BELLAIRE — Northern Michigan woods in winter are mystically quiet, right up until they aren’t.
Owls hoot. Coyotes yip. Aquatic creatures splash into cold waters.
Nocturnal life abounds in local forests.
The opportunity to experience these sounds of nature from deep within the wintertime woods are now available.
Officials will offer a couple of guided snowshoe treks at Grass River Natural Area in rural Antrim County.
“It’s a really nice experience to be out at night. It’s something people don’t really do,” said James Dake, the nonprofit’s education director. “Lots going on at night.”
A naturalist will lead both of the planned snowshoe hikes, the first by lantern light on Friday night this week and the second by moonlight on Feb. 7.
Naturalist Franny Bluhm is scheduled to lead this week’s nighttime snowshoe event.
“It’s a pretty easy hike because it’s all on the boardwalk, so it’s pretty flat,” Dake said.
Cost to participate is $5 a person and snowshoe rentals also are available for $5. Participants should dress appropriately for weather conditions.
Those with their own gear are encouraged to bring it including flashlights or headlamps, Dake said.
Jenn Wright, executive director at Grass River Natural Area, said offering programs like these nighttime snowshoe treks are a way to fulfill the agency’s mission to increase knowledge of and appreciation for the natural world.
“Winter in northern Michigan is truly a magical time of year. There are many options for exploring nature during the coldest months of the year, but few people have experienced the calm and peacefulness of a dark, winter’s night,” she said.
This week’s trek will feature classic lanterns both carried by the trek leader and strategically placed along the trail, Dake said.
He said the hope for next month’s nighttime trek is that moonlight reflected off of the snow will provide enough light to navigate through the woods.
“A clear night would be perfect,” he said, laughing.
More information about the preserve and its programs is available at www.grassriver.org online, or by calling 231-533-8314 on weekdays and 231-533-8576 on weekends.
Event organizers said they appreciate advanced registration for planning purposes.