Are you a do-it-yourselfer? Make your own pair of snowshoes!

Snowy weather is sure to be on its way this winter in Pure Michigan! If you’re looking for ways to get out and enjoy the outdoors, snowshoeing is a great option. Today, Christine Schwerin of the Department of Natural Resources fills us in on how you can learn to make your own snowshoes this season.

Adapting to winter can be a matter of switching from flip-flops to water-proof boots, or in some cases – snowshoes. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer and love the invigorating feeling of spending time outdoors in the wintertime, a snowshoe-making class may be just the ticket. Michigan state parks can get you started.

Rob Burg, a historian and educator at Hartwick Pines State Park in Grayling teaches traditional wooden snowshoe-building classes every winter in the visitor center nestled under snow-covered towering pines at the park. At Hartwick, Rob, along with colleague Craig Kasmer, the park interpreter, will be teaching two more classes this winter: one in January, and one in February.

“In January we’ll be making the Green Mountain Bearpaw—an oval shaped shoe, good for holding 200 pounds or less” explained Rob, “and in February, we’ll make a larger Ojibwa-style shoe that’ll hold a little more weight.”

For about $180, Rob and Craig Kasmer supply each do-it-yourselfer the wooden frames, nylon laces pre-cut to the right length, and everything else needed to make a complete pair.

Rob and Craig go over how to weave the lacing and tie knots, “we have a lot of one-on-one contact with each person in the class,” said Rob, “it takes a little time to get good at it.” Once the class gets into a nice groove, they chat with the class about the history of snowshoeing, about how different styles developed based on the snow conditions.

Rob, who also runs the Hartwick Pines Logging Museumat the park, explains, “Native Americans and fur traders sometimes made snowshoes while traveling. They might start out in good weather, then the snow would come, and they’d use the resources immediately available to them to build a pair of snowshoes.”

Lacing the snowshoes takes a certain amount of focus and concentration. “It’s intensive,” said Rob, who has made an estimated two dozen pairs. It also takes time—classes are spread over two days. As anyone who has ever made their own pair will tell you, there’s pride in learning such a unique and timeless skill.

Once you’re done, you’ve got a pair of snowshoes that’ll last, winter after snowy winter.

Snowshoeing is something just about anyone can do, as the saying goes, if you can walk, you can snowshoe. It’s the perfect combination of exercise and adventure for those of us who are more comfortable on level ground than on the heart-thumping downhill ski slopes.

Hartwick isn’t the only place to take on the snowshoe-making challenge. The skilled and friendly folks at Sleepy Hollow State Park in Laingsburg, Tahquamenon Falls in Paradise, and Ludington State Park in Ludington are also offering classes this winter. Visit the DNR’s January and February calendars for a list of snowshoe building classes and hikes across the state.

To learn more about snowshoeing in Michigan, check out Showshoeing | A Pure Michigan Winter, from the Pure Michigan winter video series. Do you plan to go snowshoeing this season? Share with us below!

Christine Schwerin has been writing about Michigan-related topics since launching a career with Michigan History magazine in 2004. She currently works for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, where she’s fortunate enough to combine her love of writing with her love for the outdoors.

The fish doesn’t get any fresher than this…

Did you know that in Michigan, charter fishing clients who catch fish from the Great Lakes have an opportunity to take their fresh catch straight to a Michigan restaurant to be cooked? While cold weather throughout the rest of fall and winter will keep many charter boats off the lakes until spring, it’s not too late to learn about this unique program! In fact, now is the perfect time to start thinking about booking a trip for next spring or summer.

Today, Christine Schwerin of the Department of Natural Resources fills us in on the Michigan Catch & Cook program.

If you’ve ever strolled past the marinas in Grand Haven, Traverse City, Port Austin or any of the other Michigan beach towns along the Great Lakes, you’ve probably seen a charter boat docking with a handful of grinning faces and plump, freshly caught fish. Maybe you were a little envious, a little curious, and a little tempted to try it yourself. So what’s holding you back?

There’s a certain sense of freedom out on the water—you don’t even have to stand up straight. In fact, swaying is the norm.

You don’t have to know much about Michigan fishing. The crew knows where the fish are biting, and they know what it’ll take to catch ‘em.

If the fish on your line puts up a fight (and it will), that’s your chance to earn some bragging rights. But don’t worry, if it turns out to be just a bit tougher than you thought, no worries; there’s help nearby to reel it in.

Not sure how to fillet a fish? Most charters will take care of that for you once you’re back on solid ground.

After a half-day out on the water breathing in the fresh air out on the Great Lakes, reeling in a big one, earning some hard-won fish stories, you’re stomach will be growling. You’re in luck—that beautiful fresh fish fillet your captain handed you can be deliciously prepared, served up with a side of golden mashed potatoes without you ever having to dig out a frying pan. So how do you get from dockside to tableside?

In a nod to the increasingly popular notion of eating fresh, locally grown—or in this case locally caught—foods, charter boat captains and restaurants around the state are teaming up in a program aptly named Catch & Cook. The Great Lakes may be big, but the towns that dot the shoreline are close-knit. The captains know the cooks, and the cooks know how to serve a mouth-watering meal to a hungry group.

Here’s how it works: once you’re done fishing, the charter boat crew fillets your fish, puts it in a bag of ice, and marks the bag with the date, time, and name of the charter boat. They’ll let you know which restaurants in the area are a part of Catch & Cook. You—along with your friends, family, or whatever adventurous group you’ve shared the morning with—bring the fillet to the restaurant and they’ll prepare it for you with one of their tried-and-true techniques. Want it baked? Blackened? Fried? Chances are they’ve got a recipe for that.

Find out which charter boats and restaurants are a part of the program at www.micatchandcook.com.

Christine Schwerin has been writing about Michigan-related topics since launching a career with Michigan History magazine in 2004. She currently works for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, where she’s fortunate enough to combine her love of writing with her love for the outdoors.  

For more on fishing in Michigan, visit michigan.org or the Pure Michigan fishing tab on Facebook.