Category: Nature

It’s not difficult to find a good spot to watch the sun set over Lake Superior when visiting Copper Harbor, MI, the town at the northernmost tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula.

DSC00481DSC00456But it occurred to me during last week’s Ride the Keweenaw that I might be able to watch the sun rise over the lake, too. I got up early and drove east on US 41. It turned to a dirt road and I kept going till I saw a crude sign that said “Horseshoe harbor” and followed that road and eventually discovered a walking trail that led to the Mary Macdonald Preserve at Horseshoe Harbor, managed by the Nature Conservancy:

At the northernmost tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, stunted shrubs and trees cling to ancient bedrock directly in the path of Lake Superior’s fierce winds. The 1,261 acre Mary Macdonald Preserve at Horseshoe Harbor is the largest and highest quality mainland preserve for bedrock beach and bedrock glade communities in Michigan. The rock ridges that define the shoreline are wave-eroded edges of sedimentary conglomerate rock uplifted some 600 million years ago. They now create a barrier between the pounding wind and waves of Lake Superior and the woodlands behind them, protecting and allowing the emergence of slower growth plant species.

I took a few photos:

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but I didn’t get a decent one of the huge ‘conglomerate rock’ along the shore.  I found this photo online from a geocache page:

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Nature

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While mountain biking at Lebanon Hills last week, I came upon a log right along the trail that was host to a large number of very fresh sulphur shelf mushrooms (AKA the ‘chicken of the woods’). I stuffed my hydration pack with about 10 pounds of them and brought them home.

Robbie cleaned and soaked them in salt water, dried a big batch with our food dryer, and sautéed the rest to accompany yet another delicious meal on our deck. Heaven:

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Nature

As I mentioned last week, I first blogged about mountain biking at the River Bend Nature Center (RBNC) in Faribault back in January and shortly thereafter, learned about the problems with it.

Mountain bike meeting at River Bend Nature Center Mountain bike meeting at River Bend Nature Center
So I was really pleased that RNBC staff hosted a meeting with about 25 local mountain bikers last night at the RBNC Interpretative Center.

Barbara Caldwell, RBNC Executive Director Garrett Genereux, Naturalist Educator; Barbara Caldwell, RBNC Executive Director Ben Witt, owner, Milltown Cycles 
After everyone introduced themselves, RBNC Executive Director Barbara Caldwell, RBNC Naturalist Educator Garrett Genereux, and Ben Witt, owner of Milltown Cycles in Faribault, each made brief presentations about the status of mountain biking trails in the park.

Barbara set a positive tone to the meeting right from the start, saying that they were genuinely eager to learn more about mountain biking, given the increase in riders that they’ve seen recently. She said that while they had no desire to become a mountain bike park ("We’re a nature center"), they are multi-use and see mountain biking as another way to engage the public in their mission.

Garrett showed a special map he’d created of all the trails in the park, both authorized and unauthorized. (I’ve obscured the map in the photo above.)

Ben Witt expressed his appreciation for the willingness of RNBC staff to even have the meeting, seeing it as a huge opportunity.  He explained how many sections of the authorized trails are not only bad for the park because of erosion, they’re also not the new style of mountain bike trails (eg, switchbacks for up-hills) that help to make the sport so enjoyable.

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The rest of the meeting was open discussion. I urged RNBC to see mountain biking not as something to do to accommodate to a group of users but rather as a strategy to protect the park. By putting in new-style mountain bike ‘flow’ trails that are fun and challenging for a range of skill levels, they’ll create a powerful incentive for riders to only ride on those trails, thereby protecting the rest of the park.

John Ebling made the point that local ‘ownership’ of these trails by local mountain bikers who work to create and maintain them eventually can create a culture of responsible use by the wider mountain biking community.

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The plan now is to create a local task force or working group to figure out next steps. Contact Barbara or Ben (see right sidebar of his Milltown Cycles blog) if you’d like to be involved. 

RBNC Membership page

And above all, become a RNBC member.  Our voices as mountain bikers will be far more influential if we show we care enough about RBNC to support them financially.  Their online membership signup form makes it fast and easy.

Nature Organizations

Bucky Bill Nelson IMG_20120216_170856 IMG_20120216_170842 IMG_20120216_170609
I went mountain biking with fellow Northfielder Bill Nelson along the Minnesota River bottoms this week and he showed me an area just east of Cedar Ave. where beavers have been gnawing away at a dozen or more large trees.

The Wikipedia entry for beaver says:

Beavers fell trees for several reasons. They fell large mature trees, usually in strategic locations, to form the basis of a dam, but European beavers tend to use small diameter (<10 cm) trees for this purpose. Beavers fell small trees, especially young second-growth trees, for food.

But it’s puzzling because the trees above are not in place where the logs could be used to “form the basis of a dam” and they’re much too large for beavers to move.

So Bill and I have a formulated a theory: it’s a training facility.

Nature