Out on the canoe trail: It’s good to stop and enjoy nature

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Platforms at each scenic portage on the Ludington State Park canoe trail allow paddlers to get out of canoes and kayaks without getting wet. Photo: Howard Meyerson

By Howard Meyerson

LUDINGTON, MI — It’s rare these days that I get a chance to just sit. Deadlines beckon and emails stack up. If not emails then other online demands, or family and home matters. Quiet moments, it seems, are hard to come by.

So, I relished the opportunity I had recently to just sit quietly on a bed of pine needles in the forest, more precisely in the middle of a portage during a solo canoe outing.

I’d set off from Grand Rapids planning to paddle the four-mile canoe-trail at Ludington State Park. It’s a delightful trip that follows the sandy and forested shoreline of Hamlin Lake, before heading inland through cattail marshes and landlocked ponds, returning eventually to the lake for the return trip.

The trail is easy and well-marked. Portages are short, meaning 100 feet or less. Just watch for northerly and easterly winds as the lake shoreline portion is exposed.

I’d stopped on the portage for quick cup of coffee, thinking to move on right away – just a minute or two sitting. Then it struck me: I didn’t have to be anywhere. I could sit for hours if I wanted. And, I was tempted to do just that.

I had come prepared for contingencies. I had two fishing rods, just in case; a dry change of clothes and plenty of snacks. Campers at the park were still fixing breakfast when I launched. I’d come thinking I could get back to town by mid-afternoon and finish other work still sitting on my desk.

But as I sat sipping coffee in the silence, I was taken by how pleasant it was sitting in the woods all by myself. A kingfisher chattered on the next pond over. The breeze rustled leaves now and then creating a soft whisper in the trees. Any tension from the work week had melted away. Continue reading

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Wanted: State’s Feral Swine

Two feral swine captured by a trail camera feed at a Midland County baited site set for their capture by federal officials. Photo: U.S.D.A Wildlife Services.

This photo of two feral swine feeding at a Midland County baited site was captured with a trail camera. They are among the many that roam free in Michigan. Photo: U.S.D.A Wildlife Services.

By Howard Meyerson

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Federal wildlife officials are ramping up efforts to locate, test, and kill feral swine in Michigan. Hunters and private landowners also are being encouraged to participate in the $20 million, U.S. Department of Agriculture program that was launched nationwide in April and in Michigan in late July.

“The feral swine issue caught the attention of Congress and they have given us quite a bit of money,” said Pete Butchko, state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program in Michigan, part of the agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. “Some states, like Texas and Florida, have a huge problem that is really irreversible. They have no hope of eradicating the pigs. Michigan seems to have a small, entrenched population, but people are concerned that it won’t stay small.”

Feral swine are wild pigs that roam the landscape. They cause damage to the environment, prey on animals, and are known to carry diseases and parasites that can affect commercial livestock. USDA officials report the pigs now roam freely in 39 states.

Michigan’s eradication effort will focus on Russian boars, a non-native species that was introduced. Butchko’s office was appropriated $300,000 for fiscal year 2014, which ends in October. The same is expected in 2015, he said.

Wildlife Services staffers plan to identify feral swine populations using reports from landowners and hunters to pinpoint locations. Most of the pigs will be trapped and tested for disease, then killed. Some will be fitted with GPS collars and studied. Butchko said participating landowners will be provided with bait, traps, and trail cameras.

“This will be sort of a demonstration program,” Butchko said. “For most of this we will need the cooperation of landowners. Most pigs are on private land. We don’t have enough staff to be out there every day, baiting and looking.” Continue reading

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Profiling pedaler’s by their pant legs

Howard Meyerson:

This is a hoot!

Originally posted on Bicycle Trax:

Another great cartoon by our friend Andy Singer.  With the start of a new school year, be careful out there. Cheers!

The way different types of cyclists deal with their pant legs

Reprinted with permission from Andy Singer. Source: andysinger.com

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Bear feeding problems on Grand Island National Recreation Area force temporary camping closure

Black bears on Grand Island were approaching campers and raiding tents looking for food. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Black bears on Grand Island began approaching campers and raiding tents. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

By Howard Meyerson

One mark of a savvy back country camper is how they come prepared for bear country. For instance, do they take precaution and keep food or snacks out of tents, or come equipped with throw-lines to hang food bags at night, or carry in a bear-proof canister for storing food.

All of those practices make a difference. They keep bears from becoming habituated to human food. They also reduce the likelihood of bears associating campers with an easy meal.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case on Grand Island National Recreation Area in Lake Superior, near Munising where tourists or campers have been feeding bears.

A HUMAN PROBLEM

Camping on the island had to be suspended for several days last week because of escalating problem encounters between campers and bears. The end result was that eight black bears were trapped and removed last weekend and Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wildlife staff said more might need to go.

“We closed the island to camping temporarily,” said Janel Crooks, the acting ranger for the forest’s Munising Ranger District which manages Grand Island.

“We had reports from folks that a bear had ripped their tent and we also heard of bear coming up to them during the day. No one was attacked, but we acted on the side of caution. It’s still safe to ride bikes there and hike or take the bus tour, but visitors do have a role to play in not training the bears to have bad habits.” Continue reading

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Michigan to hold first teal hunting season in nearly 50 years

The experimental teal season can be a good time to get youth out hunting while the weather is still warm. Photo: Dave Kenyon | Michigan DNR

The experimental teal season can be a good time to get youth out hunting while the weather is still warm and when they are readily supervised. . Photo: Dave Kenyon | Michigan DNR

By Howard Meyerson

Waterfowl hunters have a unique opportunity for some fast-action shooting come September when Michigan holds its first early teal season after nearly 50 years.

The seven-day, experimental season runs September 1-7. It was approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) as a three-year trial after agency staff completed a teal “harvest assessment” that showed the population could withstand additional hunting pressure. FWS is the federal agency that establishes the legal framework for hunting waterfowl each year.

“Teal populations have been going up continentally” said Barb Avers, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources waterfowl program specialist. “It’s taken a long time to get this to happen. It’s something that has been discussed at the (Mississippi) flyway level for many years. Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa are going ahead with it. Minnesota opted not to this year. Our decision to go ahead is in response to hunters on the Citizens Waterfowl Advisory Committee who have asked why we can’t have one.”

Teal are one of nation’s more abundant waterfowl species, according to the FWS. Its 2014 survey of blue-winged teal breeding across North American prairies estimates the continental population at 8.5 million, similar to 2013 and 75 percent higher than the long-term average. Green-winged teal numbered 3.4 million, similar to last year and 69 percent above the long-term average.

But the success of Michigan’s experimental season will depend on hunters shooting the right ducks. Only teal can be harvested – along with Canada geese. The early season for Canada geese also opens statewide on September 1. Continue reading

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Lake Michigan water trail moving forward; Michigan playing catch-up

A paddler enjoys exploring the sandy Lake Michigan shoreline by kayak, part of what will become the Lake Michigan Water Trail. Photo: Howard Meyerson.

A paddler enjoys exploring the sandy Lake Michigan shoreline by kayak, part of what will become the Lake Michigan Water Trail. Photo: Howard Meyerson.

By Howard Meyerson

The prospect of paddling Lake Michigan’s 1,600 mile shoreline isn’t something most take lightly though it’s been done in recent years by two young women in a dugout canoe. In 2012, Mary Catterlin and Amy Lukas, both 24-year-olds from Indiana, completed a three-month circumnavigation in the 11-foot, outrigger and sail-equipped dugout Catterlin crafted in her parent’s backyard.

Their accomplishment was a testament to their determination and self-assurance. It also illustrated the possibilities ahead for paddlers all around the four-state Lake Michigan Water Trail now being developed.

State and federal officials and local planning agencies are working to bring the trail to fruition. They report that parts of the trail are now in place, but a good deal of work is still ahead.

“A lot of people have asked to be kept in the loop, but we haven’t had people say they will do it. The challenge is finding local champions who can pull funding and planning together for things like signage,” said Elaine Sterrett Isley, director of water programs for West Michigan Environmental Action Council, in Grand Rapids. The organization recently completed a year-long study of the shoreline segment from Benton Harbor to Ludington.

That step – making it happen on the ground – is needed for the trail to become a household term and a marketable tourist destination, according to various planners.

“You can do the whole thing if you want to, but the trail doesn’t (formally) exist because the access points and amenities are not in place,” explains Diane Banta, a National Park Service outdoor recreation planner in Chicago. Banta coordinates the four-state NPS effort on Lake Michigan that may result in National Water Trail designation for the route – the prestigious federal imprimatur that recognizes “exemplary trails of regional and local significance.”

“One paddler from Illinois did the whole lake, but he had a lot of research to do before he went,” Banta said. “You need to know where you can take off, where you can land, and where you can camp.” Continue reading

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Third Rescue at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Log Slide within Two Weeks

The steep Log Slide at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore takes only 5 minutes to get down but an hour to climb back up. Photo: PRNL.

The steep Log Slide at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore takes only 5 minutes to get down but an hour to climb back up. Photo: PRNL.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore staffers report a 62-year-old woman had to be rescued Thursday from the steep, sandy Log Slide found along the park’s Lake Superior shoreline. The log slide is a popular tourist attraction where visitors can climb down to the water and back up to the overlook. The trip down is five minutes. The trip back up can be an hour, according to park staff.

“This is the third rescue of this nature that Rangers and local rescue personnel have responded to in the last two weeks,” reported park Ranger Bill Smith, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

The woman hiker experienced weakness and exhaustion, according to Smith. She was transported by boat to Grand Marais Harbor where she was treated and released. Lakeshore staff are encouraging vacationing visitors to be cautious if they start down the appealing drop to the water.

“Better yet, enjoy the view from the top of the Log Slide,” Smith said.

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Wild State Parks: Lake Huron shoreline parks offer natural abundance

Thompson's Harbor State Park has miles of undeveloped Lake Huron shoreline. Photo: Howard Meyerson.

Thompson’s Harbor State Park has miles of undeveloped Lake Huron shoreline. Photo: Howard Meyerson.

By Howard Meyerson

ROGERS CITY – It was mid-afternoon when I kicked off my boots and sat down on a bench at the edge of a cobblestone beach along Lake Huron. A short rest was in order before finishing the hike. Waves lapped gently on the rocky shoreline and the seagull cries carried inland on the freshening breeze.

I hadn’t seen a soul on the trail. Nearly two and a half hours had elapsed since I parked my car in the empty lot and set out on a five-mile exploratory hike at Thompson’s Harbor State Park, one of Michigan’s newer, but undeveloped parks, a 5,300 acre mecca for nature lovers.

Daisies, Queen Ann’s lace, black-eyed Susan’s and wood lilies were among the wildflowers in bloom. Birds were flitting from tree to tree. I had walked out to a beach and then followed the trail network inland, through cedar and conifer forests, along a cobblestone shoreline, into wild-feeling woods and out to the shoreline again.

Many know about Michigan’s wilder state parks like Porcupine Mountains and Tahquamenon Falls in the Upper Peninsula, or Wilderness State Park just west of Mackinac City. Far fewer know of Thompson’s Harbor, Negwegon or Rockport state parks along Michigan’s northeast Lake Huron shoreline, an area where the Michigan DNR is working with a variety of partners to create a different state park experience. Continue reading

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Program shift will reduce forest acres hunters can access

By Howard Meyerson

Grand Rapids, Mich — Hunters will have access to fewer privately owned acres of forest come 2015, the result of lands being transferred from the Michigan DNR Commercial75350c6076dd58f3e9acdc1bc36799b6 Forest Program to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Qualified Forest Program. That loss of several thousand acres open to the public for hunting and fishing is less than was expected, according to state officials.

“We are looking at maybe 10,000 acres (out of 2.2 million acres of private, commercial forest land open to the pubic) going in one year’s time,” said Shirley Businski, commercial forest program leader for the DNR. “We anticipated about 50,000 acres, which is a significant amount, but (still) isn’t a mass exodus.”

Commercial forest owners are making the shift for several reasons, first and foremost because Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill in June this year that extends the deadline to Sept. 1, 2015 for transferring the land without financial penalty. Continue reading

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The classiest bicycle ever made

Originally posted on Bicycle Trax:

1939 Hawthorne Zep - Source: ebay.com

1939 Hawthorne Zep – Source: ebay.com

There have been many impressive bicycle designs throughout the velo era. Style, charm, artistry, utility, comfort, and form are each factors which determine whether a particular model will capture the buying public’s imagination. To this avid cyclist, the bicycle that captured both the fun and the shear elegance of non-competitive cycling more than any other bike was the Hawthorne Zep (short for Zeppelin) of the mid-to-late 1930s.

HawthorneRollfast

1937 Hawthorne Zep – Source: bicyclebill.com/Bikecomppages/Hawthorne.html

Hawthorne Bicycles were built by both Cleveland Welding and Rollfast (H.P. Snyder) and were sold at Montgomery Ward department stores from the mid-1930s until 1960. From 1936 to 1939, the chain carried an exclusive version of the Zep (see photos above) which was the epitome of the art deco era on two wheels. Clean lines, graceful curves, distinctive features, and pure panache all make the Hawthorne Zep a masterpiece of art, design, and…

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