Life on the trail

MARQUETTE – It’s enjoyable to take a hike through a pristine natural area. However, a few signs that interpret the interesting features along the way enriches the experience, even for those already familiar with the surroundings.

Due to the efforts of Lon and Lynn Emerick of Skandia, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently added 10 interpretive panels along the Songbird Trail at the Little Presque Isle Recreation Area.

The panels were shown to the public at an open house Saturday, which was National Trails Day.

The DNR created the new signs with a $750 donation from the Emericks. These signs, which explain the surrounding habitat and wildlife, replace numbered guide posts that needed the use of a printed trail guide. Bob Wild, interpreter at Porcupine Mountains State Park, helped in the creation of the signs.

There’s a lot to see along the way.

“It’s a significant spot, one of the last islets,” Lon Emerick said of Little Presque Isle.

The Songbird Trail was created in 1992 as a volunteer project led by the Emericks, who are authors and nature writers.

The 1.1-mile Songbird Trail begins near County Road 550 and ends at the mouth of Harlow Creek at Lake Superior.

Doug Barry, Van Riper State Park supervisor who also manages the Little Presque Isle Recreation Area and had a part in making the new panels, called the area the jewel of Lake Superior.

“And we didn’t make that up,” he said. “It was developed by visitors.”

Barry said the panels are an improvement along the trail, which encompasses different habitats.

“It’s dramatic, the different habitats you go into,” he said.

That diversity can enrich the wildlife along the trail, which is explained on the panels.

For example, one wet thicket area features descriptions of an American redstart and a white-throated sparrow, which might be seen along this stretch. Other panels describe life in dead trees and life in layers, among other topics.

The plant life along the trail includes lady’s slippers, starflowers, blueberries and other botanical attractions.

Lynn Emerick said her favorite part of the trail is the delta at the mouth of Lake Superior “because you see both the habitat of the river and the beach.”

One section along the Songbird Trail has an old beach line in which Lake Superior beaches undulated toward the west.

“Every time I come out there, I just marvel at this place,” Lon Emerick said.

The Marquette Trails Festival also took place over the weekend, running Friday through Sunday. On Saturday, members of the North Country Trail Hikers chapter of the North Country Trail Association talked about the trail at the Tourist Park Trailhead.

Part of the trail, which runs from New York to North Dakota, goes through the Upper Peninsula.

“It’s amazing how many people don’t realize it goes right through Marquette,” said Lorana Jinkerson, NCTH president.

Earlier this year, the city of Marquette entered into a memorandum of understanding with the NCTA, supporting the Trail Town concept and giving Marquette that designation.

A Trail Town is a community through which the North Country Trail passes, promoting the trail and supporting hikers with services.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.