Looking a bit like a miniature view of the western United States, the view from the dune ridge was quite different than the surrounding areas. That was the theme of this day's hike, take a few steps in any direction, and the environment changed. While the majority of the dunes at Silver Lake State Park were vast and barren, there were countless areas where the vegetation differed dramatically from any we've encountered previously on the hike.
Steps out of the conifer stand on our way up the dune ridge, we found ourselves in what appeared to be the dry western US. Low growing evergreens and old trees dotted the dune landscape. Somewhat of another micro environment, where certain plants take hold due to conditions just right for them. A few meters over the ridge, and the conditions no longer suit the needs of the plant, and it doesn't survive.
Once to the top of the ridge, we could look down at one of the interdunal ponds we passed on our hike. Water from rain and snow filters its way through the surrounding dunes and collects here in these low areas between dunes. Most ponds harbor plenty of life including grasses, trees, and shrubs, providing places for small animals to live and hunt. We encountered signs of deer and plenty of water birds on this cold morning.
The top of the dune offered great views of the pond below and the surrounding area. We paused to take in the view, and to plan the next part of the hike. We also took note of a distant dune ridge that appeared to pass right through another conifer stand - that would be our target for our return trip after we reached Lake Michigan.
Posted by Tom Gill at Monday, April 18, 2016