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Along the Loda Lake Trail July 19 09

I had thought the time for pink ladyslippers was past, at least in the woods if not in the bogs. But a few late bloomers gave Lisa and me a pleasant surprise earlier this week along the trail at Loda Lake.

Dave has already written about this remarkable backwoods wildflower sanctuary in a previous post, but the subject bears revisiting. I’ve known of Loda Lake since I was twelve or thirteen years old, and it is truly a special place. Located in the heart of the Manistee National Forest eight miles north of White Cloud, sixty-one miles north of downtown Grand Rapids, and eighty-eight miles from my hometown of Caledonia, the lake is situated in the transition zone between the hardwoods of southern Michigan and the northern forests that extend from around Newaygo toward the bridge. Between Dave’s post and the Loda Lake website, you can get a good feel for the sanctuary’s history,  a partial list of its flora, and other details. No need for me to repeat what has already been said, but I thought you might enjoy a few personal glimpses from along the trail.

It had been quite a few years since my last visit to Loda Lake. But nothing about the place had changed. The only noticeable human impact has been minimal and positive—some handy, low-key interpretive markers along the trail that identify various native plants such as partridgeberry, trailing arbutus, and starflower. The boardwalk through the wetlands and the lakeside trail were as I’ve always remembered them, as is the tranquility of the place.

Lisa and I began our hike at the boat launch, where pitcher plants were blooming in the boggy shoreline. From there, we followed the trail east around the lake, stopping at different places to take pictures and savor nature’s subtle offerings to the senses: the faint, sweet smell of wetlands…Impressionistic lily pads dotting the water…the taste of fresh wintergreen leaves…the call of a woodpecker from somewhere nearby…the dance of dragonflies by the shoreline.

Loda Lake was the first place where I encountered the painted trillium in Michigan. That was many years ago, back when I was a kid, and the painted trilliums were not endemic, but had been transplanted. I have no idea whether they still grow at Loda Lake. I suspect that they didn’t survive long, as the habitat may not have been quite right. But hundreds of other Michigan wildflowers, ferns, mushrooms, trees, and shrubs find perfect conditions within Loda Lakes’s varied ecological niches—its old farm, fields, pine plantations, northern hardwood forest, bog, and the lake itself. The wildlife, too, enjoys plenty of cover and room to move about, even deep-woods denizens such as the pileated woodpecker. If you’re lucky—or unlucky, depending on your point of view—you may even spot an occasional black bear.

Loda Lake. Named after an Indian princess, it captures and preserves a slice of natural Michigan. Come savor the whisper of the wind through the treetops, the scent of white pines, and the play of sunlight on the waters. It’s an easy and pleasant drive north of Grand Rapids and beyond Newaygo to the place where the northwoods begins.




Written by Dave.