Make Your Own Snowshoes at Hartwick Pines State Park This Winter

Winter is fast-approaching, and so is your chance to build your own pair of wood-framed snowshoes. Hartwick Pines State Park near Grayling is hosting three, two-day snowshoe lacing workshops. The following workshops will be held at the Michigan Forest Visitor Center within the park.
  • Dec. 10 and 11: Registration deadline Dec. 2. 
  • Jan. 28 and 29: Registration deadline Jan. 20 
  • Feb. 25 and 26: Registration deadline Feb. 17 
Due to limited space, reservations are required. The total cost is $175. A $25 nonrefundable fee is required to secure your spot, with the remaining due at the workshop. For additional information and to have a registration packet sent to you, please call 989-348-2537 or email burgr@michigan.gov.

Two snowshoe styles are available. The Green Mountain Bearpaw, which measures 36 inches long by 10 inches wide, with no tail--will be made at the December and January workshops. The Ojibwa Snowshoe, which measures 54 inches long and 11 inches wide, canoe shaped with a pointed upturned toe--will be laced at the February workshop.

While building your shoes, participants will learn about the history of snowshoes, their use and why they are a popular pastime in Michigan. Participants also will receive detailed instructions to finish their shoes if they are not completed at the class. The workshops are very informal. Wear comfortable clothes and bring a sack lunch. The park will provide a variety of hot beverages and bottled water.

Future programs at Hartwick Pines State Park include cross country skiing by lantern light on Jan. 14 and 28, and Feb. 11 and 25, and several snowshoe hikes from Dec. 29 to March 3.

Volunteers Needed for Stewardship Workdays in Southeastern Michigan in December

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources today announced the schedule of volunteer stewardship workdays to be held throughout December in southeastern Michigan state parks and recreation areas.

Volunteers are needed to help cut invasive shrubs in natural areas within state parks and recreation areas. This activity will help protect and restore the unique natural areas in these Southeastern Michigan state parks and improve habitat for special fauna and flora. Volunteering for these workdays is a great way to GO-Get Outdoors and get a bit of exercise before the holidays.

Dates, times and locations of the workdays are as follows:
  • Saturday, Dec. 3 Algonac State Park (St. Clair County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Sunday, Dec. 4 Brighton Recreation Area (Livingston County), 1 to 4 p.m.
  • Saturday, Dec. 10 Highland Recreation Area (Oakland County), 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Saturday, Dec. 10 Island Lake Recreation Area (Livingston County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Sunday, Dec. 11 Pinckney Recreation Area (Washtenaw County), 1 to 4 p.m.

Volunteers should wear appropriate clothing for outdoor work, including long pants, boots, gloves, and drinking water. Waterproof boots, either knee-high rubber boots or hip waders, are recommended for fen and other wetland sites. A limited number of waterproof boots are available to borrow upon request.

For information about the specific tasks at each workday and to obtain directions, visit the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/dnrvolunteers and link to the “Calendar of Volunteer Stewardship Workdays.” All volunteers are asked to register using the form available on the website. Any questions should be directed to Laurel Malvitz-Draper at 248-359-9057 or malvitzl@michigan.gov.

More good information on Winterizing your RV

Here's one of the better Winterizing your RV instructions I've come across.

The information is a blog post written by Professor95 from the Woodall's Family Camping blog site. Of course, being from Woodall's, I guess I'd expect nothing less than some pretty darn good RVing information.

It includes some things I hadn't heard of doing, but make perfect sense. And, now that I know about removing all paper products (toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, tissues, etc.), I will head back to my already-winterized camper and go get those mice-loving home building materials.

Some of the other good bits of winterizing tips include:
  • Remove LCD televisions.
  • After draining your water heater tank, inspect the anode rod. It very well could need replacing.
  • Cover the tongue jack and spray the coupler and stabilizer jacks with WD-40.

There's much more good information on their blog post, so I encourage you to check it out.

Celebrate the holiday season at The Peninsula Chicago

The holidays are nothing short of spectacular at The Peninsula Chicago, with The Peninsula Hotels’ “Trees of Hope,” seasonal décor, “Fashion Afternoon Teas”, joyful celebrations and visits from Santa, all providing the perfect backdrop for this festive season.

Holiday Packages 
Midwestern Winter Retreats: 
The Peninsula Chicago invites guests to escape the cold with Midwestern Winter Retreat packages, offering room rates from US$ 360 plus a host of other value-added benefits that can be tailored to individual guests’ desires. A Lucky Draw at check-in provides guests the opportunity to win one of several fabulous prizes to enjoy during their stay. The Winter Retreats provide the perfect opportunity for a family trip, romantic couple’s escape or a girlfriend getaway, and are based on a two-night minimum stay, valid from December 11, 2011 through March 31, 2012. In addition to the inviting room rate, guests have the choice of several value-added benefits depending on the type of retreat they reserve.

Lucky Draw and Prizes 
Guests who reserve one of the Midwestern Winter Retreats also receive one Lucky Draw at check-in for a chance to win an exciting prize, redeemable during their stay:
  • dinner for two in The Lobby 
  • upgrade to next available room category
    three hours in a chauffeured MINI Cooper 
  • Peninsula leather portfolio 
  • complimentary 60-minute massage 
  • complimentary overnight stay in a Deluxe Suite (for future stay)
Family Retreat Benefits 
This winter, families can discover their next adventure at The Peninsula Chicago with the Family Retreat, which includes:
  • daily Continental breakfast for two from The Lobby or Room Service 
  • complimentary dining for children 12 years and under from the children’s menu in The Lobby and from Room Service 
  • complimentary overnight valet parking for one vehicle 
  • complimentary movie through the hotel’s entertainment system 
  • a children’s welcome amenity 
  • Lucky draw at check-in
Room Type 
Deluxe Room - $360
Grand Deluxe Room - $400
Executive Suite - $510
Junior Suite - $560
Deluxe Suite - $720

Couple’s or Girlfriend Retreat Benefits
Those looking for an escape for two can indulge in either a Couple’s or Girlfriend Retreat, which includes the following benefits:
  • upgrade to next room category at time of booking 
  • 30% off spa services (excluding manicures and spa products) 
  • daily Continental breakfast for two from The Lobby or Room Service 
  • complimentary overnight valet parking for one vehicle 
  • lucky draw at check-in

Room Type Reserved - Room Type with Upgrade - Rate
Deluxe Room - Grand Deluxe Room - $360
Grand Deluxe Room - Executive Suite - $400
Executive Suite - Junior Suite - $510
Junior Suite - Deluxe Suite - $560

Winter Escapes
Guests interested in celebrating with a getaway or looking to take advantage of Chicago’s holiday shopping can enjoy rates from $425 per room per night, plus tax with The Peninsula’s “Winter Escapes” promotion. This package includes a choice of one of the following items one time during the guest’s stay: a $100 dining credit, a $100 spa credit or a confirmed upgrade to the next available room category. Winter Escapes also includes daily continental breakfast for two and offers complimentary local calls and in-room wired and wireless broadband Internet access. This package is valid from December 19, 2011 until March 31, 2012.

Guests can pair any of The Peninsula’s holiday festivities with an overnight stay to create a fabulous package to enjoy or gift to someone special. Seasonal room-only rates start at US$ 395 per room per night, plus tax. Reservations for The Peninsula Chicago can be made directly at (1-312) 573 6620, toll-free at (1-866) 288 8889 or by e-mail at reservationspch@peninsula.com.

The Peninsula Holiday Desk 
Let the experts at The Peninsula Chicago assist with holiday plans or in choosing the perfect gift. Nothing surpasses the gift of a Peninsula experience. Gift Certificates are easy to customize by calling or visiting The Peninsula Holiday Desk, located adjacent to the Main Reception Desk on The Lobby Level.

Holiday Desk Hours: 
  • December 5 to December 24, 2011 
  • Monday to Friday: 11:00 am to 7:00 pm 
  • Saturday: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm 
  • Sunday: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm 
  • The Peninsula Holiday Desk direct telephone: (1-312) 573 6985

The Peninsula Hotel’s “Trees of Hope” 
Celebrate ‘the season of giving’ by decorating The Peninsula Chicago’s “Trees of Hope” with a special holiday ornament. Ornaments are available with a donation at US$ 15 each from the Holiday Desk, located on The Lobby Level. Participants may show their support writing their name and a message on their ornament and hanging on one of the trees, with all proceeds donated to The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Illinois.

Peninsula Peter Bear is coming to Town! 
Guests of The Peninsula might just witness a visit from Peter Bear this season! Sightings of Peter Bear have happen at various times and places in the hotel, including Afternoon Tea, Sunday Brunch, The Spa and even visits to guests’ rooms. Guests with children spending the night at the hotel on Friday or Saturday are invited to request an afternoon visit from Peter Bear upon check-in.

The Peninsula Spa by ESPA 
ESPA recently introduced a complete product-line make-over with updated formulas, now average over 99% natural ingredients to ensure each product is as efficacious, luxurious and natural as possible. The Peninsula Spa by ESPA celebrates the launch with a host of irresistible holiday specials.

About The Peninsula Chicago 
The Peninsula Chicago was named the Number One Large City Hotel in the US and Canada by Travel + Leisure’s Reader’s Survey, August 2011 and Number Two Hotel in the United States in Condé Nast Traveler’s annual Reader’s Choice Awards, November 2010. The hotel is located on the “Magnificent Mile” at 108 East Superior Street (at Michigan Avenue), within the city’s premier shopping district. The 339 guestroom hotel opened in 2001 and features three distinctive restaurants, a popular bar and a world-class spa. For information on The Peninsula Chicago, please visit www.peninsula.com/chicago.

Michigan DNR purchases 2,354 acres for $2.5 million to create the Menominee River State Recreation Area

Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Rodney Stokes has authorized the Department to proceed with purchasing 2,354 acres in Menominee and Dickinson counties in the Upper Peninsula to create the Menominee River State Recreation Area. The DNR will purchase the land for $2,534,400 in funding from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and DNR Land Exchange Facilitation Fund. The land is currently owned by Wisconsin Electric Power Company.

The acreage includes two separate tracts – Piers Gorge and Quiver Falls. Piers Gorge is located one mile south of the community of Norway, and includes 145.35 acres of land and 1.5 miles of access along the Menominee River. The acreage includes whitewater rapids and waterfalls, and contains some of the fastest-moving water in Michigan or Wisconsin. It is not navigable for general canoeing, but has become a popular destination for expert class kayakers seeking challenging Class IV whitewater. The parcel also contains good wildlife viewing opportunities for eagles, osprey and waterfowl, as well as public fishing access.

Quiver Falls is eight miles south of Piers Gorge and contains 2,208.83 acres of land and provides eight miles of access along the Menominee River. It is adjacent to the existing Menominee River Natural Resource Area, a 4,450-acre tract along five miles of the Menominee River managed by both the Michigan and Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources.

The Quiver Falls parcel contains river frontage on both sides of the Menominee River, scenic rocky gorges with significant drops in the river and waterfalls. The area is popular with hunters and anglers, as well visitors because of the scenic sightseeing opportunities.

“This acquisition will give the Michigan Department of Natural Resources a unique opportunity to co-manage this area with our counterparts in Wisconsin,” said Ron Olson, chief of the Michigan DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division. “This would be our first jointly operated public recreation area and river corridor park, and would protect and make open to the public more than 5,000 acres along the Menominee River. The tourism potential of this project is enormous.”

Ohio Tourism Premieres Scene in Ohio Website

Fountain Square, as seen
in "Ides of March"
The Ohio Tourism Division today debuted Scene in Ohio, a new website created to showcase Ohio attractions, restaurants and destinations that have been featured in movies and on television.

"Our goal for Scene in Ohio is to capitalize on the travel motivating factors of mainstream media," said State Tourism Director Amir Eylon. "Perhaps more than ever before, travelers are visiting places they have learned about from their favorite television shows and movies. Scene in Ohio makes it easy to find those places along with other nearby sites to encourage a longer getaway."

In addition to helping travelers find their favorite Scene in Ohio places, the website was designed to give users an interactive experience. For example, the site is kicking off with a little more than 50 locations to encourage Scene in Ohio users to help build the site. Listings also pull photos and videos from social media networks, show Yelp consumer reviews for applicable locations, and offer social media sharing capabilities.

The new Scene in Ohio website features:
Locations - At the heart of the website is an extensive list of locations searchable by category (movie, television, and food), keyword and zip code; photos and videos from social media channels; Google maps; and Yelp reviews where available. The map feature also shows users the locations of other nearby Scene in Ohio sites.
On-Screen Ohioans - A brief highlight of stars born in Ohio or with strong Buckeye connections. Each On-Screen Ohioan listing includes an overview of the star's career and Ohio connection, an interesting factoid and a link to their profile on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).
Did You Know? - Fascinating facts about Ohio film and television locations, sitcoms set in Ohio cities and Ohioans who have found fame on television.
Itineraries - In addition to sample itineraries for movie buffs, foodies and more, visitors can build and share their own Ohio itineraries.
Tell Us More - An opportunity for Ohioans and visitors alike to share additional movie, television and restaurant sites that may be added to Scene in Ohio.

Scene in Ohio includes sites and experiences of all sizes located across the state ranging from the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield ("Shawshank Redemption") to Cincinnati's Fountain Square ("Ides of March") and from Thurman Café in Columbus ("Man v. Food") to Wendy Kromer Confections and City Bake Shop in Sandusky ("The Martha Stewart Show").

HUGE Black Friday sale from Woodall's through Nov. 28

Woodall's is having one heck of a Black Friday sale!

First off, shipping is only 99 cents!

Secondly, they're discounting up to 65% on 18 different 2012 books and directories -- including the "Woodall's RV Owner's Handbook (4th Edition)" for only $8.00!

Hurry! The sale ends Nov. 28.


Click here to go directly to the Black Friday page on their website.

Here's the rundown of what's on sale:
  • 2012 North American Campground Directory (Regular Price: $25.95) Sale Price: $14.95 
  • 2012 North American Campground Directory (2 pack) ($51.90) $29.90 
  • 2012 Eastern Campground Directory ($17.95) $9.95
  • 2012 Western Campground Directory ($17.95) $9.95 
  • 2012 Eastern & Western Campground Directory Set ($35.90) $18.90 
  • 2012 Canada Campground Guide ($10.95) $4.95 
  • 2012 Far West Campground Guide ($10.95) $4.95 
  • 2012 Frontier West/Great Plains & Mountain States Campground Guide ($10.95) $4.95 
  • 2012 Great Lakes Campground Guide ($10.95) $4.95 
  • 2012 Mid-Atlantic Campground Guide ($10.95) $4.95 
  • 2012 New York/New England & Eastern Canada Campground Guide ($10.95) $4.95 
  • Camping and RVing with Dogs ($21.95) $8.50 
  • Cooking on the Road with Celebrity Chefs ($19.95) $8.50 
  • Woodall's Campsite Cookbook ($8.95) $4.95 
  • Woodall's RV Owner's Handbook, 4th Edition ($24.95) $8.00 
  • Woodall’s North American Atlas ($15.95) $7.50 
  • 2012 The South Campground Guide ($10.95) $4.95 
  • 2012 The South Campground Guide ($10.95) $4.95

Go on the Prowl for Owls During Nature Hikes at Five Michigan State Parks

Have you ever heard a real owl hoot or seen one up close? If not, the Department of Natural Resources has the nature hike for you. Join one of the Owl Prowls taking place at five Michigan state parks at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3. The locations include: Maybury State Park in Northville, Brighton Recreation Area in Brighton, Eddy Discovery Center at Waterloo Recreation Area in Chelsea, Hayes State Park in Onsted and Sleepy Hollow State Park in Laingsburg.

Join a park naturalist for a 30-45 minute walk through the woods. Listen as the owls are called and see if they respond. See if you can spot some on their perches. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather. After the program, a bonfire with a marshmallow roast will take place at all the parks with the exception of the Eddy Discovery Center at Waterloo.

The Owl Prowls will meet at various locations within the parks that, in some cases, might be more easily accessed by roads other than the park’s main entrance:

  • Maybury Owl Prowl, which is sponsored by the Friends of Maybury, will take place at the concession building off the 8 Mile Road entrance just west of Beck Road.
  • The Brighton event will meet at the Sandhill Shelter at the Bishop Lake Day Use Area. ·The Waterloo Owl Prowl will begin at the Eddy Discovery Center.
  • Hayes State Park will hold the event at the Activities Area in the campground.
  • The Sleepy Hollow group will meet at the East Picnic Area.

All the events will take place rain or shine. Bring something to drink, a roasting stick if you have one and a great outdoor or nature story to share. Pre-registration is not required. For details, call 734-787-0062 or email ballt4@michigan.gov.

VIDEO: Montana Owner's Club Rally took a field trip to the factory


Here's a neat little video of the Montana Owner's Club Rally who share their enjoyment of owning a Montana. The video includes the rally's trip to a Factory Tour, Ladies driving school, rally friendship. Enjoy the video, then check out the new Montana 5th wheels at http://www.keystone-montana.com. See why Montana is the top selling Fifth Wheel for 10 consecutive years.

Ludington State Park Offering Snowshoe-Making Classes in December

Ludington State Park in Michigan's Mason County is offering two GO-Get Outdoors Snowshoe Making classes in December. Participants will learn how to weave a pair of traditional wooden snowshoes similar to the ones Native Americans have been making for generations. Classes will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 4 and Sunday, Dec. 18 at the park, located at 8800 W. M-116 in Ludington. 

The cost for making a pair of snowshoes is $180 and includes the pre-formed wooden frames, lacings, high-quality bindings and personal instruction. These hand-made snowshoes can be used for hiking throughout the winter, given as holiday gifts or used as home décor.

Classes will be held at the park’s Warming Shelter. Instruction is geared for ages 16 and older. Class size is limited to a maximum of 10 participants, and reservations are required. To make a reservation, call Ludington State Park, 231-843-9261, or email Alan Wernette at wernettea@michigan.gov.  

'Discovery Weekend' Jan. 27-29 Offers women an opportunity to explore Ice Fishing, Snowshoeing and More

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will offer a “Winter Discovery Weekend” – designed to give women an opportunity to try a variety of outdoor skills in a fun, safe and non-competitive environment – Jan. 27-29 at the Ralph A. MacMullan Conference Center in Roscommon. The event is part of the DNR's Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) program, and classes are geared toward beginners, with no skill level required.

Participants choose three classes from among several topics offered, including ice fishing, self-defense basics, wilderness first aid, snowshoeing, hiking, turkey and duck hunting and basic pistol shooting.

Guests should plan to arrive Friday evening between 4 and 9 p.m. On Saturday, guests participate in morning and afternoon classes (three hours each) with breakfast, lunch and dinner provided as part of the paid package. All sessions are taught by experienced volunteer instructors who enjoy the outdoors and have a true desire to share it with others.

The Ralph A. MacMullan Conference Center is located on the north shore of Higgins Lake at 104 Conservation Dr. in Roscommon. The registration fee is $225 and includes two nights of lodging, four meals, all instruction and materials. Registration deadline is Jan. 12.

For registration forms and information on this and other BOW programs, visit www.michigan.gov/bow, call 517-241-2225 or email dnr-outdoors-woman@michigan.gov.

BOW is a noncompetitive program in which each individual is encouraged to learn at her own pace. The emphasis is on the enjoyment, fun and camaraderie of outdoor activities, and sharing in the success of one another.

Funjet Vacations and Sandals Resorts offer 30th anniversary vacation giveaway

Giveaway includes 3-night all-inclusive vacation for two

Funjet Vacations and Sandals Resorts announce a vacation giveaway in celebration of Sandals’ 30th anniversary. Enter for a chance to win by visiting www.Funjet.com/SandalsContest between Friday, Nov. 18 – Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011. The winner will be announced on Monday, Nov. 28.

The Sandals 30th anniversary winner will receive a 3-night and 4-day stay for two at the Sandals Resort of their choice in Jamaica*, including round trip airfare. Resorts include Sandals Montego Bay, Sandals Royal Caribbean, Sandals Carlyle, Sandals Negril, Sandals Grande Riviera and Sandals Whitehouse. The winning couple will experience Sandals’ Luxury Included® amenities, with up to 15 dining options, unlimited land and water activities, premium brand beverages and more.

Sandals Resorts was founded in 1981, when Sandals Montego Bay opened in Jamaica. Since then, Sandals Resorts have led the way in the all-inclusive industry. Sandals boasts more quality inclusions than other resorts, from an Emmy®-award winning “culinary ambassador” to watersports and SCUBA diving.

Funjet Vacations, a leading provider of vacation packages, brings together the best customer care and personalized vacations, also offering tours and add-on options for vacations tailored to each individual or group.

To learn about Funjet Vacations’ exclusive products and deals, visit www.Funjet.com, call 1-800-4FUNJET or work with your professional travel agent.

*Excluding Sandals Royal Plantation

About Funjet Vacations 
Funjet Vacations is the flagship brand of the family-owned Mark Travel Corporation, headquartered in Milwaukee. Funjet Vacations is celebrating 37 years of business and specializes in providing customers with vacation packages that meet their needs, delivered with unparalleled customer care and at an exceptional value. Individual and group Funjet vacations are via nonstop charters and scheduled airlines to hundreds of destinations including Mexico, the Caribbean, Las Vegas, Hawaii, California, Florida, Asia and Europe. Travelers can choose from air-inclusive, hotel-only or air-only vacations and add tours, attractions, shows and more to their vacation packages to “Do Something They’ll Never Forget.”

Michigan DNR names Ed Golder as Public Information Officer

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently announced Ed Golder would take over as the agency’s public information officer, effective Dec. 11, 2011.

Golder joins the DNR following a 25-year career at The Grand Rapids Press, where he reported, wrote and helped shape editorial positions on a broad range of local, state and national policy issues; helped create new media content for the www.MLive.com website, including videos and podcasts; and, most recently, served as editorial page editor.

“We are thrilled to have Ed bring his media expertise, insight and enthusiasm to the Department of Natural Resources,” said DNR Director Rodney Stokes.

“We’re working hard to connect more residents and visitors with the beauty of Michigan’s natural resources and the fun and enjoyment of outdoor recreation,” Stokes said. “Ed is going to play a key role in helping us tell our story.”

Golder has collected several industry awards for his investigative reporting, writing and editorial page work. In 2010, Golder’s editorial writing was recognized by the Michigan Press Association with a first-place award.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from The Catholic University of America and a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University.

Golder grew up in Big Rapids, Mich. He and his wife, Lisa, have four children. They live in Grand Rapids and enjoy hiking, camping and boating.

VIDEO: Winterizing the Camper


So the camper is winterized for the season. It, as always, is bittersweet.

On one hand, it's good to have that chore done. I take great satisfaction of keeping up on the maintenance of our camper. I always tell people buying the RV was my mid-life crisis. And I'm only half-joking when I say that. Besides being our cottage-on-wheels, the camper has been a great project for me to tinker with. Making modifications is only part of it. It's the whole idea of seeking out new destinations, and then a campground nearby, is half the fun. Then planning the menu; there's a lot of thought that goes into that! Even this blog is part of the adventure of RVing.

But, on the other hand, winterizing the camper only reminds me of how little we went camping this summer. In fact, we only camped twice. It's not that we didn't want to camp more often, we simply were too busy. Both boys played baseball from early April through most of July. That basically ate up every single weekend.Plus, my daughter, who's in high school and active in musicals, took part in a production of Godspell this summer as well. Not to mention three weddings and assorted other things that always seem to come up. Long story short, we were busy.

Next summer will be more of the same, I'm sure. We'll try to get out more often, and God willing we will. And if we do, then I'm glad I spent the last couple of Saturdays winterizing the camper.

By the way, if you'd like a comprehensive resource for winterizing your RV, consider the "Winterizing & Storing your RV" ebook by RV Education 101. It has a list of supplies needed and the steps to take for you to complete the project. Plus, being an ebook, it's downloaded instantly to your computer after you complete the transaction. No waiting, and no shipping and handling charges! Just click on the link and scroll down until you see the "Winterizing & Storing your RV" ebook!

VIDEO: Setting up a Flagstaff Classic Popup Camper


Here's a neat little video from Flagstaff on how to set up a camping trailer. We were in the market for a popup when we first decided to buy an RV. At the time, our tow vehicle was minivan. It was factory-equipped for towing, but its maximum tow capacity was only 3,500 pounds. We ended up finding a Trail Lite Bantam that met the weight limit, but I often wonder what it would have been like if we had ended up with a popup.

Michigan Benefits from Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Grants

Over $1.5 million in grants awarded to local communities and organizations

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) today announced more than $1.5 million in grants to local communities and organizations through the USDA Forest Service Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). More than $3.7 million was awarded to seven Great Lakes states, with Michigan receiving the highest amount.

These projects are submitted by the state forester, who works closely with each organization and local unit of government to ensure that projects proposed are beneficial to the state of Michigan and fit the guidelines for the program.

“The health of Michigan’s forests depends on these types of programs and funding,” said Lynne Boyd, chief of the DNR’s Forest Management Division. “We are excited, once again, to help make Michigan a leader in the Great Lakes region on reforestation and redevelopment.”

The GLRI Action Plan calls for aggressive efforts to address the following five urgent priority focus areas: 1) Cleaning up toxics and toxic hot spot areas of concern; 2) Combating invasive species; 3) Promoting near-shore health by protecting watersheds from polluted runoff; 4) Restoring wetlands and other habitats; and 5) Tracking progress, education and working with strategic partners.

Genesee Conservation District
Restoration of Flint’s urban forest and street trees
$60,658
Alliance of Rouge Communities
Restoring community trees in an urban watershed
$374,980
Calhoun Conservation District
Calhoun forest restoration to promote water quality and wildlife habitat
$99,690
City of Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids Emerald Ash Borer recovery project
$210,000
Delta Institute
Poplar tree farms for reducing toxics in brownfield sites while supporting community economic development
$203,733
Greening of Detroit
Detroit’s dendroremediation model project
$473,020
Downriver Community Conference
Forest restoration and green infrastructure development at the Refuge Gateway – a brownfield site in the Detroit River Area of Concern (AOC)
$113,700

Michigan DNR awards nearly $600,000 in Recreation Passport Grants to local communities for park improvements

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources today announced that 24 community park and recreation facilities across the state will share nearly $600,000 in grants generated by the successful first year of the DNR’s Recreation Passport. In October 2010, the Recreation Passport replaced motor vehicle permits for entry into Michigan state parks, recreation areas and state-administered boat launches.

Grants have been awarded to Arcadia Township, Belvidere Township, Coldsprings Township, Detroit,  East Lansing, Eaton Rapids, Escanaba Township, Flushing Township, Grand Rapids(2), Ironwood, Marshall, Mount Pleasant, Norwood Township, Owosso, Portage Township(3)*, Riverview, Sherman Township, Springport Village, Sturgis, Three Rivers and Unadilla Township. (*Portage Township in Mackinac County received two grants; Portage Township in Houghton County received one grant.)

The full list of award recipients, grant amounts and descriptions of their projects is available at www.michigan.gov/dnr-grants.

The cities, counties and townships selected to receive a Recreation Passport grant clearly demonstrated projects that are designed to provide better public outdoor recreation opportunities or facilities and infrastructure plans that support public outdoor recreation activity. The winning entries were chosen from a field of 50 grant applications seeking some $1.2 million in funding.

“Healthy families and vibrant communities are essential to Michigan’s future,” Governor Rick Snyder said. “These grants help to provide residents with more opportunities to stay active while enjoying the outdoors. They also make communities more desirable places for families to live, work and play. This program is a great example of a state and local partnership that enhances the overall quality of life that we all enjoy.”

Recreation Passport grant applicants sought funding for a broad range of public recreation projects, including playground equipment, picnic tables and shelters, renovation of bathroom facilities, tennis and basketball courts, skate parks and improved access for those with disabilities.

“One of our department’s biggest priorities is to get more people outside more often, enjoying the many natural resources and outdoor recreation opportunities available in Michigan,” said DNR Director Rodney Stokes. “Through the Recreation Passport grant, we’re able to help make some good things happen at the local level – and, for many folks, that means wider accessibility to better resources right in their own neighborhoods.”

Recreation Passport grants range from a minimum of $7,500 to a maximum of $30,000. The DNR expects that, in future years, the maximum grant amount will increase as revenue from sales of the Recreation Passport also increases.

Application materials for future Recreation Passport Grants are available at www.michigan.gov/dnr-grants. Interested individuals also may call Grants Management at 517-373-9125 or write to: Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Grants Management, P.O. Box 30425, Lansing, MI 48909-7925.

The Recreation Passport program, which is coordinated in conjunction with the Secretary of State’s office, allows Michigan residents the option of paying an additional $10 per car or $5 per motorcycle when renewing a vehicle registration each year. The Passport, symbolized by the letter “P” printed on the renewal sticker, entitles that vehicle to access all state-run park facilities for the year the sticker is valid. Learn more about the Passport at www.michigan.gov/recreationpassport or 517-241-7275.

Traverse City's Old Mission Peninsula for History Buffs

By MIKE NORTON
Of the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau


Old Mission Peninsula
The Old Mission General Store
Ready for a lovely drive? Then it’s time to explore the Old Mission Peninsula, where the history of this region really began. Head east on M-37 and follow it when it turns north; you’ll be driving along the spine of this narrow glacial peninsula that separates the east and west arms of Grand Traverse Bay. Once you leave the shoreline with its elegant homes and cottages, you enter a zone of fruit orchards and vineyards – a reminder that this is also the birthplace of Traverse City’s famous fruit-growing industry.

Tucked into a secluded harbor 18 miles from Traverse City, the village of Old Mission seems frozen in time. It was founded in 1839 as a joint venture by leaders of the local Ottawa Indian tribe and a wiry Presbyterian minister named Peter Dougherty, and was a kind of social experiment: a small colony of teachers, artisans and farmers – Indians and non-Indians alike – who lived and worked side by side in this idyllic spot at the water’s edge. Some of its original structures are still standing (including the broad frame mission house built by Dougherty and his Indian neighbors in 1842) and have the look and feel of museum pieces -- except that they’re still being used.

A glimpse into the past -- and penny candy -- at the Old Mission General Store
From the eclectic Old Mission General Store, which sells everything from ice cream cones to coonskin caps, visitors can stroll down Mission Road past Dougherty’s mission headquarters and the village schoolhouse (now a private residence) to the trim Old Mission Inn, the oldest continuously-operated hotel in the region. Owners Bruce and Angie Jensen have done extensive research on the history of the 1839 hotel, and love to share their knowledge with visitors. Just north of the inn is the village’s New England-style congregational church with its tall white spire, and the broad white beach where the intrepid Dougherty first stepped ashore.

Three miles to the north you’ll find the Old Mission Lighthouse, built in 1870 to warn ships away from the rocky shoals of Old Mission Point. The simple frame structure sits on a low bluff above a wide public beach, where a sign informs visitors that they’re standing on the 45th Parallel, exactly halfway between the equator and the North Pole. The lighthouse is open for tours, and is surrounded by acres of public shoreline with miles of trails for hiking, cycling and cross-country skiing.

To learn more about the history of Traverse City, and for help with lodging, dining and other year-round fun, call the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-TRAVERSE or visit their Web site at http://www.traversecity.com/

Beyond the Beach: Traverse City for History Buffs

The ornate 32-room mansion of lumber baron Perry Hannah
is one of the highlights of Traverse City's "Silk Stocking Row."
Courtesy of MIKE NORTON
Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau


TRAVERSE CITY, MI – For years, visitors have been drawn to Traverse City by its dramatic natural beauty and its reputation as a four-season staging area for outdoor adventure. But there’s more to this place than scenery.

In fact, Traverse City has a brief but dramatic past – a story in which Native Americans and missionaries, lumberjacks and fur traders, fishermen and farmers all played important roles. All of them left their imprints on the landscape: lonely lighthouses and humble mission churches, grand old hotels, quaint summer colonies and the palatial homes of lumber barons.

Fortunately, many of these sites can easily be visited on a brief walking tour (it’s a pretty small town) while others are only a short scenic drive away. Here’s a brief guide to some of the best:

The perfect place to start your journey is on Sixth Street in Traverse City’s historic Central Neighborhood. Here, housed in the city’s former 1903 Carnegie Library building, you’ll find the History Center of Traverse City, where you can get a quick overview of the places you’ll be visiting during the day. The center has several fine museum exhibits highlighting different aspects of Traverse City history. (Check and see if you’ll be around for the walking tours they do of the city’s more famous sites.)

As it happens, the History Center is located at the eastern end of what was once known as “Silk Stocking Row,” where the ornate homes of 19th century lumber barons stand above the Boardman River. (You can pick up an excellent self-guided walking tour of the neighborhood at the center; it makes for fascinating reading.) But the biggest of them all is the four-story 32-room house built by Traverse City’s founder, Perry Hannah. It’s a true showcase, with its beveled Tiffany doors, copper-clad turrets and intricate wood paneling. (A different wood was used in almost every room -- appropriately enough for a man whose fortune came from the forest.) Today, it’s the Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home.

Hannah was a young businessman in 1851 when he sailed into Grand Traverse Bay and bought 200 acres of woodlands along the shore – the future site of Traverse City -- for $4,500. Over the next half-century he and his partner, Tracy Lay, created an empire of sawmills, sailing ships and steamships, a bank, and one of the largest department stores in the north. Much of that building, once known simply as “The Big Store” can be seen if you head north along Union Street, crossing the Boardman River (where thousands of logs once floated on their way to Hannah’s sawmills and ships) until you get to Front Street. The big brick building on the northeast corner, built in 1863, is only half as large as it used to be – it once stretched for two blocks.

Across the street you’ll see the red brick façade of the handsome second-story City Opera House, a source of community pride since its construction in 1891. The first building in Traverse City to install electric lights, the Opera House hosted plays, lectures, meetings, balls, concerts and vaudeville acts before closing in 1920. After years of neglect, it has been restored to its former splendor, at a cost of some $9 million, and is now used for a variety of community meetings, dances and performance events in affiliation with Michigan State University’s Wharton Center.

Continuing east on Front Street, you might get the idea that you’ve moved back in time to the early years of the 20th century, when most of these storefronts and office buildings were constructed. In fact, many were painstakingly restored fairly recently, as local residents began to increasingly appreciate the architecture of the past.

The city was less concerned about the fate of its industrial waterfront, which is entirely gone now. This once-sprawling port of busy wharves, warehouses and factories is now a pastoral landscape of parks, beaches and marinas. Fortunately, you can get a sense of what it once looked like as you stroll along the Traverse Area Recreational Trail, where the local historical society has placed a series of 14 historical markers with photographs and text explaining the significance of each site.

Leaving the trail at Division Street and heading south will take you through one of the most interesting parts of Traverse City. In the city’s early years, this area was occupied by the millwrights and woodworkers who labored in the sawmills along the waterfront. Originally known as “Baghdad” (presumably because the first homes here were tents) it was later called “Little Bohemia” because so many of its residents were from that part of Europe. But the most colorful nickname is the one that eventually stuck; today this neighborhood is known as “Slabtown” – a reference to the fact that many of the homes were built with slabs of scrap wood salvaged from the mills.

The best place to sample Slabtown’s charm is at Sleder’s Family Tavern on Randolph Street. Cutline: Built in 1882 as a social club for the Bohemian woodworkers, it’s still a favorite local watering hole. Patrons can still belly up to the original carved mahogany bar amid a menagerie of stuffed animal heads, including a famous moose named Randolph.

Continue south on the west side of Division will bring you to Traverse City’s most distinctive architectural treasure, the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. In 1885, Traverse City was selected to be the site of the Northern Michigan Asylum, a hospital dedicated to the idea that fresh air and beautiful surroundings could ease the suffering of the mentally ill. The hospital closed in 1989, but its extensive forested grounds and stately castle-like buildings have been preserved and are being transformed into a complex of shops, restaurants, offices and apartments that has become one of the city’s most appealing attractions.

To learn more about the history of Traverse City, and for help with lodging, dining and other year-round fun, call the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-TRAVERSE or visit their Web site at http://www.traversecity.com/

Make Your Own Snowshoes during Sleepy Hollow State Park’s 'Recreation 101' events

Get in step with one of winter’s hottest recreational activities while experiencing the fun and satisfaction of building your own pair of snowshoes. Sleepy Hollow State Park in Clinton County, Michigan will offer three opportunities to take part in Snowshoe Building Workshops this season taught by Clyde Risdon of Risdon Rigs. 

The two-day workshops are scheduled from 5 to 9 p.m. on Fridays, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. The workshops will be held on Dec. 2 and 3; Jan. 20 and 21; Feb. 3 and 4 at park headquarters, located at 7835 East Price Rd. in Laingsburg.

Risdon designs and builds premier quality dogsled equipment and custom snowshoes. His company’s sleds have been used in major dogsled events, including the legendary Iditarod race. During each snowshoe workshop, Risdon will teach students how to weave one of two traditional wooden snowshoe designs. The class fee of $170, payable to Risdon Rigs, covers supplies, materials and equipment to make one pair of snowshoes.

The Snowshoe Building Workshop, which is part of the DNR’s ongoing Recreation 101 program, is recommended for participants ages 16 or older. Class size is limited. For reservations, contact Sleepy Hollow State Park at 517-651-6217 or email machowiczt@michigan.gov. The park is located near Exit 91 off US-127, 20 miles north of Lansing. 

For more information about this event, the park, accessibility, or persons needing accommodations to attend this event contact Sleepy Hollow State Park (TTY/TDD711 Michigan Relay Center for the hearing impaired) or visit www.michigan.gov/dnr.

Illinois Hunters Asked to Report Sightings of Feral Swine


Population threatens wildlife and domestic livestock, damage to land, water and habitat

SPRINGFIELD– The Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are enlisting the help of Illinois hunters in efforts to track feral swine and assist in slowing the population and expanding range of the invasive animals in the state.

Feral swine – often referred to as feral hogs and wild pigs – are defined as free-ranging animals that are not under domestic livestock confinement. They are an invasive species competing with native wildlife for food resources and damaging soil through their rooting and feeding activities, increasing soil erosion and damaging crops, plants and water quality. Feral swine also are known to carry at least 30 diseases that pose serious implications for people, pets, wildlife and livestock.

“We are encouraging Illinois hunters – especially the thousands of Illinois firearm deer hunters who will be in the field in coming weeks – to be on the lookout for feral swine and report any sightings to us,” said Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Director Marc Miller. “The dangers of disease, costly damage to the land, and negative impacts to wildlife from the further spread of feral swine in Illinois are significant.”

Hunters, landowners, and others who see feral swine in Illinois are asked to report the sightings to the IDNR Division of Wildlife Resources at 217/785-2511. Hunters in the field who observe feral swine and possess a valid Illinois FOID card can – with the permission of the landowner – legally shoot the wild hogs.

“Feral swine pose a significant threat to the Illinois domestic swine industry as the wild hogs are very mobile and can spread a variety of viral and bacterial diseases, as well as dozens of parasites that can affect domestic pigs and other livestock, wildlife, people and their pets,” said Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) Acting Director Jim Larkin. “Reports of feral swine from hunters and landowners can be vitally important in helping Illinois control this major nuisance species.”

Wildlife impacts of feral swine in Illinois include predation on ground nesting birds, amphibians, reptiles and other wildlife. Rooting activities by the wild pigs cause significant erosion, damaging habitat and reducing water quality. Economic losses nationally resulting from feral swine are estimated at more than $1 billion annually.

· For Illinois sightings of feral swine: Call the IDNR Division of Wildlife Resources at 217/785-2511

· For more information on the impacts of feral swine, check the USDA website at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/feral_swine/

Mark Polk's RV Winterizing Checklist

The following RV Winterizing Checklist is from Mark Polk, one of the my favorite RV experts and founder of RV Education 101, among other RVing websites and entities.

That all to familiar time of the year is here again. Leaves are falling from the trees, and the grass is dormant. The summer flowers are gone. The days are shorter and the nights are colder. Fall is upon us. Fall is my favorite time of the year. After a hot North Carolina summer I look forward to this time of year. It has its good and bad points. It’s good that I don’t have to cut the grass for several months. It’s bad that I have to close our pool for several months. It’s good that I don’t have to run the air conditioning, but bad that we will soon have to turn the furnace on.

Fall is also the time of year you need to decide if your camping season is over. Parking your RV for the winter requires some preventive measures so it will be ready to use next spring. You’ll also be glad you did it when you don’t have costly repair bills due to the damaging results of winter. Now the question is how do you prepare it for winter, and who will be doing it? If you’re like me and you enjoy performing the routine maintenance on your RV, not to mention saving a few dollars, the “who” part is answered. As for the “how” part, this checklist is the same one I used to make our Winterizing & Storing video. I feel it is the easiest and most effective way to winterize your RV.

Before you get started there are a few items you will need to have. These items can be found in most RV parts stores:
  • Non-toxic RV antifreeze (The amount depends on the layout and length of your plumbing lines. Two to three gallons will normally do).
  • A water heater by-pass kit, if not already installed.
  • A wand to clean out holding tanks.
  • A water pump converter kit, or tubing to connect to the inlet side of the water pump.
  • Basic hand tools to remove drain plugs.

Now we can winterize the RV water system to protect it from freezing. Be sure to read your owners manuals for unit specific winterizing guidelines. Follow the steps below that apply to your RV.
  1. If you have any inline water filters remove and bypass before starting.
  2. Drain the fresh water holding tank.
  3. Drain and flush the gray and black holding tanks. If your RV doesn’t have a built in tank flushing system clean the black tank out with a wand, or use a product like Flush King that allows you to clean both the black and gray tanks. Lubricate the termination valves with WD 40.
  4. Drain the water heater. Remove the drain plug and open the pressure relief valve. CAUTION (never drain the water heater when it is hot or under pressure)
  5. Open all hot and cold faucets; don’t forget the toilet valve and outside shower.
  6. Locate and open the low point drain lines. There will be one for the hot and cold water lines. Using the water pump will help force water out, but turn it off as soon as the system is drained.
  7. Recap all drains and close all faucets.
  8. By-pass the water heater. If you do not have a by-pass kit installed the water heater will fill up with antifreeze before it goes through the water lines, wasting six gallons of antifreeze.
  9. Install a water pump converter kit, or disconnect the inlet side of the water pump (the line coming from the fresh water holding tank). Connect a piece of clear tubing to the inlet side of the pump and put the other end into a one gallon container of non-toxic RV antifreeze.
  10. Turn the water pump on and pressurize the system. Starting with the closest faucet, slowly open the hot and then cold valves until antifreeze appears. Replace the antifreeze container as required.
  11. Repeat this process on all faucets from the closest to the farthest away. Don’t forget the outside shower, if equipped.
  12. Flush the toilet until antifreeze appears.
  13. Turn the water pump off and open a faucet to release the pressure. Go outside to the city water inlet. Remove the small screen over the inlet and push in on the valve with a small screwdriver until you see antifreeze. Replace the screen.
  14. Pour a cupful of antifreeze down each drain. Pour a couple of cups in the toilet and flush into the holding tank.
  15. If your water heater has an electric heating element make sure it is turned off. This will protect the element if the unit is plugged in while being stored.
  16. Make sure all the faucets are closed.
  17. Consult your owner manuals for winterizing icemakers and washing machines.
  18. The unit is winterized.

This checklist is a basic guide that was intended to assist you in winterizing your RV. As with many other checklists it would be impossible to cover every RV. It is extremely important that you read your owner’s manuals for unit specific winterizing guidelines.

If you would like to see how this process is actually done it is available on our “Winterizing & Storing Your RV” video or DVD. The video also has an entire section on the steps required to properly prepare your RV for winter storage.

Happy Camping!

Michigan State Parks Capture Top National Award

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced recently that Michigan state parks and recreation areas have won the 2011 National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) Gold Medal for the top state park system in the nation. The DNR was notified today by the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration and NRPA.

Michigan was named one of four finalists in May, and beat North Carolina, Florida and Missouri for the top honor.

“This award is a credit to the people of Michigan,” said Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who recently appointed a blue-ribbon panel to guide the parks system into the future. “For more than 90 years, Michiganders have realized that these unique areas are an integral part of the cultural enhancement, economic enrichment and overall quality of life that we value. Our parks are what we make of them and the people of this state clearly prize these treasures. I commend the DNR for its outstanding stewardship of these resources and look forward to working with all stakeholders so that we have a parks system that serves our state and its visitors for generations to come.”

The Gold Medal Award honors communities throughout the United States that demonstrate excellence in long-range planning, resource management, and agency recognition. Each agency is judged on its ability to address the needs of those it serves through the collective energies of citizens, staff, and elected officials.

“We are very proud to receive this award, and I want to recognize the employees of the Parks and Recreation Division who have worked hard to make sure our 99 state parks and recreation areas remain excellent places for our citizens and visitors to experience Michigan’s abundant and amazing natural resources,” said DNR Director Rodney Stokes. “This is the result of teamwork, talent and vision that is aimed at protecting our special places, and also making sure that visitors have an enjoyable, high quality experience.”

In its winning application, the DNR focused on innovation, such as the Recreation Passport, which is the new funding model for state parks and outdoor recreation in Michigan. The $10 optional fee that Michigan residents can pay when renewing their vehicle registration at the Secretary of State gives them annual access to all Michigan state parks and boating access sites and also supports state forest recreation programs. A portion of the funding also supports a grant program for local parks.

“This achievement is indicative of the tremendous staff who works in the Parks and Recreation Division, who strive for excellent customer service every day to provide a positive experience for our customers,” said DNR Parks and Recreation Chief Ron Olson. “This is the result of teamwork, talent and vision, all aimed at protecting our special places and making sure that visitors have an enjoyable, high-quality experience.”

Michigan is home to 99 state parks and recreation areas, offering visitors more than 13,000 campsites, trails, access to inland lakes, rivers and the Great Lakes.

For more information on state parks in Michigan, go to www.michigan.gov/stateparks.

The 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. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/dnr.

Stratford Tourism Alliance launches 2011 Victorian Christmas Trail


The Victorian Christmas Trail, Stratford Tourism Alliance’s special holiday offer, is back for its second debut making Christmas shopping both fun and festive. With 16 local stops offering distinctive presents for Christmas Trail shoppers this is a great way to inspire your holiday shopping.

The Victorian Christmas Trail package includes 8 tickets to be redeemed at your choice of the 16 shops for a unique holiday gift - just for you or to share with friends and family. The package is valid for 3 days from the date of purchase now through until December 20th and can be purchased at Stratford Tourism Alliance, open 7 days a week, for $20 (plus HST) with a package value of over $40.

The Victorian Christmas Trail shops dressed up for the season and have gifts ready and waiting for you include: Alexandra Salon and Day Spa, Anything Grows, Balzac’s Coffee Roasters, Bradshaws & Kitchen Detail, Chocolate Barr’s Candies, CloseKnit Quality Yarns, Cozyn’s Garden Gallery, Distinctly Tea, JENN & Larry’s Brittle & Shakes, Kitchen Connaisseur, Small-Mart General Mercantile, Tea Leaves Tea Tasting Bar, The Touchmark Shop, Treasures, Turnbull & Stewart and Your Local Market Co-op.

Purchase your Victorian Christmas Trail before November 15 for a chance to win 2 tickets to the Stratford Symphony Orchestra’s holiday concert at the Festival Theatre on December 10. The value is $70 and the draw will take place November 16 at the Stratford Tourism Alliance. The final date to purchase Christmas Trail passes is December 20 to allow shoppers the maximum time period to redeem their tickets by December 23, 2011. Only one ticket can be redeemed per stop. For more information on the Victorian Christmas Trail and what each shop has to offer visit www.visitstratford.ca/ChristmasTrail or call 519-271-5140 or 1-800-561-7926.