Thursday, December 8, 2011

List of recommendations released by the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund

The big list of items recommended by the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund was released earlier this evening. Containing 99 projects for funding, here are some of the more interesting ones to me I found:

  • The City of Detroit is recommended to receive $600,000 for renovations and improvements to two city parks, which includes relocation of several athletic fields and renovating walking trails.
  • Kensington Metro Park is recommended to receive $94,000 for a pond overlook, seawall and interpretative signage, among other items.
  • Kent County is recommended to receive $300,000 for a bridge for M-6 trail users.
  • Petoskey will be recommended to receive $300,000 for a 10-foot concrete path and parking, among other items, for the city's Downtown Greenway north segment.
  • Newberry is recommended to receive $300,000 for the development of a complex with an outdoor skating rink and hockey facility.
  • The trust fund is recommending the spending of $3 million to purchase an area near Manchester and rename it the River Raisin Recreation Area. More on that here.
For the entire list, click here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The "Mitten War:" as much as its true, it just has to stop

Let's admit it: us Michiganders are possessive.

Our music. Our lakes. Our sports teams. Our cities. And, especially today, our shape.

The brouhaha is as follows: an image shows up on a Wisconsin tourism site of the state of Wisconsin shaped using a mitten. Kalamazoo Gazette picks up on the story, and mad Michigan chaos ensues. 

Many Michiganders are upset seeing an item that many associate with us being associated with those cheeseheads over across the lake (sorry, had to).

It's sparked dozens of posts on news sites. Tweets and Facebook posts abound. Even the Pure Michigan campaign has jumped in, hosting a poll that asks which is the Mitten State. You can probably figure out how that's going right now.

It's been interesting to watch how this has developed throughout the day. And the more it goes on, the more I realize this little debate is worthless and should end.

The only real argument is that Wisconsinites use their hand to identify where they come from, much like us Michiganders. I doubt this, unless they all have deformed hands in Wisconsin. I tried getting my hand to bend the way the mitten is bent, but couldn't do it too naturally. But that's all we can bicker about. 

The site isn't trying to lay claim to this concept: it's simply using a mitten as a winter piece for its website. Apparently, it had leaves shaped like Wisconsin during the fall. The mitten isn't a dominant force on the site, its an element as a part of a rotating carousel of different items. It's an element, not a complete attack.

Even the state's Department of Tourism is admitting it's not a tactic to take the title of Mitten State away from us (Even though the next line says Wisconsin's trying to be the "fun state," whatever that means). But we've launched into full-attack mode ourselves. Fun-poking is one thing, but there's going to be some that will fight this in the morning. even has launched with said poll above. It's slightly overboard, to say the least. 

I compiled several tweets this morning on this subject for work, and compiled them below. Take a look:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Michigan hunting live chat taking place today at 11:30 a.m.

I need to compile my thoughts a bit more on the subject, but the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, along with the Pure Michigan campaign, is hosting a live chat today on hunting on its website.

I'm no hunter, although I'd like to eventually give it a go. More on this later, but thought I would share the live chat link earlier as opposed to later.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Northern Lights make an appearance in Michigan

The State of Michigan got a special treat normally reserved for our neighbors to the north.

The Northern Lights appeared all across the state, from the base of the Lower Peninsula to Lake Superior. The explanation was that a large system of high pressure over the Mississippi Valley displayed the colors across the Midwest and parts of the South. The Northern Lights, or the aurora borealis, are created by solar particles colliding with atoms near the North Pole.

I went out to my window to try and find the lights, but couldn't see them in my apartment in northern Lenawee County. Apparently they could be seen south of me in Adrian, so I may have not been able to see them because of the flood light on my apartment.

Hearing all of this talk of the lights reminded me of the first and only time I've seen them. It was 2002, and I was in Canada on a week-long canoe trip. It was roughly 12:30 at night, and we were cooking steaks over the fire. We saw these strange beams of light running down the sky, and they didn't stay still. It wasn't like some images, but it was enough to notice sitting by the campfire. If you were lucky enough to see the lights last night, savor the chance, because you never know when the Northern Lights will be back.

I've taken some of the photos taken last night, as well as reactions from across the state, and gathered them together below. Take a look and let me know what you think.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The view from Sterling State Park: Lakeshore, Great Egrets and .. nuclear power?

The view of Fermi power plant from the shores of Lake Erie at Sterling State Park.
Not exactly the ... prettiest site in the world, but a nice reminder of the power
of man in a very natural setting.
I've lived in southern Michigan since January, and I've been waiting to hit up Lake Erie since then. I finally got my chance Saturday.

Living less than an hour away, I was able to travel to Sterling State Park, just east of Monroe, Saturday with my girlfriend, whom I had wanted to take there for sometime, seeing how I love going to any Great Lake.

With the amazing weekend weatherwise, the beach was the first stop. Most of the picnic tables are put away right now, but few remained for visitors, which there were a few dozen.

Fermi isn't the only factory in sight. This is the view from
the jetty out near Lake Erie, looking back toward the beach.
The first big way you know you're on Lake Erie near Monroe? The view of Fermi Nuclear Power Plant. The new towers from the nuclear reactors are one of the first sights you see, and coming from someone used to Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, it was slightly unsettling. It is a reminder of modern meets natural on this park, which is clearly designed to protect what lakeshore property there. The beach is a nice view of the lake, sans the two nuclear reactors right across the way.

The real beautiful gem we found was the trail system across the road. The looping trails, which had a connector to downtown Monroe, was a beautiful system through some lagoons. The trails, which were concrete and provided excellent access for bicycles and other wheeled vehicles. The Lotus Pavilion had several posters full of information, including some about the birds that were out in the lake.

From the Lotus Pavilion, looking out into the lagoon there were six or so Great Egrets, white birds that look like storks. The pavilion provides mounted long-range binoculars to view the birds. With a little help from my new device, the HTC Incredible 2, I was able to get a closer-up view of an Egret from the lakeshore:

See that white, upright thing on the lake? Great Egret. 

The trails looping around the lagoon provide great opportunities for those not completely comfortable with camping and hiking, with the wide, concrete trails that are used by runners and casual hikers. The lagoons are chock full of wildlife, including the Great Egret and swans, as well as other birds. It was a fantastic way to spend a warm, October afternoon. I just wished I would've worn shorts.
The view of the pedestrian bridge, which have visitors access to the trails
and Lotus Pavilion.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

An outdoorsman's take on a southern Michigan golf course

Yeah, come nowhere near either of those numbers.

To quote one great line from the Big Lebowski, no, I am obviously not a golfer. I preface this post with that.

I do, however, like to pretend that I am one. So whenever I'm feeling adventurous on a getaway, I may stumble onto a golf course and swing my $8 left-handed golf clubs for a morning or afternoon.

My family has been camping at Somerset Beach Campground each Labor Day for what seems like the past 10-plus years. The campground, located in Somerset Township in northern Hillsdale County, is a nice alternative to going up north, which is what most Michiganders seem to do on the last weekend of summer.

My dad attempts a tee shot at tee No. 4.      

I began playing golf at Lake LeAnn Golf Course, a small, 9-hole course by the campground near Chicago Road, years ago, with my uncles and cousins showing me the basics. I can't say I'm much better now than I was then, but I get my lucky tee shot every once in a while on the course.

First of all, it's a cheap course. We paid $6 greens fees, which can be unheard of. With a cart, the total raised to $11. Not bad.

Of course, that $6 fee means the course may not be in great shape. And it wasn't. The fairways were a bit rough, and the greens had several brown spots all over them. It isn't watered as regularly as some golf pros probably want it to be, but we weren't complaining.

First tee from the teebox. Pin is up the hill on the left.
It's slightly hilly, as seen by the first tee. The green is up on a hill, and takes some maneuvering around some smaller hills to get there (if you don't crush your tee shot 350 yards). Other hills come into play as well, including the behemoth Hole 6, a 600 yard-plus par 5 that snakes up a hill.

Water doesn't play a factor in the course until you hit hole 9, which requires a tee shot over a lake. I've made it across the lake in my young years of golfing, but had no luck this year. Smacked a tee shot to the base of it, only to not get any lift and end up in the drink.

I'm biased since it's the course I grew up learning golf on, but it's not a bad little round. I do wish more care would be taken to the course, because it has potential. And only being 25 minutes south of Jackson, I was surprised to see very few golfers out on Labor Day weekend. No one was behind or in front of us the entire time.

The Pure Michigan campaign touts its golf courses in ads all the time. This is one course that probably doesn't get touted, but that's okay. I think we bad golfers wouldn't mind an inexpensive alternative to some of the pricier courses. We're obviously not golfers.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Camp Chickagami in Presque Isle: truly God's country

I'm super late on this, but it's still summer and I'm sure it hasn't changed much since I was there in late June.
Camp Chickagami is a place I've grown up at, up about 30 minutes north of Alpena.

The view of Lake Esau from the balcony of the boathouse
at Camp Chickagami, Presque Isle, Michigan.
Owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan, the camp is mostly used for youth camps and other activities. But for 25 years, myself and St. David's Episcopal Church members drive up for a week and enjoy the character and natural beauty northeast Michigan has to offer.

The camp is located on Lake Esau, a quiet, perfectly-sized lake for tubing, swimming and boating. It's tucked back on a dead-end road, and doesn't see much traffic (it would be nice to keep it that way, too).

While the camp is privately-owned, the surrounding area is untouched beauty most travelers only know through the two lighthouses that watch over Lake Huron in Presque Isle, which is French for "almost an island."

The lighthouses, which are featured in a Pure Michigan television commercial, are majestic and each have a story to tell. The old lighthouse (which is haunted, and I can vouch for it) was built in 1840, and was shut down after 30 years of service. Another lighthouse was built down the road at the end of the peninsula to serve as the area's beacon.

Take a stroll up the lighthouse's tower below:

This new one is one of the tallest in the Great Lakes, and allows visitors to climb its 130 steps to see wondrous view of Lake Huron from the top:

The sunset over Lake Huron in Presque Isle.
There is no museum at the new lighthouse, but the one at the old one is a fabulous look at the how the lightkeeper's lived.

The marina is perfect for those boaters going up the coast, too; fairly quiet, a little pizzeria, deli and snack shop is ready for boaters.

A few parks line the peninsula, nice for a picnic or slow walk along the water, including the lighthouse park and Burnham's Landing park.

It's a great place to visit in the summer, and only a half-hour from both Alpena and Rogers City. If you make a trip to the northeast Lower Peninsula, Presque Isle is worth your while.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hayes State Park: A nice retreat for the day

State parks when I was younger were something you had to drive to for at least an hour to camp, swim or hike.

So when I found out there was a state park down the road only a few miles from my now home of about six months in Clinton, I was ecstatic and couldn't wait to check it out.

W.J. Hayes State Park, located near Onsted in the Irish Hills, isn't a large park, but is a nice reprieve from the city life.

A few weeks ago, my girlfriend and I were looking to go somewhere on a Sunday afternoon, and wanted to have a picnic. After a little brainstorming, we ended up driving to Hayes to grill some burgers and enjoy the sunshine during the early June hotspell we had.

After having some difficulty with the grill (cheap charcoal and no lighter fluid = one frustrated griller), we were playing catch with a Frisbee when an unexpected guest crawled across the field leading up to Wamblers Lake: a big turtle.

I'd never seen a turtle that size before, and here it was, walking in plain view of everyone at the lake that Sunday. He was impressive.

Wamblers Lake in Hayes State Park. Swimmers flocked
to the lake earlier this month for a reprieve from the
hot summer temperatures. 
Also impressive was the lake. There were dozens of people there that day, looking to cool down and get some relief from the early summer heat. The lake had plenty of space for jet skis, motorboats and swimmers, all on a beach big enough for several families to enjoy the water.

There is a campground, but we didn't venture into it. There is a trail that goes up and down a hill at the park, linking the beach to the boat launch area. It's quite the walk, and perfect if you're looking for a workout.

Hayes is a nice little park for a day getaway in the area, and I'm looking forward to hitting its beach later this summer. The water looked clean, not to mention inviting. Not to mention a nice retreat for an afternoon. Just don't forget the lighter fluid.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fire engulfs hundreds of acres of forest near Grayling

A fire broke out in the forest just outside Grayling in Crawford County at about 2:30 p.m. today, according to 9 and 10 News.

Officials are saying the fire is reaching toward state campgrounds in the area, and more than 100 homes are being evacuated in and around Grayling, north of M-72. Coincidentally, I was just up on M-72 a few weeks ago, coming home from backpacking Sand Lakes Quiet Area.

The fires spanned approximately 1,000 acres in the dry heat, which set records downstate near Detroit. It has consumed one home so far, according to the AP, which had its story published in places such as in Texas and the Albany Times Union in New York. Resurrection Life Church east of Grayling is serving as an emergency center for the people that have been displaced.

Below, I've created a Storify post to document some of the social media posts on the fire. (P.S. It's my first time using the service, please let me know how I can improve!)

Monday, May 23, 2011

First trip of the year: backpacking Sand Lakes Quiet Area near Kalkaska

It's been an annual unofficial kickoff to the summer season every year since I was 10: The May camping trip with the Christian Service Brigade from St. David's Episcopal Church in Southfield. I've learned much of my outdoors skills not from the Boy Scouts, but from this group, which routinely went on trips tougher than most of the ones we did in Scouts.

Even after graduating college, I still can't get away from this group, as it's been so important to my growing up. And with the opportunity to travel still, why not continue?

This year's planned trip was to be completed as a backpacking trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, but with the size of our group and the limited number of reservations at the Lake Michigan dunes, we settled for a smaller chain of lakes I had not heard of before called Sand Lakes Quiet Area.

Our trip started right outside Guernsey Lake, where we crashed Friday night after arriving. The next morning, we caught the picturesque view of the lake in the early hours of the day.

Here, my friend Adam ended up finding the first of his many wild creatures of the trip: a small goldfinch that had difficulty flying. He stood in Adam's hand shaking before he took him into the woods.

After hiking about 2.5 miles (part of which is part of the North Country Trail) to our campsite at Lake No. 2 - the lakes didn't have names, just numbers - a few of us went out to explore what was at the other lakes. After climbing up an old fire trail, we stopped to check for directions, which one of the men I learned much about the outdoors showed us the proper way to interpret this map:

Walking up the path (while, unfortunately, I began to feel slightly dehydrated), we stumbled across Lake No. 4, which had no campers and was quite tranquil.

After crashing the night in a makeshift campsite, complete with fire, beef stew made from summer sausage and (unfortunately) a little rain, we left the next morning and hiked a mile back to the car.

It was nice to see a new area of Michigan, even though it wasn't as exciting as some of the other places along bigger lakes. It was a good hike for the beginning backpackers in our group, not too long with a good mix of inclines, and no set campsites. If Sleeping Bear Dunes is unavailable, this was a nice, but smaller, alternative.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Breaking them in

It's been at least nine months since I toyed with the idea of creating an outdoors blog. Tonight, while breaking in a new pair of hiking boots, was the last push of motivation I needed to actually start.

I'm not completely sure what I'm looking for, but I plan on keeping tabs on the Michigan outdoor scene, including camping, hiking, canoeing and perhaps a little fishing and hunting (neither of which are my forte). I've grown quite fond of the state I've lived in my entire life, and have seen a wide array of the outdoors here. With my background in journalism, it only makes sense to blog my experiences, thoughts, photos and other tidbits on one of the most powerful mediums in the world. I won't go into my background here, you can see it on this page

Back to the hiking boots. I purchased a pair of RedHead hiking boots from Outdoor World at Great Lakes Crossing a few weeks ago. Seeing them at a dirt-cheap price, I knew it was time to invest in a nice pair. Walking around the Village of Clinton, where I call home now, I found myself moving at a faster pace than usual. I can only hope this continues on with my experiences outdoors.