Submitted by: Laura Niemiec
Location: Meer Rd., Michigan City, IN 46360 Hours: None listed Pet Friendly: Dogs are allowed but must be leashed at all times Parking: Two gravel lots, a large one off of Meer Rd. and a small one off of Freyer Rd./900 North Restrooms: No Trail Length: 4 miles
I would like to think of Ambler Flatwoods Nature Preserve, a Shirley Heinze Land Trust property, as one of Michigan City’s best-kept secrets. Located off the beaten path, in the far northeastern portion of the city, is a 420-acre wonderland filled with hundreds of species of plants, with at least 40 being rare in the Chicago Region*, wildlife (deer and wild turkeys) and amphibious creatures (frogs, salamanders and turtles). I was beyond pleased to discover such a gem in my own backyard. I beg you all to come explore the flatwoods. The only disappointment you will have is that you had not visited sooner.
There are two lots in which to park, a larger lot on Meer Rd. or a smaller lot (3 cars max) on Freyer Rd./900 North. We will start this adventure from the Freyer Rd. lot. Here you will cross your first of many boardwalks. Keep an eye out for the hair cap moss that favors wetlands. When you get to the fork, continue on to your right onto the Louise Landau Nature Trail. You will pass through a small field, thick with tall grasses and dotted with evergreens, before heading back into the woods and wetlands. Even though there are many boardwalks, if you are visiting after a rain, be sure to wear waterproof boots as some areas may have standing water.
The Louise Landau Nature Trail is my second favorite part of the flatwoods. The narrow trail winds 1.29 miles through a dense forest with vernal pools and small streams strewn about. While this is a mostly flat trail there are lots of exposed tree roots on the trail. In some areas the exposed roots are blanketed with moss making for an excellent photo opportunity. About halfway through this portion there is a dedicated bench, take a break and enjoy the solitude or continue on your adventure.
As you wind closer to Meer Rd., the trees start to thin out a bit and are noticeably younger. Crossing the road, you’ll have two loops, roughly a mile total, to trek before your return trip. Instead of backtracking down the Landau Trail, I walked down Meer and then onto Freyer back to the parking lot.
Once you arrive back to your starting point, cross the road for my favorite part of this preserve, the pine plantation, unofficially dubbed the “Pine Tree Trail”. This place is magical and will have you in awe as you step into the tunnel of trees. I will be back time and time again if only to just walk this stretch of the trail. Unfortunately on this trip I could not complete the pine plantation trail loop due to a small stream that promised to soak my feet if I tried to cross it.
If you are up for this trek, lace up your hiking boots, bring along a camera and plan to spend at least 2 hours of solitude wandering around this stunning preserve.