Arizona Trippin

This trip is one of my faves in recent years, full of regional history, local color and great eats. The hiking was excellent; the scrambles were fun. The red-rock trails and buttes near Sedona are magnificent. These and other images from my trip to Arizona, the last before the COVID pandemic shut things down, have been woven together in a short presentation now up on my YouTube page. Check it out at https://bit.ly/3sJimXx

Having developed an interest in cliff-dwellings and cliff-dwelling cultures on prior trips to New Mexico, my partner Susan and I took advantage of opportunities to visit ancient tribal dwellings/pueblos: Tuzigoot National Monument (nps.gov/tuzi) near Clarkdale and Montezuma Castle National Monument near Camp Verde (nps.gov/moca). Both are managed by the National Park Service and have fascinating histories.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of time at Montezuma. It was a bit of a drive after touring Tuzigoot and the rangers let us know, upon arrival, that the park would soon close. Our visit was short, but it provided views of an awesome cliff structure, compelling enough to warrant going back once I’m willing to fly again. I’m looking forward to that – and others. –HM

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Flying High

Photos courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Once endangered and teetering on the brink of extinction, the Bald Eagle is doing well; actually, very well, according to a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report that says those eagle populations have quadrupled since 2009. Scientists in the agency’s Migratory Bird Program estimate the population has climbed to 316,700 eagles in the lower 48 states. They know of 71,000 nesting pairs, a huge jump from 1963 when only 417 nesting pairs were known of, an all-time low.

Their return has been attributed to ongoing conservation and protection efforts along with banning the then popular pesticide DDT, which weakened eggshells and hindered reproduction. The current tally, detailed in a 2020 survey report  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Final Report: Bald Eagle Population Size: 2020 Update can be found online.

The survey work that led to the report was conducted over 2018 and 2019, using flyovers and ground observations in cooperation with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the citizen science data that is collected on the popular online birdwatching database called eBird, found at https://ebird.org/home.

“The recovery of the bald eagle is one of the most well-known conservation success stories of all time,” FWS Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams recently told the press. “The Service continues to work with our partners in state and federal agencies, tribes, non-government organizations and with private landowners to ensure that our nation’s symbol continues to flourish.”

Breeding eagles lay one to three eggs each year. They hatch about 35 days out and are flying within three months. In 1782 when America adopted the Bald Eagle as national symbol, the country “may have had as many as 100,000 nesting eagles,” FWS reports. Loss of habitat, shooting and DDT poisoning all contributed to their decline. Some also die from ingesting lead shotgun pellets.

Bald Eagles today are a joy to behold in both wild and rural settings. Their presence draws attention and praise whenever they are seen. –HM

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A new beginning

Photo by Howard Meyerson

We had wandered through thickly forested dunes for more than an hour when we emerged on the barrens. The contrast was stark. Only scrubby vegetation lay in all directions. These lone trees caught my eye as we hiked into the barrens bowl and up another sand dune back to the trail near Grand Haven, MI.

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Spring Thaw

Photography by Howard Meyerson

I spent a few days on the trail last week, enjoying the warm up and to record the thaw. These are just some of the images I put together in a brief homage to the beauty of forest trails during spring thaw. Check it out on my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvUlbmebZV8 Enjoy! –HM

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Lighthouse restoration, public comments sought

Historic Point Iroquois Lighthouse on Lake Superior. Photo by Howard Meyerson

The Point Iroquois Lighthouse has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975. It overlooks Lake Superior at the entry of the St. Mary’s River, according to Hiawatha National Forest officials who just announced plans for a multi-year historic preservation effort on the lighthouse. It was constructed in 1855 to help guide vessels toward what is today the Soo Locks.

A wood tower and living quarters were initially constructed, followed by a light two years later. As demand for area resources and water traffic grew, so did the lighthouse. In 1870, the wooden structures were replaced with the 65-foot brick tower and attached living quarters. The lighthouse helped passing ships navigate the waters of Lake Superior for 107 years until the torch was passed to an automatic light off Gros Cap, Ontario, Canada.

Forest staffers are seeking public feedback and comments on the anticipated preservation work being conducted through agreements with its partners, HistoriCorps and YouthWork. The public will have an opportunity to participate as volunteers in historic preservation efforts on lands managed by the Hiawatha National Forest. To apply, visit the HistoriCorps’ website.

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Drilling for oil, the test of time

We hear a lot about moving away from fossil fuels, away from our dependence on oil to make so much of what we use, from gasoline to golf balls and ballpoint pens. And though we get steadily closer to that future; innovators continually move us forward, finding new methods, materials and technologies for providing the goods we want, our need for oil will continue for some time.

While cycling on a shaded route through a Grand Rapids park last summer, I noticed these old private wells and rigs. They stood hidden in the shadows of the forest like relics from another time, some abandoned, most emblazoned with graffiti. I promised myself I would come back and take a closer look. A few weeks ago I did just that.

Here’s a short but colorful winter look. Oil wells are an unusual photo/video subject for me, but the character, color and settings of these private wells caught my attention. Perhaps they will capture yours.

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I’m ready

Joshua Tree National Park, California. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Winter is in full swing here in Michigan. We got pummeled yesterday and the outcome is beautiful. We finally have good X-C skiable snow in southwest Michigan. But, as much as I enjoy traipsing around on snowy trails wearing trail crampons, or heading into the woods on skis or snowshoes, this scene from Joshua Tree National Park hit a nerve this morning. I find myself longing for warm, wide-open spaces.

I’m ready.

To all of you who inhabit cold or warm places, enjoy your weekend outdoors. –HM

Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
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Southern Lake Michigan state park expanded.

Photo courtesy of Michigan DNR

Everyone loves beautiful sand beaches, and the mile-long stretch at Van Buren State Park, with its high dunes, trails, campground and day-use area, just got longer.

Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources recently announced that Van Buren County officials approved leasing its 17-acre Northpoint Conservation Area to the state agency for 25-years. The parcel borders the 400-acre state park on its north end adding 340 feet of beach along Lake Michigan. It will now be managed by MDNR.

The North Point Conservation Area has been a popular birdwatching spot and hiking destination. Its high, forested dune trails lead hikers to great views of the lake. The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy has a conservation easement for the property to protect it from development.

Locally known as “The Old Boy Scout Camp,” it was maintained for generations by southwest Michigan Boy Scouts who planted trees and maintained the trails, among other things. New signage is planned along with revised hours for use.

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Quiet Adventure Symposium goes virtual

WCHA members collect and enjoy antique wooden canoes. Photo by Howard Meyerson

The lore and beauty of wooden canoes and the people that love them, the members of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (woodencanoe.org), a national non-profit dedicated to preserving wood canoe heritage, are among the 40 or so online Zoom presentations planned for the 2021 Quiet Adventure Symposium in February.

The presentations planned cover great trips, paddle routes and hikes, personal adventures, on the water safety, programing for kids and many other outdoor adventure topics.

This year’s 26th annual event, formerly known at the Quiet Water Symposium, will be held online over five nights due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each evening offers two parallel sessions with new speakers every 30-minutes. The first presentations begin at 7:00pm and the final two speakers begin at 9:00pm.

The 2021 event starts on Tuesday, February 16 and will continue on Thursday,
February 18. Presentations will come to you the following week on February 23
and 25. Saturday, February 27 at 7:00pm brings the Grand Finale, concluding
with a concert by Jerry Vandiver. The tentative agenda can be found on the symposium website: https://quietwatersociety.org/

Have a conflict one night during the virtual event or not sure which great
presentation to watch? Do not worry, registered attendees will receive links to
view the presentations once the event is over. The cost to register is $10.00. Direct any questions to Tammi Connell at EventManager@quietwatersociety.org.

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DNR pilot project clears the way for winter fishing access

Courtesy Michigan DNR

Note: It’s cold out there and northern lakes are frozen solid. Nice to see Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources taking steps to expand access to good ice fishing waters. Here is their recent announcement. Enjoy! –HM

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The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has organized a pilot program to keep boating access sites plowed this winter at more than two dozen popular Upper Peninsula ice-fishing locations.

Various local partners have volunteered to assist the DNR with the program to help ensure that access to ice-fishing opportunities in the U.P. are available consistently during winter.

The 26 locations – situated across 10 of the U.P.’s 15 counties – are DNR boating access sites managed for recreational boating.

“Because we have had continued requests from the public to maintain access throughout the winter, we’ve partnered with a number of entities to assist with plowing for winter access,” said Zack Bishop, a DNR Parks and Recreation Division unit supervisor. “We have entered into agreements with each partner to try this concept for one year. Depending on the success of the pilot program, we may or may not continue it into next winter.”

An evaluation to take place at the end of the winter will assess several things, including how often the plowed sites are used and whether damage occurs to the access ramps, which has been a concern.

Boating access sites to be plowed this winter include:

Baraga County: Vermilac Lake, Silver River

Chippewa County: Conley Point

Delta County: Kipling

Dickinson County: Hamilton Lake

Iron County: Indian Lake, Swan Lake, Lake Mary, East Lake Emily, Lake Ellen

Keweenaw County: Gratiot Lake, Lake Medora, Lake Bailey

Luce County: Little Lake Harbor, Kak’s Lake, Big Manistique Lake (County Line access)

Mackinac County: South Manistique Lake, North Manistique Lake, Milakokia Lake and Millecoquins Lake

Marquette County: Lake Michigamme, Greenwood Reservoir, Johnson Lake, Big Shag Lake, East Bass Lake

Schoolcraft County: Big Spring Landing

“The DNR is very pleased with our partners offering to make this program possible, including the county road commissions in Baraga, Chippewa, Dickinson, Iron, Keweenaw, Luce, Mackinac, Marquette and Schoolcraft counties, Forsyth Township, Bayshore Resort Bait & Tackle, Travel Marquette, South Shore Fishing Association and Gwinn Bait & Tackle,” said Doug Rich, DNR Parks and Recreation Division western U.P. district supervisor.

This pilot project is something the DNR has been trying to implement for several years but doing so is not as simple as it might seem.

“The DNR has more than 85 restricted funds. By law, the adopted budget allocations involving the state and federal restricted funds must be used properly,” said Stacy Welling Haughey, DNR U.P. field deputy. “We cannot use funds from one source to pay for another. As an example, we cannot utilize funding that comes from boater registration fees for non-boating uses.”

Specifically, money used to build and maintain DNR boating access sites comes from the state’s Waterways Fund, which is derived from a portion of gasoline taxes and proceeds from the sale of watercraft registrations. This funding is restricted to be used only to support recreational boating.

DNR boating access sites are designed and built for boating, not winter use.

Haughey said DNR staffers consulted their counterparts in Wisconsin and Minnesota to learn how those departments address this same situation.

“It is often handled on a site-by-site basis. Wisconsin indicated they work with several local units of government and Minnesota mentioned that resort owners often keep the sites open to bring in tourists,” Haughey said. “In the U.P., we have worked with local units of government, tourism groups, county road commissions, bait shop owners, fishing groups and individuals in creating this opportunity for this winter, and we hope folks will get outside and enjoy the additional access.”

Organizations or individuals interested in partnering to keep additional sites open if this pilot project continues next winter, please contact Stacy Haughey at WellingS1@michigan.gov or 906-226-1331.

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