earl's prairie trail

 

prairieThe Seven Ponds Nature Center has 468 acres of natural splendor, that can be toured, via a number of trails. Along the way you can pause near one of the seven glacial lakes, from which the center takes its name, hike the boardwalks across a cedar swamp and verdant marshes, or chronicle the variety of song birds and waterfowl, that are so abundant here. After even a brief stop, visitors understand why Seven Ponds is described as a place of extraordinary natural beauty. One feature that sets this nature center apart, is the nine acres known as Earl's Prairie. Hundreds of years ago, the dense forests of the eastern North American continent, ended at the wide open areas of tall grasses and wildflowers, of what is now southern Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana. Nearly all of these prairies are gone, but you can experience one here on the Earl's Prairie interpretive trail, at Seven Ponds Nature Center.

The trail through Earl's Prairie is adjacent to the parking area. After a very short walk through the trees, you enter what may appear to be a neglected farm field. Follow the trail and learn about the incredible diversity of this small area, at the designated stops along the way. The variety of life in the prairie is amazing. There are dozens of specialized plants and wildflowers growing here. Many are perennials, some of which can live for decades. Some of the plants have adapted specifically for the prairie environment, like Indian Grass and Goldenrod. Bird watchers can find ground nesting birds here, like the bobolink and eastern meadowlark. These birds are tricky. They conceal the location of their nests by landing some feet away, and then sneak through the tall grass to the actual nest. Another treat along the trail will be the large number of hummingbirds, gathering nectar from the prairie flowers. You may even hear the call of a kingfisher, working away at the Prairie Pond.

The meadow isn't just flowers and weeds. Quiet hikers, may very well encounter some of the cottontail rabbits and groundhogs living in the prairie. You may not see them, but the hawks soaring overhead, are a sure sign that field mice and meadow voles are hiding in the thick grass. Another hidden feature of the prairie is the insect population. Look carefully and you can find katydids and walking sticks clinging to the flower stems. The milkweed, is where you can find butterflies. It is estimated that there are nearly a million insects in this nine acre area. If you come out early in the morning before the dew has dried, huge areas of the prairie may be festooned with “bowl & doily” webs sparkling in the sunrise; sure evidence of the several species of spiders living here. There are several informative stops on the trail and an elevated viewing platform. The entire Earl's Prairie trail is about one mile. A trail guide pamphlet is available at the visitors center.

Local Treasures: The Butterfly Garden on the grounds of the Seven Ponds Nature Center exhibits a variety of plants that attract butterflies.

A must see for the kids is Watson the Pacu. He is a huge freshwater fish, of a species related to the piranha. Even though his diet is mainly vegetarian, he is BIG. Watson, weighs in at around 60 pounds and is probably three feet long. Watson, isn't just another pretty face. He has a coloring book dedicated to his life and is well known on social media. He lives in his aquarium, in the lobby, at the Oxford Public Library.

The Great Lakes Mercantile Company in downtown Oxford has the widest selection of made in Michigan offerings in the entire area. This is a family owned company, specializing in Michigan made products. Their 100 year old building, in historic downtown Oxford, has been restored to complement turn of the century, architecture. Great Lakes Mercantile helped make this chapter possible.

The White Horse Inn, in downtown Metamora, was said to be haunted in the first century it was in operation. The inn closed in 2012. It has now been remodeled and is open again. The food is delicious and the décor is breathtaking. No sightings of the ghost have been reported.

For lodging options www.backroadslodging.com