Thursday, April 17, 2014

Wildflower season begins

Despite Kalamazoo's long, snowy winter, the 2014 Spring wildflower season is starting at a fairly typical time, perhaps a few days later than last year.  I visited the Kalamazoo Nature Center today and the blooms were just starting.  Hepatica were probably at their peak, with lots of blossoms open, only a few in bud, and almost none past flowering.

Harbinger of Spring were also near their peak, if this tiny flower can be said to have a peak.  Some years, they bloom much earlier.

The other ephemeral wildflowers are just getting started.  For the most part, Dicentras were just emerging, although a handful of early Dutchman's Breeches were in flower.

Marsh Marigolds were budding but they only had a couple of flowers.  A lot of the spotted leaves of Trout Lilies were up, but only a few flowers.   A few Mayapple umbrellas were emerging.  I saw one small Bloodroot in bloom.
Most of the Spring Beauty were still dormant but I did find a couple in flower.
If the weather stays warm, there may be many new blooms in the next few days.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring Events 2014

After a long winter, with lots of snow, Spring in Kalamazoo brings warmer weather, birds, wildflowers, and morels and plenty of opportunities for hiking and biking.   Here are some local events to celebrate Spring.

Spring events near Kalamazoo

March 1- April 30 Butterflies are Blooming at Meijer Gardens Grand Rapids

April 19 Annual Lakeshore Earth Day Celebration Grand Haven

April 19-27, National Park Week
April 22 Free Admission for Earth Day at Kellogg Bird Sanctuary 9:00am - 5:00pm Augusta

April 26 Earth Day celebration and Free Admission at Kalamazoo Nature Center Kalamazoo
April 26 Thornapple Woodpecker Festival Middleville

April 26 Green-A-Thon 2013 Celery Flats Portage

May 3-10 Tulip Time festival Holland
May 3 Blossomtime Grand Floral Parade 1pm St Joseph - Benton Harbor

May 2-3 Victorian Days Grand Ledge

May 10 Spring Blooms in the Dunes (and Native Plant Sale 9am - 3pm) Gillette Visitor Center Hoffmaster State Park Muskegon

May 10 Lees' Kayak & Canoe Demo day Kalamazoo

May 10-17 Kalamazoo Bike Week Kalamazoo

May 16-18 Great Lakes Kite Festival 2013 Grand Haven

May 17 Family Fishing Fair Ramona Park 10am-1pm Portage

May 24 Lees' Kayak & Canoe Demo day Kalamazoo  
May 24 Kalamazoo Area Wild Ones Native Plant Sale People's Food Co-op Kalamazoo 

Also consider:
Vegetable planting dates

Earth Day Activities throughout Michigan

Wild Ones (Kalamazoo Chapter) Programs & Field Trips
Bike Friendly Kalamazoo's  Event listings

Battle Creek Cleanwater Events

Tawas Point Birding Festival Iosco County May 15–18

Pure Michigan May Events

Event listings from Discover Kalamazoo
DNR has calendars for State Park events in April, May
Gazelle Sports' calendar of West Michigan Races & Running Workshops

League of Michigan Bicyclists Michigan Bicycling Calendar

Outdoor Athlete has lists for Michigan running, biking and triathlon events.

Michigan Festivals and Events Association Events browser

Spring weekend getaways

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Chicago Flower and Garden Show

Yesterday, I visited the Chicago Flower and Garden Show for the first time.  The big exhibit hall on Navy Pier was full of blossoms and greenery.  The show gardens were impressive, with waterfalls, koi ponds, fire pits, trees, playsets,  garden sheds, and gazebos-- all brought indoors for the week long show.
The structural elements of the gardens were surrounded by flowers from all seasons-- strikingly different than the melting piles of snow outside.  Forcing is easy for Spring bulbs, but these gardens had a wide array of plants including tree-sized rhododendrons and crabapples.   

Besides the dozen, or so, show gardens, there were demonstrations-- cooking, potting, gardening-- and a "marketplace" where vendors pitched everything from bulbs and cut flowers to home saunas and kitchen devices that slice and dice.   The show also had smaller exhibits, like windowbox gardens from various garden clubs.
Chicago Flower and Garden Show through March 23
$17 weekdays-$19 weekends

Rather than drive all the way to Chicago, I took the South Shore Line (or the NICTD, its less- charming modern name) from Michigan City, IN to downtown Chicago.  The train was on-time and was much easier than driving through heavy traffic. The round-trip fare, at $17, cost less than parking and tolls.  This was another first for me and I would do it again.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Maple Syrup Season 2014

While my colleagues complain that this winter will never end, the first signs of Spring are coming: longer days, migrating birds, and flowing sap.

Maple Syrup Festivals near Kalamazoo

March 8-9 Maple Sugar Madness Sarett Nature Center Benton Harbor

March 8-9 Maple Sugar Time Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Chesterton, Indiana

March 15-16 Maple Sugar Festival Kalamazoo Nature Center Kalamazoo

March 15-16 Sugar Camp Days Bendix Woods County Park, New Carlisle, IN

March 22 Sugarbush Festival  Blandford Nature Center Pancake Breakfast  9am-12noon Grand Rapids

April 25 - 27 Wakarusa Maple Syrup Festival, Wakarusa, Indiana

April 25 - 27 74th Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival Vermontville

Also consider

Maple Sugaring from Michigan Advantage

Oakland County Maple Syrup Events

Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival
Maple Syrup festivals in the Midwest (mostly Wisconsin and Minnesota)

The Kalamazoo Nature Center shared these links on making syrup on their Facebook page

-Michigan Maple Syrup Association:
-Ohio State University Extension: Fact Sheet Hobby Maple Syrup Production:
-Maple Field Guide (specs on other species of maple):
-Sugar Bush Supply Co. in Mason, MI:

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Quietwater Symposium

Yesterday was the 19th Annual Quiet Water Symposium at Michigan State University's livestock Pavillion.  It offered a full day of exhibitions, speakers, and raffles focused on canoes, kayaks and related activities.
I was really impressed by the craftsmanship on display in the handmade boats.
 While it was not as fun as an afternoon on the river, it did point to warmer days ahead when the waters are not frozen.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ski Eliason Nature Reserve

When I visited Eliason Nature Reserve, one of Kalamazoo's newest parks, in the fall , it seemed like it would make a nice place for a short cross-country ski outing.  I took the opportunity of this afternoon's cold weather to try skiing the park.

The park doesn't offer an extensive system of trails.  I finished the only trail in less than an hour and I was moving fairly slowly.  The terrain is pretty mild, with a few gentle slopes.  The snow was pretty hard-packed this afternoon, which made the short downhill sections a bit more challenging.  With fresh snow,  it would be very accessible for beginners.

Despite being closed to motor vehicles, the reserve had been used extensively by snowmobiles.  They had packed the main trail pretty solidly and they had gone off-trail frequently.

If Eliason's one trail isn't enough, it's a short walk to Bishop's Bog.  I did that and extended my outing by another hour.  West Lake would be another option, with just a bit longer of a connecting walk.

Eliason Nature Reserve
9202 Portage Industrial Drive
Portage, MI 49024
[address is approximate]

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ski Pigeon Creek

I first read about Pigeon Creek Park in the guidebook Michigan Winter Trails but I didn't have a chance to ski it until yesterday.  Pigeon Creek is an Ottawa County park between Holland, MI and Grand Haven, about an hour's drive northwest of Kalamazoo.  The park offers over 10 miles of ski trails.  All the trails are groomed for traditional, diagonal-stride skiing and some trails are also groomed for skate-skiing.  About three miles of trail are lit for night skiing.  The park features a separate snowshoe trail and a lighted sled hill near the lodge.

Pigeon Creek is close enough to Lake Michigan to get lake effect snow, much like Love Creek County Park to the south, so it's worth checking when Kalamazoo's snow is insufficient.  The county regularly updates trail conditions on their Winter Sports Hot Line: (616) 738-9531.  Yesterday, their snow seemed just as deep as Kalamazoo's.

The trails are well-marked and there are many inter-connections making it easy to create loops of varying distances.  I skied for about an hour which certainly didn't exhaust all of the options.  The loops I took were very beginner friendly, with no steep hills or difficult sections.  There are steeper, more challenging, sections and these are well-marked.  Easier alternative routes are always available.
The county provides an online trail map (pdf).  Physical maps were posted at most interesections, making orientation simple.

The park's lodge is open weekday evenings and all day on weekends.  They have ski rentals available during those times and a concession sells snacks, like hot dogs, chili, and hot chocolate.  I didn't have a chance to try it since I visited in the morning.

There were only a handful of people in the park on a snowy Tuesday.  I imagine it's more popular on weekends and evenings.

Pigeon Creek is named for the now extinct Passenger Pigeon that used to flock to the area.  The trails pass through mature maple-beech forest, hemlocks, and planted pines.

directions: From US 31, north of Holland, take Stanton Road east three miles to the park entrance.

Pigeon Creek Park 
12524 Stanton Street
West Olive, MI 49460