Sunday, May 30, 2010

Tunnel Park beach

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer in West Michigan and this year the weather has been truly hot. (I remember ice crystals mixed with rain on this date several years ago.) The summer temperatures and the holiday made Tunnel Park beach, just north of Holland, Michigan, very popular Saturday.

From the park's entrance, Lake Michigan is hidden by a high dune, so from the parking lot you see a good-sized picnic area, a playground, and a bathhouse, but no water. There are two options for reaching the beach, the namesake tunnel (shown above) or a steep climb to the top of the dune, where there's a smaller picnic area with great views, followed by another long staircase down the dune.

Lake Michigan, while beautiful, is still really cold.

$6 parking fee. Annual passes available. Discounts for Ottawa County residents.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Summer 2010 events

Summer is a great time for outdoor activities in the Kalamazoo area: biking, camping, hiking, canoeing, or relaxing on the beach. Here are a few events planned for this summer:

June 4-6 Cerulean Warbler Weekend. Hastings

June 5 National Trails Day

June 12-13 Michigan Free Fishing Weekend

June 12, June 19, July 24, Aug. 14 Kanoe the Kazoo Kalamazoo Gazette Article Kalamazoo River (various starting points)

June 12 & 13 Michigan Kitefest 2010. Richland

June 26 & 27 Warren Dunes Kitefest, Sawyer

July 1-4 Balloon Festival, Battle Creek

July 14-26 Grand River Expedition 2010 Off the Couch News Grand River (entire length, various starting points)

August 12-15 Blueberry Festival South Haven

Kalamazoo hosts various outdoor parties, like Ribfest, at Arcadia Creek Park. A Kalamazoo Gazette article outlines the 2010 summer events.

League of Michigan Bicyclists has a list of 250 events in their 2010 Michigan Ride Calendar

Michigan in Pictures has a list of June Events in Michigan

Pure Michigan has a list of summer events throughout the state.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Swallowtails are one of the most noticeable butterflies in the Kalamazoo area. They're relatively big, colorful, and they appear early in the season. I think this one is a female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus).

This list of butterflies in Michigan can be helpful and this list pairing native plants and butterflies looks interesting. Also interesting: Tiger Swallowtail Life Cycle

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Weekend Canoeing in Michigan

Weekend Canoeing in Michigan: The Rivers, The Towns, The Taverns
by Doc Fletcher

The author's personality shines through this guide: his love for Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, the Detroit Tigers, and fast water. Twenty river trips are described in detail and illustrated with black and white photos. None are in southwest Michigan, but several are within a few hours of Kalamazoo.

1. Flat River
"The Flat River shouts-- using its inside voice-- to families and beginning canoeists alike, to come and enjoy a calm stress-free voyage down its slow and gentle current."
Start at Belding City Park; end at Double R Ranch Resort. 2 hours 20 minutes.
Skill level: beginner
Town: Smyrna
Tavern: Smyrna Bar
canoe rental at Double R Ranch

2. Little Muskegon River

"The Little Muskegon was one of the most intriguing rivers on the list of 20 covered in this book." "On the whole, beginners should look elsewhere for their canoeing fun."
Start County Line Road (Newcosta); end at Croton Pond boat launch. 4 hours.
Skill level: tricky to difficult
Town: Newaygo
Tavern: Sportsman's Bar
canoe rental at Wisner Canoes

3. Muskegon River
"All 3 of these locales [Houghton Lake, Leota, Paris] offer a gorgeous wilderness trip, but I believe that the trip near Houghton Lake is the most beautiful Muskegon River trip of the 3."
Start Hi-Lo Bridge; end White Birch livery. 2-3 hours
Skill level: beginner
Town: Houghton Lake
Tavern: The Nottingham Bar
canoe rental at White Birch Canoe Trips

4. White River
"...Slow current, knee-deep water, complete with a sandy bottom free of large rocks and hidden obstacles which made it a kind-to-your-body Frisbee diving river."
Start Happy Mohawk Livery (Fruitvale Road); end at Old Trading Post Landing. 2.5 hours.
Skill level: beginner to moderate
Town: Montague
Tavern: Jimmy's Tavern
canoe rental at Happy Mohawk Canoe Livery

5. Pere Marquette River

"The Pere Marquette was Michigan's first 'National Wild and Scenic River'... In addition to being a joy to canoe, the PM is a world class trout and salmon river."
Start at Lower Branch Bridge (Landon Road); end at Walhalla Bridge. 2.5 hours.
Skill level: moderate ability
Town: Walhalla
Tavern: Rendezvous Grille & Tavern
canoe rental at Baldwin Canoe Rental

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers or perhaps at your library.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Great Parks in Southwest Michigan

Writer Tina Lassen offers these suggestions:
1. Duck Lake State Park (beach)
2. Pine Points Recreation Area (tubing)
3. Saugatuck Dunes State Park (trails)
4. Grand Mere State Park (National Natural Landmark)
5. Kal-Haven Trail (biking)

Read the whole article (with links) on the Pure Michigan Connect blog.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Morel Season

I've been searching for morels several times over the last few weeks. So far, I've only found one, the half-free morel pictured above. Fortunately, a friend found a large number of morels in Kalamazoo and invited us for dinner so I was able to enjoy this spring treat.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Peak wildflowers?

For me, it's hard to define the peak moment for spring wildflowers in Kalamazoo. The season changes so quickly, as the woodland plants race for light. The flowers of early May tend to be bigger and showier than the early spring ephemerals. White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) seems to be the poster child for Spring.

Blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia verna) is an annual, while most of the other spring wildflowers are perennials.

Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata) send up stiff clusters of distinct flowers.

Wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) are another favorite.

The Celadine Poppies were so impressive that I couldn't resist posting another photo.

Peak, or not, it's certainly a good time for a stroll through the woods.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Celadine poppy

The Celandine poppy, or golden wood poppy, (Stylophorum diphyllum) put on a spectacular show this week.

Until I moved to Kalamazoo, I didn't know this eye-catching wildflower. When I first saw it, I thought it was an escaped garden flower, since I had never seen it living in western New York or in Wisconsin. Much later, I read that it isn't native to those states. (See this USDA distribution map). Even in Michigan, these plants aren't widespread, occurring mainly in the western counties. They are beautiful.