Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ski Asylum Lake

When it starts to snow in Kalamazoo, Asylum Lake Preserve is my first thought for cross-country skiing.  With nearly 300 acres of land, it's easy to ski for an hour or more through a mix of oak woods, restored prairies, shoreline, and rolling meadows.  Since fresh snow means slick roads,  I like to minimize travel during snowstorms.  Since Asylum Lake is right in town, it works.   Parking is convenient; street parking on Winchell Avenue is always clear and the parking lots on Drake and Parkview are usually plowed by mid-morning.

Asylum Lake's convenience makes it a popular destination for dog walkers, hikers, and ice fishermen, which means it almost never develops a good set of ski tracks.  Last summer's trail work seems to have increased the gravel compared to the old paths and I put some new scratches on my skis on Tuesday.  (This would be less of a problem with deeper snow and will likely improve by next season.)

The preserve is owned and managed by Western Michigan University

Asylum Lake Preserve
immediately north of WMU's engineering campus
Kalamazoo, MI 49008

main parking lot off Drake Road between Stadium Dr and Parkview Ave
a small lot is off Parkview Avenue west of Tamsin Ave
street parking is available on Winchell Avenue west of Shelter Point Dr.  


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Grand Rapids Day Hikes

Best Easy Day Hikes Grand Rapids
Kevin Revolinski

This guidebook is part of the Falcon Guide Where-To-Hike series.  It's a slim volume (about 90 pages) that would easily fit in a jacket pocket.  It includes descriptions of 20 trails near Grand Rapids, with a small map of each trail system.  All of the trails are reasonably close to Kalamazoo.  Several of the trails are in parks on Lake Michigan or in popular State Recreation Areas, but over half of the trails were new to me.

Here are a selection of trails from the book:
1. Otis Sanctuary
1.9 mile lollipop

2. Millennium Park
4.4 mile lollipop

3. Pickerel Lake
3.4 mile loop

4. Cooper Creek/Spencer Forest
 3.0 mile lollipop

5. Aman Park
3.7 mile loop

6. Hofma Park
3.0 mile loop 

7. Swan Creek (Allegan State Game Area)
5.9 mile loop

8. Warren Townsend
1.6 mile double loop 

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, other booksellers, and libraries.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hiking Indiana

Hiking Indiana
Sally McKinney

This guidebook, by the author of  Country Roads of Indiana, covers 100 day hikes in 45 parks throughout Indiana.   It's part of the same series as Hiking Michigan  and it features the same "Trail Finder": a list of all the trails that summarizes distance, difficulty, and trail features.   Each entry includes a trail map, a thumbnail state map showing its location, information about the park or recreation area, description of the trails, and a list of nearby points of interest.  The book includes a few black and white photos.  The hikes are divided into three regions: north, central, south.

Indiana Hikes relatively close to Kalamazoo

1. Elkhart
Elkhart Architecture Walk 3.5 miles
Elkhart Riverside Parks 3.7 miles
Bonneyville Mill North Loop 1 mile
Bonneyville Mill Lookout Loop 0.83 miles
"Elkhart, an early settlement at a river junction eventually became a sprawling manufacturing community.  Despite its growth, Elkhart has preserved many historic buildings, including early commercial buildings, churches, and homes."

Other areas of interest: Elkhart Environmental Center, Heart City Bike Tour (bike map pdf)

2. South Bend Riverside Parks
Howard Park to East Race Waterway 1 mile
"Hike through riverside parks that provide green oases in a large metropolitan area."

Other areas of interest:  Chapin Park National Register District, West Washington National Register District.

3. Potato Creek State Park
Quaking Aspen Loop 1 mile
Porter Rea Loop 2.5 miles
"The 327-acre lake was formed by stopping the waters of Potato Creek with an earthen dam."

Other areas of interest:  Lake Maxinkuckee

3 LaPorte County Parks
Hickory Hollow 0.75 miles
Crabapple Corners 0.8 miles

"In northern LaPorte County, the sandy lake bottom remained after the ancient Lake Chicago receded.  In southern LaPorte County, small freshwater lakes and moraines were formed by glacial action."
[Luhr County Park]

Other areas of interest: Pinhook Bog

4. Indiana Dunes State Park
Dune Mountain 1.5 miles
Forest to Dune Ridge 3.75 miles 
"There were four major glaciations here during the last million years.  Working in concert, glaciers, wind, and water created a distinctive and unusual moraine topography near the Lake Michigan shore."

Other areas of interest: Calumet Bike Trail

5. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Miller Woods 1.1 miles
West Beach-- Dune Succession Loop 1 mile
West Beach Loop 1.65 miles
Cowles Bog to Beach 2 miles
Beach to Cowles Bog 3.0 miles
Chellberg Farm Loop 1.2 miles
 "Behind the beach are the shifting sand dunes and behind them the swales, or depressions.  Farther back from the lake, there may be forest, then a marsh, than another type of forest, then a stream."

Other areas of interest: Paul H. Douglas Center for Environmental Education

6. Chain O'Lakes State Park
Self-Guided Nature 0.5 miles
Sand Lake 1.3 miles
"Canoeists can put in at Miller Lake; paddle east through channels connecting three small lakes; and cross Sand lake, Bowen Lake, and Dock Lake before arriving at Long Lake, which is the end of the chain.  Hikers find trails around these lakes and use bridges to cross the narrow channels."  In this park, the lack of motorboats greatly enhances ta wildlife-watching experience."
Other areas of interest: Lake Wawasee, Lake Webster, Sylvan Lake

7. Pokagon State Park
Hell's Point 2.5 miles
Bluebird Hills  2 miles
"Before European settlers came, this area was favored by the Potawatomi Indians.  In fact, Pokagon State Park is named for two Potawatomi leaders, a father and son, who transferred title to three million acres to the federal government for about three cents an acre."
Other areas of interest:  Pigeon River Fish and Wildlife Area

This book seems to be out of print.  Amazon or  Barnes & Noble may have used copies.  Both Amazon and Google books let you preview selected pages of the book.  I borrowed a copy from my local library.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Backroads and Byways of Michigan

Backroads and Byways of Michigan
Drives, Day Trips & Weekend Excursions
Matt Forster

This guidebook describes a dozen drives throughout the state of Michigan.  Each chapter starts with a description of the route (but you'll need your own map to visualize it).  The focus of the book isn't on the roads but on the attractions in the communities along the route.  Each drive would be an easy daytrip (typically 3-4 hours) but many of the recommended stops would justify a couple of hours each, so you couldn't visit them all in a day since each chapter describes a dozen or more options.  Contact information for the attractions and for recommended accommodations is listed at the end of every chapter.  Each chapter is illustrated with a number of black & white photos.

Two of the recommended drives are in southwest Michigan.   I've exerpted a few quotes from each of them.

Through the Heart of Michigan: Following the Grand River
Eaton Rapids, Lansing, Grand Ledge, Lowell, Grand Rapids, Rockford, Grand Haven
Length: 150 miles
Time 2.5 - 4 hours
"This cross-state drive bypasses the highways, misses the truck stops and fast food joints, and requires stops at the lights on Main Street of a dozen small towns.  For the right person, it's a relaxing journey through mid-America-- two lanes, speed zones, fields of corn and wheat, grain silos, once-grand Victorian homes, and empty downtown storefronts."
Selected highlights:
Ten Pound Fiddle coffehouse Lansing
Elderly Instruments Lansing
The Ledges, Grand Ledge
Fallasburg Park north of Lowell
Ada Covered Bridge
Frederik Meijer Gardens Grand Rapids
Heritage Hill, Voigt House, Meyer May House Grand Rapids
Gerald R Ford Museum Grand Rapids
John Ball Zoo Grand Rapids
Grand Haven State Park Grand Haven

The Grape Coast: Michigan's Wine Country
Paw Paw, Coloma, Harbor Country, South Haven, Saugatuck
Length: 175 miles
Time 3.5 - 4 hours
"Lake Michigan helps temper the local climate-- the vast body of water holds the summer's warmth and prolongs the growing season by a couple of months."
Selected highlights:
St Julian Winery Paw Paw,
The Chocolate Garden Coloma
Jollay Orchards Harbor Country
Warren Dunes State Park
Warren Woods
Grand Mere State Park
South Haven beach South Haven
Michigan Maritime Museum South Haven
Saugatuck Chain Ferry Saugatuck
Mount Baldhead Saugatuck
Oval Beach Saugatuck
Saugatuck Dunes State Park Saugatuck

 Available  from Amazon, other booksellers, and libraries.