Catch a Shooting Star at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park

Did you know that Michigan is home to one of less than 20 certified International Dark Sky Parks in the world? The Headlands International Dark Sky Park is a 600-acre parcel of old-growth forest that sits on more than two miles of undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline in Emmet County. Here you will find the darkest of skies, undiluted by light pollution.

Today, guest blogger David Harrell from The Crooked Porch shares his family’s experience marveling at the Pure Michigan Milky Way during a trip to the Headlands.

Photo courtesy of The Headlands International Dark Sky Park

Photo courtesy of The Headlands International Dark Sky Park

My nine-year-old daughter Riley had never seen a shooting star. She told me this a few days ago, as we were talking about the Headlands International Dark Sky Park’s ‘Lights Out Around the Bay’ challenge. She seemed disappointed in this fact, as if she were missing out one of life’s great joys. “That’s why the Dark Sky Park wants us to turn off our lights,” I told her. “So that we can see the full glory of the night sky. We’re lucky where we live [in Harbor Springs], our night sky is pretty magnificent. But the more light that is shone into the air, the less stars and shooting stars you see. And on Tuesday night, there is supposed to be a meteor shower. The park wants us to enjoy the show with as little light pollution as possible.” She quieted down, and I thought her mind migrated to more important topics, like whether or not her favorite boy band singer had posted a new Instagram pic. “Can we stay up and see the stars that night,” she asked a few minutes later. I could only answer yes.

Instead of staying home and watching TV until dark, I decided to take Riley and my twelve-year-old son David to the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, if the sky was clear. The weather forecast called for thunderstorm and rain, but by 8pm the sky was clear of all but a few lingering clouds. So we threw on sweatshirts and jackets, grabbed a towel as a blanket, packed up the camera and drove 40 minutes north to the park.

Emmet County’s Headlands Park was named an International Dark Sky Park in May, 2011, one of only 12 parks  in the US and 17 parks in the world with that designation.  The Dark Sky Viewing Area is located on a secluded shore along Lake Michigan about a mile into the park. We arrived at 9pm, and already the viewing area was packed with about 100 star-gazers. David grabbed his iPhone, ran down to the shore, and took this picture of the sunset.

Riley was intrigued by the park itself, especially the forest. We walked along the shore, stopping to watch the sun sink beneath the distant waves. We found some rocks stacked in funny little towers and a tangle of roots exposed along the beach. We took pictures, tossed around the football, sat in the grass and talked about the stars and why the twilight sky gets dressed in silken gowns of orange, purple, blue and red. When the first stars awoken in the darkening sky, we opened an app on David’s iPhone and learned their names. We were shocked to discover that two of the brightest stars visible in the early twilight hours were Saturn and Mars.

Photo courtesy of David Harrell

Photo courtesy of David Harrell

Once darkness enveloped the park, the show began. Twice this year my family has stayed up late to watch fireworks. I can’t count the number of times we watched movies past midnight. Yet, as I stared up into space, I couldn’t help but wonder why we never stay up to watch the stars. As exciting as fireworks are, or as entertaining a movie or TV show is, nothing could inspire the awe in my children as deeply as staring up into the heavens.

And what a sight we were greeted with. There was practically no ambient light from cities, parking lots or porch lights. There seemed to be more stars than blackness. The Milky Way, appearing like a ghostly cloud across the eastern sky, was visible. We saw numerous satellites. David used his app to point out several constellations. Two gentlemen from Illinois arrived with a massive telescope the size of a small cannon and allowed the three of us to gaze at Saturn’s rings and moons.

When the sky became fully dark, a park representative called for attention from the well over 200 guests. He talked about the park and gave a quick synopsis of the stars, planets, satellites and other objects in the night sky. My son was captivated by the program, especially as the speaker discussed the vast number of stars. My daughter kept a look out for a meteor.

As the night progressed, I tried to take a photograph of the night sky. Unfortunately, it takes more than a nice camera and a tripod to capture an image like the one above. If I was disappointed, it was fleeting. No photograph could ever capture the full majesty of the night sky as we were seeing it.

Photo courtesy of The Headlands International Dark Sky Park

Photo courtesy of The Headlands International Dark Sky Park

Before the advent of electricity, and the flood of light pollution, this was the night. It amazes me to think that there are people in major cities that may live their entire lives without seeing a single star. There are those who have never traced the outline of a constellation or, like my daughter, wished upon a shooting star. At the dawn of human thought, we stared up into the sky in wonder. The stars inspired us, guided us, and forced us into acknowledging how little we know about ourselves and our place in the universe. When I think of the big-box stores and their massive, overly lit parking lots, I grow saddened at the thought that the stars are an endangered species. We have become, as a nation, so afraid of the dark that we keep it at bay with flood lights on our porch. We are losing the night sky.

Just as we were leaving, a brilliant shooting star streaked across the sky. David and I saw it, but Riley was looking away. If she was disappointed, it didn’t show. “I’ll see one next time,” she said as we worked our way back to the car. “Maybe we can stay up late tomorrow night too.”

Have you visited the Headlands? Tell us about your trip. 

David Harrell, is the founder and editor of an online magazine/blog entitled ‘The Crooked Porch‘. The Crooked Porch is about life in Northern Michigan, primarily in the Petoskey region.  After a decade as a museum historian, David nurtured a professional passion for discovering, and more importantly sharing, fascinating and inspiring stories. David lives with his family in Harbor Springs. He loves love local beers, whiskeys, ciders and wines, as well as folk rock and local bands. He is a Michigan sports fan who says every August, “This is the year the Lions will make some noise.” 

Maximize Fall Playing Time With These Michigan Golf Trails

Today, guest blogger Janina Parrott Jacobs tells us how to minimize travel and maximize time on the course by playing through a Michigan golf trail this fall. 

Treetops_12SMT046There’s strength in numbers. Golfers may not normally fly across the country to play just one great course but they’ll consider doing so to play an assortment of superb ones. The folks in Myrtle Beach figured this out years ago when they realized that by banding together, they could create one-stop shopping to promote a stellar array of courses, attractions, and restaurants to golfers who would visit from around the country.

In Alabama, the creation of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail – which runs the entire length of the state from north to south via 11 Trail sites complete with 26 magnificent and affordable courses – was originally fashioned to strengthen the state’s financial health by maximizing investments from retirement funds. Visionary Dr. David Bronner, former CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama and the brainchild behind this idea, borrowed his philosophy from the movie Field of Dreams: ‘if you build it they will come’. He did…and they did.

Yet no state or trail or destination anywhere can match the sheer numbers of courses available for public or resort golf in Michigan. Different regions of the state have connected with each other to attract a wider range of golfers – and not simply from their local area. Here, a number of trail offerings are available to maximize your golf and minimize your drive time so you can enjoy the shorter days of late summer and early autumn.

Photo courtesy of Gaylord Area CVB

Photo courtesy of Gaylord Area CVB

Most people know of the ‘Gold Coast’ resort courses on the west side of the state: Boyne, Grand Traverse, Shanty Creek, Arcadia Bluffs to name a few. North centrally, there’s the Gaylord Golf Mecca, headlined by Treetops Resort – where you can sample ‘The Masterpiece’ an original RTJ Sr. design.  Experience the same inspiration Jones had when looking at the formidable elevation drop to the 6th green when all he saw were treetops…and thus the resort’s name was born.

Further east along US-23 and adjacent to Lake Huron, the Sunrise Side is lesser known but offers a wonderful collection of splendid courses that are surprisingly affordable. Red Hawk, near Tawas, an Arthur Hills design (think ‘Bay Harbor’) is a perfect introduction to the quality of golf you’ll find in the area. Up the road is Lakewood Shores Resort, with the nationally top-ranked links-style Gailes as well as the enjoyable Serradella, Blackshire, and par-3 ‘Wee Links’ courses which sit adjacent to Lake Huron near Oscoda. Alpena Golf Club, River’s Edge (formerly Alpena CC), and Black Lake are must-plays as are Elk Ridge, owned by Honeybaked Ham – you MUST try the ham sandwich at the turn – and Thunder Bay Resort, which offers golf with the added attraction of elk viewing tours via horse drawn wagons in summer and sleighs in the winter…both culminating with a multi-course gourmet dinner cooked on a century-old stove.

Just north and west of Detroit, the Michigan Grand Golf Trail encompasses five upscale courses that are in close proximity: Whispering Pines and Timber Trace in Pinckney, Mystic Creek in Milford, Brentwood in White Lake, and Boulder Pointe in Oxford.

Municipal courses are also getting in on the combine-and-prosper act. The Michigan Municipal Golf Trail, part of the Michigan Recreation and Park Association consists of several public, city, county, and Huron-Clinton Metropark courses. At Dearborn Hills, $20 will get you 18 holes of golf, cart, and a hot dog, chips and pop Monday through Friday from 11am-1pm.

As Fall golf approaches – and this year it seems to be coming early, weather-wise – look for even better deals everywhere in Michigan. At all Boyne courses, fees are based on airlines-style pricing: it all depends when and where you want to play. Being flexible will pay off. Check out all 11 courses spanning 3 resorts at Boyne.

Janina-Jacobs-headshot12-186x250Janina Parrott Jacobs is a lifelong Michigan resident but her passion as a multi-media golf and business specialist and international golf and travel writer takes her all over the world.  Her website, features many other entrepreneurial adventures as a motivational speaker, professional musician and performer, owning Capers Steakhouse in Detroit, and volunteer efforts with the U.S. Navy where she advocates for and mentors young people concerning health, nutrition, and fitness issues.

 

Nine Things You Might Not Know About Bass Fishing in Michigan

Michigan_MuskegonIt’s time to throw in your line and catch the big one; the Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year Championship is nearly here! With trout, walleye, salmon, perch, muskie and bass ready to bite, Michigan is home to some of the best freshwater fishing you can find.  The state’s world-class fisheries will be on display September 18-21, 2014 when the Bassmaster Elite Series Championship takes to the lakes surrounding Escanaba.

Consider yourself a master angler? See how many of these bass fishing tips you know!

Here’s an easy one – Morning or night is when the fish really bite. It’s no secret that when the sun is high in the sky, fish swim down to cooler, deeper water. Bass fishing in the morning or at night has become a favorite summer technique not only to escape the heat and recreational boat traffic; it is also the time for catching big bass!

Keep your eye on the line – Every so often, check the line right about the lure you’re using. If the line is tangled from coming in contact with debris (rocks, gravel, weeds) in the water, it could break easier, meaning your trophy bass gets away.

Study the map – Maps are easily available for every lake around the state of Michigan. These maps are a great way to identify drop-offs and weed beds, as well as any fish cribs that bass might like to use as shelter. You can also mark your own fishing hot-spots or areas that are duds.

Change up your lure – Sometimes, you might not catch a single fish for a whole day just because you’re set on a certain lure. While some bass fishers live and die by the Hula Popper, switching up your lure or even the size of the lure might land you a big one.

Know your seasons – The best time to bass fish is during the pre-spawn. The pre-spawn starts in spring around the time the water is around 60 degrees. Both male and female bass move to shallower waters to find the best place to nest and start aggressively feeding. Pre-spawn is a bass fisher’s goldmine.

Some lakes are better than others – Some Michigan lakes are actually known for being better fishing area for certain types of fish. While catching walleye or a mess of panfish makes for a great day on the water, you’ll find the most luck with bass on lakes or streams known best for bass fishing.

Know where bass like to hang out – Casting near shores and trees on the edge of the water may be the tried-and-true method of bass fishing, but try your luck in some different spots. Bass love bridges, rock piles and brush in the water as places to hide.

Know what to look for – There are countless types of water vegetation in Michigan’s lakes. Specifically for bass, hydrilla, lily pads, hyacinths and other greenery are great bass spots as they provide food, shade and higher level of oxygen in the water.

Don’t try to do too much – The key to any kind of fishing is getting out there and enjoying yourself. Different types of lures and equipment may look nice, but get what you need and hit the water. Catching a great bass is even better when your rival on the water is still in the bait shop trying on sunglasses.

Extra, extra! Read all about it!

The world’s top 50 professional anglers will compete in  Escanaba, Michigan for the 2014 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year this September. While this elite tournament will be in Michigan for just four days, the state offers endless opportunities for the big catch, on four Great Lakes, 11,000 inland lakes and hundreds of rivers and streams. As fall color starts to sweep across the state, there is no better time to be out on the sparkling blue wasters, casting a line.

Two days twice a year, families and friends can enjoy Michigan Fishing, for FREE! All fishing license fees will be waived for two days. Residents and outstate visitors may enjoy fishing on both inland and Great Lakes’ waters for all species of fish. All fishing regulations will still apply. Dates for the 2015 Free Fishing are February 14 and 15 and June 13 and 14, 2015.

So troll the waters, cast your line and experience the wealth of fishing opportunities in Pure Michigan. Learn more in the video below!