See Why Traverse City is an Unforgettable Open Water Kayaking Destination

In Traverse City, summer is when the ski racks come off the cars and the kayak racks go on. Some paddlers prefer the area’s many rivers and streams and others love its quiet forest lakes, but guest blogger Mike Norton enjoys heading out onto the open water. It may sound a little scary, but he insists that anyone can do it.

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Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Traverse City is an outdoorsy place. So when warm weather arrives here, anyone who isn’t already out hiking or cycling, boating or scooting across the water on stand-up paddleboards, is likely to be in a kayak, heading down one of our rivers or gliding across one of our lakes. Me, I like to be out on the open waters of Lake Michigan.

Grand Traverse Bay and the nearby Manitou Passage don’t feature craggy peaks, glaciers, sea caves or whale-watching opportunities. Instead, they’re bordered by 400-foot dunes of golden sand and gentle wooded hills where neatly-manicured orchards and vineyards bask in the summer sun. They also include uninhabited islands, picturesque fishing villages, innumerable coves and bays to explore – and water so clear that there are times when paddlers can feel as though they’re suspended in mid-air.

Canoe paddlers have long known about the hundreds of lakes, streams and rivers that flow into Grand Traverse Bay and its adjacent waters, but over the past decade our area has also become one of the nation’s premiere open water kayaking destinations. Today, almost every coastal community in the Traverse City area has at least one kayak rental outlet, and the area is home to several full-service outfitters who offer instruction and guiding services to open- water paddlers.

One of the region’s greatest assets as a sea kayak destination is its abundance of sheltered waterways; the glaciers that scoured this place out thousands of years ago left us with dozens of long, narrow inlets and lakes where paddlers can enjoy the feel of open water while remaining largely protected from strong winds, waves and currents.

Grand Traverse Bay - Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Grand Traverse Bay – Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

The twin arms of Grand Traverse Bay, for example, are over 20 miles in length but rarely more than four or five miles wide, providing dozens of different routes for coastal kayakers. Starting in Traverse City, a novice kayaker could travel up the east shore of the Leelanau Peninsula, along the western coast of the mainland to the village of Elk Rapids, or around the narrow vineyard-spangled Old Mission Peninsula, which lies between them.

The bay even has its own uninhabited 200-acre island: heavily-wooded Power Island on the west shore of Old Mission. Once the property of auto pioneer Henry Ford, today it’s a county park complete with a campground, hiking trails, swimming beaches and a picnic area. It’s an easy 15-mile paddle along the coast from Traverse City – or an even easier three-mile trip from the boat launch at nearby Bowers Harbor.

The narrow fiord-like shape of Grand Traverse Bay is mirrored in a number of nearby lakes that also make excellent destinations for kayakers. In the center of the Leelanau Peninsula, for example is Lake Leelanau, 22 miles long and rarely more than a mile wide, nestled between steep and spectacular hills. And just to the east of Traverse City is the fabled Chain of Lakes, a series of 14 connected lakes and rivers that wind for over 50 miles through the rolling farmlands of Antrim County. They include several large lakes that are major paddling destinations in their own right, especially lovely Torch Lake, which is 18 miles long.

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

And since these sheltered waterways have been vacation destinations since the 19th century, it’s relatively easy for kayakers to create paddling itineraries that reflect their own tastes and aptitudes — whether that means ending the day at a backcountry campground, an elegant beach resort or a cozy small-town bed & breakfast. Several outfitters, for instance, feature food and wine trips that take paddlers to some of the region’s best-known waterfront restaurants and wineries.

The region’s most dramatic coastal kayaking is along the Lake Michigan shoreline at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Here, towering dunes of tawny sand rise hundreds of feet from the water’s edge, and there are miles of secluded beaches that are perfect for a sunbathing break.

Sleeping Bear Dunes - Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Sleeping Bear Dunes – Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Experienced kayakers are particularly drawn to the rugged Manitou Islands eight miles offshore, whose attractions include isolated coves, lighthouses, giant trees and a shipwrecked freighter. But this isn’t a trip for first-time paddlers, even with an escort — the waters that separate the islands from the mainland are among the most unpredictable and potentially dangerous in the Great Lakes

If the water and weather are stable, the crossing is a simple two-hour paddle, but in that time things can get rough quick if you’re not paying attention. If you’re not a really skilled paddler, the wiser choice might be to cross over on the Manitou Island Transit ferry and use one of the islands as a base for shorter, safer trips.

Where do you like to kayak in Michigan?

Mike MugshotMike Norton spent 25 years as a newspaper writer and columnist before starting a second career as media relations manager at Traverse City Tourism. He lives in the village of Old Mission, his favorite base for many kayak journeys on East Grand Traverse Bay.

 

Growing the Game of Golf in Michigan with Family Friendly Programs

June is Michigan Golf Month, and it’s the perfect time of year to get out on the course! If you’re new to the sport or would like to get your family involved, guest blogger Janina Jacobs shares some ways to take advantage of junior and family friendly golf opportunities in Pure Michigan.

Photo courtesy of Shepherd's Hollow

Photo courtesy of Shepherd’s Hollow

School’s out and Michigan’s 850-plus courses offer great places to spend endless summer days. Family and junior programs abound everywhere and are vital to growth of the game. Making golf more fun is the goal for one spectacular opportunity you may wish to consider for your kids this year: the National Drive, Chip & Putt competition, sponsored by the USGA, the Masters Tournament, and the PGA of America. It could lead to an appearance at Augusta National Golf Club next April. Last year’s inaugural event had limited qualifying opportunities but the number of qualifying sites for the 2014 event has been greatly expanded and includes many Michigan golf courses.

Girls and boys ages 7-15 are encouraged to enter the contest, which awards points for accuracy in driving, chipping, and putting – certainly the key to lower scores for any golfer. Local qualifiers in each of four divisions separated by gender and age groups of 7-9, 10-11, 12-13, and 14-15 will advance to Sub-Regional qualifiers at Fox Hills Golf Club and Banquet Center in Plymouth on August 15 and Binder Park Golf Course in Battle Creek on August 23. Regional finals will be held September 6 at Prestwick Village Golf Club, in Highland. For official rules and to register, visit www.drivechipandputt.com. Entries close at 5pm, five (5) days prior to the local Michigan competitions, which are listed below:

Drive, Chip & Putt Local Qualifying Sites:

June 17 – Hawk Hollow Golf Club, Bath
June 22 – Marquette Golf Club, Marquette
June 25 – Railside Golf Club, Byron Center
June 28 – Whispering Willows Golf Club, Livonia
July 1 – Pheasant Run Golf Club, Canton
July 8 – Forest Akers East, East Lansing
July 12 – Ferris State University/Katke, Big Rapids
July 15 – Treetops Resort, Gaylord
July 19 – The Orchards, Washington
July 22 – Binder Park Golf Course, Battle Creek
July 26 – Apple Mountain, Freeland

Photo courtesy of Gaylord CVB

Photo courtesy of Gaylord CVB

There is no entry fee for the National Drive, Chip & Putt Contest, however space is limited and entries are accepted on a first-come first served basis. Each local qualifier has its own starting time, which is listed on the individual site. Of note, those who make it to Augusta and become Championship finalists will receive three Monday Practice Round Tickets to the 2015 Masters.

SPECIAL OFFER FOR HIGH SCHOOL GOLFERS: Free Golf Association of Michigan (GAM) memberships are available to all high school golf team members and their coach. To receive the free GAM membership, your golf coach must call 248.478.9242, Ext. 19. Perks include an online Michigan E-newsletter, weekly Global Golf Post digital edition, subscription to Golf Digest or Golf World, the Michigan Links Magazine and 2014 Annual Course Directory (which lists every golf course in the state, pertinent information, and also directions on how to get there) exclusive tee time booking, opportunities to play in the GAM Scramble, tournaments, events, and $60 Golf Days, sponsor offers, Swing & Save discount program, and handicap services. Visit www.gam.org for more information or for regular membership, which at $39, offers superb value.

Michigan Golf Schools and Lessons

A number of courses across the state offer private lessons and classes for those just getting their swing in shape. To find golf schools and lessons in your area, check out michigan.org.

Janina-Jacobs-headshot111-150x150Janina 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.  

Turkey Hunting in Michigan – A Short, But Successful Season

Today, guest blogger Jeff Helsdon from Ontario Out of Doors Magazine tells us about his experience hunting for turkey in Michigan this spring.

Turkey hunting in Michigan is a unique experience, not so much that the birds or terrain are drastically different, but the quality of the hunt is unique.

Going into the hunt, I had memories of a prior visit to Michigan and driving down the backroads and marveling at the numbers of turkeys and deer our family saw. My daughter and I played a game – who could count more out their side of the vehicle. The turkey numbers I saw during that visit are the most I’ve ever seen, and I hunted Missouri previously, which is rated as one of the top turkey-producers in the nation.

My expectations grew after I met Al Stewart, Michigan’s upland biologist, and former National Wild Turkey Federation state chairman Dan Potter, and we saw birds in strut driving into the hunt camp where we’d be staying. We hunted those birds in the morning, but didn’t have any luck calling them in shotgun range after morning fly-down.

We were just considering our next move when Al’s phone rang. Dan had spotted birds on the other side of the bush. After traveling across it and setting up, we weren’t in place long when a loud gobble rang out from beside us. Thinking the bird was down the hill and since I was facing the other direction, I turn slightly. Just then I see the bird move forward, clucking and unsure of what I was. The going-away shot was not a good one.

After moving, we again heard it gobble and managed to get it closer, but not in range.

During lunch Al explained the reasoning behind what I viewed as a complex system of multiple seasons and low bird limit. Although the season lasts five weeks, the license I had was only good for the first week on both private and public land. In total, there are four different seasons, five in total if the over-the-counter multi-area license is included.  The system involves applying for a license and is good for a specific area.

SX-Michigan-DNRAlthough more complex, the Michigan system works. The application system is also used to control hunter numbers on public land – of which Michigan has 10 million acres. Stewart demonstrated the well-planned out MiHunt online application that maps out the public land and cover types on each.

“Many times the public land is better than private land,” he said. “The beauty of public land is there are thousands of acres of it. If you’re on 80 acres of private land and the birds aren’t there, there’s nothing you can do.”

The Michigan limit is only one bird, something Stewart believes is key in maintaining the quality of the hunt.

“Hunter success is as good on the last day as opening day, give or take a per cent or two,” Stewart said. “Our goal in the spring hunt is to maximize opportunity and maintain high quality.”

After lunch, a chance encounter with a flock of jakes while we were scouting turned into a filled tag after some excellent calling.

For more information on turkey hunting in Michigan, visit the Michigan DNR and check out this video about turkey hunting on Beaver Island.

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 12.47.56 PMJeff Helsdon is the turkey hunting editor of Ontario Out of Doors magazine and has completed the Canadian slam of turkey hunting as well as chasing gobblers in several states.