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

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Holland's Kerstmarkt

I'd been interested in visiting the Kerstmarkt in Holland, Michigan for several years and this season I finally made it on the last day it was open.  The Kerstmarkt is the Dutch version of the outdoor Christmas markets that are popular throughout Europe.

Holland's market featured over a dozen booths selling crafts, plus a few offering food and drinks, and warming hut.

On Saturday's the Holland Farmer's Market sells fresh produce, baked goods, and chocolates which doubles the size of the market.

It also offered a dogsled demo on the day I visited.

The Kerstmarkt was a pleasant, low-key experience.  It was no where near the size of Chicago's Christkindlmarket but it did make a list of the Top 50 Christmas Markets worldwide.  On its own, I'm not sure it justifies the drive from Kalamazoo but it does make a good excuse to visit downtown Holland during December.

The Kerstmarkt right at the edge of Holland's 8th Street shopping district, which is West Michigan's best "Main Street." My favorite place for lunch in Holland, New Holland Brewing, is just a few blocks from the market. Along the way, The Outpost is great shop for camping, SUPs, and outdoor clothing.  8th Street also has branches of regional favorites like Gazelle Sports and Kilwins chocolates and a newly opened Hopcat.

Holland Kerstmarkt
8th Street Market Place
150 W. 8th Street
Holland, Michigan

Monday, December 2, 2019

Winter Events 2019-2020

While we had snow earlier this year, December is the traditional start to Winter.  Get ready for a season of skiing, sledding, and skating.  Plenty of local festivals celebrate the season.

Winter Events near Kalamazoo

December 7, 2019 Tree Lighting & Traditional Holiday celebration Celery Flats, Portage 
December 7, 2019 13th annual Candy Cane Hunt Mayors Riverfront Park Kalamazoo
December 7, 2019 Local Gift Fair  9 am -4 pm Kalamazoo Nature Center Kalamazoo 
December 31, 2019 New Year's Eve Fest Kalamazoo
January 11-18 2020 Kalamazoo Beer Week Kalamazoo

January 23-26, 2020
Winterfest Grand Haven
January 31- February 3, 2020  Icebreaker  South Haven

February 14 -17,  2020  Great Backyard Bird Count

February 15-16, 2020 Free Fishing Winter Weekend throughout Michigan

February 22, 2020 Winter Beer Festival Grand Rapids

February 29, 2020 Quietwater Symposium East Lansing

Ongoing events
International Festival of Lights Battle Creek November -December 
Zoo Lights Binder Park Zoo Battle Creek
          Dutch Winterfest Holland
Millennium Park Skate Rink opens December 8, 2019, or when weather permits Portage
          Christmas Bird Count

See also

OptOutside  An alternative to hitting the malls on Black Friday

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

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

Events from Pure Michigan  

Friday, August 30, 2019

Fall Events 2019

As August comes to a close, Labor Day brings the final holiday of summer.  September and October offer plenty of warm days and cool nights for outdoor activities.  Fall is a great season for for camping, paddling or a walk or bike ride through the woods.  Area festivals celebrate Labor Day, Sandhill Cranes, harvests, and art.

Fall events around Kalamazoo

August 30- September 2 Lawrence Ox Roast Lawrence

September 2 West Michigan Labor Fest Grand Rapids

September 6-8  Paw Paw Wine and Harvest Festival Paw Paw

September 13-14 Grand Haven Salmon Festival Grand Haven

September 7-October 27 Project 1 Grand Rapids (Project 1 replaces Art Prize this year.)

September 21 Fall Festival St. Joseph

September 27-28 Oktoberfest Grand Rapids

October 12 BontebokOktoberfest Binder Park Zoo  Battle Creek 

October 12-13 Cranefest Bellevue

October 11-13 Fennville Goose Festival Fennville

October 19-20 Arts and Eats Tour  Hastings, Middleville, Hickory Corners, and surrounding areas

Also consider:

Southeast Michigan Labor Day events from MetroParent

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