Monday, November 27, 2023

Winter Events 2023-4


With Thanksgiving over and Kalamazoo's first snow cover, it's feeling like Winter is here.  We'll need more snow for skiing and sledding, and some colder temperatures for outdoor skating but local festivities celebrate the season regardless of weather.

Winter Events near Kalamazoo

December 2, 2023 Tree Lighting & Traditional Holiday celebration Celery Flats, Portage 

          December 2, 2023 Local Gift Fair  9 am -4 pm Kalamazoo Nature Center Kalamazoo 

December 18, 2023 December to Remember Bronson Park Kalamazoo
December 31, 2023 New Year's Eve Fest Kalamazoo
January 12-24 2024 Kalamazoo Beer Week Kalamazoo

February 2-4, 2024  Icebreaker  South Haven 

February 17-18, 2024 Free Fishing Winter Weekend throughout Michigan

February 24, 2024 Winter Beer Festival Grand Rapids

March 2, 2024 Quiet Adventures Symposium East Lansing

Ongoing events
          Kerstmarkt Fridays and Saturdays (11/18 to 12/16/2023) Holland

       Christkindl Markt Wednesday-Sunday (11/17 to 12/23/2023) Grand Rapids

          Christmas Bird Count

See also

OptOutside  An alternative to hitting the malls on Black Friday

Kzoo Kids: Christmas Activities in Downtown Kalamazoo

Discover Kalamazoo's event listing
Gazelle Sports Races and running calendar

11 Unforgettable Winter Places in Michigan

West Michigan Winter Weekends

Sarrett Nature Center's Event list Benton Harbor

Events calendar
from Pure Michigan 


Thursday, August 31, 2023

Fall Events 2023

The start of school and the Labor Day holiday mark the end of summer, even if the astronomical season lasts a few more weeks.  September and October still have great weather for outdoor activities-- for camping, paddling, or a walk or bike ride.  Seasonal festivals celebrate Labor Day, Art, Sandhill Cranes, and harvest time.

Fall events around Kalamazoo

September 2-4  Lawrence Ox Roast Lawrence

September 4 West Michigan Labor Fest Grand Rapids

September 8-10  Paw Paw Wine and Harvest Festival Paw Paw

September 14 - October 1  Art Prize Grand Rapids

September 16 Fall Festival St. Joseph

September 17 Fall Festival Portage

September 24 Harvest Fest Vicksburg

September 29-30 Oktoberfest Grand Rapids

October 6-7 Pumpkinfest Zeeland

October 14-15 Cranefest Bellevue

October 12-15 Fennville Goose Festival Fennville

October  21-22 Arts and Eats Tour  Allegan, Barry, Calhoun, Kalamazoo, and Van Buren counties

Also consider:

Southeast Michigan Labor Day events from MetroParent

SW Michigan Fall Festivals Guide from Kzoo Kids
Labor Day Weekend Events for Metro Detroit (Oakland County Moms)

Mackinac Bridge Walk
5 Spots to Sip Cider, Pick Pumpkins, and Soak up Fall from Discover Kalamazoo
Fall Scenic Drives from Pure Michigan

Fall recommendations from 52 Michigan Weekends

Fresh apple cider from VerHages Cider Mill.

Fall walks and rides on the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail

Event listings from Discover Kalamazoo

Gazelle Sports' calendar of West Michigan Races and Events

League of Michigan Bicyclist's Michigan Ride Calendar

Sarrett Nature Center's Event list Benton Harbor

         Events calendar from Pure Michigan


Thursday, July 20, 2023

Pilgrim Haven Natural Area

After a few enjoyable hours in South Haven (including a good lunch at Three Blondes Brewing and observing the Army Corps of Engineers' channel-dredging/ beach nourishment project at South Beach) I headed out of town to explore a beach that I had never visited.

Pilgrim Haven is a Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy preserve about 5 miles south of South Haven, near Van Buren State Park.

The parking lot on 18th Avenue is well-marked and has restrooms and signs explaining the history of the preserve.  A sidewalk leads directly to Lake Michigan.  The ramp to the beach is paved and wheelchair accessible.  The beach itself is less wheel friendly, consisting of a mix of sand, pebbles, and rock cobble.


While there were a few people sunbathing, most people were beachcombing for interesting rocks.  The Conservancy does allow visitors to collect a small number of rocks for personal use and the preserve frequently appears on lists of places to rock hunt

I didn't find much-- just a few colorful granite pebbles-- but I didn't really know what to look for. Michigan Rockhounds report that commonly found treasures at Pilgrim Haven include lightning stone, quartz, unakite, horn coral, crinoid calyx, and chert along with some rare finds that are more common in Northern Michigan.   (Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council has a list of shoreline rocks and fossils  and Owlcation has two articles: identifying rocks of Lake Michigan and beach stone identification. MLive has an article with photos on Collectible rocks of Southwest Lake Michigan beaches.)

Before becoming a preserve, Pilgrim Haven had been a youth camp for decades.  The chimney from the camp's dining hall has been preserved in an open lawn.  (Here's a post from a former camper revisiting Pilgrim Haven.) 

A short system of grassy trails runs through the woods of the 27 acre preserve, with a bridge over Dyckman Creek.

I'd been vaguely aware of Pilgrim Haven as a supporter of the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy, but I didn't realize it so was so close to South Haven.  Now that I'm familiar with it, I expect it will become a regular addition to my Lake Michigan visits.

Pilgrim Haven Natural Area
18th Avenue
South Haven Charter Township, MI 49090

[free admission]

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

West Side County Park


Holiday weekends have been really crowded at Lake Michigan.  Last summer, we weren't able to visit our favorite beaches a couple of times since all the parking spots and the overflow parking were full.  On Sunday, of the Fourth of July weekend, we were in Douglas, MI and didn't want to face the congestion at Saugatuck Dunes State Park or Oval Beach, so we drove south to see what we could find.

Driving about 5 miles brought us to West Side County Park, where we easily found a parking space.  The park had a big picnic area with two pavilions and a lot of picnic tables, occupied by several groups.  There was a grassy play area and a fenced playground.

We walked the length of the park to a nice beach overlook, with benches and a small gazebo.  Access to the beach was fenced off and a small sign said to use the north stairs.

We walked the width of the park through the woods and found a steep stairway down to the beach.  A visitor in the parking lot said she had counted 80 steps initially, but only 77 after drinking a few White Claws.

The beach wasn't huge, but it was a nice stretch of sand with a little bit of shade at the edge of the dune.  The sand changed to pebbles at the waterline, making walking less comfortable.  There were plenty of people of all ages using the beach on what I imagine was one of its busiest days of the season.

This was a new beach for me and a nice option when everything else was likely to be full.   It looks like the park had a wheelchair accessible ramp to the beach at one point, but we didn't see any traces of it.  A cooler would be difficult to manage on the current stairs and a wheelchair would be impossible.


West Side County Park
2152 Lakeshore Dr,
Fennville, MI 49408


Monday, June 20, 2022

Sunset Lake

Sunset Lake is about 15 miles south of Kalamazoo in the Village of Vicksburg.  It's a long narrow lake with access at Sunset Lake Park.  It's a short carry from the street to the little beach in the park.

Lakeside homes line the shore near the park.  Paddling north, the docks and houses give way to cattails and trees.  The Vicksburg Recreation Area preserves a section of waterfront on the east.

Sunset Lake had plenty of seaweed, algae, and duckweed.  I'd recommend visiting early or late in the season when the vegetation is lighter.  We did watch an airboat spraying copper sulfate to control the algae, so it may clear somewhat as the chemicals work.

Sunset Lake connects to Gourdneck Creek which eventually leads to Gourdneck Lake.  We didn't explore the creek this afternoon.

Sunset Lake Park
339 Page St

Vicksburg, MI 49097




Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Milkweed season

I have three types of milkweed blooming in my yard.  I've let a big patch of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) turn into a jungle near my mailbox. 
Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) with its bright orange flowers is more attractive.  I have some blooming in a prairie garden in my backyard.

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) with its brilliant pink flowers is a close contender for showiest milkweed.  It grows naturally near our pond.

All three are great host plants for Monarch butterflies and their caterpillars.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Maple Sugar Season 2020

Michigan's recent weather, with warm sunny days and cold, below-freezing nights, is perfect for maple sugaring.  The temperature changes make the sap flow and a strategically driven spile can divert some into a bucket.  Heating the sap concentrates the sweetness, as water transforms into clouds of steam.

Maple Syrup Festivals near Kalamazoo

March 7-8 and 14-15 Maple Sugar Time Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Chesterton, Indiana 
March 7, 15 Maple Sugar Madness Sarett Nature Center Benton Harbor

March 7-8 Maple Sugar Festival Kalamazoo Nature Center Kalamazoo

March 21-22 Sugar Camp Days Bendix Woods County Park, New Carlisle, IN

March 21  50th Annual Sugarbush Festival  Blandford Nature Center  Grand Rapids

April 24-26 Wakarusa Maple Syrup Festival, Wakarusa, Indiana

April 24-26  79th Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival Vermontville
Also consider
Michigan MapleWeekends

Michigan Maple Syrup Events 2020 in Oakland County and Southeast Michigan
Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival

Chicago-area Maple Syrup Events