By Ranger Steve Mueller
The Howard Christensen Nature Center (HCNC) has great diversity of habitats and a variety of trails to entice family hikers. Anticipate articles highlighting individual trails to interest family members during coming months. In the meantime, explore the trails to make your own discoveries. Plant communities influence the animals that can be found along trails.
Hikers will notice trail signs at trail junctions have three different marker codes. Most obvious are the printed trail names on signs. Each trail also has a unique picture and color code. Along the trails blue trail markers have been painted on trees but these have not been color coded to match trails at this time.
Five trails are described this week and five more next week.
Nature’s Habitats Trail (white lettered sign with butterfly icon)
The longest and widest trail at HCNC. It’s route leads through the major ecological communities found at the nature center. The trail traverses oak upland, skirts swampy/bog, crosses a small stream outlet from the lake, cuts through the Enchanted Norway Spruce forest, Red Pine plantation, accesses Spring Creek, meanders through mature aspen forest, transects the arboretum, Scotch Pine plantation, and concludes by Tadpole Pond where it began. Parts of the trail are located in the Rogue River State Game Area. Length is 2.1 kilometers (1.5 miles).
Deer Hollow Trail (black lettered signs with deer icon)
Located in the southwest corner of HCNC’s property, it loops through an upland oak, aspen forest, Scotch Pine plantation and traverses a swamp boardwalk. The trail connects with the arboretum loop trails and Chickadee Circle. Oak savanna habitat management area and owl roost forest are found along the trail. It is about 1.2 kilometers (.75 miles).
Chickadee Loop (yellow lettered signs with chickadee icon)
Trail loops from the Welcome Center westward and north around tadpole pond, past vernal pond, over a floating bridge past Howard Christensen Memorial Spring, and returns to the Welcome Center. It is comprised of oak forest, oak savanna, a vernal pond and permanent pond. Its length is about .4 kilometers (.25 miles).
Arrowhead Trail (orange lettered signs with arrowhead icon)
An ecological succession trail leads through an old fallow farm field, shrubland, developing pioneer forest, a pine plantation, and sub climax forest. HCNC’s highest point is on this trail. Length is 1.5 kilometers (.9 miles).
Succession Loop (Gray lettered signs with rabbit icon)
Begins along the south side of the field north of Red Pine Interpretive Center and progresses east until it loops south to join Arrowhead Loop for a return to the handicap parking area near the interpretive building.
A “designed with nature” concept was used in planning parking and building placement to maintain the nature center’s natural ambiance and provide visitors with nature exposure before they encounter the interpretive center building. By using the Welcome Center parking lot, it keeps the Red Pine Interpretive from view and offers a nature walk before encountering the human constructed environment. A special needs parking area was designed for direct access to the building by use of the north driveway.
The second interpretive building is located off 20 Mile Road with a similar “design with nature” construction. A loop parking area keeps vehicles away from the building to provide a quiet, calming, access walk to the building hidden in the woods. A drive for direct handicap parking access is available from loop parking area.
Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at firstname.lastname@example.org Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433, or call 616-696-1753.