May 30, 2016

Pinery Provincial Park: Carolinian Trail

I fretted all week watching the weather forecast.  I desperately wanted to join my mother Mary and her husband Keith again on their annual Memorial Day camping trip to the Pinery -- Frankie and I met them there last year and had so much fun!  I was worried though, because storms were forecast for the entire weekend.  I knew we'd be OK if it rained a bit while we were there, but was concerned about getting the tent set up in the rain... it just seems like everything would be soaked right from the beginning.  As the weekend approached, storms were still forecast every day, but it seemed like they would be hit-or-miss, the kind of big storm that can pop up in the afternoon on hot muggy days.  And it was HOT!!  Ultimately, I decided to risk it, and I'm so glad we went.

We had the same campsite as last year, in the Dunes Campground.  It was dry for our arrival and set up, and even though we did weather one storm, it was just part of the adventure.  The campsite features a trail directly to the beach, and we had gone down Sunday afternoon after a morning of hiking the Hickory and Bittersweet Trails.  We watched the storm blow in over Lake Huron, and it was spectacular!  We made it back to the campsite and battened down the hatches; the storm blew over in time to eat a lovely, slightly drippy dinner, and then after dinner we found a rainbow.  Perfection!

For various reasons, in part because they are so nice, we ended up hiking the same four trails we hiked last year.  Therefore, I am prioritizing this post from the Carolinian Trail, since I never got around to writing up a trip report for it last year.  This trail is different from the other three in that it does not lead down to a viewing platform over the Old AuSable Channel.  The trailhead is located near the western edge of the park, and is well removed from the day use areas, visitors center, and other busy spots.  It feels remote and we haven't seen anyone else there on either visit.  It has a ton of wooden stairs and boardwalks to prevent erosion, because even though the area is entirely forested, it is still essentially a giant sand dune.  Plus, there is a lovely pond with a viewing platform.

We'd stopped at the visitor's center the previous day and read about a rare shrub, dwarf hackberry (Celtis tenuifolia a.k.a. C. pumila).  Apparently it is extremely rare in Ontario, but common at the Pinery.  I had never seen it before because it is a more southern species that does not occur in New York, Minnesota, or Massachusetts, and the Michigan populations are located well south of where I lived and botanized.  I was very excited by the prospect off seeing it, and bam... there it was, all along the Carolinian Trail.  It was thrilling!


wild geranium (Geranium maculatum)
 




lousewort (Pedicularis canadensis)

 
 





this might not look like much, but it was a new species for me -- very exciting
a closer look: dwarf hackberry (Celtis pumila)

starry Solomon's-seal (Maianthemum stellatum)
there is a new sign up at the trailhead this year, but I didn't get a good picture (this is from last year; the trail is the same)

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