Cross Country Skiing in Pure Michigan

The start of a new year means new goals and for many of us, getting in shape is on the list.

A Michigan winter provides the perfect terrain and scenery to get in shape outdoors while enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. One activity that is great for families, beginners and experienced athletes alike is cross country skiing. You can burn up to 500 calories per hour while enjoying the peaceful Michigan winter landscape far away from the crowds at the gym.

Michigan cross country skiing trails stretch over 3,000 miles and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources grooms various state forest pathways to provide trails across the northern Lower and Upper Peninsulas. It is also a great way to observe wildlife – from tracks in the snow to seeing birds and animals up close, it’s an experience that you can only get outdoors.

With cross country skiing being one of the many activities featured in A Pure Michigan Winter, we compiled a list of just a few trails to check out this winter. For a complete list of cross country skiing trails in Michigan, visit Cross Country Ski Trails in Michigan State Parks and Recreation Areas.

Cadillac Pathway has 11.3 miles of groomed trail with varying terrain that allow users to determine the length of trail and degree of difficulty they desire. Trailhead parking lots are located five miles northeast of Cadillac on 13th Street and on Seeley Road, north of Boon Road.

Bring your skis, snowshoes or just your hiking boots to Van Riper State Park for enchanted evenings of fun in the snow from 6-9 p.m. on Saturdays, Jan. 19 and Feb. 16. Experience the beautiful lit trail at Van Riper with your family and friends or make it a romantic date night.  The trail will be lit from 6-9 p.m. For details, call the park, 906-339-4461. The park is located at 851 County Road AKE in Champion, Mich. 49814 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Enjoy an evening ski or snowshoe along a lantern-lit trail through the snow covered forests of the Upper Falls at Tahquamenon State Park during one of their Lantern-Lit Cross-country ski and strolls. Events take place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Saturdays, Feb. 2, 9, 16 and 23. Warm up by the bonfire with refreshments along the 1-mile loop. A limited number of snowshoes are available to borrow at no charge. Participants must provide their own cross country ski equipment. A headlamp is recommended during overcast evenings. Meet at the Upper Falls Fact Shack.  The park is located at 41382 W. M 123 in Paradise, Mich., 49768 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. For details, call 906-492-3415.

Pine Baron Pathway, southwest of Gaylord, provides beginners and intermediate skiers with nearly 9 miles of well-groomed trail that meanders through beautiful woods. The trailhead parking lot is located on Lone Pine Road. Three of the four loops are fairly level, and the remaining loop has several good downhill runs that will interest the intermediate skier.

Join other cross-country skiers for a magical winter evening from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 9 when the snow-covered forest at  Hartwick Pines State Park is warmed by the glow of lantern light. Skiers can traverse the 1.25-mile, groomed cross-country trail, guided by more than 75 lanterns along the way. Meet at the Hartwick Pines Logging Museum. It is recommended that skiers be of intermediate skill to participate in this event.

Wildwood Hills Pathway, a three-looped trail covering approximately 9 miles of beautiful rolling hills in Indian River near Petoskey, offers a more challenging course for the intermediate skier.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, located on the south shore of Lake Superior near Silver City in Ontonagon County, is offering cross-country skiing and snowshoeing by lantern light in late December, and on Saturday evenings in January and February. Nearly 80 old-fashioned kerosene lanterns will illuminate a 1-mile trail for a unique and memorable experience. Stop halfway around the loop at the warming shelter and join the park naturalist for a campfire and refreshments.

Blueberry Ridge, just south of Marquette, has the bumps for advanced skiers, the flats for beginners and is very well maintained. There are 12 miles of groomed trails. The three north loops have side-by-side diagonal-groomed tracks so people can ski next to each other. The 1.7-mile lighted central loop is groomed for both diagonal-stride and ski-skating, as are the south two loops.

Algonquin Pathway, located south of Sault Ste Marie on 16th Avenue West. This pathway has 15 km (9 miles) of groomed trail that is laid out in three loops. The 1.6 mile lighted trail is the first loop off the trailhead parking lot. This pathway straddles old beach ridges and passes through mixed-age aspen intermixed with pine and hardwood.

Learn more in Cross Country Skiing | A Pure Michigan winter, from the Pure Michigan winter video series.

Do you have a favorite cross country skiing trail in Michigan? Share with us below!

Relax in Pure Michigan this Winter

With the holidays coming to an end, it’s the perfect time of year to take a break and find ways to relax in Pure Michigan. We asked Shann Vander Leek, an internationally recognized life coach, about ways she finds relaxation and happiness in Michigan.

What’s your favorite way to relax? If it’s by spending a day being pampered, be sure to check out Spa | A Pure Michigan Winter in our winter video series.

Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am an internationally recognized life coach, certified by the Coach Training Alliance. I partner with clients all over the world. I study Hatha yoga and am a Union Yoga, certified Yoga instructor.

I have a lifetime of professional experience as a successful broadcast media consultant, sales coach, leader, entrepreneur, business owner, marketing specialist, volunteer, voice over announcer, and life-skills trainer. I am a prolific reader, blogger and a published best selling author.

I love to engage individuals in compelling conversations that inspire them to play much bigger, and live fuller, more meaningful, and happier lives. I know engaged, fully expressed people leading purposeful lives have a big impact on the world. Life Coaching is one of the most powerful agents of positive human change.

I am happily married 20 years, with 1 amazing daughter, 1 mouthy Siamese cat, 1 spaz-face bunny, and a life full of people and places I am grateful for.  I live with my family in the Village of Suttons Bay, where we spend our free time exploring Leelanau County. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is our weekend playground.

Q: The holidays are a stressful time for many people – what advice do you have to help people relax, unwind and rebalance after this hectic time?

The best advice I can share is to listen to your body and pay attention to how you feel. If you are stressed and exhausted, you deserve to rest and take care of yourself. When you ignore the signals from your body, you will get sick. Don’t wait until you are completely maxed-out to care for yourself. I suggest clearing the calendar of as many extra-curricular activities as possible in the month of January. Lighten your schedule and focus on self-care activities that you find relaxing.

We forget that we can give the most when we are well rested and living the lives we love. We can be the best partners, parents, business owners or colleagues when we are feeling nurtured, fulfilled, inspired and self-expressed.  We can have the biggest impact on social and community changes when we are in balance.

Q: Are there any specific places that you like to enjoy relaxing activities?

I am a big fan of Pavlova European Salon and Spa in Traverse City. After the holidays I plan to enjoy a delightful European facial from Bonnie (my favorite Aesthetician). I practice Pilates at BE Pilates and Massage Studio, and schedule regular body work and massage therapy at Sacred Ways Healing Arts. 

Q: What are some things that people can do to keep themselves balanced all year long?

1. Discover Joy Spotting! 

Make a luscious list of 5-10 things that bring you joy every day. At the end of the day, take a few minutes to journal your discoveries. My family and I often share our top five lists over dinner.

Here’s a few items from my luscious list for today:

The way my husband says “Good Morning Beautiful,” the sunrise over the bay, the twinkle of lights on our Christmas tree, listening to Phillip Phillip’s new album, being kind to a friend, delicious food, a (saved from our summer garden) Geranium with hot pink flowers, and finding the perfect present for my daughter.

2. Schedule time each day to be quiet.

As little as 5 minutes of quiet time can make a difference in your life. Simply close your eyes and breathe deeply several times to relax your mind. Find peace while listening to a guided relaxation like Transition to Calm that can be found on iTunes or Anxiety Slayer. If you work in a high-stress job, lunchtime can be a great time to escape from your responsibilities at work and claim some peace. Consider driving to the nearest body of water and enjoy your lunch break while watching the waves ebb and flow.

3. Move your body every day.

To stay in balance all year long you have to move your body. Walk your dog, go to the gym, take a yoga class, run, stretch, dance, play! Move your body in some way each day and you will sleep better, stay healthier, and free lower your level of stress.

4. Treat yourself to a special extravagance at least once a month.

This could be dinner and a movie, a massage, a weekend getaway, a chance to sleep in. Anything goes. You deserve something to look forward to at least once a month. 

5. Make quality time for your family.

Create family traditions, eat dinner together, take time to really listen and learn more about the people you love the most in the world. Is there anything more important than bonding with your loved ones?

Three pitfalls to avoid at all costs…

1. Learn to say No.

We all tend to take on more responsibility than we should, which can create stress and take us away from living in the moment. Getting caught up in a cycle of ‘I have to’ vs. ‘I want to’ can be destructive. It is Okay to say no thank you.

2. Learn to set healthy boundaries with people.

Do what you can to stop yourself from getting tangled up in the daily drama of another person’s life. Caring doesn’t mean diving in to solve someone’s problems. Being a good listener and a fantastic hugger, is a much better use of your time and energy.

3. Identify and limit your time spent with “Energy Vampires.”

People who regularly rant, rave and complain about life, politics and work can tap out all of your positive energy. Steer clear of these folks whenever possible. Life if too short to spend time with negative people. If you must spend time with Energy Vampires, do your best to find some humor in their antics.

Implement these ideas and enjoy a balanced and fulfilling life after the holidays. 

Q: Many people tend to get the winter blues or hibernate inside during the winter months – what are your recommendations to help with this?�

I used to suffer from the winter blues which are sometimes referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder. I made a few simple changes that have greatly improved my state of mind during the darkness of winter.  

1. Get outside for at least 15 minutes on sunny days to treat your body to a healthy dose of Vitamin D. Add a D3 supplement and/or foods rich with Vitamin D3 to your diet. Vitamin D3 can be found in fortified milk, salmon, sardines, egg yolks etc. Vitamin D3 is a vitamin and a hormone that our bodies need to remain mentally balanced. Think about how good you feel when you soak up the sunshine.  Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the health benefits of Vitamin D3.

2. Purchase a full spectrum light for your desk. The winter blues can be averted with full spectrum light therapy.  These lamps are often on sale this time of year.

3. Relax and surrender to the slower pace of winter.  

Q: What are some of your favorite winter activities?

I enjoy snowshoeing in the woods, hiking, and capturing images of the snowy shores of Lake Michigan. My husband enjoys snowboarding at Crystal Mountain with our daughter.

Q: What do you love about the Michigan in the winter?

Michigan winters are incredible. I love the snow covered landscapes and the quiet of the village after a fresh snowfall. I love knowing we can go sledding at Bahle Park and walk home to hot cocoa and roaring fire in the fireplace. We can choose to participate in the Friday night “live” events in Traverse City along with a full line up of winter concerts and festivals. The beautiful thing about Michigan in the winter is that you have loads of activities to choose from all season long.

Q: To you, what is “Pure Michigan”?

Pure Michigan based is the crushing beauty of my surroundings. The majesty of the forest. The gentle rolling farm land. The beauty, and bounty of the great lakes. The gorgeous seasonal landscapes. I could go on and on… I am blessed to live in northern Michigan, one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  

If you’re looking for relaxation this season in Michigan, why not visit one of our state’s many spas? Learn more in Spa | A Pure Michigan Winter, from the Pure Michigan winter video series.

Shann Vander Leek  is a transformational life coach, Yogini, and author of Life on Your Terms. She is the founder of True Balance International, co-founder of Anxiety Slayer, and creator of the Transformation Goddess Experience. Unconventional and delightfully curious; she coaches professional women in transition to live life on their terms and create more balance in their lives through life coaching, self-care and creative expression.  Visit Shann’s website at for her free special report, Navigating Through Transition.

Ice Fishing During A Pure Michigan Winter

Michigan’s four Great Lakes, more than 11,000 inland lakes and hundreds of rivers and streams provide anglers with great fresh water fishing.  As we head into the winter months and the water freezes ever, Michigan offers the perfect location to ice fish for bluegill, perch, pike and walleye.  In fact, some experienced anglers say that winter is the best time to fish, because with the warm weather gone, so are the weeds. An ice fishing excursion can be as simple as drilling a hole in the ice and dropping in a line while perched on an overturned bucket. Or it can be an all-day outing complete with an elaborate ice shanty boasting all the comforts of home. With proper clothing and equipment, knowing the condition of the ice and following safety precautions, ice fishing can be a fun and rewarding experience.

With ice fishing being one of the many activities featured in A Pure Michigan Winter, we asked lifelong Michigan resident and experienced angler Lindy Mueller to tell us what she loves about Michigan ice fishing.  

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
A: A country girl at heart, I’m definitely someone who enjoys the simplest pleasures in life and I LOVE the water. You can find me enjoying family time on the weekends, boating and of course, when time permits, fishing. I’m married to a wonderful husband who was born and raised here in Michigan. We live on Lake Orion and have loads of fun with friends, family and our sweet little Bernese mountain dog, Monty. During the week, you’ll find me working in public relations for a Michigan-based work wear manufacturer. Life is good.

Q: What are some of your favorite winter activities?
A: In winter, one of my all-time favorite sports is ice fishing. Luckily, there are many fantastic lakes to choose from in this Great Lakes state. When the weather gets cold, I get happy…time to drag out the shanty and play!

Q: What do you love about the Michigan outdoors in the winter?
A: Not only is Michigan just absolutely beautiful after a snowfall, there is so much you can do in it! Michigan has four seasons, so every season has a fun activity. What’s also quite convenient is that you can fish year-round in Michigan. Whether your jigging for walleye in spring, to fly fishing in Northern Michigan’s holy waters in the summer and fall, to ice fishing in the winter, if you love being on the water and enjoying its fruitful benefits, this is a perfect state to live in.

Q: When and how did you first start ice fishing?
A: My first ice fishing trip more than 10 years ago really “hooked” me on the sport. I learned many techniques of the trade from a good friend who passed on his childhood knowledge of the sport from years of ice fishing with his grandpa in Northern Michigan. I learned a lot of basics like baiting techniques, rigging, ice hole cutting, shanty set-up, but I also learned some special techniques, like learning how to read the water to find the most appropriate set-up spot, how to catch your first perch to use as a decoy and how to stealthily spear pike and perch that find their way into my ice hole. It can be an exciting sport when the fish are biting, but also very calming when the action is slow.

Q: What is your favorite thing about ice fishing?
A: I absolutely love spear fishing. There’s nothing like catching your first decent sized perch during the first part of your day and using it as your decoy to create some natural flash in your spearing hole. Now that you have one line in the water holding your decoy, you have one other hand free to hold a spear. Sometimes when the fish aren’t biting, but are coming in and out of your spearing hole in droves, spearing is a great alternative to making sure you bring home a few for dinner. You must be absolutely quiet when approaching with your spear as even the slightest motion can spook your potential prize out of the hole. I have plenty of techniques that I have learned that work for me when it comes to spearing perch or pike but will only share with those who plan to spend their entire weekend with me perched on a stool over an ice hole in my portable home.

Q: Do you have a favorite place to ice fish?
A: Yes. My favorite location is a secret, but I can tell you that Lake St. Clair is one of my favorite lakes to frequent for perch, walleye and pike. If you find a good shelf to sit on just before a drop off, you’re in good shape to set up your shanty shop. Lake St. Clair does allow ice spearing, but not all Michigan lakes allow ice spearing, so be sure to check out the DNR website and read their posted guidelines on the sport. Part of our job as fisherman is to also be conservationists. Always play by the rules and you will have good luck. I also like the idea that this winter now that my husband and I live on Lake Orion, I can drag my shanty out of the garage onto the lake and enjoy some ice fishing right in my backyard. How sweet is that?

Q: What’s your “biggest catch”?
A: I’ve speared some decent sized pike in my day who have darted into my ice holes to go nose-to-nose with my decoys, the largest nearing 12 pounds, but I have to say when you’re out on the ice, it’s super exciting when you are able to fool that one rogue jumbo perch to bite the end of your line! What fun!

Q: Does one particular ice fishing trip stand out to you as your favorite? Why?
A: Yes. I remember the first time I took my sister Jenny ice fishing. We were actually sitting in a canal in Algonac, MI. I’d been out there all morning and before she arrived, it was pretty slow. Three hours later, my sister arrives, climbs into my shanty and sits down just in time to see a pretty large pike come in and take a whack at my decoy dragging it out under the ice. I had to explain to my sister that this didn’t obviously happen all the time, it was just beginners luck for her. After I reeled the decoy back into the hole, the eager pike returned staring my defenseless decoy down. I asked my sister to quietly hand me the pike spear that was leaning up against the wall of the shanty. I eased the spear into the water slowly tucking it a few inches just behind the pike’s neckline lining up the shot perfectly before giving the instrument a swift jolt into the fish. Of course, the pike spears have barbs on the end of them, so I didn’t forget to “chug” my fish after the initial poke. This action ensures that you pull the body of the fish up above the barbs so there’s no chance you can lose your conquest. This pike thrashed and pretty much ruined the visibility of my ice hole for some time. When the pike weakened, it was time to pull him out of the spearing hole. When I began pulling him out, my sister began to scream. It was so funny because I started screaming too in the moment of all the excitement – he was a big guy! It was a pretty good sized pike, so when I dragged it out of the spearing whole, its mouth brushed past my sister’s knee cap a bit and made her scream even more. Ha! Ha! Ha! Before I know it, we were out of the shanty, chugging the pike off the spear onto the ice and looking around at a few very concerned residents who had come out of their houses to see what the racket was, but quickly smiled when they saw our prize rolling out on the ice. It’s one of my favorite ice fishing memories. My sister was sold on ice fishing from that day forward.

Q: What is your perfect ice fishing trip like?
A: Clear day, sunny with a little overcast, NO wind, clear visibility, my husband or sisters, a Stanley filled with dark black coffee, schools of fish by the droves moving in all day long.

Q: What advice do you have for someone who may be interested in starting to ice fish?
A: I would suggest going with a knowledgeable friend first who already has gear you can borrow, experience on the ice and knowledge of the sports rules and guidelines. They should also have all the equipment you need to enjoy/understand your first ice fishing experience. If you become fond of the sport, my advice is to do some research online by checking out rules/regulations on the DNR’s website. You can also read local fish reports, but sometimes just getting out there and trying a few different things on your own will help you learn what works best for you. Just enjoy the sport safely, responsibly and legally. Ice fishing can be dangerous, so keep your head about you, but have fun!

Q: Is there equipment, clothing, gear that you recommend?�
A: First off, dress for the occasion. Make sure you have some warm layers of clothing on. Start with some base layers that wick moisture, next thermals and then top those layers off with thermal-lined bibs and jacket. I’m a huge fan of Michigan-brand, Carhartt, a company that offers super warm, durable and rugged products that will last forever and will provide great value to your hobby. You want to make sure your warm, because if you are catching fish, you don’t want to leave because you didn’t dress warm enough, you can always peel your layers off if need be. The great thing about the sport of ice fishing is that you can enjoy it on any budget. Regarding gear, it just depends on how much you want to invest into the sport. You can go all out and buy a shanty, gas auger, ice spud, rods and spears, or you can also travel out to the ice light with a small sled containing a bucket to sit on, a manual auger to cut a few small holes and some ice rods with strike indicators baited with minnows. No matter what technique and budget that you decide works best for you, you’ll need to definitely invest in a decent set of filet knives so you can clean your fish at the end of the day!

Q: Any tips for finding the best spot or catching the fish?
A: Most of the time, it’s just getting out there and trying all the techniques you have before you come upon the “best spot.” I’m not one to set up in an already congested spot. I tend to drill a few small holes in areas where there is less traffic and throw a few baited lines down to see if anything wants to play. If I’m pulling a few fish out of the same area pretty consistently, I might decide to set up shop with my shanty and call it my spot for the day. You’re going to have good days and bad days, but any day is good when you are fishing and enjoying the wonderful outdoor splendor that Michigan has to offer. Good luck fellow ice fisherman!

Q: To you, what is “Pure Michigan?”
A: The people of Michigan make this state “pure” to me. Michiganders are strong and resilient and take great pride in their home. I’m proud to be a part of this community of true conservationists, outdoorsmen and hardworking men and women. Michigan’s natural beauty is pure, but the people who build it and nurture it day-to-day make it “Pure Michigan.”

Learn more about ice fishing in Michigan in Ice Fishing | A Pure Michigan Winter, from the Pure Michigan winter video series.

For more on ice fishing in Pure Michigan, visit or the fishing tab on the Pure Michigan Facebook page.