Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Winter Events 2017-18

After a wet November in Kalamazoo, it's hard to predict what December will bring.  Will there be enough snow for skiing, sledding, and skating? Whatever the weather, a variety of local festivals celebrate the season.

Winter Events near Kalamazoo
November 24, 2017 Tree Lighting, 5 pm -7:30 pm Bronson Park Kalamazoo

December 2, 2017 Tree Lighting Portage 
December 9, 2017 12th annual Candy Cane Hunt Mayors Riverfront Park Kalamazoo
December 9, 2017 Local Gift Fair  9 am -4 pm Kalamazoo Nature Center Kalamazoo 
December 15-23, 2017 Zoo Lights Binder Park Zoo Battle Creek
December 31, 2017 New Year's Eve Fest Kalamazoo
January 13-21 2018 Kalamazoo Beer Week Kalamazoo

January 25 - 28, 2018
Winterfest 2018 Grand Haven
February 2-4, 2018  Icebreaker  South Haven

February 16 -19,  2018  Great Backyard Bird Count

February 17-18, 2018 Free Fishing Winter Weekend throughout Michigan

February 23-24, 2018 Winter Beer Festival Grand Rapids

March 3, 2018 Quietwater Symposium East Lansing

Ongoing events
International Festival of Lights Battle Creek November -December
          Dutch Winterfest Holland
Millennium Park Skate Rink opens December 2, 2017 (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.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Laketown Beach

I can't remember when I last found a "new" beach in Southwest Michigan.  It's been easy to fall back on a favorite park: Saugatuck Dunes, Warren Dunes, or Grand Mere and not explore new places.  A couple of weekends ago I stumbled across Laketown Beach Park, a few miles north of Saugatuck Dunes. 

Laketown Beach is a quirky little park featuring some impressive stairs.  The park starts with a small parking lot where 142nd Avenue dead-ends at the dunes.  A few signs, a porta-potty, and some stairs.  And then some more stairs.  Then a few more. 

From the top, there's a nice view of Lake Michigan and a long flight of stairs leading to the beach and water.  The Awesome Mitten blog claims the round-trip takes nearly 500 steps.

The beach frontage on the Lake is fairly small.  Big signs mark private land on either side of this township park.  There was plenty of room for a picnic in early October, but I imagine it could fill up in mid-summer.
While you can't lay out a blanket on the private beaches, Michigan law allows people to walk along the lakefront, whether the land is privately or publicly owned. So, the private beach signs don't say, "Keep Out," they say, "Keep Walking."

I enjoyed a long walk along the lake, turning back near Saugatuck Dunes State Park. 

I didn't walk north from the park, but Holland's "Big Red" lighthouse was visible in the distance.  It's about 3 miles away, so it could be an ambitious beach walk.
Laketown Beach Park
6710 142nd Ave.
Holland, MI 49423


Sunday, October 1, 2017

MapleHeart Trail

The MapleHeart Trail connects Goshen, Indiana to Elkhart and its name brought images of majestic trees, perhaps painted with early fall color.  I'd biked the Pumpkinvine Trail out of Goshen and I expected a bucolic ride through rural Indiana.

But, I was wrong.
The MapleHeart Trail is a purely practical connector between Goshen and Elkhart.   It's neither tree-lined nor rustic.  It's basically a wide side-walk along a county highway.  If you live in Goshen and want to get to Elkhart, the trail takes you there, safely and easily. Transportation over recreation.  Practical bike routes make a lot of sense given the large Amish population in the region, who use the trails to commute.

To be fair, it's a nice ride to the attractive Ox Bow County Park, about halfway between the two towns.  It also connects to the Pumpkinvine Trail, for those wanting a longer ride.
My ride started in Abshire Park, east of Goshen.  From there, it was 9 miles to Elkhart, on a combination of the Pumpkinvine Trail, the Wilden Avenue Connector, and the MapleHeart Trail.  It was a beautiful afternoon and good exercise, even it not exactly what I expected.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Fall Flowers

Joe Pye Weed  Eutrochium maculatum (or Illinois Wildflowers  or USDA)

When I think of color in the Fall, I automatically think of  autumn leaves.  Most of summer's prairie flowers are finished, replaced by a variety of asters and goldenrods.  A walk at the Kalamazoo Nature Center reminded me that there are still some interesting plants in bloom, particularly in the wet soil along the Kalamazoo River.

Jewelweed    Impatiens capensis (or Illinois Wildflowers or MSU extension pdf)

White Turtlehead Chelone glabra  (or USDA link or  Illinois Wildflowers )

Great Blue Lobelia   Lobelia siphilitica 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Fall 2017 Events

Labor Day marks the last weekend of Michigan's summer.   In Kalamazoo, Fall is a great time for walking or riding under colorful foliage, paddling down a river, or watching Sandhill Cranes.  Area festivals celebrate Labor Day, fall harvests, fish, and birds.

Fall events around Kalamazoo

September 2-4 Lawrence Ox Roast Lawrence

September 4 West Michigan Labor Fest Grand Rapids

September 8-10  Paw Paw Wine and Harvest Festival Paw Paw

September 9 Eco Raft RacKalamazoo

September 15-17 Grand Haven Salmon Festival Grand Haven

September 24-30  Michigan Trails Week

September 20-October 8 Art Prize Grand Rapids

September 22-23 Fall Festival St. Joseph

September 29-30 Oktoberfest Grand Rapids

October 14-15 Cranefest Bellevue

October 13-17 Fennville Goose Festival Fennville

October 21-22 Arts and Eats Tour  Hastings, Middleville, Hickory Corners, and surrounding areas

October 19-29 Zoo Boo Binder Park Zoo  Battle Creek 

November 11 Holiday Parade 11am- 12:30pm Kalamazoo

Also consider:
Southeast Michigan Labor Day events from MetroParent

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

Mackinac Bridge Walk
5 Spots to Sip Cider, Pick Pumpkins, and Soak up Fall from Discover Kalamazoo
Fall Scenic Drives 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.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Summer Events 2017

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

June 9-10 CerealFest Battle Creek

June 10-11 Michigan Free Fishing Weekend

June 15-17 Water Festival Three Rivers

June 16-18 Harborfest South Haven

June 29-July 4 Balloon Festival Battle Creek

July 12-16 Kindleberger Summer Festival Parchment

July 21-23  Old Tyme Tractor Show Scots

August 10-13  54th annual Blueberry Festival South Haven

August 25-27 Hastings Summerfest Hastings

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
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

Friday, April 7, 2017

Spring 2017 Events

Spring feels like it is starting slowly this season, particularly after Kalamazoo's mild winter.  But, warmer weather is coming and it will bring plenty of opportunities to hike or bike or look for birds, wildflowers, or morels.

Many West Michigan festivals and activities celebrate Spring.

Spring events near Kalamazoo

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

April 15-23, National Park Week
April 15 Green-A-Thon 2017 Celery Flats Portage
April 29 Thornapple Woodpecker Festival Middleville
May 6-7  Victorian Days Grand Ledge
May 6 Blossomtime Grand Floral Parade 1pm St Joseph - Benton Harbor
May 6-14 Tulip Time festival Holland
May 13-20 Kalamazoo Bike Week Kalamazoo

May 16  Kalamazoo Bicycle Film Festival  at Bell's in Kalamazoo

May 20-21 Great Lakes Kite Festival 2016 Grand Haven
May 27 Kalamazoo Area Wild Ones 4th Annual 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

Tawas Point Birding Festival Iosco County May 18–19
birdwatching at Bird Trails and Sanctuaries in Michigan

Discover Kalamazoo's event listing

Events 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
Southwest Michigan Cultural Exchange  May  Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Hickory Corners

Spring weekend getaways

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Maple Syrup Season 2017

I'm not sure how the irregular winter weather of 2017 will affect the maple sugar harvest.  Some news articles suggest an earlier start and an earlier finish for the flow of sap.  Whatever the weather, several local events celebrate the maple season.

Maple Syrup Festivals near Kalamazoo

March 4-5 and 11-12 Maple Sugar Time Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Chesterton, Indiana 
March 11 How Sweet It Is Sarett Nature Center Benton Harbor

March 11-12 Maple Sugar Festival Kalamazoo Nature Center Kalamazoo

March 18-19 Sugar Camp Days Bendix Woods County Park, New Carlisle, IN

March 18  Sugarbush Festival  Blandford Nature Center  Grand Rapids

April 28 - 30 Wakarusa Maple Syrup Festival, Wakarusa, Indiana

April 28 - 30 77th Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival Vermontville

Also consider
Michigan MapleWeekends

Michigan Maple Syrup Events 2017 in Oakland County and Southeast Michigan

Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival

Friday, February 3, 2017

Aman Park

Until today, I'd never visited Aman Park, despite seeing it recommended in several guidebooks (including Best Easy Day Hikes Grand Rapids, Natural Michigan, and Hiking Michigan.)  The park is about an hour north of Kalamazoo and offers several trails of about a mile each.

As I drove through suburban sprawl west of Grand Rapids, the location didn't seem that promising, but the fast food and shopping plazas gave way to farms and camps shortly before the the park entrance.  The park shares an entrance with Indian Trails Youth Camp.

The park isn't huge, but Sand Creek gives it real character.  The creek has carved some nice hills and the park's trails take advantage of the change in topography.  The trails I took were clearly marked and seemed well-maintained.  There wasn't really enough snow for good x-country skiing but someone had been out early and left some tracks.  I left my skis at home and enjoyed a nice winter walk.

I'm not sure the park is enough of a destination to make the drive from Kalamazoo, but it would combine nicely with a visit to other attractions in Grand Rapids.  I certainly plan to return.  It's supposed to be great for Spring Wildflowers.

The park is about 6 miles west of downtown Grand Rapids on M-45.  (Grand Valley State University is a couple of miles further west on the same road.)

Aman Park
1895 Lake Michigan Dr NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49534
(address is approximate.)