Unseasonably warm weather squashed my plans to cross-country ski this week. Instead, I took a walk in the woods at the Ott Biological Preserve outside Battle Creek. Initially, the trail didn't look very promising-- backyards, scrubby trees, invasive groundcovers, and mud-- but I guess not much in Michigan is at its best on a snowless day in February.
A few minutes down the trail and the houses disappeared and the trees got bigger and the trail itself was drier. Small, but informative, signs described various natural phenomena visible from the trail. One noted that the trail follows an esker, a ridge created during the last Ice Age. A boardwalk crossed wet ground, where ferns and moss provided a touch of green among the fallen leaves. Side trails led to two small lakes within the preserve.
The mix of mature woods, shrub swamps, bogs, and open water provides substantial habitat diversity within a relatively small area. It looks promising for wildflowers; I noticed some round-lobed hepatica at the edge of the path.
The preserve trail system seemed to be three irregularly-shaped interconnected loops. They were clearly-marked and well-maintained so they were easy to follow without a map. A section of the North County National Scenic Trail passes through the preserve.
Last Spring, there was a controversy over plans for siting a new paved bike trail through the preserve. It appears that the resolution re-routes the planned Calhoun County Trailway to protect the preserve's more fragile features.
I'd hoped to visit Kimball Pines and Historic Bridge County Park since they are off the same stretch of M-96, but they both seemed to be closed for the season.
Ott Biological Preserve Directions: The Preserve is just off the M-96/I-94-Business commercial strip east of Battle Creek. Arlington Avenue (across from a KFC) runs into the preserve's parking lot.
I teach economics at Kalamazoo College. My wife is also an economist. We were on sabbatical in Europe for the 2014-15 academic year. (Salamanca, Spain, followed by Oxford, UK.) We were in Uruguay for the 2006-7 academic year.