Walking With Nature: Destination Traverse City

The spectacular landscape that embraces the Traverse City area is an ever-changing masterpiece created over centuries by the earth-moving power of ice, wind and water. No matter what the season, nature lovers will find trails and natural areas to fuel their passions. Read more on the beauty of TC, as shared by guest blogger Jonathan Schechter.

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”  — John Muir

Spring is the gateway to wildflowers and migratory birds at places like the Grass River Natural Area. Summer allows explorers to roam the Manitou Islands in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Autumn is perfect for a paddling trip down the Platte River, and in the stillness of winter, the multitude of cross-country ski pathways and snowshoe trails is proof that the outdoor lure of Traverse City is strong and growing.

Look Out

Why wait? Today is the perfect day to walk with nature.

The Grass River Natural Area is a hidden treasure of Antrim County encompassing 1,433 acres. Spring is the perfect season to view the moss-covered hummocks of land along the clear waters of Finch Creek. Sit silently on a bench under the sweetly scented cedars; nature will share her secrets. During my last visit I watched a mink bound over the boardwalk, heard a hidden grouse drumming from behind lush vegetation and found fresh bobcat tracks – all in a matter of five minutes.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore with its 70 miles of shoreline, magnificent sand dunes and trails for every taste, lures millions of outdoor enthusiasts.  Two of its beautiful treasures are the Manitou Islands – and a visit to these isolated spots makes a rewarding summer adventure.

Lighthouse

South Manitou Island is a perfect destination for a day hiker with its lighthouse – a stark reminder of the stormy seas and shipwrecks of the Manitou Passage – and the wreck of the Francisco Morazan, a favorite haunt for cormorants. For a more rugged adventure, North Manitou offers opportunities for backpacking treks – just remember that your visit might be extended an extra day or two if the waters are too rough for the ferry to return.

The crystal-clear Platte River is well known among anglers for steelhead, salmon and trout, but it can get busy on summer days as kayakers and canoeists paddle downstream. A much better option is to go in the autumn, when the wildlife returns and the fall foliage puts on a brilliant show. Bring your own craft or rent at Riverside Canoe Trips. Seekers of solitude and wildlife may want to paddle during the morning mist; dawn is an unforgettable moment to embrace this landscape, which defines the essence of Pure Michigan.

Kayak

In winter Traverse City has miles and miles of woodland trails for skiers and snowshoers to explore. In the Brown Bridge Quiet Area you can even witness the rebirth of Traverse City’s Boardman River, whose system of dams is being removed, returning this beautiful stream to a time when she was wild and free.  You can get a close-up look at this process at Brown Bridge, a 1300-acre nature preserve just south of town. This broad river meadow, surrounded by high hills, was once the site of a wide forest pond, but today you can hike along its former shoreline and see how nature (with lots of human help) has been healing and renewing the valley.

On my last visit it was winter, and I made my way through deep snow, warmed by the sweet scent of cedar and balsam fir and invigorated by the bounding tracks of a river otter.  It’s a wonderful wild place in the shadows of Traverse City!

bioJonathan Schechter is a Nature Education Writer for Oakland County Parks, a member of the Wilderness Medical Society and an avid hiker and trail-explorer at Sleeping Bear Dunes.  JonathanSchechter@Frontier.com

 

Five Reasons to Stay Out After Dark in Northern Michigan

Landscape photographer, Aubrieta V. Hope, invites us to venture north this summer and enjoy the magic of a Pure Michigan night sky.

Very few places on earth are as beautiful and melodic as Northern Michigan after sunset.  The night sky beckons us with a million, twinkling reasons to stay up late.  And, the wild creatures call us as well.  Coyotes cry out from distant hilltops, their voices joined by cicadas, frogs, and songbirds.  Unlike many parts of the U.S., where city lights outshine the stars and traffic noises drown out the sounds of wildlife, the night is naturally dark and alive in Northern Michigan.

For the most vivid night skies, visit a park or rural area near one of the Great Lakes, such as Sleeping Bear Dunes, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, or Headlands International Dark Sky Park.  Spritz on some bug spray, pack a blanket and snacks, pop a headlamp on your head (the kind with a red-light setting), and try these ideas for experiencing the night sky.

1.  Stay and Enjoy the Twilight Glow 

Many people watch the sunset and leave, missing the beauty and peace of twilight.  Stay for the encore!  That’s when the sky catches fire, glowing red, orange, and pink, the embers burning to charcoal, and deepening to blue until the stars emerge and night falls.  Listen for the music of the night, the chorus of wildlife, and the whisper of wind and water.

MI15-0705-9944 Red Barn at Twilight by Aubrieta V Hope Michigan Scenery

Red Barn at Twilight by Aubrieta V Hope

2.  Take a Walk in the Moonlight  

The sight of a full moon rising, casting a silver path across the water is mesmerizing. In open areas, such as beaches or dunes, even a waning moon shines quite brightly.  Wander at will, but bring along your red-light headlamp to preserve your night vision in case you need extra light.

MI14-0561-1792 Full Moon over Glen Lake by Aubrieta V Hope

Full Moon over Glen Lake by Aubrieta V Hope

3.  Catch the Northern Lights

What can be more memorable than seeing the northern lights sweep across the sky?  To increase your chances of catching them, spend time in a dark, open area with a clear view to the north.  If you notice the northern horizon brightening just after nightfall, stick around!  It just might be the northern lights. Many websites and phone apps provide northern lights forecasts.  I use www.softservenews.com and www.swpc.noaa.gov.

MI15-0701-9649 Northern Lights Lime Lake by Aubrieta Hope Michigan Scenery

Northern Lights Lime Lake by Aubrieta V Hope

MI14-0579-7751 Northern Lights at Miners Beach by Aubrieta V Hope Michigan Scenery

Northern Lights at Miners Beach by Aubrieta V Hope

4.  Look for Ghosts in a Ghost Town

Michigan has a surprising number of ghost towns that are spooky-fun to stroll at night (unless prohibited). The past always seems much closer after dark!  My favorite ghost towns are at Glen Haven and South Manitou Island in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  I’ve not met any ghosts there (yet).  But, I have seen beautiful night skies above each.  (Glen Haven is a great place to watch the northern lights.)

MI13-0526-1083 Starry Night at Glen Haven Historic Village by Aubrieta V Hope

Starry Night at Glen Haven Historic Village by Aubrieta V Hope

5.  Make a Wish Upon a Shooting Star

You won’t need a telescope on a clear, moonless night in Northern Michigan to see the stars.  But you will need lots of wishes: shooting stars happen all the time!  Sometimes, as in this scene, shooting stars and the Milky Way appear simultaneously.  This year, the best nights for wishing will be August 9-13 (during the Perseid Meteor Showers).

MI15-0701-9765 Shooting Stars at D H Day Barn by Aubrieta V Hope Michigan Scenery

Shooting Stars at D.H. Day Barn” by Aubrieta V Hope

MI14-0606-0758 Aubrieta Hope for Pure Michigan BlogAubrieta V. Hope is a scenic photographer and writer with a special interest in Northern and Upper Michigan.  Her images are available as prints, digital downloads, and Michigan souvenirs.  Visit her website, www.michiganscenery.com, check out her Michigan Scenery Facebook Page, or stop by Petoskey Pete’s in Glen Arbor.

19 Things to do this Summer in Holland, Michigan!

Well-known for its Dutch history, Holland is historic yet hip. This unique place offers something for every personality.  Discover Holland put together a list of things that you need to experience before this summer is over.

19. Climb 230 steps to the top of Mt. Pisgah, a towering sand dune with stunning views of Lake Michigan, Lake Macatawa and Big Red Lighthouse.

18. Tour a 260 year-old historic windmill! “DeZwaan” is the only authentic, working, Dutch windmill in the United States! This gem is at the center of a 36-acre public park with manicured lawns, landscaped gardens, and a Dutch street organ. You can take a guided tour of this landmark structure, celebrating 50 years in Holland, Michigan!

DeZwaan Windmill. Photo Courtesy of Scott Mievogel.

DeZwaan Windmill. Photo Courtesy of Scott Mievogel.

17. Nelis’ Dutch Village – slide down a giant wooden shoe slide, kick up your heels at an authentic Dutch Dance lesson or get a birds’-eye view from the antique Ferris wheel. New in 2015 – make your own authentic Stroopwaffel at the Hungry Dutchman Café!

16. Learn how Holland’s breweries and distilleries are using Michigan-grown products to create their award-winning beers and spirits. Tour New Holland Brewing Company’s brewing and distilling facilities (Saturdays only), or Coppercraft Distillery (Wednesday-Saturday) for a farm-to-glass experience! A stop Warner Vineyards’ tasting room in downtown Holland will complete your tasting experience with samples of fine Michigan wines – or a wine slushie!

15. The Holland Farmers Market is the place to find the freshest local, seasonal produce, meats, cheeses and more! Visit Saturdays at 10am for the weekly Chef Series presentation or Wednesday mornings for free kids’ activities.

Holland Farmers Market - Photo Courtesy of Scott Meivogel.

Holland Farmers Market – Photo Courtesy of Scott Meivogel.

14. Thursday nights the streets of downtown Holland come alive with the Summer Street Performer Series, where you’ll find 8th Street packed with families enjoying more than 30 eclectic street performers, from mimes to musical acts to aerial acrobats!

13. Experience the lakeshore from two wheels – the Holland area has more than 155 miles of paved, bike paths for riders of all levels, as well as dedicated mountain biking trails. Is kicking back more your style? Take a ride on the Petal Cab, a pedi-cab service that offers tours of the Holland area.

12. Dine al fresco at Holland’s beautiful waterfront restaurants, (The Piper or Boatwerks), or view a stunning sunset from the 5th floor deck at CityVu Bistro, located in downtown’s CityFlats Hotel.

11.  Enjoy a summer sunset over Lake Macatawa during a Friday night concert at Kollen Park, where live music from high-energy regional acts brings the crowd to their feet!

10. Art in the Park is Holland’s annual fine arts and crafts fair in Centennial Park. The 46th annual fair on August 1 welcomes the lakeshore’s finest artists, potters and makers to showcase their wares in the heart of Holland. Local downtown galleries join the fun during the special gallery walk events Friday, July 31- Saturday August 1.

9. Savor the lakeshore, Michigan’s most agriculturally diverse region, with a u-pick experience at one of the area’s farms. Strawberries, blueberries, cherries, peaches and apples are all readily available in season.

8. Explore the trails at the Outdoor Discovery Center or DeGraaf Nature Center, where you’ll find educational nature experiences and good old-fashioned fun! Families will enjoy barrier-free fishing and trail access at the Outdoor Discovery Center, and enjoy events like Maple Sugar Days at DeGraaf.

7. The fun continues even as summer winds down – the Holland/Zeeland Truck Parade on Monday, September 7 begins in downtown Zeeland and ends at the Holland Civic Center with a chance to climb aboard the big rigs!

6. Shop ‘til you drop! Downtown Holland’s eclectic mix of retail boutiques means there’s something for everyone – and get ready to find a bargain during the annual Sidewalk Sales August 7 and 8!

Downtown Holland Shopping. Photo Courtesty of Scott Meivogel.

Downtown Holland Shopping. Photo Courtesty of Scott Meivogel.

5. Have a hands-on cooking experience at Fustinis Oil & Vinegar, where cooking classes focusing on seasonal ingredients invite you to taste and experience fresh-pressed olive oil and flavor-infused vinegars.

4. Pour a candle at Candle-ology, inside Moynihan Gallery! Create your own custom scent from more than 100 choices or make your own soy candle or custom-scented room diffuser, liquid soap or lotion!

3. Pick up a self-guided historic walking tour brochure at the Holland Visitors Bureau and wander through Holland’s quaint historic neighborhoods where you’ll learn about the early Dutch settlers and how their ingenuity shaped the lakeshore’s history. During the summer, the Holland Museum and Gazelle Sports offer guided walks on designated Fridays.

2. Take a dip in the “Big Lake”! The shimmering waters of Lake Michigan welcome you from Holland State Park, Tunnel Park or several other Holland-area beaches. You’ll find sugar-sand beaches with plenty of room for all, including an off-leash dog beach at Kirk Park.

1. Catch a sunset with your family! There’s no better memory-maker than spending an evening watching the sun sink into the water from the pier at Holland State Park or perched atop the dune at Tunnel Park.