so they grew. Another theory is that the seeds were carried in glacial outwash channels. This theory is supported by the fact that many of these sites are associated with glacial outwash. Great Lakes Coastal Plain Marsh

I did some more research when I got home. Some of the plants are so rare, I've never even heard of them. Now I definitely want to get involved in a plant field trip! The MSU Natural Features Inventory lists over 100 plants typical of a Great Lakes Coastal Plain Marsh, and about 45 of them are rare to endangered. There are also some rare animals associated with them.

The interpretive sign shows a picture of the orange fringed orchid- one of the plants I'd never heard of. However... most of thes 42 wetlands are in southwest Michigan. The U of M plant database doesn't show this orchid as being found in Newaygo County, which is where I was. Newaygo county is shown as having a high incidence of this type of wetland. It would be SO cool to find the first one in that county! (As you may remember, I was the first one to find a particular plant in my home county. See Oxtongue, so it's not out of the question).

I borrowed this picture of the orange fringed orchid from the U of M Herbarium web page. Talk about a spectacular plant!
orange fringed orchid

Another plant typical of these wetlands is lance-leaved violet. I have seen this plant. In fact, took this picture along the NCT, somewhere near home, in 2009. Sadly, the SD card the original photos were on has gone bad, and I did not note exactly where that hike was. Eye roll. I'll just have to find it again.
lance leaved violet

A lot of the plants on the list are ones of little interest to most people- various rushes and sedges- brown and green spikey things. But I want to see them!!!!

In other news: I hunkered down and did a lot of editing today, and some errands. Probably ditto tomorrow.

See 15 Miles!

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Marquette Rail Bridge, White Cloud

  As I was driving home yesterday, I got to feed another of my hobbies- that of being a railfan. It's something of a mystery that I'd never noticed this bridge before. Granted, I don't drive this route terribly often, but this is certainly not the first time I've done so.

The White River passes just south of White Cloud. Yes, this is the same White River that I have hiked to twice in the past few months. Here's the view downstream. The water is moving at a pretty good clip. This picture is taken from the road bridge. White River at White Cloud Michigan

But what caught my eye was the view upstream. wood trestle railroad bridge

Wait! What? I had to stop and walk back to take pictures!

This is a wood trestle railroad bridge. This is part of the same line that runs past my house, Marquette Rail. Near me, it runs east-west. But at Baldwin, it turns south and goes to Grand Rapids. This is on that track. What I'm telling you is that this is an active rail line.

Want a closer look? wood trestle railroad bridge at white cloud michigan marquette rail

So far, I haven't been able to find out anything specific about this bridge on line. It's a typical type of construction for the 1800's. The line was formerly the Pere Marquette- probably Michigan's most famous railroad. However, they formed in 1899 by buying up several other lines. One of those was the White River Railroad, which ran from White Cloud north to Bitely. However, the White Cloud station was north of the river. It was at the junction of this line and the Chicago and West Michigan which connected with Muskegon that the PM also bought.

So, my best guess is that the Pere Marquette Railway built this bridge when they extended the line south to Grand Rapids. However, that doesn't seem consistent with the fact that bridges of this contruction type were usually made earlier.

The uprights were pile driven into the river bed. The outer ones angled to provide stability- the same principle as a flying buttress. This type of bridge construction is uniquely American. Of course, the really huge ones were out West.

I'm fairly amazed to find even a small one still in use. wood trestle railroad bridge at white cloud michigan marquette rail

In other news, believe it or not, I wasn't incapacitated from yesterday's hike. I painted for six hours, and finished that job. I'll admit I was getting tired, but hadn't checked the time because I wanted to finish. When I did see how long I'd been working, I knew why I was feeling tired. And, I did a little editing.

See Marquette Rail Big Sable River
See White River trail bridge

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

15 Miles!

  This photo is from later in the hike, but I love the way the sun on old beech leaves makes the trail glow! trail

Today I connected with the hike from March 23, and I had a personal challenge goal. Yup, I hiked 15 miles. 15.8 to be exact. What I did was in two sections. First I went east from 58th St to connect with the Coolbough Natural Area trail from a previous hike. This took me across Bigelow Creek. Out and back, this walk was only 2.6 miles. Bigelow Creek

I passed through the area where there was an active fire when our group hike went through in 2017. I never did blog about that hike. But the firefighters let us walk through since the area actually burning had moved somewhat north. Here's a photo from the day of the fire. fire on North Country Trail 2017

And here's what that area looks like today. Just some charring of the bark on the trees. effects of fire on the North Country Trail

Then I made notes on a little road section- would be pleasant enough to walk- a little-used dirt road. After that, it was time to get serious. I parked the car and planned to walk north for 6.25 miles before turning around. I am saving some pictures for another day. But this is very interesting to me. There are some unusual wetlands in here, with a big interpretive sign. I'll probably tell you more about them later. I may have to come back and look for plants. coastal wetland Great Lakes

I'll share a couple of closeups. Since I was about 30 miles south of my own latitude, I thought I might see some hepatica or bloodroot in bloom. Nope- probably just not the right habitat. However, the trailing arbutus is trying hard to open those buds. Dang! Who knew it would be such a chore. trailing arbutus buds

The cute little chickadees often keep me company, but they get shy when you try to catch a picture. Well... this one wasn't looking at me, but at least it's in focus. chickadee

I walked to just north of this unnamed tributary of Coonskin Creek. I thought there was going to be a 2-track road for a milestone. Maps show an extension of 14th St crossing the trail, so I thought there might at least be an old woods road. But nope. So I walked far enough to be sure I would have crossed it, and then turned around. I stopped on the bridge on the way back for a rest and a snack. Nice place! Coonskin Creek tributary

This is the best picture on the return trip as the sun was starting to slip toward the horizon. I just liked the layer of last year's oak leaves hanging on in the understory. The sky tried to sprinkle on me, but not even enough to put the electronics away. orange oak leaves in understory

I got back to the car at 5:02, and made a beeline for a convenience store and a cold drink! Wonderful day. I'm not even sore in any specific place- just general long-hike stiffness, and tired. Feet and knees are fine!

There is no other news at all, except to say that we are supposed to get several days of rain, and I'm saving some more pics from today to show you.

North Country Trail miles for 2021 is at 179

North Country Trail Newaygo County, MI. East from 58th St 1.3 miles and return, NCT north from Twinwood Lakes to latitude of 14th St and return. Total 15.8 miles.

See Croton to Coolbough

Tuesday, April 6, 2021


  Tuesdays seem to be my busy day. But the part worth sharing is a hike with Cathy at Ludington State Park. We started on the Logging Trail. Ludington State Park Logging Trail

It goes past two of the remaining CCC shelters in the park. This is the more ordinary of the two, but I haven't put it in the blog for a long time, so here you go. CCC stone shelter Ludington State Park

Then we cut east to the Lost Lake Trail. I've showed you this view before, but it's always worth another look. This is Lost Lake, with the bridge on the Island Trail part way out. Hamlin Lake is beyond the bridge. We saw a couple of young women testing the waters by wading. But then we heard them shriek. Guess it's predictibly cold yet! Ludington State Park Lost Lake

At the Coast Guard Trail we turned west again. There are faint hints of color on the trees and plants, but the best views are still water of any kind. This is just an ephemeral wetland- more like a muddy hole, but there is usaully an angle to find that makes them look good. small wetland

And another hummocky wetland in the sunshine. small wetland with hummocks

When we reached the Logging Trail we turned south and headed back to the car. Total miles about five- count this one as hilly. Beautiful day!

In other news: Errands in the morning. Then I tried to fix my broken clothesline post. Nope... needs a new post. Stopped at Lowe's on the way to the hike (way too much money for a post, hardware, and new line), then went directly to handbell practice, and finally home again.

See Another Loop at LSP

Monday, April 5, 2021

Albino Twins

  I had been told there were two albino squirrels in the development where I am painting. Today, they came out to play where I could see them. albino Squirrel

Even though they didn't seem to be aware that I was watching, they were very good at keeping their backs to the houses. albino Squirrel

These pictures are taken through a patio door, so the focus could be better, but they aren't terrible. albino Squirrel

The bright white coloring contrasts with the background, so you can see their feet and positions better. albino Squirrel

Bye, bye! albino Squirrel

In other news: I painted for almost 5 hours. Other than that, I'm having a tired and hungry day.

See Albino Deer
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