Friday, May 24, 2013

Summer Events 2013

Summer in Kalamazoo is a great time for  biking, canoeing, hiking, camping or swimming in Lake Michigan.  It's also time for a variety of summer festivals in the area.

 Summer events near Kalamazoo

May 31-June 2 Cerulean Warbler Weekend Hastings

June 1 2013 Kalamazoo Bicycle Film Festival  Kalamazoo

June 1 National Trails Day

June 8-9 Michigan Free Fishing Weekend

June 9 Kalamazoo River Trail Grand Opening noon-4pm South Wenke Park, Comstock

June 13-15 56th Annual Waterfest Three Rivers

June 20-23 Harborfest South Haven

June 22  Paddle to Pedal Event on the Flat River Belding

July 3-7 Balloon Festival Battle Creek

July 10-15 Kindleberger Summer Festival Parchment

July 19-21  Old Tyme Tractor Show Scots

July 21 Southwest Michigan Bicycle Expo Kalamazoo 10am-4pm (county fairgrounds)

August 8-11  50th annual Blueberry Festival South Haven

Also consider:

Long weekend suggestions from Pure Michigan

Sand Sculpting 101 various dates at State Parks on Lake Michigan

West Michigan Summer Weekends

Kalamazoo Farmers Market

Michigan Fireworks Displays a comprehensive list of fireworks throughout the state

Events at Kalamazoo's Arcadia Creek Festival Place
Event listings from Discover Kalamazoo
Gazelle Sports' calendar of West Michigan Races and Running Workshops

Open Roads Fixapalooza
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. 

Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy volunteer workdays
State park events for June, July, and August 2013 from Michigan's DNR

Michigan Festivals and Events Association Events browser

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Bells to Bells bike ride

The final event for Kalamazoo Bike Week 2013 was a ride from Bell's Eccentric Cafe in downtown Kalamazoo to their production brewery in Comstock.  The ride was about 7 miles each way, half on the Kalamazoo Valley River Trail and half on M-96.  The ride was a fundraiser to build the final 13 miles of the KVRT.
Roughly 75 riders participated, led by Laura Bell, director of marketing at Bell's.  People rode a wide assortment of bikes including mountain bikes, road bikes, hybrids, fixies, and tandems.

At the brewery, Bell's staff led tours showing off their expanded production facilities, including environmentally- friendly features like their energy recovery system and green roof.
The return trip followed the same route.

After the ride, cyclists relaxed over  a beer at the Eccentric Cafe and had the opportunity to win Bell's merchandise in a raffle. 

I didn't win any prizes but I did enjoy a couple of specialty beers.  The weather was perfect, both for the ride and for Bell's beer garden.
The next addition to the trail will run along the Kalamazoo River behind Bell's brewery making future Bells to Bells rides even more attractive.  Long run plans include connecting the trail to Battle Creek's linear park and eventually creating a system of bike trails that link together across the state.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Bakeries and Bikes in Kalamazoo

This week is Kalamazoo Bike Week so it's a great time to visit our local trails.  The newest section of the KRVT offers several places to stop for a snack.  It's hard to beat a bike ride and a cookie on a Spring day.  

I'm not sure if bakeries were a criterion when the planners selected the route for the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail, but it almost seems that way.  The section from Comstock to Parchment is particularly rich in baked goods.

Bert's Bakery in Comstock is just across the bridge from the eastern end of the KRVT.  The front of the shop is full of potpourri-type gifts, but if you walk past all that you will see two glass counters full of sweets.  Bert's offers a full selection of the usual cookies like peanut butter, oatmeal, chocolate chip, frosted sugar, or brownies but they also have some unusually tasty fruit-filled cookies.  These are almost like really flat pies, with a thin layer of fruit filling between cookie crusts.  They come in a variety of flavors: apple, almond, cherry, raspberry, blueberry, etc.  I don't know if they bake bread and I haven't tried their cake but the cookies are good.  (From their website, it appears that they make a lot of wedding cakes.)  You can enjoy your cookies on a bench outside the shop or cross the street to Merrill Park.
Bert's Bakery
309 River Street
Kalamazoo, MI  49048

MacKenzie's Bakery is about 4 miles from Bert's at the edge of downtown Kalamazoo.  It's directly across the street from the trail and it offers a wide variety of treats.  This is MacKenzie's main kitchen that bakes for its retail outlets on Westnedge and West Main.  I enjoy their cookies, donuts, pastries, brownies, and bread.  They also serve sandwiches, if you want a meal.  They have tables inside and outside.  It's my most frequent stop on the KVRT.
MacKenzie's Bakery
527 Harrison
Kalamazoo MI 49007

Sarkosy's Bakery is my favorite bakery in Kalamazoo, particularly for breads.  The original bakery closed after a fire and is in the process of raising money to move to a new location [update: Sarkosy's is open in a new spacious setting.].  The bakery is in Kalamazoo not far from MacKenzie's.  This is the bakery for bread; their oatmeal bread has been the default bread at our house for years.  Cheese crowns, cookies, and other sweets make great snacks.  (And, during Mardi Gras season, their paczkis are legendary.)  The trail isn't clearly defined through downtown, relying on sidewalks and back streets to connect the paved section along the river to the paved section that starts at Westnedge.  In any case, the short detour to Sarkosy's will be worth it.
Sarkosy Bakery
350 E Michigan Ave  [new location]
Kalamazoo, MI 49007

Continuing a few miles north on the trail, brings us to Parchment and Renzema's bakery.  Renzema's is an old-fashioned place near the trail.  I often park nearby and it would be a great stop for a doughnut if they were open later in the day.  For me the problem is timing.  Renzema's is open from midnight to noon and I'm often there in the afternoon.  If you are there in the morning (or late at night), it's worth a stop.  I'm not really a fan of their bread and their cookies are nothing special (but they are inexpensive.) I do recommend the donuts.
Renzema's Bakery
214 Link Ln
Parchment, MI 49004

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Wildflowers at Warren Dunes

Like most people, I think of Warren Dunes State Park as a summer destination: swimming at the big beaches (with big parking lots), climbing Tower Hill to see Chicago across Lake Michigan, picnicking, or camping.  So it had been a few years since I'd visited during the Spring wildflower season.  On Thursday, I went to three parks in the southwest corner of the state: Grand Mere, Warren Dunes, and Warren Woods.  The three are only a few miles apart and each offered a different glimpse into Michigan's Spring.

Warren Dunes was at peak wildflower time.  I ate lunch in the picnic area, surrounded by hundreds of blooming Trillium.  The trillium continued all along the trail to the campground and on the slopes of the wooded back dunes.  As the trail turned uphill, other wildflowers came into sight: both Dicentra species (Dutchman's Breeches and Squirrel Corn), Rue Anemone, Toothwort, Violets, and a lone Jack-in-the-Pulpit.  Two other plants, with less conspicuous blooms also caught my eye: Blue Cohosh with its tiny green flowers and the hairy, ground-level flowers of Wild Ginger.

Other ephemerals, like Hepatica and Bloodroot, had already bloomed and their leaves were gathering energy before the tree canopy shaded them for the summer.

This beach will be full of people in a couple of months.

Warren Dunes State Park
12032 Red Arrow Hwy 
Lake Charter Township, MI 49125

State park pass or entry fee required.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wildflower season continues

Yesterday morning didn't look like a promising day for wildflowers in Kalamazoo.  Then the skies got even darker and dropped big hailstones (mostly about a quarter inch but the biggest were a full inch across) followed by heavy rain.  But, by mid-afternoon, the sky was clear and bright.  When I finished some grading, I drove out to the Kalamazoo Nature Center to see how the season was progressing.

Lots of wildflowers were in bloom.  Spring Beauty, Toothwort, Trout Lily, Dutchman's Breeches, and Marsh Marigolds seemed to be at their peak.  Rue Anemone were widespread.  The Spicebush near the Kalamazoo River, were dotted with clusters of small yellow flowers.  With temperatures reaching 80 degrees, some of these may go to seed quickly.

The Hepatica, which were in full bloom last week, had already formed seedheads and their fresh leaves (that will last until next Spring) had emerged. 
There were some signs of the next wave of blooms.  Squirrel Corn, which bloom later than the closely related Dutchman's Breeches, were showing some immature green blossoms and, in sunny areas, a few were in full flower.  Mayapple umbrellas were open in big clusters.  Lots of Trillium had unopened buds.  Those may flower by this weekend.
Besides the flowers, it was a reasonable day for wildlife watching.  I saw a Wild Turkey from the parking lot, a Pileated Woodpecker near the river, and lots of turtles and one water snake sunning in the pond.  Not a bad end to a day in the woods.