Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Winter Events 2016-17

While November offered Kalamazoo plenty of mild, sunny weather, Winter will be coming soon.  With its cold days and long nights, Winter brings a new set of options: skiing, sledding, or skating.  A variety of local festivals celebrate the season.

Winter Events near Kalamazoo
December 3, 2016 Tree Lighting Portage

December 3-4, 2016 Olde World Village Winter Holiday Festival Augusta

December 16-23 Zoo Lights Binder Park Zoo Battle Creek

December 17, 2016  Santacon Kalamazoo 6pm Kalamazoo 
December 10, 2016 Local Gift Fair  9 am -4 pm Kalamazoo Nature Center Kalamazoo
December 31, 2016 New Year's Eve Fest Kalamazoo
January 14-21 2017 Kalamazoo Beer Week Kalamazoo

January 26 - 29, 2017
Winterfest 2016 Grand Haven

January 28, 2017 Winter Jamboree Milham Park Golf Course Kalamazoo
February 3-5, 2017  Icebreaker  South Haven

February 17 -20,  2017  Great Backyard Bird Count

February 18-19, 2017 Free Fishing Winter Weekend throughout Michigan

February 24-25, 2017 Winter Beer Festival Grand Rapids

March 4, 2017 Quietwater Symposium East Lansing

Ongoing events
International Festival of Lights Battle Creek November -December
          Dutch Winterfest Holland
Millennium Park Skate Rink opens December 8, 2016 (weather permitting) Portage
          Christmas Bird Count

See also

OptOutside  An alternative to hitting the malls on Black Friday

Discover Kalamazoo's event listing
Gazelle Sports Races and running calendar

Kalamazoo in Winter
from CommunityLink

11 Unforgettable Winter Places in Michigan

West Michigan Winter Weekends

Sarrett Nature Center's Event list Benton Harbor

The DNR has calendars of events for State Parks and Recreation Areas.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Manistee River Trail

Last weekend, we hiked the Manistee River Trail  in the Manistee National Forest.  It's about a 3 hour drive from Kalamazoo (160 miles north).  There are several access points to the trail, and we started at Red Bridge and hiked north to the trailhead at the Seaton Creek campground.  The trail runs for just over 10 miles along the Manistee River.

Despite the cool temperatures, Saturday was a popular day on the trail and we met many groups of hikers, about evenly split between backpackers and day hikers.  Several people were backpacking with their dogs-- often equipped with their own doggy-sized backpacks.  We passed several campsites full of tents, tarps, or hammocks.  Down below, we saw the occasional group of kayakers and canoeists enjoying the river.

The leaves were just starting to change, so we were periodically rewarded with a burst of bright autumn color.

While most of the trees were still green, mushrooms provided an alternative source of color.  We passed hundreds and hundreds of mushrooms and assorted fungi-- red, white, black, yellow, brown, orange, grey, and gold-- ranging from the size of pencil eraser to plate-sized. 

The trail climbed from the river's edge to high banks overlooking the water and back, so there was a good amount of uphill and downhill walking.  The trail crossed a number bridges over streams that feed the Manistee.  These streams provided water sources (filtering/purification recommended) for hikers.  More developed water supplies were available at the Seaton Creek campground and Red Bridge.  (Although both pumps may be closed seasonally.)  A few of the creeks featured small waterfalls.
The Manistee River trail connects to the North Country Trail via a long wooden suspension bridge.  The two trails combine to form a 23 mile loop, which makes for a popular weekend backpacking experience.  We didn't hike the North Country Trail this weekend, but my stepson and his wife backpacked the whole loop last summer.  They reported that the NCT side has much less water and is mostly in the woods, without views of the river.  In their opinion, the Manistee River Trail was the prettier and more interesting option.
We camped in the Seaton Creek campground the night before and the night after our hike.  It's a Forest Service facility operated by a concessionaire, American Land & Leisure.  The campground was very nicely maintained with clean campsites and outhouses.  We bought a bundle of firewood from the pleasant camp host.  Each of the 17 sites was roomy and well-separated from neighboring sites.  About halfway around the loop, a picnic area with a set of steep stairs gives access to Seaton Creek.  Trailhead parking is also available at the campground (for a fee.)

The USFS website for the campground was out-of-date; it was inaccurate about fees (which are actually charged whenever the campground is open, not just in the summer months) and opening/closing dates.  (Last weekend was the end of the season and the campground will remain locked until Spring.)  The website for the campground was somewhat more accurate but harder to navigate.  We ended up asking the campground host.  Campsites were $16 per night.

Directions:  Access to the trail is on well-maintained dirt roads off M-37 (south of Mesick.)  It was easy to follow the signs to the Seaton Creek campground.  The normal route to Red Bridge was blocked due to road construction, but the detour was well-marked. offers these directions to Seaton Creek: 
GPS Info. (Latitude, Longitude):
44.35778, -85.80917
44°21'28"N, 85°48'33"W

From the north: Follow M-37 south 6 miles from Mesick. Turn right on 26 Road (near Yuma) for 1.7 miles, then right on O'Rourke Drive for 1.3 miles, then right on Forest Road 5993 for 0.4 mile to the site.
From the south: Take M-37 north 9 miles from its intersection with M-55. Turn left on 26 Road for 1.7 miles, then right on O'Rourke Drive for 1.3 miles, then right on Forest Road 5993 for 0.4 miles to the site.
Google Maps uses different names for some of the smaller roads but accurately guided us in.  The street signs posted on those small dirt roads were closer to Google Maps' names, but still not 100% consistent.  The large brown recreation signs pointing to the campground were very clear.

More Information: Michigan's Manistee River Trail

Manistee County: map links and Hiking the Loop 

Michigan Trail Maps Manistee River Trail and North Country Trail (to order a paper map)

Friday, September 2, 2016

Fall Events 2016

Labor Day marks the last weekend of summer and the coming of Fall with crisp cool weather and colorful foliage.  Autumn in Kalamazoo is a great time for walking or riding in the woods, paddling down a river, or watching Sandhill Cranes.  Area festivals celebrate Labor Day, fall harvests, fish, and birds.

Fall events around Kalamazoo

September 2-5 Lawrence Ox Roast Lawrence

September 5 West Michigan Labor Fest Grand Rapids

September 9-11  Paw Paw Wine and Harvest Festival Paw Paw

September 16-17 Grand Haven Salmon Festival Grand Haven

September 19-26  Michigan Trails Week

September 21-October 9 Art Prize Grand Rapids

September 23-24 Fall Festival St. Joseph

September 23-24 Oktoberfest Grand Rapids

October 9 Fall Color Cruise Kalamazoo River Valley Trail Kalamazoo

October 8-9 Cranefest Bellevue

October 7-9 Fennville Goose Festival Fennville

October 15-16 Arts and Eats Tour  Hastings, Middleville, Hickory Corners, and surrounding areas

October 19-30 Zoo Boo Binder Park Zoo  Battle Creek

Also consider:

Southeast Michigan Labor Day events from MetroParent

Labor Day Weekend Events for Metro Detroit (Oakland County Moms)

Mackinac Bridge Walk
8 Ways to Celebrate Fall from Pure Michigan

Fall recommendations from 52 Michigan Weekends

Fresh apple cider from VerHages Cider Mill.

Fall walks and rides on the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail

Event listings from Discover Kalamazoo

Gazelle Sports' calendar of West Michigan Races and Events

League of Michigan Bicyclist's Michigan Ride Calendar

The DNR has calendars of events for State Parks and Recreation Areas.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Summer Events 2016

Summer is a great time to be in Kalamazoo for biking, canoeing, hiking, and camping or going to a beach on Lake Michigan.  

Summer events near Kalamazoo

June 11-12 Michigan Free Fishing Weekend

June 16-19 Harborfest South Haven

June 29-July 4 Balloon Festival Battle Creek

July 6-10 Kindleberger Summer Festival Parchment

July 15-17  Old Tyme Tractor Show Scots

August 11-14  50th annual Blueberry Festival South Haven

Also consider:
Long weekend suggestions from Pure Michigan

50 fun things to do in Michigan this summer

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
Events from West Michigan Tourist Association

Kzoo Kids lists Beaches near Kalamazoo & Battle Creek promotes Lake Michigan beach towns.
Beach Freaks guide to Michigan's Best Beaches

Gazelle Sports' calendar of West Michigan events  
League of Michigan Bicyclist's Michigan Ride Calendar

West Michigan Coastal Kayaker's Association Event Calendar
Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy volunteer workdays
State park events from Michigan's DNR

Sarrett Nature Center's Event list Benton Harbor

Michigan Festivals and Events Association Events browser

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Spring wildflowers 2016

Spring Wildflowers are in full bloom around Kalamazoo. 

Two sunny weekends in a row made it easy to enjoy them.  Last weekend, Russ Forest in Cass County was full of people walking, wading in the stream, and riding horses.  There were more flowers than human.  The Spring Beauty were so prolific, I could see their tiny flowers from the highway without slowing down.

Dowagaic Woods had fewer people but more flowers.  We saw everything from hepatica to bloodroot to trillium in bloom.  It felt like the season for ephemeral wildflowers had been compressed by the previous week's snow and that weekend's unseasonable warmth.
The Kalamazoo Nature Center had their Earth Day celebration this Saturday and their timing was perfect.  Dutchman's Breeches, Blue-eyed Mary, Marsh Marigold, Squirrel Corn, and Spring Beauty were all in flower.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Spring Events 2016

Spring in Kalamazoo brings the return of Sandhill Cranes, Turkey Vultures, Blue Herons and Red-winged Blackbirds.  Chipmunks, Groundhogs, and Raccoons awake from hibernation.  Empheral wildflowers bloom before the leafy canopy shades the ground.  For people, Spring is a nice time to hike or bike or look for birds, wildflowers, or morels.
Many festivals and activities celebrate Spring in west Michigan

Spring events near Kalamazoo

March 1- April 30 Butterflies are Blooming at Meijer Gardens Grand Rapids

April 16-24, National Park Week

April 23 Green-A-Thon 2016 Celery Flats Portage
April 30 Thornapple Woodpecker Festival Middleville
April 30- May1 Victorian Days Grand Ledge
May 7 Blossomtime Grand Floral Parade 1pm St Joseph - Benton Harbor
May 7-14 Tulip Time festival Holland
May 14 & 21 Lees' Kayak & Canoe Demo day Kalamazoo  

May 14-21 Kalamazoo Bike Week Kalamazoo 
May 17  Kalamazoo Bicycle Film Festival  at Bell's in Kalamazoo

May 21-22 Great Lakes Kite Festival 2016 Grand Haven
May 28 Kalamazoo Area Wild Ones 3rd Annuak Native Plant Sale People's Food Co-op Kalamazoo 

Also consider:
Vegetable planting dates

Earth Day Activities throughout Michigan
Bike Friendly Kalamazoo's  Event listings

Battle Creek Cleanwater Events

Tawas Point Birding Festival Iosco County May 19–22
birdwatching at Bird Trails and Sanctuaries in Michigan

Discover Kalamazoo's event listing

Monthly Events Roundup from Pure Michigan
Gazelle Sports Races and running calendar
League of Michigan Bicyclists Michigan Bicycling Calendar

Michigan Festivals and Events Association Events browser

The DNR has calendars of events for State Parks and Recreation Areas.

Sarrett Nature Center's Event list Benton Harbor
Spring weekend getaways

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Maple syrup season 2016

As Winter makes the transition to Spring, maple sap starts flowing.  Sap can be collected via bucket, bag, or tubing and then boiled for hours to make syrup.  Local events celebrate the sugaring season.

Maple Syrup Festivals near Kalamazoo

March 5-6 and 12-13 Maple Sugar Time Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Chesterton, Indiana 
March 12-13 Maple Sugar Madness Sarett Nature Center Benton Harbor

March 12-13 Maple Sugar Festival Kalamazoo Nature Center Kalamazoo

March 19-20 Sugar Camp Days Bendix Woods County Park, New Carlisle, IN

March 19  Sugarbush Festival  Blandford Nature Center  Grand Rapids

April 22 - 24 Wakarusa Maple Syrup Festival, Wakarusa, Indiana

April 22 - 24 76th Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival Vermontville

Also consider

Michigan MapleWeekends

Michigan Maple Syrup Events 2016 in Oakland County and Southeast Michigan

Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival