Skyline Trail at Ludington State Park

Ludington State Park Skyline Trail

Ludington St. PK, Skyline Trail 2, photo by Jerry Herrendeen

Visit Ludington’s page on Ludington State Park’s trails says:

The Skyline Trail runs along a tall sand dune ridge, on the south side of the river between the footbridge and Hamlin Dam. The trail begins at the west end of the parking lot and exits onto the Sable River Trail. This trail is completely elevated, made even higher by an extensive wooden boardwalk system. Several vistas let you look out over miles of sand dunes and Lake Michigan. On a clear day, you can see 20 miles to the Silver Lake State Park Sand Dunes. On the back side is an area where you can leave the boardwalk and run up and down the steep slope of this sand dune.

Read on for more about other trails at the park and click for the official Ludington State Park page.

View Jerry’s photo background big and see lots more in his Moods of Lake Michigan slideshow.

More Ludington and more spring wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures.

Purple Rain: Colors of the Northern Lights

Purple Aurora

Isle Royale Aurora, photo by Ross Ellet

Music is music, ultimately. If it makes you feel good, cool.
~Prince

Prince was a musician who had a huge effect on my life. I went to school near Minneapolis when he was transforming music through his own work and what he did with a host of artists. I’m very sad at his passing. Down at the bottom I have one of my favorite clips of Prince.

I’ve been lucky enough to see the northern lights dozens of times but have probably only seen purple auroras three or four times. Causes of Color explains the colors of the northern lights:

The sun radiates all visible colors, which is why sunlight appears white. The spectrum of visible light associated with the aurora is much more restricted. The aurora is caused by charged particles in the solar wind colliding with atmospheric atoms and ions. The collisions cause the electrons of the atmospheric atoms to become excited. As the electrons return to their original energy levels, these atoms emit visible light of distinct wavelengths, to create the colors of the display we see.

The color of the aurora depends on the wavelength of the light emitted. This is determined by the specific atmospheric gas and its electrical state, and the energy of the particle that hits the atmospheric gas. The atmosphere consists mainly of nitrogen and oxygen, which emit the characteristic colors of their respective line spectra. Atomic oxygen is responsible for the two main colors of green (wavelength of 557.7 nm) and red (630.0 nm). Nitrogen causes blue and deep red hues.

Most of the auroral features are greenish-yellow, but sometimes the tall rays will turn red at their tops and along their lower edges. On rare occasions, sunlight will hit the top part of the auroral rays to create a faint blue color. On very rare occasions (once every 10 years or so) the aurora can be a deep blood red color from top to bottom. Pink hues may also be seen in the lower area of the aurora. In addition to producing light, the energetic auroral collisions transmit heat. The heat is dissipated by infrared radiation, or transported away by strong winds in the upper atmosphere.

Read on for more and also check out more about the Northern Lights on Michigan in Pictures.

Ross took this on August 10th last summer. He says “The Northern Lights over Moskey Basin in Isle Royale National Park. This is the first time in my life I have seen a bright purple aurora develop.

View his photo background bigilicious and see more in his Aurora slideshow.

Making Decisions about Wolves on Isle Royale

 

3 Isle Royale wolves 2015

Three Wolves, photo by Vucetich & Peterson

With only a handful of wolves left in Isle Royale National Park, the National Park Service is currently taking public comment on the management of wolves at Isle Royale. They write:

The NPS began this planning process by considering a broad range of potential management actions as part of determining how to manage the moose and wolf populations for at least the next 20 years. However, based on the public comments we received and additional internal deliberations, the NPS has determined that it will revise and narrow the scope of this EIS to focus on the question of whether to bring wolves to Isle Royale National Park in the near term, and if so, how to do so.

Although wolves have not always been part of the Isle Royale ecosystem, they have been present for more than 65 years, and have played a key role in the ecosystem, affecting the moose population and other species during that time. The average wolf population on the island over the past 65 years has been about 22, but there have been as many as 50 wolves on the island and as few as three. Over the past five years the population has declined steeply, which has given rise to the need to determine whether the NPS should bring additional wolves to the island. There were three wolves documented on the island as of March 2015 and only two wolves have been confirmed as of February 2016. At this time, natural recovery of the population is unlikely.

The potential absence of wolves raises concerns about possible effects to Isle Royale’s current ecosystem, including effects to both the moose population and Isle Royale’s forest/vegetation communities. The revised purpose of the plan, therefore, is to determine whether and how to bring wolves to Isle Royale National Park to function as the apex predator in the near term within a changing and dynamic island ecosystem.

The photo above from the 2014-2015 Annual Report from the Vucetich & Peterson Ecological Studies of Wolves on Isle Royale shows three wolves observed at winter study 2015. More on their website at isleroyalewolf.org and definitely follow Wolves and Moose of Isle Royale on Facebook for updates!

More wolves on Michigan in Pictures.

Miner’s Castle, before it fell

Miner's Castle before it fell

Miner’s Castle before it fell, photo by spauldi1

Today is the 10th anniversary of the collapse of one of the turrets on the Miner’s Castle formation in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

On Thursday morning, April 13, 2006, the northeast turret of Miners Castle collapsed. One turret remains on Miners Castle, the best-known feature of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The collapse was reported via cell phone by fisherman in the area, according to chief ranger Larry Hach. Most of the rock fell north and into Lake Superior, and there were no injuries. The lower overlook platform near Miners Castle appears to be unaffected.

While the rockfall at Miners Castle on April 13 was startling, such events are not rare along the Pictured Rocks escarpment.

Click for the full report on Absolute Michigan.

Sue took this back in 2003. View it background big and jump into her slideshow for more pics from “before the fall”at Miner’s Castle.

Celebrate Dark Sky Week in Michigan’s Parks

Milky Way & Meteor at Fayette

Milky Way and Meteor above Fayette, photo by Lake Superior Photo

This week (April 4-10) is International Dark Sky Week. The State of Michigan has a list of 20 state parks that will be open late all week. One of the parks that will be open late is Fayette State Historic Park, located on the Garden Peninsula of Lake Michigan’s north shore:

Fayette Historic State Park blends nature and history with a Historic Townsite, a representation of a once-bustling industrial community. Visitors can learn about the town through guided tours and information from the Visitor Center, or simply by walking through the townsite and exploring on their own. Walk through restored buildings like the town hotel and a cabin, built to replicate the homes in which residents of Fayette used to live. Interpretive panels provide information to transport visitors back in time and tell the story of the town.

On the second Saturday of August, the park is transformed back to its glory days with period displays, food and music at the annual Heritage Day.

Shawn took this at Fayette a couple of years ago. See it bigger, view & purchase more dark sky pics in her Milky Way & Miscellaneous Night Sky gallery, and definitely follow Lake Superior Photo on Facebook!

More Michigan parks on Michigan in Pictures.

Breaking Free at Tahquamenon Falls

Tahquamenon Falls aerial view

Aerial View, photo by Julie

Julie got this cool shot of the Tahquamenon Falls throwing off winter’s grip at the beginning of the month. Now it looks like winter is going to strike back. Via the Detroit news and Sara Schultz, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in White Lake, a winter storm is arriving today:

“We’re looking at the heaviest snowfall north of Saginaw, in the Thumb area and then to the north and west of that, and then of course the lower northern Michigan areas, where they could see six-plus inches of snow.”

A winter storm watch will be in effect Wednesday morning through early Thursday evening for areas north of Interstate 69, Schultz said.

“We’re looking at areas south of I-69 as mostly rain,” she said. “Between Flint and Saginaw, we’re looking at accumulation of snow and ice; just some light accumulation.”

Schultz cautioned that the forecast remains flexible as the storm enters the state. “That rain/snow line along I-69, if it shifts just a little it could throw off everything,” she said.

View Julie’s photo bigger and see more in her 366/2016 slideshow.

More Tahquamenon Falls on Michigan in Pictures.

Tragic Tree Tuesday: Beech Scale & Beech Bark Disease

Twined Trees at Treat Farm

Twined Trees at Treat Farm, photo by Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

“A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head:
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
Some shall be pardon’d, and some punished:
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”
~William Shakespeare

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore shared this photo from their Tweddle/Treat Farm property saying:

The two hugging trees on the trail to Treat Farm share a similar fate to the star crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. The beech scale brings a fungus that is deadly like a poison, and kills off the American beech trees. The Emerald Ash Borers pierce the hearts of the ash trees to take the nutrients.

Invasive species have made their way to the fair Lakeshore of Sleeping Bear Dunes. You can help prevent the spread by purchasing local firewood, and burning it within the local area.

Beech Scale and Beech Bark DiseaseI’ve written about the Emerald Ash Borer on Michigan in Pictures, so here’s a bit about beech scale & beech bark disease from MSU:

Beech bark disease is one of the latest exotic pest problems to plague Michigan forests. Beech bark disease refers to a complex that consists of a sap-feeding scale insect and at least two species of Nectria fungi. Beech bark disease begins when American beech (Fagus grandifolia) becomes infested with beech scale (Cryptococcus fagisuga Lind) (=Cryptococcus fagi Baer.). The tiny scale insects, found on the tree trunk and branches, feed on sap in the inner bark. White wax covers the bodies of the scales.

When trees are heavily infested, they appear to be covered by white wool. Minute wounds and injuries caused by the scale insects eventually enable the Nectria fungus to enter the tree. Nectria kills areas of woody tissue, sometimes creating cankers on the tree stem and large branches. If enough tissue is killed, the tree will be girdled and die. Other trees may linger for several years, eventually succumbing to Nectria or other pathogens. Some infected trees will break off in heavy winds — a condition called “beech snap.” Dense thickets of root sprouts are common after trees die or break.

Read on for lots and also see Beech Bark Disease from the National Forest Service where I got these photos.

View the photo bigger on their Facebook page and learn all about the Lakeshore from their website.