Monday, July 28, 2014

Buttermilk Creek Park in Montague Planned

conceptual plan of Buttermilk Creek Park, Montague
conceptual plan of Buttermilk Creek Park, Montague (from Muskegon Conservation District)

based on articles in the White Lake Beacon

A park, currently located behind the Montague, Michigan, Post Office, on Ferry Street, may be more fully developed for multiple purposes. Jeff Auch, Executive Director of the Muskegon Conservation district, told the Montague city council that the proposed park could benefit recreational uses, but also improve the hydrology of Buttermilk Creek.

The plan tentatively includes an ice rink, playground and interpretive signage. Other suggestions included use of the rink as a splash pad in summer, and adding a zip line.

The city has voted to go ahead with writing a grant which would fund about 75% of the project. If approved, this money from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources [MDNR] would be in the amount of $299,300. The Downtown Development Authority will contribute the remaining 25%, which is $99,800.

The name, Buttermilk Creek Park, is not finalized.

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

North Country Trail Section Hikers Over 2600 Miles

Dan and Ruth Dorrough
Dan and Ruth Dorrough in the Manistee National Forest
(photo by jhy)

by Joan H. Young

A retired couple from Canandaigua, New York, has been working on a section hike of the North Country Trail. Dan and Ruth Dorrough had previously hiked small pieces of the 4600-mile trail, which goes from New York to North Dakota, but they've been working continuously on their quest since May. They've only taken one day off in three months. So far, they have walked over 2600 miles, covering everything from the New York-Vermont border to Hodenpyl Dam at the north end of the Manistee National Forest, and the Spirit of the Woods Chapter's section, in Michigan.

I had the pleasure of hiking with them for a day and a half this week. I'd previously known Dan and Ruth from the annual North Country Trail Association conferences, but never in any depth. Dan is a computer programmer, and Ruth retired this year from nursing administration. They agree that the hiking lifestyle is addictive. "It's just become our way of life," Ruth said.

They have backpacked when necessary, but prefer day hikes, usually covering 10-15 miles a day. They get set for each day by spotting a vehicle at their end points. One vehicle is a van, which also serves as a camper for overnights.

After one more hiking day, they'll head back home for some weeks with family before returning to Duluth for the NCTA Trail Fest in August. They plan to hike some additional miles this fall, after the meetings.

Today, we covered 12 miles of trail between Upper River Road and Highbridge. That section roughly follows the Manistee River. Several small thunderstorms kept us on our toes, but they also cooled us and settled the mosquitoes. One temporary detour takes the trail on a Forest Road, with a nice view of the Manistee River.

Manistee River
Manistee River (photo by jhy)

Dan and Ruth have been quietly hiking along, more or less keeping their goal to hike the whole trail a secret. But the cat's out of the bag now! They said some of their biggest challenges have been to simply find the trail in areas which have been poorly maintained. It's a sad truth that it doesn't take long for things to fall into disrepair if trail is not adopted by volunteers, and the results are terribly discouraging to people attempting to hike through.

The couple are also Finger Lakes Trail End-to-Enders, including all of the branch trails. They couldn't remember exactly when they discovered a love for hiking. The Bristol Branch of the FLT is near their home, and they started walking there, then just kept going. They agreed that the Finger Lakes Trail county hike series (group hikes which complete a county a year) helped them on their way.

I promised them more hills and views in northern Michigan than they'd seen in the southern part of the state. "I don't miss the hills at all," Ruth quipped. Somehow, I only half believe her. The FLT is just one hill after another. They'd never have made it this far if they hate hills. And they certainly are on track to finish the NCT next year.

Dan and Ruth Dorrough, Joan Young
Dan and Ruth Dorrough, Joan Young (photo by jhy)

Over dinner we agreed we were more than pleased to get to know each other better. It doesn't require the energy of youth to hike a long trail, it just takes persistence.

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Pere Marquette Trail Celebration

Pere Marquette Trail Ribbon Cutting
Pere Marquette Rail Trail ribbon cutting in Baldwin (photo by jhy)

by Joan H. Young

The rain held off Saturday, and about 70 people turned out to celebrate the official opening of 17 newly surfaced miles of the Pere Marquette Rail Trail, from Baldwin to Reed City. Speakers from the Michigan DNR, Reed City, Baldwin, and several organizations, plus Representative Jon Bumstead, briefly reminded listeners of the value of trails. Pam Simmons (in black) of Baldwin, the force behind this project, cut the ribbon.

Pontiac Light Riders
Pontiac Light Riders (photo by jhy)

Bike decoration was a highlight of the day for kids, but the Light Riders have made it an art form. This group, from Pontiac, Michigan, came with their lighted bicycles, sporting boom boxes, fancy wheels, and colorful accessories. One member told how he had (in a previous year) ridden from Pontiac to Baldwin on a bet, which he won. He declined to have his picture taken, but he shared laughingly the trials he endured being taken seriously as a black man riding a bicycle, even in our day and age.

family bicycling the Pere Marquette Trail
family group riding the Pere Marquette Trail (photo by jhy)

Several non-profit groups/agencies were on hand to share information, including the Manistee National Forest, The North Country Trail Association, Lake County 4-H, and the District 10 Health Department. A drawing was held for prizes, which ranged from a simple bicycle bell to a nice trail cam which could be mounted on a bike. Cake and fruit were served. Soon, people were heading off to enjoy the new packed limestone surface of the trail. More refreshments were available at the Idlewild Cultural and Historic Center, 5 miles away. This young rider was not deterred by his broken arm, which he claimed to have gotten while wrestling an alligator. "I lost," he said with a grin. His grandparents did not dispute his tale.

bicycle basket with flowers
bike decorated with flowers (photo by jhy)

Although most of the decorations consisted of crepe paper flowers, beads and streamers, one person brought more natural decor. What a nice welcome for the people who will certainly find the new trail more pleasant to ride. The new surfacing extends the paved trail to a total length of 53 miles, with connection to the White Pine Trail in Reed City.

Tim Schafer, of the Michigan DNR, opined that Michigan is already the top trail state in the nation. Certainly, more and more trail connections are being made, and one can bicycle many off-road miles in the state.

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See PM Trail page
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Friday, July 25, 2014

Hart-Montague Rail Trail Raising Funding for Re-Paving

Hart-Montague Rail Trail
Hart Montague Rail Trail (photo by jhy)

based on a news article in the Oceana Herald Journal and other sources

Anyone who has bicycled the Hart-Montague Rail Trail in the last couple of years is aware that the surface is beginning to decay. The popular trail opened in 1991, and five years later was one of the first two trails to be designated a Michigan Trailway. It is now a linear State Park. However, it has not been re-surfaced in those 25 years.

The cost of this project is projected to be $4.4 million. Annamarie Bauer, of the Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation State Trails Section, states that the Michigan Department of Transportation is putting up $2.1 million. Recently, the Michigan DNR recently received approval for $600,000 in Michigan Natural Resources Commission Trust Fund grants. A Recreation Trails Program Grant will contribute $325,000; $100,000 will come from the state park capital improvement fund. Bauer hopes private and corporate funding will bring in $1.1 million. The remainder is $100,000 is being sought from local sources.

The Oceana County Commissioners voted in March to contribute $25,000 toward the paving. The White Lake Community Fund set aside $10,000 for this purpose in December 2013.

Local businesses along the trail report good support from trail users. Both local people who use the pathway on a regular basis, and those who travel to ride the trail make use of these services.

Paving is expected to begin in 2015 and the 22 miles will be completed in 2016.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sea Lamprey Treatment Scheduled for Pere Marquette

sea lamprey mouth
sea lamprey (photo by jhy)

based on a news article in the Oceana Herald Journal, from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Every three to five years the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service treats infected Great Lakes tributaries with lampricides to control the devastating populations of sea lamprey. Larvae burrow in the mud of stream bottoms and, if not eliminated, grow to the adults that parasitize and kill fish.

Permits from the State of Michigan have been issued for treatment of the Pere Marquette River, to be completed between July 29 and August 7. A firm date cannot be established ahead of time because application depends upon weather and local stream conditions.

The lampricides used will be Lampricid and Bayluscide. These have been tested as posing no risk to humans at the concentration levels used for treatment. However, it is advised to minimize unnecessary exposure. There is some risk to certain fish, insects and broadleaf plants. Confined bait or other animals in the river should be moved because there is greater risk to crowded populations. In addition, no river water may be used for irrigation for a period of 24 hours following treatment.

Monitoring will be carefully conducted. Dye may be observed in the river as streamflow is gauged.

For further information, call 1-800-472-9212.

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See Pheromones May Aid in Controlling Sea Lamprey
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Irons Couple Rides 1200 Miles in Tandem

alt text
entering North Dakota (photo courtesy of Loren Bach)

by Joan H. Young

Dave Martus and Loren Bach, a couple from Irons, Michigan, have ridden a tandem bicycle from the Pacific Ocean to the Badlands of North Dakota. Their specially built Viewpoint Bicycle allowed Dave to ride upright in the rear, while Loren's front position was recumbent. Following the Adventure Cycling Northern Tier route, they began in Anacortes, Washington. From there, they crossed Idaho and Montana, entering North Dakota and ending at Teddy Roosevelt National Park. The trip took them months of planning, and about six weeks on the road.

Climbing the mountain passes was more difficult than they expected, especially Rainy Pass. Dave and Loren had ridden over 800 miles near home, on the tandem bike, in preparation for the trip. "But there's just no place in Michigan to prepare for the mountains," Dave said. "You ride uphill for an entire day at a time." They said it was especially discouraging in the Cascades. "You'd think you were almost to the top and the road would dip down into a small valley. Then you'd have to climb out of that again."

But another day, they rode with a tail wind all day long, covering 90 miles, their best day.

Loren said, "One of the best parts was how good people were to us. Everywhere we went folks asked if there was anything we needed, or if they could help us." She explained that on their last day of riding they were completely out of food, Dave had a shoulder that was really bothering him- not helped by even prescription level pain medication, and they were just too tired to continue. They agreed that if someone offered them a ride, they would take it. A long discussion of their options resulted in the decision to return home.

They made some good friends along the way, as well as some amazing memories.

alt text
typical camp setup (photo courtesy of Loren Bach)

As I chatted with them, Dave's eyes lit up while telling about a chance meeting with the inventor of their unusual bicycle. They saw a vehicle stop, and then realized a man was walking back toward them. He had seen the bike, and wanted to talk with someone who was actually using the design. And yet, the bicycle itself may have contributed to their problems. The frame is heavy for a touring bike, to support the front seat. With panniers, the rig weighed about 80 pounds, a significant amount of weight to move around.

The couple pedaled over 1200 miles.

Despite this accomplishment, it was a bittersweet moment when they stepped off the S.S. Badger last night in Ludington. Their original plan was to ride coast to coast. But, as we all know, sometimes plans have to be changed. Plagued with inflamed tendons and an injured shoulder, the couple reluctantly agreed that they needed to accept what they were able to accomplish, and come home to heal.

"We're going to pick up our dogs, tomorrow," Loren said. "We've really missed them."

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Celebrate Surfacing of PM Trail Saturday

alt text
new Baldwin Trailhead and surfaced Pere Marquette Rail Trail where it crossed Norway St.(photo by jhy)

by Joan H. Young

This Saturday, July 26, come to Baldwin to celebrate the official opening of the newly surfaced Pere Marquette Rail Trail between Baldwin and Reed City. For too many years, this section of the trail has been more of a trial, with heavy weed growth and a poor surface for bicycling. The new trailhead was deserted today, but there should be plenty of action this weekend.

Thanks to the efforts of some folks from Baldwin, particularly Pam Simmons (owner of the Pamela Tripp Gallery), those miles have now been surfaced with a packed, crushed limestone which will provide a stable surface for bicycling and walking.

The official ribbon cutting will take place at 1 pm. Festivities will follow with drawings to win bicycle accessories, bike decorations for kids, and a safety training presented by the Lake County Sheriff's Department. Several organizations will have information tables about local history and recreation opportunities, including the Forest Service with Smokey the Bear.

A 5.5 mile fun ride to the Idlewild Historic and Cultural Center is planned. Healthy snacks will be provided.

In the evening, there is a soul/blues concert at the Wenger Pavilion in Baldwin featuring Freddie Cunningham and Root Doctor.

The new trailhead is located between 8th and 9th Streets, and Cedar and Norway. Meet there for the ribbon cutting ceremony.

The improvements to these 17 miles of trail include the crushed limestone surface, improving drainage, providing access to the roadside park on US 10 (which has latrines), improving or building trailheads at both Baldwin and Reed City, and installing accessible benches along the trail.

This project was funded with a combination of a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant and an MDOT Transportation Alternatives Program grant.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

GOTC- New Horizons, Seeking Advertisers

Joan Young, creator of Get Off The Couch, and Janice Sciba, new advertising manager
Joan Young, creator of Get Off The Couch, and Janice Sciba, new advertising manager

by Joan H. Young

Get Off The Couch is pleased to announce that Janice Sciba of Manistee will be joining Joan Young in a revived effort to improve and promote both this news blog and the web site Get Off The Couch. The site continues to be popular with people who are seeking information about locations in western Michigan for quiet recreation. However, in recent years, a lack of revenue has prevented me from keeping the site updated. Get Off The Couch was founded in 1997, with major web site revisions in 2006 and 2010.

Today, Janice Sciba accepted the position of Advertising Manager, and she will be seeking local businesses that want to promote their goods and services to a targeted audience. "I'm passionate about quiet outdoor recreation," Sciba said, as she chatted with me this morning. "I'm sure we can make this a viable business venture."

First things first! Most of the pages need some minor updating of contact info and some cosmetic fixes. Secondly, one of the best features of the site, the way it was envisioned, is that the information be kept current. That is not the case right now. I'll be revisiting every location to be sure things are up-to-date.

After that... there's plenty of room for expansion. There are many locations not yet included, even in the four counties I've attempted to cover: Mason, Manistee, Lake, and Oceana. Greater flexibility for printing maps is on the horizon. Then... who knows.

One thing is certain. People have continued to use Get Off The Couch, even with slightly outdated info, because in many cases, it is the only source of information about small local recreation locations.

As we get back up to speed, we'll be doing a lot more promotion. And you'll see regular postings on this blog again about quiet outdoor recreation in Michigan, general outdoor health tips, tech "stuff," and more.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sites Added to

Gales' Pond map
Gale's Pond

by jhy

Recently four additional locations for quiet outdoor recreation have been added to the main Get Off The Couch website.

Get Off The Couch was developed to give people detailed information on places to go for quiet sport and enjoyment in Mason, Manistee, Oceana and Lake Counties in Michigan. Since it generates very little income (many businesses which offer services for low-impact recreation have not yet appreciated the value of the internet), the site grows slowly.

Yet, it is still my dream to offer complete information, and to keep it updated.

In Oceana County, Gale's Pond is found just east of Hart. This is a little-known gem, with a lot of high-quality plant material around the small pond. A half-mile trail encircles the water. There is a small picnic area.

The hiking opportunity can be extended by walking around the corner on a dirt road and adding the 3/8 mile of trail in Doolittle Memorial Forest.

The two additional locations are in Manistee County.

For a great scenic view, one of the best in the Lower Peninsula, stop off at the Arcadia Bluffs overlook on the Manistee/Benzie County line off M-22. There is an observation platform to climb (plus a fully accessible level with good views too), and a telescopic viewer in the summer.

Magoon Creek map
Magoon Creek
Another wonderful area, with a number of ecosystems, hiking, swimming, and picnic opportunities is Magoon Creek. Located just south of Manistee, there are 1.5 miles of trail and over 40 interpreted locations.

All information is free of charge, and based on personal visits to the sites. The date of my last visit is always shown on the page, giving a user some idea of how accurate it may be.

If you have a product or service related to quiet recreation, and would like to advertise, there are many levels of commitment available. In addition, non-profit organizations with similar interests can advertise for a minimum of $10 per year.

Feel free to look the site over, and contact me at

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Quiet Water Symposium 2012

quiet waters symposium

from Quiet Water Symposium

Each year, on the first Saturday of March, the Quiet Waters Symposium is held in conjunction with the Michigan State University's Agriculture and Natural Resources Week. The location is the MSU Campus, in the Pavilion for Livestock and Agriculture Education, 4301 Farm Lane Rd, East Lansing, MI.

The Quiet Water Symposium celebrates non-motorized outdoor recreation and a shared concern for our Great Lakes Environment.

At the Symposium visitors will find presentations by world famous authors, photographers, and expedition travelers. Other presentations may cover skills, safety, local and distant destinations. There may be presentations on bicycling, sailing, diving, and history.

This year's main speakers are Cliff Jacobson- "Canoeing the Boundary Waters in Style," Kevin Callan- "How to be a Happy Camper," and "The Best Canoe Routes in Ontario," and Gary & Joanie McGuffin- "Journey into the Heart of the Boreal."

Many other workshops, seminars and demonstrations will also be running throughout. Topics include outfitting, taking a dog camping, boat building, and travel programs from other outdoor adventures.

wooden kayak
In 2011, over 1400 people enjoyed the day. It's a great deal for only $10, a little gas and lunch money.

Date: Saturday, March 3, 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM
Admission: Adults $10.00 Students (with ID) $5.00 - under 12 Free

See Quiet Water Symposium
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Hammock Campers Rendevouz at Ludington State Park

alt text
camper Vince poses by his hammock (photo by jhy)

by JHY

Twenty hardy fellows converged on Ludington State Park this weekend for a weekend of camping, hiking, and fun. They are all members of, a meeting place for people who want to discuss all things related to sleeping in hammocks.

These are not your summer string hammocks, hung semi-permanently near a cabin. These hammocks are medium to high tech creations made for easy hanging, packing, and carrying. What's high-tech about a hammock you ask? The fabric (waterproof, breatheable, lightweight), the pattern (stability, comfort, ease of entrance and exit), the accessories (hanging straps, zippers, cords, quilts).

In fact, discussing and looking at the merits of each other's gear is one of the popular activities at such outings. And this activity is not limited to the hammocks. Two men wore traditional wool coat-shirts they had made, and another demonstrated a handmade laser-cut, collapsible wood-burning backpacker stove.

About twice a year there is a regional campout. These happen somewhat spontaneously as a result of conversations on the forum. There's no official restriction on who can attend. One camper this weekend was from Indiana, and another from Chicago.

campfire coffee
campfire breakfast (photo by jhy)
Eggs and sausages were hot and waiting for me when I arrived. Some guys were getting ready to explore the park trails. I sampled a dense and delicious pemmican bread baked and brought by one of the men.

Women are welcome to participate, and there are usually a few, but this particular weekend none were in attendance.

A couple of the participants even had tents, and were not being run out of the group on a rail. If you are looking for a group that likes to get out regularly, the folks at hammockforums are eager to welcome you.

(A longer article should appear in the Outdoor section of the Ludington Daily News on March 3.)

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Wireless Bicycle Brakes? Yup

wireless bicycle brake
Holger Hermanns, computer science professor at Saarland University, confirmed the reliability of his wireless bicycle brake through mathematical calculations. (photo by Angelika Klein)

from Saarland University

Seems a little silly right? To replace a simple cable with electronics which can fail just as easily?

Although the wireless braking system has been created for a bicycle, the idea is to apply the technology to much larger systems, such as trains and airplanes. Professor Holger Hermanns of Saarland University, Homberg, Germany, has developed the technology, and has chosen a safer transportation method, bicycles, to test his prototypes.

On a bicycle, to brake with the wireless brake, a cyclist needs only clench the rubber grip on the right handle. The more tightly the grip is clenched, the harder the disk brake on the front wheel works. It seems as if a ghost hand is in play, but a combination of several electronic components enables the braking. Integrated in the rubber grip is a pressure sensor, which activates a sender if a specified pressure threshold is crossed. The sender is integrated in a blue plastic box which is the size of a cigarette packet and is attached to the handlebar. Its radio signals are sent to a receiver attached at the end of the bicycle's fork. The receiver forwards the signal to an actuator, transforming the radio signal into the mechanical power by which the disk brake is activated. The electrical energy is supplied by a battery, which is also attached to the bicycle's fork. To enhance reliability, there are additional senders attached to the bicycle. These repeatedly send the same signal.

Its current configuration enables the cruiser bike to brake within 250 milliseconds. This means that at a speed of 30 kilometers per hour, the cyclist has to react two meters before reaching the dangerous situation. But the Saarland University computer scientists are not satisfied with just this functionality. "It is not difficult to integrate an anti-lock braking system and traction control. That takes only a few adjustments," Hermanns explains.

So, you probably shouldn't look for this at your local bike shop, but it's an interesting concept.

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