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!