On this walk, we had an all-time record high number of attendees in all ten years of our nature walk program – almost 90 people! It was another warm and beautiful day, a lovely Michigan summer holiday weekend.
Our guide was April Scholtz, of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan. She had been instrumental in acquiring Lost Lake in 2008 to add to Muskegon State Park, and knew it well. Jim Keating also was present, on behalf of his late wife, Claire, whose family had worked with the Land Conservancy to sell the 68-acre property to the State. More than 350 people and organizations contributed funds for the purchase, including the Alcoa Foundation, which awarded $50,000 to the effort.
We took a trail to the property and walked around Lost Lake. Fortunately, our very large group made it safely across busy Memorial Drive, right as we started our hike. Thanks to the volunteers who helped to stop traffic and ensure our successful crossing! It was a slight challenge to have so many on our walk, and at times it was single file on the trail and a little slow. But kudos go to our group, whose members were courteous, and helpful – that made it work just fine!
The view of Lost Lake as you come the trail is always impressive. You’ll be walking through woods and then, right there, is a magically serene lake surrounded by tall trees, low bushes, and a variety of interesting plant life. Fragrant lily dots the lake and adds color to the summer greenery. Described by local area folks as a “cranberry bog,” April informed us that Lost Lake is a mix of three different ecosystem types – a coastal plain, bog, and emergent marsh.
A coastal plain marsh is a shallow wetland with fluctuating water levels, dominated by grasses, sedges and rushes. The name of this natural community comes from the fact that a number of these plant species are more commonly found along the Atlantic coast.
A bog is a type of wetland dominated by sphagnum moss, where peat accumulates and contributes to the acidic nature of the water. Plants that live on a bog mat must compensate for the relatively dry, nutrient-poor conditions, and have special adaptations that include insectivory (eating of insects), which provides the plant with additional nitrogen and nutrients (sundews, pitcher plant, bladderwort), and thick, waxy, or hairy leaves, which helps the plant retain water (leatherleaf, cranberry).
An emergent marsh is a wetland with shallow water situated on the shore of a lake or stream, with herbs and grasses on the edges, and floating plants.
Lost Lake is surrounded by a hemlock woods. April told us that unfortunately, hemlocks are under attack by the hemlock wooly adelgid. The tiny sap-sucking pest, native to Asia,can kill a tree in several years and likely came from nursery and landscape suppliers. The most recent outbreak is in Muskegon, Ottawa and Allegan counties.
The first signs that a hemlock is infested are small, woolly growths on stems at the base of needles, usually high up in the tree. Since hemlocks grow so slow, it will take many years to replace them. Sales of hemlocks from the East Coast, where the adelgid was first found, have been banned to help to halt the infestation and the loss of these beautiful trees.
Other plant life we saw included:
Halfway around, we were able to see the new handicap accessible outlook on the north side that connects to the Winter Sports Complex by trails.
Near the end of our walk, April suggested coming back to Lost Lake in different seasons, to more fully appreciate its beauty and uniqueness. I agree, and imagine all our hikers on that day would agree as well! See more nature walk photos at Jerry Grady’s site, WatershedWildlife.Com.