Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Winter Events 2014-15

 Snow arrived in Kalamazoo long before the official start of winter.  It looks like this year should offer plenty of opportunities for skiing, sledding, skating, as well as lots of local festivities.

Winter Events near Kalamazoo

December 13, 2014  Santacon Kalamazoo 6pm Kalamazoo 
December 13, 2014 Free Admission Day and Local Gift Fair  9 am -4 pm Kalamazoo Nature Center Kalamazoo

December 14, 2014 - January 5, 2015. Christmas Bird Count
December 31, 2014 New Year's Eve Fest Kalamazoo
January 9-10 2015 Ice Sculpting Competition Holland
January 10-17 2015 Kalamazoo Beer Week Kalamazoo
usually around January 17 Schrier Park Winter Sports FestPortage

January 22 - 25, 2015 Winterfest 2015 Grand Haven

January 31, 2015 Muskegon Snowfest Muskegon

January 30 – February 1, 2015  Icebreaker  South Haven

February 6, 2015 Magical Ice Carving Festival Saint Joseph

February 13 -16,  2015  Great Backyard Bird Count

February 14 - 15, 2015 Free Fishing Winter Weekend throughout Michigan

February 27-28, 2015 Winter Beer Festival Grand Rapids

March 7, 2015 Quietwater Symposium East Lansing

Ongoing events
International Festival of Lights Battle Creek November 22-December 31

Millennium Park Skate Rink
opens in December  Portage

See also

Discover Kalamazoo's event listing

Monthly Events Roundup from Pure Michigan
Gazelle Sports Races and running calendar

Kalamazoo in Winter
from CommunityLink

West Michigan Winter Weekends

Sarrett Nature Center's Weekend Programs Benton Harbor

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Fall Events 2014

Labor Day signals the end of summer and the beginning of fall.  Fall in Kalamazoo is a great time for a walk in the woods, a paddle down a river, or a ride on a bike trail.  It's also time for local harvest festivals.  Have fun!

Fall events around Kalamazoo

September 5-7  Paw Paw Wine and Harvest Festival Paw Paw

September 12-14 Grand Haven Salmon Festival Grand Haven

September 26-27 Fall Festival St. Joseph

October 12 Fall Color Cruise Kalamazoo River Valley Trail Kalamazoo

October 11-12 Cranefest Bellevue

October 11-12 Fennville Goose Festival Fennville

October 18-19 Arts and Eats Tour  Hastings, Middleville, Hickory Corners, and surrounding areas

Also consider:

All Things Autumn from West Michigan Tourist Association

8 Ways to Celebrate Fall from Pure Michigan
Michigan Apple Festivals

Fall recommendations from 52 Michigan Weekends

a Fall Color Tour

Fresh apple cider from VerHages Cider Mill.

West Michigan Tourist Association has a list of Harvest Time Festivals, a Weekly Color Report, and more Color Tours

Fall walks and rides on the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail

Event listings from Discover Kalamazoo

Gazelle Sports' calendar of West Michigan Races and Running Workshops

League of Michigan Bicyclist's Michigan Ride Calendar

West Michigan Coastal Kayaker's Association Event Calendar

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

The DNR has calendars of events for State Parks and Recreation Areas.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Purple Fringed Orchid

The Purple Loosestrife, blooming along Portage Creek, caught my eye first.  While its flowers are pretty, it's an invasive exotic that easily dominates wet habitats.  Continuing along the trail at Bicentennial Park, I noticed many other purple flowers: Red Clover, Swamp Milkweed, Chicory, Bergamot, and Blue Vervain.  All the purple blossoms primed me to see a native flower I'd never noticed before: Purple Fringed Orchid.

Purple Fringed Orchids  (Platanthera psycodes) grow in moist soil, scattered throughout the eastern US and Canada.  They are protected species in parts of their range.  (It's possible this plant was the very similar, and closely related, Platanthera grandiflora.)  I was surprised to see such a beautiful wildflower in such an ordinary place.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Prairie flowers

While the spring ephemerals are long dormant, the long days of summer have brought lots of flowers to Asylum Lake's restored prairie.
Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) attracted lots of honey bees to its purple blossoms.
We didn't see any butterflies on this Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) although we did see Monarchs on some Common Milkweed.
Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) inspired, according to some, Western Michigan University's school colors.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Wild Lupine

Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis) is a late Spring wildflower of open prairies and meadows.  The spire of purple flowers on a single plant is beautiful and a field of lupines is impressive.  This wildflower grows throughout the eastern US and but is rare in some parts of its range.  Wild Lupines are a critical food source for the endangered Karner Blue butterfly.    

Lupines, like other prairie plants, need full sun to survive.  Historically, wildfires kept fields open. Today, preserves often use controlled burns to limit the incursion of brush and trees. 
Wild Lupines, near Kalamazoo, are currently at peak blossom.  Yesterday, we visited the Maas Preserve on the White Pine Trail just north of Rockford and it was full of lupines.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Summer Events 2014

Summer's warm weather creates a wide variety of outdoor activities in west Michigan: biking, canoeing, hiking, camping or swimming in Lake Michigan.  Many area communities celebrate summer with festivals.

 Summer events near Kalamazoo

June 6-8 Cerulean Warbler Weekend Hastings

June 7 National Trails Day

June 7-8 Michigan Free Fishing Weekend

June 12-14 56th Annual Waterfest Three Rivers

June 19-22 Harborfest South Haven

July 2-6 Balloon Festival Battle Creek

July 9-14 Kindleberger Summer Festival Parchment

July 18-20  Old Tyme Tractor Show Scots

July  19-21  Rogue River Expedition 2014 Sparta

August 7-10  50th annual Blueberry Festival South Haven

Also consider:

Long weekend suggestions from Pure Michigan

50 fun things to do in Michigan this summer

West Michigan Summer Weekends

Kalamazoo Farmers Market

Michigan Fireworks Displays a comprehensive list of fireworks throughout the state

Events at Kalamazoo's Arcadia Creek Festival Place
Event listings from Discover Kalamazoo
Events from West Michigan Tourist Association

Kzoo Kids lists Beaches near Kalamazoo & Battle Creek promotes Lake Michigan beach towns.

Gazelle Sports' calendar of West Michigan Races and Running Workshops

Open Roads Fixapalooza
League of Michigan Bicyclist's Michigan Ride Calendar

West Michigan Coastal Kayaker's Association Event Calendar
Outdoor Athlete has lists for Michigan running, biking and triathlon events. 

Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy volunteer workdays
State park events for June, July, and August 2014 from Michigan's DNR

Michigan Festivals and Events Association Events browser

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 13 Kalamazoo Bicycle Film Festival  at Bell's in 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

birdwatching at Bird Trails and Sanctuaries in Michigan

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]