Monday, November 26, 2012

Hiking Michigan

Hiking Michigan (2nd edition)
Roger Storm and Susan Wedzel

This guidebook presents 146 day hikes throughout the state of Michigan, including several hikes on islands in the Great Lakes.  Each entry includes a trail map, a thumbnail state map showing its location, information about the park or recreation area, description of the trails, and a list of nearby points of interest.  Some hikes are illustrated with black&white photos.  The hikes are divided into three regions-- the Upper Peninsula, the Northern Lower Peninsula, and the Southern Lower Peninsula-- with about a third of the book devoted to each region.  I particularly liked the book's "Trail Finder" section, an expanded table of contents that includes distance, difficulty, and features for each trail.   

Hiking Michigan near Kalamazoo

1. Kalamazoo Nature Center
Beech-Maple Riverwalk Trail 1.1 miles
Fern Valley Trail 0.6 miles
"Cooper's Glen, as the area used to be known, is named after James Fennimore Cooper, who visited the area in 1847 and 1848.  While he pursued business interests in the vicinity, he collected information on natural features for a novel, Oak Openings."
Other points of interest:  Kellogg Bird Sanctuary, Kal-Haven Sesquicentennial State Park
Kalamazoo Nature Center

2. Yankee Springs Recreation Area
Hall Lake Trail 2.5 miles
Long Lake Trail 5.2 miles
"Almost 5,200 acres of diverse terrain, once the hunting grounds of the Algonquian Indians, provide varied recreation experiences." 
Other points of interest: Barry State Game Area
Yankee Springs Recreation Area

3. Sarett Nature Center
River-Gentian-Two-Board trails 0.5 miles
Lowland-Upland Trails loop 2.1 miles 
"You cross boardwalks, bridges with benches, and overlook towers, walking along woodchip and natural trails.  You meander on ridges high above the Paw Paw River and cut through wetlands in this variety of habitats." 
Other points of interest: Tiscornia Park, Silver Beach County Park
Sarett Nature Center

4. Warren Dunes State Park/Warren Woods Natural Area
Nature-Blue Jay-Beach- Mt Randal Trails loop 4 miles
Warren Woods Natural Area 1.1 miles
"Both parks evolved through the foresight of Edward K. Warren who, in the 1870s, purchased the land that is now called Warren Woods Natural Area,  His effort preserved one of the few remaining virgin beech-maple forests in Michigan.  He continued to purchased undeveloped land, including land that eventually became Warren Dunes State Park."
Other points of interest: Grand Mere State Park
Warren Dunes State Park
Warren Woods Natural Area

5. Saugatuck Dunes State Park
North Trail 2 miles
BeachTrail 1.4 miles
Livingston Trail 2 miles
South Trail 4.6 miles
"Lake Michigan awaits those who are not intimidated by the 1-mile trek over the sandy dunes from the parking lot."
Other points of interest: DeGraaf Nature Center Preserve, Star of Saugatuck
Saugatuck Dunes State Park

6. PJ Hoffmaster State Park
Loop of Homestead and Dune Climb Staircase 2.4 miles
Walk-a-mile trail 1.6 miles
"A vigorous hike along the Dune Climb Stairway to a platform on top of the towering dune provides a panoramic overlook of the vast open waters of Lake Michigan."
Other points of interest: Gillette Sand Dune Visitor Center, Muskegon State Park
PJ Hoffmaster State Park

7. Muskegon State Park
Dune Ridge Trail loop 1.7 miles
Lost Lake Trail 1.7 miles 
"Muskegon State Park's 2 miles of sandy Lake Michigan beach rank with some of the most beautiful in the world."
Other points of interest: Duck Lake State Park, PJ Hoffmaster State Park
Muskegon State Park

8. Aman Park
Yellow Trail 1.1 miles
Red Trail 1.4 miles
"Wildflowers are spectacular in spring, and the diverse terrain and varied plants of the park produce continual showings throughout the year, from skunk cabbage and marsh marigold to beech and aspen, and even to the gray of leafless branches pocketed with ice crystals.  All seasons show off something in this retreat."
Other points of interest:Pigeon Creek Park, Meijer Gardens, Kent Trails, Blandford Nature Center
Aman Park

9. North Country National Scenic Trail
Birch Grove Trail 9 miles
"When completed the trail will stretch some 4,600 miles across seven northern states from Lake Champlain in New York to Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota.  Michigan has the longest segment of any state and over half of that distance is complete and certified."
North Country National Scenic Trail

10. Manistee National Forest
Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary Trail 1.2 miles
"Protected species include trailing arbutus, bird's foot violet, bittersweet, flowering dogwood, trillium, club mosses, Michigan holly, American lotus, gentian, and pipsissewa."
Other points of interest: Birch Grove Schoolhouse
Manistee National Forest Loda Lake Sanctuary

11. Whitehouse Nature Center
River's Edge Trail 0.9 miles
Prairie Trail 1 mile
Situated along the East Branch Kalamazoo River, only .25 mile from the main campus of Albion College, are the diverse lands of the Whitehouse Nature Center."
Other points of interest: Marshall
Whitehouse Nature Center

12. Pinckney Recreation Area
Crooked Lake Trail 5.1 miles
Losee Lake Hiking Trail 3.3 miles
"The rolling topography of hills and ridges interspersed with numerous inland water bodies is typical of a landscape shaped by glacial activity."
Other points of interest: Park Lyndon
Pinckney Recreation Area

13. Waterloo Recreation Area
Waterloo-Pinckney Hiking Trail (Portage Lake to Sackrider Hill) 5.8 miles
Oak Woods-Waterloo-Pinckney Hiking Trail -Hickory Hills 4.7 miles
"The landscape was shaped more than 10,000 years ago in the last glacial period.  Receding ice, often more than 1 mile thick, formed the moraines (ridges), kames (hills), and kettles (lakes, ponds, and low-lying areas) that characterize the area, providing an abundance of recreational opportunities today."
Other points of interest: Gerald E Eddy Discovery Center, Waterloo Area Farm Museum, Phyllis Haehnle Audubon Sanctuary
Waterloo Recreation Area

14. Hidden Lake Gardens
 Pine Tree Trail 1.3 miles
Hikers' Trail 2.8 miles
"The 755-acre garden exhibits valuable plant collections and creates landscape pictures, fulfilling the objective of the Michigan State University-owned Hidden Lake Gardens."
Other points of interest: Bicentennial Woods, Walter J Hayes State Park, Walker Tavern Historic Complex
Hidden Lake Gardens

Available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, other booksellers and some libraries.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Brook Trout

The creek at the Kalamazoo Nature Center is called Trout Run and I've enjoyed walking along it for years but I'd never seen trout in the stream before this Saturday.  I'm not sure if this was merely inattentiveness or perhaps not being there at the right time of the day or right time of year.  Or, perhaps the Nature Center's restoration efforts have attracted more trout.  In any case, yesterday a half dozen, or so, small trout were active near the footbridge over trout run.

The flutter of red fins really caught the eye as we crossed the bridge, otherwise their body patterns blended well with the sand and pebble creek bottom.  The red fins with white bands are an identifying feature for our native Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) which is Michigan's state fish.

We watched these fish dart about in the current and then hold still in one place for a minute before disappearing under the bridge.  It almost seemed like they were playing in the water.

The Nature Center isn't open for fishing.  Other tributaries of the Kalamazoo River have been recommended for angling.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Long-eared Owl

I wasn't familiar with the Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) and I've never seen one on the wild but these owls are native to Michigan, breeding in the north and wintering throughout the state.  They range throughout Canada and the northern United States as well as parts of northern Europe.

Their "ears" are only tufts of feathers while their true ears are hidden by feathers on the sides of their heads.  Like other owls they are a night predator.  They are a medium sized owl, much smaller than a Great Horned Owl but bigger than a Screech Owl.
Asio otus
Asio otus
The Long-eared owl is included in John James Audubon's Birds of America.
This bird is used in education programs of the Lake Milton Raptor Center.  They were in Kalamazoo this weekend for an event at Wedel's Garden Center.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fall migration at the fish hatchery

The fish at Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery don't migrate, but the fish-rearing ponds do attract a variety of migrating waterfowl.  A Kalamazoo Gazette story on a bird-watching event at the hatchery sounded interesting and while I couldn't attend that event, I did visit the next weekend.

Canada Geese and Mallard Ducks live in Kalamazoo year round but many other species are only here during migration.  Buffleheads, a small diving duck with white sides and a large white headpatch, may be my favorite.  I also saw Ring-necked Ducks (although I never see the ring on their neck, but the white ring on their bill is much more visible), Northern Shovelers with their over-sized beaks, and small black Coots.  There were also a fair number of a duck I didn't recognize, with understated, almost elegant, grey plumage; these turned out to be Gadwalls.

While the trails at Wolf Lake are close to the ponds, the ponds themselves are big enough that you really need binoculars to appreciate the birds.  There is an observation deck at the largest pond, with a bench and illustrations of some of the common visitors.

Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery
34270 County Road 652
Mattawan, MI
(at the intersection of M-43 and Fish Hatchery Road)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Winter events 2012-2013

A little snow ahead?  Winter in Kalamazoo is the time for skiing, sledding and skating.  Many nearby communities sponsor parades and winter festivals.  Winter beach walks are invigorating while a quiet walk in the woods can be contemplative.  Dress warmly!

Winter Events near Kalamazoo
November 10, 2012 The Annual Kalamazoo Holiday Parade 11 am Kalamazoo
November 26, 2012 Marshall's 48th Annual Christmas Parade 7:00 PM Marshall

November 27, 2012 Parade of Lights 6:30 PM Holland

December 7, 2012 Sinterklaas Eve Procession 7:00 PM Holland

December 8, 2012 Free Admission Day and Local Gift Fair  9 am -4 pm Kalamazoo Nature Center Kalamazoo

December 14, 2012 - January 5, 2013. Christmas Bird Count
December 15, 2012 Santacon Kalamazoo 6pm Kalamazoo

December 31, 2012 New Year's Eve Fest Kalamazoo
January 4-5 2013 Ice Sculpting Competition Holland

January 12-18 2013 Kalamazoo Beer Week Kalamazoo

 January 19 Schrier Park Winter Sports Fest.  Try skis or snowshoes from Lee's Adventure Sports Portage

January 24 - 27, 2013 Winterfest 2013 Grand Haven

January 26, 2013 Party in your Parka  Muskegon State Park

January 29 – February 2, 2013 Muskegon Snowfest Muskegon

February 1-3, 2013 Icebreaker 2013 South Haven

February 8-10, 2013 Magical Ice Carving Festival Saint Joseph

February 15 -18,  2013  Great Backyard Bird Count

February 16 - 17, 2013 Free Fishing Winter Weekend throughout Michigan

February 23, 2013 Winter Beer Festival Grand Rapids

March 2, 2013 Quietwater Symposium East Lansing

Ongoing events
International Festival of Lights Battle Creek November 17-December 31

Holiday Kerstmarkt Holland

Millennium Park Skate Rink
opens by December 15, 2012 Portage

See also

Discover Kalamazoo's event listing
February Happenings from West Michigan Weekly
Pure Michigan's February eventsHoliday Light events
Outdoor Athelete's Winter Sports events

Gazelle Sports Races and running calendar

Kalamazoo in Winter
from CommunityLink

West Michigan Winter Weekends

Sarrett Nature Center's Weekend Programs Benton Harbor

The Department of Natural Resources has events in the State Parks in November, December, January, and February.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A new Kalamazoo River trail

Construction is essentially done on the newest segment of the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail.  I'd been watching its progress throughout the summer and early fall but there were always crews still at work.  This morning was clear but cold (cold enough to try out my new winter bike gloves) and the trail was open.  There were a few workers doing some finish work, but the segment from Comstock to Mayor's Park in Kalamazoo is ride-able. 

The new section is about 3 miles long and it offers many views of the Kalamazoo River.  River access (and trail parking) are available at many spots including South Wenke Park, a DNR access site, and Mayor's Riverfront Park.  This section of the trail runs along King Highway (M-96) not through undeveloped woods but it is continuously along the river.  There is one highway crossing and then the trail follows the river through the old Georgia Pacific property where there's a clear view of the osprey perch from the trail.  A 400-foot-long bridge with views of the Grand Elk trainyard crosses the river to Mayor's Park.  From there, you can take the KRVT several miles north through Parchment and the Kalamazoo Nature Center to the D Avenue bridge.  Or, you could take the trail west through Kalamazoo to the KalHaven Trail and continue forty-some miles to Lake Michigan.

This segment parallels the kayak float we took on Labor Day, so it would be possible to boat down the river and then bike back.