Sunday, November 30, 2008

Blast Match Fire Starter

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Wax Those Skis and Get Ready for 50 Miles

working to build trail
Mary Jo Bakker and Ellen Lightle work to remove
a stump from a ski trail at Crystal Valley.
Plenty of labor is required before snow season
to ensure good trails.
by Joan H. Young

Within 50 miles of Ludington you can cross-country ski 50 miles of groomed trails, and if that’s not enough to get you through a winter, there are another 50 miles that are open for, and somewhat designed for skiing but are not groomed.

High on the list of exciting news is that two additional loops are being opened this year at the Crystal Valley Ski Trails, bringing the total miles of trail at that location to 10. Crystal Valley and the Pentwater Pathway, with over 7 miles, are groomed and maintained by the Oceana Cross Country Ski Association. Both of these trails are in wooded hills with occasional open areas, and have loops ranging from easy to difficult.

Big M, just east of Manistee has the most miles of groomed trail– about 18. The six loops there range from beginner to definitely difficult. These trails are maintained by volunteers of the Manistee Cross Country Ski Council. Big M is within the Udell Hills, a circle of unusually steep terrain for the local area. It is the site of a former downhill ski slope. Daily $3 or yearly pass required from the Manistee National Forest.

Ludington State Park grooms the 2.5 mile Logging Trail and four loops at the south end of the park for an additional 6.5 miles of trail. Trails traverse both wooded areas and shrubby dunes. State Park Entrance Fee required.

Pine Valley Pathway is located in Lake County on M-37, north of Baldwin. The 8 miles of trail there are groomed by the Michigan DNR. This is another wooded area of mixed hardwoods and conifers, with easy to moderate skill level required.

In addition to these groomed trails there are several popular local areas for skiing if you are willing to settle for conditions that might be a bit rougher. Perhaps the most popular of these is Bowman Lake, southwest of Baldwin. The parking area is plowed in winter, and there are 6 miles of trails (and another 3 of North Country Trail). The inner 3 miles are the most skied. There will usually be tracks to follow unless you are the first traveler after a snowfall. Bowman Lake area is a delightful glacially carved region of small hills and kettle holes, and the lake itself is always a brilliant gem in winter.

Several other nearby trails are open to skiing and have plowed parking. Scottville Riverside Park has about one mile of trail. Not all of it is well marked, but you can ski around on the easy terrain, and it’s very close to the population centers of Mason County.

West Shore Community College opens its cross-country course, and short nature trail to skiers in the winter. These trails follow a creek, and then wander across a rolling field resulting in a medium difficulty run.

The Ludington School Forest has another 3 miles of easy trail through both wooded and open sandy areas. Parking may be occasionally plowed, Sherman Road edge parking is suggested.

Orchard Beach State Park has 2.5 miles of easy to moderate trails. Parking is occasionally plowed, but there is space on the road edge.

The entire Hart-Montague Rail Trail is open for skiing, but it is also open to snowmobiles if there are more than four inches of snow cover, so this may be less than appealing. Of course it is entirely near-level, so it also offers less interest for anyone other than a novice skier.

Two other Lake County Trails on state land are open to skiing but you will need to park wherever you can manage to get off road. There are 4 miles of Silver Creek Pathway which loop along both sides of Silver Creek near Luther. And the Sheep Ranch Pathway has two loops for a total of 4.5 miles of trail just east of Baldwin. These trails are easy to moderate in difficulty.

Snowshoeing is permitted at all these locations, but especially where trails are groomed it is considered good etiquette to walk beside the trail, rather than in it.

With gas prices down, there is no reason at all to leave the skis in the garage this winter. We live in an area rich with winter recreation opportunities, most of which cost little or nothing.

See Oceana Cross Country Ski Association
See Manistee Cross Country Ski Council
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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Big Frowny Face In the Sky, Dec 1

from National Geographic, "Planets, Crescent Moon to 'Frown' on Skywatchers Dec. 1," by Andrew Fazekas, Nov 25, 2008

"This is set to be the best planetary gathering of the year, simply because it involves three of the brightest objects in the sky after the sun," said Geza Gyuk, director of astronomy at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.

On November 30, at about 7 pm Eastern Standard Time, Jupiter and Venus will be separated by only 2 degrees. The planets will be easily seen shortly after sunset, as long as the sky is clear. Look low in the southwest, approximately where sunset occurs.

However, the best of the show may be on the following evening, Dec 1. The crescent moon will join the two planets for a short time, creating the appearance of a "frowny face" in the sky.

Five planets are visible in the sky to the naked eye, but Jupiter and Venus are the brightest. They are both enveloped in reflective clouds. Jupiter is the largest planet, and Venus is the closest, making both of them easily visible.

Planetary conjunctions are relatively rare, and the last time that Venus and Jupiter were so close together was in 2 B.C. This has raised speculation as to whether the light from the conjunction appeared merged and is the "Star of Bethlehem."

See National Geographic Blog
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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Get Started Nordic Skating

from Press of Atlantic City, "Beginners' questions answered about Nordic skating," Nov 26, 2008

Nordic skates are cross-country ice skates for recreational touring. Blades are long and thin, similar to speed- skate blades, allowing for greater speed. The blades fasten to comfortable Nordic ski boots, so you avoid the pinched feet, cold toes and floppy ankles that you get from conventional speed skates. Just clip the blade on your ski boots and go.

Nordic skates glide farther than conventional hockey or figure skates. On a longer blade, your weight is more distributed with greater stability, allowing you to handle bumpier ice without tripping or stumbling. Hockey and figure blades leave deeper gouges in the ice than Nordic blades. Nordic skates also make it easier to skate through a few inches of snow atop the ice.

Nordic skates come in four lengths. Shorter blades work best on small ponds and indoor rinks with smooth ice. Longer blades are best for soft ice, bumpy ice and straight-ahead skating on large bodies of frozen water.

Bindings need to match the boots you'll be using, such as Salomon Pilot, Profil or X-Adventure; or Rottefella NNN-BC, NNN-R3 or NIS-R4.

Nordic skates clip onto cross-country ski boots just like skis. Best boots are Nordic "skate" or "combi" models from Alpina, Fischer, Hartjes, Rossignol, Salomon and Sportful. They have good ankle support and stiffness for skating. But any cross-country ski boot will work with Nordic skates as long as the boots match the bindings. There are also strap-on versions of Nordic blades available to fit winter hiking boots, or telemark versions to fit telemark ski boots.

If you're skating outdoors on an unmaintained, untested ice surface, safety is your responsibility. Skate with, but not necessarily near, at least one other person and carry this safety gear:
  • Ice claws or picks with which to pull yourself out of a hole in the ice if you fall through.
  • A lifeline you can throw to anyone who falls through the ice.
  • A backpack containing dry clothes in a waterproof bag or container. If you fasten the waist strap on your backpack, the air caught in any waterproof bag or container inside will help act as a life preserver in an emergency.
  • A waterproof flashlight. Winter days are short in Alaska. A light can be used to signal for help or to provide illumination for a rescue.

Poles can help maintain balance. And cross-country skiers might enjoy the familiarity - Nordic skating is a lot like Nordic skate skiing on snow, only faster and with less effort. On soft, bumpy or snow-covered ice, poles can be a big help with balance. But when the ice is smooth, hard and black, most people skate without poles.

Yes and no. When you stride on the blades, your heel swings free. But when you ride or push off on the blades, your weight forces the boot down onto an interlocking ridge-channel system that marries boot and blade. This give you control over your blades and helps transmit all lateral force into the blade.

In a life-or-death emergency, experienced skaters do a "hockey stop," a quick sideways twist that brings the edges of the skates perpendicular to the line of travel. This technique takes some time to learn. If you don't already know how to hockey stop, start slowly, don't allow your speed to get too high, and slow down to stop by gradually by "snowplowing" as you would on skis or coasting to a gradual stop. If you do know how to hockey stop, remember that hockey stops dull blades faster than less aggressive forms of braking.

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Court Upholds Michigan Law to Stop Invasive Species

a news release of National Wildlife Federation

Statement by Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director, Great Lakes office of the National Wildlife Federation, on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding the state of Michigan’s law to stop invasive species from entering the Great Lakes. ANN ARBOR, MICH. (November 21, 2008)—“The court’s decision is a victory for the state of Michigan, the Great Lakes and the millions of people who depend on them for their jobs and way of life. “The decision sends a clear message that Michigan’s law is constitutional and not pre-empted by federal law. The decision affirms that states have an important and powerful role to play in preventing the ongoing economic and environmental damage from invasive species. “It is imperative that Great Lakes states remain vigilant in protecting the Great Lakes from invasive species which foul beaches, disrupt the aquatic food chain, damage infrastructure and cost citizens at least $200 million per year in damage and control costs. “Absent aggressive state and federal actions, the problem of invasive species will only get worse and more costly. We have solutions. It is time to use them.” National Wildlife Federation is America's conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children's future.

See the full court decision a pdf
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Becoming an Outdoorswoman - UP, Feb 27 - Mar 1

a news release of Michigan DNR

Women seeking to improve their outdoor skills are encouraged to participate in the Department of Natural Resources' Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) program's Winter Weekend Feb. 27-March 1 in the Upper Peninsula. The annual winter program will be held at the Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay, 30 miles north of Marquette in the Upper Peninsula.

Participants can select instruction from a list of over a dozen outdoor-related activities including cross-country skiing, dog sledding, snowmobiling, winter shelter building, ice fishing, outdoor cooking and reading the winter woods. Some indoor activities also will be offered, such as archery, fly tying and journaling. Professional instructors will offer basic and advanced instruction tailored to the participant's individual abilities.

The $175 registration fee includes all food and lodging for the weekend, as well as most equipment and supplies. Participants will be housed in comfortable, dorm-style facilities. The fee also includes many extra evening activities including the camp's group sauna, bonfire/marshmallow roast and other programs.

BOW workshops are for women 18 years of age and older who wish to learn outdoor skills in a relaxed atmosphere. Those interested in participating are urged to register soon as classes fill quickly.

Registration materials and course descriptions are available on the DNR web site, Click on Education and Outreach to access the BOW page.
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Winter Rafting - A New Way to Experience Michigan

winter rafting
Rafters enjoy a winter excursion
down the Jordan River aboard the big blue rafts
of Jordan Valley Outfitters, East Jordan, Mich.
from, "Winter rafting in northern Michigan showcases season's beauty," by Andrea Tamboer, Nov 9

Think of the quiet of the winter woods. Add a Wild & Scenic River, an outfitter, and you are all set for a new experience in northern Michigan.

Jordan River Outfitters of East Jordan, and Big Bear Adventures in Indian River are two Lower Peninsula firms that offer winter rafting trips. More and more people are looking for an alternative to skiing and snowshoeing. Michigan waterways provide the medium. Deep snow cover is not required... a perfect activity for those not-so-snow-covered weekends.

About two hours is considered a good length for a safe trip. Dressing warmly is imperative, but you can be assured of staying dry. Jordan River Outfitters even provides snowshoes for a short hike midway through the trip, followed by hot drinks and snacks.

"The river is ever-changing in the winter," Jordan Outfitter's owner said. "A shelf of ice will develop and narrow the rapids. The next week, it's gone, and the current is more gentle."

Winter wildlife may be seen nearby; the rafts pass silently. Consider this novel way to enjoy a Michigan winter.

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2009 Michigan State Park Permits Available

a news release of Michigan DNR

Rates for 2009 permits will remain the same. Motor vehicle entrance permits are $24 for a resident annual and $6 for a resident daily. A non-resident annual is $29 and a non-resident daily is $8. Resident annual senior discount permits are $6 and can only be purchased in person at a state park or recreation area, or at the main office in downtown Lansing, and will require a valid driver's license and vehicle registration.

Boating access site permits are $24 for an annual permit, or $6 for a daily permit, for both residents and non-residents. Boating access site permits are also available at fee sites.

"Most Michigan residents are located within a one hour drive of a state park, recreation area or boating access site. The permits provide Michigan residents, and non-residents, access to 98 Michigan state parks or recreation areas and over 800 access sites located statewide," said Ron Olson, DNR Parks and Recreation chief. "Giving a motor vehicle permit, a boating access site permit, or a gift certificate is giving the gift of outdoors, and it also helps support our state park system."

Gift certificates and permits can be purchased year round through the Michigan e-store or by calling 517-373-9900
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Consider Clothing that Can't Get Wet

nanofabric repels water
The new fabric strongly repels water
thanks to nanoscale filaments with a
spiky structure
(Image: University of Zurich/Wiley Vch)
from a news release of New Scientist, "Nanotech clothing fabric 'never gets wet'", by Jon Evans, Nov 24, 2008

A new waterproof fabric developed in Switzerland just can't get wet! It is the most water repellant material that is suitable for clothing that has ever been created.

The fabric is made of polyester fibers coated with millions of tiny silicone filaments. Drops of water retain their spherical shape and cannot penetrate. If the surface of the fabric is tilted to only two degrees, the water rolls off. Even shooting water under pressure at the fabric can't make it get wet; the water just bounces.

Stefan Seeger at the University of Zurich says the spiky silicone nanofilament layer is the secret. The material is chemically hydrophobic, and the spiky structure strengthens the effect.

As is often the case, science is imitating nature. A similar structure is what keeps the surface of Lotus leaves dry. And the layer of air trapped in the nanofilaments is similar to the method used by some insects and spiders to trap air for underwater survival.

This air layer also suggests uses such as athletic swimwear since it also causes the fabric to have reduced drag.

"Although the textiles did show some degradation in the mechanical abrasion tests, their performance was very impressive," Seeger says. "The era of self-cleaning clothes may be closer than we think."

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Really M.A.D. in 2009

M.A.D. Ride Logo
M.A.D. logo
by Joan H. Young

The Annual M.A.D (Make a Difference) Ride benefits the HELP Ministries of Mason County.

Sign up early and ride your bike on August 15, 2009 for the 2008 registration price of $15. This rate is good through August 8, 2009. Annual M.A.D Rides have four scenic routes of 14, 26, 62, or 100 miles. The $15 fee is the minimum amount for a rider to participate. Sponsorship is preferred with a $100 minimum.

M.A.D. Ride t-shirts are awarded for $100 in sponsors. Jerseys are awarded to riders with $250 or more in sponsorship.

Rest stops are indicated along the routes. Lunch is provided for riders, and maps to the routes.

HELP stands for Hands Extended Loving People. HELP is a non-profit, faith based service ministry. Its primary focus is to meet needs not presently addressed by agencies, ministries and churches in Mason County, Michigan.

Assistance is offered to everyone, regardless of social or economic status. However, priority is given to widows, single mothers, and the poor. Examples of services are automotive repairs, rent assistance, utilities assistance, providing appliances / furniture, assistance with medical bills, etc.

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Overweight Kids Can Reduce Anger Through Exercise

kids exercising
excerpts from a news release of the Medical College of Georgia

Regular exercise seems to reduce anger expression in overweight but otherwise healthy children, researchers said.

The first published study on the topic looked at 208 typically sedentary 7- to 11-year-olds who participated in a 10-15 week afterschool aerobic exercise program or maintained their usual inactive routine. The Pediatric Anger Expression Scale, used to gauge common anger expressions such as slamming doors and hitting, was given before and after the program.

"Exercise had a significant impact on anger expression in children," said Dr. Catherine Davis, clinical health psychologist in the Medical College of Georgia School of Medicine. "This finding indicates that aerobic exercise may be an effective strategy to help overweight kids reduce anger expression and aggressive behavior."

The finding fits with evidence that exercise reduces depression and anxiety in children and with what's considered common knowledge that exercise helps adults manage anger, she said.

It also gives parents and other caregivers another reason to get and keep children moving. "I think it's reasonable to encourage children to exercise for a lot of good reasons," said Dr. Davis whose research on overweight children has shown regular physical activity not only reduces fatness but improves cognition and reduces insulin resistance – which can lead to diabetes.

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Biological Pesticide Found for Zebra Mussels

zebra mussels on clam
zebra mussels attached to native clam
photo from GLSGN Exotic Species Library/ USFWS
from the Schenectady Daily Gazette, "Biopesticide may solve zebra mussel problem," by Sara Foss, Nov 23, 2008

Zebra mussels feed on the bacteria Pseudomonas fluorescens regularly, but an overdose is lethal. The bacteria is naturally present in lake water.

Dr. Daniel Molloy, director of the Cambridge, New York Museum’s Field Research Laboratory has developed the natural pesticide. “It’s a question of dose,” Molloy said. “If you go to a pipe, and add a million times more [Pseudomonas fluorescens], and create artificially high densities of bacteria, they will feed on it until they die.”

Malloy had previously developed a biological pesticide for black flies. He was approached by power companies to try to apply the same type of solution to kill zebra mussels. The invasive mussels clog pipes in power plants and water intakes. Malloy began hunting for a soil bacteria that was toxic to the mussels without success. He had no success, and was ready to give up, but the power companies asked him to continue (and provided funding). Within 8 weeks he found the Pseudomonas fluorescens.

Previous to this discovery the only practical methods of getting rid of the zebra mussels were chemical pesticides (toxic to many species), or the application of high temperature water which is expensive to maintain.

The bacteria also kills the invasive quagga mussel, a relative of the zebra mussel. is likely to be available next year, and will probably be sold through a commercial partner of the museum.

A full scale test of the product will be conducted next year at Davis Dam on the Colorado River, Arizona. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will determine if the bacteria can be used in a dam to kill quagga mussels.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Solo Hike Paddle Loops

hike / paddle loop
Pere Marquette loop
follow link below for full size
from Alan Fark

If you're paddling Michigan rivers, you know it's a hassle to shuttle your own kayak or canoe back-and-forth from the start and end point, and you need a buddy to help you do it.

Here are some circuits which can be done without shuttling, and which combine hiking and paddling. They can be done solo. Most are on the North Country Trail. These are day trips, not overnights.

Either drop your canoe or kayak off at the upstream portion (lock it with a bicycle lock or hide it in weeds, and don't forget to leave paddles and life vest away from the boat), drive to your endpoint, hike upstream and paddle back to your car. You can also obviously just start paddling from the upstream point and walk back upstream to your car after leaving your boat at the "bottom." This latter strategy runs the risk of missing the bend in the river where you're supposed to stop, if you're unfamiliar with the landing spot.

Alan has provided maps and some info for five different loops. There is a 6th possibility for a short trip, on the map above. You can begin at Upper Branch Bridge, hike the NCT and Sulak Access Road and then paddle down to Upper Branch. This makes a short day trip... nice for families.

See Hike-Paddle Loops
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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mandy Anderson - Conquerer of Mountains

Mandy Anderson
Mandy Anderson
photo by Marci Singer
from the Petoskey News Review, "Harbor Springs native conquers mountains," by Marci Singer, Nov 17, 2008

“Don’t make assumptions about what you think someone else can or cannot do just based on what you see,” Mandy told reporter Marci Singer.

Mandy Anderson has had but one leg for the past 25 years. Since then she has completed more than 10 mini triathlons. She loves to ski, hike, swim, sail, kayak, and ride her bike. She helped carry the Olympic Torch to Juno in 2002.

Most recently, she finished a mini-triathlon in Anchorage, Alaska in May of this year.

With her husband and two children, Anderson moved back to her home town of Harbor Springs, Michigan this year after living in Alaska. She is the director of Cross Village Rugworks.

She has expressed her delight that there are so many hiking and biking opportunities in northern Michigan.

When asked about her greatest athletic accomplishment she responded "riding up a little mountain pass” in Dutch Harbor (Port Alexander, Alaska) on her bicycle without stopping. “I’d ridden the same pass in triathlons but had to stop and walk. In the fall, right before we left, right before the road closed for the winter, I made it over the pass without stopping,” she said smiling.

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Note from Admin

The quick reactions checkboxes have been removed because entries don't seem to "stick." I have applied the fix supplied by various bloggers who have also reported this difficulty, and they still don't work. Rather than have it look as if no one ever uses them, I have removed the option.

Bird Counts Skewed by Background Noise

photo credit Jason McClellan
a news release of North Carolina State University

Most of what we know about bird populations stems from surveys conducted by professional biologists and amateur birdwatchers, but new research from North Carolina State University shows that the data from those surveys may be seriously flawed – and proposes possible means to resolve the problem.

Bird populations are the focus of thousands of environmental research and monitoring programs around the world. A group of researchers led by NC State's Dr. Theodore Simons has been evaluating factors that confound estimates of bird abundance. For example, background noise can influence the ability of observers to detect birds on population surveys, and can result in underestimates of true population size.

In order to explore these questions, Simons and others worked to develop "Bird Radio:" a series of remotely controlled playback devices that can be used to accurately mimic a population of singing birds. Researchers could then control variables, such as background noise, to see whether it affected birdwatchers' ability to estimate bird populations.

The study found that even small amounts of background noise, from rustling leaves or automobile traffic, led to a 40 percent decrease in the ability of observers to detect singing birds. What's more, said Simons, "we also learned that misidentification rates increased with the number of individuals and species encountered by observers at a census point." In other words, the researchers found that traditional means of estimating the abundance and diversity of bird species are flawed due to complications such as background noise and the accuracy of the data observers collect on surveys of breeding birds.

But the Bird Radio research also points the way toward possible solutions. Simons explains that the Bird Radio findings are helping researchers develop better sampling methods and statistical models that will provide more accurate bird population estimates. For example, researchers are attempting to identify data collection methods that will help account for background noise or other outside factors in estimating bird populations.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Stronach Boat Launch Gets New Dock

from the Ludington Daily News

Stronach boat launch has a new dock, and the ribbon cutting ceremony will be Tuesday, November 25. A $289,400 grant from the Great Lakes Fishery Trust funded the project. The boat launch is just north of the village of Stronach at the mouth of Manistee Lake

The dock is constructed of aluminum, and has floats which allow the pier to fluctuate with water levels. It includes benches and railings. There are cutouts which allow anglers to land fish with nets. The dock can accommodate 20 people, and is accessible according to the ADA guidelines. It replaces a wooden dock.

The ceremony will be Tuesday at 11 am.

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Nub's Nob Adds Chairlift at Pintail Peak

a news release of Michigan Skier

Nob's Nob Ski Area of Harbor Springs, Michigan, has a new custom-built triple-seat chairlift for the Pintail Peak. It is a fixed-grip chairlift that will increase uphill skier and snowboarder capacity on the Peak by over 65 percent. Nubs Nob has also added 12 additional snow guns, manufactured by the Nub's Nob crew, bringing the total arsenal count to 262.

The ski area purchased all new adult and children snowboards, boots and bindings for their rental fleet. Last year, they purchased all new skis, boots and bindings so their rental department is very up-to-date.

Nubs is adding two new season passes to their offerings, the Limited Pass and the College Pass. The Limited Pass is less expensive than the Unlimited Pass and allows the holder to ski anytime except Saturday daytime and blackout dates. The College Pass reduces the rates for college students through age 21, with a valid college ID.

See Nub's Nob (231) 526-2131
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Quiet Water Symposium 2009

Quiet Water banner
by Joan H. Young (sources MSU and Quiet Waters)

As part of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Week at Michigan State University, the annual Quiet Water Symposium is being planned. This is an annual event where those who share a love of outdoor, non-motorized recreation come together to share experiences and adventures, equipment ideas, and concerns for water resources. Of course, attendees are always looking for just the right spot to take that next river trip.

Agriculture and Natural Resources Week (ANR Week) continues to be one of the largest events of its kind in the nation. Foundations for the week were laid by the Farmers’ Institute more than a century ago. In 1898, Michigan Agricultural College hosted the first state-wide Farmers’ Institute “Round-Up.”

The Quiet Water Symposium will be Saturday March 7, 2009, in Lansing, at the Pavilion for Livestock and Agriculture Education. Times are 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, and adult admission is $8.00.

At least three venues with full programs are being planned. Speakers of note include
  • Cliff Jacobson, one of North America’s most respected outdoors writers and wilderness paddlers. He is a recipient of the American Canoe Association’s prestigious Legends of Paddling Award and a member of the ACA Hall of Fame.
  • "Doc" Fletcher: "Weekend Canoeing in Michigan: The Rivers, The Towns, The Taverns"
  • Jonathan M. Ahlbrand: Basic Sailing Concepts, A Brief Introduction to the Sport
  • Erick Hansen: The Poetry and the Practicalities of Hiking Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
  • Cathy Green: Wreck Diving in the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary
  • ongoing demonstrations on re-canvasing canoes, and wood strip kayak building
  • and many others

There will be exhibits of beautiful hand-built canoes, kayaks, rowing craft, outdoor gear, antique and restored classic canoes, traditional snowshoes, bicycles - and more. Environmental groups will also have informational booths.

See the Quiet Waters Symposium for the complete schedule.
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Michgan Ranked 12th by League of American Bicyclists

a news release of Michigan DOT

Michigan ranks 12th in the nation for bicycle friendliness, according to a recent survey administered by the League of American Bicyclists. Bicycle friendliness is closely connected with perceptions of a high quality of life. According to the League, encouraging bicycling is an effective way to address the challenges of climate change, traffic congestion, rising obesity rates and soaring fuel prices, as well as improve traffic safety and economic development.

"Michigan's high ranking was achieved through the many partnerships we have in our state between state and local government, nonprofit and private agencies, and the thousands of dedicated citizens and bicyclists across the state," said Joshua DeBruyn, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). "Many Michigan communities have incorporated bike lanes on local roads and constructed hundreds of miles of bike trails with assistance from numerous state departments and nonprofit resources. This creates an infrastructure that encourages bicycling."

Michigan's overall ranking was based on six survey categories: Education and Encouragement - 7th, Infrastructure - 8th (tied), Evaluation and Planning - 14th (tied), Enforcement - 15th (tied), Policies and Programs - 19th (tied), and Legislation - 35th (tied).

The survey was completed by MDOT with information provided by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Community Health, State Police, Management and Budget, Secretary of State, and the League of Michigan Bicyclists.

See Michigan DOT / Biking
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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sleeping Bear Heritage Trailway

based on an article in the Leelanau Enterprise, "Heritage Trailway proposal outlined," Sep 16, 2008

The article Sleeping Bear Proposes More Rec Opportunities mentioned a 27-mile, multi-use trail to possibly be built near M-22. This article gives additional details.

Representatives of the National Park Service and the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments are proposing the Leelanau Scenic Heritage Route Trailway. The trail would begin at Manning Road at Leelanau County’s southern border with Benzie County and extend north along M-22, M-109 and through the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as far north as Good Harbor Trail (County Road 651) in Centerville Township.

Open houses were held throughout October 2008 to inform the public concerning the plan. The Leelanau Scenic Heritage Route project got under way in 2001 under the auspices of the Michigan Department of Transportation. A county scenic heritage route committee consisting of representatives from 12 municipalities along the M-22 corridor in Leelanau County meets monthly to oversee a Scenic Heritage Route plan. One of the priorities in that plan includes creation of a non-motorized trailway through the National Lakeshore.

Patty O’Donnell, of the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments, told the Empire Township Board that the heritage route committee had secured a $250,000 federal grant to design and engineer the first phase of the trail. Tentatively, the first phase could include a trail from the Dune Climb in the national park to the unincorporated village of Glen Arbor via M-109. One alternative calls for the trail to use part of an historic narrow gauge railroad bed built by D.H. Day to move lumber from forested areas north to the dock at Glen Haven.

Empire Township Board members appeared to be generally pleased with what they heard from O’Donnell this week. In Cleveland Township, however, board members and members of the public expressed some concerns about what they were hearing from Barb and Lee Jameson.

Several alternative routes are being proposed. Not all local residents are pleased with some of these alternatives. the path would deviate from the M-22 right of way at Narada Lake where a boardwalk will be necessary and could provide opportunities for a wildlife viewing platform. In addition, a bridge would be required to take the trail across Shetland Creek near M-22. A Cleveland Township trustee noted that the portion of M-22 paralleling Little Traverse Lake is already a “difficult and dangerous” stretch of road. He asserted that adding a trailway past homes and business in that area would only make the corridor more dangerous.

The trail will not be located on any of the land proposed to be placed in official wilderness status. Mechanized use of any kind is prohibited in wilderness. Multi-use paths are generally 10 feet wide with 2-foot shoulders. It may be paved or have a crushed limestone surface. Plans call for the trail to be constructed in phases over several years.

See the Trailway Plan and Environmental Assessment at NPS / Sleeping Bear
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Bigford Family Conservation Easement on the Pere Marquette

Paul Bigford
Paul Bigford
photo credit Danielle Fogel
excerpted from the newsletter of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, "Bigford Family Preserve Pere Marquette River Frontage," Fall 2008

Paul Bigford knows every bend and curve of the Pere Marquette River as it meanders through his family’s 150 acres. Ever since he was a young boy he has been exploring the banks and enjoying the natural beauty and rich history of the area. In December, the Bigford family worked with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan to permanently protect their land with a conservation easement. [see West Michigan Land Conservancy Aids in Protecting Pere Marquette Acres]

In 1958 Paul’s grandfather, Harold Bigford, purchased 200 acres on the Pere Marquette for $20,000. As the eldest grandchild, Paul helped his grandfather with numerous projects including restoring the 1916 house on the property, building fences, and picking up trash on the south side of the river where Harold had created a camping area for the public to use, free of charge.

“Working and protecting the land got into my blood during the summers that I was grandpa’s go-fer,” Paul explains. Harold passed away in the fall of 1964. Paul’s father inherited the land, but unfortunately not before 50 acres on the south side of the river was sold off.

The next summer 14-year-old Paul was in Baldwin with his family for the “Troutarama” festival. He spotted a flyer in the window of a realty office advertising riverfront land for sale and instantly recognized the map - he had traced the path of the river through his grandfather’s property many times and entertained himself by creating maps. The 50 acres including the camping area) sold when Harold passed away were split up into 21 lots that were for sale for approximately $2500 each. Paul knew then that he would do everything he could to ensure the remaining 150 acres were protected forever.

Paul and his brother Doug inherited the property when their parents died. Together with Paul’s son Kyle they formed a limited liability corporation and worked with the Land Conservancy to create a conservation easement that will forever protect their 150 acres and ensure that the land will not be fragmented into small shoreline lots.

“As I look at the framed arrowheads on my wall I pray that the river will still flow, free and undammed and wild, for another 300 generations. I feel good that we have done our part,” says Paul.

See Land Conservancy of West Michigan
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Your Cell Phone as Fitness Coach?

UbiFit Phone Display
UbiFit display on a cell phone.
Different colored flowers grow
for different activities,
and butterflies appear when the
user reaches weekly goals.
excerpts from a news release of the University of Washington, "Track your fitness, environmental impact with new cell phone applications," by Rachel Tompa, Nov 19, 2008

Planning on gobbling a few extra treats this holiday season? Soon, your cell phone may be able to help you maintain your exercise routine and keep the pounds off over winter months, without your having to lift a finger to keep track.

Researchers at the University of Washington and Intel have created two new cell phone applications, dubbed UbiFit and UbiGreen, to automatically track workouts and green transportation. The programs display motivational pictures on the phone's background screen that change the more the user works out or uses eco-friendly means of transportation.

The applications are designed to change people's behavior for the better, said Sunny Consolvo, a recently graduated UW Information School doctoral student and one of UbiFit's creators. In a three-month field experiment, people using UbiFit with the background display kept up their workout routines over the winter holidays, a period when people typically slack off on exercise, while people without the display let their regimen slide.

Current versions of UbiFit and UbiGreen use an external sensing device (the Intel Mobile Sensing Platform) clipped to the user's waist. The device includes an accelerometer to sense the user's movement. The programs could run on phones with built-in accelerometers, such as the iPhone and the new Android G1, with no need for external equipment, Landay said. UbiGreen also relies on changing cell phone tower signals to determine whether a person is taking a trip.

UbiFit displays an empty lawn at the beginning of the week, and flowers grow as the user works out during the week. Different kinds of workouts yield different colored flowers. Users set weekly workout goals and are rewarded with a butterfly when the goal is met. Users can also enter workout information manually if the sensor made a mistake, they forgot to wear it, or they did an activity that the sensor does not detect.

This background display proved motivational, said Consolvo, who is a researcher at Intel Research Seattle. "[It] was definitely one of the biggest wins of our study," Consolvo said.

UbiGreen automatically logs a trip that involves walking, running or biking using accelerometer data, and uses cell phone tower signals to determine if someone is riding in a vehicle. UbiGreen displays a tree on the cell phone's background that grows leaves, flowers, then fruit as the user makes green choices. Icons light up when a choice saves money, incorporates exercise, or allows the user to multi-task. A green bar and number also display how many pounds of carbon dioxide each trip saves compared to a car ride.

UbiFit and UbiGreen could be released to the public within the next year or two, Landay said, especially as phones with built-in accelerometers become more common.

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Cold is Cool for Michigan 4th Graders

Cold id Cool logo
a news release of Michigan Snowsports Industries Association

The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association (MSIA) wants to give Michigan kids an opportunity to get out, have fun and get healthy this winter. This is why MSIA has established a state-wide program which provides every fourth grader in Michigan the opportunity to ski for free. Endorsed by Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, fourth graders can obtain a “Cold is Cool” Ski & Ride Passport that gives them up to three free lift tickets or trail passes at 22 participating ski areas.

The “Cold is Cool” Fourth Grade Ski & Ride Passport is one of the elements of MSIA’s “Cold is Cool” program, which is dedicated to improving the health of the children in our state by offering winter outdoor activities for all Michigan kids and their families.

Steve Kershner, MSIA chairman and director of skiing at Shanty Creek, says the association wants Michigan kids to have the opportunity to ski or snowboard. “Fourth grade is the perfect age to learn to ski. Nine- and ten-year-old kids have the coordination to pick up the sport quickly,” he adds.

In order for fourth graders to use the free lift or trail pass coupons, a paying adult must accompany them. “We feel that fourth graders should be supervised by an adult while on the slopes and trails. Our intention is to make this a fun, affordable activity for the entire family,” says Mickey MacWilliams, MSIA executive director. With the Passport, up to two fourth graders can ski free with each paying adult.

In the Fall, Michigan elementary and middle school principals receive a “Cold is Cool” packet with information on a variety of MSIA programs including application forms for the Fourth Grade Passport. Kids can also pick up the applications at participating MSIA ski shops and by clicking here. Although the skiing is free, MSIA charges a $15 printing and shipping fee for each passport ordered.

The Cold is Cool Fourth Grade Ski & Ride Passport has blackout dates at some of the participating ski areas. Dates are listed on the application and the passport itself.

Passport applications are sent to all Michigan elementary schools in November. They are also available at MSIA Ski Shops in November, or you can visit the MSIA web site

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

National Outdoor Book Award Winners for 2008

The Great Lakes:  The Natural History of a Changing Region
Winner of a National Outdoor Book Award
in the Natural History category
a news release of National Outdoor Book Awards

A stubborn band of optimists who fought and refused to let the magnificent American chestnut tree slip into extinction. One man's life-long obsession with hiking the hidden-away corners of the Grand Canyon. A young mother rebuilding her life after the death of her husband in a mountaineering accident.

These are some of the themes found among the winners of the 2008 National Outdoor Book Awards.

"What a year it was," said Ron Watters, professor emeritus at Idaho State University. "The writing in the outdoor field has always been good, but it just keeps getting better -- and this year it was outstanding." Watters is the chairman of the National Outdoor Book Awards, a nonprofit program sponsored by the NOBA Foundation, Idaho State University and the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education.

As an example of outstanding writing, Watters points to the winner of the Natural History category, “American Chestnut: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree.” Authored by nature writer Susan Freinkel, it tells the story of the American chestnut tree which at one time stretched in vast numbers from Georgia to Maine.

The American chestnut tree had long been a part of the landscape of the eastern United States, but in a short 40-year time span, an estimated 4 billion trees were killed off by an imported blight fungus. Only a handful of trees remained in California and the Pacific Northwest. In an absorbing mix of natural and human history, Freinkel chronicles the century-long struggle by a few individuals who set out to save this American cultural icon.

A beautifully composed memoir won the Outdoor Literature category. Written by Jennifer Lowe-Anker, “Forget Me Not: A Memoir” tells of the struggle to rebuild her life after her husband and famous mountaineer, Alex Lowe dies on an expedition in the Himalayas. Remarkably candid, it's a story of adventure, passion, and hope reborn.

The History-Biography Category has two winners. One is a new, exhaustively researched but eminently readable “Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering” by Maurice Isserman and Stewart Weaver.

The other is entitled “Grand Obsession.” Written by Elias Butler and Tom Myers, it is the biography of Harvey Butchart, an author of Grand Canyon hiking guidebooks. Butler and Myers do wonders with this book, taking what seems at first glance a prosaic subject, and fashioning it into a fascinating portrait of a man hopelessly addicted to a place.

Complete reviews of these and the other 2008 winners may be found at National Outdoor Book Award Web site at:

Here is a list of winners.

Natural History Literature. Winner. “The American Chestnut: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree.” By Susan Freinkel. University of California Press, Berkeley. ISBN 9780520247307

Outdoor Literature Category. Winner. “Forget Me Not: A Memoir.” By Jennifer Lowe-Anker. The Mountaineers Books, Seattle. ISBN 1594850828.

History/Biography Category. Winner. “Grand Obsession: Harvey Butchart and the Exploration of the Grand Canyon.” By Elias Butler and Tom Myers. Puma Press, Flagstaff, Ariz. ISBN 0970097344.

History/Biography Category. Winner. “Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes.” By Maurice Isserman and Stewart Weaver. Yale University Press. New Haven, Conn. ISBN 9780300115017.

Classic Category. Winner. “Through the Grand Canyon from Wyoming to Mexico.” By Ellsworth L. Kolb. Grand Canyon Association, Grand Canyon, Ariz. (Originally published by MacMillan in 1914). ISBN 0938216961

Classic Category. Winner. The “Pacific Crest Trail” (Series). In three volumes: Southern California, Northern California and Oregon &Washington. Authors include Thomas Winnett, Ben Schifrin, Jeffrey Schaffer, Ruby Johnson Jenkins, and Andy Selters. Wilderness Press, Berkeley. ISBN's: 9780899973166, 9870899973173, 9780899973753.

Children's Category. Winner. “The Pole.” By Eric Walters. Puffin Canada/Penguin Group, Toronto. ISBN 9780143167914.

Nature and the Environment. Winner. “The Last Polar Bear: Facing the Truth of a Warming World.” Photographs by Steven Kazlowski. Braided River Books, an imprint of The Mountaineers Books, Seattle. ISBN 9781594850592.

Nature and the Environment. Winner. “The Great Lakes: The Natural History of a Changing Region.” By Wayne Grady. Greystone Books, Vancouver. ISBN 9781553651970.

Design and Artistic Merit. Winner. “Surfboards” by Guy Motil. Falcon Guides, Guilford, Conn. ISBN 9780762746217.

Design and Artistic Merit. Winner. “Bruce Aiken's Grand Canyon: An Intimate Affair.” Paintings by Bruce Aiken. Text by Susan Hallsten McGarry. Grand Canyon Association, Grand Canyon, Ariz. ISBN 9780938216933

Design and Artistic Merit. Honorable Mention. “Soul of the Heights: 50 Years Going to the Mountains.” Photographs and text by Ed Cooper. Falcon Guides, Guilford, Conn. ISBN 9780762745272

Nature Guidebooks. Winner. “Birds of Peru.” By Tomas S. Schulenberg, Douglas F. Stotz, Daniel F. Lane, John P. O'Neill, and Theodore A. Parker III. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J. ISBN 9780691049151.

Outdoor Adventure Guidebook. Winner. “Florida Keys Paddling Atlas.” By Bill and Mary Burnham. Falcon Guides, Guilford, Conn. ISBN 9780762738571.

Instructional Category. Winner. “Road Bike Maintenance.” By Guy Andrews. Falcon Guides, Guilford, Conn. ISBN 9780762747467.

Instructional Category. Honorable Mention. “Whitewater Kayaking: The Ultimate Guide.” By Ken Whiting and Kevin Varette. Heliconia Press. Beachburg, Ontario. ISBN 9781896980300.

More information on the awards program is found on the National Outdoor Book Award website
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Cheboygan, South Haven, Boyne City Certify Clean Marinas

Clean Marina Logo
a news release of Michigan Sea Grant

Three Michigan marinas—Walstrom Marine in Cheboygan, South Haven Municipal Marina group in South Haven and Grant Moore Municipal Marina in Boyne City—are the most recent facilities to achieve official designation as clean marinas through the Michigan Clean Marina Program.

The new designations bring the total number of clean marinas in Michigan to 21. Designated clean marinas have implemented a suite of best management practices that promote environmentally sound marina and boating practices. “The program is a win-win situation,” said Chuck Pistis, state coordinator for Michigan Sea Grant. “Marinas – all marinas – play an important role in the critical areas of where land meets water. The Clean Marina Program helps address how to protect those areas while looking at the long-term sustainability of a marina from a business perspective.”

The Michigan Clean Marina Program is a voluntary stewardship program open to all public and private marinas in the state. The designation process begins with a pledge to participate, followed by workshops where the marina management and staff receive a marina handbook, overview of the designation process and a review of best management practices related to topics such as storm water management, petroleum control, and boat maintenance and repair, among others.

The facilities then conduct self-evaluations of their environmental practices to determine strengths and weaknesses. After implementing improvements and reaching program benchmarks, the marina requests a visit by a CMP consultant, who evaluates the facility’s environmental stewardship. When the facility reaches established goals, it receives the designation as a clean marina.

“It’s great from a reducing-human-impact standpoint and it makes good business sense,” said Pistis. “Marinas need to be reflective of the attitudes and desires of their customers and they have to respond to what their customers know is important.”

The Clean Marina Program (CMP) is a joint undertaking by the Michigan Boating Industries Association, Michigan Sea Grant and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Marina affiliates interested in the program can get more information at the upcoming Clean Marina workshop on December 5 in Bay City. Registration is due by November 24 and can be made by visiting or by calling Jeff Spencer at 517-241-5719.

See Clean Marina Brochure (a pdf)
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Swimmer Jim Dreyer Brings Adventures in Mentoring to Ottawa County

from a news release of The Holland Sentinal, "Man-to-man mentoring aims at getting active outdoors," by Jeremy Gonsoir, Nov 13, 2008

Now that Jim Dreyer has swum all the Great Lakes, he wants other guys to get outside too.

Dryer, a Byron Center resident, will take his Adventures in Mentoring program to Holland. The seven-week program hopes to pair men with young men from juvenile court, or the children of prisoners.

His hope is that men who feel unqualified to mentor, but who are comfortable doing outdoor activities will be willing to share their skills with young people. This will help the adults feel more at ease. Dreyer said, "We are saying 'hey share your passion with the next generation.'"

The mentor and young person will train in a clinic in such activities as hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, or mountain biking. The program will come to a conclusion with a weekend camp where the teams can compete in their newly learned sports.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Gray Fox Seen in Mason, Manistee Counties

Gray Fox
Gary Fox
photo credit Gregg Heimall
by Joan H. Young

Although the red fox is much more commonly seen in Eastern woodlands, dotted with openings and fields, its gray cousin has been spotted recently in the local area.

Oddly enough, I saw one in Manistee myself on the same day that an article appeared in the Ludington Daily News about one being seen in Amber Township, in the Hidden Forest development near the US 10&31 interchange.

The sighting of the Mason County fox, pictured above, occurred at about 11:30 am, when the gray fox wandered through the residential area. It was observed by several people. Dan Rohde, nuisance wildlife trapper, was called. Rohde said the animal appeared to be healthy. It eventually wandered off after visiting a garage and taking a nap.

I spotted my gray fox at dusk, near the Lake Bluff Audubon House in Manistee, north of Orchard Beach State Park. When I mentioned it to the caretaker, Rich Krieger, he replied, "Oh, yeah, we have a family of them that live here."

To be honest, this was all new to me. I've only been familiar locally with the sleek and sly red fox. The gray fox is more likely to be found in wooded areas or swamps, whereas the red fox likes to hunt in open fields. Reds den up in dirt burrows, grays like rocky dens, but in the East will often choose the base and roots of a hollow tree for a home.

Both types are omnivores, eating both meat and plants. Foxes, in fact, will eat almost anything: birds and their eggs, snakes, mice, rats, acorns, berries and fruit, grasshoppers and crickets.

A significant difference is that the gray fox can and will climb trees. Occasionally it will do this to forage for food, more often to find a safe place to rest.
Red Fox
Red Fox at Orchard Beach SP 2007
photo credit Joan Young

The gray fox is usually a bit smaller than a red fox, and the one pictured above is a very typical coloration. They are gray above and reddish below with patches of white at the the throat, chest, and around the eyes. The tail has a black stripe running the length of the upper side. Gray foxes have black-tipped tails, while reds have a white-tipped tail.

To be honest, when I first spotted the one I saw, I thought it was a cat because of the size and the way it held its tail. However, when it moved, and trotted under a yard light, I realized that it was a small fox, in a color pattern that I did not recognize.

Any wild animal acting normally should be left alone. As long as it does not appear to be ill, and is not acting in a threatening manner, just enjoy the chance you have to observe a creature of the wild.

See Gray Fox at NatureWorks.
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Ken Burns National Park Series Coming Sept 2009

Blog Pictures |
Grand Canyon in winter
a news release of theOutdoor Industry Association

Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) has announced documentary filmmaker Ken Burns as the keynote speaker at the Industry Breakfast on Thursday, January 22. Mr. Burns will kick off the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market with a sneak peak at his newest film, THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA’S BEST IDEA airing on PBS in September 2009, to the industry.

Filmed over the course of more than six years at some of nature’s most spectacular locales — from Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, Florida’s Everglades to Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic — THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA’S BEST IDEA is a six-part, 12-hour documentary series by Ken Burns on the history of America’s national parks. This is a story of people: people from every conceivable background — rich and poor; famous and unknown; soldiers and scientists; natives and newcomers; idealists, artists and entrepreneurs — who were willing to devote themselves to saving some precious portion of the land they loved and in doing so, reminded their fellow citizens of the full meaning of democracy.

Ken Burns has been making documentary films for more than 30 years. Since the Academy Award-nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, he has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made. The late historian Stephen Ambrose said of Burns' films, “More Americans get their history from Ken Burns than any other source.” A December 2002 poll conducted by RealScreen Magazine listed The Civil War as second only to Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North as the “most influential documentary of all time” and named Burns and Robert Flaherty as the “most influential documentary makers” of all time.

THE NATIONAL PARKS, airing in September 2009 on PBS, will be a national television event with a major PBS advertising and public awareness campaign launching in January designed to engage Americans across the nation in learning about this precious resource. At a time of economic uncertainty, the outdoors and our parks present an opportunity for our industry to remind our customers the outdoors helps improve mental and physical health and is a great means for escape in troubling times.

"This documentary is a timely and welcome opportunity for our industry," remarked Frank Hugelmeyer, president of OIA. "This spring, Americans will be seeking low cost ways to spend time with their friends and families. Outdoor activities such as camping and hiking will have special appeal and we as an industry can tap into the resources of PBS and the film promotion to reinvigorate consumers about the outdoors."

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Michigan's Great Outdoors Conference

Michigan's Great Outdoors logo
by Joan H. Young

Michigan's Great Outdoors (MGO) is a an informal partnership of tourism leaders in Manistee, Mason, Lake, Oceana, and Newaygo Counties. It's mission is to promote tourism and stimulate the economies of the member counties.

On October 27, MGO held their fifth annual conference at West Shore Community College. The 2008 Conference theme was "Tourism as an Economic Engine." Participants included Ken Wasco of Gordon Food Services; West Michigan Tourist Association President, Rick Hert; Laurence Farardeau, coordinator for Oakland County Planning and Economic Development Services; Sharon Nunnelee of West Michigan Trails and Greenways Coalition; and Dave Ivan of Michigan State University.
Michigan's Great Outdoors 2008 Conference
displays at the 2008 MGO Conference
photo credit Wendy Marek

Wasco energized the group with his presentation "Wowing Customers One Generation at a Time." He pointed out that in 1975 consumers waited for seven minutes before forming a first impression. By 1991 that margin had been reduced to two minutes. Now, says Wasco, a business has seven seconds to make a first impression on a customer.

Topics covered by other speakers included tax incentives for filmmakers in Michigan, cultural tourism successes, and trails and tourism.

An expansive luncheon, prepared largely from locally produced foods was served.

Attendees included business owners with services and products related to tourism, and other interested individuals.

Sara Kronlein, Ludington Area Chamber of Commerce, described the conference as "a determined effort to foster local cooperation."

Michigan Great Outdoors President, Sandy Crandall, gave an update on the regional partnership. She said, "the organization is heading in the right direction. I think our group leadership is proactive... and problem solving."

The conference is held annually in late October or early November. If you are involved in tourism in any way, watch for the 2009 dates and register early. For the (early registration) price of $35, the information and networking opportunities is an outstanding value.

See Michigan's Great Outdoors
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Fort Custer to Expand Winter Camping Opportunities

a news release of theMichigan DNR

Department of Natural Resources state park and recreation officials have announced Fort Custer Recreation Area near Battle Creek is expanding its winter camping opportunities this season to be one of 10 Michigan state park campgrounds that will stay open all winter.

The park's Whitford-Lawler Lake Group Camp and the Trailside Cabin and Lakeview Cabin will operate through the winter months to accommodate winter campers and sports enthusiasts.

"We are excited to offer these expanded opportunities to GO-Get Outdoors this winter to accommodate the needs of our campers," said Tony Trojanowski, park manager. "Last year we opened the Whitford-Lawler Lake Group Camp to scout troops who wanted to earn their arctic and winter camping merit badges, and other campers asked about staying in the cabins during the winter."

The two rustic cabins offer 12 bunk beds, propane heat, picnic tables both inside and outside, a fire circle and a picnic grill. There are vault toilets and a hand pump for water nearby. The Whitford-Lawler Lake Group Camp offers a hand pump for water, a vault toilet and fire circle.

All motor vehicles entering a state park or recreation area must display a Motor Vehicle Permit, available for purchase at the park entrance. Cost is $24 for a resident annual and $6 for a resident daily. A nonresident annual is $29 and a nonresident daily is $8.

See or call 1-800-447-2757 to make reservations
See Fort Custer State Park or call 1-269- 731-4200 to call the park
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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Owasippe Court Appeal Still Stands

from a news release of The Muskegon Chronicale, "Blue Lake: Owasippe move a good first step," by Lynn Moore, Nov 13, 2008

Despite the recent good news about the withdrawal of the purchase agreement for Camp Owasippe (see Owasippe Saved But Not Preserved), mixed signals from the Chicago Area Scout Council (CAC) continue. It has been revealed that the Boy Scout Council has not actually dropped the appeal of the court decision that upheld the right of Blue Lake Township to refuse to rezone the property.

It appears that the suit which was dropped was only an ancillary case about costs, not appeal of Judge William C. Marietti’s ruling against them. Chuck Dobbins, executive with the CAC says that the council wants to do things the right way. But newly re-elected township supervisor, Donald Studaven, points out that they are continuing the challenge of the judge’s decision.

Without a doubt the CAC intends to slim down the size of the camp, but everyone agrees that there need to be more parties at the table, working together, to decide how best to accomplish this task.

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National Forest Recreation Fees Will Increase

by Joan H. Young

Local recreation in 2009 will be more expensive in the Manistee National Forest. The maintenance backlog at recreation sites in the Huron-Manistee National Forest (HMNF) has reached $1.4 million. Annual costs are approximately $400,000. Federal funding does not support these sites, and income from recreation fees falls far short with slightly more than $200,000 coming in each year.

What this means for all of us who enjoy an afternoon or a week playing in the one million federal acres near home is that we will pay more for that privilege. Daily fees in 2009 will rise to from $3 to $5. A weekly pass will now be $15 instead of $5, and you can cover a whole year and receive a windshield sticker for $35. This currently only costs $20.

Overnight camping at developed sites now ranges from being covered by an annual pass to $10 a night. Changes will eliminate that perk, and most camping will be $10 a night, and as much as $15 at horse camps. Dispersed camping will still be allowed at no charge. Some sites which are considered River Access Sites and not developed campsites, such as Sawdust Hole and Blacksmith Bayou on the Little Manistee will be only $5. Parking at Bowman Lake will become free, as there are no amenities at this location.

Carol Boll, Recreation Program Manager for the forest, noted that recreation enhancements funds do come back to the local forests. Each forest receives 80% of fees collected in a given year. The remaining 20% is held over till the following year to cover potential drops in recreation use.

Perhaps most significant is that some local areas will be closed. Dorner Lake and Udell Rollways campground are being closed this year. Driftwood Valley and the Arboretum Trail will be closed at the end of the 2009 season. Pine Lake Campground, and Hoags Lake are also on the attrition list within five years. Rainbow Bend will be closed to camping.

Boll states that to replace one portable toilet costs $15,000. Maintaining the 112 developed sites within the HMNF just will not be possible in the future. Each of the sites is rated by priority. Locations that receive the highest rating include areas such as Wild and Scenic Rivers, Heritage sites such as the Lumbering Monument, National Scenic Trails, and the unique Loda Lake Wildflower Preserve. The areas which will be closed represent the lowest priorities and use. Closure means that all picnic tables, fire rings, toilets, fences, and signage will be removed. The areas may still be accessed by users, but there will be no amenities.

See Huron-Manistee National Forest
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Friday, November 14, 2008

Crystal Mountain to Host 11th Women's Winter Tour on Super Bowl Weekend

from a news release of M-Live, "Women's Winter Tour: Charity, chocolate and good nature at Crystal Mountain Resort, by Andrea Tamboer, Nov 10, 2008

Women, chocolate, and a charitable cause all add up to a fun weekend in northern Michigan. It's always held on Super Bowl weekend; this season that's Jan 30- Feb 1, 2009.

Crystal Mountain Ski Resorts hosts this annual event where the men serve the ladies who take to the cross-country ski trails. Over the years the plans have grown to include snowshoe tours, chocolate-making classes, spa treatments, a film festival, wine tastings, skiing discounts, a dance and the cross country event. New this year is an activity called First Tracks, which gives participants the chance to downhill ski on Crystal's back slopes for an hour on Sunday for a nominal fee before the slopes open to the public for the day.

You could be skiing along a trail when suddenly a man might pop from the woods and offer you a chocolate chip cookie!

The event has grown to become one of the largest women's winter events in the country, with 800-1000 ladies participating. Over its ten years it has raised more than $150,000 for women's shelters and domestic abuse charities over the years.

"Just remember the three Cs: community, charity and chocolate," advised event organizer, Kaye Krapohl.

See Crystal Mountain
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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Little Mistakes on the Little Manistee

Shaun Ensign
Shaun Ensign shares his kayak
advice about the Little Manistee
advice by Shaun Ensign, as reported by Joan H. Young

"Don’t underestimate the river!" Mistake number one. "Don’t start at 7:00 in the evening." Mistake number two.

Shaun Ensign, recently elected Vice President of the Spirit of the Woods Chapter of the North Country Trail Association, shared his experiences kayaking the infamous stretch of the Little Manistee River between 9-Mile and 6-Mile Bridges.

If you are out for a family-friendly paddle, you should probably skip this section of river. In a letter to the editor of the Manistee News Advocate one family who attempted this stretch were rescued by local residents. They wrote, "Things went from challenging to downright scary farther downstream, even life threatening, when our youngest paddler was somehow trapped underwater with the kayak over his head. The frequency and violence of our capsizing events increased..."

Ensign, and friend, Ryan, who owns Manistee Paddlesports, are strong young men who took their adventure this past summer in stride. Shaun says that the 6-mile section of fast-running river took 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete. However, he estimates that about a third of that time was spent carrying the kayaks, portaging, and getting themselves removed from log jams. They expected a lovely evening paddle, and instead endured a long, foggy, difficult trip. They finished near midnight, badly scratched and bruised.

While the river has some small rapids, that is not the issue. It is known for the quick water, tight bends and numerous obstructions. In many places there are log jams that completely block the passage and portages are required.

With shallow and deep water alternating you will find deep out-bends, and shallow in-bends. One of the interesting characteristics of the river is the very shallow inside of the bends and the deep out-bends that are often obstructed. This forces the paddler to decide between smashing into trees and shrubs on the outside or getting hung up on gravel on the inside. There are also numerous dead-end side channels which look no different from the route a paddler should take until the dead end is reached.

The section between 9-MIle Bridge and 6-Mile Bridge has a gradient of 14 feet per mile. As a comparison, the famously challenging Pine River has an average gradient of 9.9 feet per mile. Shaun said that they faced some new challenge nearly every five minutes.

He seriously suggests that you consider a different segment of the river. For families, the BIg Manistee or Pere Marquette are recommended. Both rivers are much less challenging. If you feel that you want to try this segment, precisely because of the challenge, allow all day for your adventure and take emergency supplies.

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Owasippe Saved But Not Preserved

Colors Raised at Owasippe
Scout musician Rich Patenaude plays
"To The Colors" at Camp Blackhawk
a division of Camp Owasippe
photo courtesy of The Scarlet Sassafras
by Joan H. Young

"Owasippe is saved but not yet preserved" was the opening banner in the newest issue of The Scarlet Sassafras the newsletter created to inform readers about the health and well-being of Camp Owasippe. (See Oldest Operating Boy Scout Camp Still Fighting for Its Life)

After a long fight, and victory in the court system, the sale of the oldest operating Boy Scout Camp in the United States was blocked. The Holland developer and prospective purchaser, Ben Smith III, had been planning to appeal the decision of Judge William C. Marietti. (See Bench Trial Continues for Camp Owasippe and Blue Lake Township) The Judge ultimately decided, in March 2008, in favor of Blue Lake Township, Michigan, which had declined to rezone the property so that the sale could proceed. Smith intended to build 1200 homes on the property in a rural township with no water or sewer infrastructure.

Now, Smith has decided to withdraw his offer and no longer pursue the battle in the courts. Scouters across the nation are breathing a collective sigh of relief. The battle has cost not only $1 million dollars for the Chicago Area Council, and as much for rural Blue Lake Township, but many relationships within the Scout organization have been damaged.

"Much work still needs to be done, but at least it seems we're on the right path. A million dollars of scout money was spent on this adventure and incredible hard feelings were created on both sides of Lake Michigan," was the comment of a Chicago resident.

Efforts at rebuilding relationships seem to have begun. As part of the agreement the CAC has said that because of the outpouring of support for camping programs at the Owasippe Scout Reservation from its many constituencies, they will determine the right size for the camp and rebuild a world-class camping facility for the Chicago Scouts. Ben Smith, represented through Benny V Partners, states that what he wanted all along was to preserve some of the unique places on the property and he is happy to know that will be accomplished.

Ron Kulak, editor of The Scarlet Sassafras continued, "All involved should take great pride and solace in YOUR great accomplishment. This was done not only for future generations of Scout campers but also for those who came before us and who could not be here now for this moment of achievement. They gave us strength and inspiration and are with us in spirit."

The celebration will begin with the Owasipalooza Pizza Night at the end of November. Discussion is likely to center on what will now be the future of the 4800-acre camp. The Chicago Area Council has consistently maintained that the camp is in decline, and unprofitable, despite continued and increasing attendance throughout the summer sessions. Resizing of the area managed for the camp is certainly likely.

A non-profit organization, the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center, was founded in 2006 in the hopes of purchasing the camp and preserving it intact. The OOEC would continue to provide the Scouts use of the property but also increase use with year-round, family oriented activities and camping. Donations to the OOEC, and the Owasippe Forever Fund are possible at the organization’s web site.

Words from the Owasippe Chant seem an especially appropriate final thought. "Sing out loud and strong with a heart that's brave and free. Let us sing a joyful carefree song. Sons of Owasippe."

See The Scarlet Sassafras
See Owasippe Outdoor Education Center
These links are checked on the date of the article. As the article ages, some links may become invalid

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