It was a beautiful spring evening and I was in the mood to spend time in the forest. I love forests. There is an old word for people like me – Nemophilist. One who is fond of forest or forest scenery; a haunter of the woods.
I usually hike and trail-run in the Offield Nature Preserve. I love photographing in Thorn Swift Nature Preserve. I’m hardly bored by either location, yet this week I’ve had the desire to explore somewhere new. So over the weekend I downloaded the LTC Trail Explorer app on the Google Play Store. Developed by the Little Traverse Conservancy, the LTC Trail Explorer provides users with information on all of their nature preserves including trail maps.
After playing around with the interactive preserve map, I decided to visit one of their largest preserves – Goodhart Farms Nature Preserve. Goodhart Farms is a mix of both ash, beech and maple forest and hay fields. There are over 7-1/2 miles of trails on 685 acres. I stuck to the eastern half of the preserve, although I plan on visiting the western half on my next hike. All told I hiked over 5 miles, doubling back on a mile or so on one trail to return to my car.
Every forest has its own personality. Where Thorne Swift is dark and twisted like something from a fairy tale, Goodhart Farms is bathed in rays of bright sunshine and is as green as Ireland. Here moss covers old logs and stumps. Wild Rhubard and trillium blanket the floor. The eastern portion of the park is relatively flat when compared to the Offield Nature Preserve and the trails are wide enough for snowmobiles and off-road vehicles (whether or not they are allowed, I’m not sure).
Although I never saw any wildlife, save a few birds, I could hear them. Every few hundred yards I was greeted with the scampering of little feet. Woodpeckers hammered into old trucks. Ravens cawed. I discovered the den of a fox or raccoon, clumps of fur lining the exit of an hollow stump.
We are blessed, in Emmet County, with an abundance of nature preserves and trails. And the good news is, these sites should remain wild forever. This in thanks to the Little Traverse Conservancy. The mission of the Conservancy is to protect the natural diversity and beauty of Northern Michigan. They own 164 nature preserves in five counties, over 14,000 acres of protected land.
To learn more about the Little Traverse Conservancy, and to download maps of their preserves, please visit their website at landtrust.org.