April 24th, 2013
While other parts of the country look to the “red-breasted” robin as the winged harbinger of spring, visitors of the Sleeping Bear Dunes keep an eye out for the arrival of the season’s first plover. This year, it happened on April 9th.
Check out the banded little beauty right here along with information on the best places to see plovers at the lakeshore this spring and summer.
You know how birdwatchers are spelling “spring” this year at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore?
“Of,gLX,b” may look like gobbledygook, but the code carries big meaning to park researchers. “Of,gLX,b” are the letters stamped on the leg band worn by the first plover spotted in the park this year, according to a report earlier this month on the Facebook page for the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
The number of nesting plovers in the lakeshore has dropped steadily since 59 pairs were recorded in 2005. In 2009 there were 25 pairs; in 2010, 23 pairs; and 2011 only 18. One reason for the decrease in the numbers is predators such as merlins, but dogs running through nesting areas and even chasing plovers have also threatened the population.
Even more bad news for plovers comes this year with the federal sequester cuts impacting rangers and biologists at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Budget cuts are expected to hamper protection and monitoring of the endangered piping plover this season.
Check ‘Em Out
But that doesn’t mean plover viewing is off-limits to visitors this summer. Plover viewing kicks off with flight displays and territory “dances” in April. Observers can expect to see young chicks hatch in late June.
The plover population may be in a period of decline, but the greatest concentration of these shorebirds in the Great Lakes is still at Sleeping Bear Dunes. Rangers routinely cordon off beach areas around nests to protect them from being disturbed. But visitors with a good pair of binoculars can still get close enough to see the birds at the mouth of the Platte River (at the end of Lake Michigan Road in Benzie County).
According to the park service webpage of “all things plover,” there have also been nests in the Sleeping Bear Point area and near the Southern boundary of the park. In addition, plovers also breed regularly on North Manitou Island.
Download a National Park Service site bulletin about the Piping Plovers at Sleeping Bear Dunes (pdf file 161 kb). The bulletin outlines important information for anyone looking to see piping plovers along with advice on how you can help protect this increasingly rare shorebird.
April 23rd, 2013
Looking for something fun to do at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore after the sun goes down? Rangers are hosting a couple cool events this month.
Check out how you can celebrate National Park Week, Sleeping Bear Dunes style, by catching the acclaimed documentary, Chasing Ice, followed by a star gazing party at Platte Point Beach.
Did you know that National Park Week is April 20-28? On Saturday, April 27th, rangers are planning to celebrate with two showings of the documentary, Chasing Ice, followed later that evening with a sunset and star watching party on one of the parks most popular beaches.
The Big Screen
Chasing Ice follows filmmaker James Balog across the Arctic as he deploys revolutionary time-lapse cameras designed for one purpose: to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers. Balog’s hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate.
Visitor’s Center showings are scheduled for 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. Reservations are recommended. Seating is limited to 100 people per showing. Those with reservations will be seated first. Click here to make your reservation either by phone or email.
The Big Sky
After the final showing of the movie, park visitors have a few hours to get a bite to eat before heading down to Platte Point Beach (at the end of Lake Michigan Road in Benzie County) to catch the sunset followed by an evening of star gazing.
The “sun drop show” over Lake Michigan starts at 8:44 p.m. After the sunset, rangers will be on hand with telescopes for star viewing and constellation identification. A park pass is required for both events. Click here for more information.
April 22nd, 2013
Talk about taking a long walk on the beach! First, Battle Creek’s Loreen Niewenhuis walked 1,019 miles around Lake Michigan. Then, she walked another 1,004 miles along the shorelines of all five Great Lakes.
Niewenhuis has written two books about the experience and still considers the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore her favorite part. Read this USA Today article about her amazing journey along with information about her newest book, A 1000-Mile Great Lakes Walk, and upcoming appearances throughout the state.
Like Forrest Gump, who one day just put on his shoes and decided to set off on a little run, one day in 2009 Loreen Niewenhuis, decided to “do something completely different” by setting off on a journey around Lake Michigan.
Sixty four days later and writing in her blog about the adventure, Niewenhuis said the Sleeping Bear Dunes was the place her mind returned to most when recalling the experience. Her love for the region was clear in her first book, A 1000-Mile Walk on the Beach, in which she wrote about passionately about discovering the many wonders (and ecological threats) facing Lake Michigan.
Now she’s done it again by completing another 1,000 miles around the remaining Great Lakes. USA Today spoke with Niewenhouse this month in an article timed with the release of her latest about, A 1000-Mile Great Lakes Walk. At a time when lakes Michigan and Huron are at their lowest levels ever, Niewenhouse (who used to work as a research scientist/biologist) offers a unique, on-the-ground perspective on the state of the Great Lakes today.
Earlier this month, Niewenhuis launched her latest book tour with a signing at The Cottage Book Shop in Glen Arbor. To catch one of her dynamic presentations about her adventures and the ecology of the Great Lakes, check out her website (www.laketrek.com) for a list of more scheduled events and personal appearances throughout Michigan this summer.
April 21st, 2013
The Homestead has partnered with naturalist photographer, Mark Carlson, and digital guru, Bob Grzesiak, to offer Great Lakes Photo Tours in the “Most Beautiful Place in America.” Find out how to get an insider’s pass to discovering the most scenic coastal outlooks and breathtaking natural wonders in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Have you ever been on vacation, looked at the postcards on the rack of a local souvenir shop, and wondered, Wow! Wouldn’t it be great to take pictures like that? If you’re planning a trip to Leelanau County and the Sleeping Bear Dunes next month, The Homestead knows two great northern Michigan image makers who would be more than happy to show you how.
So many guests of The Homestead have used the resort as a home base while attending one of Mark Carlson and Bob Grzesiak Great Lake Photo Tours that the resort now promotes this unique adventure with special rates of $149 for a one-day excursion; $249 for a two-day tour.
There are two, full day classes dates set for May, the peak of the spectacular wildflower season at the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Participants on either date, May 11th or May 12th, will tour the lakeshore’s sprawling hardwoods and pastoral meadows in search of native flowers (over 40 species) common in the park. A special weekend-long tour (May 11tha nd 12th) offers photography lovers this insider’s tour of the Sleeping Bear Dunes plus the opportunity to experience the cherry orchards, historic barns and scenic hillsides of the park and surrounding Leelanau Peninsula.
Whether just learning your way around the camera or come into the tour as a more advanced “photog” looking to deepen your files, Carlson and Grzesiak can personalize your experience to make sure you get the most out of it.
Carlson’s images have appeared in magazine, books and calendars. His fine art photography regularly exhibits in galleries and private collections throughout th country. Carlson has been exploring the region since boyhood and presents a wealth of naturalist information to attendees, as well as many helpful tips and suggestions on how to make you a better nature photographer, regardless of equipment or skill level.
Grzesiak decodes the tech-talk of digital image photography into understandable, layman’s terms. His expertise in assisting digital photographers with their cameraand accessories allows tour attendees the opportunity to create cherished photographs, not just memories, while enjoying this unique photo excursion.
Together, your guides bring over 50 years of combined experience as professionals in their respective fields. Click here to see the May 2013 schedule. The Homestead is offering discount Great Lake Photo Tour packages throughout the season that includes a special rate that combines lodging and tour costs.
April 9th, 2013
Reports are putting the snowfall total for Leelanau County and the Sleeping Bear Dunes at around 125 inches for the season; in other words, a beautifully average winter.
Check out season through the camera lens of one of northern Michigan’s best known photographers, Ken Scott, and this slideshow that might make you a little sorry to see Old Man winter go.
From sunsets over the Empire Bluffs to starry skies over the Manitou Islands, Ken Scott has compiled a wonderful array of winter images from the Sleeping Bear Dunes on flickr. If you like what you see, check out Scott’s website for more information on posters, postcards and frame-quality prints.
April 8th, 2013
The park is open, but some visitors may notice changes. Automatic reduction in the federal budget (otherwise known as “sequester”) mean a 5-percent cut to the $4.7 million budget of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Here are the details on how federal spending reductions will affect services and attractions at northern Michigan’s favorite vacation destination.
Around $234,000 — that’s the amount gone from the budget of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore this year due to sequestration spending cuts that took effect March 1st.
As part of the National Park Service, the Lakeshore is forced to take actions necessary to comply with sequestration. Nut the good news for peak summer visitors, according to a recent park update, is that these changes will not result in any park closings during peak season this summer.
“The park remains open, welcoming visitors and continuing to protect the resources entrusted to our care,” says Lakeshore Superintendent Dusty Shultz.
Seasonal Staff Cuts
With about 98 percent of the park’s $4,676,000 budget going to pay for staff salaries and fixed costs like utilities, seasonal staff are taking the biggest sequester hit with 22 seasonal positions being shortened and five seasonal jobs being cut all together.
According to a park service news release, reduced staffing will impact park operations in following ways:
- Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive will not open until Memorial Day Weekend and will close after Labor Day.
- Ranger programs, including environmental education programs for school groups, will not be available until Memorial Day Weekend and will cease after Labor Day.
- Other than those at the visitor center and campgrounds, restrooms and trash cans will not be available until Memorial Day Weekend and will close after Labor Day. This includes the Manitou Islands.
- Mowing of picnic areas and historic farmsteads will be sharply reduced.
- These actions are expected to affect over 250,000 visitors to the park, including 10,000 school children.
- Protection and monitoring of the endangered Piping Plover will be sharply reduced.
- Follow-up control of invasive plants such as black locust will be sharply reduced.The park also reports that travel, training, overtime and supply purchases are also being slashed to meet sequester goals for the fiscal year ending September 30th.
April 7th, 2013
What do wine, waterfalls and asparagus have in common? Each is a central theme to three of the coolest warm-weather traditions happening around the Sleeping Bear Dunes.
It’s not too early to get a jumpstart on planning your spring calendar. This shortlist of the region’s best parties and most talked about events will get you rolling into summer.
Spring Sip & Savor — May 4th and 5th
As northern Michigan vineyards wake to the sun and warmth of May, the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association is inviting wine lovers to enjoy special wine and food pairings at each of the now 25 wineries surrounding the Sleeping Bear Dunes.
Tickets for the annual “Sip & Savor” wine tour are just $35 and include wine and food pairings at each winery, a commemorative glass, a $5 gift certificate that can be used at any LPVA winery and a $5 donation to a select local charity to be announced in April.
Discount lodging packages are also being provided by area providers:
The Homestead: Sip and Savor package includes two nights lodging May 3rd to May 5th; dinner at Nonna’s one evening; tickets to the Sip & Savor wine trail event; and a pass to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Rates are from $94 per person, per night.
For added fun, Sip & Savor participants are encouraged to participate in the “Sip o’ de Mayo Hat Contest” for a chance to win prizes that many of the wineries will be offering. There’s also a fabulous grand prize of two nights lodging at The Homestead (subject to availability) and a pair of tickets to any LPVA weekend tour or the Traverse City Wine & Art Festival.
To get you tickets and to check out a complete list tour activities and special lodging packages, go to www.lpwines.com/spring.
Empire Asparagus Festival, May 17th, 18th, and 19th
Spring in the Sleeping Bear Dunes means lush green forests, sunny skies, morel mushroom hunting and the most ass-paragus kicking festivals in the North. Say what?
Listed as one of the World’s Weirdest Festivals by MSN Travel, the Empire Asparagus Festival kicks off with a dance and pig roast from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Art’s Tavern in Glen Arbor on May 17th. Admission is only $5. Grab a pint of Right Brain Brewery’s asparagus beer (or any local brew you choose) and enjoy a good time and the great music of local band, The Benzie Playboys.
Saturday starts bright and early in Empire with a 5k walk/run, followed by an asparagus poetry-writing competition, asparagus food and beer eats, asparagus recipe cook-off, and more.
For the most up-to-date information on this wacky rite of spring, check out the Empire Asparagus Festival on Facebook.
Here Comes the Sun Party, May 27th
Party on the deck overlooking a waterfall, right next door to historic Fishtown. For 25 years, The Cove restaurant in Leland, Michigan, has been the place locals go to officially welcome sunny skies and warm temperatures to northernMichigan. With great food, local brews, creative cocktails and live entertainment, the annual “Here Comes the Sun Party” kicks off on Memorial Day at 11 a.m
April 6th, 2013
Not only the best place in Michigan to vacation, LeelanauCounty— home of the Sleeping Bear Dunes — is now ranked as the healthiest place in state to live, according to a recent study by the University of Wisconsin.
Find out where your home county falls on the list, along with what factors make Leelanau an Eden for health-minded people.
Wayne County ranked dead last while Leelanau was number one in an annual study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin.
According to the Detroit Free Press, the annual report ranks Michigan counties against each other based on six variables: mortality (length of life), morbidity (quality of life), health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment.
While access to quality food and outdoor activities galore undoubtedly contributed to Leelanau taking the top slot, Universityof Wisconsin associate researcher Angela Russell told the Free Press that rankings were also driven by income and education levels.
“We know that communities with higher incomes and higher education levels are more likely to be healthier,” Russell said.
Click here to see where your county ranks along with a detailed, county-by-county breakdown of the numbers.
February 24th, 2013
Hard to imagine today, but in 1863 the population of Northport had more people than all of Grand Traverse County. For that reason, state legislators granted county status to Leelanau. And the rest, they say, is history.
Check out this story celebrating this milestone birthday for the home county of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Leelanau sheriff’s deputies’ badges have been redesigned to commemorate the anniversary, says The Ticker reporter, Tom Carr, but Leelanau County government officials are still deciding how to observe the historic date this year.
Last month, Carr spoke to author and historian John Mitchell of Suttons Bay about the birthday that went little noticed throughout the region. The story of Leelanau County started in 1848, when Reverend George Smith and others founded the town of Northport. During the height of the Civil War, the town was a busy fuel stop for Lake Michigan shipping traffic. Leelanau was made a county in 1863 after the passing of the Homestead Act that promised 160 acres of land for anyone who would tame it and make it home for five years.
In addition to the short back story on how Leelanau County came to be, Carr also tapped the resources of the Leelanau Historical Society for a timeline of memorable firsts. These include: the founding date of Glen Arbor (1851); the establishment of the Manistee and Northeastern railway line (1892); and more.
Click here to check out the complete report and timeline.
February 23rd, 2013
Run or walk, bike and paddle for 22 miles through the “Most Beautiful Place in America” this summer. The M-22 Challenge is a multi-sport event that any person of average physical ability can complete. All you need is the motivation.
Here’s the scoop on how to register and what to expect from the coolest triathlon-style event in northern Michigan.
It’s only a race if you want it to be.
In the four years since the first running of the M-22 Challenge, the event has grown in popularity across a wide spectrum people who love fitness and the beautiful Sleeping Bear Dunes.
M-22 founders bill the event as challenging, but not impossible, for anyone who has their own bike, helmet, kayak (or stand-up paddleboard) and the willingness to participate.
Last year, 800 people took part in the 4th annual M-22 Challenge. They included first time racers, high school athletes and professional triathlon competitors of all age groups.
This June, the M-22 Challenge will begin again at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore park (aka Little Glen Lake Picnic Area) located on the northwest corner of Little Glen Lake at 8:00 am.
From there, according to the M-22 Challenge website, racers will run (or walk) south down M-109 and into the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore “Dune Climb” park to face a steep and sandy climb up the dune. The second portion requires athletes to bike 17 miles around Big and Little Glen Lake and through downtown Glen Arbor. Transitioning from a bike to the water, the third and final portion of the event has participants paddling out and back into Little Glen Lake for 2.5 miles. Athletes are only allowed to use one (1) paddle to hand power their chosen craft (kayak, standup paddle board, or anything else you can dream up). The 22 mile-long course is designed to take the average athlete approximately two hours to complete.
Registration costs $110, which includes entry for one athlete, event shirt, event bag and use of timing chip. Athletes are required to supply their own bikes (road bikes or mountain bikes) and helmet (mandatory) as well as their own water transportation (kayak/canoe/stand up paddle board/etc) and paddle. Kayak and bike rentals are available prior to the race through Crystal River Outfitters.
For more information and to register, check out the M-22 Challenge website.