World's All Time Greatest Gift Idea

Birthday coming up for someone that you completely forgot about?


Or maybe one of those Hallmark-holidays is fast approaching and you just simply don't have the time to run to the mall for an over-priced whatchamacallit.

Or perhaps you did remember that you have to buy a gift for that special someone, but you have no idea what to get him or her?

(trumpet fanfare)

Announcing the World's All Time Greatest Gift Idea: The National Parks Annual Pass or a State Parks Gift Card.


There's no better time to enjoy the great outdoors in one of our nation's National Parks, and the America the Beautiful pass from the National Park Service offers access to all the national parks and wildlife refuges in addition to other perks.


If you don't think a visit to a National Park is in their travel plans, then how about a gift card to a state park? There just as easy to purchase, either online or in person at a state park, and they are just as appreciated by the recipient.

Michigan’s roster of Passport Perks Providers tops 1,000 businesses

There are now more than 1,000 good reasons for Michigan residents to discover the advantages of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Passport Perks program. The number of Michigan businesses currently enrolled in the statewide shopping discount program – designed exclusively for Recreation Passport holders who purchase the Passport through the Secretary of State – recently topped 1,000.

In fact, participating Passport Perks businesses and retailers can now be found in nearly every Michigan county throughout the Lower and Upper peninsulas – and those numbers are climbing every week. The current lineup of discount savings, on everything from lawn care and heating and cooling to salon services and restaurants, is available at www.michigan.gov/passportperks.

Recreation Passport holders (Michigan residents who elect to pay an additional $10 when registering their vehicle with the Secretary of State) not only purchase their annual vehicle admission into Michigan’s state parks, recreation areas, state forest campgrounds and boat launches, but also become eligible to participate in the Passport Perks program.

While Michigan residents are realizing the potential savings the Perks program offers, some 1,000 business owners are discovering the advantages, too.

“Approximately 600,000 Michigan residents are eligible to renew their license plates each month, and many will check ‘YES’ for the Recreation Passport, making them eligible for Passport Perks savings,” said Maia Stephens, recreation programmer for the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division.

Stephens said that by becoming Perks Providers, it’s possible for local businesses and retailers to reach more customers who track the discounts on the DNR’s website and check the daily discounts featured on the DNR’s “Morning Perks” feed on Twitter.

Michigan residents who show their vehicle registration with the words “Recreation Passport” printed at the top qualify for the discounts on goods and services offered by participating restaurants, stores and local businesses.

“With discounts available on many of the items and services they would normally purchase, Recreation Passport holders potentially can save the equivalent of their license plate renewal costs and more,” Stephens said.

A Recreation Passport holder can take advantage of Passport Perks discount savings for a full year until his or her next vehicle license plate renewal date.

There is no cost to businesses or retailers that wish to join the program. For a list of participating businesses or for details on how to sign up to become a Perks Provider, visit www.michigan.gov/passportperks.

The Recreation Passport is an easy, affordable way for residents to enjoy and support outdoor recreation opportunities in Michigan. By checking “YES” for the $10 Recreation Passport ($5 for motorcycles) when renewing a license plate through the Secretary of State (by mail, kiosk, online at www.expresssos.com or at branch offices), Michigan motorists get access to state parks, recreation areas, state forest campgrounds, non-motorized state trailhead parking and state boat launches. In addition, Recreation Passport holders can experience real savings at businesses and retailers that participate in the Passport Perks discount program. The Recreation Passport is valid until the next license plate renewal date. Nonresidents can purchase the Recreation Passport ($29 annual; $8 daily) at any state park or recreation area or through the Michigan e-Store at www.michigan.gov/estore.

Learn more about this creative way of sustaining Michigan's outdoor recreation and natural resources at www.michigan.gov/recreationpassport. For information on Passport Perks shopping discounts or how businesses and retailers can enroll in the program, visit www.michigan.gov/passportperks.

Ohio DNR creates Youth-Only Fishing Ponds

Anglers age 15 and younger are encouraged to enjoy stocked fishing areas

Beginning tomorrow (June 30), five state-owned ponds across Ohio will be stocked with fish and designated as family-friendly fishing areas for youth only. Young anglers are encouraged to bring their family and enjoy these fishing areas throughout the summer.

“This is an excellent way to encourage kids to spend time outdoors and fish in a stocked pond,” said Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director James Zehringer. “We hope many families take advantage of this opportunity to create fishing memories.”

The designated youth-only fishing areas will be at
  • Sycamore State Park, west of Dayton; 
  • Delaware State Park, north of Delaware; 
  • Maumee Bay State Park, east of Toledo; 
  • Caesar Creek State Park, southwest of Xenia; and 
  • the Wildlife District Three youth fishing ponds in Akron.

Special youth events will be held tomorrow and Aug. 25 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. for anglers 15-years-old and younger. Bait and assistance from volunteers will be provided at no charge on these dates. Youth are encouraged to bring their fishing poles; however, poles will be available during these events. All young anglers must be accompanied by a parent or guardian while at the youth events, but adults are not required to have a fishing license. Adults are not allowed to fish in the youth area, but they may assist their young anglers. Picnic tables and restroom facilities are available, and young anglers are encouraged to wear hats and sunglasses to protect themselves while casting their lines.

State park ponds will be stocked with catchable channel catfish and hybrid bluegill just prior to each youth-only fishing event and will be open daily. The Wildlife District Three youth fishing ponds will be routinely stocked and open every weekend through Labor Day. Youth may keep one fish per day from the ponds.

These family-friendly youth-only fishing events and areas are partially funded by the purchases of Ohio fishing licenses and federal contributions from the Sport Fish Restoration Fund.

ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at www.ohiodnr.com.

Governor Snyder declares July 'Michigan Camping & RV Month'


Author's note: About a month ago, Shelly Latshaw, one of the hard-working folks with the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds, gave me a head's up that they were trying to change "Michigan Camping & Recreation Vehicle Month" from August to July. I'm happy to see they were successful.

For generations, Michigan has welcomed campers and RVers to its natural woodlands, freshwater shorelines and beaches, in two distinct peninsulas–nestled in the middle of the Great Lakes Region.

For the second year in a row, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has declared a “Michigan Camping & Recreation Vehicle Month,” to be held in July — following last year’s success in the month of August. Camping is a key contributor to the state’s $17 billion tourism industry. The declaration supports the economic and recreational contributions that the camping industry provides to Michigan’s overall tourism, as well as promoting camping as an inexpensive and family-friendly recreation option year-round in our state.

Both Michiganders and visitors alike take advantage of the state’s array of sun, freshwater coastline, 19 million acres of woodlands, soft breezes and fresh air, where the temperate climate allows for great camping and outdoor recreation – making it the ultimate Pure Michigan experience!

Michigan has more than 950 licensed, private, recreation vehicle parks and campgrounds, with more than 111,000 licensed campsites. The state has more than 160 county or government operated campgrounds with over 14,700 sites–from rustic to full-service. Michigan also boasts over 307,000 licensed recreational vehicles, including motor homes and travel trailers. In Michigan, first quarter 2012 RV sales are up 18 percent from the first quarter of 2011, and sales are projected to increase throughout 2012.

Camping and RVing encourages visitors and locals alike to partake in activities such as boating, fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, paddling, pedaling, golfing, geocaching, nature watching, photography, and other outdoor activities, which also highlight Michigan’s great outdoor parks and recreation areas.

Michigan is home to 102 state parks and recreation areas – as well as 134 state forest campgrounds–under the auspices of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and seven forests/parks/lakeshores in Michigan under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service. Collectively, Michigan offers 15,000 sites on state and federal lands designated for camping.

Michigan’s two non-profit camping organizations: MARVAC (the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles & Campgrounds) and ARVC Michigan (the Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds of Michigan). Both equally promote and support private campgrounds and RV parks throughout the state.

All state lands are managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, while the national parks and lakeshores are managed by the National Park Service and/or the U.S. Forest Service. All campgrounds – including the companion recreational activities – are among the tourism destinations promoted by Travel Michigan and its award-winning Pure Michigan campaign.

www.MichiganCampingAndRVMonth.com

Southwest, Southeast Michigan state parks volunteer workdays announced

Summertime is a great time to get outdoors and enjoy state parks and recreation areas in Lower Michigan while helping to protect their habitats.

State recreation officials recently announced the schedule of volunteer stewardship activities for the month of July at state parks and recreation areas in Southwest and Southeast Michigan.

Volunteering for these workdays is a perfect way to GO Get Outdoors, breathe some fresh air, have fun and get a bit of exercise while taking in the stunning scenery.

Volunteers are needed to help remove invasive, non-native shrub species that negatively affect Michigan’s forests and other systems. Some of these plants, such as barberry and privet, were once planted as a common landscape plant and now threaten to change habitat for birds and other species. Volunteers will learn to identify these plants and properly remove them from natural areas. No experience is necessary; training and equipment are provided.

Workday dates, times and locations for Southwest Michigan parks are as follows:

  • Sunday, July 1 – Fort Custer Recreation Area (Kalamazoo County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 14 – Ionia State Recreation Area (Ionia County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Sunday, July 15 – Muskegon State Park (Muskegon County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 21 – Yankee Springs Recreation Area (Barry County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Sunday, July 22 – Grand Mere State Park (Berrien County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 28 – Saugatuck Dunes State Park (Allegan County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Sunday, July 29 – Warren Woods State Park (Berrien County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 
Workday dates, times and locations for Southeast Michigan parks are as follows:
Sunday, July 1 – Algonac State Park (St. Clair County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Sunday, July 1 – Waterloo Recreation Area (Washtenaw County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Wednesday, July 11 – Waterloo Recreation Area (Washtenaw County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Thursday, July 12 – Highland Recreation Area (Oakland County), 4 to 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 14 – Bald Mountain Recreation Area (Oakland County), 9 a.m. to noon
  • Saturday, July 14 – Waterloo Recreation Area (Washtenaw County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 14 – Island Lake Recreation Area (Livingston County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Sunday, July 15 – Pinckney Recreation Area (Washtenaw County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Wednesday, July 18 – Waterloo Recreation Area (Washtenaw County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 21 – Island Lake Recreation Area (Livingston County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Sunday, July 22 – Brighton Recreation Area (Livingston County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Sunday, July 29 – Pinckney Recreation Area (Washtenaw County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Volunteers earning the most hours for removal of invasive species in state parks and recreation areas from April through the end of July will receive a free Recreation Passport T-shirt for showing their dedication to our natural resources. The supply of shirts is limited and will be awarded to the top 40 volunteers in Southeast Michigan.

Volunteers should wear appropriate clothing for outdoor work (including long pants and sturdy closed-toe shoes) and bring gloves and drinking water. For pulling spotted knapweed, volunteers should also wear long-sleeved shirts, as some individuals may be sensitive to this plant.

Volunteers should wear appropriate clothing for outdoor work (including long pants and sturdy, closed-toe shoes) and bring gloves and drinking water. All volunteers are asked to register using the forms available on the Department of Natural Resources website.

Please contact Heidi Frei at 269-685-6851 ext. 147 or freih@michigan.gov for registration or questions about the Volunteer Steward workdays in Southwest Michigan parks.

Please contact Laurel Malvitz-Draper at 248-359-9057 or malvitzl@michigan.gov for registration or questions about the Volunteer Steward workdays in Southeast Michigan parks.

The Volunteer Steward program is part of the DNR’s 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. To get information about the activities at each workday, find directions or park information, or to check the Volunteer Steward calendar of events, visit the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/dnrvolunteers and link to the Calendar of Volunteer Stewardship Workdays.

Rockport State Recreation Area grand opening set for June 29

An image of Rockport State Recreation Area
from http://quietsolopursuits.wordpress.com
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Parks and Recreation Division will celebrate the grand opening of Rockport State Recreation Area – its newest state recreation area, just north of Alpena – with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. on Friday, June 29. The ceremony will take place at Rockport’s boat launch area.

The property’s 4,300 acres include a deep-water protected harbor, a 300-acre limestone quarry with Devonian period fossils and a unique series of sinkholes to explore. The new park also includes the Besser Natural Area and a broad range of land types, vegetative cover, cultural resources and recreation opportunities.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that long term plans for Rockport State Recreation Area included developing a campground.

"The highly modified quarry area, in general, may offer opportunities for more extensive development with low resource impacts. The quarry also offers other recreational opportunities and any camping development would be respectful of other uses. Designated rustic camping has potential in the Natural Resource Recreation zone," the report said.

Members of the newly formed volunteer group, Friends of Rockport/Besser Natural Area, will host events from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 30, to acquaint visitors with the many points of interest within the new recreation area. Saturday’s events include a hands-on Intro to Fishing program and wagon rides to the sinkholes and throughout other parts of the park. Boat tours around Middle Island will leave from the boat launch. The cost for the rides, provided by a local vendor, will be $25 per person, which is a reduction from the normal cost of $35 per person.

Guest speakers will lead tours and discuss fossils, birding, coastal habitats and other natural habitats. Saturday’s activities take place at the south end of the park near the boat launch area and at the north end of the park at the Besser Natural Area. To get to the Rockport boat launch, take the Rockport Road exit east off of US-23 and drive approximately three miles down the gravel road.

To get to the Besser Natural Area, take East Grand Lake Road north off of US-23 for approximately four and one-half miles to the stop sign. Turn right to follow East Grand Lake Road for approximately one mile to the Besser Natural Area entrance.

The property was maintained by the DNR’s Forest Resources Division from 1997 until December 2011 when it was transferred to the Parks and Recreation Division for future management.

Information on these events will be available at Rockport State Recreation Area the weekend of June 29-30, or by calling Harrisville State Park, 989-724-5126. The events are free; however, a Recreation Passport is required for all vehicles entering the recreation area.

Michigan's Upper Peninsula is open for business

DNR reopens some state forest campgrounds and boat launches impacted by Duck Lake wildfire

Several state forest campgrounds in the Upper Peninsula temporarily closed during the Duck Lake Fire have been completely or partially reopened to visitors, the Department of Natural Resources announced recently.

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and the majority of its recreational facilities, is open for business and with the tourism season gearing up officials from the DNR, Travel Michigan and the Michigan Department of Transportation are encouraging people to keep any travel or vacation plans in the UP this summer.

Areas reopened include Bodi Lake state forest campground and boat launch – which did not sustain any damage from the wildfire – along with the day-use area, bridge and boat launch at the Mouth of the Two Hearted River state forest campground. Tahquamenon Falls State Park also remains completely open for park visitors and campers.

“In addition to the areas we have reopened to visitors, there are more than a dozen state forest campgrounds in Luce County that were not impacted by the fire and remain open for business as usual,” said DNR Parks and Recreation Division district supervisor Rich Hill Jr.

All state and county roads in and around the areas affected by the Duck Lake Fire are also open. Routine road work is being done on several roads throughout the UP; none of this construction involves significant detours for travelers. Travelers can find up-to-date information on state roads at www.michigan.gov/drive.

“Michigan’s Upper Peninsula offers some of the state’s most unique experiences and breathtaking natural beauty; it also remains an accessible and safe destination for tourists,” said George Zimmermann, vice president of Travel Michigan, part of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “Many local businesses in the Upper Peninsula rely on tourism as their primary source of income. Whether people already have plans to vacation in the UP, or are simply considering it, taking a trip across the Mackinac Bridge is a terrific way to show support for communities impacted by the Duck Lake wildfire.”

Some closures still exist
There are several remaining closures travelers should be aware of. Loop # 1 camping area at the Mouth of the Two Hearted River remains closed due to hazard trees, with a target reopening date of Friday, June 29. However, Loop #2 sustained heavier tree and infrastructure damage and remains closed indefinitely.

Other closures include Pike Lake state forest campground and boat launch, the Two Hearted ORV Trail east of County Road 414, and the campground at Culhane Lake state forest campground. However, Culhane Lake’s boat launch has reopened to the public.

“Bodi and Culhane Lakes are in close proximity of each other, making camping at Bodi Lake while still utilizing Culhane Lake’s boat launch a good option for campers who had planned to visit the area this summer,” Hill said.
 
For more information
For more information about the status of state forest campgrounds and boat launches impacted by the Duck Lake Fire, contact Rich Hill Jr. at 989-732-3541. To learn more about Michigan’s rustic state forest campgrounds, and access an interactive map, visit www.michigan.gov/camping.

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 www.michigan.gov/dnr.

Travel Michigan, part of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, is the State of Michigan’s official agency for the promotion of tourism. Travel Michigan markets the state’s tourism industry and provides valuable visitor information services. For Michigan travel news and updates, go to michigan.org.

Showcasing the Michigan DNR: State-record fish tale puts Gladwin man on a mission

Doug Seibert, of Gladwin, proudly displays the replica he helped
to create of Michigan’s state-record 21-inch yellow perch.
Author's note: From the Showcasing the Michigan DNR article series

Everybody’s heard a big fish story. Some are credible; some are not.

Doug Seibert, a retired Gladwin High School teacher and long-time taxidermist, has a story that is just so incredible, well … you have to hear it.

The story starts a little more than a decade ago.

“I’ve been doing fish taxidermy for a lot of years as a hobby,” Seibert said. “Some of the fish I get come from commercial fishermen and the fins and tails are beat up pretty badly. I had a former student of mine stop by one day and I was whining to him about how I needed some perch fins and tails.

“A few weeks later,” Seibert said, “he stopped by and he handed me a sackful of perch – and they were whoppers, up to 14 inches. He said they came from Lake Independence in Big Bay and that’s where the state-record perch came from and it was 21 inches long.”

A 21-inch perch piqued Seibert’s curiosity.

“That was so much bigger than any perch I’d ever heard of, I immediately started looking into it,” he said.

The Department of Natural Resources had, indeed, recognized a state-record perch – weighing 3 pounds, 12 ounces – as having come from Lake Independence in 1947, caught by one Eugene Jezinski.

Seibert hooked up the camper and went to Big Bay to go perch fishing.

“That week I caught some of the nicest fish I’ve ever caught,” he said. “But part of my mission up there was to ask around about this state-record perch.”

Nobody had ever heard of a Eugene (or any other) Jezinski. Seibert went to the local library. He went to the library at the Marquette Mining Journal. It was a dead end.

“I did everything short of hiring a private eye,” Seibert said. “I realize 1947 was a long time ago, but it wasn’t the dark ages. They had cameras. They had newspapers. A fish of that size should have made headlines.”

Seibert made a subsequent fishing/sleuthing trip to Big Bay and, while digging around, he got the name of a conservation officer – Don Claus – who had worked Marquette County in the 1940s. Eventually, Seibert located Claus’ son, who told him that his father was living in a nearby assisted-living center.

Seibert went to the housing center, met the long-retired Claus, and asked him if he’d heard about the record perch. Claus replied that he’d not only heard about it, he had seen and measured it.

Doug Seibert presents his labor of love – a replica of Michigan’s
state-record 21-inch yellow perch – at the May 17 meeting of the
Natural Resources Commission in Onaway, Mich.
Claus told Seibert that he’d never heard of Jezinski, and that the fish had actually been caught by George Slutter, then the bus driver and janitor for Powell Township School in Big Bay. Claus said Slutter had been trolling for walleye the day he caught the record perch.

Slutter died in 1976 while plowing snow. Nobody could locate any next of kin. Slutter’s body was kept in cold storage at the local funeral home for months until Slutter’s sister, who lived in Pennsylvania, showed up looking for him.

Seibert tracked down the funeral director.

“He said he remembered George Slutter well, because the man had the biggest feet of any man he’d ever seen,” Seibert recalled.

An inspection of Slutter’s personal effects by his sister failed to turn up a photograph – or even a mention – of the record perch. Seibert said Claus told him that Slutter was an unassuming guy who probably just took the fish home and ate it.

Wanting to set the record straight, Seibert contacted the DNR and had Claus sign (and have notarized) an affidavit that it was Slutter, not Jezinski, who had caught the big fish.

But Seibert wasn’t done.

“I took it upon myself to try to re-create that 21-inch perch,” Seibert said.

He obtained some fish (smallmouth bass and white bass) that were anatomically similar to perch, and then mounted, modified and painted them. The results were unsatisfactory, Seibert said, so he began contacting “world-class carvers” to see if one would carve a 21-inch perch that he could mold and make replicas from. Two turned him down. After finding a third, in Galveston, Texas, who agreed to do it for $500, Seibert sent him a money order.

“I got stiffed,” Seibert said. “He never did anything.”

Still, Seibert was undeterred. He located an artist in Missouri who agreed to try making a mold. Seibert sent him a 15-inch perch to work from. The fellow made a mold from it, then expanded the mold – through some process Seibert said he doesn’t fully understand – to 21 inches.

“What he had was a 21-inch replica of a 15-inch perch,” Seibert said. “I said, ‘That’s exactly what I’m looking for.’”

Seibert then had three replicas made.

A close-up view of Doug Seibert’s creation – a replica of
Michigan’s state-record 21-inch yellow perch.
“I had the honor of painting them and if there’s any doubt about the quality of these replicas, it’s because I didn’t do a good enough job of painting them,” Seibert said.

Seibert presented one of the three replicas to the DNR at the May 17 Natural Resources Commission meeting in Onaway, Mich.

“People in the state are going have an opportunity to see the biggest perch that ever had fins,” Seibert said.

Seibert admitted there are some loose ends to the story. The recognized world-record perch – caught in New Jersey in 1865 – weighed 4 pounds, 4 ounces; but, there is no length noted for the fish.

“There has never been a yellow perch recorded that was as long as 18 inches,” Seibert said. “This perch is so much bigger than any other perch ever recorded. I had to wonder whether this was really a perch.”

Some say it probably wasn’t.

“Was it a case of mistaken identity?” Seibert asked. “Don Claus knew what a perch looked like.”

Seibert said Claus told him of another eyewitness. Seibert tracked the fellow to a retirement home in Florida and called him – the gentleman verified Claus’ story.

Seibert admitted to being puzzled about the whole affair.

“I spent years and years researching this on the Internet,” he said. “I went to the U.P. so many times they knew me by my first name. The fact that there was no picture, no mount, no publicity anywhere, it just doesn’t make any sense,” Seibert said. “But the fact that Don Claus, a 44-year veteran of the DNR, and another eyewitness identified it … my gut-level feeling? I don’t even know. I’m stuck between the reality that there were two eyewitnesses to the perch and something being wrong here.

“So, with reservations, I do believe our state record is a 21-inch perch.”

If nothing else, Seibert has one heck of a fish story. Thanks to his persistence and generosity, the DNR now has a replica of that curious, state-record 21-inch perch.

Re-dedication of Ocqueoc Falls Bicentennial Pathway trailhead and overlook set for June 29

Photo from escapingtoparadise.com
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently announced the reopening of the trailhead and overlook at Ocqueoc Falls Bicentennial Pathway in Presque Isle County. A re-dedication ceremony is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Friday, June 29, at the trailhead, located on Ocqueoc Falls Road, east of Onaway and west of Rogers City.

The facilities have been closed since last summer to complete upgrades that now allow individuals with disabilities access to the falls, and participation opportunities for rock climbing.

“The design provides two means for gaining access to the river corridor,” said Brenda Curtis, DNR recreation planner with the Parks and Recreation Division.

The recent improvements, which were achieved with grant monies from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and the Recreation Trail Fund, include installation of a universally accessible ramp that gradually descends to a paved rock patio adjacent to the river.

The second means of gaining access to the river is through a new, natural rock wall built into the hillside. One of the two specific routes for scaling the rock wall was developed for individuals with disabilities, through careful placement of the rocks at various heights and widths, and by providing transfer “rocks” at the top and bottom.

“Individuals can find their own climbing route anywhere along the rock face for their greatest climbing challenge,” Curtis said. “It was our goal to make this a family-friendly facility that will allow all family members, no matter their age or physical capabilities, the means by which to enjoy all that this area offers in recreational experiences.”

Additional improvements include the enlargement and resurfacing of the parking lot; installation of an accessible walking trail between the falls' overlook area, parking lot and campground; new picnic areas with tables and grills at the overlook; and new restrooms.

This state forest trail is now a designated state forest recreation area. As a result, the Recreation Passport is now required to be displayed on motor vehicles using the parking areas. To learn more about accessibility in Michigan’s state parks, visit www.michigan.gov/dnraccessibility.

Great Lakes beach improvements, free app a boon for beachgoers

RVIA photo
Public comment open on minor changes to beach monitoring

Improvements at many of Wisconsin’s Great Lakes beaches and a free smartphone application with the latest weather and water quality information are giving people more reasons to break out the beach towel and the sunscreen and head to the water’s edge, state beach officials say.

“We’re fortunate in Wisconsin to have a group of innovative partners who have taken advantage of federal grants to transform beaches and really make them places that you want to go and relax and enjoy,” says Donalea Dinsmore, who leads the Department of Natural Resources program that administers federal grant money available for beach monitoring along Wisconsin’s Great Lakes shore.

And, with the release last week by the Great Lakes Commission and partnering states of the free, smartphone app (exit DNR) for more than 1,800 Great Lakes beaches, it will be easier for beachgoers to find current conditions, she says.

Screen shot of the Great Lakes Beach
Cast app for your Android smart phone.
“When you go to a beach you want to have fun and also make sure you have a safe and healthy experience,” Dinsmore says. “The beach app will tell you about the conditions at the beach – what are bacteria levels in the water, what’s the weather like, and if there are winds that could cause dangerous riptides.”

People can still learn about current beach conditions by going to the Wisconsin Beach Health (exit DNR) website, and can sign up for an email or RSS feed of beach advisories by county on that website. Or they can find a link to the site by searching for “beaches” on the DNR website.

Wisconsin has monitored water quality on at least 110 Great Lakes beaches every summer since 2003 to reduce the public's risk of exposure to water-borne illnesses. Local governments assess water quality and the DNR provides funding through federal BEACH Act funds it receives for monitoring on Great Lakes beaches. DNR also contracts with the U.S. Geological Survey to provide online results at the Wisconsin Beach Health web site.

There has been a trend of improving water quality at Great Lakes beaches due to the steps communities and partners have taken to tackle pollution sources. Such work has been accelerated as a result of grants available through the Obama administration’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the funding approved by the U.S. Congress to carry out environmental restoration and protection efforts, Dinsmore says.

The grants have made it possible to identify and correct sources of bacterial contamination that in the past may have led to beach water advisories or beach closures, she says.

“Racine and Door counties have been leaders in transforming a number of beaches into real “go- to” spots,” Dinsmore says, noting that Racine’s North Beach, in fact, last week was named one of 51 Great American Beaches by the national newspaper USA Today. “Bradford Beach in Milwaukee and Ozaukee County beaches are also leading by example.”

Work to reduce contaminant problems differs by beach but has included work such as removing jetties, changing the slope of the beach and adding stormwater basins or rain gardens. Fencing around new native plantings to help filter contaminants before they enter the water, creating new dunes complete with dune grass, and changing mowing practices to allow longer vegetation that is less attractive to seagulls and other birds are among the other measures taken to tackle contaminant sources.

RVIA photo
More work will be done this year to identify and correct sources of bacterial contamination in a number of other communities, with much of the work done in partnership with University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Professor Greg Kleinheinz and Racine Public Health Department Laboratory Director Julie Kinzelman. The Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission is beginning a project to address runoff that contains phosphorus, a nutrient that contributes to growth of Cladophora, the thick, green algae mats that have been washing ashore, she says.

Volunteers from the Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-a-Beach program have also been having an impact on improving beach conditions, Dinsmore says. “Keeping beaches clean and free of litter is an important part of controlling bacteria, and volunteers from the Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-a-Beach program helping out in these efforts,” she says.

Public comment open on minor changes to beach monitoring 
Monitoring water quality at the more than 100 Great Lakes beaches will continue this year with some minor changes to which beaches will have water quality tested and how often. Beaches are prioritized for monitoring, with testing frequency based on factors including accessibility, usage, extent of vegetation on the beach, and overall risk for contamination.

The changes are:
  • Two beaches in Racine County, Michigan Boulevard and Myers Park, have been removed from the list because they are inaccessible to the public;
  • Several counties adjusted their monitoring at low priority beaches based on their usage;
  • Sheboygan County will increase monitoring at King beach. 

Low priority beaches may be based on several factors: accessibility, usage, extent of the vegetation on the beach, overall risk for contamination based on sanitary survey or monitoring history.

The federal Beach Act requires that people be given an opportunity to comment on the beach list. People can email or submit comments in writing by June 30, 2012. Direct email comments to Donalea Dinsmore or send them via U.S. mail to Donalea Dinsmore, Wisconsin DNR Office of the Great Lakes, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921.

Family Day Camps are a fun, creative way to connect with Michigan’s history

Imagine living like a lumberjack. Or learning how the pioneer families survived in Michigan’s wilderness. Or how about going back in time to the 1870s to live in a fort?

Family Day Camps, a new program offered by Walker Tavern, Hartwick Pines State Park and Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, will provide a few hours a day of stepping back in time for children and adults during select weeks this summer.

“These programs are a way for us to showcase Michigan’s different history stories with participating or nearby state parks,” said Sandra Clark, director of the Michigan Historical Center. “We encourage campers or parents or grandparents looking for an ‘edu-vacation’ experience this summer for children to take advantage of these programs.”

The first Family Day Camp took place at Walker Tavern, June 20-22. At this former stagecoach stop between Detroit and Chicago, participants enjoyed a three-day Family Day Camp that focused on Michigan’s pioneer days. Basic survival skills, like using a compass and reading a map, were taught on the first day, followed by a day of learning how the pioneers lived, and the final day focused on making and recording memories.

Upcoming Family Day Camps will take place at:  

Hartwick Pines State Park (Pure Michigan photo)
Hartwick Pines State Park’s Logging Museum, July 9-11. This three-day Family Day Camp at Hartwick Pines State Park near Grayling will focus on Michigan’s lumber camp days. Participants will learn to make a log mark, use the cross-cut saw, load a log sled, how to be a timber cruiser, and how to cook and eat like a lumberjack.

The cost is $20 per day or $50 for all three days per child. The programs are appropriate for children 7 and up. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. There is no charge for accompanying adults. The programs will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day. To register, contact Rob Burg via email, burgr@michigan.gov or phone, 989-348-2537.  

Fort Wilkins State Park (Pure Michigan photo)
Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, July 11-12; July 24-25, Aug. 1-2. Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula near Copper Harbor, will be the site of two-day Family Day Camp sessions that will have participants step back in time to the summer of 1870 to experience life at the fort. The living history workshops include tours of 150-year-old buildings where participants will learn to wash clothes, grind coffee, dance and play games common to the time period. Costumed interpreters will interact with participants to re-create life at the fort in 1870.

The cost is $25 for one day or $50 for both days per child. Sessions run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day. The program is appropriate for children 9 years and older. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. There is no charge for the accompanying adult. Space is limited to 25 children per workshop. To register, contact Barry James via email, jamesb@michigan.gov or phone, 906-475-7857.

Information about all Family Day Camps can be found online at www.michigan.gov/museum.

Sites located in state parks require a Recreation Passport to enter the park. For more information on the Recreation Passport, go to www.michigan.gov/recreationpassport.

New offerings, including State Recreation Atlases, from National Geopgraphic

State Recreation Atlas preview from National Geographic

The folks at National Geographic have come out with a handful of new travel products specific to the Great Lakes region that would make a perfect companion for any Great Lakes RVer, including State Recreation Atlases for Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. A preview of the Wisconsin State Recreation Atlas is above.

State Recreation Atlases
Each of the new National Geographic State Recreation Atlases is an ideal recreation resource and contains accurate, detailed topographic maps with private and public land boundaries, a complete road network, valuable recreation information and extensive cross-referenced lists and charts for campgrounds, lakes, parks, attractions and more. State Game Management Unit maps and fish species lists will appeal to the sportsman while detailed primary road networks will be of great interest to motorcyclists, RVers, and those simply touring the state.

Features
  • Detailed topographic maps with shaded relief for the entire state.
  • 1:175,000 (scales vary by state) 
  • Each labeled feature is up-to-date and verified by satellite image 
  • Comprehensive, easy-to-read road network 
  • Boundaries for parks and federal lands 
  • Clearly-labeled lakes, rivers and streams 
  • Durable laminated cover 
  • Size 11”x15” 
  • Robust travel and recreation information
    - Cross-referenced chart of fishing areas with species information
    - Game management units
    - Campgrounds and attraction charts
    - State Parks maps and facilities
    - Hiking, golfing, skiing and paddling destinations
    - Climate information 
Trails Illustrated Maps
With over 165 titles available for America’s favorite outdoor destinations, National Geographic Trails Illustrated maps are the most trusted and popular recreation maps available. Continually setting the standard for accuracy, each map is crafted in conjunction with local land managers, and undergoes rigorous review and enhancement before being printed on waterproof, tear-resistant material.

Each Trails Illustrated map contains detailed topographic information, clearly marked and named trails, recreational points of interest, and navigational aids. National Park series maps contain useful details for planning your visit. State series titles cover popular recreation areas, ideal for done-in-a-day activities.

For example, the National Geographic Trails Illustrated map of Michigan's Manistee National Forest (North) is a two-sided, waterproof map designed to meet the needs of outdoor enthusiasts with unmatched durability and detail. This map was created in conjunction with local land management agencies and is loaded with valuable recreation information.

Trails Illustrated Maps specific to the Great Lakes region include:
Destination Map for Wisconsin's Door Peninsula
National Geographic’s Door Peninsula Destination Map strikes the perfect balance between map and guidebook and is an ideal resource for touring this culturally and geographically unique region of eastern Wisconsin.

Upcoming Pittsburgh Happenings


Chocolate Andy
Get ready to sink your teeth into the “Chocolate Andy Bars,” new milk- and dark-chocolate candy bars that feature the likeness of Andy Warhol, Pittsburgh native and one of America’s best-known artists. With four different designs, the 3.5 ounce all-natural bars packaging showcases Warhol’s self-portraits, along with Warholisms, such as “All I Ever Really Want is Sugar,” and “In the Future Everybody Will Be World Famous for 15 Minutes.” The sweet treats will be available in The Warhol Store at The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. According to PRAIM Group, which is marketing the candy thanks to an agreement with The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Warhol had a love for chocolate bars.

Doo Dah Days (video above)
On July 14, celebrate Stephen Foster, America’s first professional composer, at Doo Dah Days in Pittsburgh. Take a trolley through the historical Allegheny Cemetery, located in the neighborhood where Foster was born and is buried. Throughout the day, musicians play in honor of Stephen Foster, considered the founder of Pop music for writing such popular songs as “Oh! Susanna” (1848), De Campton Races (1850) and Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair (1854). It’s a one-of-a-kind event in one of Pittsburgh’s most historical neighborhoods.

Mount Sainte-Victoire (1885) by Paul Cezanne
Art Smart
Art lovers will love the newest exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Art. “Impressionism in a New Light: From Money to Stieglitz” presents work of Mary Cassatt, Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Camille Pissarro, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Paul Signac, Alfred Sisley and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, among others. In addition to works from the Carnegie Museum’s own distinguished collection, the exhibit includes paintings and drawings on loan from the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Frick in Pittsburgh and private collectors. The Impressionism exhibit runs through August 26, 2012.

To Market, To Market
Named one of the top 100 public spaces in the United States, Market Square in Pittsburgh will host a Farmers Market that brings the region’s cream of the crop to the heart of the city. Each Thursday, Downtown Pittsburgh’s biggest Farmers Market attracts up to 10,000 office workers, residents and visitors to Market Square to enjoy noontime concerts, produce, gourmet treats and the many diverse restaurants and shops surrounding the Square. Market goers can find everything from beeswax candles and honey to Angora goat yarn and more.

Heinz Field Tours
Get a behind-the-scenes tour of Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers and University of Pittsburgh Panthers. The 90-minute tours take Steelers’ fans into the Coca-Cola Great Hall, Luxury Suites, Press Box and more. No reservations are necessary for the walk-up tours which are available Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, through August. Prices range from $5 to $7.

Kayak Pittsburgh
Kayaking in Pittsburgh, which was proclaimed as one of the best six cities for kayaking by National Geographic Traveler, just got better. Kayak Pittsburgh, a nonprofit organization, recently opened its Downtown Pittsburgh location for the 2012 season. Open seven days a week, you can rent solo and tandem kayaks, bikes or both from its location near PNC Park. Let your adventure start on the Allegheny River and paddle three miles to Washington’s Landing, watching for beavers and other wildlife along the way. See the cityscape from a whole new perspective!

New summer games from Escalade Sports

Zume Canz
New CANZ, SPINNERZ, TENNIZ, DIZK and TOZZ offer a new twist to traditional summer games

Escalade Sports, one of America’s leading manufacturers of home recreational indoor and outdoor sports products and accessories including table and lawn games, basketball systems, archery, fitness, playsets, darts, dartboards, billiards and table tennis, today announced the launch of its new Zume brand of innovative games, including its CANZ, SPINNERZ, TENNIZ, DIZK and TOZZ, just in time for the spring/summer.

Zume Games’ new indoor/outdoor games will transform a day at the beach, night on the deck, concert tailgating or rainy day into instant fun. Some of the most innovative games of their kind on the market, Zume Games are fun, easy to play, portable, durable and designed for safe play.

“We are excited to announce the launch of our Zume brand of games just in time for the summer season,” said Nick Martin, product manager, Zume Games. “For almost 85 years, Escalade Sports has been a leading innovator in the sporting goods industry. But we’re more than just game makers; we are consumers who enjoy the competition and fun that these products provide. We are confident that America will love them as much as we do.”

CANZ
Master your technique with CANZ, the new toss target game with a twist. CANZ tossers have an aerodynamic look and feel designed to channel air for perfect twisting spirals. Providing hours of fun family competition, indoors or out, CANZ is lightweight, portable and ultra-quick to setup. A great option for a day at the beach, concert tailgating or a backyard barbeque, CANZ comes complete with six air funnel tossers, one target goal with ground stakes and a carrying case for easy portability. CANZ is suitable for ages 8+ and is available for purchase at Dick’s Sporting Goods and independent retailers nationwide for a suggested price of $89.

SPINNERZ
Zume Spinnerz
Get your spin on with SPINNERZ, the original gripping disc target game. Hours of fun, the strategy is simple – lock yours on, knock theirs off. It's that easy with the one-of-a-kind SPINNERZ grip disc. Play almost anywhere, indoors or out, SPINNERZ is lightweight, portable and ultra-quick to setup. SPINNERZ includes six SPINNERZ grip discs, a target goal with ground stakes, and carrying case for easy portability. SPINNERZ is suitable for ages 8+ and is available for purchase at Dick’s Sporting Goods and independent retailers nationwide for a suggested price of $99.99.

TENNIZ
Zume Tenniz
The instant tennis match you can play almost anywhere. TENNIZ is ideal for building skills and having fun. Perfect for kids and beginners or family recreational play, TENNIZ is lightweight, portable and features ultra-quick setup. TENNIZ comes complete with two 21-inch rackets, 2 TENNIZ balls, 12-foot net and convenient carrying case. TENNIZ is suitable for ages 8+ and is available for purchase at Dick’s Sporting Goods and independent retailers nationwide for a suggested price of $119.99

DIZK
DIZK is a super-tough, soft-touch, great-grip flying disc perfect for fun at the beach, barbeque, tailgating or just plain fun at the park. Its unique design helps DIZK fly, float and flex like no other and its center hole creates more ways to catch. Its versatility makes if great for perfecting those flying disk tricks. DIZK is suitable for ages 6+ and is available for purchase at Scheels, Sport Chalet, and MC Sports stores and online at Amazon.com and Zume-Games.com for a suggested price of $14.99.

TOZZ
TOZZ is a super-tough, soft-touch, great-grip football allowing you to get more out of your arm. TOZZ was made to grip it and rip it. Its center aerodynamic air tunnel helps create an amazing spiral on every throw. TOZZ’s easy to launch, easy to catch design is suitable for ages 6+ and is available for purchase at Scheels, Sport Chalet, and MC Sports stores and online at Amazon.com and Zume-Games.com for a suggested price of $17.99.

Zume Games offers a money back guarantee. Zume will refund the full purchase amount if you are not completely satisfied with your game. For more information on Zume Games, instruction manuals, game rules, retailers, warranty, replacement parts, refunds or customer service, please call 1-888-784-4288 or visit www.zume-games.com.

About Escalade Sports
Escalade Sports, originally formed as the Indian Archery And Toy Co. in 1927, is one of America’s leading suppliers of home recreational indoor and outdoor sports products and accessories including table and lawn games, basketball systems, archery, fitness, playsets, darts, dartboards, billiards, table tennis and more. Escalade Sports is the maker of such well-known brands as Goalrilla™, Goaliath® and Silverback® basketball systems, Stiga® and Ping-Pong® table tennis, Mizerak® and Mosconi® billiards, Woodplay® playsets, Atomic® game tables and many more. Escalade Sports products are available at sporting goods dealers and independent retailers nationwide. For more information on Escalade Sports, its brands, instruction manuals, game rules, retailers, warranty, replacement parts or customer service, please call 1-888-784-4288 or visit www.escaladesports.com.

Michigan DNR premieres new Deluxe Cabins at Holly Recreation Area




The Michigan Department of Natural Resources unveiled two new “Deluxe Cabins” at Holly Recreation Area this week. I was invited to preview the two new cabins, which represent the first rental cabins by the DNR to feature an indoor bathroom.

The family-friendly knotty pine cabins with private access to Wildwood Lake offer two bedrooms, a kitchen and living area and a bathroom. The roomier cabins — which are the first modern cabins in the state parks system with indoor plumbing — are more spacious than the traditional camper cabin rental units, can accommodate six to eight adults in 448-square feet of living space and offer a 32-foot long front porch to maximize views and water access.

One of two "Deluxe Cabins" built by inmates and assembled on
site at the Holly State Recreation Area by the Michigan DNR.
Officials said the Deluxe Cabins are targeted toward individuals who refuse to camp unless the facilities include an indoor bathroom. Combined with rustic sites, modern campgrounds and other camper cabins, the DNR now offers the full spectrum of camping at its various state parks and recreation areas.

The cabins were built in 30 days by 12 inmates from the State Corrections Department, trucked to Holly and assembled on site. Ron Olson, Chief of the DNR's Parks & Recreation Division, said the site’s existing infrastructure and scenic backdrop were the primary reasons why Holly Recreation Area was selected as the initial location for the new model of cabin.

“Historically this location has been underutilized, and we were able to take advantage of existing site utilities,” Olson said, adding that two Deluxe Cabins also will be installed at the Ionia State Recreation Area later this year.

The Recreation Area’s 8,000 acres of woodlands and open fields are located in Oakland County, less than an hour’s drive from the Detroit metropolitan area.

Both "Deluxe Cabins" feature a 32-foot-long front porch, two
bedrooms, a kitchen/living area and an indoor bathroom.
“The area offers the feeling of “being up north” without making the drive there,” said Holly’s supervisor, Shawn Speaker.

“In addition to a beach, boating and fishing opportunities — which are just steps from the front doors of the cabins — there is also an adjacent trail that links many other recreational opportunities,” Speaker said. “We’re looking forward to our visitors being able to enjoy these new amenities in a beautiful setting.”

Speaker said interest in renting the cabins has been high, and he already has one engaged couple hoping to rent the cabins for their wedding.

The cabins will rent for $100 per night on Fridays and Saturdays and $80 per night Sundays through Thursdays. Reservations can be made through the state’s Campground Reservation System, (800) 447-2757 or on the Web at www.midnrreservations.com beginning July 20. For details, call Holly Recreation Area, 248-634-8811.

Olson said he expects the rental costs to decrease over the years, and for the DNR to recoup its approximately $80,000-per-cabin investment within five years. Funding for this project was provided from the Park Endowment Fund which is generated from oil and gas royalties derived from state lands.

The prison partnership was key in making this happen, said Olson.

The view of Wildwood Lake from the cabins' front doors.
“The new cabins are the result of an ongoing partnership between the DNR and the Michigan Department of Corrections’ Prison Build Program, which offers inmates the opportunity to learn building trade skills that can assist them in their reintegration into society,” Olson said. “Along with the new model cabins at Holly, 17 camper cabins within the state parks also are available for the enjoyment of our visitors as a result of the combined resources of our two agencies over the years.”

Daniel Heyns, director of the state Department of Corrections, said the cabins project allowed the inmates an opportunity to learn a valuable skill.

“We want to build those building trades into our rehabilitation model,” Heyns said from the front deck of one of the two cabins. “I’m tired of teaching guys how to make license plates. They need to learn real job skills and that’s what we’re doing here.”

Top 10 Beach Drinks (aka Top 10 Drinks To Enjoy After You've Finished Setting Up Your RV Campsite)

The title of this post is "Top 10 Beach Drinks." It might as well say "Top 10 Drinks To Enjoy After You've Finished Setting Up Your RV Campsite."

In any event, Margaret Loftus recently wrote this refreshing top 10 list for NationalGeographic.com. She saw fit to include an exotic country where the drink originated, and presumably where you can best enjoy each drink.

Whatever. I would expect that each of these drinks would be just as tasty sitting in my Cabela's chair, the campfire just getting going, the setting sun just starting to color the sky and the rest of the weekend laid out before me.

UPDATE: As my wise brother-in-law just pointed out, two important options that were left off this list were Captains & Coke and a nice cold Shock Top Summer Shandy. In fact, I think the Summer Shandy is pretty darn awesome and deserves a cooler of its own on my next camping trip.

1. Piña Colada, Puerto Rico
The pineapple, coconut, and rum slurry known as piña colada had been popular in the Caribbean for at least a hundred years before Ramon "Monchito" Marrero, a bartender at the Caribe Hilton’s Beachcomber Bar (now called Oasis Bar) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, perfected it in the 1950s using cream of coconut. Today, San Juan’s signature cocktail is sipped all over the world, but tastes best in Puerto Rico, by the beach or pool.

2. Caipirinha, Brazil
Made with sugar, lime, and cachaça—a spirit fermented from sugarcane juice— the caipirinha is ubiquitous in Brazil’s seaside cafés. Even vendors on the beach mix them. Variations abound, the most popular is caipifrutas, which adds one or more of the region’s wide array of fruits, such as caju (cashew fruit), passionfruit, mango, or kiwi.

3. Mai-Tai, Polynesia
Upon tasting this cocktail of rum, orange curaçao, orgeat syrup (made from almonds), and lime at Polynesian-style lounge Trader Vic’s (then called Hinky Dink) in Oakland, California, in 1944, a Tahitian guest remarked, “maita'i ro'a 'ae,” meaning “out of this world.” Hence the name mai-tai, or so the story goes. The drink got a boost in Elvis’s hit movie Blue Hawaii and has since become a staple at tiki lounges everywhere.

4. Red Stripe Beer, Jamaica
So identified is Red Stripe with the Jamaican national identity that when the island formally gained independence from Great Britain in 1962, one columnist suggested the real date should have been 1928, when the beer was first brewed on the island in Kingston. After a couple of marketing glitches in the U.S. market, the lager is now the most popular of all Caribbean beers.

5. Daiquiri, Cuba
Thanks to the prevalence of rum, lime, and sugar in the Caribbean, the trio became the base for many of the region’s cocktails (as well as the British sailor’s grog). Named for a beach near Santiago, Cuba, the first daiquiri was allegedly invented by a group of American engineers working in the area whose gin supplies had run dry. The drink today is more recognizable to Americans in its fruit-flavored frozen form.

6. Margarita, Mexico
Was it a Texas socialite in Acapulco who was looking for something to refresh her party guests on a hot afternoon or a bartender in Tijuana hoping to impress Rita Hayworth (née Margarita Cansino) with a drink in her honor? Regardless of who invented the margarita—the stories are legion—the tart blend of tequila, cointreau, and lime juice in a glass rimmed with salt has become synonymous with Mexico. It’s the top-selling tequila cocktail worldwide.

7. Limoncello, Southern Italy
When life gave farmers in southern Italy surplus lemons, they soaked the peels in grain alcohol and added sugar to make limoncello. The sweet-tart digestivo is traditionally sipped after dinner, but is gaining ground as a base for simple cocktails, such as splashed over ice with soda or tonic water, preferably enjoyed while taking in the stunning seaside vistas of the Amalfi Coast.

8.Cape Codder, Massachusetts
When cranberry giant Ocean Spray began to promote its juice cocktail as a mixer, suggestions to pair it with Canadian whiskey or rum fell flat. But vodka and cranberry—named the Cape Codder in honor of the beloved Massachusetts peninsula where cranberries thrive—hit it big, spawning multiple variations, including the trendier martini hybrid, the cosmopolitan.

9. Rosé, Côte d'Azur, France
Drinking pink has just started to catch on stateside, but a glass of chilled dry rosé has long been de rigueur in the seaside cafés of France’s Côte d'Azur, alongside fish soup and langoustines. Typically made by removing the skins of the red grapes after crushing, rosé is thought of as the less-serious sister to white or red wine, making it the ideal beachside quaff in Saint Tropez.

10. Gin and Tonic, India
Gin was first introduced to tonic to offset its bitter taste so the British, who were occupying India at the time, could stomach the stuff as an anti-malarial. The Brits ended up fancying the crisp combo, adding a wedge of lime, and it became a mainstay of the tropics long after the empire fell. Try it on the beach in Goa while watching the sun set.

Wisconsin State Parks to upgrade RV electrical service at nearly 20 campgrounds

One of my favorite RVing experts is Chuck Woodbury. Based in Washington state, Chuck is the man behind the RV Bookstore and RV Travel websites and the editor for the weekly RV Travel Newsletter, on online buffet of everything RVing delivered every Saturday to my inbox.

I urge you to sign up to receive your free weekly edition of Chuck's RV Travel Newsletter.

Last Saturday one item in Chuck's newsletter caught my attention. It seems Wisconsin state parks officials are pumping money into upgrading RV electric service at nearly 20 parks.

According to published reports, work is expected to begin this spring on as many as 66 new or upgraded electrified camping sites at 11 parks, including Big Foot Beach, Blue Mound, Bong, Buckhorn, Hartman Creek, Interstate, Lake Kegonsa, Kohler-Andrae, Point Beach, Rocky Arbor and Roche-A-Cri.

Another seven parks - High Cliff, Peninsula, Wildcat Mountain, Kettle Moraine North and South, Yellowstone Lake and Devil's Lake - expect to add up to 338 upgraded or new electrical sites beginning this fall.

The effort is part of a larger $7 million state Department of Natural Resources plan to improve more than 200 publicly owned properties across the state. Plans call improving roads, parking lots and signage.

New RV Website: Rand McNally and USA Today team up for www.BestoftheRoad.com



One of the several RV-related online magazines to which I subscribe is Motorhome Madness by Marianne Riddle. Every day Marianne sends out an email to her subscribers with the main article of the day, and clicking opn the link will take you to the rest of her daily online magazine. In her own words, Marianne says Motorhome Madness is "“All things motorhome-destinations-travel-lifestyle-stuff."

A recent Motorhome Madness post caught my attention. It hinted at a new RVing website -- which, quite honestly, are all too often a dime a dozen. However, this particular website, www.bestoftheroad.com, has two heavy hitters behind it: Rand McNally and USA Today. The website is not exclusive to RVers, but there significant portions dedicated to the RVing community.

Plus, the website is hosting a contest for RV stories. Submit your best stories and get votes to win within the 6 categories below:
  • Oops! Bloopers & video outtakes: Funny mistakes, accidents and mishaps on the road
  • Pay it Forward: Heartfelt stories of people helping people and random acts of kindness
  • Pet Stories: The funniest, most heartwarming, and unique stories, photos and videos about your furry friends
  • Outdoor epiphanies: The ah-ha moments that drive your camping lifestyle, the amazing wildlife, the scenic places that inspired you
  • Camping with kids: Pint-and quart-size humor and original stories about camping with kids & grandkids
  • Head turning RV mods & upgrades: RV modifications, decorating, and tricked out RV photos & videos

This is really just a high-in-the-sky overview of BestoftheRoad.com. Check the website out for yourself, watch the video above or simply read the information below. It's a copy-and-paste directly from BestoftheRoad.com.


What is Best of the Road? 
Rand McNally and USA TODAY have teamed up to create a community of road travelers reviewing the best stops on America’s highways and byways, from small towns to the points of interest in and between them–the Best of the Road. Access user photos and reviews, regional and themed road trips, and blogs featuring travel tips and news, U.S. destinations, and stories from the road.

Explore locals’ favorite spots, recommendations from fellow travelers, and editors’ picks while planning your next road trip. Then share photos and reviews of your favorite destinations and stops along the way to inspire other travelers. Our town and point of interest profiles provide inspiration for RVers, motorcyclists, and families on the road whether for long trips or weekend getaways—and traveler photos and reviews enhance these pages with real experiences.

Every year Rand McNally and USA TODAY collect votes for the small towns you think we should visit. We then send amateur travelers across the country exploring the Best Small Towns in America naming the Most Beautiful, Most Patriotic, Friendliest, Most Fun, and Best Small Town for Food with blogs, photos, reviews and videos to take you on the journey from wherever you are.

Review your favorite towns and places year round to get them on the map as the Best of the Road.

How can you get involved? 
Best of the Road users are looking for the most unique and inspiring road trip stops across America. Here’s how you can give and gain inspiration:
  • READ reviews and blogs for travel tips, popular places, local insight, and traveler favorites.
  • WRITE about your favorite towns and places and UPLOAD photos from your travels
  • FOLLOW the annual Road Rally on our blog, facebook, and twitter
  • GET THE FREE APP on your iPhone to view road trips, videos and reviews from wherever you are.
  • EMBARK on scenic, regional, and themed Road Trips
  • SHARE your experiences on Best of the Road and social media to grow the community

Discover the Wisconsin State Parks Explorer Program

If you’re camping this summer with kids, check out the Wisconsin State Parks Wisconsin Explorer Program. Inside the free booklet you’ll find nature activities, scavenger hunts, games, hikes, and crafts to help you explore Wisconsin's outdoors together. The books are available at most state parks, forests, and recreation areas.

Inside you'll find nature activities, scavenger hunts, games, hikes, and crafts to help you explore Wisconsin's great outdoors together. Kids who complete the requirements will earn collectable state symbol patches.

There are three age levels in the Wisconsin Explorer program (3-5 years, 6-8 years, and 9 years and up). Three themes help kids explore different parts of the great outdoors. With nine booklets, a 3-year-old can begin the program this year and participate until age 11 without repeating a booklet.

Banish Bugs & Crack Down on Critters: Natural Remedies

Keep your home pest-free with affordable tips from The Family Handyman 

Do you have ants in your pantry or bats in your attic? Are mosquitoes, moles and wasps driving you nuts? These pesky, unwanted guests can be extremely hard to remove once they invade your property, and are especially common during the summer months.

The June issue of The Family Handyman offers the best tips to help get rid of your worst pests, both inside your house and out in the yard.

Repel ants with mint or bay leaves
Discourage ants from entering your home by planting a mint barrier around your foundation. You can also set whole bay leaves around kitchen food canisters and sprinkle crushed bay leaves along windowsills.

Fend off mosquitoes with lemongrass and basil
Lemongrass contains citronella. Repel mosquitoes by growing it in clumps around your deck—you can mash up the inner leaves and rub the juice on your skin. Basil also has the same effect, so planting a bunch in pots around your patio will help keep you swat-free.

Control crickets with DIY sticky traps
For those who have a cricket infestation but are wary of the chemicals contained in bug sprays, duct tape serves as the perfect homemade trap. Set out long strips of duct tape—sticky side up—in the infested room, and change the tape as needed. To permanently banish crickets, seal entrances by caulking around windows. Also, make sure to dehumidify rooms (especially your basement)—crickets like damp areas.

Bleach gets rid of drain flies
Tiny drain flies are harmless insects that live on the gunky slime in your drainpipes, but can gather in huge numbers in your house. Try pouring a teaspoon of bleach down the drainpipe and keeping the drain hole blocked for about an hour. If this method doesn’t work, you can starve the flies by cleaning the gunky slime out of the drain with a long-handled brush.

Lights and sprinklers deter unwanted visitors
Uninvited guests in your backyard—raccoons, foxes, skunks, etc.—can be a nuisance, cause messes and even damage your property. Installing motion-activated lights and sprinklers are two of the best methods to rid your yard of these intruders.

A better mousetrap
Got a mouse problem? Try propping up a soda bottle at about a 20-degree angle, then baiting it with peanut butter. A small amount of vegetable oil around the inside of the lip will prevent the mouse from “slipping away.”

Remove bird feeders to prevent nighttime visitors
Don’t forget to take in any bird feeders before the sun sets, otherwise you risk attracting unwanted visits by elk, deer, coyotes and even bears.

Showcasing the Michigan DNR: Grand Hotel’s charm, character showcased in summer exhibit

Author's Note: This is another installment in the Showcasing the DNR series, produced by the Michigan DNR.

Guests at the famed Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island have long been drawn by the rich history, postcard-perfect views and natural surroundings that many would say surpass those found nearly anywhere else on the planet.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people make the scenic trek to Michigan’s “crown jewel” – but this year, there is a more artistic pull; a special showcase in honor of Grand Hotel’s 125th anniversary, that will likely speak sweetly to the inner artist, historian and explorer in each of us.

Now through Oct. 7, 2012, visitors to the island’s Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum will be treated to “Mackinac’s Grand Hotel” – a juried exhibition that features private-collection pieces; historic items from Mackinac State Historic Parks’ collection from the hotel’s history; and selected artwork from both amateur and professional artists for public display.

“Grand Hotel is a readily identifiable and much treasured part of Mackinac Island’s history,” said Phil Porter, director of Mackinac State Historic Parks.

Mackinac's beauty is showcased both outside and in at the Richard and
Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum, where a rare and exceptional
collection of Mackinac-related art and photography (including the all-new
Mackinac's Grand Hotel exhibit) come together to tell Mackinac's story.
“With the important anniversary upon us, we wanted to find a very simple yet powerful way to help the public make a stronger connection to the history of this place that has touched so many people,” Porter said. “Through art, artifacts and all kinds of hotel keepsakes, the exhibition helps to tell a story about this iconic establishment and the people who have walked its grounds over the years.”

The Grand Hotel opened in 1887, mainly as a summer retreat for vacationers in the region who would arrive by lake steamer from Chicago, Erie, Montreal and Detroit, as well as cross-country rail travelers who wanted to see what the grand excitement was all about.

According to Mackinac State Historic Parks Deputy Director Steve Brisson, who planned and compiled the exhibition, that anticipation was – and remains – well founded for every visitor who steps onto the Grand’s celebrated front porch and wanders throughout the hotel.

That fascination and wonder are exactly the feelings Brisson hopes the current exhibition will inspire.

“This important anniversary afforded a unique opportunity for us to share special pieces from our collection that are usually not visible to the public,” he explained. “Because the exhibit is housed in the art museum, we put a major emphasis on showcasing the aesthetics of Grand Hotel – everything from the décor and architecture to the design of their dinner menus."

"Dining at Grand Hotel is one of the key experiences and a central part of the hotel’s history,” said Porter.

Circa 1915
Over the last 125 years, the menu offerings and china patterns have changed and specimens of early china are rare. From 1900 to 1918, Porter said Grand Hotel was jointly managed with Planter's Hotel in St. Louis, Mo. The plate features Planter's Hotel Company logo in the center, which includes two oval devices representing Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island and Planter's Hotel in St. Louis.

Porter also cited a soup plate branded with the letters PGH, which stands for Plank's Grand Hotel. During its first three seasons, the Grand was known by this name as a condition of manager John Oliver Plank.

“Family tradition holds that hotel employees were allowed to take home chipped china,” Porter said. “This piece was passed down through the family.”

Every facet of the exhibition is infused in some way with the unique flavor of life on Mackinac Island and the understanding that any stay at the Grand is, naturally, grand.

Whether through photography, painting, sculpture or creative staging of prized items from the private collection, the “Mackinac’s Grand Hotel” exhibition pulls you in, escorts you through a remarkable past, and celebrates the bright future of this proud piece of island lore.

“What I find quite special is the way the older pieces work with the newly created artwork,” Porter said.

He complimented the work and critical eye of the exhibition jurors: Valerie Mercer, the first curator of African American Art and head of the General Motors Center for African American Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts; Vince Carducci, assistant dean and interim chair of fine arts at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit; and Marlee Brown, an artist who has studied at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Academy of Design and whose work hangs in many private and corporate collections.

“To capture just the right spirit of Grand Hotel and all of the stories, traditions and milestones that are a part of it, was no small task,” he said.

“Our hope is that when people walk among these pictures, mementos and original artwork they will feel a very real sense of the long, rich history of this important hotel – and how even the most ordinary of days can be transformed into a once-in-a-lifetime experience because of Grand’s inviting, unique sense of place.”

Grand, indeed.

“Mackinac’s Grand Hotel” is offered at the Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum at the Indian Dormitory on Mackinac Island now through October. For information on hours, admission, and the Kids’ Art Studio (located within the museum), visit www.mackinacparks.org.