Oak Openings

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I’ve said before that I find a great deal of inspiration for my hiking adventures from Instagram. Knowing that there are many places I’d like to explore, I frequently have to remind myself that I already have plans for many hikes this year and don’t need to add more to my list just yet.

But if, in signing myself up for other adventures, I have the opportunity to visit one of those dream hikes, I’m not going to pass it up!

A dear friend invited me to a house party outside Ann Arbor this weekend, and knowing how much I enjoyed visiting last year, I said yes, even though it would be a whirlwind trip. I left home early Saturday morning, thinking that I might be able to stop and hike a state nature preserve along the way.

Alas, I missed the road to the nature preserve and kept driving. And as I headed westward, it occurred to me that I might be able to stop for one of my dream hikes instead. When I reached the Toledo area, I followed my usual I-475 dodge around the south edge of the metro area, but instead of continuing north right away, I made a slight detour to visit Oak Openings Metropark.

To me, the iconic images of Oak Openings that repeatedly pop up in my Instagram feed feature an enormous pine grove, where all the trees are uniformly spaced and of equal height, all soaring toward the light. And while I knew there were many miles of trails throughout the park, I had not known about the diverse environments and possible hikes I might find there.

According to the map I picked up, the Oak Openings is actually a region that extends beyond the park through multiple counties in Ohio and Michigan. In contrast to the local Great Black Swamp that early settlers struggled to traverse, the Oak Openings provided more open vistas through widely-spaced oak (and other) trees, not to mention more solid footing with its sandy soil.

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Not knowing quite where I would find THE pine grove, I decided to park at Mallard Lake and  hike a portion of the Evergreen Trail, where I had at least seen SOME tall pines as I drove in. Since the weather had turned blustery, I decided not to hike the entire 2.2-mile loop but instead turned onto a connector trail that led me back to the Mallard Lake Loop.

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I’m fairly certain I didn’t find THE pines, but how could I complain about views like this? Just imagine having these woods to yourself, listening to the wind whisper through the needles, the tall trunks swaying and creaking a gentle lullaby. Nope, not gonna complain.

Despite the brief snow flurries that bookended my hike, I found signs of spring: duckweed clustered at the edge of a pond, buds on lakeside shrubs, heart-shaped garlic mustard, and touches of vivid green creeping across the undergrowth. And just the tiny portion I saw of the park made me wish I lived closer so I might discover new delights as the seasons change.

No, I didn’t quite find what I was looking for, and I doubt I’ll return soon, but I’m not sorry I made the time to stop.

 

 

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