Spring vacation 2014, the 3rd day
It was raining lightly off and on when I woke up on Tuesday morning, another very dark and dreary day. As I drank my coffee, I pondered where I should go and what I should do, as I hoped that the weather would improve. It did, for a little while anyway.
I decided to go hiking and birding, my plan was to locate and check out the Wakeley Lake Foot Travel Area, a United States Forest Service nature preserve in the Huron Manistee National Forest. But, being the silly goose that I am, I hadn’t written down the directions on how to get there. I had remembered seeing signs for it in the past, and I thought that if I went to the area it was in, that I would see the signs again. I didn’t, but the Mason Tract is in the same area, and I had only hiked the southern end of the Mason Tract trail, so I thought that this day would be a good one to hike more of that trail, since it is one of my new favorite areas. Here’s a little about it from the Michigan DNR’s website.
Mason Tract: A 4,493 acre special management area along the South Branch of the Au Sable River designed to protect the quality fishing waters of this area. The Mason Tract originated from acceptance of a 1500-acre gift from The George Mason family in 1954. Over time, additional acreage has been acquired from the US Forest Service and private individuals through land exchanges. The Mason gift was contingent the area be used as a permanent game preserve, no part shall ever be sold by the state, and no camping be allowed in the area for 25 years. The State of Michigan has continued the no camping restriction in the Mason Tract. The only camping allowed is within Canoe Harbor State Forest Campground, located at the north end of the Tract on the Au Sable River. The Mason Tract offers quality fishing, hunting, and canoeing opportunities. The Mason Tract is home to the pristine Mason Chapel. The Mason Family constructed the Chapel in 1960 to provide fishermen with a place of reverence and has developed into a popular tourist attraction. The Mason Tract also contains the Mason Tract Pathway, which is used for hiking and cross-country skiing. Mountain biking on the Mason Tract Pathway is prohibited via a Director’s Order.
The Mason Tract Pathway is a little over nine miles in length if you take the direct trail, almost twelve miles long if you take the Thayer’s Creek loop and campground loop which is far too long for me to do in one day by myself, as I would have had to hike all the way back to my vehicle, doubling the length of my hike. So, I decided that since I had done the south third of the trail, that on this day, I would start on the north end and hike three miles in, then four miles back, by taking the campground loop on my way back. I saw one other person during my entire hike, they were doing just the campground loop.
Here are a few of the photos that I shot while there.
The sun was almost breaking through the clouds at that point, but they soon thickened up again for the rest of my hike.
Not a great angle, but it was the best of many oven bird photos that I shot.
In a reverse of what normally happens, I got an image of a black-throated green warbler flying towards me.
As I was going to shoot a photo of the warbler perched, I was distracted momentarily by this guy.
Then I returned to the warbler.
I’m not sure if this next plant is a species of moss or not.
I was able to get better photos of a blackburnian warbler than what I had saved on my computer for when I do a post on them in the My Photo Life List project.
I could hear a tanager singing and calling, and as I tried to locate him, he flew to directly over my head to pose for these rather poor photos, but I’m including them for the record.
Just a species of mushroom that I saw frequently while up north.
Despite the poor weather, I was able to get some better images of a Nashville warbler, this one showing its brown crown, which they don’t always do.
I was surprised by how tame the chipmunks were, and how close I was able to get to them.
I saw many of these butterflies, but couldn’t get a photo of one with its wings spread.
And finally, this junco for the record.
This is my opinion, for what it’s worth, I would skip the part of the Mason Tract Pathway from the north parking lot to past the campground loop, unless you want to be able to say that you’ve done the entire pathway. The nearly one mile of trail from the parking lot to the junction of the campground loop is rather boring northern Michigan open jack pine scrub and not very scenic.
The campground loop is very nice, with a good view of the river (sorry, I didn’t take a short lens) and two small wetlands around springs that feed the river. I would hike that again many times.
Even better is from the campground south, that’s the true Mason Tract, and you get the feeling of being in an unspoiled wilderness!
A great feature of this pathway is that they have placed benches at each of the signposts along the trail, making convenient rest stops spaced out along the way. There’s a map at every signpost, although not all the maps have the distances on them. But, that’s a small detail. It was so nice to sit out in the woods with no one or no sounds other than nature all around me. I may not have taken many photos, but it was a very enjoyable day!
On my way back to my campground, I saw the signs for Wakeley Lake, so I had to stop. Even though I had already hiked seven miles, I did the short one mile beaver pond loop at Wakeley Lake.
I had seen the evidence of woodpeckers everywhere I had gone, I had heard them, including a pileated, but this is the only one that I was able to get a photo of the entire time I was up north. Strange, very strange.
It was raining again by then, a small thunder shower was passing just to the south, so the photos aren’t very good, but here’s the rest from Wakeley Lake.
The Wakeley Lake area is a federal facility, and there’s a $5 fee to access it. That irks me, as there are no real improvements there, they charge the $5 just to access a wilderness area? But, I broke the law and didn’t pay, I wanted to get a feel for the place to see if it was worth returning to at a later date.
I would say that it is, so the next time, I will pay, and hike more of the trails there, even if I disagree with the government charging us to access what our tax dollars have already paid for.
After returning to my campground, and eating supper, I did my tour of the campground at dusk, and found this.
The night before, she and her mate had perched in the same tree, but that was while I was fishing, and didn’t have my camera with me. Argh!
A few minutes later is when I shot these, seen in a previous post.
After that, there was nothing to do but eat supper, and turn in for the night. It’s too bad that the owls didn’t do the same. I had heard them before, but on this night, they decided to use one of the large white pine trees that I had my tent/cot set up under to use as a rendezvous point. I have to tell you that I woke up to some strange sounds that had me scratching my head trying to figure out what was making the sounds. It sounded as if whatever was making the sounds was in or on my tent!
It wasn’t any of the classic sounds that owls typically make, it almost sounded like a canine’s bark, and I wondered if there were coyotes outside of my tent. But then, I heard the second owl answering the barks of the first one from off in the distance with a plain hoot, and getting closer each time it hooted. Eventually, both owls ended up in the tree over my tent, and I’m not sure, but I think that they were making owlets over where I was trying to sleep. Whatever they were doing up there, they sure were noisy! Eventually they flew off, and I was able to get back to sleep.
I had considered getting up, going for my camera and a flashlight, and trying for photos, but I doubted if it would be worth the effort. I listened to the sounds of owls of common Michigan species on eBird to try to identify the sounds, but couldn’t. The plain hoots that I heard could have been made by several species, but I’d be lying if I tried to make a positive ID. My best guess is great horned owls, but that’s only a guess.
I’m heading back up north this morning shortly after this is published, so I may not get around to replying to comments you may leave until next week.
That’s all for this one, thanks for stopping by!