Sunday, May 29, 2011

Michigan's Best Campgrounds

Michigan's Best Campgrounds:
A Guide to the Best 150 Public Campgrounds in the Great Lakes State

by Jim DuFresne

Like the author's other popular guidebooks, this guide offers descriptions, complete with maps and black & white photos, of outdoor opportunities throughout the state. This book's focus is on camping and it includes information on when each campground is likely to be full or closed. It also gives suggestions for nearby outdoor activities. Kalamazoo falls in the book's "Heartland" region and many campgrounds close to Kalamazoo are in the "Lake Michigan" region. Here are a selection from those two areas:

Best Campgrounds near Kalamazoo
1. Cold Brook
51 sites Modern/Rustic
"Coldbrook has both modern sites and a rustic loop, each on a small peninsula of their own on the southwest corner of Portage Lake."
Swimming, fishing, hiking.

Cold Brook County Park
14467 East "MN" Avenue
Climax, MI

2. Deep Lake
120 sites Rustic
"Deep Lake is a very scenic section of Yankee Springs."
Mountain biking, fishing, hiking.

Yankee Springs Recreation Area

2104 Gun Lake Rd

3. Warren Dunes
185 sites Modern/Rustic
"This facility is two loops in a wooded area on the backside of the dunes, offering shade and surprisingly, for the number of sites in it, a small degree of privacy between campers."
Beach, hiking

Warren Dunes State Park
12032 Red Arrow Highway

4. Grand Haven
174 sites Modern
"Sites at Grand Haven State Park are little more than a cement slab with no trees, no vegetation to keep the blowing sand at bay and little privacy from your neighbor who is but four feet away."

Grand Haven State Park
1001 Harbor Ave
Grand Haven, MI

5. Hoffmaster
293 sites Modern
"The loops are well forested in hardwoods and pines and being dune country the sites are in a sandy area covered with needles but little undergrowth."
Beach, hiking, interpretive center.

PJ Hoffmaster State Park
6585 Lake Harbor Road

6. Muskegon
110 sites Modern
"The Lake Michigan campground has 110 sites on a loop of several lanes. The pre-motorhome era facility is neither level nor is it easy to pull trailers into many of the sites and large RVs are sent down to Muskegon Lake campground at the south end of the park."
Beach, fishing, hiking.

Muskegon State Park

3560 Memorial Drive
North Muskegon

7. Pioneer
213 sites Modern
"The sites are close together but most of them are well shaded by red pines."

Pioneer County Park
1563 N. Scenic Drive

8. Henning
60 sites Modern
"Henning Park has 60 modern sites that are situated close together in three loops in an open grassy field."
Canoeing, fishing.

Henning County Park
500 Croton Road

9. Newaygo
99 sites Rustic
"Newago is one of the few units of the state park system with a rustic campground and where there is actually a little space and privacy between sites."

Newaygo State Park

2793 Beech Street

10. White Cloud
104 sites Modern/Rustic
"If the White Cloud City Campground has the look of a state park to you that's because it used to be a state park."
Hiking, tubing.

White Cloud City Campground
620 E. Wilcox
White Cloud

Available from Amazon and other booksellers and libraries.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Summer Events 2011

Warmer weather and longer days make summer a great season for outdoor activity around Kalamazoo.

Summer events near Kalamazoo:
May 27-30 22nd Annual West Michigan Coastal Kayaker's Association Symposium Big Blue Lake

June 3-5 Cerulean Warbler Weekend Hastings

June 4 National Trails Day 2011- West Michigan Events or throughout the US

June 4 Lake Michigan Water Trail Dedication Portage, IN

June 11 KRVT Grand Opening Celebration 10am-2pm Parchment

June 11-12 Michigan Free Fishing Weekend

June 11-12 Michigan Kitefest and Competition Richland

June 21 Free Day at Kalamazoo County Parks

July 1-4 Balloon Festival Battle Creek

July 16-22 Michigander Bicycle Tour

August 6-15 25th Annual Shoreline West Bicycle Tour

August 11-14 Blueberry Festival South Haven

Also consider:

West Michigan Summer Weekends

Event listings from Discover Kalamazoo

Gazelle Sports' calendar of West Michigan Races & 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.

Michigan DNR's calendars for events in state parks and recreation areas for June, July, and August

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Long Tailed-Duck

I'd never seen a Long Tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis) until this Friday when I saw a unfamiliar bird swimming in Lake Michigan near the South Haven pier. It eventually swam right up to the edge of the pier, then dove. Later, I found they can dive 200 feet deep.

Long-tailed ducks are an ocean species, spending much of their lives far offshore. They spend summer in the arctic and nest on the tundra. They winter on the Atlantic & Pacific coasts, the Great Lakes, and in European waters. Because they are difficult to observe, scientists don't know much about these birds compared to other ducks. The Sea Duck Joint Venture provides more detailed Long-tailed duck information pdf.

Hunters frequently refer to these as "Oldsquaws."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wild Ginger

Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) has an interesting flower that blooms at ground level, beneath the leaves. Most plants elevate their blossoms to attract flying pollinators but Wild Ginger is pollinated by ground-dwelling beetles or flies. Later, its ripe seeds are dispersed by ants who collect them for the nutrients in each seed's elaiosome.

The plant is widely distributed throughout woodlands in the Eastern United States and Canada.

Wild Ginger is currently in bloom in Kalamazoo. The flowers aren't attention getting but they are worth a little search. I look for colonies of the plants (each with a pair of round-heart-shaped leaves) and then look underneath for the blossoms.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

May wildflowers

While the wildflower season in Kalamazoo started slowly this year, it accelerated in the last week or so. Some hot days, some heavy rains and the leafing out of the canopy finished the season for many of the Spring ephemerals. Squirrel Corn, Dutchman's Breeches, and Marsh Marigold all had seed pods where the blossoms had been. The Toothwort leaves are yellow; they'll likely be completely gone next week. Trillium are past their peak and looking pretty ragged. Wild Phlox and Blue Eyed Mary are still in flower, but ebbing.

Of course, other flowers are now coming into their season. Lots of Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) and Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) were out. It looks like the peak for Mayapple flowers and white wood violets (perhaps Viola sororia albiflora). Swamp buttercups were in bloom along the Kalamazoo River where the Redbud trees on the far bank were spectacular.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Top Picks from Where to Weekend around Chicago

Where to Weekend around Chicago
editor: William Travis

This guide has information on a large number of Midwestern attractions and I posted earlier about destinations close to Kalamazoo In addition to the detailed information on each destination, Fodor's also lists their editor's favorites. Here are some of their top picks that are reasonably close to Kalamazoo.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Tulip Time Festival

Allegan State Forest
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

College Football Hall of Fame, South Bend
National New York Central Railroad Museum, Elkhart
University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor

This guidebook seems to be out of print but the Amazon listing has the "look inside" feature. Fodor's website doesn't seem to have it. My copy was from the library. Allgetways has selections from the guidebook online.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Warbler migration

Michigan's spring warbler migration overlaps with its ephemeral wildflower season, perhaps because both depend on insects to some extent (for food and pollination, respectively.) In any case, it's nice to see these small colorful birds in the woods and see wildflowers at the same time.

My warbler identification skills aren't very good, so I lean heavily on guidebooks. The bird pictured above is a Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata) sitting in a plum tree in my backyard.

It's impressive to think about how far these small birds travel, flying from Central & South America to the northern US and Canada. Of course this also means that habitats separated by thousands of miles are interlinked and that ecosystem disruption in one place will affect the others.

National Geographic's guide suggests several area birdwatching sites that have large numbers of warblers in the spring.

2011 Warbler festivals

Tawas Point Birding Festival May 12-15, 2011
Kirtland’s Warbler Wildlife Festival May 21, 2011
Cerulean Warbler Weekend, June 3-5, 2011.

While it's a three and a half hour drive from Kalamazoo, I can't resist adding northern Ohio's immodestly named festival: Biggest Week In American Birding May 5-15, 2011

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Hoffmaster Wildflowers

This Saturday (May 7, 2011) is P.J. Hoffmaster State Park's "Spring Blooms in the Dunes" event. In the 1980's, Hoffmaster was known for its annual Trillium Festival but an overabundance of deer ate many of the park's wildflowers, forcing organizers to rename the event. Since 2005, a controlled hunt has been used to reduce the size of the deer herd so the native plants can recover.

We visited Hoffmaster earlier this week and we didn't see many wildflowers in bloom. We did see some trillium plants but their buds were tightly closed, suggesting their season is well behind Kalamazoo's this year. There was a nice colony of Hepatica in peak flower, again suggesting a later season.

There were a variety of native plants in bloom in a wildflower garden in front of the park's visitor center.

Update: The 2013 event will be held Saturday May11

The 2013 "Spring Blooms in the Dunes" schedule includes
Native Plant Sale 9am - 3pm
Native Plantings for Birds talk 11 am
Bluebirds brownbag lunch noon
Nature Art for Children 1 pm - 3 pm
Various hikes throughout the day

for more information see the Gillette Nature Association

Hoffmaster State Park
6585 Lake Harbor Rd
Norton Shores, MI 49441-6199

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Wildflower season continues

Kalamazoo's wildflowers continue despite a mostly cold and rainy week. Dutchman's Breeches were at their peak. New blooms included Toothwort, Trillium, and Blue-Eyed Mary. Hepatica blooms were gone and their new leaves had emerged. Bloodroot seemed well past its peak. Marsh Marigold were still very colorful but the ratio of old blossoms to unopened buds was high. Spring Beauty seemed to have disappeared but the flowers were just closed-up on a cold afternoon.

Squirrel Corn (Dicentra canadensis) is Dutchman's Breeches' less-whimsical cousin.

A few, early Trillium were almost fully open.

Wild Phlox (Phlox divaricata) buds were still tightly furled but they'll blossom soon.