Category Archives: Nature

Older Than the Hills + 10th Anniversary Celebration

In celebration of our 10th Anniversary, Health & Happiness is posting some of its best articles from its first 10 years throughout the month of September.

If you like what you read here, please LIKE and SHARE this post, FOLLOW our site, and JOIN us on our Facebook page.

And if you’re in the Marquette area on Sept. 30th, please join us in celebrating our anniversary at YOUR Health & Happiness Forum from 1 pm – 4 pm in the Community Room of the Peter White Public Library.

Stay posted for more details! And please enjoy the second article in our September Retrospective series!

Gifts from Nature: Older Than the Hills

by Robert Regis

Having grown up in the U.P., I was intrigued by the rocks and minerals and the spectacular rock outcroppings seen in my nearby travels. One such place is Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. There you see rusty red and orange sandstone rising abruptly from the deep blue waters of Lake Superior, making a dramatic visual contrast. Beautiful indeed, but the young scientist in me asked where did those sandstones come from? And what makes them so red? Why are the cliffs so dramatic?

Turns out the sandstones are quite young, compared to other rocks around the U.P. They are a mere 500 million years old! They were deposited along an ancient shoreline, with streams depositing sand across a gentle, rocky plain. Except at that time, the PRNL was located just south of the equator. That’s right, the equator. There were no palm trees lining the beach, though, for land plants had not yet made their appearance on Earth. It was a barren scene.

The rocks tell a story of change over time, like pages in a book. At the base of the cliffs, right at or below water level, is the Jacobsville Sandstone, named for sandstone quarry owner John Henry Jacobs. There, the rock was quarried for building stone, and may be seen in many buildings around the U.P. (Marquette Courthouse and the Cathedral, etc). Above the Jacobsville Sandstone is the Munising Formation, which forms most of the vertical cliffs. The lower member is the Chapel Rock Sandstone, and above it is the Miners Castle Sandstone. Although similar, the sediments that make up the Chapel Rock Sandstone came from a different source than the Miners Castle, and hence have a slightly different appearance. The structures and minerals in the rocks show the sediments first came from highlands to the south (Chapel Rock) and later from the east (Miners Castle) as seas encroached on the land and became deeper and deeper. The red color comes from hematite, which stains the sediments. Above the sandstone cliff is a bed of dolomitic sandstone, which indicates that the deepening ocean was warm but still shallow. Dolomite forms a resistant layer that is difficult to erode, and is the “caprock” that protects the layers below. It is responsible for the many waterfalls and abrupt topography in PRNL because streams have difficulty eroding through the layer.

Moving west toward Marquette, you can see the Jacobsville Sandstone again at Presque Isle Park. In some places, the sandstone has lost its red hematite coloration by chemical leaching and is now white.

The name Presque Isle means “almost an island.” In fact, not too many years ago (to a geologist) the park was an island. You can observe the old shorelines of glacial Lake Nipissing (pre-Lake Superior) from about 5,000 years ago at the bandshell and the gazebo near the entrance to the park. The bluffs were formed by waves eroding into the island when the lake was about twenty-five feet higher. An underwater ridge of sand developed between the island and the mainland, and when the lake lowered, the ridge became a land connection which geologists call a “tombolo.” The road to the Park is on the tombolo.

Underneath the sandstone is rock that locals refer to as “Black Rocks.” The Black Rocks are a metamorphosed igneous peridotite about 1.7 billion years old! The rock was exposed previously, because the Jacobsville Sandstone rests directly on top of that ancient erosional surface (called a nonconformity). You can see this nonconformity at many places in the Park, but probably best along the west side, south of “Sunset Point.”

Robert Regis has been a geology Professor at Northern Michigan University for over twenty years. His degrees are from NMU, Indiana State University, and Michigan Tech University. He has published and presented numerous articles on the geology of the U.P.

Reprinted with permission from the Summer 2012 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2012, all right reserved.

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Filed under celebration, Event, Geology, Nature, Robert Regis

Gifts from Nature: Mid City Gem, by Kevin McGrath

I am torn about writing the following, as the low number of people that use the area I’m about to describe is one reason it’s such a gem.  We are often confronted with this catch-22 in the U.P., which has many treasured local spots we might hope to keep to ourselves.  This selfishness is unhealthy and far too prevalent in current society.  The Native American concept of un-ownable land makes good sense, allowing everyone to share in its abundance.

So I’m going ahead and sharing information on one of my favorite hiking and cross-country ski trails which is hidden in plain sight – the Fit Strip, a half-mile by half-mile plot of land bordering Park Cemetery.  On a first-of-spring jaunt through this easy, meandering trail winding past stunning white pines and other conifers, maples and birch, a jogger approached. He pointed and asked whether I saw the red fox grazing just fifty feet off the path.  We both stopped and enjoyed the view for a moment before this sleek critter with a white patch on the tip of its full tail slipped back into denser thicket.

The park is home to an array of four-legged foragers, including deer, skunk, raccoon, squirrel, chipmunk, and mouse.  I’m always pleasantly surprised when I venture into this woodsy park.  Nearly every year brings a new and exciting sighting. Once while traversing the soft wood chip trail, I turned a sharp corner and spotted a great horned owl a mere twenty feet away, busily devouring a chippy or mouse.  He seemed perturbed by my sudden appearance, yet determined to finish his delectable meal.  I stopped quickly and slowly backed away around the same corner so I could watch him without triggering his early departure. He turned his head toward me with an intensely fierce stare that penetrated my being, and then continued shredding the helpless rodent.

Several years ago, a six-hundred pound moose yearling wandered into this forest haven and claimed it as home.  Park Cemetery offers three beautiful ponds filled with water lilies, so this massive adolescent would sleep in the fit strip, forage, and then go to the pond to drink and feast.  At first a handful of us watched his every move. Then the crowds grew each week until finally, after several months, hundreds would await his timely arrival. This gentle giant had to navigate through the crowds three times a day, causing concern from local authorities about possible danger.

These crowds are not what I am seeking, but if you are looking for a close-to-home, nature-filled, peaceful adventure, this mid-city gem is worth the trip.  It offers entrance from every side and trails that wind gracefully through a gently sloped city forest of endless nature-watching possibilities.

To contact Kevin McGrath, see-male him hiking about enjoying the great outdoors.

This article was reprinted with permission from the Spring 2014 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Gifts from Nature, Kevin McGrath, Marquette, Nature