Thursday, September 30, 2010

New bike trails

Regardless of your opinion of the Federal stimulus package, it's hard to complain about the new bike trails it financed in Kalamazoo.

This summer's work on the "Northwest Portage Bikeway" connects an existing trail segment in the Haverhill neighborhood to the Portage Creek Bicentennial trail, eliminating the need to fight traffic on Romence Rd. It's now a more pleasant and safer ride.

This season's progress on the Kalamazoo Valley River Trail is even more impressive. A new 5-mile section of trail, running from downtown Kalamazoo to the Kalamazoo Nature Center is almost complete. I rode to the Nature Center this afternoon on the brand new asphalt path. Only one section, of maybe 100 yards, was still under construction. [update: now completed]

The new trail runs along the Kalamazoo River from Mayor's Riverfront park (home of the Kalamazoo Kings), across the river to Parchment then back, behind Markin Glen park, and currently ends at the Nature Center. (Trail construction continues on the section north of the Nature Center. [update: completed) The trail passes through traces of Kalamazoo's industrial heritage and into quiet woodlands. I think this is going to be a very popular ride.

On Saturday October 9th, 2010 you can participate in the KVRT Fall Color Cruise starting at 10:30 am at Markin Glen County Park.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

50 Hikes in Michigan

50 Hikes in Michigan
2nd edition with 10 extra hikes
Sixty Walks, Day Trips, and Backpacks in the Lower Peninsula

by Jim DuFresne 1999

This guidebook, by popular Michigan outdoor writer Jim DuFresne, divides Michigan's lower peninsula in an interesting manner, Southeast, Heartland, Lake Michigan, Pere Marquette, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Tip of the Mitt, and Lake Huron. Each chapter has a trail map and detailed trail description. Kalamazoo, along with Grand Rapids and Lansing, is in the Heartland section.

Heartland hikes

1. Doane Lake, Dr. T.K. Lawless County Park
2 miles
"Dr. T.K. Lawless County Park is one of those little-known preserves in rural Michigan that many hikers would enjoy visiting--if they only knew the place existed. Hidden in central Cass County, the park is a place that is enjoyed only by locals and the few lost travelers who stumble upon it accidentally. Of course, that's one of its attractions: a large park with lakes, ponds, and streams in a wooded tract that is lightly used and suffers few crowds other than the occasional familiy reunion."
Access: 30-40 minutes from Kalamazoo between Jones and Vandalia. From MI 60, turn south on Lewis Lake Rd, then east on Monkey Run Rd. Fee.
Lawless County Park

2. Bishop's Bog Preserve Trail, Portage South-Central Greenway
4.5 miles round trip
"Bishop's Bog Preserve Trail is aptly named. It passes through the heart of a bog that's so wet in the spring that the floating trail has the wiggle of a waterbed and every step results in small eruptions between the plastic planking that will soak your boots. But wet socks and damp toes are a small price to pay for this quick and unusual escape from the city."
Access:From I-94 exit 76 onto Westnedge Ave. South on Westnedge about 4 miles. Turn east on South Shore Drive to West Lake Nature Preserve. Bishops Bog trail starts across street in South Westnedge Park
Bishop's Bog Preserve

3. Long Lake Trail, Yankee Springs Recreation Area
6 miles point-to-point, 7.2 mile loop
"The rugged terrain, inland lakes, interesting bogs, and unusual depressions known as Devil's Soup Bowls provide Yankee Springs Recreation Area with ideal hiking qualities. Its location, almost centered between the urban areas of Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Battle Creek, makes it a popular park with everybody."
Access: From US 131, exit 61 and take A-42 east 7 miles to Gun Lake Rd. Then right. Trailhead is just north of the park headquarters.
Yankee Springs Recreation Area

4. Swan Creek Trail, Allegan State Game Area
5.2 miles
"Swan Creek Trail is best done during the off-season-- either in early May when fiddleheads are popping through the forest floor and the flowering dogwood is in full bloom,or in the fall, when one can witness one of the largest migratory gatherings of waterfowl in the state. In mid-July, you'll find the wildlife scarce, the fishing slow, and the mosquitos and black flies ferocious."
Access: West of Allegan, about halfway between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids. From US 131 exit 55 to MI 222. Follow 222 west 10 miles to merge with M-89. Follow M-89 to Monroe Rd. West on Monroe to 118th Ave. Parking at the dam.
Allegan State Game Area

5. Grand River Trail, William M. Burchfield Park and Riverbend Natural Area
3.7 miles
"The hike is best done in the fall when the hardwood trees that border the Grand River take on their orange and red hues, the old farm fields become waves of golden grass, and the deer blend so well with the forest that they're spotted only when when they flag their tails. This stroll takes you through Michigan farm country as well as along the state's longest river."
Access: Just south of Lansing. From I-96 exit 101 onto Mi 99 south. Then left (south) on Waverly Rd, then left (east) on Holt Rd. 1 mile to Grovenberg Rd, turn right (south) 2 miles to park entrance.
Burchfield Park pdf

6. Green Trail, Lake Lansing Park-North
3.3 miles
"The 410-acre preserve is across the street from the popular lake and features day-use facilities, picnic areas, shelters, and volleyball and baseball fields. But the vast majority of the park is a natural setting, an intriguing mix of pines, mature oak, and maple woodlands, and extensive wetlands and marshes accessed by a 5-mile system of footpaths and boardwalks."
Access: From I-96 exit 110 north into Okemos. Turn east on Grand River AVe, then north at Marsh Rd. Take Marsh Rd through Haslett then east on North Lake Dr. 1.5 miles to park.
Lake Lansing Park-North

7. Wildwood Pathway, Deerfield County Park
3 miles
"Near its north entrance, Deerfield features the usual park amenities: swimming area and beach, shelters, tables, grill, and a short interpretive path. But by crossing the Chippewa on a swingbridge, you can leave behind the picnic area and enter a quiet woodland. the 8-mile network of trails includes some surprising sights, such as a wooden covered bridge, scenic vistas above the river, and even a pleasant set of backcountry campsites along the banks of the Chippewa."
Access: West of Mount Pleasant, about an hour from Lansing. From US 27 exit Business 27 through Mt Pleasant. Turn west on Remus Rd (MI 20). 6.5 miles on MI 20 to park. Fee.
Deerfield County Park

8. North Country Trail-- Baldwin Segment, Manistee National Forest
13.2 miles
"Passing from Lake County into Newago County, this portion of the North Country Trail begins in hardwood forests, skirts around Sterling Marsh, and ends by traversing rolling hills for excellent views of several small and undeveloped lakes."
Access: 90 minutes from Grand Rapids. From the town of Baldwin, go south on MI 37 for 3 miles then west on 76th St (Big Star Lake Rd.) 2.5 miles to trail, just before Jenks Rd. Backcountry camping permitted. Vehicle permit required to park.
North Country Trail Manistee

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many libraries.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New England Aster

New England Asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) are one of the last wildflowers of the season. Now is the time to enjoy the the aster's pretty purple flowers among the tall prairie grasses and goldenrod. This afternoon the bees seemed to be stocking up for winter.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mountain Biking in southern Michigan

Adventure Guide to Michigan
by Kevin & Laurie Hillstrom

In addition to regional featured destinations, that I posted about earlier, this guidebook has suggestions for individual sports. Here are some recommendations for biking in southern Michigan from their "On Wheels" section.

Mountain Biking
1. Addison Oaks Trails
5 miles
"Local favorite, moderately difficult."
Addison Oaks County Park

2. Fort Custer Trails

"Great mix for beginners and more advanced bikers."
Fort Custer Recreation Area

3. Highland Trails
14.5 mile system
"Probably the most technically challenging circuit in the entire state."
Highland Recreation Area

4. Holdridge Lakes Trail

Holly Recreation Area

5. Island Lake Trails

10 miles
"Detroit-area favorite. Relatively mellow."
Island Lake Recreation Area

6. Lawless Park Trails

10 miles
"Near the state's border, it's a Northern Indiana favorite."
Lawless County Park

7. Pontiac Lake Trails
"Grinding climbs, steep downhill runs, and a variety of technical challenges.
Favorite for competitive riders"
Pontiac Lake Recreation Area

8. Yankee Springs Trails

"These exhilarating and challenging trails are some of the very best that the state has to offer."
Yankee Springs Recreation Area

9. Potawatomi Trail

"One of the state's true biking meccas"
Pinckney Recreation Area

Thursday, September 16, 2010

KalHaven trail

The KalHaven trail runs on the right-of-way of the old Kalamazoo & South Haven Railroad. Officially a state park, the Kal-Haven trail is currently operated by Van Buren County. The trail runs for 34 miles from the 10th Street caboose to South Haven. The Kalamazoo Valley River Trail connects the Kal-Haven trail to downtown Kalamazoo (and will eventually extend to Battle Creek.)

The trail is crushed limestone, smooth enough for all but the skinniest of bike tires. The hills aren't steep since the entire route was graded for railroads, which makes for long-gentle downhill runs and subtly tiring uphill returns. In warm months, the shady path attracts lots of bikes. Snowmobiles dominate the trail in Winter. In Spring, it's surprisingly good for wildflowers. It makes a nice walk in any season.

The Rails to Trails Conservancy has reviews of the Kal-Haven Trail.

trail fees
update: the Kalamazoo Gazette reports the trail is now free.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Saugatuck Dunes State Park

Saugatuck Dunes State Park combines mature forest with sandy lakefront to create one of the best places in West Michigan. Access to the beach is via a shady trail through wooded dunes. The walk is over a half mile, up and down hill, which reduces the crowds substantially-- it's way too far to haul a cooler. The beach is popular on summer weekends, but still relatively quiet.

The park has a system of trails through the woods, enough to make a decent hike. In the winter, it's a good place for cross-country skiing.

The park is just north of the village of Saugatuck (recently named Coolest Small Town). Take Blue Star Highway north to 64th street, turn left on 64th, then left on 138th St.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fall 2010 events

Fall, with cooler weather, less humidity, and colorful leaves, is a great time for camping, biking, paddling, and hiking in West Michigan.

Fall events near Kalamazoo:
Sept 10-12 Midwest Mountain Bike Summit Grand Rapids

Sept 17-18 Salmon Festival Grand Haven

Sept 24-25 Oktoberfest West Michigan John Ball Park Grand Rapids

Oct 2-3 Old Tyme Harvest Festival at Scotts Mill Park Scotts

October 2-3 Feast of the Hunter's Moon West Lafayette, IN

October 8-10 Cranefest at Audubon's Baker Sanctuary near Battle Creek.

Oct 8-10 Goose Festival Fennville

mid-November peak Sandhill Crane migration at Jasper Pulaski in northern Indiana.

November 14 Downtown Kalamazoo Holiday Parade Kalamazoo

Also consider:

Fall walks and rides on the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail

a Fall Color Tour or an Apple 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

More events from Discover Kalamazoo

Sunday, September 5, 2010

52 Michigan Weekends (Fall)

52 Michigan Weekends: Great Getaways and Adventures for Every Season
by Bob Puhala
2000 (3rd edition)
The book suggests destinations for every weekend of the year. I've posted earlier on Winter destinations, Spring destinations, and Summer destinations near Kalamazoo. Here are some fall suggestions from the guidebook:

West Michigan Fall Weekends

1.Goose Gawking
"They arrive every autumn in spectacular fashion. Long V-shaped wedges of honking Canada geese, appearing like straggly black ribbons wafting crazily in the starkly blue fall sky. Sometimes so many Canadas fill the air that the birds literally block out the sun, a great black cloud casting a giant shadow on the farmscape below."
Todd Farm State Game Refuge
Goose Festival

2.Curious Kids' Museum
St Joseph

3. Apple picking paradise
Eau Claire
Tree-Mendus Fruit farm.

4. Sweet Home Chicago
"Located in Coldwater, the Chicago Pike Inn, a luxurious bed-and-breakfast,is a spectacular house built in 1903."

5. Turkeyville USA


6. Wine Country
Paw Paw and Kalamazoo
"Okay, so Kalamazoo is not one of America's 100 most romantic cities. Nor does it in any way re-create the Gallic flavors of Provence. But just as in France, the business is very important here. Because this is the heart of southwest Michigan's 12,000-acre wine country, and Michigan ranks fourth among the wine-producing states of America."
Wine and Harvest Festival
St Julian
Tabor Hill
Vineyard Classic Bicycle tour
Fenn Valley Vineyards
Lemon Creek Winery, Berrien Springs

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Battle Creek Linear Park

Battle Creek's system of bike paths makes a nice outing close to Kalamazoo. The featured attraction is a riverside trail running through downtown Battle Creek and along the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Rivers. Park at Bailey Park and ride through the woods along the Battle Creek River. It's about 4 miles to downtown Battle Creek, where Arcadia Brewing might make a nice stop. The trail continues along the Kalamazoo River to Fort Custer. (I couldn't find an obvious place to park at the Fort Custer end.)

Another trail segment goes north along 20th Street to the Leila Arboretum and then east through various neighborhoods and parks. This section isn't as attractive but it creates a loop back to Bailey Park.