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August 19

Sawdust Hole to Blacksmith Bayou
6.9 miles: 160 miles total

Mid-August brings a second explosion of wildflowers along the trail. My hike began at the Sawdust Hole National Forest Campground and quickly descended to the large open meadow along the Manistee river that gives it that name. The meadow was once home to a handful of saw mills but has now returned to a bejewelled wildflower paradise.

Sawdust Hole
The Manistee River flowing past the Sawdust Hole meadow.

August 14 and 15

Udell Hills Road to Udell Trailhead

5.5 miles: 153.1 miles total

Most of this section of trail follows a ridgeline that is the western edge of an large elevated glacial deposit called the Udell Hills. Although I enjoyed the hike I’ve found that upland forests present less opportunities for photography than wetlands and meadows.

The next day was drizzly and cloudy so I explored the area without going on a longer hike.

Fringed loosestrife was blooming by my campsite at the Pine Lake National Forest Campround.
Showy tick trefoil was blossoming in abundance along the Manistee River below the Sawdust Hole National Forest Campground.

August 7

Freesoil trailhead to Riverside Drive

5.6 miles: 147.6 miles total

A long boardwalk crosses a wetland just north of the Freesoil trailhead
I was surprised to pass this grassy meadow along the trail since this is not a common ecosystem in these parts.
I was able to walk to the center of this mature bog on the spongy surface of sphagnum moss.
Woodland sunflowers are native to Michigan. I’ve most often encountered them along roadsides.

August 6

5 Mile Road to Freesoil Trailhead

4 miles: 142 miles total

At this point the trail diverts about 3 miles to the west, passing along 5 mile road through a cottage community around a cluster of small lakes.

The trail passed through a small grove of large white pines. I’m always happy to see these mature trees and can only imagine what the primeval forest looked like before logging stripped the land. I’ll confess, it seemed a bit disrespectful to tag this elder tree with the NCT blue blaze.
Artist’s conk is so called because the delicate white under surface when scratched with a sharp object reveals dark brown tissue–kind of like a natural etch a sketch. If you look closely you can see a faint light streak flowing from the left edge which was the spores being released into the breeze.
This cardinal flower was growing near the bridge over Muckwa Creek.

July 30

Centerline road to 5 mile road

7 miles: 138 miles total

This section of trail passes through relatively flat terrain, passing by remote McCarthy Lake and crossing over the headwaters of the Big Sable River. It was mushroom season along the North Country Trail. Although I’ve eaten some of the most obvious edible mushrooms that grow in Michigan, I’m not enough of a mycologist to confidently identify most mushrooms I encounter on the trail.

Harebell blossom
White water lilies floating along the shore of McCarthy Lake.
Remote McCarthy Lake has a National Forest Service campsite on it’s northern shore accessible by a very rough Forest Service road.
Orange meadowhawk dragonflies are common in open areas of bracken fern.
Headwaters of the Big Sable river

July 29

Centerline Road to Wingleton Road

7.5 miles: 131 miles total

This small nest made of pine needles and lichen is likely that of a ruby throated hummingbird.
The sun shines through a fern frond.
The tiny pink blossoms of the pointed-leaved tick-trefoil are clustered at the end of a long leafless stalk.

July 25

Bowman Trailhead to Upper Branch Bridge

5 miles: 123.5 miles total

This section of trail wanders through rolling hills before descending into the lowlands along the Pere Marquette river. I didn’t have a lot of photographic success on this hike, but the view of the river just before reaching the bridge was beautiful.

July 18

56th Street to 76th Street

6 miles: 117.5 total

I began this hike at the parking area for the Bowman Lake Trail just west of the Bowman Bridge over the Pere Marquette river. The trail begins through the bluffs above the river floodplain but soon descends into the lowlands around the river. The trail parallels the river for a while, but I didn’t get a clear look at it.

A red spotted purple admiral butterfly
A common wood nymph butterfly stretches its wings.
A clear stream flows towards the Pere Marquette River through the Manistee National Forest.
An orange meadowhawk dragonfly

July 17

76th Street Trailhead to 96th Street

5 miles: 111.5 miles total

An encounter with an eastern box turtle was the highlight of this day–something I’d been hoping to experience during this project. As I was passing by a small marsh I noticed what looked like a dirty yellow ball along the edge. I investigated and realized it was an upside down box turtle! Fearing it was probably dead, I picked it up and was surprised how heavy it was. Thinking it might still be alive, I lifted it to my nose and it smelled fine. So I tried to open the hinged part of its shell and it held tight–indicating to me that the turtle was hiding inside.

So I set it right-side up on the trail, retreated a bit with my camera, and waited to see if it would open up. After a few minutes it did open up a bit and peak out from within the shell, but it just stayed like that for about 20 minutes. Thinking it might be overheated from being upside down in the sun, I decided to pour some water over it. This really seemed to refresh the turtle since it soon came out of its shell and wandered back to the wetland.

The eastern box turtle pokes his head out of his shell after I poured water on him.
Soon he wandered off home.
A large wetland along the North Country National Scenic Trail
Familiar bluet damselflies are only about 2 inches long and so thin that it can be hard to spot them darting around.

July 14

96th Street to Nichols North Trailhead

9 miles: 106.5 miles total

This was one of the prettiest hikes I’ve taken so far. The trail begins by passing through a series of wetlands. Then, after crossing 16 mile road, you pass by a series of remote lakes nestled among rolling hills.

This wetland, with its mixture of ferns and cattails, had a Jurassic look to it.
This is the first sign of beaver activity I’ve encountered along the trail.
Now I’m thinking this is a gray spring moth, which means the moth I included in my June 12th post must be something else. It’s hard to identify these little guys.
The North Country National Scenic Trail passes by Leaf Lake in a remote section of the Manistee National Forest near Baldwin, Michigan.
Wild calla, also called water arum, blooms beside Leaf Lake.

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