Wednesday, August 22, 2012


 Wilderness Act Ripple

by Nancy Hulka of Muskegon

Drop a stone in a calm lake and the circular ripples radiate outward gently touching objects in their path; a floating leaf, fallen feather or scampering insect. Like a dropped stone labeled “preservation” the ripple effect of the 1987 Michigan Wilderness Act has positively touched Michigan’s most fragile eco-systems, encircling landscapes, flora, and fauna with a growing protective shield that will float through time.

The ripple of the Wilderness Act also reaches the people who seek to peacefully recreate or revitalize in a natural landscape free of human-made attractions or distractions.

The protected setting having touched me the most is the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area, were I’m always thankful a place exists to enjoy Lake Michigan and irreplaceable sand dunes without being surrounded by vacation homes or commercial establishments.

At Nordhouse I laced up my hiking boots, feeling comfortable and safe enough, to pursue solo backpacking trips, and with the ripple of each successful adventure, carried confidence back to the developed world.

Wanting to share my love for Nordhouse, I introduced my future husband to the area where the sights and sounds of a protected environment encircled us. We learned about one another while exploring woodlands that transition to towering golden dunes kissed by Lake Michigan.

We hiked through maple, beech and oak forests with eyes soaking in the color of native wildflowers, such as orange wood lily, white trillium and yellow trout lily. We were treated to hooting owls, scampering chipmunks, leaping deer and stately Great Blue Heron gliding overhead.

The deep blue trailside huckleberries and shimmering blackberries offered our palette a taste of nature’s confections. Our ears delighted at hearing a symphony of waves rumbling in a strong west wind or the hypnotizing under song of water lapping at the shore in a gentle breeze. Fine grains of beach sand gently tingled our bare feet as we walked for miles and talked about the future on a sun lit shore. In the evenings the sky seemingly put on a show just for us by painting sunsets in fiery reds or in oranges outlined by purple hues.

On the shore we searched for striking pieces of colorful beach glass, broken glass with edges polished smooth by Lake Michigan waves and sand. The pieces of polished glass are a reminder that given an opportunity nature can begin to reclaim the damage done by humans.

Embraced in the spreading circle of Nordhouse’s beauty my husband I have been touched to now advocate for land conservancy, habitat preservation and energy conservation. We hope our efforts will radiate to help plants, animals and humans, as all life depends upon a healthy eco-system.

The radiating preservation ripple of the Wilderness Act grows bigger with each person who is gently touched by the quiet splender of natural places. Thanks to those forward looking individuals from twenty-five years ago dropping the “preservation stone,”future generations can also discover, explore, learn, and pass on their love for locations such as the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area.

Friday, August 17, 2012

To Cheat the Dead River

A Michigan Wilderness Essay Entry by Mike Haas 

           It was a sunny day and the Dead River came into view; it flowed through tall conifers and maples which grew up on its sides.  The waterfall stood to my left roaring in its glory, sparkling in the noonday sun as its water plummeted over 20 feet into a large foamy pool below.  
Across the pool on the wild side of the fall the cliffs raised twice the height of the waterfall with a span of jagged rocks at its base. I jumped into the pool, swam to the other side, and got out.  The slope up the cliff was steep with trees growing up its side, bent from their fight against gravity.  A trail zigzagged through the ferns up and up to the top.  In spots I had to hold on to the trees and pull myself up.
The top of the cliff was spectacular:  standing there I could see the forests canopy, the river stretching through, and the pool below.  The water was pounding, birds sang, and a multitude of insects gave off a loud hum that vibrated the atmosphere
I stood alone at the top, then walked to the edge, backed away, then went back to the ledge, and backed away again.  The edge sloped down at an angle like the ditch on the side of a road, and was awkward to move across.  Unlike the ditch though, the edge dropped down some 40 vertical feet with rocks at the bottom, and the pool beyond the rocks.  My heart beat faster merely at the sight.
            I moved forward.  My stomach clenched, my heard stopped, my mind through away rationality, the edge moved closer and closer, my feet moved faster and faster.  I pushed off, there was a single moment where my forward momentum held me above the earth, a single entity suspended in open space, and then gravity took hold.  The trees became a green blur; the rocks moved away the water got closer and closer as I angled downward.  Wind rushed past.  Closer, closer, closer, faster and faster, the water was right before me, I held my breath, and then the world changed.  It happened so fast that I couldn’t register the switch.  But one moment I was dry and falling through space, the next I was sinking through the pool reaching for the bottom with my toes, but if there was a bottom I did not reach it.  I looked up the sunlight was far above and I kicked towards it, breaking the surface as I shot upward.  I took a long steadying breath.  I was alive.  I was unharmed.  Adrenalin pumped through me.  The current pulled on my sides and I drifted triumphantly for a moment before swimming to the rocky ledge in awe. The river did not claim me I had cheated it, and I had cheated death. I followed the footsteps of the dead river, and survived.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Michigan Wilderness Essay

An entry in the Michigan Chapter's Wilderness Essay Contest

By Gareth d'Haillecourt
As a child I played in the water of Lake Michigan at Sleeping Bear Dunes.   My brother and I built sand castles with swirly bits of dripping sand, forming turrets, trying to beat each other at making the tallest.   I waded and picked stones, and much to the consternation of Mother, carried home many pockets full, sand in the car, my clothes, my shoes. 
As a wild young woman I log rolled my body down a Sleeping Bear dune and almost killed myself, much to the amusement of my friends.  I had no idea it was so dangerous.  As a log I'd have splintered into kindling.  As a human body, I just bruised.

Now I am older, wiser, seasoned maybe.   I look at those dunes and wonder who will come and plow them down to make a golf course.  Who will trump God's creation on this marvelous shore?  There seems to be a disconnect between the beauty of the dunes shining in the sun, the eddies of still water standing in the edges of sand, and the humanity that says "I love this", those who will turn their back when commerce reaches deeply into the heart of a hill.   Are they blind?  

The rolling relief of the dunes is a perfect painting any way you turn.  The bare moments of grasses harshing out its life with wind and dryness becomes art for eternity.  An occasional piece of driftwood or stone becomes a whole new project, something to copy in a drawing and make a landscape for future generations to remember this beautiful wild calm place.  

Art does become this scene.  Mankind doesn't have enough conscience left to leave it untouched.  Maybe this old woman will
roll down the dune again in some future protest if anyone tries, even dares, to molest these beautiful sands.   I will keep a wary eye out for those pirates. But tomorrow I will plan my next trip to enjoy their beauty, lie down in the warm sand and meditate on this gift from Mother Earth.  I will honor her with some art, a blessing, blow all the grains of sand a kiss.  Every grain deserves that.