Five Ideas for Welcoming Spring in Traverse City

As any Michigander will tell you, Michigan is truly a four-season state. The water wonderland of summer, the brilliant colors of fall, and the snow sports of winter all contribute plenty of reasons to love a four-season destination like Traverse City. But it’s spring that seems to occupy a special place in the hearts of many residents of the Great Lakes State. As winter whites give way to the greens of springtime, it’s time to get outside and renew our relationship with Michigan’s many outdoor resources.

With so many options in and around Traverse City, the hard part can be deciding where to go and what to do first. Read more as our friends at Northern Swag narrow down the list for you by sharing five Traverse City favorites.

1. Hike a Trail

The Traverse City area is home to hundreds of miles of hiking trails that are perfect for taking in on a sunny spring day. The wooded Lake Michigan Trail in Leelanau State Park near Northport winds its way through wooded hills to an observation deck overlooking Lake Michigan. While you’re enjoying the natural setting and fresh air, be on the lookout for the unmistakable petals of the white trillium, which can cover entire hillsides when they bloom in early-to-mid-May.

Photo Courtesy of Northern Swag

2. Hunt for Morels

These tasty, yet elusive natural treasures can be found in wooded areas throughout the Traverse City area. Look for south-facing hillsides that soak up the sun, and if possible, wait for a warmer day (over 60 degrees) that follows several warmer evenings for the best chance at success. Locals may be hesitant to share their favorite spots, but the adventure of the hunt can be almost as rewarding as the discovery. Almost.

Photo Courtesy of Northern Swag

3. Take a Sunday Drive

In mid-May, the hills and valleys of Old Mission Peninsula come alive with color as the cherry blossoms emerge. The Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula ® host Blossom Day Saturday, May 14. This event offers participants a chance to sample award-winning wines while enjoying the incredible scenery along the way. Scenic overlooks and cherry blossoms abound, and if you make it to the town of Old Mission, be sure to enjoy the view at Haserot Beach – it’s one of our favorite stops on the peninsula.

Photo Courtesy of Northern Swag

4. Hit the Beach

The water will still be a bit too chilly for a swim, but a picnic with an afternoon walk along the beach is a splendid way to celebrate spring in northern Michigan. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore includes 35 miles of pristine Lake Michigan shoreline. The views are some of the best in the Traverse City area, and don’t forget to keep an eye open for Petoskey stones, found along the entire length of the Lakeshore.

Photo Courtesy of Northern Swag

5. Discover a New View

There’s a brief window of time between the melting of the snow and the return of summer foliage to the trees and the forest floor. With 70,000 acres to explore, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offers numerous opportunities for discovering hidden views that aren’t as visible during the summer months. If you find yourself “up north” on a perfect spring day, an afternoon adventure amongst the rolling hills and wooded bluffs of the Sleeping Bear Dunes can lead to a pretty nice reward.

Photo Courtesy of Northern Swag

Northern Swag:

Northern Swag is a collective group of Northern Michigan creatives that is obsessed with the incredible beauty of the area. In their eyes there’s something else that evades description, a type of pervasive style that makes being here just feel awesome. It’s their goal to try and capture that unique Northern Michigan style, or swag, with photos and words.

How will you celebrate spring in Traverse City? Let us know by commenting below!

Two of a Feather: Great Birding, Sights in Traverse City

Many things signal the start of warm weather in Michigan, but maybe none more iconic than the chirping of birds during a gentle spring morning. From chickadees to eagles, and many species in between, Michigan offers birding enthusiasts a view of stunning feathered-fowl unlike anywhere else. Read more on birding in the Traverse City area, as told by guest blogger Mike Norton.

Spring must be here. I heard my first loon of the season this morning, that funny little hiccup of laughter echoing back from the harbor. And when the birds return, can the borders be far behind?

Each year, hundreds of people make their way to Traverse City with binoculars and notebooks to enjoy its many birding opportunities.

Some come for the annual spring migration (between mid-April and mid-May) when all kinds of migratory birds congregate along the nearby islands and peninsulas on their way north. Others wait until the end of May for nesting season.

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

The Traverse City area hasn’t been numbered among the world’s traditional birding hotspots; it’s not on any of the main migratory flyways, and until recently it hasn’t really known what to make of visiting birders. But it has an amazing amount of bird-friendly habitats within a short distance — almost all on public land to which birders have easy access. And birders are paying attention, thanks to the new Sleeping Bear Birding Trail, a 123-mile online guide to over 27 birding sites.

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

At the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, for instance, birders will not only find a large variety of warblers and other songbirds, but a chance to spot the Great Lakes piping plover – a tiny shorebird whose habitat has been wiped out in much of its range. An hour’s drive to the east, in the jackpine plains near Grayling and Mio, is the home of the Kirtland’s warbler, a reclusive songbird that requires frequent wildfires to germinate the gnarled pines on which its survival depends.

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

But Traverse City itself is a year-round birding area, thanks to its location on Grand Traverse Bay and a significant number of parklands, preserves and greenways.

The city’s bayshore, for example, is rich with waterfowl. In winter and spring there are White-Winged Scoters, Horned Grebes, Red-Breasted Mergansers, and Goldeneyes. Terns can be found on the nearby beaches, and loons are often seen out beyond the breakwater, and in winter large rafts of redheads and scaup can be seen, sometimes numbering in the thousands.

About 20 minutes away, Lighthouse Park at the tip of the Old Mission Peninsula is a fantastic place to find shorebirds during spring migration, when exposed mudflats attract a spectacular variety of sandpipers and plovers. The trails in the park’s interior are home to large numbers of forest birds, including pewees, phoebes, Red-Headed Woodpeckers, Black-Throated Green Warblers, and both Warbling and Red-Eyed Vireos.

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

The Boardman River, which empties into the Bay near the city’s downtown, is a particularly rich area for birds. Upstream, it broadens into Boardman Lake, whose southern end is probably the city’s best birding area. Over 160 species of birds have been logged here, and there’s good birding in every season. (During the spring migration, the number of different of warbler species found here can be fantastic.)

On the city’s west side, the most productive birding is on the 500-acre campus of the Grand Traverse Commons. Its miles of trails offer redpolls, grosbeaks and waxwings in winter, a huge selection of migrating warblers in spring, and summer nesters like flycatchers, warblers, vireos, cuckoos, hummers, and several species of woodpeckers. The campus is also home to herons, hawks and the occasional owl, and is one of the area’s best spots for viewing orioles and Indigo Buntings.

Even casual birdwatchers will enjoy a chance to see some of the many lovely birds that make their own “spring break” stops in Traverse City!

Blogger Bio:

Mike Norton spent 25 years as a newspaper writer and columnist before starting a second career as media relations manager at Traverse City Tourism. An avid cyclist, kayaker and hiker, he lives in the village of Old Mission.

Why Smallmouth Bass Fishing is Perfect in Traverse City

If you’re looking for a Pure Michigan destination with bountiful fishing to enjoy this fall, look no further than Traverse City. The Traverse City area, in Michigan’s Northern Lower Peninsula, is a perfect location to drop in a line while enjoying the beautiful changing colors and cool, crisp weather. Read more as guest blogger Captain Chris Noffsinger shares the many fishing opportunities and other things to enjoy when visiting Traverse City this season.

There are many places to fish for smallmouth bass in the great State of Michigan, but one of the very best is the Traverse City area. Not only is Traverse City’s smallmouth fishing world class, but the opportunities for recreation, dining, wineries and craft beer nearby are almost endless. From kids to adults, there is something for everyone here.

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Starting off the day with a beautiful sunrise overlooking the calm waters of East or West Grand Traverse Bay is a breathtaking experience in itself. But the thought of a trophy smallmouth breaking the calm by leaping into the air and back into the water is what every smallmouth fisherman dreams of. I have been fortunate to experience this firsthand on Grand Traverse Bay and on the surrounding inland lakes.

Photo courtesy of Captain Chris Noffsinger

Photo courtesy of Captain Chris Noffsinger

Traverse City is uniquely intriguing to any angler in search of trophy smallmouth. We have caught smallmouth in the 4-7 pound class every year in the Traverse City region.  They are plentiful and very willing to bite.

The waters here are extremely clear, with visibility reaching depths of 30 feet in some locations. Smallmouth live in most of the inland lakes that surround Traverse City, and the clarity of that water gives you an unparalleled ability and opportunity to sight these trophy bronzebacks. Watching a 4-7 pound smallmouth swim from over 100 feet away to strike is amazing to say the least. This happens every spring and fall, and it never gets old.

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

As fall approaches, some of the best bass fishing of the season takes place. Fall colors begin to transform the lush green forest that stood tall all summer long. The reflections of colors on a calm lake in the fall are an unforgettable sight, and as the leaves fall from the trees, the smallmouth sense that winter is coming. This triggers a feeding frenzy that smallmouth fisherman like me look forward to every year.

One of the most notable bass anglers in the world, Kevin VanDam, will visit also visit the Traverse City area this fall to take part in this amazing autumn fishery while filming an episode for “iFISHIGAN.” He will have a special guest this year, Gov. Rick Snyder, who will be joining Kevin on a fishing trip that most anglers only dream of – fishing with one of the most notable bass in the world’s best smallmouth fishing waters.  Catch the action of “iFISHIGAN” on the World Fishing Network when the second season starts in January 2016.

Photo courtesy of Captain Chris Noffsinger

Photo courtesy of Captain Chris Noffsinger

I look forward to smallmouth fishing in this area every year and hopefully I will be able to for many years to come. The Traverse City area is a truly special, world-class, Pure Michigan fishery.

What is your favorite Michigan fishing destination?

fishingAbout the author: Captain Chris Noffsinger has more than 20 years of experience on the water. His knowledge of both inland and Great Lakes fishing is extensive and is used daily to charter tours for Northern Adventures Fishing.