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July 12

Nichols North Trailhead to Pierce Road

7 miles: 97.5 miles total

This beautifully spherical blossom belongs to the button bush, a common wetland shrub that I found blooming along the North Country National Scenic trail beside Nichols Lake.
This green frog beside Nichols lake is much larger and more mature than the little guy I photographed the day before at Loda lake.
This widow skimmer didn’t let me get too close but I admired the bronze accents in its wings and abdomen.
This isn’t the greatest photo of a meadowhawk dragonfly. He didn’t hang around very long but I was happy to document another new species!
When the meadowhawk flew off, I turned to see this eastern pondhawk which seemed much more happy to pose for the camera.

July 11

Pierce road to 6 mile road

5.5 miles: 90.5 miles total

A week of brutally hot weather kept me off the trail–even I don’t want to hike when the heat index approaches 100! So I picked up where I left off when things cooled down a bit. I began with a short diversion to the Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary , just a short distance off the trail. Mid July isn’t the best time to see wildflowers, but I enjoyed exploring the marshy area of Loda Lake near it’s outlet.

A green frog resting on a lily pad in Loda Lake.
A yellow pond lily blooms in Loda Lake.
As my hike takes me farther north, the forests are becoming more mature. This view of an oak forest with an understory of ferns is typical.
I’ve seen many swallowtail butterflies during my hikes but they are very skittish and difficult to photograph. This red spotted purple rested longer than most and seemed tolerant of my presence. My shots of the underside of its wings weren’t well focused but featured the red spots of its moniker.
This mourning cloak butterfly also seemed more than willing to pose for a photograph. One of the things I’ve especially enjoyed about this project is identifying and learning about the species that inhabit the ecosystems I’m exploring. I wish this subject had spread his wings since the top side is remarkably colorful.
I passed through a 200 acre preserve within the Manistee National Forest that is being managed to restore the oak savanna ecosystem that was present in this area prior to European settlement.
This female common whitetail seemed to appreciate the restored savanna.
One of the most eerie experiences I’ve had in nature is stumbling through swarms of gypsy moths apparently in a mating frenzy. There were thousands upon thousands of these pests frantically fluttering around every tree in the forest!

July 1

6 mile road to 3 mile road

5.5 miles: 85 miles total

Not every day on the trail can be a great day. I always enjoy hiking through the woods, so this was a good day. But not much caught my eye and I only came up with one shot I want to share–so a good but not a great day.

There are places along the trail where the forest floor is covered with red oak saplings. The new growth on the saplings is a fuzzy red.

June 29

3 mile road to Echo Road

6.5 miles: 79.5 miles total

I continued my hike along the North Country Trail through the Manistee National Forest near White Cloud, Michigan.

Up to now, I’ve had to hike out and back to my car for each section of trail. I bought this scooter so I can drop it at one trail head, drive a little farther north to another, hike back to the scooter, and ride to my van. “More efficient” says my rational mind. “More fun!” says my inner teen.
Ox-eye daisy is a european plant that has escaped gardens to colonize dry open areas. I read that each petal and each little yellow bump in the eye is actually a separate flower.
This bridge over a nameless stream passes by impressive mature hemlock trees.
Back home at my studio. The rack for my scooter has the inauspicious brand name “Black Widow.”

June 25

Twinwood lake to Centerline road

7 miles: 73 miles total

Life got busy and I took an unplanned break from my project for 10 days. I skipped a couple of road miles and picked up the trail at the Twinwood Lake National Forest campground just south of White Cloud.

The section of trail north of Twinwood Lake passes a series of wetlands (some wading required when I passed through). A signboard along the way explains that these are remnants of Atlantic coastal plain marsh ecosystems that contain many unusual plant and wildlife species.
Blue iris blooms along the edge of a wetland near White Cloud, Michigan.

June 15

Oak Road to Basswood Road

9 miles round trip: 64 miles total

I continued my hike through the varied terrain of the southeast section of the Manistee National Forest. The wide variety of habitats yielded the best photographic results of my project so far!

A pine plantation can be a disorientating place. I was grateful for the carefully placed blue blazes that mark the Norh Country Trail throughout its route.
I passed through this prairie early in my hike. It was posted as a special research area.
I believe this blue eyed beauty is a Spatterdock Darner. From my research it seems this is a rather uncommon site so I’m grateful he posed so nicely for me.
The North Country Trail passes through a remnant Oak Savannah in the Manistee National Forest.
I photographed this Little Wood-Satyr in a remnant Oak Savannah along the North Country Trail in the Manistee National Forest.
This beautifully maintained trail passes through lowland forest adjacent to Cold Creek.
The afternoon sun set these ferns aglow.
Cold Creek, Manistee National Forest
The Common Sanddragon lives near moving water. I found this one on the bridge over Cold Creek in the Manistee National Forest.
The Common Whitetail Skimmer uses its powdery white abdomen in territorial displays. They live near water and I found this one staking a claim to a portion of the bridge crossing Cold Creek in the Manistee National Forest.

June 14

56th Street to Oak Road

2 miles round trip: 55 miles total

The southeast fringes of the Huron-Manistee National Forest are a patchwork quilt of forest land and private holdings. The National Forest itself is a mix of regenerating hardwood forest, pine plantations, and open savannah. My second day of hiking in this section was quite short so I didn’t get a lot of photo opportunities. But I’m enjoying the discipline of trying to find something new each day.

I was struck by how different this raspberry blossom appeared compared to the one I photographed on June 6. When I tried to do a little research I found that there are at least a dozen species of raspberry in Michigan.
My first sighting of these showy yellow flowers was a dense stand along a roadside, so I suspected they might be yet another introduced species. I was happy to discover that Sand Coreopsis is a native species that is happy as can be in hot dry soil like roadsides.

June 12

Croton Dam to Pine Road

3 miles round trip: 53 miles total

After a long stretch of road miles north of the Rogue River State Game Area, the North Country Trail begins to pass through land held by the Huron-Manistee National Forest just below the Croton dam on the Muskegon River.

This Gray Spring Moth was unusually happy to pose for a photo.
I think this little guy is an Oak Leafroller caterpillar.
Squawroot is a non-photosynthetic plant that relies on a parasitic connection to the roots of host trees for its nourishment. It gets its common name from its usage by Native American women to treat menstrual cramps.

I invited my assistant, Alex, to join me for this afternoon hike and she was kind enough to capture this video. Gosh I look old!

June 7

Red Pine Drive to County Line Road

10 miles round trip: 50 miles total

The next day I completed my hike through the Rogue River State Game Area. If June 6 was notable for the wildlife I saw, today was all about wildflowers.

The Rogue River as it passes through the Rogue River State Game Area
A blue iris blooms along the edge of a bog in the Rogue River State Game Area
Golden Ragwort blooms along the North Country Trail as it passes through the Rogue River State Game Area.

June 6

Sherwin Street to Red Pine Drive

5 miles round trip: 40 miles total

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

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