Sunday, April 17, 2016

A view of the wolves in southeast Michigan

One of the wolves at the Detroit Zoo.

It appears Royal Oak has as many wolves as Isle Royale does now.

My wife and I stopped in at the Detroit Zoo this afternoon, a place we've grown to love in recent years. We stopped in at feeding time near the gray wolves and wanted to share one of the few animals there at the zoo that are found natively here in Michigan.

Wolves have captured my emotions for many years, starting with my 2005 trip to Isle Royale. I still remember hearing the wolves howling in the distance during the night we spent at McCargoe Cove. I've watched with close eyes on developments surrounding Michigan's wolves, including the studies down on Isle Royale in relationship to the wolf/moose population, as well as the short-lived hunting season the state enacted several years ago.

These wolves were brought to the zoo almost 11 months ago and can be found in the very back near the kangaroos. It appears the white wolf is a eight-year-old female, and the darker-colored wolf is six-year-old male. They both share a larger, two-acre space in the zoo designed specifically for them and were brought in from a zoo in Minnesota. They are both native to Canada.

Nothing pales in seeing wildlife in its natural habitat, something I haven't completely experienced when it comes to wolves. But to just get a glimpse of their majestic walk is enough to keep my imagination moving, as was the case this afternoon. 

A collection of wolf photos taken April 17, 2016 from the Detroit Zoo.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Flashback Friday: Backpacking Nordhouse Dunes on Lake Michigan

The sunset over Nordhouse Dunes last May.
A map found on trail.

The weather is (supposedly) warming up in Michigan, though I swear it's snowed more so far in April than it did in January here in my Oakland County home.

But warmer temps are coming, and that means it's time to start thinking about warm-weather trips. While any of these trips can be done most of the year, it can be slightly more enjoyable when the sun agrees with you.

That's why I've recently reminisced about one most recent trip, a May 2015 backpacking excursion to Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area, part of the Huron-Manistee National Forest. This property encompasses more than 3,400 acres of forest, abutting the Lake Michigan coastline north of Ludington.

It's a spot I've backpacked several times, first as a teenager, again in college and most recently in May. It's a reoccurring trip for the group I work with at my church because it's such a unique place with great views of Lake Michigan from many campsites. It's a lengthy drive to the starting point from the state highways, further preparing you for being more alone than usual.

It's a sandy trail to begin with, with thick forest scattered throughout. To get to any views of Lake
Hiking along the sandy dunes.
Michigan from where we started, we had a few miles hike through the woods. Bushwhacking through the underbrush was a challenge, trying to head toward the lake to find our campsite. To access Lake Michigan, hiking over a large hill was all but necessary. Steep with little to hold onto at certain parts, I've always remember the ascent to the top was a challenging one with a pack.

But it's worth it for the view, looking down at the dunes with grasses and other vegetation. And it's uplifting to see the waters of Lake Michigan in the distance.

Hiking in the woods near Nordhouse Dunes. Just like most
trails in western Michigan.
A popular place to camp is along the water, but inland enough where you can set up a tent with the shield of a dune protecting you from the wind. Head up and other the dune, and the water is right there within a few hundred feet.

May is a great time to head to this park. It's typically very quiet with few other people around, though this past trip saw many more crowds along the lakeshore, possibly because of an article written about Nordhouse Dunes in an online article on The trees are green, the water is still cold (though many of the youngsters we took on this trip braved the water) and the sights aren't dotted with other humans.

It's a place I'd recommend highly. Just not the weekend's I'm there. I prefer my national forests quiet.