Monday, February 15, 2010

someone's special local place

a colleague asked me to post this, which i am most happy to do...

Mission Loop
There’s a trail back of the Big Bear Arena in the Soo that I call the Mission Loop; it seems to have no official name. The trail follows both sides of a small stream that flows into Mission Creek, crossing it at two footbridges. You can easily walk it in a half hour, but it’s better to stroll around it slowly, taking time to notice what’s there. I like it because it's nearby and provides a quiet refuge in the city where one can experience the natural world throughout the year. Although it is lightly used at present (I've never met a soul during my many walks here) it has the potential to become a valuable community resource. I have already led outings of the Sault Naturalists here for skiing in the winter and plant study in the spring. The Sault Tribe, which owns the property, could develop it as a nature trail by providing marked waypoints and information about each of them, but it has not responded to my offer to have volunteers from the Naturalists help develop such a trail. It might also be used to teach children (or adults) in the Tribe about the Native uses of various plants.

Here are excerpts from some of my field notes to provide an idea of what's there.
In January I strap on my backcountry skis and enjoy the beauty of a U.P. winter in the woods. At a bend in the stream I see the fertile fronds of sensitive ferns, and a little farther on are vase-like clumps of the feather-like fertile fronds of ostrich ferns.
In early April I hear the sustained undulating trills and whistles of a winter wren, surely the Pavarotti of birdsong. A recently fallen tree is adorned with orange jelly fungus, which is exactly what it sounds like—an irregular mass of bright orange jelly. By the end of April mottled leaves of trout lilies have appeared, spring beauties are beginning to flower, and the fuzzy fiddleheads of sensitive ferns and asparagus-like fertile stalks of common horsetails have popped up. A flicker is calling persistently from the top of a dead tree across the stream, and a grouse is drumming in the distance.
On the first day of May I’m leading six members of the Sault Naturalists on an outing, assuming that 7 pairs of eyes will see more than one. A muskrat is swimming in a pond at the trailhead and red-winged blackbirds are loudly protesting our arrival. In the woods someone spots a chestnut-sided warbler; there is a squirrel buffet of shredded spruce cones under a big white spruce, and some large mushrooms identified as thick-stalked false morels. We take a short walk on a side trail to a swampy “garden” of marsh-marigolds, which have shiny yellow flowers that look like large buttercups.
In mid May the edible fiddleheads of the ostrich ferns are about 6–12” tall, bright green, with rusty scales on each side of the half-dollar size head.
By late June the ostrich ferns are about 5 feet tall and their lush foliage reminds one of a tropical landscape. This is truly a magical place, with something new to discover on every visit.
John Lehman

1 comment:

  1. So funny to read this upon just returning from Mission Loop. A cousin walks the loop with his two dogs just about every day. I sometimes join him. We often comment on how we almost always have it to ourselves. It is a wonderful place.
    Bill Gerrish