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Saturday, November 10th, 2012
On the outskirts of the Sleeping Ber Dunes National Lakeshore are two coastal communities that definately embrace their reputations as “sleepy” northern Michigan towns-expecially during the holidays.
Kicking off the day after Thanksgiving, Glen Arbor and Leland host two of the most fun and quirky holiday shopping traditions around. So don your PJs and fuzzy slippers and check out how you can join the fun.
The idea behind Glen Arbor and Leland’s annual pajama shopping party is simple: holiday shopping can be a pain, so you might as well be comfortable.
The popular Sleeping Bear Dunes town of Glen Arbor has been holding its annual pajama party celebration for years. It happens every year at o-dark-thirty on the morning after Turkey Day (November 23rd). Even if you don’t show up in your pajamas, you can still take advantage at some one-of-a-kind deals.
All Glen Arbor merchants open their doors for holiday shoppers from 5 am to 7 am and offer special bargains on everything from jewelry to local crafts, art work to clothing. Some of the sales are one-time only; for example, Becky Thatcher Designs holds only one sale during the year at this event.
Just north of Sleeping Bear, the town of Leland starts its pajama day shopping party on November 25th when merchant doors open at 8 am until 10 am. Like Glen Arbor, Leland’s main street is lined with stores selling unique northern Michgan gifts, food items, arts and crafts all at special one-day sale prices.
Restaurants in both towns are open early, too. So after you enjoy a couple hours shopping with friends, plan on hitting one of the local favorites for breakfast or lunch.
For more information on these and other holiday celebrations, click here to check out the Sleeping Bear Dunes Visitors Bureau events calendar.
Friday, November 9th, 2012
A hot, dry summer has definately hurt many cattle ranchers, farmers and orchard growing across Leelanau County. Wine producers, however, are looking forward to a very good year-especially when talking about some favorite, regional reds.
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is the scenic gateway into one of northern Michigan’s top wine producing regions. If you’re planning to pair a wine tour with your next Sleeping Bear getaway, here’s some expert advice on the best red wines to put on your shopping list.
Lee Lutes, head wine maker and general manager at Leelanau County’s Black Star Farms, has some good news for anyone who likes northern Michigan red wines:
“Grapes love the kind of long, dry summer we experienced this year. Dry conditions lead to smaller red berries on the vine, which translates to more concentrated, bolder flavors.”
If September and October would have brought more sunshine and less rain to northern Michigan, Lutes believes this would have been the best season ever for regional reds.
“It’s almost as if Mother Nature wanted to make it all ip in the last few weeks,” he says. “But even though we were forced to pick in less than ideal conditions in October, we’re expecting a very good red wine year for cabernet franc and merlot varieties. Pinot noir varieties-from grapes picked earlier in the season-will be spectacular.”
The One to Watch
While the first wines made from the 2012 grape harvest won’t be ready until early next year, Lutes says that regional reds (pinot noir, cabernet franc, and merlot) from 20120 and 2011 are also wonderful wines comparable in taste and quality.
“Older vines make better wine,” says Lutes. “A big part of why regional wines are beginning to ‘prove’ is that winemakers are getting more experienced and the vineyards are getting older.”
A great way to check out what Leelanau County winemakers have to offer is a wine tour paired with your next Sleeping Bear Dunes vacation. One of the best is the Leelanau Peninsula Vinters Association’s Toast the Season wine tour, a holiday wine and food celebration held the first two weekends in November (3rd and 4th and 10th and 11th).
Join this holiday tradition of tasting and touring the Leelanau Peninsula Vinter’s Association 20 member wineries.Tickets are $75 per couple or $50 per person. You may visit eight wineries each day between 11am and 5pm on Saturday and 12pm and 5pmon Sunday. Your ticket includes a gift bag featuring local food along with a special wine pour and food pairing at each winery.
Lodging packages are available both weekends at The Homestead and include two nights, breakfast buffet each morning and tasting tickets to the Toast the Season tour. For more information visit Toast the Season or call 231.334.5100.
Thursday, November 8th, 2012
Wild cats, spiders and bears-Oh my! October is a perfect time to take a walk on the spooky side with some of the more mysterious critters to inhabit the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
From the northern black widow spider to the reclusive black bear, bobcats to great horned owls, check out this short list of creepy cool creatures that call the park home.
While the black bear is central to the legend of Sleeping Bear, few guests travel to the park and actually manage to get a glimpse of one. Even though bear encounters have increased in the park in recent years (especially around Platte River Campgroun and Old Indian Head Trail), the odds of actually crossing paths with Sleeping Bear’s namesake animal remain very small. If you do see a bear, park officials suggest visitors enjoy the experience from a distance then contact a park employee at a campground office or the Visitor Center to fill out a bear sighting report.
To learn more about Michigan black bears, check out these interesting facts courtesy of the Michigan DNR.
Northern Black Widow
Did you know black widow spiders (native to Sleeping Bear Dunes) are the most poisonous spider in North America, but only the adult female? In humans, bites produce muscle aches, nausea and paralysis of the diaphragm that can make breathing difficult; however, contrary to popular belief, most people who are bitten suffer no serious damage-let alone death. Click here to learn more about Sleeping Bear creepiest creature.
Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
In early October, roughly 300 dead or dying loons were found washed up on the beaches of the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Biologists say “avian botulism” is to blame.
While loons have so far been hit the hardest, this year’s outbreak is not the worst biologists in the region have seen. Find out what causes avian botulism in shorebirds and why die-offs linked to the disease appear to be on the rise.
There’s a saying in news reporting that three examples of a story indicates a trend. If it’s true, then this year makes it more than official-the die-off of shorebirds infected with avian botulism at Sleeping Bear Dunes would appear to be becoming an annual event.
Avian botulism was first documented in the Great Lakes in the 1960s. According to the MDNR, botulism is a “paralytic condition brought on by the consumption of a naturally occurring toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum.” Biologists believe that these toxins, concentrated in invasive quagga and zebra mussels that filter lake water, are passed from the fish that eat the mussels (namely round gobies) to the birds that then eat the infected fish. Once infected, shorebirds such as loons, grebes, gulls, cormorants and waterfowl become paralyzed, drown and, finally, wash ashore.
Old Problem, New Threat
While long a problem in southern U.S. reservoirs, botulism first became a Great Lake’s concern in 2006. During the height of the fall migratory season that year, the Tip of The Mitt Watershed Council based in Petoskey says nearly 3,000 dead birds infected with the disease were found in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This was followed by another mass die-off in the late summer and fall of 2007 when some 8,000 more dead birds turned up on the northern Lake Michigan shoreline.
After a two year hiatus, avian botulism struck northern Lake Michigan again in the summer of 2010 when scores of shorebirds again began washing up on area beaches. Sleeping Bear officials put out a call to volunteers who eventually discovered nearly 300 dead birds heading into fall and another 385 from early October to mid-November.
Biologists suspected that low water levels and a warmer than average summer-ideal breeding conditions for invasive mussels and the invasive fish that prey on them-helped sparked the 2010 outbreak. Bird lovers and biologists braced for another bad year in 2011, but the number of sick and dead birds detected seemed to drop with roughly 40 loons and a few dozen gulls and other shorebirds counted.
The Dead Zone
After volunteers and biologists walking the beaches of northwestern Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore counted nearly 300 dead or dying loons and other fish-eating birds last month, the Detroit Free Press asked park biologist Dan Ray to help explain why.
Many of the birds are migratorym coming from Ontario, the Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin, as well as from northern Michigan, according to Ray. The Sleeping Bear Dunes, he said, is at “the end of a funnel” where migrating birds dying all over northern Lake Michigan happen to wash ashore.
Ray had no answer for how biologists plan to deal with future outbreaks of avian botulism. Likewise, there is not yet an explanation as to why loons seem to be topping the 2011 casualty list.
Watch Your Pets
In the meantime, biologists insist Lake Michigan beaches within the National Lakeshore remain safe for swimming and recreation. Park visitors should, however, exercise caution upon encountering bird or fish carcasses.
Botulism is not an infectious disease. It is poison. You must ingest the toxin, usually by eating an undercooked infected fish or animal, to become ill. You are not at risk for contracting botulism by swimming in Lake Michigan. Visitors bringing pets to the park should keep them leashed and away from dead animals on the beach. Pets may be poisoned if they eat dead birds or fish containing botulism.
For more information, please call the National Lakeshore at 231-326-5134 or visit their website at www.nps.gov/slbe. Also, check out their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sbdnl.
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.”
Thursday, November 17th, 2011
Imagine walking along the shore of Lake Michigan; the warm khaki sand between your toes, a scattering of small rocks and shells decorating the shoreline. A grey barge glides through the deep blue water. The only noises heard are the caw of a seagull off in the distance, the crash of the waves on beach and the hum of an orange coast guard helicopter as it patrols the waters.
Media Event Announcing Nautica's 2011 Men's Fashion Collection
Those were the tones and colors that inspired the Nautica fashion designers to create the Fall 2011 Men’s Collection. The clothing line not only uses the hues and textures of the dunes and Lake Michigan, but also incorporates the maritime colors of deep orange of the National Coast Guard and the shades of grey seen on the large freighters that pass throught he waters from spring through late fall.
The line includes jackets, sweatshirts, cargo shorts, wool suits, glen plaid jackets and herringbone tweed ties. So as the beaches become covered with snow and lakes freeze over, one can still stay warm and seek a little inspiration from Sleeping Bear Dunes.
Blog by Gina Gauthier
Wednesday, November 16th, 2011
Official Press Release from Carl Levin, US Senator
Thursday, November 10, 2011
WASHINGTON – Legislation by Sen. Carl Levin to permanently protect more than 32,000 acres of Michigan lakeshore won approval Thursday from a key Senate committee.
Senator Carl Levin at Heritage Trail Groundbreaking (Aug 11)
The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources approved the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Conservation and Recreation Act (S.140,) a bill authored by Levin, D-Mich., and cosponsored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. The legislation would permanently protect 32,557 acres of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore by designating it as wilderness, while providing important access to the lakeshore’s recreational opportunities and cultural resources.
“The ancient sand dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, products of wind, wave, and ice action over thousands of years, are truly one of nature’s great masterworks,” Levin said. “The lakeshore celebrates these natural wonders and interprets the fascinating history of Native Americans, early pioneers, farmsteads, and maritime activities that created the Michigan of today. This bill would preserve these natural treasures for current and future generations, and enable thousands more to enjoy the scenic beauty and appreciate the generations of Michiganders who came before.”
The bill has bipartisan, bicameral, and local support. A companion bill in the House (H.R. 977) has nine bipartisan cosponsors.
Visit Senator Carl Levin’s press releases at his website at http://www.levin.senate.gov/.
Senator Carl Levin at Dune Climb, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Aug 11)
Senator Carl Levin Snowshoeing in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Friday, November 11th, 2011
Most think of witches in the month of October, but on the shores of Lake Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dunes, it is November that brings the frightful witch, or worse yet, several witches. A November Witch is a storm typical for the late fall where gale-force winds and pounding rain often mixed with snow and ice that rush across the Great Lakes like a screeching witch.
November Witches are only known to the Great Lakes where weather systems are like nowhere else in the world. The waters of Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes are still very warm in the late fall. When Canadian arctic air dips down to meet the warn air over the Great Lakes, a violent collision occurs. The cold air crashes with the warm air to produce nasty and severe storms that can bring sustained winds of 50 to 65 miles per hour with gusts up to 100 miles per hour and waves of 20 to 35 feet. The only storm more powerful than a November Witch is a tropical hurricane.
The most recent November Witch came on October 26, 2010 when she broke low pressure records over the Midwest and continental US. Meteorologists called it the biggest non-tropical cyclone (i.e., hurricane) ever recorded. There were no casualties.
Citizens of the Great Lake states refer to the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975 as the most infamous November Witch. The screaming witch produced 60 mph winds with gusts to 100 mph and waves of 35 feet. Twenty-nine crew members died when the ship sunk in Lake Superior.
Watch a very moving video on the Edmund Fitzgerald.
The 1975 November Witch that caused the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald was not the worst storm on record. The Witch of November 10, 1940, called the Armistice Day Storm brought snow and blizzard conditions. Five ships went down and 66 people died.
The November Witch of 1913 raged for many days, from November 7th to 10th. It was called the White Hurricane because snow produced blizzard conditions. Nineteen ships were destroyed, 19 ships were stranded and 250 people lost their lives.
Watch a video on the 1913 White Hurricane.
Watch a video interview with Edward Kanaby, a survivor of the 1913 storm.
Will there be a November Witch in 2011?
Blog by Ileana Habsburg-Snyder
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.
Friday, October 14th, 2011
Sleeping Bear Dunes (Photo by Cindy Ratowski)
The National Park numbers are in for the summer season, but 2011 did not break the record for the most visitors. Park officials say that 2011 may be the second-busiest on record, as reported in the LeelanauNews.com article “Bullish Numbers at Bear Park.”
According to the article, the numbers are still coming in and Sleeping Bear Dunes has not reached “second-busiest year” status yet, but it is close. The year-to-date visitor count is 1,217,715 through the end of September, which is up 4.3 percent over 2010. The count is not close to the 1999 record of 1,364,834 visitors. The second-busiest year on record was 1988 when 1,317,530 came to visit the majestic dunes. There is a chance for beating the 1988 record this year.
Even with overall visitor numbers not breaking records, Deputy Superintendent Tom Ulrich says the number of visitors at the visitors center in Empire were up 61 percent from 2010. Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive and the Dune Climb also saw increases over last year of 67.5 percent.
Sleeping Bear Dunes Visitors Bureau reports the number of website visitors is also up from 2010. Early in the year the number of website visitors was only slightly higher in 2011, but then the numbers of visitors jumped 19% for May, June and July. The big spike came in August when there was an over 300% increase. September 2011 numbers are up 175% over 2010.
Leelanau County merchants are reporting a good fall season as well. Sally Guzowkoski, the president of the Leelanau Chamber of Commerce, says that traffic is up all over Leelanau County during the midweek as well as on the weekends. She is surpassed by the number of people coming in to the office midweek.
The exceptional numbers are attributed to the fabulously warm, dry and colorful fall season as well as the press the dunes received from ABC Good Morning America’s “Most Beautiful Place in America” win, the “Dr. Beach #1 rating for the Best Great Lakes Beach,” and the Food Network star Chef Mario Batali’s ABC News segment “Mario Batali on the Wonders of Sleeping Bear.”
Blog by Ileana Habsburg-Snyder