Archive for the ‘Hiking’ Category
Saturday, 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.
Saturday, 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.
Thursday, February 21st, 2013
Last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded more than $1.6 million in grants to provide better access to some of Michigan’s most picturesque spots.
A sizeable portion of that will go to the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail for help in finishing the final miles linking two of the lakeshore’s most popular tourist destinations.
In February, the Detroit Free Press reported on the U.S. Department of Transportation awarding $100,000 to the Michigan Department of Transportation to extend the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Heritage Trail an additional 4.75 miles.
This federal money will connect the trail from Glen Arbor north to the Port Oneida Rural Historic District, thus completing 14.25 miles of the trail. This project complements $1.3 million given to MDOT last year to construct the portion of the Heritage Trail from Glen Arbor to Empire.
When complete, the SBHT will run for 27 miles from the northern end of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, where M-22 and County Road 651 meet, to a point just south of Empire on Manning Road. With a surface alternating between asphalt and smoothly compacted crushed limestone, the Heritage Trail is designed to safely accommodate hikers, bicyclists, walkers, cross-country skiers and people of all physical abilities.
Check out the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail on Facebook this summer for regular updates on how the construction is going.
Sunday, September 23rd, 2012
Connecting people to the natural scenic beauty of the lakeshore and surrounding coastal communities, the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail opened this summer.
Linking the Dune Climb with the town of Glen Arbor, the first five-mile section is perfectly located, paved and just the right length for an afternoon of family fun. From must-see attractions to activities you can only do here, check out this shortlist of things to do while taking in the trail.
Climb the Dune
The Dune Climb has been called the “cherry on the sundae” at the Sleeping Bear Dunes. But if you’re on vacation, what’s the problem with having your dessert first?
If you’re biking with children and have your sights set on Glen Arbor, the 450-foot Dune Climb offers a great way to kickoff the day. The Dune Climb was the spot where a ribbon cutting ceremony was held this summer to celebrate the Phase I completion of the first paved portion of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. Parking is great at The Dune Climb and the trailhead is easy to find.
Travel Back in Time
After you dust off the sand from between your toes, the Heritage Trail heads North through hardwoods and cedars swamps along a gently winding trail and pedal-friendly trail. First stop: The old Great Lakes shipping town of Glen Haven, where a small boat museum and general store offer a peek at what life was like for turn-of-the-century steamboat passengers and locals who once called Sleeping Bear home.
Two things to check out are what remains of the Glen Haven boat dock and the General Store setup to look like it did in the 1920s. Interpretative markers show historic photos of what the dock looked like 100 years ago when Glen Haven was a major shipping port overlooking the Manitou Passage. At the General Store, there’s a genuine ticket window where locals once stood to secure passage on one of the steamers cruising by for Chicago or the other Great Lakes. If you brought along a backpack and don’t mind carrying the extra weight, there are toys, ship models, candy, books and postcards chronicling Glen Haven’s early days as a company owned town that supplied cordwood to fuel the steamships that passed by.
Pack a Lunch
As every parent knows, keeping children motivated on the trail is all about defining expectations, goals and — most important — laying out exactly when you’re going to stop for drinks and snacks.
“Leaf peeping” in the fall is a major pastime for Sleeping Bear Dunes visitors, most of whom stick to the main roads to enjoy the fall colors. Out on the trail, you get to be right in the middle of it. So take the time to stop and really take in the view. If you require proper seating for a mid-afternoon respite, the D.H. Day Campground is close to Glen Haven. In autumn, finding a vacant picnic table shouldn’t be hard. The campground also has vault toilets and water spigots to refill empty water bottles before the final leg of the trail.
Reach the town of Glen Arbor and it’s time for a change of pace. While the streets are less crowded in fall, all the shops and boutiques are still open for business. Poke around, take your time, and you may find some great end-of-season bargains on everything from jewelry and clothing to local artwork and crafts.
If shopping in Glen Arbor is one of the goals for the day, you might consider starting your daytrip in town so there’s a car waiting to haul all your goodies away. Crystal River Outfitters in Glen Arbor offers 1/2 day bike rentals, perfect for exploring the trail. Bikes available include mountain, comfort, road bikes, child bikes, tag-alongs and child burley trailers.
Behold the Two-Headed Fish
There’s something a little crazy about Art’s Tavern, which is maybe why they call it “a Glen Arbor Institution.” From the “tree of lost soles” out front to the two-head fish inside, Art’s is known locally as a fun and comfortable place to hang out. Grab a seat, catch the end of the game and enjoy one of their famous white fish burgers (with a side of Tater Tots). Art’s also has a kid’s menu and —for all you parents — a complete list of local beers, including some nostalgic favorites your grandfather probably used to drink (Schlitz and Black Label, among them). Whether you’re feeling adventurous or a bit retro after a day on the trail, kick back and enjoy.
Saturday, September 22nd, 2012
There’s nothing like a little national recognition to give tourism a shot in the arm. One year after ABC’s Good Morning America viewers named the Sleeping Bear Dunes as the “Most Beautiful Place in America” local towns are bustling, the campgrounds are packed, and bookings are way up at area inns and resorts.
Hear what the locals are saying about how area business has changed and how long they think the boom will last.
Crazy, wonderful, and really fun to see – that’s how Lisa Myers, chief of interpretation and visitor services for the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, describes life at the “Most Beautiful Place in America” over the last year.
“We know that visitation is up and has been ever since the Good Morning America announcement,” says Myers. The bump was immediate and is still reverberating.”
In 2011, viewers of the popular ABC morning show cast tens of thousands of votes for Sleeping Bear, edging out places like Sedona, Yosemite, Aspen, and Cape Cod.
As of July 31, 2012, visitation throughout the park was up 28 percent – a record 860,156 visitors (2,000 per day) compared to 668,527 at the same time last year. Myers says that overnight use of the D.H. Day Campground is up almost 25 percent. And even mainland backcountry campsite use is way up, with reservations at Valley View campground in the Leelanau District jumping 55 and 42 percent, respectively.
No Tourist Trap
Calling Sleeping Bear the “best-vacation-spot-in-the-country” on national television probably didn’t come as a surprise to 1.2 million visitors who already make the annual trek to this quiet corner of northwest Lower Michigan. But certainly surprising is how little the park experience has changed.
As writer, Melissa Anders, noted in a MLive article this summer, the uptick in visitors has translated into some lightly longer lines for Dune Dogs and at other area food, wine and tourist shops. But, overall, the park and surrounding communities have not complained about any of the other typical trappings of increased tourism – namely traffic tie-ups and trash. With its 35 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, 71,199 acres of farm country and coastal forest, 26 inland lakes, 12 miles of rivers and stream, and more than 100 miles of hiking, biking, and cross-country ski trails, the park experience is still the same as it ever was. Maybe even better for the future of Sleeping Bear, Myers told MLive.
“This is America’s national park,” she said. “It’s for everyone, and so the more people know about it, I think the better it will be protected because more people will realize how important it is and how valuable it is.”
A Place on the Water
Many area inns and resorts, namely The Homestead in Glen Arbor, also recorded a banner year of booking that show no sign of slowing down. The Homestead hit a milestone in 2011 with guests arriving from all 50 American states, five Canadian provinces, and three foreign countries.
And then there are vacationers who came and fell so in love with the place they wanted to return – some permanently – to the region.
Diane Kemp, Resort Realty Manager at The Homestead, says the sale of vacant land, condominiums, fractional-ownership properties and single-family homes has almost doubled in the last year.
“Almost everybody I talk to mentions the Good Morning America announcement,” she says, adding that this has had a positive impact on property values in the area. “Sellers at the resort are getting closer to their asking price and buyers – while many are still looking for the best value – are equally motivated by the prospect of getting a home in this most beautiful place.”
Many of the calls at The Homestead for vacations are now from people who have not been to the area before, according to Kemp. No doubt recent media attention on nearby Traverse City as a top destination for beer lovers, film goers, foodies, golfers, cyclists, boaters, book lovers, and retirees has helped. But Kemp also gives credit to the state’s Pure Michigan campaign along with coverage in other media outlets, including National Geographic Traveler magazine, Family Circle magazine and others as contributing factors that continue to keep the region in the minds of vacationers and vacation-home buyers.
“Because of that [the continued recognitions],” she says, “we believe this is a trend that can sustain itself for years to come.”
Wednesday, December 14th, 2011
Explore Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (National Lakeshore) on snowshoes this winter! Join Park Rangers for a guided snowshoe hike this holiday season and every Saturday throughout the winter. The first hike of the season will be on Thursday, December 29 at 1:00 p.m. Thereafter, regularly scheduled Saturday snowshoe hikes will start up again on Saturday, January 7 at 1:00 p.m. Meet at the National Lakeshore Visitor Center in Empire. If you do not have your own, snowshoes will be loaned out at no charge.
Inside the Visitor Center, Park Rangers will first provide basic snowshoeing instructions and then everyone will travel by car to the trailhead or area of the National Lakeshore pre-selected for that day. Once there, the Park Ranger will help participants learn about the park’s unique features and winter’s effect on them by exploring and discovering clues on site. Be prepared and plan to be outside until about 3:00 p.m. Dress in layers and wear waterproof boots to be most comfortable.
Not only is snowshoeing easy, fun, and good exercise, it is also an activity that can be enjoyed by all ages. The Park Ranger-led hikes are mildly strenuous, yet they proceed at a leisurely pace for only one and a half miles at the most.
Since the National Park Service has a supply of snowshoes for use within the National Lakeshore, participants need only purchase the park entrance pass or have an annual pass to join in the fun. Reservations are required. Park Ranger-led snowshoe hikes are limited to 30 participants.
For more information, please call the National Lakeshore at 231-326-5134, extension 328, for details and to make reservations or visit the website at www.nps.gov/slbe. Also, check out their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sbdnl.
About the National Park Service: More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 397 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov.
This is an official press release from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Empire. Release date: December 9, 2011. Contact: Lisa Griebel, 231-326-5134, ext. 301, email@example.com.
Wednesday, October 26th, 2011
Blog by Jonathan Schechter of Earth’s Almanac
Article “Spirit Song of a Michigan Ghost Forest” (8/31/11). Reprinted by permission from Earth’s Almanac. All photos are by Jonathan Schechter.
Walk silently through the haunting landscape of the ghost forest of Sleeping Bear Point Trail and wind spirits whisper to you and chatter among the skeletons of long dead cedars.
If you do not hear them you are not listening. I am sure the Anishinaabek knew the song in their day on Sleeping Bear.
The ghost forest is stark evidence of shifting sand dunes and endless winds that writes new pages daily in the story of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, an ever-changing masterpiece created by the last glacial retreat and now protected by our National Park Service.
Sand and wind in concert is powerful.
Although each grain of sand is just the tiniest of specks, in 1931 the U.S. Coast Guard buildings now in the town of Glen Haven had to be moved from Sleeping Bear Point before the migrating dunes buried them.
The story of sand dunes and ghost forests is without end, but to feel the earth moving forces of ice, wind and water that sing nature’s song you must walk the sands.
And I will walk there again in a land that is full of mystery and wonder, and home to black bears, bobcats and perhaps a few cougars.
NOTE: Final photo by Shaina O’Dwyer, Environmental Management System Management Representative of the Grand Traverse Resort And Spa.
During this most recent exploration of Sleeping Bear I was a participant in an environmental writers ecology tour sponsored by the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa www.grandtraverseresort.com with assistance and logistical support from the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Traverse City www.visittraversecity.com and the staff of the National Park Service at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore www.nps.gov/slbe.
You can find Jonathan Schechter on his blog at Earth’s Almanac, a blog of The Oakland Press.
Wednesday, August 31st, 2011
By Guest Blogger, Nina Asunto
For any hikers out there in need of a vacation with limited time available, consider South Manitou Island. With just three days at your disposal, it is possible to enjoy an unhurried visit that is part backpacking trip, part summer beach vacation. Observe historic artifacts, take in spectacular views, and fall asleep to the sound of Lake Michigan’s calming surf while hiking the island’s perimeter.
Manitou Island Transit Ferry
Your first day begins by taking the passenger ferry from Leland to South Manitou. After National Park Service orientation, you are free to begin hiking north to Popple Campground, the island’s most secluded spot, approximately 3 ½ miles from the boathouse. You will have two options to get there:
- Head inland immediately to observe ruins from the island’s agricultural history, or
- Walk the beach along Crescent Bay before eventually turning inland and then heading north.
Campers venturing to Popple Campground should be experienced and properly equipped. There is no drinking water available; water must be collected from the lake and purified for drinking and cooking. The majority of visitors stay near the island’s south end, so camping at the far north offers little in the way of company. Your reward is a very private campsite and a beautiful stretch of lakeshore that does not see much traffic. Enjoy the afternoon at this secluded beach – you might have it all to yourself.
South Manitou Island Beach
The following morning, sleep as long as you like before packing up and heading down to the beach for a leisurely day traveling the water’s edge. Take your time walking the seven miles to your next campsite; this beach hike offers spectacular views of turquoise water, khaki sand, and towering bluffs. With over 100 miles of Lake Michigan’s expanse stretching out before you, it is easy to imagine you are on an exotic island in the ocean, far from the Midwest.
South Manitou Island Bluff
As you travel south, the flat, sandy beach gives way to a rockier shore flanked by increasingly tall bluffs. Watch for the occasional freighter in the distance as you near the island’s Southwest corner. Coming around to the island’s south side, you will spot the remains of the Francisco Morazan shipwreck, a freighter that ran aground in 1960. Still jutting out of its watery grave, this shipwreck is just offshore from another nice stretch of sandy beach, where you can expect to see fellow visitors swimming, climbing the adjacent dunes, or simply relaxing in the sun. Just under two miles ahead, a handful of paths from the beach lead up a sandy bluff to Weather Station Campground. Weather Station Campground is much more populated than Popple Campground, and some of the campsites are located near the edge of the bluffs with views of the lake and distant mainland.
Francisco Morazan Shipwreck
After a good night’s sleep courtesy of Lake Michigan’s surf, begin your third and final day on the island enjoying the sights at your leisure. The ferry does not leave until 4:00 p.m., leaving you with nearly the whole day to explore. From Weather Station Campground, continue hiking along the beach for 1 ½ miles to South Manitou Lighthouse, then follow the boardwalk to the ranger station. From here, you may leave your backpack at the boathouse and decide how to spend therest of your day. A guided tour to the top of the 100-foot lighthouse offers impressive views of the endless lake and surrounding landscape, or, if you would like additional adventure, a 6-mile roundtrip hike to a stand of ancient cedars begins near the lighthouse. Just be sure to be ready to board the ferry when it departs unless you are looking for an accidental extension to your vacation.
South Manitou Island Lighthouse
Although Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a highly-visited summer destination, hiking and camping on South Manitou Island should be taken seriously. Once visitors step off the ferry, they are essentially on their own. The island’s park rangers greet each batch of visitors, offer helpful information, and answer questions, but they are often out patrolling the island and not readily available in the case of an emergency. Poison ivy is abundant in many places on the island, so care should be taken when venturing into the woods and even along some paths. Keeping these things in mind will allow for a memorable weekend that you are bound to want to repeat.
Nina currently resides in Berkley, Michigan with her husband and two dogs. She loves travelling to Northern Michigan, especially the Leelanau Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula. She enjoys hiking, camping, snowshoeing and backpacking. Her best vacation ever was an eight-day backpacking trip to Isle Royale National Park. Nina says, “I think Michigan is a wonderful place to live and enjoy all four seasons (and the excellent craft beer!).”
Visit Nina’s website, www.blackcoffeeatsunrise.com or follow her on Twitter @blackcoffeeblog.
Nina Asunto on Sleeping Bear Point Trail
Wednesday, July 27th, 2011
(Photo by Jonathan Schechter., July 2011)
By Guest Blogger, Jonathan Schechter’s of Earth’s Almanac. Reprinted with permission.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
All photos by Jonathan Schechter at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on July 15 & 16, 2011. (No filters used, no images edited or altered.) Mother Nature at her finest!
Long ago in the land that is now Wisconsin, a mother bear and her two cubs were driven into Lake Michigan by a raging forest fire. They swam and swam but soon the two cubs tired and lagged far behind. Mother bear finally reached the opposite shore and climbed to the top of the bluff to watch and wait for her offspring. But the cubs drowned. Today, “Sleeping Bear”, a solitary dune in Michigan overlooking Lake Michigan, marks the spot where mother bear waited. Her lost cubs are the two Manitou Islands. —an Anishinaaabek Indian Legend (reprinted from National Park Service brochure)
Detailed information on Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore: www.nps.gov/slbe
Sleeping Bear is a rugged and dramatic landscape, a masterpiece of ice, wind and weather. My favorite time to explore and camp in the park’s back country remains autumn and winter. But even in the heat of the summer when the dunes are simmering with heat and tourist flood the roads even a short walk will set you free in the ever changing scene of this Michigan wonderland.
The rugged dunes of Pyramid Point, a personal favorite.
A Nothern river otter with fish dinner in Good Harbor Bay
Curious fawn near Platte River Point
Full moon over Glen Lake (camera steadied with mini-tripod)
Sunset from Empire Bluff 1
Sunset from Empire Bluff 2
Sunset from Empire Bluff 3
A spider on Empire Bluff prepares for a night hunt against the red sunset
Sunrise at Platte River Point
Red fox track along the sands of Platte Bay (I followed for 1/8 of a mile)
The Platte River a few hundred yards from Lake Michigan
On the trail down from Empire Bluff.
A reminder to the public on bears. Bears are common at Sleeping Bear.
Even in summer an early morning walk brings solitude in the land of the sleeping bear.
Jonathan Schechter is a resident of Brandon Township, Michigan with a passion for outdoor adventure and severe weather events writes a weekly hiking column for the Oakland Press, called Earth’s Almanac. He lives on 11 acres with a rich mix of wildlife, meadows, woods and wetlands. He has a Master of Science Degree in Forest Resources froin Advanced Wilderness Life Support. His writings and nature photos reveal ways humans are subtly yet dynamically altering the behavior of wildlife leading to a corruption of nature’s way and wildlife behavior. Jonathan often visits Leelanau County and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore where he takes photographs and returns home to write about his experiences. We are thrilled to have him as a periodic guest blogger.m the U. of Washington and is an active member of the Wilderness Medical Society certified
Thursday, May 19th, 2011
Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive in May
The Dunes are awash in delightful shades of green and white that is only visible in the spring. The leaves on the trees create a canopy of pale green over Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The roadside is covered with a carpet of green and mostly white wildflowers.
Dutchman’s Breeches hang like tiny little bells on the forest floor.
White Trillum stand like little solders doting the woods with white, often towering over smaller plants and flowers.
Small wild violets with light purple centers clustered along the roadside.
More flowers with white pedals. We think the wildflower below is a Cutleaf Toothwort.
Below is an invasive, non-native species called Creeping Myrtel. It is pretty, but it is not good for the habitat.
Creeping Myrtel (non-native invasive plant)
Now is a perfect time for a drive or a hike through Sleeping Bear Dunes to experience the dunes coming back to life after a long winter. The leaves are still small and the forest growth is low, so you can see deep into the woods. Flowers and new grown is easy to spot. Before long the woods will be thick with dark green leaves and vegetation.
Blog by Ileana Habsburg-Snyder