Monday, July 14, 2014

A trip long overdue: a weekend to the Saginaw Bay region

The beach along the Saginaw Bay, complete with logs, shells and sand. 
It's been a long six months since the last post on here, and many things have come up that have prevented updates. I was unable to attend my planned trip to Tahquamenon Falls State Park as I originally planned, and I've been unable to get out at any other time. That changed this past weekend.

My wife and I were able to travel north to the Saginaw Bay region for a weekend getaway this past weekend, just to recharge and enjoy getting away. We traveled to several spots in Saginaw, Bay City, Midland and Mount Pleasant, all areas we were familiar with since we are Central Michigan University alumni, and I spent several months working in the area several years ago.

We made it a point to visit Bay City State Recreation Area, a park we've visited before, but in the fall.
The pathway along the simple, one-mile loop trail around
a lagoon and the Saginaw Bay.
They've made some changes to the park since our last visit in 2010, including a new splash park that had dozens of visitors enjoying themselves. We ventured away from the splash park and walked along the lagoon trail, a short hike around the lagoon and leading to the sandy beach on the Saginaw Bay.

The trail isn't difficult and can be done by anyone, as it is cleared with some paving. But it provides a nice insight into the nature of the area, complete with swans swimming in the lagoon, and the chirp of the bullfrogs in the cattails. 

Starting at the visitor center (a nice insight into some history and ecology of the Saginaw Bay region), the trail has various inlets to get a closer look at the lagoon and its wildlife. Seagulls, red-winged blackbirds and blue jays were just some of the birds that could be seen and heard walking along the trail, along with seagulls flying around the waterfront of Lake Huron.

The lagoon, complete with algae, swans and bullfrogs.
Venturing off the trail near the bay is an option on the trail, one that several families took that morning to swim in the bay. The beach was lined with discarded shells and a smooth tree trunk that rested on the edge of the water, one that had its bark removed by the water and polished. The sights from the beach included some industrial smokestacks in the distance, something I've always found that kind of view a bit off-putting, but it speaks to the area we were in, so it adds to the experience, I suppose.

I forgot how nice Bay City State Recreation Area is for a day adventure. The parking lot was practically empty, and there are several pavilions to host events at. The trail system offers several options, with the lagoon trail being just one. It's worth a day trip if nearby.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Yet another outdoor adventure at Island Lake State Recreation Area, although this time with a plethora of snow

The snowy, snowy scene at Island Lake State Rec Area near Brighton this past weekend. The perfect weather for sledding.

Since my trip to Island Lake State Recreation Area is becoming an annual thing, typing out a recap begins to get old after three years.

Instead, some photos from the snow-filled weekend will suffice. We had more snow for the weekend than I can remember in previous years, including last year's drought with no snow, which made the winter activities of sledding and cross-country skiing all the better. It seems Heikki Lunta was looking down upon us this past weekend.

Out on the trail. Some hiked, others skied. 

Running down the small hills throughout the trails. 

A light snowfall happened throughout our trip, making for a pristine time

Very little falling took place on this ski trip.

Sledding at Kensington Metropark returned this year. Lots of snow made the
slopes nice and slick.

Never a plastic sled. Always use a metal runner sled.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Looking ahead to 2014, several local trips on the radar

Reviewing my post from earlier this year on where I'd like to go in 2013, I realized only one of those trips actually happened. It happens, but with less vacation time this year because of a trip with my new wife to Hawaii, I suppose it was bound to happen. And no, I don't regret going to Hawaii. Fantastic place to visit.

Going forward, with less planned on my calendar in 2014, here's hoping I can find a way to visit a few other sites that I haven't seen or it's been a while since I was last there. I've got some places I plan to see, what I'd like to see and what I probably won't see.

What I plan on seeing

Island Lake State Recreation Area

This is an annual trip, but it's one I enjoy so much that I've practically gone every year for the last 15
Here's hoping there's snow this year.
years. Usually in the third weekend in January, the weekend consists of sledding, cross-country skiing and tobogganing, as long as the weather holds up its end of the bargain with providing snow.

Combine the winter activities with a group of great people and some tasty eats, and it's a trip. The backwoods cabins tucked in the back of the park make for that up-north feel when you're only in Livingston County. No electricity inside means lanterns light your way. The sounds of snowmobiles and mountain bikes come through the brush along the trail. It's a great place in the winter.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park

It's been almost 10 years since I last visited this park with the same group, but they are planning on returning for a weekend trip in May. The falls are a spectacular view and visiting Lake Superior is something I always long for, with it being my favorite Great Lake.

For a weekend trip, Tahquamenon Falls is a lengthy drive, but will hopefully be worth it. Seeing the shipwreck museum near Whitefish Point is something I enjoy seeing, and hiking in the spring will be a new experience for me up there.

What I'd like to see

Sunset near Oscoda.
Michigan's Sunrise Coast
I was able to make it to Oscoda this past summer for a long weekend, but there's no guarantee that I'll
make it up there again this year. I've spent many summers driving the stretch of US-23 along the eastern coast of Michigan's Lower Peninsula and find it more fulfilling than visiting the west coast of the state. It's less crowded and there are more hidden gems to find.

Bay City State Park

It's been several years since I went to Bay City State Park when I lived in Bay City, but going back to view the Saginaw Bay is up there on my list. While it might not be the cleanest water, the view is great and it's located nearby Bay City, a town I really enjoyed living in, albeit for four months.

Grand Haven State Park
The pier at Grand Haven.

I've been here several times, the last being in 2012. The pier is beautiful and the walk along it to the lighthouse is well worth it to see the view of Lake Michigan. Watching the boats come into the harbor on the Grand River is beautiful. One of my favorite places in the entire state.

Places I probably won't see

Mackinac Island

It's been several years since visiting Mackinac Island, and this year will probably be no exception. While I've wanted to take my wife north of the Mackinac Bridge, with costs and other life events getting in the way, I don't see a trip to Mackinac Island in the future. But it would be nice.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Another wonderful place to visit, especially off-season. I don't envision a trip here this year, but it's always great to dream. I've been to the dunes several times, and always enjoy exploring the park and the surrounding area near Traverse City. But probably not this year.

Port Crescent/Sleeper State Park

It's been many, many years since my last trip up here, but it's a place I've talked about going for three years now with a good friend of mine. There's not much at the tip of the Thumb, but the view of Lake Huron is great and I've heard Port Austin is a quaint town.

Is there another area I should explore this year? I'd love to hear some suggestions, I'm always looking for new places to explore.