June 6

After almost a week’s break, I returned to the trail where it passes through the Rogue River State Game Area. This area preserves about 6,000 acres of river flood plain, lowland and upland forests. It’s managed to create habitat and recreational opportunities for a variety of wildlife. Target shooting is permitted year-round and on the weekend I was passing through gunfire was a somewhat disconcerting constant. I eventually realized it all seemed concentrated in one location on the far side of the Rogue River so I don’t think there is much danger if you stick to the trail.

This is a typical view of the flood plain along the Rogue River.
The male ebony jewelwing damselfly has an iridescent blue-green body and black wings. They’re very territorial and will return to the same perch repeatedly, though they won’t let you get too close. I used a Sigma 120-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens with a 1.4x teleconverter attached to give me the reach and magnification I need to get this shot.
The female ebony jewelwing is less showy than the male, but has beautiful translucent wings and distinct white patches on top of the wings near the back.
A wild raspberry blossom.
The wood frogs were very active when I was passing through the Rogue River State Game Area. This small brown specimen is probably a male since the females are red and larger. He seemed pretty certain that he was invisible among the leaf litter on the forest floor.
The eastern American toad is one of only two species found in Michigan

May 31

The next section of trail followed the White Pine Trail State Park for about 7 miles between Rockford and Cedar Springs. This is a paved rail trail that parallels the Rogue River for a while and then passes through a mixed suburban/rural landscape. I cheated a bit and rode my bike on this section. I prefer a more natural landscape, so the highlight for me was a brief diversion into the Maas Family Nature Preserve.

The North Country Trail follows the White Pine trail beginning just north of the dam on the Rogue River in Rockford.
A cheery hedge of Dame’s Rocket lines the trail just north of Rockford. This is yet another introduced species that has escaped gardens and become naturalized.
The Maas Family Nature Preserve is managed for its healthy carpet of Wild Lupine, which is the only food for the caterpillar of the endangered Karner Blue butterfly.

May 29

Today I hiked a section of the North Country Trail that follows the Cannon Township Trail, a paved multi-use trail. The trail passes through some nice woodlands, an extensive wetland, and past suburban developments. It’s the kind of landscape where you often encounter introduced species. I’m not enough of an naturalist to always know if something that catches my eye is a native or introduced species. So it’s always a bit of a disappointment when I discover later that some beautiful things are thriving where they really don’t belong.

Though resembling native viburnum species, Japanese Snowball is an introduced species that had established itself sporadically in a few southern counties in Michigan.
Star-of-Bethlehem is an introduced species of Lily native to eastern Europe and parts of the Middle East. I found this growing just outside the historic Cannonsburg cemetery.

May 26

A bridge carries the North Country National Scenic trail over Honey Creek through Seidman County Park near Ada, Michigan.

The next section of trail took me through Seidman County Park north of Ada, Michigan. After crossing Honey Creek at the southern end of the park, the trail loops through diverse terrain of wetlands and forest for a little over two miles. In one clearing I came across a nice patch of wild lupine.

Wild Lupine grow in a sandy patch along the North Country National Scenic Trail that passes through Seidman County Park near Ada, Michigan.

May 25

After crossing to the western bank of the Flat River at the northern edge of Fallasburg County Park, the North Country Scenic Trail continues north through another mile of protected woodland. The first part passes through a wetland that has a nice selection of Spring wildflowers.

The North Country National Scenic Trail crosses the Flat River on a foot bridge at the north end of Fallasburg County Park near Lowell, Michigan.

May 24

The next section of trail took me to Fallasburg County Park, just north of Lowell, Michigan. The trail passes through the tiny historic village of Fallasburg, and it’s worth a slight diversion to walk through the village to the historic Fallasburg Covered Bridge. The bridge is one of only two remaining historic bridges still serving their original purpose in Michigan.

A well worn path along the North Country Scenic Trail just north of Lowell, Michigan
A field of cairns in a clearing along the North Country Scenic Trail near Lowell, Michigan testifies to the popularity of ths stretch of pathway.
The North Country National Scenic Trail passes through Fallasburg Park just north of Lowell. The Fallasburg Bridge, one of only two historic covered bridges left in Michigan, is just a short diversion from the trail.

May 20

I started my exploration of the North Country Trail on the northern edge of the small town of Lowell, Michigan. The trail parallels the Flat River passing through forests largely reclaimed from hardscrabble farms.

The Flat River flows through marshland just north of Lowell, Michigan.
The forest canopy glows spring green on a sunny day.

In a normal year I’d be greeting customers at outdoor art fairs almost every weekend through the summer. But Covid-19 has forced the suspension of the art fair season this year. And so I’ve decided to take on a major project instead. I intend to explore as much of the North Country Trail in Michigan as I can and photograph whatever catches my eye.

The North Country Trail is the longest of eleven National Scenic Trails designated by the National Park Service. It stretches 4,600 miles from Vermont through North Dakota. The State of Michigan is at its heart and hosts 1,150 miles of the trail. A fair portion of these miles are along lightly traveled roads, so I’ll just explore the miles of trail that pass through Natural areas.

The North Country Trail Association is a non-profit organization that partners with the National Park Service to develop, maintain, protect and promote the trail. As it turns out their headquarters is in the small town of Lowell, Michigan, very near my home in Grand Rapids. So it seemed fitting to start my journey there and work my way north.

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