The 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Adventures

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Moosewatch 2021 Part 3

Loreen Niewenhuis is an author, adventurer, and dynamic speaker. 

She has completed a trilogy of 1,000-mile journeys exploring the Great Lakes and has authored three books about these adventures. 


To learn more about her work, or to engage her as a speaker, go to 

http://www.laketrek.com/great-lakes-speaker/



You don't have to hike far on Isle Royale before you come upon balsam fir trees that look like the photos below:






This tree is the primary food source for moose in the winter. As you can imagine, as the moose population expands, the competition for balsam branches increases.
A prolonged winter can also decrease the chances of a moose making it to spring.

On this year's Moosewatch, my team recovered bones from 8 moose, a few of which were showing signs of starvation.

Scientists have been studying the interaction of moose and wolves on Isle Royale for 63 years now. The most recent annual report can be found here.

And here's a sunset from Isle Royale.









 





Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Moosewatch 2021 PART 2

Loreen Niewenhuis is an author, adventurer, and dynamic speaker. 

She has completed a trilogy of 1,000-mile journeys exploring the Great Lakes and has authored three books about these adventures. 


To learn more about her work, or to engage her as a speaker, go to 

http://www.laketrek.com/great-lakes-speaker/


The primary goal of a Moosewatch Expedition on Isle Royale is to gather data on moose bones in the field and to bring some of the bones back for study. 

Since the study was suspended due to Covid last year and since additional wolves were relocated to the island, we expected to find more moose bones. 

And we were not disappointed.

With each find, we searched the area for all the bones we could find, recorded which ones were present, inspected bones for signs of pathology (e.g. arthritis, healed breaks -- these bones would also be recovered for study), recorded data on location of find and condition of bones. Then, we would pack up the skull, mandibles, and a rear metatarsal. This last bone grows to its full length in the first year of a moose's life, so measuring it gives a wealth of information on how that first year went for the moose (e.g. was food abundant/scarce?).






Our last find was on the hike in to Windigo to meet up with other teams and deliver our bones. This moose was killed a few weeks ago, so we smelled it before we found it.
Every bone was present except for one scapula.
Fox love to run around with the bones, so it was probably carted off by a fox.







Here's my team, 

the second all-women Moosewatch Team:

(L>R: April, Joceline, Zan, and Julie)






 

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Moosewatch 2021 PART 1

 

Loreen Niewenhuis is an author, adventurer, and dynamic speaker. 

She has completed a trilogy of 1,000-mile journeys exploring the Great Lakes and has authored three books about these adventures. 


To learn more about her work, or to engage her as a speaker, go to 

http://www.laketrek.com/great-lakes-speaker/


I just completed my SIXTH Moosewatch Expedition collecting bones on Isle Royale for the Moose/Wolf Study. This is the longest-running predator/prey study ever done (at over 60 years).

Along the way in our searching for bones, we also gather data on other wildlife and also take measurements and locations of shed moose antlers.

My team came across 22 sheds ranging from massive to tiny:



Julie shows off the range of our finds:



April shows off our tiny find:



Joceline discovered an ancient antler: 



Sometimes...antlers are still attached to a massive, buried skull:


More to follow on this amazing expedition...


Thursday, May 20, 2021

Invasive Plants

 

Loreen Niewenhuis is an author, adventurer, and dynamic speaker. 

She has completed a trilogy of 1,000-mile journeys exploring the Great Lakes and has authored three books about these adventures. 


To learn more about her work, or to engage her as a speaker, go to 

http://www.laketrek.com/great-lakes-speaker/



I like to volunteer to maintain or improve the trails that I hike near my home in Traverse City. Sure, I always pick up trash when I hike, but I also actively search for opportunities to work on these trails. One time I even got to help put in a new trail in one of Leelanau Conservancy's properties. 


This week, I joined with volunteers to help remove the invasive garlic mustard plant from Clay Cliffs Natural Area. This is one of my favorite trails within the Leelanau Conservancy.

Since it had rained the night before, pulling up these invasive plants was pretty easy and we cleared large patches of it.

Here are some photos from the work day:





Go HERE to view a tutorial on how to identify and remove invasive garlic mustard plants.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Platte Plains Trails

Loreen Niewenhuis is an author, adventurer, and dynamic speaker. 

She has completed a trilogy of 1,000-mile journeys exploring the Great Lakes and has authored three books about these adventures. 


To learn more about her work, or to engage her as a speaker, go to 

http://www.laketrek.com/great-lakes-speaker/




There are around a hundred miles of hiking trails within Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. I've hiked many of them, and, lately, have set out to hike them all.

There is a collection of trails at the southernmost part of the park called the 'Platte Plains Trail' that I recently began to explore. I've hiked the lakeshore here many times using the Esch Road access, but this time I hiked the 4.6 mile loop around Otter Creek. 

This is a fairly flat hike and part of it is on a dirt road. The wild flowers were in bloom:



Trillium





Marsh Marigold

The park had just completed a prescribed burn along part of the trail. In all, the parks service plans to burn over 2,000 acres in this area. 
These burns (according to press release), "burn off available fuel to boost fire-dependent ecosystems and head off wildfires." 
It will be fascinating to watch this area regenerate over the next year or so.


There was wildlife to watch, and I spent some time on the foggy beach, too.



Sunday, May 9, 2021

Leland


Loreen Niewenhuis is an author, adventurer, and dynamic speaker. 

She has completed a trilogy of 1,000-mile journeys exploring the Great Lakes and has authored three books about these adventures. 


To learn more about her work, or to engage her as a speaker, go to 

http://www.laketrek.com/great-lakes-speaker/


One of my favorite lakeshore towns is Leland, Michigan. There is a lot of history here connected to the Lake Michigan fishery. 



Many boats used to come into the Leland River filled with Lake Michigan fish. The historic collection of small buildings used to process the catch are preserved here in Fishtown.

The Carlson family still fishes these waters and smokes the fish here. 
The Joy (below) is one of their fishing boats and is a trap-net tug.

Rising lake levels have recently threatened Fishtown structures and work is underway to elevate the most vulnerable structures. Fishtown Preservation is the group doing this work.



Here are some more shots along the Leland River:






If you go, make sure you get a sandwich at the Village Cheese Shanty. Amazing!







Sunday, May 2, 2021

Clay Cliffs

 Loreen Niewenhuis is an author, adventurer, and dynamic speaker. 

She has completed a trilogy of 1,000-mile journeys exploring the Great Lakes and has authored three books about these adventures. 


To learn more about her work, or to engage her as a speaker, go to 

http://www.laketrek.com/great-lakes-speaker/


I live in Traverse City, Michigan, and one of the reasons I moved here was for the many hiking trails in the region. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is nearby and I've hiked most of the trails and all of the shoreline there. 

Northwest of Traverse City is the Leelanau Peninsula. This gorgeous area has its own conservancy organization working to protect and preserve natural areas. One of my favorite trails on this peninsula is Clay Cliffs Natural Area located just north of Leland.



The trail has two overlooks, one of Lake Leelanau and one of Lake Michigan.

Here's a video from the Lake Michigan overlook. Great views of the Manitou Islands.



Here's the view of Lake Leelanau:



The wild flowers were in bloom today...
the trout lily amongst the trillium...



And more views out on Lake Michigan...




Thursday, April 29, 2021

Empire Bluff Trail in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Loreen Niewenhuis is an author, adventurer, and dynamic speaker. 

She has completed a trilogy of 1,000-mile journeys exploring the Great Lakes and has authored three books about these adventures. 


To learn more about her work, or to engage her as a speaker, go to 

http://www.laketrek.com/great-lakes-speaker/


 I took a hike up the Empire Bluff Trail today. This is the most used trail in 

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.


 There was a thick fog clinging to the surface of the cold lake. It obscured the view at times, then the fog would roll up the dunes and open up the view for a moment. It was lovely, and I had it all to myself.







 The view from the top!






Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Hemlock Wooly Adelgid

 

Loreen Niewenhuis is an author, adventurer, and dynamic speaker. 

She has completed a trilogy of 1,000-mile journeys exploring the Great Lakes and has authored three books about these adventures. 


To learn more about her work, or to engage her as a speaker, go to 

http://www.laketrek.com/great-lakes-speaker/



There is an invasive species that has been decimating hemlock trees in America for decades. It is a small insect similar to an aphid called the wooly adelgid.
This insect is native to Asia and made its way to America via imported plants in the 1950s. It has  been slowly spreading for decades and has made its way to northern Michigan. This pest has recently been found in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. 

I often hike in and around Sleeping Bear Dunes and have seen many mature hemlock trees in these forests.

One of my favorite hikes is at the Traverse City Commons, and there are some massive hemlocks there. 

Check out the view from the wooded dunes:




There is a hemlock that I visit there, and after the recent storms, I was sorry to see it had developed a crack in the trunk. 



These trees are the preferred feast for the wooly adelgid. They congregate on the underside of the needles and suck the sap out of the tree. The needles turn brown and new growth is inhibited. Infested trees can die within 4-10 years.

Trees can be treated with pesticide and can be saved if infestation is caught early.

Severe winters helped to slow the spread of this pest.


Update (info from NPS):  Though the tiny insects don’t move far on their own, they can be blown by wind or hitchhike on birds or mammals – including humans - that come into contact with an infested branch. In a similar way, cars, boats, tents, or RVs parked under infested trees may be able to transport the insects to new locations.


So, clean your boots and NEVER transport wood from one area to another.