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Friday, July 24, 2009

Sharkbytes' Scavenger Hunt

Sharkbytes' Scavenger Hunt
Gone Hiking! Until I'm home, consider entering my scavenger hunt for some fun and a chance to win some prizes.

See My Quality Day- Scavenger Hunt Starts Here

These links are checked on the date of the article. As the article ages, some links may become invalid

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26th Ausable Canoe Marathon This Weekend

AuSable Canoe Marathon
2008 AuSable Canoe Marathon (photo by Lloyd43)
OutdoorBlips: vote it up!
from AuSable Canoe Marathon

Ninety teams have entered the Weyerhaeuser AuSable River Canoe Marathon with competitors from 14 states and three provinces of Canada represented. The race, billed as "America's longest richest and toughest canoe race" will have $50,000 in prizes available and is set to run July 25 - 26 2009 from the traditional run to the river in downtown Grayling and finish 120 miles later at the finish line in Oscoda at the shores of Lake Huron.

In a sport where experience counts, the eldest competitor in the race and fan favorite--- Al Widing Sr. 84 of Mio, Michigan will team up with partner Ray Quick of Millington,Michigan for his thirty-ninth run down the river. On the other end of the age scale, Daniel Medina,15 and partner Michael Harmon 16, of Grayling will be making their first attempt at a marathon finish in 2009.

Marathon paddlers arrived in Grayling last weekend (July 18-19) for Spikes Challenge Race. The Challenge, long considered a tune-up race and daylight preview for the grueling marathon to follow, was captured by 2008 ARCM champions Andy Triebold of Spring Arbor, Michigan and partner Steve LaJoie of Mirabel, Quebec in 2:39.06.

See the AuSable Marathon Video Introduction
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

New Book Unseen Hazards

alt text
OutdoorBlips: vote it up!
a news release from Jerry Genesio

There are UNSEEN HAZARDS in forests and fields that threaten those who enjoy hunting, camping, and hiking. Pathogens commonly found in wildlife can inflict unspeakable suffering and even death. Rabies, Tetanus (Lockjaw), Tularemia (Rabbit Fever), Brusellosis (Undulant Fever), Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Borrelia (Lyme Disease), are six of the most virulent microorganisms lurking in nature’s hidden world patiently waiting for an opportunity to infect the unsuspecting and unprepared. But knowledge and simple protective measures can shield even the most vulnerable.

Jerry Genesio has written an 86-page book containing vital information about these perilous pathogens. Each is described with symptoms, treatment, history, carriers, geographical risk areas, and significant incidence reports. The book also contains advice provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, on how to avoid vectors such as ticks, and how to properly remove ticks.

In 1993, Rabies was confirmed in 20 deer in the state of New York. Tetanus is commonly found in the intestines of wild animals. About 200 cases of Rabbit Fever are reported in the U.S. annually. There are 100 to 200 human cases of Undulant Fever reported nationally each year with most reports originating in Texas, California, and Illinois. In 2003 and 2004, more than 1,800 cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever were reported each year, but less than 2% of all cases are actually found in the Rocky Mountain states. Of 27,444 cases of Lyme Disease reported in 2007, 87% were confined to 10 states, including Connecticut and Wisconsin.

Jerry Genesio was employed by Cutter Laboratories in their Biological Products Division for nearly 20 years. He has written and published numerous articles, including a natural history series focusing on zoonotic diseases that was featured in New England Outdoors magazine. He lives in Bridgton, Maine, and Wilmington, North Carolina.

See Unseen Hazards on Amazon
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rock Climbing Injuries Up 63% Since 1990


rock climber
OutdoorBlips: vote it up!
a news release of Nationwide Children's Hospital

In the past decade the popularity of rock climbing has dramatically increased. It has been estimated that rock climbing is now enjoyed by more than 9 million people in the U.S. each year. A new study by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Research Institute at the Nationwide Children's Hospital found that as the popularity of the sport has escalated, so have the number of injuries. Study findings revealed a 63 percent increase in the number of patients that were treated in U.S. emergency departments for rock climbing-related injuries between 1990 and 2007.

The study, published in the online issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that over 40,000 patients were treated in U.S. emergency departments for rock climbing-related injuries between 1990 and 2007. The most common types of rock climbing-related injuries were fractures (29 percent) and sprains and strains (29 percent). Lower extremities were the most common region of the body to be injured (46 percent) while the ankle was the most common individual body part to be injured (19 percent).Climbers in the study ranged in age from 2 to 74 years, with an average age of 26 years. Climbers 20-39 years old accounted for the majority of the injuries (56 percent) while climbers 19 years and younger accounted for 30 percent. Climbers 40 years and older accounted for the remaining 14 percent. The study also found that women accounted for more than 28 percent of the injuries, a higher proportion than found in previous rock climbing studies.

Falls were the primary mechanism for injury with over three-quarters of the injuries occurring as the result of a fall. The severity of fall-related injuries correlated with the height of the fall. Patients who were injured after falling from a height over 20 feet were 10 times more likely to be hospitalized than patients who were injured falling from 20 feet or lower.

"We found that the climbers who fell from heights higher than 20 feet accounted for 70 percent of the patients there were hospitalized for a rock climbing-related injury," explained study author Lara McKenzie, PhD, principal investigator at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital and faculty member of The Ohio State University College of Medicine. "This trend, combined with the fact that rock climbers have a higher hospitalization rate than other sports and recreational injuries, demonstrates the need to increase injury prevention efforts for climbers."

See Center for Injury Research and Policy
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Kalamazoo River Cleanup Closes Segment

Kalmazoo River Recreation plan
the Kalamazoo River now flows freely past the previous site of Plainwell Dam
(from Kalamazoo River Webline)
OutdoorBlips: vote it up!
a news release of the Michigan DNR

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources today announced that a one-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River between the Penn Central Railroad Crossing and the Plainwell No. 2 Dam will be closed to public access starting Saturday, Aug. 1. Cleanup operations to remove targeted soils and sediments containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are slated to begin at that time and will continue until December 2010.

Contractors will be operating heavy construction equipment on both sides of the river as well as on two mid-channel islands, making it too dangerous to allow access to canoeists, kayakers and other boaters. Signs will be posted to alert river users of the closure.

Boaters also will not be able to access or pass the Plainwell No. 2 Dam structures or the Mill Race; no form of portage is available around the dam or through the Mill Race.

The recently completed cleanup effort on the Kalamazoo River - located between the Main Street Bridge in Plainwell and the old Plainwell Dam three and one-half miles downstream from the current work site -- began in 2007 and was completed in early 2009. This project included the removal of the old Plainwell Dam, allowing the river to flow freely in its historical channel as well as unobstructed passage of fish, canoes and kayaks.

See Kalamazoo River Cleanup Continues
See Portion of Kalamzoo River Reopened for Public Use
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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Newaygo County Sports Park Hike

OutdoorBlips: vote it up!
a guest post by Dave Goodman

On Saturday, July 18, 5 hikers and a dog gathered at Newaygo County Sports Park on M-37 north of Newaygo, MI. The plan was to hike north to something called a "coastal marsh" even though none of us really knew how a wetland with such a name could be so far inland from Lake Michigan. We were about to find out!!

By coincidence, the Newaygo County Board of Commissioners was holding a dedication ceremony at the same time for recent renovations and developments in this park, including permitting the NCTA to build a spur trail that connects to the main North Country Trail nearby. Before the requisite speeches, I mentioned this hike to the commissioner who was going to speak, and at the end of his re marks, he let the small, gathered crowd know that they could come on our sort-of-dedication hike.

As a result one hiker, Cindy, the daughter of the man the park's John Graves lodge is named for, joined us. So 6 hikers gathered behind the lodge which is atop a hill overlooking Little Lake Placid. We then proceeded down the new trail as it wound it's way down the steep hillside to the lake, then across the sledding hill and disused toboggan runs which were iced in the winter to provide for a FAST experience. Cindy took this opportunity to tell us how, as a child, she and her sister would spend entire winter days at the Sports Park, which also offered a rope tow for skiing. After perhaps a mile, we reached the main North Country Trail, and here Cindy returned to the park, while Teresa Two Feathers from this board turned right and east on the NCT, heading for Croton Dam 9 miles away.

We four remaining group hikers turned left, immediately crossing M-37, and hiked north about 2 miles, desperately seeking wetlands but finding yummy blueberries (where a yellowjacket also found my finger...OUCH) north to a sign that explains the large coastal wetland that spread out before us. We explored this special environment, following it for a quarter of mile along the road that edges it, yet it continues into the forest well out of sight, so it's quite sizable. At first glance from dry land, it doesn't look wet at all, rather it looks like a grassy field, a misconception dispelled by my walk a short way into the wetland itself, where the ground is slightly spongy. However, we did find a spot that had some open water even in July. Zeke the wonder dog decided to check this out for himself but retreated in the face of the mud at the marsh edge.

Returning, we passed the trail register where on one of her earlier hikes in this area Two Feathers had left some plastic "flatware" as a form of trail magic. We also stayed on the main NCT past a view of Twinwood Lake from a hill, then it was the back way in to the Sports Park and back up the winding hillside trail to John Graves Lodge.

See Newaygo County Tourism
See North Country Trail
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Saturday, July 18, 2009

800 Bicyclists Cross Michigan

2004 PALM bike ride
2004 PALM bike ride (photo by Ellie Knesper )
OutdoorBlips: vote it up!
complied from several sources

Several Grand Haven residents joined 600 other Michiganians and 200 additional riders for the 28th PALM bicycle ride. PALM means Pedaling Across Lower Michigan, and the route takes scenic paved backroads for 253 miles from the west side of the state to the east.

Tammy Beswick and her daughter Mallory, age 13, participated this year. Most people choose the 30-50 mile days plan which lends itself to family participation. For those who wish to ride longer days an itinerary with 100-mile days was also offered. The event was held June 20-26.

The ride is organized by the League of Michigan Bicyclists so that the groups end each night at pre-arranged mass campsites at schools. There riders are allowed showers, and usually provided with some local entertainment.

Beswick and her daughter completed the ride, which was challenging in several aspects. The temperature rose to 103 degrees on one of the days. "It seemed like the motto on any given day was 'Just keep on pedaling,'" Beswick said with a chuckle. "It was dreadfully hot."

PALM organizers say that in any given year about a third of the riders are new to the event. Participants ranged from children to seniors.

See Beswicks Bike Across Michigan, from the Grand Haven Press
See PALM
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Friday, July 17, 2009

Race to Mackinac

2004 Race to Mackinac
(photo by knisspl)
OutdoorBlips: vote it up!
based on a news release from Land's End

Take in the magnificent sight of over 350 sailboats as they begin the world’s longest freshwater race, the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac presented by Lands’ End Business Outfitters. The Mac will begin this Saturday, July 18, 2009.

Everyone is invited to join in the excitement of the 101st running of the race free of charge. The festivities start Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. and go until 2:00 p.m. at the east end of the second tier of Navy Pier, where the magnificent and colorful Parade of Boats can be viewed. A sportscaster will be announcing all the boat and crew information.

It’s a beautiful sight to see the yachts promenade with their bright ceremonial flags before attempting to win the 333-mile, adventurous race from Chicago to Mackinac Island.

For those unable to come out on race day, many of the boats are equipped with GPS transponders and can be tracked on-line.

Chicago Yacht Club is proud to host this world-famous event in sailing, and welcomes you to follow all of the action this July. To learn more about the boats entered in the race and to check out the latest race updates, photos, and videos of the race, please visit to the official race website

Land's End Official Race Site
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Thursday, July 16, 2009

'Tis the Season for Botulism Deaths

round goby
round goby (photo from Great Lakes for All)
OutdoorBlips: vote it up!
compiled from several sources

Once again, mid summer, the Lake Michigan shore, particularly in Leelanau County, is littered with dead seagulls. For years it's been known that they have died of botulism.

But the story has a deep twist, tied to invasive species.

At the bottom of the lake reside a blanket of invasive mussels: the zebra mussels, long known for their problematic clogging of water intake pipes, and the large quagga mussels. Along came the round goby, another invasive species. The fish eat the zebra mussels. So this should be a good thing, right? Maybe not. They also ingest and concentrate the Type E botulism toxins that the zebra mussels filter from the sediments.

Sport fish, particularly walleye, eat the gobies, and the toxin is carried farther up the food chain. Seagulls feed on the fish, and the result is occasional spectacular die-offs of the birds. Last year, nearly 2900 gulls died from this effect.

This year, as the St. Lawrence Seaway celebrates its 50th year, some people blame that engineered waterway for the entrance of the invasive species to the Great Lakes.

See Zebra Mussels and Round Goby: A Dangerous Combination
See A wake would be fitting for seaway's 50 years
See Type-E Botulism Confirmed in Waterfowl Deaths
See 330 Trillion Quagga Mussels Can't Be Right
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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Galileo Data Could Aid Rescuers

avalanche rescue
(photo from NOAA)
OutdoorBlips: vote it up!
from a news release of Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

Whether rescuers are navigating burning buildings or remote canyons, the head of the operation needs to know where the individuals are currently located. In urban settings hazards might include threats of collapsing buildings or escaping gases. In the backcountry blocked escape routes, unstable slopes or snow might be more pertinent.

Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) guide rescue teams. GNSS inclues GPS, Europe's Galileo and the Russian GLONASS. The new localization technologies are being made possible because Galileo is not controlled by the military.

This way it is possible to implement special services for civil applications, for example in rescue missions. In the Fraunhofer Galileo Lab, researchers from nine Fraunhofer Institutes, together with the Fraunhofer Traffic and Transportation Alliance, are working on locating people and goods in industry, commerce, transportation and mobility. “When analyzing various target groups such as logistics, travel assistance or security services, it quickly becomes clear that the tasks of the system architecture are similar.

The experts not only use the Galileo data, but are also testing combined receivers for various satellite systems because the most precise navigation and, above all, the highest positioning accuracy in cities and canyons, etc., can be achieved by using the collective data of all the satellites in the sky.
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Outdoor Blips - News Feed For Outdoor Lovers

Outdoor Blips logo

OutdoorBlips: vote it up!

You may have noticed the chiclet that now appears on the posts near the top. This is for the news feed site, Outdoor Blips.

Very few social networks include categories for outdoor activities. This can be extremely frustrating to those of us who live and breathe enjoyment of such activities. The newest one I've found is Outdoor Blips. There are categories for Hiking & Camping, Hunting & Fishing, Water Adventure, Climbing and Other.

Anyone can submit an outdoor story to the news feed by going to the site. And, more to the point here, if you like any story on this blog, just click the chiclet, and you have voted to move the story higher in the news feed.

And if you go to Outdoor Blips, you can find great collections of news on those topics.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Tunnel at Sleeping Bear?

Pierre Stocking Scenic Drive dune
Pierre Stocking Scenic Drive dune (photo from Visit Sleeping Bear)
OutdoorBlips: vote it up!
based on a news article in the Traverse City Record Eagle, "Park officials eye tunnel, boardwalk," by Brian McGillivary, July 3, 2009

The steep dune from the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore can pose a threat to visitors who misjudge its difficulty. Ignoring posted signs, people leave the boardwalk and descend the 450 foot sand and gravel cliff to the lake. Many of them need help returning to the top and their vehicles. Rangers regularly have to aid visitors who have become injured, exhausted, overheated, or lost from trying to find less strenuous ways back to the top.

Also, erosion of the dun itself is becoming a serious problem as grass is trampled, and paths funnel winds into unnatural locations.

The National Park Service has paid JJR Consulting firm of Ann Arbor, $60,000 for an environmental assessment. The resulting report offers four alternatives for consideration.

The one favored by Sleeping Bear officials is to construct a 150-foot tunnel through the top of the dune to a new elevated platform. This would be coupled with several elevated boardwalks. Construction costs are estimated between $750,000 and $1 million.

This would keep visitors from ever touching the sand. Some see this as the best alternative to protect the park, while others feel that it runs counter to everything that a National Park should be. "There are a lot of activities in our national parks that involve some danger, but I think it's really neat when people go out and use the park instead of standing there on a platform and looking at it like it's a postcard," said a retired ranger.

And there is no guarantee that hikers won't simply find ways to avoid the tunnel and walk out to the dune anyway. Park Superintendent Dusty Shultz will make the final decision.

See Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive Under Evaluation
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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ludington, Scottville, Manistee Assessed for Walkability

Dan Burden
Dan Burden of Walkable Communities
OutdoorBlips: vote it up!
from a story in the Ludington Daily News, July 9, 2009

Ludington and Manistee are Port Cities, and Scottville has been chosen as a Main Street Community. These designations made these communities eligible for analysis by Walkable Communities. Since 1996 Walkable Communities has sought to promote walking as a cornerstone of a successful community.

The organization asserts that "walkable communities put urban environments back on a scale for sustainability of resources (both natural and economic) and lead to more social interaction, physical fitness, and diminished crime and social problems. Walkable communities are more livable communities and lead to whole, happy, healthy lives for the people who live in them."

Tuesday and Wednesday of this past week Dan Burden walked through each of these west Michigan towns, assessed their walkability, and then met with community leaders to share his findings.

For Ludington, he suggested an icon that draws people downtown; a better way for traffic to move from James St. to Ludington Avenue, particularly for trucks; energizing James Street Plaza, better signage, crosswalks and more trees.

Scottville, is in the process of creating a new image for the city through the Main Street program. Burden's ideas have been added to many of those plans. In Scottville he actually had members of the group spend time in a wheelchair, seeing the town from that perspective. He noted a need for more benches in town, proper outslope for sidewalks, and a more pedestrian friendly crossing of the railroad tracks.

Dan Burden is a nationally recognized authority on bicycle and pedestrian facilities and programs. He brings together many disciplines and issues - such as street design, traffic calming, public safety, bicycling, and greenways - into a holistic vision for creating healthy, pedestrian and bicycle-friendly communities.

See Walkable Communities
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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sand, Sharks and Stomach Aches

kids playing on beach
photo by srinata
OutdoorBlips: vote it up! complied from several sources

Sand can be a lot more dangerous than you thought! That wonderful commodity of Michigan's Great Lakes beaches actually can be the cause of illnesses or even death.

Two years ago it was reported by the Dr. Bradley Maron of Harvard Medical School in the New England Journal of Medicine, that sand is actually more dangerous than sharks. In the U.S., from 1990-2006 there have been 12 fatal shark attacks, and 16 deaths due to collapsing sand holes. The average age of victims is 12 years.

Maron became interested in the topic in the summer of 1998 when he first witnessed a sand hole that collapsed burying a young girl. The girl was rescued successfully, but not all stories end so happily. Often the problem is made worse by people approaching the cave-in to help because sand is so unstable.

Now, a report from the Environmental Protection Agency and University at North Carolina states that playing in the sand can increase the likelihood of suffering from gastrointestinal disorders. There is often enough fecal matter in sand to give people diarrhea, rash, eye ailments, earache and infected cuts. Children are especially vulnerable since they tend to get sand in their mouths. It turns out that the risk increases for those who are buried in the sand, a popular beach activity.

There is one critical disclaimer for this study. All the sites included were at beaches within 7 miles of municipal waste discharges.

Neither of these reports should keep anyone from enjoying the beach! Just take a few precautions such as being careful with digging large holes in sand (on or off a beach), and wash up after a day of playing in the sand.

See Sand More Dangerous Than Sharks
See Digging in Sand Can Increase Health Problems
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Friday, July 10, 2009

Cadillac Pathway Parking to be Paved

alt text
a news release of Michigan DNR

The Department of Natural Resources has announced that the Cadillac Pathway parking lot, located off Seeley Road in Missaukee County, will undergo paving and site redevelopment beginning July 7.

Upgrades will include correcting drainage problems, asphalt paving, and delineation of parking spaces. Construction activities will necessitate closure of the site on an intermittent basis. The project is expected to be completed by Aug. 7, 2009.

The improvements will benefit pathway users by providing efficient use of parking space. It has been found that asphalt paving of pathway parking lots saves on annual maintenance including grading, erosion repair, and replenishment of aggregate surfaces.

The project is being funded through a federal Recreation Trails Program (RTP) Grant administered by the DNR. RTP grant funding is derived from federal Department of Transportation gas tax revenues; it is used exclusively for recreation trail development projects and cannot be applied toward non-recreation projects. Elmer's Contracting of Traverse City is the contractor.

See a1trails
See Mountain Bike Resources
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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Quiet Title Law Could Threaten Trails

Recently, the Paint Creek Trail, in Oakland County, has taken action to prevent the use of "Quiet Title" against trail property. The commissioners decided to proactively address this potential problem in reaction to a recent lawsuit filed in Menominee, MI.

Basically, quiet title allows a property owner to sue for ownership of land which they have used for 15 years without dispute. These actions have been used for decades in situations between private property owners. What makes the current situation so different is that in Menominee action was taken by a private landowner against a governmental agency. There is a state law which supposedly protects local governments from quiet title actions. However, in the Menominee case, the Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that since the property owner sued first that the protection did not apply.

Now the Paint Creek Trail commissioners are suing property owners who have been practicing such innocuous activities as mowing into the trail right-of-way. The Commission is attempting to work with property owners to assure them that it bears no ill-will, but simply needs to legally secure its boundaries.

The Menominee case is headed for the Michigan Supreme Court, and the Oakland County action will be placed on hold until after than ruling.

William Mathewson, of the Michigan Municipal League, said "I think there's a tremendous amount of public land that is potentially at risk."

based on articles in the Detroit Free Press, June 21, 2009, "Fight Intensifies Over Public Land," and "Trail Group Sues 56 Landowners."
See Paint Creek Trail
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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Poison Ivy or Boxelder?

poison ivy
Poison Ivy (photo by JHY)
by JHY

"Leaves of three, let it be." How often has that little rhyme been used to remind us to avoid poison ivy in the woods. Of course that rule eliminates touching a lot of harmless plants such as strawberries, trillium, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, and others. So let's suppose that you are pretty good at separating the poison ivy from those. What is the trickiest plant to distinguish from poison ivy?

Many people think that it is the leaves of the boxelder tree. Compare the two pictures below:

boxelder

poison ivy


Which one is which? Could you tell? (the boxelder is the top one) It can be very difficult, especially if both plants are very young. Surprise, the boxelder is actually a maple! It's leaves don't look anything like the more typical maple leaf shape, such as the Norway maple in the picture below.

poison ivy
Norway maple leaves (photo by JHY)


One key difference between the poison ivy and the boxelder is that the poison ivy will never grow into a tree. It can be a low herbaceous plant, a vine or a tall shrub, but if it becomes woody it will take the vine form, never a tree.

Another feature that can help distinguish the two is the color. When they are hardest to tell apart, when they are very young, the poison ivy is almost always a deep red. Look at the very first picture and look at the leaves at the tip of the plant. That is the color of small PI leaves in the spring. And notice how those top leaves are drooping? The early PI will also do that.

The young boxelder is usually a light yellow-green. It may have a reddish stem, but so may the PI, and the boxelder may also have droopy leaves. When they get larger, however, the boxelder stems will get a whitish bloom that rubs off, while the poison ivy stems will usually remain red.

Boxelder leaves
Boxelder leaves (photo by JHY)


Take some time this summer to work on sharpening your identification skills for poison ivy. It will take only one bad reaction to the plant to highly motivate you. Avoid the pain and learn to avoid the plant in the first place!

See Wild Parsnip - Another Wild Plant to Avoid
See More About Wild Parsnip
See Avoid Giant Hogweed - Severe Skin Reactions
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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

How Do Songbirds Get It Right?

meadowlark
meadowlark (photo by JHY)
from a news release of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, "Songbirds reveal how practice improves performance", July 6, 2009

Learning complex skills like playing an instrument requires a sequence of movements that can take years to master. Last year, MIT neuroscientists reported that by studying the chirps of tiny songbirds, they were able to identify how two distinct brain circuits contribute to this type of trial-and-error learning in different stages of life.

Now, the researchers have gained new insights into a specific mechanism behind this learning. In a paper being published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during the week of July 6, the scientists report that as zebra finches fine-tune their songs, the brain initially stores improvements in one brain pathway before transferring this learned information to the motor pathway for long-term storage.

Young zebra finches learn to sing by mimicking their fathers, whose song contains multiple syllables in a particular sequence. Like the babbling of human babies, young birds initially produce a disorganized stream of tones, but after practicing thousands of times they master the syllables and rhythms of their father's song. Previous studies with finches have identified two distinct brain circuits that contribute to this behavior. A motor pathway is responsible for producing the song, and a separate pathway is essential for learning to imitate the father. This learning pathway, called the anterior forebrain pathway (AFP), has similarities to basal ganglia circuits in humans.

On a particular day, after four hours of training in which the birds learned to raise the pitch, the researchers temporarily inactivated the AFP with a short-acting drug. The pitch immediately slipped back to where it had been at the start of that day's training session — suggesting that the recently learned changes were stored within the AFP.

But over the course of 24 hours, the brain had transferred the newly learned information from the AFP to the motor pathway. The motor pathway was storing all of the accumulated pitch changes from previous training sessions.

Listen to the birds adjust the pitch of their song atMIT
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Monday, July 6, 2009

Gray Wolves Re-Listed as Endangered

gray wolf
Gray wolf Credit: Gary Kramer / USFWS
a news release of the Michigan DNR

A recent decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to return the Great Lakes population of gray wolves to the federal endangered species list will result in several significant changes to the management of wolves in Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources said today.

When wolves were removed from the endangered species list in early May, the DNR gained the authority to manage wolves under the state's wolf management plan, which allows for lethal control in cases where nonlethal methods, such as noisemaking devices and barrier fencing, are not successful or viable. Additionally, two state laws, allowing livestock and pet owners to take lethal control against wolves in the act of preying upon domestic animals, went into effect.

However, the federal decision to return wolves to the endangered species list means the new lethal control laws and the state's wolf management plan are no longer valid, said Department of Natural Resources wolf program coordinator Brian Roell.

"With wolves back on the endangered species list, DNR staff can no longer authorize the use of lethal control against problem wolves, and livestock and pet owners cannot kill a wolf to stop it from preying upon their animals," Roell said. "Wolf management and monitoring will now revert to the parameters set out by the federal government."

The DNR will continue to work with the USFWS and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to manage and monitor the state's wolf population, as it has done since 1989 when the recent wolf population was first detected, Roell explained. Livestock or pet owners with a wolf depredation concern should call the DNR's RAP Line immediately at 800-292-7800 for assistance. Wolf complaints or observation can be filed by calling your local DNR office.

The federal decision to return wolves to the endangered species list was made in response to a lawsuit filed in June by the Humane Society of the United States and several other animal rights groups against the U.S. Dept. of Interior and the USFWS, asking that the original decision to delist wolves in April be reversed.

The lawsuit pointed out that the federal government had not taken public comment on the Great Lakes wolf delisting, and the USFWS responded by choosing to voluntarily relist the Great Lakes wolf population.

"As biologists who study the science behind wolf management, we are disappointed with the change in status," Roell said. "With nearly 580 wolves in the state, Michigan's wolf population is fully recovered and we hope the topic of delisting will be revisited again in the near future."

See Wolves in Michigan
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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Kalamazoo Portage Trail Section Closing for 3 Years

alt text
based on a news article in the Kalamazoo News, "Portage trail section to close for I-94 work," by Tom Haroldson, July 4, 2009

While the I-94 Freeway is being widened a section of the Bicentennial Park Trail will be closed. M-DOT has stated that it may need as much as three years for the work to be completed.

Work will begin Monday, July 6 on the $52 million I-94 project. Most motorists will only experience single-lane closures or traffic shifts. But runners, cyclists or walkers who used to pass beneath the overpass north of Milham Avenue will need to take a detour for the entire time.

Thanks to recent improvements to Lovers Lane with sidewalks and bike lanes, an alternate route between Milham Avenue and the Bicentennial Park activity area exists for trail users.

Barricades will be put in place and the detour posted. Sections of the trail from the Kilgore and Milham entrances will remain open, but dead-end barricades will be set up near the closed part of the trail. The dead end sections may be used by turning around at the barricades.

Complete information and a map of the detour is provided at the City of Portage web site.

See City of Portage
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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Indiana Cyclists Bike the "Badger Loop"

Layne Cameron
Layne Cameron
based on a news article in the Ludington Daily News, July 4, 2009

Layne Cameron, and a friend Nick Werner recently biked around the northern portion of Lake Michigan. They began in Ludington, rode north through Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, Petoskey, and into the Upper Peninsula. They came down the Wisconsin side of the lake to Manitowac where they returned to Ludington via the S.S. Badger carferry.

Layne Cameron biking at Harbor Springs
Layne Cameron bikes near Harbor Springs (photo submitted by Layne Cameron)
They nicknamed their trip the "Badger Loop." The duo completed the 550 mile ride in 6 days. Three nights were spent camping and three in motels. Their gear was stowed in a trailer which they pulled with the bicycles. On their longest day they pedaled 111 miles.

Cameron is a Media Relations Manager for Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. He's an experienced cyclist who has ridden solo from Indiana to Florida among other trips. He's written the book "Mountain Bike America: Indiana," which describes 32 of the state's greatest legal mountain bike rides. The book is part of the Mountain Bike America series.

campsite on Lake Michigan shore
camping in the Upper Peninsula (photo submitted by Layne Cameron)
The men reported that it was the people they met along the way that made the trip memorable. Cameron said that they experienced they generosity "of caring, wonderful people - and some days we need all that affirmation."

See Layne Cameron's Ball State profile
See Mountain Bike America: Indiana on Amazon
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Friday, July 3, 2009

Crooked River Lock at Alanson Reopens

Crooked River Lock at Alanson
Crooked River Lock at Alanson
compiled from several sources

The Alanson Lock on the Crooked River near Petoskey has been closed since June 16. The waterway is popular with recreationists and connects Crooked Lake, Pickerel Lake, Burt Lake, Mullett Lake, and via the Cheboygan River to Lake Huron.

Maintenance workers had found a possible crack in a shaft and other problems. The reduction gears were removed from the lock and sent to a Detroit area machine shop for repair. The lock is maintained by the Corps of Engineers. After expecting a closure of only a couple of days, the extended shutdown has severely impacted local businesses.

But the lock reopened on July 1, after testing. It is operated by the Department of Natural Resources. The lock equipment, which is 41 years old, will undergo a major overhaul this fall, after the lock closes for the season.

See Michigan's Inland Waterway
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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Mountain Bikers vs. Equestrians

horseback riders on fall trail
(photo by Hamilton Conservation Authority
based on a news article in the Detroit Examiner, "Trail conflicts between mountain bikers and equestrians," by Diane Ursu, July 1, 2009

Conflicts between trail users have always existed, but recently the mountain bikers and horseback riders have been facing off in the Fort Custer Recreation Area near Battle Creek, Michigan.

User groups with different levels of technology generally prefer their own trails. With diminishing resources, management authorities have sought to combine user groups on multi-use trails.

Recently, equestrians in the Lower Peninsula have proposed legislation to allow riding access on all public trails that have any history of equestrian use. If this bill passes, it would override any recommendations by the DNR concerning environmental impact.

At Fort Custer, the land manager has allowed horseback riders access to all of the mountain biking trails. Serious erosion problems have arisen from the added impact of the horses hooves. The Michigan Mountain Biking Association asserts that the trails were built by bikers, for biking. They point to the fact that many public lands have specific "friends" groups who maintain and fund facilities for certain activities. These groups feel betrayed and frustrated when other users impose their recreational desires on these facilities.

It is interesting to note that hikers feel many of these same frustrations when trails historically used for hiking are opened to bicyclists.

Read the full story at the Detroit Examiner
See Sharing Our Trails- A Guide to Trail Etiquette
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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Muskegon Lake to Get $10 Million Cleanup

Muskegon Lake
Muskegon Lake (photo credit: NOAA)
from a news release of the Great Lakes Commission

Federal stimulus dollars totaling $10 million have been awarded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to the Great Lakes Commission (GLC) for a major wetland and wildlife habitat restoration project on Muskegon Lake, Michigan, along the east shoreline of Lake Michigan.

Partnering with the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission (WMSRDC), the GLC will coordinate the restoration of some 10,000 feet of shoreline “hardened” over several decades by broken concrete, foundry slag, sheet metal and other materials. The project will also remove more than 180,000 tons of degraded lake bottom sediment to improve aquatic habitat for fish and other species.

As with all programs receiving stimulus funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the project also includes a job creation commitment: it is projected to generate almost 40,000 labor hours to support 125 jobs, largely in engineering and construction. More than $20 million will be contributed by local sources through in-kind services, donations of land, and conservation easements.

Muskegon Lake is part of the Great Lakes coastal wetlands ecosystem and provides more food and habitat for wildlife than just about any other Great Lakes ecosystem. Due to filling, development and pollution, Great Lakes wetlands are one of two ecosystems listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Midwest Region as “Imperiled Ecosystems.” The restoration project, to be supported by ARRA funds, builds on more than a decade of research, assessments, planning and design work, as well as large-scale remediation and pollution control efforts on Muskegon Lake

See the Great Lakes Commission news release and project fact sheet
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