Saturday, August 06, 2005
Field Trip, part 2
Hiawatha West, continued...
Exited the forest rather unexpectedly and had to double back, at which time I drove a winding gravel road and saw *hundreds* of butterflies clustered in little clumps on the gravel. I tried to avoid them, I really did, but I am afraid I may have driven over some. I felt awful.
Emerged from Hiawatha West on US-2, which ends up skirting along the edge of Lake Michigan. The nasty rainstorm had passed by, leaving a flawless blue sky, and the lake was electric blue. Along the road, people just pull over on the shoulder and park, and go swim in the lake 100 feet away. Sand occasionally would blow from the beach across the road to the dunes, and there were some spectacular blowouts. I located my campground (the creatively named Lake Michigan campground), sandwiched between US-2 and the lake, where just a short trail over the foredune separated my campsite from the lake. I spent some time on the beach in late afternoon, then turned in.
Day 4 (August 5) - Hiawatha National Forest, East Unit
Awakened before the sun was over the trees, slipped out to the deserted beach, and had a lovely swim and washed my hair in the lake. Not a cloud in the sky... I felt like the only person on the planet (except for the sound of traffic on the highway). I liked thinking about this very same lake being near my house hundreds of miles to the south. I also felt oddly possessive. My lake! Mine! Headed eastward just a short distance and visited the welcome center for a trail map; this area actually has better-marked trails than the other two forests, and the North Country Trail map even had descriptions of some of the vegetation I would find. Hallelujah! I walked the North Country Trail for a short while, though it was *very* overgrown with blackberry bushes, which scraped my legs up terribly, and *very* buggy. Then I emerged at the Brevort River and a more open woodland of white pines and ferns and gorgeous silvery lichens. Then I checked out the Sand Dune Trail, a cross-country trail that is also very little-used in the growing season. I followed the road north towards a neighborhood of tiny houses on a small lake (and mailboxes shaped like bass with wide open mouths... *very* classy), turned off onto a forest road, and discovered a treasure trove of plants in a beech-maple-birch-fir woodland. I even saw the elusive Epifagus, though it was last year's growth. Just beyond the woodland was a meadow filled with butterflies and flowers, and between the sunshine and the warm dry air and the fact that I'd just found a hundred of one of my obscure species, I felt on top of the world. The scenery and camping were lovely throughout the trip, but the work itself sometimes made me so miserable and hopeless that my tiny successes were cause for celebration and dancing (which I did a bit of, in the meadow!).
Drove farther on that road until it dead-ended, and startled a peregrine falcon that was on the ground for some reason (a juvenile?). He flew onto a branch and watched me warily and made funny whistling sounds. I took pictures and kept an eye on the sky in case those whistles were signals for Mama to divebomb my head. I don't know where a peregrine would nest in that area...I didn't think there were many rocky cliffs. I am glad I had the good camera, though. Zoom lenses are nice to have.
One more stop on the road towards Brevort Lake campground to get my oaks, and then I said screw it, I'm *done*, and started for home. I stopped at the viewing area for the Mackinaw Bridge, since the only other time I'd seen it was in March and it was barely visible in the snowy haze. This day, it was vivid and majestic - and only $2.50! A bargain! I left St. Ignace at about 1:00 Chicago time and got home at 9:30, after stopping twice for food and once in Vestaburg to redo my maple collection.
Thoughts in general? Fieldwork can really really suck. Talk about your needles in haystacks! That is exactly why I want to work with common species, things I should find absolutely everywhere. Many of the trees fit that bill, and the trillium, although it's out of season, and the false Solomon's seal to some extent. I saw other plants that might be good, such as the little yellow Baptisia that lined the roadsides throughout the U.P., and a certain goldenrod, and the yellow Tanacetum. Seeing the landscape and getting a feel for what's there was very valuable and I'm glad I went. Plus, I hope I actually collected enough species from enough sites that I can do something useful this winter in the lab. I need to know more about the logging history of the woods, and extend my information beyond the U.P. to Ontario so I can think about sampling even farther next year. With any luck, I'll have company next time, though, and won't feel compelled to rush so much to get home to my husband and my doggies, all of whom I missed muchly. Also, next time I will go to the Mystery Spot, and look for the Paul Bunyan statue, and eat a pasty, and buy some fudge. I'll practically be a native!