Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A collection of stories on Michigan's wolf hunt

The total count of wolves harvested after three days
of the season.

As of the morning of Nov. 18, six wolves have been harvested in Michigan's Upper Peninsula as a part of the first-ever wolf hunt this state has seen. But the hunt has been widely criticized by many, saying the wolves don't need to be hunted because the case made for the hunt had been falsified by state leaders. Proponents of the hunt, including the director of Michigan's Department of Natural Resources, say the dangers wolves pose to humans and livestock are enough to push forward with the hunt.

The hunt allows for a small number of wolves to be harvested in three areas: near Ironwood in Gogebic County, a portion of land surrounding Houghton spanning four counties and another area spanning parts of Mackinac and Luce counties.

No more than 43 wolves can be taken during the season.

I've said it before: I'm not a hunter, nor do I live in the areas with wolves in the woods. I've had one indirect experience with wolves, hearing them howl on Isle Royale when I visited in 2005. My day-to-day life is not affected by this hunt or the decision to start the hunt. But the issue has sparked so much controversy in this state that it's worth sharing some of what's been written. I myself curated some content on the discussion for the wolf hunt this time last year as it was being debated.

MLive wrote a weeklong series on the wolf hunt, talking to U.P. residents nearby and examining some of the claims being made for the hunt. I have not had the chance to read it all yet, but the series looks at a wide range of topics. You can find most of them here.

Before the wolf hunt opened, a vigil was held in Mount Pleasant, my former home for four years while attending college. The vigil was put on by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, who believe the wolf is a "brother" and shares a history with the Native Americans that have resided in Michigan.

The outdoors editor for the Toledo Blade in Ohio penned a nice piece on the hunt, talking to several people regarding the hunt and providing a nice, out-of-state viewpoint.

One of the big names people will recognize in all this talk is southeast Michigan native and rocker Iggy Pop, who has written a letter to Gov. Rick Snyder asking him to halt the hunt.

And one of the more visual images comes in the form of this Detroit Free Press video, which talks to the man who harvested the first wolf (albeit off camera) and shows the wolf in the pickup truck. It's some very real imaging and worth a watch (Disclosure: I work for the same company that owns the Free Press).

I'm on the lookout for any inspiring pieces on this hunt. If you find any interesting stories, I'd love to see them.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Lansing State Journal profiles dwindling Isle Royale wolf population

Every few months, I stumble across a post on the wolf-moose relationship found on Isle Royale in Lake Superior. I've seen these pieces in publications such as The New York Times and typically take the time to read them throughout.

But one recently caught my eye that has exceeded the rest: This piece by the staff at the Lansing State Journal, entitled "Silence of the Wolves." This piece reads like an interactive magazine, complete with courtesy and staff photos, narrative storytelling and a video, which is well worth the nearly seven-minute watch:

 This is a great read and worth the time to spend on it (Disclosure: I work for Gannett, the same company that owns and operates LSJ). It details the struggles of the wolf population in recent years, which has dwindled because of a lack of mating and genetic diversity on the island located in Lake Superior. More information on the wolves relationship with moose on the island can be found on this page, Wolves and Moose of Isle Royale.

Isle Royale, as I've written before, holds a special place in my heart from the trip I took there in 2005. We ran into several moose on the island, but never a wolf. I can still remember, though, hearing the wolves howl one night while staying at McCargoe Cove on the island's north side. It's a sound tough to forget, and hopefully won't be one that goes extinct at the park.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The J-stroke on the Manistee River is the best way to stay out of the brush

The Manistee River in early October is a wonderful trip to take. It's too bad (or is it?) others don't take advantage of
the water and the autumn colors that comes with it.

Most people don't spend a weekend in October canoeing in northern Michigan. That activity is reserved for the summertime when people have time.

But fall canoeing is one of my favorite times to go, provided it's not pouring rain like it did this past weekend west of Grayling along the Manistee River.

The Manistee has a slew of coniferous trees gracing its bank,
meaning the fall color I had looked forward to wasn't
completely there like last year's trip.
Staying in the Grayling State Forest group camp area along M-72 in Crawford County, we, the group of Christian Service Brigade members from St. David's Episcopal Church in Southfield, canoed a small stretch of the Manistee River. The river, which runs from the central northern Lower Peninsula west into Lake Michigan, contained quite a few meandering bends and small islands dotted throughout the water, but we saw no one else on the water, and that always makes for a smooth experience.

This was also a first milestone for me, as I typically avoid manning the stern of the canoe on trips such as this. I ended up in the back of the boat, a job much different than I'm used to in the front. While canoeing rivers, the man in the back is essentially the rudder, steering the boat and avoiding all those rocks, tree limbs and other hazards along the river, as well as making sure the boat stays in the correct position. I'm not as confident about my j-stroke (a stroke used to help steer a canoe) as others, so I tended to avoid the back and provide paddle power and limited steering using a draw stroke in the past.

Getting ready to launch the canoes into the Manistee
River. We took a lazy, five-hour trip down the river
before it got dark and too cold.
But with the need to provide some experience, I found myself in the back of the boat for the trek, which took us about 5 hours to complete, longer than we anticipated with breaks and other issues that arose. It started off rough for my partner and I, as I got ahold of steering the boat. My instincts on which side to paddle were a bit off; I was doing the j-stroke on the opposite side, thinking it would work. It did not, and we may have spun a few times throughout the trip.

But overall, my partner and I worked fairly well together on the river, even though he told me he was "never canoeing with me again." I think it had something to do with me yelling out the paddle/draw orders, something that happens when you're with someone who's never canoed before. It's a difficult thing to do, to canoe with someone. There's a reason they say it can truly test a relationship.

Overall, the river didn't have many obstacles to it, making it a seemingly smooth ride. We would hit a rock or log every once in a while that we couldn't see, but all the rain in the area helped raise the water levels, eliminating some of those from sight. It's not a fast-paced river, but flows enough to keep you moving if you plan on admiring some of the real estate along the banks.

One major problem we found, and a major problem it is when you have six kids with lots of energy, happened when we stopped for lunch. Long story short:

Yes, that happened. It wasn't as bad as we leaders thought it would be. One of the kids even brought a bag of beef jerky with him that appeared to keep the hunger at bay. Lunch for myself consisted of a glass of Coca-Cola and a warm cup of hot cocoa. When you're canoeing, that's all you really need to keep yourself going.

Thankfully, we avoided a majority of the rain while on the river that afternoon. It poured at camp the morning before we took to the river, and it poured later that night before going to bed. It rained so much that at some point, a pair of the tents we set up were flooded and their occupants ended up sleeping elsewhere. It was one of the more wet fall trips I've taken with the group in recent memory.

Fall canoeing is a great experience to do, especially when the weather permits. There's something about the crispness in the air and the colors changing that makes it such a great trip down the river. Has there been a canoe trip worth making in the fall? I'd love to know more about it!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The "natural" view of ArtPrize in Grand Rapids

It's not a typical topic that gets posted on this blog, but with all the photos my wife and I took this weekend at Grand Rapids' ArtPrize, I  wanted to find some way to share there here.

Many of the pieces involve the outdoors or are made from natural materials during the competition, which is quite the sight to see in downtown Grand Rapids in the early autumn. It's the second year we've gone there, and it's been intriguing to see what people have come up with.

The event is a public art competition, but we've always enjoyed just seeing what is created and placed in the city. What follows are some of the entries we saw and enjoyed, and that have a more "natural" feel to them. Enjoy!

This one, "The Tree of Life" was done using real leaves and drying them out.
Very cool.

One of our favorites: "Earth Giant," made completely from items such as
rocks, moss and wood. One of the cooler entries we saw. Voted as one of the
Top 10.

This painting of a dahlia, entitled "kaBOOM," did just that with its color.
It really stuck out to us.
While not made from natural materials, these flags were placed in the
Grand River. They've had some entries in the river, including some horses
made from wood last year. These were quite pretty waving in the wind, but
not as impressive of the horses.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Proud Lake: a convenient day trip from Metro Detroit

Beautiful Proud Lake. While not featured in this photo, the lake was full of canoes this past weekend.

My family typically spends each holiday weekend at the beginning and end of summer camping. Although while most people in the area travel farther north, they have typically spent it closer to home. This year was no different, and my wife and I spent the day out at Proud Lake State Recreation Area in Wixom with my family over Labor Day weekend.

The campground is situated off Wixom Road, close to a new subdivision in the area. That part of the Metro area is starting to develop fast, and the park is secluded among the woods and lake, which is part of the Huron River.

This was the first time I can remember going to Proud Lake, though my parents swear I went as a young child. My first impressions of the campground itself? Not what I'm used to when it comes to many of the state parks I've stayed at. It seems it's either all-or-nothing with the campsites; either the site is secluded, large and full of trees, or its a segment of an open patch of land cramming with all the neighbors. This campground falls into the latter category. Sites were cramped and small, definitely not like other campgrounds I've stayed at.

A pretty nice butterfly we stumbled across on the trail.
That being said, the lake itself is quite attractive. We did not see much more of the park, since the trails were filled with too many mosquitoes.

The woods are a nice walk, with plenty of flowers and other scenery we found during our short walk.

Spending the afternoon out there included a couple games of horseshoe, a game my dad has recently enjoyed playing since acquiring a set of horseshoes. After a while, getting the horseshoe to turn over properly mid-throw, and ended up splitting a pair of games with my sister, father and wife.

The park itself was great for a day trip, but I'll try to reserve myself a campsite at another local park, such as Pontiac Lake Recreation Area. But for something different, it was a nice change of pace.

Do you have any tips of things to do while at Proud Lake, or any great photos from a visit? I'd love to see more.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Seven Wonders of Michigan: How many are natural, and how many man-made?

Last week, the Detroit Free Press (and later, my employer, the Observer and Eccentric) posted a survey asking for the Seven Wonders of Michigan: a list of the top seven "wonders" of the great state.

The newspapers are looking for the greatest "wonders" of the state, ranging from natural beauty to man-made feats. It got me thinking for quite a while, what were the most impressive sights in the state?

Here's a list of mine I came up with, and they include several sights in the state's outdoors. It's not anything etched in stone: these are just some ideas I came up with in the last several days while thinking about this premise:

1. The Mackinac Bridge

The "Mighty Mac," as many Michiganders refer to the
bridge as.
While not a natural feature, it conquers one of the toughest natural features the state has: the Straits of Mackinac. Built in 1957, it's the third-longest suspension bridge in the world, going five miles across the straits connecting Mackinaw City in the Lower Peninsula with St. Ignace in the Upper Peninsula, and is the only connection between the two peninsulas of the state.

It's an incredible feat, and save for a few accidents that take place on the bridge in recent years, it's a remarkable gateway to the north part of the state. I've crossed it more than a dozen times, and it's always a bit nerve-wracking crossing it.

It's a modern engineering feat, and is definitely one of the main symbols of the state people associated with Michigan. It's an easy No. 1.

2. Isle Royale National Park

This is my favorite place in the entire state, having spent a week there back in 2005. Remote, quiet and gorgeous, this is a national park that tops most of the others I've seen.

Hiking along the Greenstone Trail back in 2005.
Only accessible by boat or seaplane, the island is a solitary landmass in the middle of Lake Superior, lying closer to Canada than the United States. Rich full of moose, wolves, lakes and mountains, the
island is a hikers paradise. Hiking along the Greenstone Ridge is the main means of moving along the island by foot, and many of the campsites provide ample shelter for travelers, Chicken Bone Lake excluded. That site was a miserable night in the sun.

The island was a hotbed of mining activity in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and signs of that activity can still be seen in the form of mineshafts that dot the island. While hiking, one must be careful not to come too close to these mineshafts, or down you go.

Not only is the island a beautiful, tranquil place to spend some time, it also has the only place I've ever found on Lake Superior to be a warm location for swimming: Moskey Basin on the east side of the island.

3. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Me pumping water from Lake Superior
at Pictured Rocks back in 2006.

Another wonder of the state that lies within the Upper Peninsula, Pictured Rocks is a unique set of rocks along the shore of Lake Superior between Grand Marais and Munising. With about 15 miles of coastline with the picturesque rocks that give the park its name, it's a long hike between ends of the park, and a rewarding one.

I spent nearly a week at the park and hiked the entire Lakeshore Trail, which is part of the North Country Trail, which spans from New York to the Dakotas. The views near the both ends of the trail are breathtaking: the rocks, such as Miners Castle (even after one of the turrets fell shortly before I was there in 2006), and the sand dunes near Grand Marais, where loggers used the sand to run logs down to Lake Superior.

We backpacked the entire trail when I was wrapping up in the Boy Scouts, spending 5 days doing 50 miles. Definitely a challenging hike, but worth it. There are plenty of stops along the way, including a multitude of caves along the lakeshore.

While it's not as remote as Isle Royale, it's got some spots that are definitely worth seeing. There's a reason this is the national park that's going on Michigan's national park quarter in 2018.

4. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Yet another up north staple that is one of the wonders of Michigan. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore composes a lot of land. While the dunes are wonderful to visit and see, my favorite portion of the park has to be South Manitou Island.

The shore of Lake Michigan along South Manitou Island.
It's a gorgeous place to visit.
I've been going to Sleeping Bear Dunes for years, with it being a popular vacation spot for the family, for church and the scouts. The dunes are a fun thing to climb, but I'm partial to the dunes on South Manitou.

There are plenty of attractions to see on South Manitou Island, including the shipwreck Francisco Morazan, a freighter that wrecked off the coast of the island and is clearly visible above the water. A grove of giant oak trees is nearby, an impressive sight with some of the biggest oak trees you've ever seen.

The islands have history lessons as well: it was one of the best agricultural spots for growing crops such as wheat, and features of its agricultural past are all over the island.

The dunes are wonderful, no doubt, but I'm partial to the islands. I've yet to make it to North Manitou Island, but I hear it's just as good.

5. Michigan Stadium

I get away from a natural setting for wonder No. 5 for one of the biggest structures in the state. It's hard to think of many manmade items, such I lean toward the outdoors. But Michigan Stadium is quite the
sight and well deserving as a wonder of Michigan (the state, not the school).

It's quite the view at Michigan Stadium on game day.
I've only been once, to watch my beloved CMU Chippewas play Michigan back in 2006 (which, apparently was the first-ever weather delayed game in the stadium's history. Nonetheless, my alma mater lost). The stadium has hosted more than 100,000 people every game since 1975, and hosted the largest audience for a game when Michigan played Notre Dame in 2011.

It's an incredible scene, sitting in an area that has more people that the city the stadium resides in, Ann Arbor. The students get into it, and the city completely transforms on football Saturdays. It's one reason I always tried to avoid the city on game days when I worked in Washtenaw County.

A game at the stadium is worth going to. Be sure to make it to Ann Arbor this fall, I hear there's a chance for redemption later this month.

6. Grand Haven State Park beach

There are so many beaches in the state that could qualify on this list. The one down US-31, at Holland State Park, is a good one too. But there's just something about the the beach at Grand Haven that truly
captures beauty.

The pier is one of my favorite sights on the western side
of Michigan.
I've gone to the beach at Grand Haven a handful of times, including when I worked in Grand Rapids several years ago and a trip last year in the summer. The pier is one of the more picturesque views in the city, which lays on the Lake Michigan coast. Walking along it, it leads you to the lighthouse at the end, another wonderful sight. The end of the Grand River emptying into the lake provides a wide channel for boats to come in and out from the lake, and the memorials to the Coast Guard are a sight to see as well.

The state park on the beach is always packed, so I have no clue how anyone gets a reservation. It's got no shade, but the campsites lay right on the beach, so at least there's a breeze most days.

If you're looking for that nice, long pier walk, Grand Haven State Park is the right place to go.

7. National Shrine of Cross in the Woods

Here's a bit of a wild card, but I thought it was unique enough to add to the list. I visited this sight back in 2006 coming home from a camping trip in Indian River.
The cross was labeled a national shrine back in 2006.

The crucifix is the largest one in the world, with the figure of Jesus standing at 31 feet tall, cast in iron. It's nestled nicely among the greenery at the Catholic shrine, and is quite the sight.

Sculpted by the same man who did the Spirit of Detroit, Marshall Fredericks, it took him several years to form the sculpture before it was erected in Indian River. Now, it attracts people of all sects, including many non-Catholics. It's worth a visit just to see the shrine, and is a little bit different than the others on this list, but still worthy of being a wonder.

What other items deserve to be on this list? You can vote in the Free Press's or on the Observer and Eccentric's website until next week.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Oscoda and Lumberman's Monument: a visit to Michigan's Sunrise Coast

The view of Lake Huron from the cabin resort just south of Oscoda. It just seems the water goes on for miles.

I've always spent time on Michigan's Sunrise Coast, driving US-23 to Presque Isle almost every summer to spend a week at Camp Chickagami with my family and members of my church, something I've written about here before. But this was an opportunity to see an area I've always driven through and explore a bit.

My wife's (yes, I just got married three months ago) family has spent many of their summers in Oscoda on Lake Huron, and she's always loved going. So this year, we both were invited to come for part of
One of my favorite wildflowers, the Indian Paintbrush. We
found this at Lumberman's Monument.
the week. We stayed three days up north, and I found Lake Huron to be as inviting and beautiful since the last time I saw it.

We stayed at one of the little resorts that dot the northern half of US-23. I've always been curious to see some of the conditions of some of them, since I've driven by them for many years. The place we stayed at wasn't the most attractive on the outside, but the cabins had charm. Besides, you're there to rent the location of the cabin, not the cabins themselves.

The lake was inviting, albeit cold for most of the weekend we were there. The lake was chilly this past Sunday, where it seemed I was the only one along the entire lakeshore that decided to swim. The currents a week ago had some shoots of cold water near the lake bottom, but the top of the water felt warmer.

It was a warm three days, save the rain that poured on the lakeshore the day we left. The cabins were quiet, and the days could be spent working on a puzzle, sitting by the waves and constructing a campfire.

Lumberman's Monument in the Huron National Forest.
My wife also took me to Lumberman's Monument, a location about 30 minutes west of Oscoda that's dedicated to lumberjacks that cleared lands near the Au Sable River and shipped them for development, especially out west. The site is located in the middle of the Huron-Manistee National Forest, and is complete with a ranger station, information cabin and the monument itself.

The site also have a great view of the Cooke Pond Dam, a part of the Au Sable River, and Horseshoe Island. The path had a set of several hundred stairs leading to the base of the cliff,
The view of the millpond from the Au Sable River.
complete with an overview of  the sand dune that loggers used to roll the lumber down to the river.

The base of the stairwell has a small hut filled with samples of the food eaten by lumberjacks, and showed more of the lives of the loggers. It was a fairly complex day, with time only really to eat the food prepared for them.

The visitors center had several attractions, including a local banjo band that was performing under the shelter for some local music:

Lake Michigan is typically the more popular lake, but Lake Huron has something special to offer visitors as well. It was fairly quiet the entire time we were there, considered a holiday weekend. The towns along the Sunrise Coast, starting with Standish and going all the way to Alpena, each have unique charm if you know where to look.

It's a great spot to get away, and not too expensive if you're looking for some lakefront property to wake up to every morning. We fell asleep to the waves crashing on the shore each night, something everyone should experience.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ludington State Park on a warm pre-Memorial Day weekend

The silhouette of one of the kids that came on the backpacking trip against the colors of the sunset over Lake Michigan near Big Sable Lighthouse. 
There's nothing better than the first weekend of the year up north.

This year provided no different, although I had spent some time away in the sun halfway across the world in April after getting married on the island of Oahu.

But the first weekend up north on Lake Michigan proved to be beautiful as well, as I spent a weekend up at Ludington State Park backpacking.

The weekend was beautiful, full of sun with little rain the week before Memorial Day, a traditional weekend I've spent up north with the Christian Service Brigade of St. David's Episcopal Church in Southfield.

The spot at Ludington State Park we stayed at was the group campsite, which is no longer accessible by car like it was the last time I was there many years ago for a fall trip. Instead, we took a scenic route and hiked through the trails in the park and eventually across the sand dunes to the campsite.

The dunes themselves are impressive, including one we climbed which featured a steep incline covered in sand and lacking in easy grips while climbing. We traveled along the trails until we passed by a fork
It was warm enough for many of us to enjoy the warm sun.
An afternoon of beach activities ensued.
and headed toward the lakeshore. After taking the long route to the Jack Pine Campground, we pitched our tents and headed to the beach, which was warm and inviting. Although the water was frigid.

The beach was wide enough to entertain all the participants, throwing Frisbees and fling socks, while some braved the cold waters of Lake Michigan. I was not crazy and merely dipped my hands into the water. That was good enough for me.

Big Sable Point lighthouse. Always a beauty to see, esp. with
the beacon on.
Later in the evening came a hike to Big Sable Lighthouse, which still has a beacon come on in the evening. It appeared there were some lighthouse keepers staying there, although I believe they were volunteers keepers, a program Michigan offers to residents to keep the lighthouses running and provide some rare opportunities. Walking past the lighthouse and overseeing the colors of a Lake Michigan sunset is well worth the walk and trip, and is something everyone should do at least once a year.

Ludington State Park is definitely one worth visiting, even if you're not a backpacker. Several cabins are available, and dozens of RV hookup sites are open as well. There were many people camped at the campground this past weekend, from motor homes to tents. Beating the Memorial Day rush is never a bad thing.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What to do on a winter cabin trip to Island Lake State Recreation Area without any snow?

It was a completely different year for the annual cabin trip to Island Lake State Recreation Area in Brighton Township.

In the 12 or so years I've spent a weekend at the state recreation area, we've always had snow for skiing, sledding and other winter activities. Sometimes it's a bit low and we have to improvise, but we always have snow. Not so this year.

Part of the group before heading out on the morning hike
around Island Lake.
A huge contrast to last year, the little snow on the ground was not enough for any winter activities. No snow meant no sledding, and we had to improvise.

After unpacking Friday night and settling in, Saturday was spent out hiking in the woods. Putting about 5 miles on my boots around the rustic cabin area was a welcome addition, although it felt more like November than January. Winter hiking without snow can be a bit drab, since there is no color and no snow to brighten up the trail. Mud lined the trail, making it difficult to hike up some of the hills without going off the trail.

One of the leaders of the group I went with tried to make the morning hike more interesting by having a  scavenger hunt. Finding items such as birds, bridges, leaves and other items tried to make it more entertaining, which it achieved.

The Huron River. I hear it's a nice canoe ride, although
I've never done it.
The highlights of the trail in the winter have to be the bodies of water along the way. The Huron River runs through the park, including the area we hiked through.

It's narrow through this area of the park before dropping down to Washtenaw County and Ann Arbor. The water traveled slowly through the park, and was a soothing sight in an area that appeared rough and brown.

I've always loved going out to Island Lake, and the trip means I've crossed off one of my top places I need to see this year. It's not too far, and it has such a wide array of space and activities close by. I've never been during the warmer months, and I'm curious to see if my experience would change if I was there seeing swimmers instead of cross-country skiers.

More photos from the trip are below. Take a look:

Bridge over a creek on the trail.

Picture of a picture of a picture. Inception, outdoors style.

No trip is complete without a solid meal. This concoction
consisted of pork with vegetables in a tomato sauce, egg
noodles, a Hawaiian roll and apple cider. Fantastic.

Is there a highlight you have of going to Island Lake? If so, let me know. I'd like to hear more thoughts on a park I've grown up with.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New year, new trips: my target destinations for 2013

The previous year saw probably the least amount of travel around the state I've done in many years. Part of that stems from changing jobs mid-year, eliminating some vacation time.

I traveled some fun places last year, including my traditional trip to Island Lake Recreation Area in January for some winter camping, a summer visit to Grand Haven, a day visit back to Midland and Dow Gardens and a fall canoe trip down the south branch of the Au Sable River during the fall. Looking back, it seems impressive, it just doesn't seem like it compared to other years.

A new year means it's time to look forward though, and it means looking forward to new trips. This year could face challenges personally, as I am getting married in April, and our vacation time will be spent out of state, hopefully in the Hawaiian islands.

But one can dream, right? Here's where I'm planning on going, as well as a "wish list" of places I hope to reach:
Island Lake State Recreation Area
1. Island Lake State Recreation Area/Kensington Metropark 

This, as stated above, is an annual tradition. I've been heading to this park almost every year since I was 9, and I look forward to it each year. We hit the trails going cross-country skiiing, and then drive over to Kensington to hit the giant sledding hills. It's a tradition, and I'm looking forward to going later this month.

Holland State Park (Flickr photo by Gbozik)

2. Holland State Park area 

I paid a visit to this park in 2010 for 4th of July. It's a beautiful beach, even better at sunset. The lighthouse near the river that empties Macatawa Lake is pretty as well. It's just a same that it seems to have E Coli problems, at least when I was there. We'll probably make it out there sometime this summer.

Straits State Park (Flickr photo by joeldinda)

3. Straits State Park area

This is probably my biggest goal this year. My fiance has never been to the Upper Peninsula, and I've told her I'd like to take her there. Even a simple stay at a cabin near St. Ignace would suffice, spending some time in Mackinaw City or near the straits watching the freighters.

Anywhere else I should try and target for a weekend? Have a great 2013 in the outdoors!