Four Photos That Will Convince You To Strap on Some Snowshoes and Explore

Guest blogger and landscape photographer Aubrieta Hope shares her tips for a Sleeping Bear Dunes snowshoeing trek to remember.

Winter brings ever-changing dramatic vistas to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Ice sculptures form on the beaches, every tree in the forest sparkles, and the dunes become snow-swirled works of art.  In deep snow, hiking can be a struggle; but with snowshoes, those drifts are no longer obstacle courses!  Strap on a pair of snowshoes and meet your inner explorer.  Over the next hill or through the woods, snowshoes can take you where you want to go. Blaze your own trail!  Don’t worry about dropping breadcrumbs to find your way back – just retrace your tracks.

Photo by Aubrieta Hope - Michigan Scenery.

Photo by Aubrieta V. Hope – Michigan Scenery

You can begin your explorations anywhere.  Snow season is an especially lovely time to visit the overlooks at Sleeping Bear Dunes, particularly Pyramid Point and Empire Bluff.  The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive (though closed to vehicular traffic in winter) offers panoramic views to snowshoers and cross-country skiers.  With the absence of summer visitors and songbirds, these popular areas are quiet, but you won’t feel alone.  All season long, shy creatures venture out and stitch mysterious tracks in the snow, revealing the presence of wildlife that summer visitors rarely notice.  Another silent, but spectacular snowshoe destination is Sleeping Bear Point, accessed by the Dunes Trail just west of Glen Haven.  The Lake Michigan shoreline also offers amazing scenery, and snowshoes provide good traction for traversing icy beaches. Wander at will, but use caution.  Never venture onto the lake, even if it looks frozen.

Photo by Aubrieta V. Hope - Michigan Scenery

Photo by Aubrieta V. Hope – Michigan Scenery

If you don’t mind company, consider snowshoeing the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail.  This recently-constructed multi-use trail runs nine miles from Empire to Glen Arbor (with the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, the Dune Climb, and Glen Haven Historic Village along the route).

Photo by Aubrieta V. Hope - Michigan Scenery

Photo by Aubrieta V. Hope – Michigan Scenery

Snowshoes are remarkably stable and easy to use.  It’s tough to topple over on them unless you try going backwards without thinking (I’ve tried that).  Some people snowshoe without poles, but hills require less effort when you have poles.  When snowshoeing up a hill, lean forward and press your toes into the slope.  On the way down, lean back a bit and dig in your heels. Snowshoeing will make you warm, so dress in layers.  Be sure to wear waterproof, insulated boots and gloves (or mittens).  Stay safe by bringing a buddy or letting someone know where you are going.  Stuff a few high-energy snacks and maybe a hand warmer into your pocket, and you’re good to go!

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Photo by Aubrieta V. Hope – Michigan Scenery

You can rent snowshoes and poles from Crystal River Outfitters in Glen Arbor if you’d like to strike out on your own.  Or, if you’d prefer snowshoeing with a guide, sign up for a ranger-led snowshoe hike through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  These hikes are offered every Saturday afternoon during the winter months.  Call 231-326-4700 x 5010 to register (you can borrow a pair of snowshoes free of charge for the afternoon if needed).  Visit the website for details.

What’s your favorite way to spend a snow day? Share your photos enjoying the snow using #PureMichiganSnowDay on Twitter and Instagram or visit michigan.org/snowday.

Aubrieta V Hope Snow PortraitAubrieta V. Hope is a landscape photographer with a special interest in northern Michigan and a lifelong, incurable affection for winter!   To view more of her images, visit www.michiganscenery.com or stop by Great Goods in Suttons Bay, Michigan.

 

15 Reasons to Love Winter in Michigan

Photograph courtesy of John McCormick

Winter has arrived in Pure Michigan! To celebrate the season we asked our fans on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Instagram “What does winter in Pure Michigan mean to you?” 

From skiing and snowboarding to warm fires and hot cocoa, winter means something unique to everyone. Below is a roundup of just some of our favorite responses from fans. If yours is missing, tell us in the comments section below what winter in Michigan means to you!

Finding the perfect tree and having apple cider with the family putting it up.  -Angela Blasingim

When I was a kid in Petoskey and Grand Rapids it meant lots of ice skating!  -D Kay Graham Hostettler

Snowshoeing all over the north woods going to places I can’t get to in the summer because of too much brush. Going right across frozen lakes and ponds – walking on water.  - Starlajane Thunder

Crisp clean air and pretty snow flakes.  -Sandy Little-Wolney

Playing in the snow. Enjoying the beautiful white trees.  - Jackie Daniels

Lots of snow and skiing!  - Instagram user @_rangerous

Pure beauty. We live in a state that gives us the magnificence of all the different seasons and winter brings purity.  - Kaitlyn Smith

Cross country skiing, hot cider, snuggling under covers.  -Dianne Thole

Frozen Lake Michigan with ice as far as you can see.  - John-Carolyn Hinch

Beautiful snow! Crisp fresh air.  - Jill Schultz

Winter in Michigan means long afternoons and evenings on my uncles farm. Roaring fires and playing the piano. Horseback riding with the neighbors. Maybe taking out the four wheelers or ice skating on the pond if it’s frozen enough. Bliss.  - Instagram user @alicialouise5193

Serene beauty.  - Amy Socrainte

A b&b up north in the thumb and keeping warm!   – Twitter user @AmyJoyHagen

My last winter in Michigan was ’77-’78. It was long, cold, and record breaking, but I enjoyed everyday.  - Mike Jackson

Snowboarding. Sitting downtown Traverse City with friends and hot beverages. Seeing my family again while I’m on break from school. Being where I belong.  - Instagram user @klostrowski

Why do you love winter in Michigan

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.