Hunt and win - inaugural Wetland Wonders Challenge contest to begin this waterfowl hunting season

As part of the new Explore Michigan’s Wetland Wonders campaign, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) introduces a contest for waterfowl hunters, beginning this fall. The contest will focus on the seven premier Managed Waterfowl Hunt Areas (MWHA) and waterfowl hunters throughout Michigan.

The Wetland Wonders Challenge will take place at the seven MWHAs throughout southern Michigan. These areas include Allegan State Game Area’s Fennville Farm Unit, Fish Point, Harsens Island, Muskegon County Wastewater Facility, Nayanquing Point, Pointe Mouillee and Shiawassee River.

Offering first-class waterfowl hunting opportunities to the public, these areas are intensively managed for wetland and upland habitat to attract waterfowl and provide high-quality waterfowl hunting experiences. The MWHAs have exclusive zones where hunting occurs. Drawings are conducted throughout the hunting season to assign hunters to the zones, and permits are issued for hunting.

“Our MWHAs offer hunters access to some of the best waterfowl hunting areas in the state,” said Barb Avers, DNR waterfowl and wetlands specialist. “If you haven’t visited an MWHA before, we invite you to come experience these unique hunting areas and see what they’re all about.”

The Wetland Wonders Challenge began Sept. 15, with the opening of the youth waterfowl hunt (only at MWHAs that are open and conducting drawings) and continue through the close of the Allegan County Goose Management Unit season on Jan. 22, 2013. During the opening weekend (Oct. 6-7) of the regular duck season in the South Zone, hunting at Fish Point, Harsens Island, Nayanquing Point and Shiawassee River is by reservation only.

When hunters register at any one of the MWHAs, they will receive an individual commemorative duck leg band for that MWHA and a validation of their Wetland Wonders Challenge punch card (available at all MWHAs). If hunters visit at least four of the seven MWHAs, they will be entered into a drawing to win one of several ultimate waterfowl hunting prize packages. Hunters that visit at least one MWHA can enter to win several consolation prizes. Winners will be selected on Feb. 15, 2013.

For more information on the MWHAs (including location, drawing times, dates, and rules and regulations) and the Wetland Wonders Challenge contest (including the contest terms and conditions), please visit www.michigan.gov/wetlandwonders.

This promotion also connects to the new Michigan Waterfowl Legacy (MWL), which kicked off on Sept. 8 and celebrates the “Year of the Duck.” The MWL is a 10-year, cooperative partnership to restore, conserve and celebrate Michigan’s waterfowl, wetlands and waterfowl hunting community. Throughout the year numerous waterfowl- and wetland-related events will be held. For more information about MWL, please visit www.michigan.gov/mwl.

Fayette Historic State Park’s Fall Fest takes on a Disney theme

“All Things Disney” will be the theme of the seventh annual Fall Fest taking place on Saturday, Oct. 6, at Fayette Historic State Park in Garden, Mich. The annual event is being hosted by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division staff who will transform the park into “The Happiest Place On Earth – Northern Edition” for weekend visitors.

Guests are encouraged to dress as their favorite Disney character such as Winnie the Pooh, Donald Duck, a ghost from a haunted mansion or even a favorite Disney princess. Campers are encouraged to join the campsite decorating contest.

Saturday’s special activities include “Cars” hayrides between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., and special “Disney-themed” activities around the park’s historic town site from noon to 2:30 p.m. Park day users can travel through the campground on one of the hayrides to experience the spirit of Halloween. A Halloween costume contest begins at 2:45 p.m. followed by trick-or-treating throughout the campground. A ghost hunt through the town site will start at 11 p.m.

Coffee, hot chocolate and doughnuts will be served in the campground from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 7, when the winner of the campsite decorating contest will be announced.

The state park is located at 4785 LL Road in Garden (Delta County) in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. A detailed schedule of events and more information can be obtained by calling Fayette Historic State Park, 906-644-2603. For camping reservations, call 800-447-2757 or visit www.midnrreservations.com.

Vehicles entering Fayette Historic State Park must display a Recreation Passport. 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.

Ohioans invited to attend 36th annual Heritage Days at Malabar Farm State Park

LUCAS, OH – To celebrate the fall and harvest season, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) welcomes all Ohioans to visit Malabar Farm State Park during its 36th annual Heritage Days. This free family event will be held Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 29-30 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

This popular festival is one of Ohio’s largest free outdoor craft and living history festivals with approximately 75 traditional crafters. Weaving, woodworking, spinning, apple butter making, quilting and broom making will also be featured.

The Malabar Antique Tractor Club will display vintage Willy jeeps, antique tractors and many other types of antique farm machinery. Visitors may step back into time as they walk through a Civil War artillery encampment with live blacksmithing, cannon firing and musket shooting. Local community nonprofits will be selling a variety of foods during Heritage Days, including homemade root beer, a wide variety of sandwiches, bean soup, funnel cakes and more.

For some Halloween adventure, attendees may take a tour of the Ceely Rose House to learn about the murders of the Rose Family from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The cost to see the Ceely Rose House is $5 per person.

Malabar Farm was the dream of Louis Bromfield, an American Pulitzer Prize-winning author and conservationist. Ohio accepted the deed to Malabar Farm in August 1972 to preserve the beauty and ecological value of the farm. Malabar Farm State Park is dedicated to perpetuating Bromfield’s farming philosophies, preserving the Big House and the artifacts within as well as providing a place for visitors to explore farm life and the beauty of nature.

Continuing in the tradition of Bromfield, a free square dance will be held on Saturday night from 7-10 p.m. in the main barn beside the Big House. People are invited to enjoy the live music and square dance calling during this time—beginners and veteran dancers are invited to attend. Food and other refreshments will also be available.

Malabar Farm State Park is located at 4050 Bromfield Road, Lucas, Ohio 44843. Call 419-892-2784 for more information or visit malabarfarm.org.

Mohican State Park is located at 3116 State Route 3, Loudonville, Ohio 44842, which is near Malabar Farm State Park. For people interested in making their visit to Heritage Days a weekend trip, contact Mohican Lodge and Conference Center, located at 1098 County Road 3006, Perrysville, Ohio 44864, at 800-282-7275 to reserve a room.

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

Ohio DNR prepares for Fall Color Season

Forecasting the vivid oranges, reds and yellows of changing leaves during the fall season is not always predictable, but beautiful fall color will surely be visible in Ohio this year.

Casey Burdick, fall color forester for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), says Ohioans can expect to see the state’s woodlands awash in a rich palette of textures in hues – barring any major wind or rain storms.

Fall foliage forecasters must take into account several variables such as sunlight, temperature, wind and rainfall when calculating the brilliance and longevity of Ohio’s autumn color. Bright, sunny September days and cool nights tend to make the red, orange and bronze colors in leaves more intense. Early frosts often cause trees to prematurely build a barrier between the leaves and branches. This barrier – known as an abscission layer – prevents carbohydrates and water from passing in and out of leaves, thus turning leaves “ahead of schedule.”

Dry conditions may delay leaf color change while windstorms knock down leaves, quickly closing fall’s vibrant colors.

Fewer hours of daylight triggers an autumnal transformation in some trees. This shift causes green chlorophyll to break down, revealing the gold, yellow, orange and brown hues of Ohio’s beech, birch and hickory trees.

The leaves of many “sugary” trees such as maples, dogwoods, and sweet gums, undergo a chemical change prompted by the arrival of mid to-late September’s cool nights and sunny days. The leaves of these trees react with a showy display of deep red, purple, russet and bronze shades.

Want to know where the most captivating leaves will be throughout the upcoming fall color season? Check out fallcolor.ohiodnr.com, ODNR’s premier guide to Ohio’s fall color season, with weekly color updates and information to help plan adventures to find stunning autumn leaves.

Weekly videos from Burdick will highlight color hot spots around the state and provide information about some of Ohio’s 100-plus tree species. Burdick’s fall color forecast will be highlighted next week. This page also offers helpful links for leaf collecting tips, scenic road trips and more.

For more great fall getaway ideas, visit the Ohio State Parks’ website at ohiodnr.com/parks. The Ohio Division of Travel and Tourism also has numerous itinerary ideas at discoverohio.com under their Autumn Adventures feature.

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

Boyne Mountain’s 4th annual Skitoberfest offers festive fun for all ages

Photo courtesy of Cary Adgate
Boyne Mountain Resort is hosting the 4th annual Skitoberfest on Saturday, Oct. 6.

The event kicks off the coming snowsports season with a summit featuring four-time Olympian, two-time U.S. National Downhill Champion and World Cup winner, A.J. Kitt, and includes an on-snow rail jam, new Burton Riglet Park for the kids and a ski swap.

Skitoberfest also celebrates the best of fall in an Oktoberfest style setting. Highlights include great food, Michigan beer, wine and spirits plus live music and performances, free scenic chairlift rides, parade, dancing in the streets, art, drama and a party atmosphere making this day festive for the whole family!

The Snowsports Summit takes place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the resort’s Civic Center and admission is free. The Summit is hosted by Olympian and U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame inductee, Cary Adgate, and features equipment, technique and physical conditioning tips, ski swap and special guest speaker, A.J. Kitt. Skitoberfest’s on-snow Rail Jam offers the opportunity to strap on skis or snowboard with a competition starting at 3:30 p.m.

From 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. are live performances by local dancers, mimes, gymnasts, storytellers and musicians, plus art, face painting, pony rides, petting zoo, laser tag, horse-drawn hayrides, bonfire sing-alongs and more. Skitoberfest also offers ways to enjoy the fall foliage including Twin Zip Rides, two excursions for $20, and free scenic chairlift rides.

Also from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., enjoy tastes of more than 50 Michigan beers, plus wine, spirits and eats from local restaurants and markets. For $30, event goers receive a commemorative Skitoberfest pint glass and 12 tickets good towards food and beverage tasting. Participating breweries include Arcadia Ales, Beards Brewery, Bell's Brewery, Jolly Pumpkin, Mount Pleasant Brewing Co., New Holland Brewing Co., Right Brain Brewery, Short's Brewing Co. and more. Michigan wines are from Black Star Farms, Chateau Fontaine, Chateau Grand Traverse, Good Harbor and Mackinaw Trail. Local restaurants and markets serving up tastes and treats include 42nd & Broadway Deli, Alpine Chocolat Haus, Blue Harbor Grille, Boyne Highlands Resort, Lake Street Market, Morel’s Bistro, Red Mesa Grill, Shanahan’s Prime, Skitoberfest Sweets, Tannery Creek Meat Market and The Thirsty Goat.

The fun continues well into the evening with a DJ, dancing and cash bar from 7 p.m. to midnight. Admission is free.

Nightly hotel lodging starts at just $110 with condo lodging from $145. For complete Skitoberfest details and to reserve lodging at Boyne Mountain Resort, visit www.BOYNE.com or call 800.GO.BOYNE (462-6963).

Meet a 'real' Michigan Wolverine

'The Lone Wolverine' author to speak Oct. 6 at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

Over the past several months, a taxidermy mount of the only wild wolverine known to have existed in Michigan in the past century has been the focus of a traveling exhibit throughout the state.

The wolverine is currently on display at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, where freelance journalist Elizabeth Philips Shaw, author of “The Lone Wolverine,” will appear for a book discussion and signing on Saturday, Oct. 6, at 6 p.m. at the park’s visitor center.

Shaw will discuss her book and explain how she came to write this wildlife detective story about Jeff Ford, the high school science teacher and deer hunter who spent six years studying and filming the elusive predator in a remote swamp in the state’s Thumb. She will also share the best of Ford’s still images and video recordings of the wolverine until its death in 2010, and discuss the mysteries and controversies that surrounded this unique event in Michigan’s natural history.

Also speaking will be Alex Hasson, a volunteer field researcher on the Glacier National Park Wolverine Research Project, which began in 2002 as part of an ongoing effort to develop a management plan for one of North America's rarest and most elusive mammals. During his years with the project, Hasson assisted in live-trapping wolverines that were fitted with radio collars or implanted tracking units, then released back into the wild.

Hasson spent much of each winter living alone in the mountainous backcountry, using radio telemetry to track the wolverines' movements, investigate den sites and record other useful information on the animals' habits and habitat. Hasson will talk about the behavior of wolverines in the wild, and share images and personal stories of his experience working with the project.

Following the presentation, Shaw will sign copies of “The Lone Wolverine,” available for purchase at the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness Visitor Center. The Center is located at 33303 Headquarters Road in Ontonagon. The event is free; however, a Recreation Passport is required to enter the park. For more information about this event, contact park interpreter Bob Wild at 906-885-5206 or wildr@michigan.gov.

RV Buying Tips - Just in time for the Detroit Camper & RV Show

Deciding on a Recreation Vehicle for Your Family

Detroit Camper & RV Show runs Oct. 3-7 at Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi


Deciding on which recreation vehicle is best for you and your family is easy once you take time to learn the basics of how RVs are categorized. RVs are generally divided into two main categories—motorized RVs and towable RVs. Motorized RVs combine living quarters with driving quarters. Towable RVs are pulled by another vehicle such as a car, truck or SUV.

Motorized RVs are then sub-divided by size: Class A, Class B, and Class C motorhomes. The sub-categories for towable RVs are travel trailers, folding camping trailers, fifth wheels, and truck campers.

Choosing an RV will depend on use, family size, and budget, so understanding the different types and sizes of RVs available will make it much easier to choose the right one for you and your family. Here are brief descriptions of RV types:

Class A motorhomes are generally the largest RVs. These RVs range from 30 to 40 feet in length, have two or more slideouts and can sleep up to eight people. Class A units usually come with almost every comfort you would expect in a home including full kitchens, heating, air conditioning, full baths, propane gas supply, and electrical system. Many now have flat screens TVs, Wi-Fi, satellite or cable hookups, and even fireplaces. Their prices range from $58,000 to $400,000 or more.

Class B motorhomes, commonly called van conversions, are the smallest motorhomes. They are usually 17 to 19 feet in length and can sleep two to four people. Although living space is limited, Class B motorhomes receive high marks for economy, versatility, and handling. Class B motorhomes usually have a small kitchen, heating, a self-contained toilet, electrical system, water tanks, sink, propane gas supply and convertible/folding beds. Prices range from $40,000 to above $100,000.

Class C motorhomes are scaled-down versions of Class A motorhomes. They are usually 20 to 31 feet in length and can sleep up to ten people. Class C motorhomes usually have a sleeping bunk above the cab and a bedroom in the rear of the unit. Most models include a small kitchen, heating, air conditioning, a self-contained toilet, water tanks, sinks, a propane gas supply, electrical system, and entertainment features. Class C models range in price from $48,000 to $140,000.

Fifth-wheel travel trailers are similar to standard travel trailers, but they have an extension on the front that goes over the tow vehicle (always a full-size pickup truck). The front of the camper is typically a bedroom and additional living space is created by slideouts. Fifth-wheel trailers usually have full kitchens and baths, heating, air conditioning, water tanks, a propane gas supply, electrical system, and entertainment features. They can sleep up to six people and range from $13,000 to $100,000.

Travel trailers vary in size and length—from 10 feet to 31 feet. Many feature one or more slideouts to extend the unit's living space. Travel trailers must be pulled by a separate tow vehicle such as full-size sedan, truck, van or SUV. Travel trailers have small kitchens, heat, air conditioning, a self-contained toilet, water tanks, shower, sinks, a propane gas supply, and electrical system. Travel trailers sleep up to 10 people. Travel trailers range in price from $8,000 to $65,000 depending on size and features.

Truck campers are loaded onto the bed of a standard pickup truck. The tailgate of the pickup is often removed and the camper unit is then clamped to the truck. Truck campers are easily loaded and unloaded and are popular among part-time RVers. Most models include kitchen facilities, heating, air conditioning, a self-contained toilet, water tank, sink, a propane gas supply, and electrical system. Truck campers sleep up to six people and sell from $4,000 to $26,000.

Folding camping trailers are the least expensive RV and are commonly called tent trailers or pop-up trailers. They are lightweight, inexpensive and easily towed by a mid-size car. Most modern models have an automatic lift system for quick setup. Folding camping trailers usually provide small kitchen facilities, heating, water tank, sink with faucet, propone gas supply, electrical system, and convertible/pull-out beds. Folding camping trailers sleep up to eight people and are available from $4,000 to $13,000.

Now is a great time to buy an RV. Start exploring different types of RVs at the 23rd Annual Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show and find your perfect RV!

The Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show will be held in Novi at the Suburban Collection Showplace, October 3-7, 2012, and is open weekdays 2-9 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. The cost for adult admission is $8 (ages 13 and up); senior admission is $7; children ages 12 and under are admitted free! Purchase $2-off advance tickets at select Metro-Detroit Home Depot stores; visit www.marvac.org/marvac-rv-shows.html for a list of participating stores. Your RV show ticket will also get you into the Novi Home Remodeling Show in the adjacent arena, Thursday through Sunday.

The show is sponsored by the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC), a member organization representing all aspects of the camping and RV industries.

Call 517-349-8881 ext. 11 or visit marvac.org for more information.

Renovations Underway at Ohio's Hueston Woods, Shawnee State Park Resort Lodges and Cottages

Shawnee Woods State Park
Hueston Woods State Park
COLUMBUS, OH – Renovations at two Ohio State Parks resort lodges and adjoining cottages will enhance the experience of visitors, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

The cottages have been modernized at Hueston Woods State Park near Oxford, and the lodge improvements will commence this fall. Both lodge and cottage upgrades have been completed at Shawnee State Park, located near Portsmouth.

“This public-private partnership is a win-win for Ohio State Parks’ visitors,” said ODNR Director James Zehringer. “We hope the improvements combined with the many other recreational options that these parks feature will make Hueston Woods State Park and Shawnee State Park even more appealing to our visitors.”

In addition to a new lodge roof at Shawnee, all 50 lodge rooms feature new carpet, paint, lighting and d├ęcor. The 37 cottages at Hueston Woods and 25 cottages at Shawnee have been upgraded with new carpet and flooring, beds, appliances, furniture, lighting and flat-screen televisions.

The renovations have been put into place by U.S. Hotel and Resorts, the private operator of the two lodges and cottages. The firm won the management contract with the state after a competitive bidding process and took control of both of the facilities in February.

Ohio State Parks operates eight resort lodges with 881 rooms, 221 cottages and golf courses at six resorts.

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

Daughmer Bur Oak Prairie Dedicated as Ohio's Newest State Nature Preserve

COLUMBUS, OH – Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) Director James Zehringer was in Crawford County recently to dedicate Ohio’s newest state nature preserve, the Daughmer Bur Oak Prairie Savannah.

ODNR purchased the nature preserve in 2010 with funds from the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves Tax Check-Off program. The Crawford Park District assisted with the negotiations for the purchase of the property.

State and local officials cut the ribbon on the newly designated preserve, which will be managed in partnership with the Crawford Park District. After the dedication, some of the attendees enjoyed a interpretive hikes given through the prairie.

The historic Sandusky Plains was a 200,000-acre swath of tall grass prairie that once covered parts of three Ohio counties prior to settlement of the state. There are now only 75 acres left of the original prairie, and the Daughmer preserve is one of the largest remaining tracts of the original Sandusky Plains, consisting of 34 acres. Daughmer State Nature Preserve is notable for endangered species, such as the threatened Bicknell’s sedge and the potentially threatened wheat sedge and flat stemmed spike rush. The 200-year-old bur oak trees are another beautiful asset to this area.

The preserve was named for Hazel (White) Daughmer, whose family owned the property for five generations, and enabled the prairie habitat to be perpetuated through low intensity sheep grazing, which suppressed woody plants. Subsequent owners of the property have cooperated with efforts to conduct scientific studies and maintain the prairie ecosystem through periodic controlled burns.

The preserve will remain open to the public for low impact recreation including hiking, birdwatching and nature study. Volunteer opportunities are available for people who are interested in helping remove invasive plants by contacting ODNR Northwest District Preserve Manager Ryan Schroeder at 419-445-1775.

Daughmer Bur Oak Prairie Savannah State Nature Preserve is located in southern Crawford County, eight miles southwest of Bucyrus, at the intersection of Scioto Chapel Road and Marion-Mercer Road.

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

Pittsburgh Happenings

One Young World Summit
One Young World, the largest gathering of countries represented outside of the Olympics and the United Nations, will meet in Pittsburgh, Oct. 18-22, 2012. Modelled after the prestigious World Economic Forum, held in Davos, Switzerland, One Young World convenes young leaders from around the world to discuss and debate issues addressed daily by government, business and academic leaders. Notable celebrities from around the world, including Huffington Post founder and CEO Arianna Huffington, chef and nutrition advocate Jamie Oliver, and activist and musician Bob Geldoff will serve as counsellors at the summit. Former President Bill Clinton will provide the keynote.  

Soup for You!
“Of soup and love, the first is best.” Or so says an old Spanish proverb. The Soup Sega (Soup Now) kitchen of the Bulgarian Macedonian National Educational & Cultural Center has been offering homemade gourmet soups and ethnic specialties since 1999. Each Saturday morning – beginning Sept. 15 through May 2013, you can find hearty meat soups and vegetarian fare, such as Balkan Bean, Gyuvech (stew), and Creamy Mushroom Noodle. The now-famous soup kitchen has been featured in regional and international media, including the documentary, “What Makes Pittsburgh Pittsburgh.”  

Braddock’s Revenge
A new American museum opened in Braddock, Pa., that’s dedicated to the Battle of the Monongahela during the French and Indian War. Braddock’s Battlefield History Center is a 5,000-square-foot museum that is situated on land where 250 French soldiers and 600 of their Indian allies encountered British forces in 1755. The museum, located seven miles from downtown, features 250 artifacts found on the battlefield and 50 pieces of art that depict historically accurate scenes.  

Step It Up
Pittsburgh – with some of the steepest streets in the world – is home to 716 sets of city steps. On Oct. 6, Pittsburgh will “Celebrate the Steps” in what has become a quirky annual event for two city neighborhoods. Swarms of people will climb up and down many flights of steps as part as StepTrek on Pittsburgh’s South Side Slopes neighborhood, which has 67 sets of steps – more than any other city neighborhood. And, aptly named Fineview’s Step-a-thon has also become a fun annual event. For more info, go to southsideslopes.org/steptrek and stepathon.org.  

Butterflies are Free
Known as a great travel destination for visitors, Pittsburgh has become a stop for butterflies, too! The city’s convention center is home to a Monarch butterfly waystation that assists the species’ long migration to Mexico. Monarch waystations provide resources like milkweed and nectar plants that are necessary for butterflies to continue the migration process by producing further generations. The waystation is one of many greening projects at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, the only convention center in the United States to be both Gold- and Platinum-LEED certified.  

Whistler Exhibition
Eighty rarely-seen prints and drawings by James Abbot McNeill Whistler are on view at Carnegie Museum of Art. “Whistler & Rebellion in the Art World” explores Whistler’s defiance of artistic conventions – and his insistence on the importance of “art for art’s sake.” The exhibition showcases Whistler’s artworks as he intended them to be seen – as aesthetic objects to be appreciated solely for their visual qualities. Through Dec. 2, 2012.

New Website helps Michigan campers locate safe firewood

Did you know that moving firewood from one section of the state to another is one of the most effective ways to expose the forests to dangerous pests and diseases? Invasive insects like the emerald ash borer or the Asian longhorned beetle can hitchhike their way from an infested area by riding along in the firewood carried by unsuspecting campers.

The Southeast Michigan Resource Conservation and Development Council, the USDA Forest Service Wood Education and Resource Center, and Michigan State University's Department of Forestry have launched the new site www.firewoodscout.org to help outdoor enthusiasts find firewood close to where they camp, hunt, fish, and relax. Help protect Michigan's forests. Buy it where you burn it.

Hocking Hills State Park named best campground in America



Author's note: I was happy to share this information because Hocking Hills, Ohio was one of our very favorite camping trips. We went there in 2007 (the above video is ours), and we have recommended Hocking Hills to all of our RVing friends.

One of the premier websites for camping and hiking, Tripleblaze.com, has just released its list of Best Campgrounds in America, and Hocking Hills State Park is now ranked No. 1!

Located in the heart of Ohio’s stunning Hocking Hills region, the campground beat out hundreds of camping sites across America, including the famed Yosemite National Park, which came in second, and Mt. Rainier National Park, which is ranked #14. Tripleblaze.com uses a specially designed algorithm to rank campsites and determine the popularity of each one. The system accounts for the average ratings, number of reviews and the number of people who have camped or wish they could stay at the campground.

Tripleblaze.com describes Hocking Hills State Park Campground as offering “a variety of recreational opportunities in a splendid natural setting. Towering cliffs, waterfalls and deep hemlock-shaded gorges lure the hiker and naturalist and serve as a backdrop to popular facilities and accommodations.”

Along with being home to the best campground in the U.S., Hocking Hills is also considered the “canopy tour capital of the Midwest.” Throughout the lush forests of Hocking Hills exists miles of ziplines, giving campers and other visitors a chance to view the area from above. However, Ziplines are just one of the many attractions to the Hocking Hills area. Campers can hike among rugged cliffs, soaring rock faces and roaring waterfalls of Old Man's Cave, Ash Cave or Cedar Falls. Travelers seeking a break from hiking they can go horseback riding, kayaking or rent ATVs to ride through the immense forests. Visitors can also tour the last washboard factory in America, or even learn how to blow glass jewelry from a local artist. No matter what visitors come to do, they will not be disappointed by the thousands of acres of natural scenic beauty of Ohio’s Hocking Hills.

About Tripleblaze.com
Tripleblaze.com is the foremost destination for people to learn about U.S. campgrounds, hiking trails and outdoor recreation gear. The site posts reviews of campgrounds around the country and gives members the ability to post their own reviews of campgrounds they have visited. The top feature of the site is the camp ground and hiking trial ranking system, implemented to give users insight into the parks in the country. It also ranks outdoor gear and hiking trails.

10 Rules for "Glamping"

Image from InGod'sEconomy.com
I have to admit, I'm not much into this whole "glamping" (glamorous camping) craze. But you could argue that some of the RVs nowadays could easily fall under the "glamping" umbrella. Anyways, enjoy this guest post from Sonja Bogart of Aupairs.org.

10 Rules for Glamping

Camping isn’t for everyone, but if you love the outdoors and don’t like the idea of “roughing it,” then glamping might be for you. Glamping is a way to enjoy camping without all of the work, bugs or dirt. When glamping, no dirty hands are required. If you’re up for a glamorous camping adventure, be sure to follow these 10 rules.
  1. Do not make your own food. When you go glamping you will be treated to gourmet food cooked by a chef. Depending on the experience, the food could be cooked over an open fire on-site where you can watch or it might come on a tray already prepared elsewhere. If you go to Las Ventanas al Paraiso in tropical Cabo San Lucas you will experience a wonderful private moonlit dinner on the beach before you sleep under the stars on the roof of the hotel.
  2. Do not make your own bed. One of the many benefits of glamping is that there are people around to take care of the work for you. With glamping you get out into nature and enjoy the relaxing environment, without all of the work.
  3. Do not make your own fire. When glamping, the fire pit is lit before you can even snap your fingers. Forget sitting on a rock or a stump that you pull up around the fire. When glamping you are provided with soft comfy chairs or benches.
  4. Do not set up your own tent. While there are resorts and other locations that make you set up your own tent because they feel that you are glamping at their facility because you can go into the resort and get a massage, work out or buy a mixed drink, take note: these places are just fancy campgrounds. To be glamping you won’t need to get your hands dirty, unless you want to. The tents are already set up and the bed is made with luxury linens, unless you sleep in an air conditioned RV, cabin or Yurt, of course.
  5. Do not sleep on the ground. Beds are provided for you. Sometimes they are very exotic canopy beds and other times they are traditional beds, but they have a nice mattress for you to sleep on so there’s no need to worry about creepy crawlies or having to use a rock for a pillow. With glamping you can enjoy luxury linens and down comforters.
  6. You must take in your surroundings. Some glamping areas are buried in the heart of the city, but you are sleeping out under the stars and everything is taken care of for you. When glamping in the city it’s a little like when you were a kid and you pitched a tent in the backyard. There are things to go and do within walking distance. Many other glamping locations are set in perfect surroundings; overlooking a beautiful lake, high on a hill where you can see for miles, in the mountains where you need to be dropped by helicopter, or on an island where you can only arrive by boat.
  7. Leave the kids at home. Some camps don’t mind kids and there are lots of things for them to do. In fact, places like Normandy Farms in Massachusetts have kids sized cabins that can be placed on your site for the kids to play and sleep in. Others consider glamping an adult only affair where the crowd is able to commune with nature and enjoy adult food and drinks. Be sure to know if your resort is family friendly before you pack up the kids.
  8. Don’t wash the dishes. In a true glamping experience, meals will be served on china instead of plastic or paper. There is nothing glamorous about paper plates and plastic forks. You don’t wash the dishes when you eat at a restaurant and the experience will be similar while you are glamping.
  9. Don’t bring an alarm clock. When you are out in nature you will wake up with the sun or whenever you feel like getting up. If you want to take an early morning stroll just let the concierge know and he will wake you gently. Bring a sleeping mask if you’d like to sleep past sunrise.
  10. De-stress and enjoy yourself. The most important rule of glamping is to show up ready to relax and to have fun. Glamping is expensive and only for those that aren’t worried about the money they are spending. Massages are often offered right in your tent. Sometimes live music will be provided for your entertainment. Sit back, relax and just enjoy the glamping experience.

VIDEO: Fly-through animation of the Grand Canyon

Enjoy this 7:26 video from the National Park Service which follows the Colorado River through the formation of the Grand Canyon.

Over the course of 6 million years, the Grand Canyon has been carved by the Colorado River. One mile (1.6km) deep, 277 miles (433km) long, and up to 18 miles (28.8km)wide, this canyon is like none other. This animated flight is the product of a partnership between NASA, the NPS, and the USGS.

How to Prevent and Treat Chiggers


Image from MedicineNet.com
Enjoy this guest post from Heather Graham of OnlineNursingDegrees.org.

How to Prevent and Treat Chiggers 


Chiggers are tiny pests that can cause red, itchy welts where they have bitten.

Technically, chiggers are the larvae of a mite that live in brushy and grassy areas. They mainly bite in areas where the skin is thin and tender, such as the groin, ankles, and backs of knees. When they bite, they inject a saliva that contains an enzyme that is irritating to the skin -- causing the red, itchy welts.

Chigger bites are common to campers and others spending a lot of time in the woods. The itchy bumps may appear for as much as 2 to 3 weeks, which can be irritating and painful even.

Fortunately, chigger bites can be prevented with some planning. If you are unfortunate enough to be the victim of chigger bites, there are a few ways you can treat and lessen the symptoms.

Prevention of Chigger Bites 
One of the best ways to prevent chigger bites is to avoid their natural habitats: Brushy, grassy areas. This may be difficult for avid campers to do. Instead, an insect repellant can be used to thwart the unwanted pests. DEET and sulphur-based powders and creams usually work best.

Wearing loose clothing can also help prevent chigger bites. Belts and tight clothing can help to trap chiggers and make it easier for them to latch on and bite into the skin.

If you have been in a busy and grassy area, be sure to take a thorough shower to wash off any chiggers that may be hitching a ride but haven't yet bitten. Also be sure to thoroughly wash your clothes before wearing them again.

Treating Chigger Bites 
Many myths exist about how to treat chigger bites. Since many people believe that chiggers burrow into the skin -- causing the red welts -- they think that using nail polish or alcohol on the skin will suffocate the chiggers. However, the chiggers have already gone once the welts have formed, so these strategies will be ineffective.

Treating chigger bites relies on treating the systems: The itching and the inflammation. Calming lotions like calamine can help, as can anti-inflammatory creams such as hydrocortisone. You can also try antihistamines.

Most importantly: Avoid intense scratching! You can risk further infection from the salivary enzymes -- creating a second outbreak -- and can risk creating an open wound that can become infected by other germs.

Chigger bites can be a real nuisance, and they are a common annoyance for campers and others who spend a lot of time outdoors. Avoid places where chiggers usually reside, or use an insect repellant in order to avoid chigger bites. If you do get bitten, use calming and anti-inflammatory lotions and creams to treat the bites.

Have you suffered chigger bites from a camping trip? How did you treat the bites? Share your experiences in the comments!

Heather Green is a mom, freelance writer, pet lover and the resident blogger for OnlineNursingDegrees.org, a free informational website offering tips and advice about online health care admin degrees and physical therapy aide programs.

VIDEO: Starcraft Eco Advantage

Enjoy this 2:26 video from Starcraft on their Eco Advantage, which is the company's commitment to protecting the environment.

7 Old Fashioned Outdoor Games

Enjoy this guest post from summernannyjobs.com.


7 Old Fashioned Outdoor Games Everyone Should Know

Playing outdoor games gives folks the opportunity to do something fun and active together. Whether it’s playing an after dinner game with family, or hosting a backyard tournament during a cookout, when friends and families play games outside together memories are made. If you don’t already know how to play these 7 classic outdoor games, here’s a primer.

Croquet: Croquet requires a croquet set and some level ground to play. The set includes 6 mallets in various colors, 6 matching balls, 2 stakes, and wickets. A wicket is a piece of wire bent into a “U” shape. On either end of the field a stake is set up. In front of each stake 2 wickets are pushed into the grass. The wickets are about 6” apart. The remaining wickets are set up on the field in a random path. The object of the game is to knock your ball through all of the wickets and hit the final stake before anyone else does.

Badminton:  Badminton requires special rackets, a net, and a birdie (aka shuttlecock).  The birdie is made up of a weighted point and feathers (or plastic netting) forming a cone shape.  The idea is to hit the birdie back and forth over the net without letting it drop.   The winner of the game is the first person or team to reach 21.  To score a point all you have to do is get the birdie to hit the ground on the opponent’s side of the net regardless of who served.  Three games make a match.   

Horse Shoes:  This game is played with metal horse shoes and two metal stakes.  There are actual horse shoe courts where the stakes are in sand boxes.  The object of the game is to throw from one end of the court to the other, which is about 40 feet, and get the horse shoe around the stake.  This is called a ‘ringer’.  A ringer is scored at 3 points.  If a horse shoe is within 6” of the stake then it counts as 1 point.  Thus the old saying, “Close only counts in horse shoes”. 

Bocce:  This game is hugely popular in Italy.  Bocce is played with 8 balls, 2 each of four colors and a small white ball called the ‘jack’ ball.  One team throws the jack ball into a zone about 16 feet away.  Then the players take turns rolling 4 balls per team to see who can get the closest to the jack ball.  It is possible to hit someone else’s ball away to get a better score.  It is also legal to hit the jack ball to improve your score.  The winner is the first team to score 7 to 13 points depending on regional rules. 

Shuffleboard:  Outdoor shuffleboard used to be played primarily by senior citizens or those on a cruise ship.  However, the relaxing nature of the game has broadened the audience of this game to younger people as well.  The shuffleboard court is 39 feet long and is made up of a scoring triangle on each end.  This game is played with 8 discs, 4 each of two colors, 2 cues and a court.  Line up 4 of one color to the left of the scoring triangle and 4 to the right of the scoring triangle.  The players take turns pushing the discs down the court with their cues trying to get the disc into the scoring triangle.  Depending on where the discs end up the score will be determined.  It is legal to knock your opponent’s disc out of the scoring triangle to better your position.  The first person to 75 wins. 

Ladder Ball:    To play ladder ball you need 2 ladders, each with three rungs, 3 bolas per team and some space.  Bolas are made up of a rope between 2 golf balls.  Ladder ball can be played with up to 6 players and they each need to have their own set of bolas in a different color.  The ladders can be any distance apart and are often played in a parking lot while tailgating before the big game.  The first player stands at one end of the court and throws his bola at the ladder and tries to get it to hang on a rung.  Each rung is worth 1, 2, or 3 points depending on house rules.  All of the players throw their bolas.  Everyone gets their score and then play switches to the other end of the court.  The first person to reach 21 points wins.    

Yard Darts:  This game is also known as Lawn Darts or Jarts.  To play this game you need a set of yard darts, targets and a yard.  The targets look like small hula hoops.  The targets are placed about 35 feet apart.  The rest of the game continues like horse shoes.  Each player has 2 darts.  The first player stands at one end and tosses their dart underhanded and tries to get the dart into the ring.  If a dart is in the ring you score a point.  Take turns throwing the darts and then score after each inning.  The winner is the first player or team to score 21 points.  Some versions of this game have a smaller bull’s-eye ring. If a player gets a bull’s-eye, additional points are doled out.

Plenty of opportunities for Michigan small game and waterfowl hunters this season

Two youth hunters experience the thrill of the hunt during a
duck expedition in Monroe County.(DNR photos)
Small game hunting season in Michigan began Sept. 1 with the opening of the early Canada goose season and continues until rabbit and hare season ends on March 31. Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologists across the state say hunters should find conditions similar to last year -- with a couple of notable improvements -- in Michigan's wood lots, farm fields and wetlands.

Rabbits 
Season: Cottontail rabbits and varying (or snowshoe) hare can be hunted from Sept. 15 - March 31, statewide. The daily bag limit is five in combination with a possession limit of 10.

Outlook: Roughly 60,000 hunters reported pursuing rabbits in 2010 (the most recently completed harvest survey), and about 15,000 hunted hares. Cottontail populations are good throughout their range over much of the state. Concentrate on thick cover, such as briar patches and brush piles, often near agricultural fields. Snowshoe hare populations, which are cyclical, are down somewhat from historic levels. Look for early-successional forests (such as aspen stands), and low-lying swamps with blow-downs and brush piles in the northern two-thirds of the state.

Squirrels 
Season: Sept. 15 - March 1. The daily bag limit is five per day with 10 in possession.

Outlook: Both fox and gray squirrels are at moderate to high levels across much of the state. Areas that had good acorn or nut production last year are a good bet as are wood lots adjoining corn fields. Post-deer-season hunting, in January and February, is increasingly popular. About 70,000 hunters pursue squirrels each year.

On the state’s west side, in Kalamazoo County,
a young hunter proudly shows off his turkey.
Ruffed Grouse 
Season: Sept. 15 - Nov. 14 and Dec. 1 - Jan. 1, statewide. The bag limit is five per day/10 in possession in the northern two-thirds of the state, three per day/six in possession in Zone 3 (southern Michigan).

Outlook: Grouse populations are cyclical, typically rising and falling over a 10-year period, and indications are that we are coming off a peak, though spring drumming surveys indicate populations are still high and a warm, dry spring should help this year’s reproduction. Michigan boasts about 85,000 grouse hunters. Grouse are denizens of early-successional forests -- young to moderate-aged aspen stands (with trees of a diameter ranging from a cue stick to a baseball bat) and tag alder thickets. Food sources are important, but berry and wild fruit production is down because of the dry summer this year. Grouse are most numerous in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula, but hunters may find local populations in areas with good habitat in southern Michigan as well. Grouse and woodcock hunters are asked to assist the DNR in monitoring populations by reporting their results. Cooperator forms can be found on the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/ hunting – select Upland Game Birds and then Ruffed Grouse.

Woodcock 
Season: Sept. 22 - Nov. 5, statewide. The daily bag is three with a possession limit of six.

Outlook: Although woodcock populations are in long-term decline because of decreasing habitat quality, hunters can expect about the same results they enjoyed last year, when roughly 35,000 hunters – often in conjunction with grouse hunting -- said they pursued woodcock. Found in all parts of Michigan, woodcock are migratory, and although their population densities are higher in the northern two-thirds of the state, they often can be found in good numbers in southern Michigan later in the season as the birds head south. The best woodcock habitat is in young cover along streams and on swamp edges; the long-beaked birds feed by probing the earth for worms and other invertebrates that are adapted to moist soils. Peak migration occurs in mid-October in the northern portions of the state. Hunters are reminded that they must have a Harvest Information Program (HIP) endorsement printed on their small game licenses to legally take woodcock. See the 2012 Michigan Hunting and Trapping Digest for details.

An upland bird hunter and his eager
companion get ready to search out some
grouse in Iron County, in the western U.P.
Sharp-tailed Grouse 
Season: Oct. 10-31 in the eastern Upper Peninsula, east of M-129 and east of I-75 north of M-48. The limit is two daily, with four in possession; six per season.

Outlook: This is the third season of hunting after nearly a decade of closed season. Sharptails are birds that use grasslands and associated shrubby habitat; think pheasant habitat, as sharp-tailed grouse feed on upland seeds and berries. Often found in small flocks and sometimes difficult to approach; sharptails can require relatively long-range shooting compared to ruffed grouse. Sharptail hunters are required to have a (free) sharp-tailed grouse endorsement on their hunting licenses.

Pheasants 
Season: Oct. 10-31 in the Upper Peninsula in Menominee County and portions of Iron, Marquette, Dickinson and Delta counties, Oct. 20 - Nov. 14 in the Lower Peninsula and Dec. 1 - Jan. 1 in selected areas of Zone 3. The limit is two cocks daily, with four in possession.

Outlook: Pheasant populations have been in decline for a number of years, primarily because of changes in agricultural practices and/or urban sprawl, though biologists are optimistic that ideal nesting conditions this spring may show a bump in young-of-the-year birds. Typically, the best habitat is on private lands that have been managed for pheasants, especially those that are enrolled in farm set-aside programs, though some public land is being intensely managed for pheasants. Generally speaking, hunters who enjoyed success last year should find similar hunting conditions in the same areas. The best counties for pheasant hunting occur in south-central to mid-Michigan and into the Thumb, though locally abundant populations can be found almost anywhere. Look for warm-season grasses, especially idled farm fields. Late-season hunters can have success in cattail and shrub lands adjoining picked agricultural fields. An estimated 27,000 hunters pursue pheasants in Michigan.

Quail 
Season: Oct. 20 - Nov. 14. Quail can be hunted only in Branch, Calhoun, Clinton, Eaton, Genesee, Gratiot, Hillsdale, Huron, Ingham, Ionia, Jackson, Kent, Lapeer, Lenawee, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Montcalm, Oakland, Saginaw, St. Clair, St. Joseph, Sanilac, Shiawassee, Tuscola, Washtenaw and Wayne counties. The bag limit is five per day/10 in possession.

Outlook: Quail hunting often is associated with pheasant hunting in Michigan, and bird populations are patchy at best, though spring nesting conditions were ideal. Fewer than 1,000 hunters reported quail hunting in 2010.

Hunters make their way along a snow-covered trail after
a successful rabbit outing in Ionia County.
Wild Turkey 
Season: Sept. 15 - Nov. 14 in eight management units including the entire Upper Peninsula (except Isle Royale) and all counties to the south of and including Oceana, Newaygo, Mecosta, Isabella, Midland, Bay and Huron (except Wayne and Monroe) and Beaver Island. A total of 50,050 licenses are available -- 3,350 general licenses that may be used on public or private land and 46,700 licenses for private land only. Licenses are issued by lottery, though leftover licenses are available over the counter on a first-come, first-served basis until management unit quotas are met. The limit is one bird of either sex per license.

Outlook: Fall turkey seasons are only held in areas where populations are stable to increasing, so prospects are very good. Roughly 16,000 hunters pursue wild turkeys in the fall hunt, many of them during the archery deer season.

Ducks 
Seasons: Sept. 22 - Nov. 16 and Nov. 22-25 in the North Zone (Upper Peninsula); Sept. 29 - Nov. 25 and Dec. 15-16 in the Middle Zone; and Oct. 6 - Nov. 30 and Dec. 29 - Jan. 1 in the South Zone.

The bag limit for ducks is six per day with no more than four mallards (no more than one hen), three wood ducks, four scaup (bluebills), two redheads, two pintails, one canvasback and one black duck. Five additional mergansers (no more than two may be hooded mergansers) may be taken. Possession limit is two days' daily bag limit.

Outlook: Hunting prospects for Michigan's 40,000 duck hunters are excellent as continental populations are at an all-time high and most species are above long-term averages. Locally, spring surveys indicated a 70-percent increase in mallard numbers, but biologists are tempering their enthusiasm because of drought conditions this summer. Good opportunities for puddle ducks, especially wood ducks, exist in beaver ponds and small inland floodings, but some of those areas could be dry this year. Diving ducks, which usually begin arriving in good numbers around mid-October, should be plentiful on the Great Lakes, with improved bluebill numbers allowing for a larger bag.

Canada Geese 
Seasons: The early season is Sept 1-15 except in the Upper Peninsula and Saginaw, Huron and Tuscola counties, where the season is Sept. 1-10. The daily bag limit is five.

The regular goose seasons are Sept. 22 - Dec. 22 in the North Zone; Sept. 29 - Dec. 29 in the Middle Zone; and Sept. 22-23, Oct. 6 - Nov. 30, and Dec. 29 - Jan. 1 in the South Zone, except in designated goose management units (GMUs). The daily bag limit is two. In the Saginaw County and Tuscola/Huron GMUs, the season is Sept. 22-25 and Oct. 6 - Jan. 1 with a daily bag limit of two. In the Allegan County GMU, the season is Oct. 6 - Nov. 25, Dec. 8-23 and Dec. 29 - Jan. 22 with a bag limit of two. In the Muskegon Wastewater GMU, the season is Oct. 9 - Nov. 13 and Dec. 1-23. The bag limit is two.

The late goose season, in the South Zone excluding the GMUs, is Jan. 12 - Feb. 10 with a daily bag limit of five.

Hunters may take 20 snow, blue or Ross geese daily and one white-fronted goose and one brant during the regular and late seasons.

Outlook: Resident Canada goose populations, which account for more than 70 percent of the state's total harvest, are above population goals, so hunters should find plenty of geese, and with 107 days of hunting, more opportunity than ever. Roughly 35,000 hunters pursue geese in Michigan.

For more information on Michigan hunting seasons, licensing and other information, visit www.michigan.gov/hunting.

Halloween-themed weekends at Groveland Oaks County Park (Mich.)

Haunted Hallows weekends

WHAT: Families are invited to celebrate Halloween at Groveland Oaks Campground for the annual Haunted Hallows weekends. Activities for campground guests include: Haunted Horror Island, mini-pumpkin crafts, contests, inflatables, trick-or-treating, hayrides and a costume DJ dance. Most activities are on Saturdays.

“It’s a great camping opportunity for families to enjoy great fall weather and all the Halloween activities we offer at the campgrounds,” Parks Supervisor Boyd Brokenshaw said.

Call Groveland Oaks at 248-634-9811 for campsite or cabin reservations.

WHEN: Sept. 14 – 16 and Sept. 21 - 23

WHERE: Groveland Oaks County Park is located at 14555 Dixie Highway (at Grange Hall Road) in Holly.

ADMISSION: An Oakland County Parks and Recreation daily park pass or 2012 annual vehicle permit is required for park entry.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
Addison Oaks Campground also celebrates Halloween in October with Boo Bash weekends, Oct. 12 – 14 and Oct. 19 – 21.

For camping details, visit DestinationOakland.com or find Oakland County Parks and Recreation on Facebook.

VIDEO: Dutchmen Razorback Toy Hauler Travel Trailer

Enjoy this 1:03 video from Dutchmen spotlighting their Razorback Toy Hauler Travel Trailer.

Great Escapes Around the Great Lakes: Readying an RV for Summertime Travel

Enjoy this guest post from John Egan, managing editor of Car Insurance Quotes, a leading online provider of car insurance news.
 
Great Escapes Around the Great Lakes: Readying an RV for Summertime Travel
The recording-breaking summer heat affects us all, regardless of our health or age.  Although many people are attune to the impact the heat can also have on our homes (higher utility costs won't let this fact escape our attention), we often lose sight of how the environment affects our vehicles.  Recreational vehicles can be tremendous investments, so prudent RV owners will take proactive steps as the summer heat approaches to ensure their property is prepared to withstand the weather.  So, whether you're planning a short trip to a specific destination on one of the Great Lakes, or whether you have a longer journey to explore all the Great Lakes have to offer, these steps will help alleviate concerns about whether the summer heat will lead to a detour off course for you and your RV.

Check Out the Appliances
Nothing can derail a relaxing road trip faster than a malfunctioning hot water tank, refrigerator, cooking device, or television.  Preventing appliance failures is often easy; it just takes a little pre-trip inspecting.  Although owners should have the LP gas system professionally tested for leaks and pressure on an annual basis, a basic operational test to ensure everything is functioning properly before hitting the road is wise.

Inspect the Tires
Maintaining adequate tire pressure is vital to your RV's fuel efficiency and handling capabilities, but it's also a good safety precaution.  Failure to monitor proper pressure makes tires more susceptible to blowing out, which could cause damage to the vehicle and injury to passengers.  When monitoring tire pressure, make sure to use a high quality inflation gauge for measurement, and if one is not available, seek professional assistance.  Further, don't rely on your past experience or a friend's recommendation in determining an ideal level of pressure.  Instead, consult the manufacturer's guidelines.  Finally, make sure that you have that trusty spare tire along for the trip.

Replace Old Filters
Filters for oil, fuel, and air should be checked prior to commencing a summertime journey.  If the filters are showing any wear and tear, replacing them could help lessen the burden on the vehicle while operating in the heat.

Examine the Powertrain
All components of the RV that generate power, including the engine and transmission, require attention before hitting the road.  That includes monitoring fluid levels throughout the vehicle.  For most RV owners, that will require consultation with a professional.

Ensure the Batteries are Charged
Extended storage of an RV likely means the vehicle's batteries will need to be recharged or replaced.  To minimize the effect of the heat, ensure that the battery is securely mounted and connections are clean and tight.  After the battery has been charged, check to see if there is adequate water supply for the battery.  If not, use distilled water to prevent any chemicals from contaminating the battery.

Freshen Up the Water System
If an RV has been stored for a long period of time, the water system needs to be checked for leaks and it should be cleaned.  In fact, it's not a bad idea to annually sanitize the water system by using a small amount of bleach.

Monitor Seams and Sealants
If your RV has been stored outside prior to your trip, it would be a good idea to look around the vehicle's interior to ensure there are no signs of leaks.  Even if you have kept your RV in a garage or other kind of storage facility, it's wise to inspect and, where necessary, reseal seams and sealants periodically to avoid future leaks.  This kind of maintenance may be best performed by an expert, as some manufacturers recommend using specific products during the resealing process.

Reassess Your Emergency Plan
The summer months can bring erratic weather patterns, so it's always a good idea to have a consistent plan for dealing with the elements while on a road trip.  First, make sure that you have radios or other technological devices capable of keeping you updated on the forecast.  In addition, make sure a member of your crew is available to assist any young or elderly folks in the event of severe weather or any other type of emergency.

Tips on Operating the RV
Once you have followed all of these steps and are ready to embark on your journey, a few additional tips could help minimize the impact of the heat when operating the RV.  For example, when possible, always park the vehicle in shaded areas.  In addition, monitor the temperature inside the refrigerator to ensure that food is safety stored.  Finally, make sure the interior temperature of the vehicle remains cool.  Hot, sweaty passengers will ultimately be cranky passengers, so make sure everyone remains comfortable!

John Egan is managing editor of Car Insurance Quotes, a leading online provider of car insurance news.