Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Waterloo Recreation Area

After checking out the house, I wanted to take Toby on a hike in the Waterloo Recreation Area. I followed the signs to the Gerald E. Eddy Discovery Center. There are several trails to choose from, including this set:

With the weather starting to look iffy, I decided to opt for a shorter hike: 1.3 miles on the Oak Woods Trail (the yellow one below).

It started off much like the MacCready Reserve trail we did yesterday.

Remember the poison ivy I got into this summer? That was all plants on the ground, but here we have the other form: the hairy vine that likes to climb trees. Most folks know the rhyme "Leaflets three, let it be," but not too many know the second part: "Hairy rope, don't be a dope." Yes, you can "get poison ivy" from the vine just as easily as you can from the leaves.

The trail follows the top of a glacial moraine downhill, passing a small pond. Then it loops around and finds itself on another ridge, overlooking Mill Lake. The lakes here in southern Michigan were formed by melting chunks of glaciers over 10,000 years ago.

This woody gall stuck out like a sore thumb. Kind of reminds me of the cottonwood galls the kids from Johnsburg Central School and I explored last year.

And these wonderful three-part seeds are new, too. Remind me of beechnuts, but of course they are not beechnuts. I'll have to look them up in my book of pods, which is at work. Update: I believe this is wild yam (Dioscorea villosa), which is a native (!) vine that is full of medicinal virtues. I did a paper years ago about natural birth controls, and wild yam, found in South America, was one of those plants (a phytoprogesterone). I wonder if this wild yam is related - perhaps distantly. Whether it is or not, it is a cool plant with nifty fruiting bodies visible in the winter landscape.

And I have a whole new batch of trees whose bark I now must learn. I could confidently walk through the Adirondacks and know most of the trees by their bark, but the habitats here are just different enough to be strangers to me.

A bench near the terminus of the trail overlooks Mill Lake.

As we wound up our walk around the Discovery Center, we came to one of at least three "rock gardens." It seems that some special rocks were brought here and put on display. Each batch has its own descriptive sign.

This was my favorite rock. About the size of a large footstool, it is simply amazingly round. The signs says it is a "Sedimentary rock, CONCRETION from Alpena."

This one looks like it has a growth or scar on it. The sign says "Metamorphic rock, META-BASALT - The white lines you see are fractures fill by the igneous rock called APLITE. Glacial runoff eroded away the softer basalt while leaving the harder quartz-rich dikes intact."

Due to the holiday weekend, the Discovery Center was closed. I peeked in through the front doors, though, and it looks like it is worth a visit some time when they are open.

Slightly chilled by now, I was glad to be in the car and turned up the heat. The drive back to Jackson was uneventful, although hazy snow filled the sky.

Tonight the stars were out when Toby and I went for our walk; the weather gurus predict at least partial sun for the next few days. I may have to take my camera for another walk.


  1. "Hairy rope, don't be a dope." I absolutely love it! I used to be a naturalist in Ohio and wish I could go back in time and add that saying to my nature hikes. Well, I'll use it in the future. Thanks for the best tip of the day.

  2. Ellen, What a nice winter jaunt. We have plenty of those evil hairy ropes that I know to avoid here in WV. I look forward to continuing to travel with you as you get to know your new land.

  3. Lots of interesting new things to discover! I didn't know the second part of the poison ivy rhyme. I've only encountered poison ivy as a vine once, out in the southwestern tip of Ontario. Prior to that, I had no idea it grew as a vine!