How to De-stress while Traveling

Make any journey a spiritual one by practicing a few simple rules

Whether it’s a business trip or a not-so-relaxing family vacation, traveling can often add undue stress to our lives. World-traveling author Dana Micucci has the perfect solution: Make any journey a spiritual one. In her new spiritual travel memoir Sojourns of the Soul, Dana tells the story of her visits to seven sacred lands and the lessons she learned at each location, but you don’t have to travel to the Australian Outback to learn these same lessons; you just need the tools that help you connect with your surroundings and open your eyes and your heart.

Some of Dana’s tips include:
  • Learn about the history of your destination. The Office of Tourism will usually have material that explains the history of the town or city you’re visiting. Read through it and then find a place in nature – whether it’s under a tree or on a park bench – and really feel the earth and think about the history that took place where you’re sitting. 
  • Talk to the locals. Every culture is different, and speaking to those that live in the area you’re visiting not only helps you find out what makes the place special, but connecting with someone of a slightly (or not so slightly!) different culture can open your heart and understanding of the world and yourself. If you’re too shy to start a conversation with a stranger, go to a good local hangout and simply absorb the atmosphere. 
  • Notice the beauty around you. This is an especially good tip for business travelers. While you may not have more time to yourself than walking from your hotel to the cab stand, take a moment to absorb your surroundings. Look up. Look all around. Find something that is beautiful to you and make a memory that you can bring up when you’re feeling stressed or tired during your meeting.

Ohio Offers Picturesque Fall Landscapes

As fall color begins to fade around the state, Ohio state parks offers additional autumn adventures with Halloween campouts, haunted trails and other great activities allowing families and friends to create long lasting memories, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

“For many people, the beautiful foliage is just one part of the autumn experience,” said Casey Burdick, ODNR’s fall color forester. “They are thrilled to spend the day hiking, boating or hunting beneath the cover of the colored forests, but the experience is that much more enjoyable when they can continue with hayrides, pumpkin carving contests, costume contests and more at an Ohio State Park.”

The ODNR fall color Web page is the premier guide to Ohio’s fall color season, posting weekly color updates and information to help plan leaf-peeping adventures. Weekly videos from Fall Color Forester Casey Burdick will highlight color hot spots around the state and provide informative tidbits about some of Ohio’s 100-plus tree species. This page also offers helpful links for leaf collecting tips, scenic road trips, and more. Looking for some great fall getaway ideas? The Ohio Division of Travel and Tourism has numerous itinerary ideas at under their Autumn Adventures feature. And don’t forget to follow ODNR on Facebook and Twitter all season long.

MI DNR Volunteer Steward Program Kicks Off in Southwest Michigan State Parks and Recreation Areas

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has announced the schedule of volunteer stewardship events as a part of the new Volunteer Steward program in southwestern Michigan state parks and recreation areas. Volunteering for these workdays is a great way to get outdoors in Michigan’s state parks, breathe some fresh air, get a bit of exercise and enjoy fall foliage and beautiful landscapes.

The Volunteer Steward program kicked off in October with native seed collection for prairie restorations. Volunteers are now needed in November and December to help remove invasive, non-native shrubs in natural areas within state parks and recreation areas. These activities will help protect and restore the unique habitats by improving conditions for native species and restoring ecosystem function. In doing so, volunteers will be benefiting many species, some of which are threatened or endangered, while also learning about invasive species and hands-on management. Volunteers in need of service credit, such as Conservation Stewards, Master Gardeners, scouts, service clubs, school groups and others are welcome to attend.

Dates, times, and locations of the workdays are as follows:
  • Saturday, Nov. 5 P.J. Hoffmaster State Park (Muskegon County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 
  • Sunday, Nov. 6 Fort Custer Recreation Area (Kalamazoo County), 1 to 4 p.m. 
  • Saturday, Nov. 12 Saugatuck Dunes State Park (Allegan County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 
  • Sunday, Nov. 13 Yankee Springs Recreation Area (Barry County), 1 to 4 p.m. 
  • Saturday, Nov. 19 Muskegon State Park (Muskegon County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Sunday, Nov. 20 P.J. Hoffmaster State Park (Muskegon County), 1 to 4 p.m. 
  • Saturday, Dec. 3 Fort Custer Recreation Area (Kalamazoo County), 1 to 4 p.m. 
  • Sunday, Dec. 4 Grand Mere State Park (Berrien County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 
  • Saturday, Dec. 10 Yankee Springs Recreation Area (Barry County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 
  • Sunday, Dec.11 Fort Custer Recreation Area (Kalamazoo County), 1 to 4 p.m.

Volunteers should wear appropriate clothing for outdoor work, including long pants, boots, gloves, and bring drinking water. Don’t forget to bring your hiking boots to enjoy the many trails that traverse through forests, dunes, prairies, fen, and the other unique natural areas protected by our state park system.

The Volunteer Steward program is part of the Parks and Recreation Division, Stewardship Unit’s mission to “preserve, protect and restore the natural and cultural resources present within Michigan State Parks for this and future generations.” For information about the specific tasks at each workday and to obtain directions, visit the DNR website at and link to the “Calendar of Volunteer Stewardship Workdays.” All volunteers are asked to register using the forms available on the website. Please contact Heidi Frei at 269-685-6851 ext. 147 or for registration or questions about the Volunteer Steward program in southwest Michigan.

Make Your Own Snowshoes at Tahquamenon Falls State Park Dec. 17

Tahquamenon Falls State Park will offer a snowshoe making workshop on Saturday, Dec. 17, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery and Restaurant, located at the park’s Upper Falls parking lot.

Participants in the one-day workshop will weave a pair of traditional white ash snowshoes, choosing from three available styles: Ojibwa, Cross Country and Green Mountain. The snowshoes can be used for winter hiking, given as holiday gifts or hung as wall décor.

"This is a unique opportunity to learn how to make a pair of snowshoes by hand," said DNR park interpreter and course instructor Theresa Neal. "Snowshoeing is a fun, calorie-burning winter activity for all ages to enjoy.”

The workshop registration fee of $170 includes all materials and equipment needed to make one pair of snowshoes. Class size is limited and pre-registration is required before Wednesday, Nov. 30. To register for the workshop, call the park at 906-492-3415. For more information about the workshops, go online to and click on Tahquamenon Falls Education Program.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to

ODNR Approves Grants to Further Enhance and Improve Outdoor Recreation in the Buckeye State

State and federal grants to help develop and improve public access for outdoor recreation facilities have been approved by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Parks and Recreation.

The NatureWorks and Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) grants, which ODNR administers, will fund 64 community-based projects to create and renovate parks and outdoor recreation areas. The grants will support the acquisition of more than 133 acres of green space, the development and improvement of 16 playgrounds, and dozens of other local improvement projects.

ODNR has recommended that $1.2 million in NatureWorks grants and $494,366 in LWCF grants be awarded. To view the complete lists, please click on the following links:

NatureWorks –

“Access to outdoor recreation is key to not only providing a healthy community but also aides in economic development of the area,” said David Payne, chief of the ODNR Division of Parks and Recreation. “We strive to strengthen the connections between nature, fitness and community.”

NatureWorks provides up to 75 percent reimbursement assistance to local government subdivisions (i.e., townships, villages, cities, counties, park districts, joint recreation districts and conservancy districts) for the acquisition, development and rehabilitation of recreational areas. The projects are funded through the Ohio Parks and Natural Resources Bond Issue, which was approved by Ohio voters in November 1993. It authorized the State of Ohio “to issue bonds, which will be retired from general state revenues, to finance capital improvements for state and local parks and recreation areas and to preserve Ohio’s natural areas and habitats.” Additional legislation authorized the creation of the NatureWorks Grant Program.

Similarly, the LWCF provides up to 50 percent reimbursement assistance for state and local government subdivisions (i.e., villages, and cities) for the acquisition, development and rehabilitation of recreational areas. The federal grant program is supported by offshore oil lease revenues and other non-tax sources. Many local parks, trails, pools and other outdoor recreation facilities that Ohioans enjoy today were made possible through the federal program. Since its inception in 1965, more than $150 million has been awarded to projects in Ohio.

The ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR Web site at

Michigan DNR’s popular snowshoe making classes return to Ludington State Park starting Oct. 28-29

Michigan's Ludington State Park is offering daytime and evening snowshoe-making classes in October, November and December, the state Department of Natural Resources announced today. Participants will learn to weave a pair of traditional wooden snowshoes, similar to the ones Native Americans made for generations.

The cost for making a pair of snowshoes is $180 and includes the pre-formed wooden frames, lacing, high-quality bindings and personal instruction. Classes are designed to be fun, informative and interesting. Because this is an activity that requires concentration over long periods of time, it is suggested for ages 16 and older.

These hand-made snowshoes can be used for hiking throughout the winter, given as holiday gifts, or used as a decoration in your home. Snowshoeing is an easy, inexpensive way to get outside and burn some calories during the winter months.

All classes are held at the Ludington State Park’s Warming Shelter. The park is located at 8800 West M-116 in Ludington. Note that the Oct. 28 and 29 is one class split over two days.

Classes are scheduled for:
  • Oct. 28, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Part 1) 
  • Oct. 29, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Part 2) 
  • Nov. 6, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (All day class) 
  • Dec. 4, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (All day class) 
  • Dec. 18, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (All day class)

Class size is limited to a maximum of 10 participants, and reservations are required. To make a reservation, please call Ludington State Park at 231-843-9261 or email Alan Wernette at

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state's natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to

Bay City State Recreation Area Friends group wins prestigious award

Friends of the Bay City State Recreation Area recentlywere presented with a national award from the National Association of State Park Directors. Pictured from the left are Cathy Washabaugh, vice-president of the Friends of Bay City State Recreation Area; Friends group members Ernie Krygier, Greg Rankin and Nancy Wieland, president of the Friends group; State Rep. Charles Brunner; Rodney Stokes, director of the DNR; Ron Olson, chief of the DNR's Parks and Recreation Division; George Lauinger, supervisor of the Bay City State Recreation Area and Carl Lindell, supervisor of the DNR's Bay City District.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has announced that the Friends of Bay City State Recreation Area have been named the recipient of the National Association of State Park Directors’ (NASPD) 2011 President’s Award for a local organization.

The group was nominated for the award for its support and advocacy efforts over the last 17 years, which also includes raising thousands of dollars to purchase and install a playscape as well as a newly-opened spray park at the state recreation area. The group also works to establish endowment funds for the maintenance of these facilities, and plans interpretive and educational programming.

“Being recognized by our peers in NASPD is a significant achievement,” said DNR Director Rodney Stokes. “Friends of Bay City State Recreation Area, like all of the Friends of Michigan state parks groups, have helped us stay at the forefront of our profession with innovative programming, funding and facility development.”

DNR Parks and Recreation Division Chief Ron Olson accepted the award on behalf of the Friends group during a recent meeting of the NASPD. Representatives of the Friends of Bay City State Recreation Area will receive the award during the Natural Resources Commission meeting on Oct. 13 in Lansing.

Friends groups are nonprofit organizations that assist parks and other public lands by fundraising, recruiting volunteers, leading restoration projects and other activities. The Friends of Bay City group is comprised of interested citizens who support environmental education and promote conservation, use, and enjoyment of the recreational facility.

“We are extremely proud of the Friends of Bay City State Recreation Area and for their efforts that have earned this recognition,” said Olson. “Just as we are grateful for all of the Friends of Michigan State Parks groups. Michigan state parks face extremely difficult budgeting times while visitation continues to grow, and the Friends groups are making a major impact in helping us ensure our state parks are open and our natural resources are protected.”

To help the DNR build the first-ever spray park in a Michigan state park, the Friends of Bay City State Recreation Area raised $300,000 in cash and another $150,000 in donations of labor and other non-monetary items. Other Friends groups are hard at work dedicating time and efforts toward providing enhancements for their state parks; however, currently less than 50 percent of Michigan’s 99 state parks have active Friends groups. Those interested in learning more about how to join an active Friends group can contact that state park office for information. Those interested in starting a Friends of the Park group in their area can contact DNR Recreational Programmer Maia Stephens at for information.

Chicago dazzles this winter holiday season

Celebrate in Chicago with Festive Events in November and December 2011

With its glittering lights and joyous atmosphere, Chicago is a delightful winter wonderland. The city’s downtown and neighborhoods shine brightly this time of year, inviting visitors and locals alike to join in the holiday spirit. From special holiday exhibitions and performances to popular annual traditions like the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival® and the Daley Plaza Christmas Tree to celebrations of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, there is no better place than Chicago to experience the magic of the holidays and welcome the winter season.

For event details and more information on visiting Chicago during the festive November and December months, visit Admission for the listings below are FREE unless otherwise noted.

Macy’s on State Street: 104th Great Tree Lighting
November 5
Join Giuliana and Bill Rancic of the Style Network to kick off the holiday season in downtown Chicago with the lighting of Macy’s Great Tree in the famous Walnut Room at 12pm. The event will include a short performance by the award-winning Chicago Mass Choir.

Millennium Park: McCormick Tribune Ice Rink
November 18 through March 11, 2012 (weather permitting)
Kick off Chicago’s winter season with a fun-filled day of ice skating. The rink, now in its 11th season and drawing more than 100,000 skaters annually, is free and open to the public. Skate rental is available for $10.

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival presented by BMO Harris Bank
November 19
The holiday fun begins at 11am with a day full of live musical performances, celebrity entertainers and family friendly activities along Lights Festival Lane at Pioneer Court. Mickey and Minnie Mouse serve as grand marshals of the evening parade, magically illuminating more than one million lights on 200 trees along The Magnificent Mile®. The parade, which features more than 30 spectacular floats, balloons and marching bands, begins at 5:30pm and is followed by a spectacular fireworks show over the Chicago River at 6:55pm.

Daley Plaza: Chicago Christmas Tree and Lighting Ceremony
November 23
Presented by The City of Chicago and Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the 98th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony is a highly-anticipated event drawing people of all ages to the heart of Chicago's downtown Loop. Live performances and festive holiday music begin at 4:30pm and the holiday season officially commences at 5:00pm, when the switch is flipped and the lights begin to sparkle in Daley Plaza.

Daley Plaza: UL Santa House
November 23 through December 24
Visit with Santa Claus, enjoy interactive activities and have your picture taken at the UL Santa House, a replica of Santa’s workshop where children can experience the wonder of the North Pole this holiday season.

Daley Plaza: Christkindlmarket Chicago
November 23 through December 24
Experience a traditional German Christmas inspired by the famous Nuremberg Christmas market dating back to 1545. Visitors will find Chicago’s iconic Picasso sculpture surrounded by red and white crested huts glowing with warmth and overflowing with curios. Daley Plaza is transformed at this outdoor market offering exquisite handmade gifts, unique ornaments and German delicacies like brats, goulash, potato pancakes, cookies and Gluhwein (a warm spiced wine).

McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade
November 24
Ronald McDonald, Santa and a cast of thousands march down State Street as over 400,000 people line the route from Congress Parkway to Randolph Street. Whether you're gazing at the gigantic helium balloons, moving to the beat of the marching bands or waving at the entertainers in decorative floats, there is fun for all at the biggest holiday parade in the city and the only one in Chicago to feature inflatable balloons every year.

Millennium Park: Caroling at Cloud Gate
November 25 through December 16 – Fridays
Chicagoans and visitors alike are invited to Cloud Gate in Millennium Park to hear the beautiful voices of different Chicago choral groups and participate in a holiday sing-along at 6pm. After the holiday sing-along, everyone is encouraged to skate at Millennium Park's McCormick Tribune Ice Rink.

Art Institute of Chicago: Wreathing of the Lions
November 25
Celebrate the 20th anniversary of this Chicago family favorite tradition as the lions along the Museum’s Michigan Avenue entrance are adorned with evergreen wreaths. Performances by Wooten Choral Ensemble add melodic cheer outside during the ceremony and inside the museum immediately following. Families can stop by the Ryan Education Center to create wreaths inspired by the many treasures in the collection.

Navy Pier: Winter Wonderfest
December 2 through January 8, 2012
New this year, an added week of family fun at the 11th annual Winter WonderFest presented by Bank of America. Enjoy more time to have more fun inside with 170,000 square feet of rides, inflatable slides, stunning lights and holiday décor, entertainment and more.

Chicago Greeter: Magnificent Mile InstaGreeter
November 4 through December 31 – Fridays and Saturdays
Just in time for the holidays, Chicago Greeter will offer free, one-hour walks of North Michigan Avenue and the surrounding area with local residents who provide information and insights on the Streeterville and Gold Coast neighborhoods; landmarks such as the John Hancock Center and the former Playboy Mansion, historic hotels and cathedrals; and best bets for holiday shopping. Departing from the Water Works Visitor Information Center, all InstaGreeter walks are first-come, first-served and limited to groups of six or fewer.

Art Institute of Chicago: Holiday Thorne Rooms
November 11
General museum admission ranges from $12-18.
The tiny but joy-filled Thorne Minuture Rooms are back, trimmed in historic holiday finery. This year, the New Orleans and New Mexico rooms join the festive tradition, and the never-before-seen Americana Room from Marshall Field V’s private collection will also be displayed.

Museum of Science and Industry: Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light
November 17 through January 9, 2012
General museum admission ranges from $10-15.
A time-honored celebration, the Christmas Around the World exhibition includes more than 50 trees and displays decorated by volunteers from Chicago’s ethnic communities to reflect holiday traditions from around the globe. Holidays of Light, a multicultural display of holiday traditions that celebrate light or enlightenment, such as Diwali and Hanukkah, also illuminates the Museum’s halls during this time.

Lincoln Park Zoo: Zoo Lights
November 25 through December 4 – Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays
December 9 through January 1, 2012 – Daily

Enter a winter wonderland illuminated by more than two million lights at Lincoln Park Zoo’s annual classic. Get a picture taken with Santa through December 23rd, prepare holiday crafts and watch ice carving. Then escape the cold and experience the climates, conditions and animals of four continents: South America, Africa, Asia and Australia in the zoo’s Regenstein Small Mammal Reptile House.

Shedd Aquarium: A Holiday Fantasea
November 25 through January 2, 2012
General museum admission ranges from $6-8.
Back by popular demand, the holiday multi-species aquatic show returns featuring your favorite marine mammals. Pacific white-sided dolphins leap, beluga whales breach and a sea lion saunters, showcasing their natural behaviors set to a festive soundtrack from around the world – and Santa makes a special appearance.

Lincoln Park Conservatory: Winter Flower and Train Show
November 26 through January 8, 2012
See model trains wind their way through a miniature village set amongst colorful Poinsettias. The village, comprised entirely of natural materials including willow, spruce and birch woods, features famous buildings and Chicago-style homes such as the neighborhood bungalow, Chicago Theatre and Water Tower Place.

Chicago Children’s Museum: Celebrations Around the World
December 1
Learn how different cultures celebrate important occasions through music, dance, demonstrations and hands-on activities, all presented by community partners.

Shedd Aquarium: Holiday Breakfasts
November 26 and December 10, 17, 24
Adults $44.95, Youth (Ages 3-11) $34.95.

Treat the family to a special holiday experience where after a full breakfast, it’s “All aboard!” for a private viewing of the 15-minute The Polar Express 4-D Experience, followed by a drawing for special prizes. The holiday fun continues during a visit with Santa. Snap a photo with him and receive a gift. Explore Shedd’s Polar Play Zone and finish your special day with reserved seats to A Holiday Fantasea.

John Hancock Observatory: Breakfast with Santa
December 3 though December 18 – Saturdays and Sundays only
Adults $39, Youth $29, Infant $19.

Experience a magical holiday high more than 1,000 feet in the air. Bring the family to the 94th floor of the John Hancock Observatory for pictures with Santa Claus and enjoy a festive breakfast buffet.

Macy’s on State Street: Breakfast with Santa Claus
December 3-4, December 10-11 and December 17-18
Adults $16.95, Youth (Under 10 Years) $12.95.

Enjoy a yummy plated breakfast, children's entertainment and a visit from Santa at this family-friendly event.

DuSable Museum of African American History: Pre-Kwanzaa Celebration
December 8 through December 9
General museum admission ranges from $3-10.

The Harambee Pre-Kwanzaa Festival is an exciting musical celebration of family, community and culture, featuring Kwame Steve Cobb and Chavunduka, performing songs from their highly acclaimed recording, Seven Principles. Their dynamic multi-media, concert presentation teaches the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa.

Spirit of Chicago Santa Lunch Cruise
December 10
Ticket prices range from $19.95-39.90

Dine on a festive lunch buffet and enjoy live performances and DJ entertainment while cruising the lakefront and visiting with Santa. See spectacular views of Chicago’s skyline from the warm climate-controlled decks.

Goodman Theatre: A Christmas Carol
November 18 through December 31
Tickets range from $16-45.

For three decades, Charles Dickens’ classic story, exceptional actors and miraculous stagecraft have made A Christmas Carol a perennial holiday favorite and beloved Chicago tradition. Audiences delight in the “Bah, Humbugs,” the arrival of the ghosts, the music and dancing and Scrooge’s joyful discovery of life and love.

Art Institute of Chicago: Midday Music
November 25 through December 31
General museum admission ranges from $12-18.
From gospel to jazz, traditional carols to klezmer, heavenly harp and lute to exhilarating pipa, Chicago’s finest musicians offer the sounds of the season in these free concerts held in Griffin Court of the Modern Wing.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago: Harold and the Purple Crayon: A Dance Adventure
December 3 through 4
Ticket prices start at $15.

This enchanting program by Hubbard Street 2 (HS2), the second company of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, originally debuted at the prestigious Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and returns this December to the Harris Theater at Millennium Park. Families and their children ages 4 and up can help create Harold’s next adventure through their own exploration of movement at this hour-long, interactive dance adaptation.

Chicago Cultural Center: Dance Along Nutcracker 2011
December 4
Sugar-plum fairies and toy soldiers of all ages return once again at this interactive holiday event. Audience members, young and old, are encouraged to dress in their finest tutus and hit the dance floor alongside professional dancers. One hour before each Dance Along Nutcracker, younger participants are invited to special free ballet workshops in the Chicago Cultural Center.

Garfield Park Conservatory: Live Music in the Conservatory
December 4
Enjoy live music among living plants as Gina Gibson presents holiday selections including blues, jazz classics, pop standards and Broadway show tunes.

Joffrey Ballet Chicago: Robert Joffrey’s The Nutcracker
December 9 through December 27
Tickets range from $25-145.

One of Chicago’s most popular holiday traditions, Robert Joffrey’s production of The Nutcracker transforms the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University into a land of beauty, fantasy and wonder. The entire company celebrates with brilliant costumes, ingenious lighting, entrancing storytelling and Tchaikovsky’s magical score performed by a live orchestra. This holiday tradition creates wonder for children of all ages.

American Girl Place Chicago: Children’s Holiday Choir
December 10
Families are invited to celebrate the season with American Girl at this festive event, which brings students from the British School of Chicago Children’s Choir will sing a selection of holiday favorites.

Chicago Children’s Choir: Songs of the Season
December 11
Experience the joy and musical excellence of the Emmy Award-winning Chicago Children’s Choir as they perform at the Harris Theater at Millennium Park. The Concert Choir is joined by the Neighborhood Honors Choir and will feature the 2005 winner of the BBC Singer of the World Competition, Nicole Cabell.

A Christmas Story, the Musical
December 14 through December 30
Ticket prices range from $35-79.

This favorite Christmas movie comes to life on the stage of The Chicago Theatre. Chronicling the young and bespectacled Ralphie Parker as he schemes his way toward the gift of his dreams, a Red Ryder Action Air Rifle BB Gun, it is a holiday classic that will entertain the whole family.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Welcome Yule
December 16-18 and December 21-23
Tickets range from $20-98.

The merry musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus promise a delightful program of new arrangements, cherished carols and some musical surprises. Join in the fun with sing-alongs and rollicking traditional tunes, including "Christmas in Chicago."

Art Institute of Chicago: Maxwell Street Klezmer Band
December 22
General museum admission ranges from $12-18.
On the second night of Hanukkah, Chicago’s own Maxwell Street Klezmer Band plays songs inspired by the works of Marc Chagall.

Glitter: a Holiday Shopping Event
December 1
Discover the best gifts for the holidays when local Chicago designers and boutiques celebrate the season with special holiday items, sales and original fashions at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Notebaert Nature Museum: Green Family Holiday Fair
December 10
Join the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum as they partner with the Green Parents Network for a special day of family fun and holiday shopping with plenty of green companies and their products.

Illinois Artisans Chicago Holiday Art Spree
December 14 through December 16
Juried artisans display and sell gift items in a three-day Holiday Art Spree in the James R. Thompson Center Atrium. Take home local Illinois-made items, from jewelry, photography, paintings and ceramics.

Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand
The Farmstand is the perfect place to find locally-made holiday gifts for the foodies on your list, and to buy ingredients and discover new recipes for holiday meals. Open year round, this specialty market offers edible local products, all sourced within 250 miles of Chicago, including fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs in season; baked treats; and a full range of condiments, preserves, seasonings and other dry goods items.

Holiday Shopping in Chicago Neighborhoods
Southport Corridor and Lincoln Park along Lincoln Avenue, Clark Street, Armitage Avenue and Halsted Street are home to specialty shops that carry the work of independent and Chicago-based designers. Division Street and Wicker Park along Damen, Milwaukee or North Avenue offer an even wider variety of shopping alternatives.

Visitors and Chicagoans planning to entertain out-of-town guests can receive trip-planning assistance and information by visiting Brochures and information on Chicago’s exciting events and activities are also available at the Visitor Information Centers. Friendly Visitor Representatives can answer questions and assist in planning an unforgettable itinerary. The visitor centers are located in two of the city’s most popular areas: across from Millennium Park in the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph Street; and at the historic Water Works pumping station, 163 E. Pearson Street at Michigan Avenue.

More than $1.7 million awarded for Community Trail Projects across Ohio

Conkle's Hollow
Twenty-four recreational trail projects in communities across Ohio soon will share $1,776,898 in federal grants, based on recommendations made by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Projects funded included both motorized and non-motorized trails.

ODNR Division of Parks and Recreation administers federal grants including the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) Non-Motorized Grants, which funds projects that encourages public use of recreational trails by improving access for people with disabilities, creating and maintaining trails and facilities, and educating the public about the environment and trail safety.

"As we expand our network of trails, we hope to link communities by the development of trails across the state," said Division of State Parks chief David Payne. "These projects will create safe and accessible recreation areas that families value and cherish."

The Recreational Trails Program is supported by funding from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration and a portion of the federal motor fuel excise tax collected from non-highway recreational fuel use.

Of the 67 RTP grant applications received, 24 were recommended for funding. Twenty of the 24 projects are for non-motorized trails; Ohio State Parks will receive $150,000 for 10 trail projects located across the state.

More than 160 local trail projects across the state have received more than $13 million in federal funds through ODNR since the Recreational Trails Program began in 1993.

The ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR Web site at

Lake Erie Birding Trail unveiled at Midwest Birding Symposium

Trail links 84 top birding sites in northern Ohio

The Lake Erie Birding Trail, a series of 84 premier birding locations along Ohio’s north coast, was unveiled during this year’s Midwest Birding Symposium in Lakeside, Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Wildlife.

A birding trail is a directory of the most productive and accessible birdwatching sites in an area with the goal of bringing people to the birds. The Lake Erie Birding Trail closely follows the Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail, a national scenic byway designated by the Federal Highway Administration which follows along Ohio’s 312-mile coastline.

Birdwatchers wanting to learn more about the trail can visit to find maps, lists of amenities, an annotated checklist of bird species found along the lake, identification tips, an events calendar, visitor information, and many other birding resources. Birders can also get real-time updates by following @LakeErieBirding on Twitter.

Birding trail partners include the Ohio Division of Wildlife and The Ohio State University’s Ohio Sea Grant program. The trail sites represent more than 30 federal, state, county, and local park districts and management agencies.

In 2006, there were an estimated 4.3 million wildlife watchers in Ohio. Approximately 120,000 out-of-state birders visited Ohio in 2006, with Lake Erie being the most popular destination. These groups spent more than $1.2 billion in Ohio in 2006 alone. Money is spent on supplies, lodging, gasoline, travel expenses, and food. Every dollar is a boost to Ohio and its local economies.

The ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR Web site at

Michigan DNR exceeds participation goal for first year of Recreation Passport

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has announced that the participation goal for the first year of the Recreation Passport was met and exceeded by Michigan citizens.

The Recreation Passport, an optional $10 fee that can be paid at the time of motor vehicle renewal, is the new funding model for Michigan state parks and state forest recreation programs.

In 2011, the program’s first year, the DNR set a goal of 24.3 percent participation by Michigan motorists. Final tallies for the first year show that the goal was met and exceeded, with 24.7 percent of Michigan motorists checking “Yes” to support the Recreation Passport when renewing their motor vehicle registration. In total, the revenue generated by the sale of the Recreation Passport was $18,816,500.

“We appreciate the support of Michigan citizens who support our state parks and state forest recreation programs by checking ‘Yes’ when they renew their motor vehicle registration at the Secretary of State,” said DNR Director Rodney Stokes in a press release. “We also are grateful for the strong support of Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and her staff. Without their partnership, we would have had a tougher climb toward our goal in our first year of implementation.”

Stokes said the DNR has set a participation rate goal of 30 percent for 2012. The price for the Recreation Passport in 2012 remains unchanged at $10.
“We are very pleased to partner with the DNR in promoting our state parks and helping to preserve them for future generations,” said Johnson, who kayaks, sails and camps with her family at state parks across Michigan. “We have such an exceptional park system that truly contributes to our quality of life.”

The funds raised in the first year of sales for the Recreation Passport are split according to a formula in the law that created the program. The Secretary of State’s Office is reimbursed $1 million for administrative costs, and the state parks operational budget ($10.7 million) and the Michigan Water Ways budget ($1.03 million) each get an amount equivalent to the revenue that the former Motor Vehicle Permit (window sticker) system brought in averaged over the last three years. After that revenue is deducted, the remaining revenue for 2011 was divided as follows:
  • State Parks – Capital Outlay (50 percent) $3,043,250
  • State Parks – Maintenance (30 percent) $1,825,950
  • Local Park Grants (10 percent) $608,650
  • State Forest Recreation (7 percent) $426,055
  • Cultural/Historical Facilities in State Parks (2.75 percent) $167,379
  • Marketing (0.25 percent) $15,216

“Even if you think you will never go to a state park or enjoy one of our state forest campgrounds or trails, supporting the Recreation Passport is a good way to support your county, community or township parks,” Stokes said. “Ten percent of the revenue is dedicated to a grant program to help improve parks in local communities.”

Stokes added another good reason to support the Recreation Passport is the Passport Perks program, a discount program supported by hundreds of Michigan businesses around the state that offer discounts for persons who purchased a Recreation Passport. For more information on the program, including a list of participating businesses or how to become a Passport Perks partner, go to

“The participation rate for the first year is a significant step forward and we hope that more Michigan residents will support the passport program and take advantage of the more than 700 Michigan businesses that offer discounts through the Recreation Passport Perks Program,” said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division.

For more information on the Recreation Passport, including Frequently Asked Questions, go to

Tombstone Travels returns to Old Logan Cemetery for a Civil War tribute

Did you know a shipwreck even more devastating than the Titanic happened on the Mighty Mississippi in 1865 and one of the passengers lived to tell the tale in Logan, Ohio?

On Saturday, October 22, 2011, the Old Logan Cemetery will come to life for Tombstone Travels as costumed interpreters tell the Civil War era stories of Logan's families.

Guests will hear the tales of local characters, such as Captain Seth Weldy of the 23rd Infantry who survived the Civil War to serve as Hocking County's State Representative. William Kanode served with the 11th Ohio Calvary and returned home to run his mother's saloon. Eliza Shields will tell the harrowing story of her son's survival in the worst shipwreck in America's history, the Sultana. The touching letters of Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Whipple's foster son, Frederick "Fred" Deishlie provide a first-hand account of the War up to his death in the battle of Milledgeville, Georgia in 1864.

Ten different stops on the tour will provide a colorful peek into the past as docents lead each group through the historic cemetery. Three tours are being offered; 4 pm, 6 pm and 8 pm. The tour will last approximately 1 hour. The 6 pm and 8 pm tours of the inaugural Tombstone Travels in 2010 sold out.

This year Tombstone Travels will take place the same day as Empty Bowls. The local fundraiser is sponsored by Hocking-Athens-Perry County Community Action and United Way of Hocking County and will be held at Central Elementary School (50 North Street in Logan) from 11 am to 3 pm with proceeds earmarked for local and regional food banks.

Area potters are donating handmade bowls for the special event, which will feature soup, dessert and a drink for a $10 donation per person. The bowl is a keepsake to take home for people to remember to continue the fight against hunger in Hocking County.

Tickets for Tombstone Travels are now on sale at the Hocking Hills Tourism Association Welcome Center, The Bowen House and Hocking County Historical Society. The Hocking Hills Welcome Center is located at 13178 St. Rt. 664 S in Logan. The Center is open from 9 am to 5 pm Monday through Saturday, and 11 am to 5 pm Sundays. The Bowen House is located at 192 N Market Street in Logan and hours are Tuesday through Friday from 3 pm to 6pm and Saturday from 1 pm to 4 pm. The Hocking County Historical Society is located at 64 N Culver Street in Logan and is open Wednesday through Friday from 1 pm to 4 pm and Saturday from 11 am to 5 pm.

Tickets may also be purchased by calling (740) 385-2750 or (740) 385-9706. Personal checks are accepted, however, credit cards are not. Each tour is limited to 150 people, with a total of 450 tickets available. Tickets are $10. Parking is free.

Tombstone Travels is sponsored by Logan Town Center, Inc., a non-profit organization committed to the economic and cultural vitality of Logan's original town center for the enjoyment and benefit of the residents and visitors in the Hocking Hills. Tombstone Travels is made possible through a partnership with Hocking County Historical Society, Hocking County Children's Chorus, Hocking Hills Tourism Association, The Bowen House, The City of Logan and the Hocking County School District.

Other Events
Corn mazes can be scary and haunted houses can be terrifying, but nothing compares to the thrill of Halloween on the Hocking! On October 15th, 22nd and 29th canoe a five-mile stretch under the creepiness of the full moon with Hocking Valley Canoe Livery. Stay close together because you never know who or what may be lurking around the river bend. Hot chocolate, snacks and music, along with a roaring bonfire, will be offered for those lucky enough to make it back from the canoe trip and you won't want to miss the costume contest!

For a not-too-scary Halloween treat take a ride on the Boo Train. There will be music, decorations and a costume contest for all ages. Of course it wouldn't be Halloween without treats and pumpkins which will be free for the kids. The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway's Boo Train will depart the station on October 22nd at 8 pm for the one and a half hour ride.

The festivities of the season continue at Hocking Hills State Park's Haunted Hocking. On Thursday, October 27th discover is Ash Cave is really haunted. Join the Naturalist, Pat Quackenbush and the "HHIT" team from Haunted Hocking at the Ash Cave parking area at 7 pm.

Friday, October 28th enjoy the campfire at Rose Lake along with activities for the kids, Halloween critters and some good old fashioned scary stories. On Saturday its pumpkin decorating at Old Man's cave shelter house for kids 12 and under.

Enjoy the spectacular fall colors and plenty of Halloween fun in the Hocking Hills.

Complete information on all events, including prices, locations, traveler information on accommodations and the region's many sites and attractions is available at or 1-800-Hocking (800-462-5464).

“Ask The DNR: One-Hour Special” on CMU Public Television’s “Ask The Specialists” series.

Tune in to CMU Public Television on Thursday, Oct. 20, at 7:30 p.m. for a one- hour special of “Ask The DNR,” another installment of our “Ask The Specialists” series.

“Ask The DNR” airs live from our studio and is hosted this week by television veteran and outdoor enthusiast Bob Garner. This episode will feature professional advice from DNR Law Enforcement Division’s Dean Molnar, Conservation Officer Sergeant Joe Molnar, Wildlife Division’s Russ Mason and Mark Tonello, a Fisheries Division biologist.

"It's important to know the rules of outdoor recreation when it comes to hunting, fishing, boating, snowmobiling, or visiting parks and campgrounds,” said “Ask The Specialists” producer Courtney Brooks. “That's why the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to helping us understand those rules and protect our natural and cultural resources."

Viewers can get their questions to the week’s specialists three different ways: call in and speak to our phone volunteers from 7:30-8:30p.m. during our live program toll-free at 1-800-727-9268, email before the show at or tweet the production crew their questions at @WCMU_AskThe.

CMU Public Television includes WCML Channel 6 Alpena, WCMU Channel 14 Mt. Pleasant, WCMW Channel 21 Manistee, WCMV Channel 27 Cadillac and WCMZ Channel 28 Flint.

'Garrison Ghost Walk' at Fort Meigs

“Garrison Ghost Walk”  at Fort Meigs October 21, 22, 28 & 29

PERRSYBURG- Come for a “spirited” stroll through Fort Meigs in Perrysburg, Ohio. You and your 1812 guide will encounter the spookier side of this historic place. The whole family will enjoy hearing tales from the past by fire light, and while the ghosts may not be real, the fun certainly is. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 419-874-4121 or 800-283-8916 during normal operating hours.

Tours start at 7:00 p.m. and run every fifteen minutes (until 9:00 p.m.) from the visitor center. Groups will accompany guides into the fort and for a lantern lit tour. Guests will hear ghost stories at various stops along the way. Total touring time lasts about 1.5 hours. Make sure to dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. And don’t forget to register in advance!

This is a fundraiser event for the Fort Meigs volunteer association. Event admission is $8 for ages 13 and above and $4 for children ages 6 – 12 years. This event is not recommended for children under the age of five.

Fort Meigs, the largest reconstructed, wooden-walled fort in the country, is located one mile west of downtown Perrysburg at 29100 W. River Road (S.R. 65). For more information on this event or all of the other events at this National Historic Landmark, visit us on-line at or call 800-283-8916.

'Toast the Season' with the Wineries of Leelanau Peninsula

In what has become a Northwest Michigan holiday tradition, the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association will hold the 2011 Toast the Season wine tour. Once again, two consecutive weekends of tasting and touring will be offered, November 5 & 6 or November 12 & 13. The self-guided tour includes a gift bag featuring local food items, and you may visit up to 8 wineries each day in any order you choose between the hours of 11am to 5pm Saturday, or noon to 5pm Sunday.

"Toast the Season is lots of fun, giving you a chance to experience the Leelanau wine trail, enjoy a great gift bag, taste some great wine and sample our food pairings," explains Lucie Matthias of Chateau Fontaine. "It's also a good time to get a start on your holiday shopping in our tasting rooms and at all the unique shops & stores in Leelanau's villages. Deer hunting season starts on November 15th this year, and we see a lot of 'deer widows' too, who are looking for something fun to do while their husbands are away at deer camp!"

The tour features a special wine & food pairing at each of the 19 Leelanau Peninsula member wineries. At your starting winery you will be given a commemorative glass, an LPVA holiday ornament, a souvenir wine key and a holiday gift bag featuring local food including fair trade coffee from Higher Grounds Trading Company of Traverse City, cocoa-coated chocolate covered almonds from Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate in Empire, and (of course) Michigan cherries from Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor!

Tickets are available online at along with Toast the Season packages from a number of local lodging partners.

Food Pairings
Below are a few of the tantalizing wine & food pairings!
  • Chateau de Leelanau will be serving the "World Famous Willies Chili" with Solem Farm Red.
  • L.Mawby will offer Nature's Treat dried apples slices with Black Diamond aged white cheddar, paired with the L. Mawby Consort.
  • Ciccone Vinyards will feature an Italian Bruschetta with fresh ingredients straight from the garden paired with their 2009 Cabernet Franc.
  • Willow Vinyards will be serving up some naughty French Vanilla Pumpkin Squares with Caramel topping, paired with their Semi Sweet Gris.
  • Cherry Republic will pair a Gorgonzola, Pecan and Cherry Fondue using their delicious Cherry Bread and with their Great Hall Riesling.
  • Verterra is offering different food pairings with their Pinot Gris for each weekend: 1st weekend will be Char-Grilled Pizzetta with sun-dried tomato, fresh spinach, garlic, feta & mozzarella and the 2nd weekend will feature Santa Fe Sweet Corn Chowder.
  • Forty-Five North will be serving up carnitas tacos paired with their new 2010 Dry Riesling.
Tickets for Toast the Season are $50 per person or $75 per couple (couple ticket holders receive two glasses, pours and food at each winery, but only one gift bag and ornament). Tickets are available online at

The LPVA encourages using a designated driver or local transportation services when touring its wineries. for more information including lodging packages at many great area hotels, B&Bs and resorts!

At the 2011 Detroit Fall RV Show: 2012 Dutchmen Voltage V3950

One of the highlights of the 2011 Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show was the Dutchmen Voltage V3950 fifth wheel.

Bob Moss of General RV provided us with a tour of this toy hauler on steroids.

The Voltage V3950 is a triple axle monster that's long on amenities and short on unfulfilled wants. There's three slides, and they are perfectly placed for maximum comfort and space. The mid-level living area slide houses the L-shaped dinette/sofa which faces the center island and luxurious kitchen on the opposite wall. The bedroom slideout is reserved for the wardrobe closets, meaning there's plenty of all-important storage in the bedroom.

What caught my eye with this toy hauler was a neat little feature near the garage area. A door on the exterior opens up to reveal the refrigerator inside. And then, on closer inspection, I found that the refrigerator swivels so that it turns to the interior garage area. Naturally, the garage area becomes a living area when the toys are parked outside. So this refrigerator swiveling around and accessible to the garage/living area is a pretty cool idea!

Hitch Weight: 3,145
UVW: 14,208
Cargo Capacity: 4,792
Overall Height: 13'4" (with AC)
Overall Length: 42'7"
Fresh Water Tank: 162 gallons
Grey Water Tank: 114 gallons
Black Water Tank: 96 gallons
Furnace: 40,000 BTU

At the 2011 Detroit Fall RV Show: 2012 Open Range Journeyer JT340FLR

One of the highlights of the 2011 Detroit Fall Camper & RV Show was the 2012 Open Range RVs on display.

Paul Sirian of Open Range RVs provided us with a tour of one of the Open Range units, the Journeyer JT340FLR.

What initially struck me about the Journeyer was its large underneath storage. That, and the bold silver and black exterior colors, really stood out from the row upon row of white travel trailers and fifth wheels. I stopped and read the posters of floorplans and features on the side of the camper, which is when I found something I'd never heard if before for an RV: a Patio.

A patio? A patio.

The floorplan posters showed several Open Range models with the optional patio feature. Well, actually, it was a dotted line that showed where the patio would be located. Still, I was struck with curiosity. Enough so that I sought out Pail Sirian, a manufacturer's representative with Open Range.

It turns out the patio is really nothing more than a large wall that is attached to the RV, that swings down parallel to the ground. It's accessible from sliding glass doors from inside the camper. It's pretty cool and something I hadn't seen before on a travel trailer. I do recall seeing something similar on a Montana fifth wheel once, but it was quite different than this.

The patio was my introduction to the Open Range RV. I found it to be very nice. The JT340FLR was huge, especially with two slides opposite each other in the living room. (A third slide is found in the bedroom.) The living room is wide enough for a mobile island in the kitchen that offers a wide variety of uses, depending on where it's stowed.

One of the nice things about the Journeyer was the bedroom was elevated three steps off the living room level, yet the interior ceiling heights were so high that there was still plenty of room in the bedroom. This allowed for an enormous storage area underneath.

If you have the time, check out the Open Range RV website. It has some cool features, like a 360-degree walk-through of their campers, plus videos.

GVWR: 11,670
UVW: 8,860
Hitch Weight: 1,270
Axle Weight: 7,590
Exterior Length: 36 feet
Exterior Height: 143 inches
Exterior Width: 100 inches
Water Heater: 10 gallons
Fresh Water: 85 gallons
Gray Water: 57 gallons
Waste: 41 gallons
LP Gas: 80 pounds
Furnace: 35,000 BTUs
Tire Size: 15 inch (16 inch optional)

Ohio reports peak fall color conditions

An array of colors from deep reds to neon-lime greens will provide the perfect backdrop this weekend for hikers ready to reconnect with the natural world, according to Casey Burdick, Fall Color Forester for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Burdick reports near peak and peak fall foliage conditions across the state.

“Ohio State Parks are offering a variety of organized hikes that will provide an amazing perspective on some of the Buckeye State’s most spectacular natural terrains,” said Burdick. “State parks provide picturesque scenery on a normal day, but add the multitude of fall colors to the mix and these places are truly breathtaking.”

The brilliance of fall color will add to the excitement of games of disc golf and golf, which can be played on beautiful, award-winning courses at several state parks. Anglers and boaters also will find priceless perspectives of amazing fall foliage reflected in rippling water along miles of shoreline and waterways.

This coming weekend, check out the following events at one of your Ohio State Parks.  

Fall Campout, Cowan Lake (SW) - Oct. 14-16. Camp near the colorful woods and enjoy Trick-or-Treat, games and fall-themed activities. All reservable campsites are booked for this event; however, a limited number of non-reservable campsites are available on a first-come first-served basis. Check campsite availability at For more information about the event, call (937) 382-1096. 

Halloween Campout, Rocky Fork (SW) - Oct. 14-16. Spend a fun-filled fall weekend with seasonal activities including campsite decorating and costume contests, movies, a silent auction, games and a haunted trail. All reservable campsites are booked for this event; however, a limited number of non-reservable campsites are available on a first-come first served basis. Check campsite availability at For more information about the event, call (937) 393-4284. 

“Louie” Historical Drama, Malabar Farm (NE) - Oct. 14-16. Package includes a house tour, BBQ dinner, and theatrical production of Louis Bromfield’s life story. Friday and Saturday performances start at 7 PM; dinner at 6 PM; self-guided house tours 4-6 PM. Sunday performances start at 3 PM; dinner at 2 PM; self-guided house tours Noon-2 PM. Tickets are $35 per person. (419) 892-2784. 

Hocking Hills scenic overlook
Grandma Gatewood’s Fall Colors Hike, Hocking Hills (SE) - Oct. 15, 1 PM at the Old Man’s Cave Visitor Center. Get fit on this strenuous six-mile hike while you marvel at the state’s most beautiful scenery, dressed up in its colorful fall finery. For more information about the event, call (740) 385-6841. 

32nd Annual Fall Hike, Lake Hope (SE) - Oct. 15, 10 AM. Meet at the beach shelter house for a relaxing three-mile hike surrounded by stunning fall foliage. Sassafras tea, bean & cornbread lunch offered. For more information about the event, call (740) 596-3030. 

Fall Hike, Shawnee (SW) - Oct. 15, 9 AM. Meet at the Shawnee backpack trail parking lot off Rte. 125. Check out the fall color, gorgeous scenery and dramatic vistas on a new loop that passes by the Copperhead Fire Tower. For more information about the event, call (740) 858-6652. 

Howl-o-Ween Dog Walk & Costume Parade, Mosquito Lake (NE) - Oct. 16, Noon-3 PM at the Dog Park. Dress up your dog and come out for a fun afternoon featuring food, vendors and costume contests for people and pets. For more information about the event, call (330) 637-2856.

The ODNR fall color Web page is the premier guide to Ohio’s fall color season, posting weekly color updates and information to help plan leaf-peeping adventures. Weekly videos from Fall Color Forester Casey Burdick will highlight color hot spots around the state and provide informative tidbits about some of Ohio’s 100-plus tree species. This page also offers helpful links for leaf collecting tips, scenic road trips, and more. Looking for some great fall getaway ideas? The Ohio Division of Travel and Tourism has numerous itinerary ideas at under their Autumn Adventures feature. And don’t forget to follow ODNR on Facebook and Twitter all season long.

At the 2011 Detroit Fall RV Show: 2012 Montana 3700 RL 5th Wheel

One of the highlights of the 2011 Detroit Fall Camper & RV Show was the 2012 Montana 3700 RL 5th Wheel.

Larry Andree of A&S RV Center provided us with a quick tour of yet another appealing addition to this best-selling 5th wheel family.

The Montana was easily one of the highlights of recent shows with its living room-up front 5th wheel model 3750FL. This year, it's another innovation with the 3700RL model. The innovation is after you've climbed the set of stairs to enter the RV, you're greeted with the option of turning left into the living/kitchen/dining area of the RV, or go straight ahead and taking another 3 steps to the bedroom/bath level.

Once you've climbed the second set of steps, a wall of cabinets leads you past the bathroom and into the bedroom. In fact, the cabinets and bed are on the same slideout (one of three on the unit), so there's plenty of room up there. The extra steps allows for cavernous storage underneath the bed/bath area.

Truly, with the underneath storage and the storage throughout, the Montana 3700 RL is a full-timers dream.

At the 2011 Detroit Fall RV Show: 2012 Flagstaff Diamond Series 5th Wheel

One of the highlights of the 2011 Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show is the 2012 Flagstaff Diamond Package 5th Wheel.

Steve Rochette of Westland Camper Center provided us with a tour of this head-turning 5th wheel.

What turns your head about it? For starters, the exterior colors. Gone is the traditional white with minimal striping so familiar to Flagstaff owners. Instead, the Diamond Package features a sleek taupe-and black combination. There's still some striping, but it's tone on tone and not distracting in the least. Inside, it's everything you've come to expect from Flagstaff, first and foremost comfort and convenience in an attractive finish and user-friendly layout.

Another nice feature to this 5th wheel is it only tops out at a shade over 8,000 pounds, meaning most any half-ton truck can pull it.

The Diamond Package is a welcome addition to the Flagstaff family.

At the 2011 Detroit Fall RV Show: 2012 Monaco Vesta 35 PBD

One of the highlights of the 2011 Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show was the 2012 Monaco Vesta 35 PBD motor home.

Jon Kortman of American RV provided us with a tour of the sleek, upscale motor home.

According to company literature, the "game-changing Monaco Vesta leads a new generation of Monaco RVs poised to reshape an entire industry. Built from the ground up on the Roadmaster chassis and powered by a MaxxForce 7 diesel engine, the vertically-integrated Vesta brings together Monaco RV’s motorized RV legacy and Navistar’s cutting-edge truck industry technology, resulting in a sleek mid-sized front-engine coach with a low center of gravity, air bag suspension and wind-tunnel-tested aerodynamics. There’s also a very distinctive and stylish grille design to help Monaco-spotters identify the Vesta from across the campground."
Photo from the Monaco Vesta website.

At the show, we had a chance to tour the 2012 35-foot Vesta. There's also a 32-foot model.

What struck me first, of course, was the very distinct exterior. The front grille is about as unique as you can get, and the color and markings are a refreshing departure from the sweeping, swooshing, curly stripes that dominate the rest of the RV industry. In fact, especially with the script font used for the "Vesta" nameplate, you could almost call the Vesta's style a retro flashback to the days of hepcats and hipsters. Okay, I really don't know what a hepcat or a hipster is, but you get the idea.

On the inside, I really appreciated the absolute complete fit and finish. Everything seemed perfectly appointed for comfort, ease of use and durability. High-end fixtures, glass-tile backsplashes, soft white leather sofas and chairs - everything was superb. If we ever retire to a life of full-time RVing, the Vesta would keep us very comfortable indeed.

If you're in the market for a $200,000 motor home, the Vesta should be high on your list.

At the 2011 Detroit Fall RV Show: Dynamax Trilogy 3800 D3

One of the highlights of the 22nd Annual Detroit Fall Camper & RV Show was the Dynamax Trilogy, a prototype fifth wheel completed only two weeks before the show.

The Trilogy debuted for dealers a while back, but the Detroit show was its first time to be available for us regular folks. 

Dan Jaster of National RV Detroit took the time to give us a tour of the beautiful RV.Althogh the display unit was not for sale, the dealership was taking orders for the Trilogy 3800 D3 (one of three floor plans available) at a shade under $90,000.

What makes this prototype unique is it's the industry's first fifth-wheel to feature radius walls and roof. Similar to the curved walls of an Airstream, but not to the same extreme, the radius walls of the Trilogy are a nice touch to what can be a stale interior of many RVs. And unlike what you might find in an Airstream, where the radius ceilings are at head-level due to the interior ceiling height, the Trilogy's nearly 9-foot ceilings means the actual curvature of the walls are up and out of play.

The Trilogy also comes with three slides, an optional fireplace and can accommodate a queen- or king-size bed.

As you would expect from Dynamax, the Trilogy features all high-end, top-of-the-line features and amenities. Simply put, if you can find it in an upscale home, then you'll likely find it in a Dynamax - and the Trilogy was no exception. Large stainless steel side-by-side refrigerator. Solid Corian-style counters. Convection microwave. Dining table with four chairs, just like you'd find in your dining room back home. 

Superb inside and out, the Trilogy is worth a look, whether you're in the market for a luxury fifth wheel or you'd merely like to see what one of the undisputed leaders of this segment looks like.

Final Day of the Fall Detroit RV Show

Today is the last day you can head out to the 22nd Annual Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show.

The show, featuring 206 RVs on display, is at the Suburban Financial Showplace (Beck Road exit off I-96) in Novi. It's open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

There's plenty of good things to see at this year's show. I've been there a total of six hours so far, and I could spend the entire day there today and still discover a bunch of new RVs, accessories, campgrounds and other things that would make yet another trip entirely worth the while.

Some of my handy-dandy tips to help you enjoy this and future RV shows:
  • Don't be afraid to chat up the sales people. Most are happy to pass the time engaging in harmless conversation with us regular folks. Sure, they're hoping we might buy a camper from them. But the truth is they're just regular people, too, and enjoy a pleasant conversation as much as anyone. Who knows?  You may learn something about RVs, or a new campground destination, that you never knew before!
  • Don't let your kids climb all over the campers. I was inside a Class C and while the manufacturer's representative was showing me the motorized bed-over-the-cab feature, a family entered the camper. The kids saw the bed and the parents did nothing while their kids climbed into the still-moving bed. Treat the campers as if you don't own them, which, of course, you don't.
  • Do like I do, and I suspect you do, and gather as many brochures as you possibly can. Even if you're not in the market for a $200,000 front-engine diesel Monaco Vesta motor home, the slick brochures make for some excellent reading while we plow through another Michigan winter.
  • Be sure to stop by the vendor booths. This year there's several new campgrounds represented, including Heartland Woods Family R.V. in Stockbridge. There's also an aerial photography business, Aerial Graphics, that specializes in lake pictures, and also a lovely couple whose business, Soles of Michigan, sells a lightweight, wear-everywhere shoe. The shoes, called Zeko Travelers, are lightweight, comfortable and feature a vented sole for air circulation. They seem perfect for wearing around a campsite, plus they're machine-washable.

Here's the official show information from the show sponsor, the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC):

All types of new recreation vehicles—over 200 units and 50 brands displayed; folding campers, motorhomes, travel trailers, truck campers, and fifth wheel travel trailers, ranging in price from $4,999 to more than $400,000.

Booths featuring parts and accessories, campground information, on site RV financing and RV rentals make this the complete RV show experience. Consumers can pick up the 2011 RV & Campsite guide to camping and RV dealers in Michigan that contains money-saving coupons.

Special discounts
Folding campers from $4,999; trailers from $8,999; motorhomes from $49,999. 2011 model closeouts and discounts on new 2012 models. Plus, manufacturer rebates on select RVs.

Adult admission (ages 13 and up) is $8, senior admission is $7, and children 12 and under get in free! RV show ticket will also get you into the Fall Remodeling & Design Expo, Thursday through Sunday.

Step Back in Time at Fort Massac Encampment, Oct. 15-16

Popular Festival at Fort Massac State Park Provides Sample of Colonial Times

The annual Fort Massac Encampment – one of southern Illinois’ most popular fall festivals – will be held at Fort Massac State Park in Metropolis on Oct. 15-16.

“The encampment festival offers families from throughout the Midwest a chance to step back in time at Fort Massac to see what life on the Ohio River was like in Colonial times,” said Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Director Marc Miller. “For military re-enactments, period food, music and crafts, the Fort Massac Encampment is the place to be each October.”

The Fort Massac Encampment is hosted by the IDNR with support from the City of Metropolis, the Friends of Fort Massac, and local sponsors. The event provides visitors with a chance to experience what life was like at Fort Massac during the 18th and early 19th centuries. The site served as a military outpost along the Ohio River for personnel from France, Britain, and the early years of the United States from 1757 to 1814.

Event times are 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Sat., Oct. 15 and 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. on Sun., Oct. 16.

The encampment features an opening ‘Posting of the Colours’ ceremony at 10 a.m. both days. At 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, mock military battles and tactical demonstrations will be performed by re-enactors on the Fort Massac grounds. A colorful military retreat ceremony will close both days’ activities. Hundreds of military re-enactors and other participants wearing period clothing will present the roles of explorers, traders, settlers and soldiers on the early Illinois frontier.

Family and youth activities include storytellers and puppet shows, face painting, and magic shows, 18th century musical entertainment, Voyageur canoe arrivals on the Ohio River front, and period craft makers demonstrating blacksmithing, basket-making, weaving, and other skills.

Admission to the encampment festival is free and parking is provided at the Old Fairgrounds adjacent to the park. Tram service will be provided and is accessible to visitors with disabilities. Fort Massac State Park is closed to public vehicle traffic during festival hours. The Fort Massac State Park boat ramp area will be closed from Friday afternoon, Oct. 14 through the end of the festival on Sun., Oct. 16.

Fort Massac State Park, which opened as Illinois’ first state park in 1908, is located on the Ohio River at 1308 East Fifth Street in Metropolis. For more information about the encampment and the park, contact the site office at 618/524-4712.

(Note: Due to ongoing structural issues, the reconstructed historic fort at Fort Massac State Park is not open to the public. The IDNR is working to restore the fort and apologizes for the inconvenience).

Has anyone ever heard of 'cooler corn'

RV Education 101 recently had this link on their Facebook page.

It's something called"cooler corn" and it's nothing more than putting shucked ears of corn into a clean cooler, then pouring boiling water on them, closing the lid and waiting 30 minutes.

Here's the link to the story:

Day Three of the Detroit Fall RV Show

I didn't make it to the show today, nor do I think I'll be able to get to the RV show anymore this weekend.

I would like to go everyday of the show, but to make a long story short, sometimes life gets in the way of what you want to do.

No matter, I took enough video and photos, and talked with enough people, that I have material for several blog posts in the coming days and weeks.

In the meantime, here's another photo from the show to whet your RV appetite.

Illinois landowners sought for new program to provide more access for Outdoor Recreation

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is looking for landowners interested in helping meet a longstanding request from outdoor recreation enthusiasts: “More places for outdoor recreation, please.”

“It’s a common request among Illinois citizens wanting more public access for hunting, fishing and various outdoor activities,” said IDNR Director Marc Miller. “Meeting the public’s demand for access to the outdoors is one of the major challenges faced by the IDNR, and it is the driving force behind our new Illinois Recreational Access Program.”

To help meet the need for more land for public recreation, IDNR has received a three-year federal grant through the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program from the U. S. Department of Agriculture to implement the new Illinois Recreational Access Program (IRAP).

The grant is being used to increase public outdoor recreational opportunities on private lands through incentive payments to eligible landowners. Leases up to three years are available for IRAP activities including youth spring turkey hunting, fishing (in ponds, rivers, and streams), non-motorized boat access on public waterways, birding, and outdoor photography. In addition, incentive payments will be made for habitat management plans written on IRAP-leased property and IDNR will help secure cost-share funding to implement habitat practices.

“Hunters and anglers are the primary funders of conservation, and one of greatest challenges to retaining and recruiting hunters is lack of access to land for hunting,” said Kent Adams, biologist for the Illinois chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. “Illinois provides fewer public land acres than most states, in a state with one of the largest populations in the country. Interest in spring turkey hunting is on the rise, and turkey hunting is a great way to introduce our youth to the hunting tradition."

Outdoor enthusiasts wanting to use IRAP-leased property will simply need to fill out an application and receive a permit. This will allow for semi-controlled access on these sites. For example, in order to manage a pond for fishing, catch limits will be established to provide opportunity while guarding against over-fishing. For the youth turkey hunting component of IRAP, hunters will need to request a county or two in which they would like to hunt wild turkeys when filling out their application. They will then be assigned a county and specific location to hunt.

“We want to make the Illinois Recreational Access Program safe for all involved – the landowner,
hunter, fisherman, birder and the habitat,” said Tammy Miller, IDNR IRAP manager.

“IRAP will provide parents and mentors with additional high-quality places to take their kids hunting,” Kent Adams said. “If anyone is interested in taking advantage of these newly accessible properties, but is not familiar with turkey hunting, I encourage them to contact their local NWTF chapter. Our chapter leaders will be happy to provide some basic knowledge and might even be willing to assist on a hunt.”

IDNR is partnering with several organizations, including the National Wild Turkey Federation, USDA Farm Service Agency, Northern Illinois Anglers Association, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Illinois Department of Agriculture, and Illinois Audubon Society, among others.

“Discovering nature is the first vital step for people to develop an appreciation and respect for our natural world,” said Tom Clay, executive director of Illinois Audubon. “In that spirit of nature discovery, the Illinois Audubon Society wholeheartedly supports Illinois’ new recreational access program. As a private landowner in a state that is over 90 percent privately owned, Illinois Audubon encourages landowners and outdoor enthusiasts to take advantage of this program.”

The IRAP will initially target private land, ponds and access to public rivers in the 68 counties within the Illinois and Kaskaskia River watershed basins. Sign-up for landowners is underway and will continue through October. Youth wanting to spring turkey hunt, or anyone wanting non-motorized boat access, a
place to fish or to partake in outdoor photography and birding should go online at or contact Tammy Miller, IRAP Manager, at or call (217)782-0137.

Second Day of the Detroit Fall RV Show

The Trilogy 5th Wheel, a prototype on display. I will have a
video tour of this impressive camper in the near future.
Once again, it's late at night and I'm finally able to get to my computer.

Like yesterday, I spent three hours after work at the Detroit Fall Camper & RV Show. This time I started in the opposite direction and spent some quality time with some very impressive RVs.

Again, I took a bunch of HD video and talked with many people, both RV salespeople as well as campground owners, DNR officials and other RV people. I will pour through all my video as soon as I can and start posting it here, but it's going to be a day or two before I can really get to it.

In the meantime, here's another photo and my thoughts from Day Two:
  • There was a moderate crowd during the time I was at the show today. It's only a weekday, but the show is competing against some extremely good weather (sunny and unseasonably warm) and the Detroit Tigers playoff game tonight against the Yankees (Tigers up 3-2 as I write this, with the Yankees still threatening in the 7th).
  • One of the new features that caught my eye was a refrigerator that was accessible from both inside and outside the RV. The refrigerator was on a swivel, so it could face the outside and an access door and then with a simple quarter turn it opened into the business end of the toy hauler it was in.
  • Another new feature, although it wasn't on display, was a patio accessory. It was on the Open Range models, and essentially it was a wall that stowed upright for travel, then folded down to become a patio. Supports kept it about 3 feet off the ground. An awning extended over the top, significantly adding to the feature's appeal when Mother Nature decided rain was necessary.