What's New for Pure Michigan Visitors in 2013

Driving America
With 2013 under way, visitors to Michigan can look forward to a wide range of new and improved lodging options, dining spots, and activities this year, including milestone anniversary celebrations.

What’s New to See

Museums – Michigan has several new museums and exhibits for visitors to explore this year.


Coming tomorrow: What's new to Eat and Drink

For a complete list of what’s new in 2013, visit michigan.org.

ODNR Dedicates Lake Hope State Park Dining Lodge

MCARTHUR, OH - The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) joined local community members earlier this year at a ceremonial dedication and ribbon cutting for the recently rebuilt Lake Hope State Park Dining Lodge.

“Reopening the Lake Hope State Park Dining Lodge has once again turned this property into a desired destination and is a fantastic addition to southeast Ohio,” said ODNR Director James Zehringer. “We are privileged to be a part of this community and appreciate all of the support we received in completing this project.”

The original dining lodge was destroyed by fire in 1996.
With rousing support from the local community, ODNR reconstructed a new 14,000-square-foot facility, which includes a dining lodge and a kitchen, as well as a multi-purpose room on the lower level ideal for reunions, meetings and community events. Within the lodge is the Lake Hope State Park office as well as a gift store featuring locally made products.

The lodge is also designed to achieve the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification.

On staff are two local chefs who focus on preparing high-quality food with an emphasis on fresh Ohio ingredients. The Lake Hope State Park Dining Lodge features real pit barbecue, which is smoked in the lodge’s wood-fired traditional pit with pure hickory. Restaurant visitors may also purchase smoked meats and sides by the pound to take home.

The dining lodge is open Monday through Friday, with lunch being served from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. and dinner served from 4-8 p.m. On Saturday, breakfast is served from 7-9 a.m., with lunch being served from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. and dinner being served from 4-8 p.m. On Sunday, a brunch buffet is offered from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

The original Lake Hope dining Lodge was built in 1950. The lodge was destroyed by fire in the early morning hours of Feb. 10, 2006.

For people interested in booking an event at the lodge or wanting more information, email info@lakehopelodge.com or call 740-596-0601.

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.

Snowmobiling in Benzie County Michigan with 135 miles of Trails

Benzie County is ready for snowmobilers looking for an abundance of groomed and challenging snowmobile trails with a well-marked signage system and maps at a variety of stops. 

The snowmobile trails in Benzie County traverse 135 miles across the county leading into Maple City to the north and Bear Lake and Manistee to the south. All along the trails, snowmobilers can stop in the quaint towns of Benzie County -- Honor, Thompsonville, Benzonia and Beulah to enjoy restaurants and an abundance of lodging choices

Maps showing Benzie County’s snowmobile trail system, as well as, staging areas for loading in the snowmobiles, are online at visitbenzie.com. Snowmobile trail maps can also be picked up along the stopping points along the trails and at the Benzie County Visitors Bureau located on US31 in the village of Benzonia. 

Trail Permits are required to ride and they can be purchased through designated vendors. 

The Michigan Snowmobile Association and Benzie County Visitors Bureau give weekly trail conditions and up-to-date information on snowmobiling. A trail system and trail conditions and trail reports for Benzie County are also available to help snowmobilers decide where to travel.

Snowmobile Staging Areas are located at the Platte River Association Hall, north of US-31, east of Honor; the parking area in the Village of Thompsonville, off of County Rd 669 and North of M-115; and at the Beulah Trailhead & Visitors Center in Downtown Beulah.

Snowmobile Rentals  
Crystal Adventures, located off of M-115, just five miles from the Benzie County Visitors Bureau, is offering snow mobile rentals by the day or weekend with prices ranging from $150 for four hours on Holidays, Saturdays or Sundays to $195 for an all day rental on weekends. Rentals from Saturday 9 a.m. to Monday 9 a.m. are $355 and weekday rentals are also available. Advance reservations are required. Accessories such as helmets can also be rented. Guided snowmobile trips are offered, as well as, snowmobile delivery and pick-up. Contact Crystal Adventures at 231-651-9648 for pricing or see the website at www.crystaladventures.com for more information. A trailhead is located next to Crystal Adventures. 

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan is known by snowmobilers nationwide for its unique combination of abundant and dependable snow, exciting terrain and an extensive trail network. More than 6,200 miles of designated snowmobile trails are located throughout the state of Michigan forests, three national forests and many acres of privately owned lands. Michigan is one of only three states that offer a large system of interconnected snowmobile trails.

To book winter getaways to Benzie County and to learn more about winter activities, events, and nearby award-winning wineries and unique restaurants in the area, contact Benzie County Visitors Bureau at 1-800-882-5801 or see www.visitbenzie.com. Hotels, motels, inns, b&bs, and a top rated luxury resort are within minutes of beautiful natural areas to enjoy wintertime activities: downhill skiing and snowboarding, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and much more.

VIDEO: How to install a Fastway Flip Jack

Enjoy this 5:12 video by Mark Polk of RV Education 101 about the Fastway Automatic Flip Jack

Here's what Mark had tosay about his video:
Mark Polk with RV Education 101 http://rveducation101.com/ demonstrates how to install a Fastway Automatic Flip Jack foot on your trailer or RV http://fastwaytrailer.com/flip/ . The Fastway Flip Jack drops into place automatically when you extend your trailer jack, and tucks up out of the way automatically when you retract the trailer jack. This Fastway trailer product saves you time and trouble.

State-record Great Lakes muskellunge now also listed as world record

The state-record Great Lakes muskellunge caught by Joseph Seeberger of Portage, Mich., on Oct. 13, 2012, has now been listed as a world record by the International Committee of the Modern Day Muskellunge World Record Program (MDMWRP).

MDMWRP is a committee of muskellunge scientists, industry leaders, anglers and outdoor media personalities that formed in 2006. The program facilitates the recording and verification of muskellunge world records, covering a current void of record availability to North American muskellunge anglers for fish in the 58- to 68-pound range. This range has been chosen because it is considered the maximum ultimate range of growth for this species. Prior to Seeberger’s submission, there had not been a MDMWRP world-record entry verified.

Seeberger caught the fish on Lake Bellaire in Antrim County. The DNR verified the record and documented that the fish weighed 58 pounds. Although the DNR did not measure the length (state records are determined by weight only), the angler measured the fish at a length of 59 inches with a flexible tape. Later in the day, a taxidermist reported the length at 58 inches.

MDMWRP is listing Seeberger’s fish at 58 pounds, 58 inches long, and a girth of 29 inches. It should be noted MDMWRP rules require a bump board-style length measurement, which explains the difference between their length and the length reported in the initial DNR press release (includes photo).

The MDMWRP is one of many organizations that recognize world-record catches. Many of these organizations differ on their required criteria.

Over the past year, the DNR has made changes to muskellunge fishing regulations in an effort to improve fishing opportunities and to further protect the species. Starting April 1, the possession limit will change to allow anglers to keep only one muskellunge per season, instead of one per day. Anglers must also obtain a free harvest tag that must be attached to the muskellunge they intend to keep. These tags are available wherever fishing licenses are sold and will be available March 1.

“Mr. Seeberger’s fish is another example of the capacity of Michigan waters to produce enormous, world-record fish,” said acting Central Lake Michigan Management Unit manager Scott Heintzelman. “Added protection from recent regulation changes will allow more of these magnificent fish to reach their maximum potential and provide anglers the chance to catch the fish of a lifetime.”

For more information on Michigan’s state records, visit www.michigan.gov/masterangler.

VIDEO: RV Roof Repair

Enjoy this 5:44 video, featuring Mark Polk of RV Education 101 and Dicor RV Roof Repair

Here's what they had to say about their video:
What do you do when you get a puncture or tear in your RV roof? In this informative RV how-to video Mark Polk with RV Education 101 http://rveducation101.com/ demonstrates a quick and easy way to repair your RV roof using a Diseal patch https://dicorproducts.com/catalog/roof-products/repair-products/diseal-sealin... or RV roof repair tape https://dicorproducts.com/catalog/roof-products/repair-products/epdm-rubber-r... by Dicor Products. Dicor offers RV roof repair products for EPDM rubber, TPO, fiberglass, plastic, wood, steel and aluminum RV roof products.

Spring Fishing Classic at Bass Pro Shops starts Feb. 22

Bass Pro Shops is dedicated to ensuring families continue to have fun together outdoors through their exciting, educational events such as the Spring Fishing Classic held at 4500 Baldwin Rd. in Auburn Hills as well as other locations throughout North America

Last year, more than 7 million people attended this event at Bass Pro Shops stores across America and Canada and this year promises to be even bigger. And, it is at a price everyone can afford — free.  

Plus, this year you could be the winner of a fishing trip with Tony Stewart sweepstakes. You could be selected as the National Grand Prize Winner and win a day of fishing with Tony Stewart, driver of the 2013 #14 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet — SS. The fishing trip will take place in Indiana. You and your guest will receive complementary travel and 2 night’s lodging—a total sweepstakes package value of more than $5,000! In addition, 54 winners will be selected (one from each store) to win an exciting First Place Prize Package with a retail value of $560 US and $445 CAD.**  

The 17-day event begins Feb. 22 and goes until March 10 at 52 of the Bass Pro Shops retail stores in the United States and March 8-24 at the Calgary and Toronto stores in Canada. 

Customers will find lots of new fishing products to browse through, live demonstrations to see, tips and techniques to learn, boat shows, kids events, and, it’s all FREE! 

Don’t forget to register to win a fishing trip with Tony Stewart sweepstakes or one of the 54 packages being given away that include a Bass Pro Shops Stainless Steel tool set, Bass Pro Shops Enigma Smart Cast Baitcast reel, Kevin Van Dam Tackle System, Coca-Cola® Tailgating Prize Package and 2 race tickets (race tickets are a $200 value.)  

The Spring Fishing Classic is the best time and place to pick up the secret techniques and strategies used by the best anglers in the world. This year you’ll have two weekends of seminars and tank demonstrations to choose from-- select your favorite topic or pro or attend them all—they’re all FREE! (Seminars will be held at all store locations except Miami, FL; Branson, MO; Islamorada, FL; and Bass Pro Shops Outlet store in Springfield).

The first weekend at the U.S. stores, Feb. 22-24 and the second weekend at the CAD stores, March 15-17 features “Local Tip” fishing seminars taught by local pros, conservation groups and other area experts.

Seminars include:
Friday, Feb. 22
• 6:30 pm, Tips For Fishing Lake St. Clair
• 7:30 pm, Techniques For Fishing Walleye
Saturday, Feb. 23
• 1:30 pm, Tips For Fishing Lake St. Clair
• 2:30 pm, Spring Fishing Tips Seminar Given By Mark Gwizdala
• 3:30 pm, Baits For Success, Such As The Stik-O™ Worm Soft Plastic
• 4:30 pm, Best Tackle & Equipment For Successful Big Water Salmon Fishing
• 5:30 pm, Tips & Trends For Smallmouth Fishing
Sunday, Feb. 24
• 1:30 pm, Techniques For Fishing Walleye
• 2:30 pm, Baits For Success, Such As The Stik-O™ Worm Soft Plastic
• 3:30 pm, Best Tackle & Equipment For Successful Big Water Salmon Fishing
• 4:30 pm, Tips & Trends For Smallmouth Fishing

The second weekend of the U.S. Spring Fishing Classic March 1-3, and the first weekend of the Canadian Spring Fishing Classic, March 9th-10th, offers the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster University National Fishing Pros seminars.

BASSMaster University Seminars include:
• March 3, 1 pm, Pete Maina, Professional Angler, Television Personality & Host of “The Next Bite®” TV Show, Pressured Muskies
• March 3, 2 pm, Fletcher Shryock, 2012 Bassmaster Classic Qualifier & 2011 B.A.S.S. Open Champion Lake Norman, Spring Fishing Patterns
• March 3, 3 pm, Mark Martin, 1990 World Walleye Champion & One Of The Most Sought-After Promoters In The Walleye Industry, Walleye Tactics
(Pros, seminar topics, and times vary by store and are subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances. Please check individual store schedules by visiting www.basspro.com/classic and clicking on the store from drop down box.)

Other special events include:
Reel Trade-In: If attendees have any old reels that don’t see a lot of action, bring them in during “Reel Trade-In” days Feb. 22-27 at the U.S. stores and March 8-13 for Canada stores. They can be traded in for a coupon worth from $5 to $100 off the purchase price of a new reel. The donated reels will be given to local not-for-profit groups whose mission is to teach children about fishing and the outdoors.

Rod Trade-In: U.S. Locations March 1-5, CAD stores March 15-19. Bring in any old rods you aren’t using and trade for a coupon worth $5 to $100 off the purchase price of a new one. Donated rods will be given to local not-for-profit groups to teach children about fishing.

Bass Pro Shops Next Generation Weekend: U.S. stores March 9-10, Canada March 23-24 Noon to 4 pm. Kids can get into the spirit of the outdoors with plenty of FREE events geared for them during the Spring Classic. Activities include Catch and Release Pond, Kid’s Fishing Seminars at 1pm and 3pm. Free 4x6 Photo and a KeepAmericaFishing Certificate (U.S. Locations only). Rocky View will have the photo download only and Vaughn will have photo and a Next Generation Future Angler Certificate at Catch and Release Pond, and crafts from 1-4 pm each day. Plus, the first 150 kids to complete a punch card each day will receive a special Bass Pro Shops Flashing Wristband (while supplies last).

Daily Door Busters: See specified store locations.

Contest rules: Customers must register to win the “Fishing Trip with Tony Stewart” Sweepstakes or the Amazing First Place Prize Package. The Grand Prize of the Tony Stewart fishing trip will be awarded to one winner selected nationally. Fifty-four first prize winners will be selected (one per store) and awarded the Amazing First Place Prize Package. (NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR CLAIM PRIZE.) Open to legal residents of the 50 United States, District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec)who are 18 years of age or older at time of entry. Void where prohibited. Sweepstakes begins 02/22/13 and ends 03/10/13 for U.S. locations. In Canada (excluding Quebec), between 3/8/13 and close of business on 3/24/13.

Live the life of a Victorian-era light keeper at Tawas Point Lighthouse

Editor's note: Tawas Point State Park is one of the more popular campgrounds on the east side of the lower peninsula. We were fortunate enough to camp there a few years ago and it remains one of our more favorite stays. Beautiful surroundings and a picturesque town that was a healthy bike ride away.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is offering a fresh idea in vacation destinations. The DNR is seeking volunteers to spend a week or two between March 1 and Dec. 20 acting as lighthouse keepers for the Tawas Point Lighthouse during the 2013 lighthouse keeper season. The lighthouse is located on the grounds of Tawas Point State Park along the shores of Lake Huron in East Tawas.

Volunteers must be willing to study up on the lighthouse’s rich maritime history in order to lead visitor tours, work in the museum’s gift shop or perform other miscellaneous duties. In exchange for their work contribution, volunteers can stay in the newly renovated keeper’s quarters for a cost of $250 per person, per week. The living quarters include two bedrooms and a modern kitchen and bath.

“The lighthouse has been in operation since 1876 and is still an active aid to navigation,” said Chuck Allen, unit supervisor for Tawas Point. “It’s one of only nine lighthouses on the Great Lakes with a working Fresnel lens.”

The chance to enjoy spectacular views and the unique lodging has enticed vacationers to seek out the experience. According to Allen, 62 volunteer lighthouse keepers stayed in the lighthouse from April through Christmas in 2012.

The lighthouse keeper program is open to singles and couples 18 years and older. Allen suggested that volunteers should be physically able to lead tours through the lighthouse and tower and perform housekeeping duties such as light maintenance or lawn care. Applications can be obtained at www.michigan.gov/tawaslighthouse. Dates and prices are effective through 2013. For details, call 989-362-5658.

DNR announces changes for equestrian group reservations at Elk Hill Equestrian Group Camp

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently announced that Otsego Lake State Park in Otsego County will oversee the recreational programming taking place within the Pigeon River State Forest.

The new directive will bring about changes in the way equestrian groups make reservations for the Elk Hill Equestrian Group Camp. Beginning on Jan. 3, 2013, riding groups seeking reservations should call Otsego Lake State Park at 989-732-5485, instead of calling the Pigeon River State Forest management headquarters. Reservations will be taken by park staff between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The same group rules and fees that applied in 2012 will continue in 2013. A minimum of five riders will constitute a group. There is an $8 reservation fee per group reservation, along with a daily $6 per-person fee for group camping. Groups are limited to no more than 100 people or 50 “camping units” (what the equestrians camp in; for example, a trailer) in the campground at one time.

When making reservations, callers should have the following information ready:
  • Dates requested
  • Number of people in the group
  • Number of camping units in the group
  • Credit card numbers for advance reservations 
For details or questions, contact Otsego Lake State Park supervisor Charlie Maltby, 989-732-5485 or email maltbyc@michigan.gov.

VIDEO: Detroit Spring Camper & RV Show has best show in 12 years

Bill Sheffer and the folks at the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehjcles and Campgrounds (MARVAC) have some pretty terrific news: The 2013 Detroit Spring Camper & RV Show had its  best-attended show in 12 years, and broke its single-day attendance record when over 10,000 people came to the show on Saturday, Feb. 9.

The show recorded over 21,000 attendees — a 13 percent increase over last year’s record attendance.

 Every RV dealer I talked with said they had an excellent show. I was at the show on its opening day and its closing day, and many said they were selling RVs at the show, and were very happy with the number that they were selling (they didn't tell me how many, and I didn't ask).

Gary Becker, owner of Indigo Bluffs Resort in Empire, Mich., (and subject of an earlier video I took) was pleased with the interest and engagement of the show attendees. “This was a positive sign that there is a continued growth in the RV and camping lifestyle. People are interested in committing to outdoor recreation.”

According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, 2012 showed substantial growth in the number of RV shipments compared to 2011 figures. The Detroit Camper & RV Show indicates that this trend could continue through 2013.

“The attendance for this show was phenomenal and it’s obvious the camping and outdoor lifestyle is growing!” said Dave Rochette, owner of Westland Camping Center, in Westland, Mich. “Interests are across the board, ranging from the small, less-expensive models, to the larger, luxury models. Some new RVs even include island kitchens, which seemed to be very popular with buyers.”

Enjoy the video and hopefully we'll see you camping this season!

NOTE: If you want to see the other videos I took from the show, here's the links:

Bill Sheffer telling us to come on out to the show.

Redwood 36RL Fifth Wheel with Full-Timers Warranty

Indigo Bluffs RV Resort

White Water Retro by Riverside RV

Sunset Trails ST32RL Travel Trailer

Park Model by Vacationland Sales
Lance Truck Camper Model 1191

Catalina Travel Trailer

NOTE II: MARVAC also sponsors shows in Battle Creek, Flint and Traverse City. For information on these shows, visit www.marvac.org.

Showcasing the DNR: Winter fishing in Michigan … a “reel” good time

A young angler proudly shows off his recently caught
bluegill while ice fishing in Michigan.
Michigan’s world-class fisheries are known throughout the country, if not the world, with many anglers pursuing them at all times of the year. These fisheries are even on proud display during the state’s legendary winter months – a time of year many anglers proclaim as the best time to go fishing.

Despite that claim, there are many other anglers who will have no part in winter fishing opportunities – either on or off the ice. But those anglers who actually prefer fishing through the ice to open-water fishing have two arguments to back up their inclination: anglers can get just about anywhere on the lake during ice-fishing season, something they can't do without a boat during the open-water season; and virtually every fish that's available to anglers in the summer can be caught through the ice. In fact, some are even caught more frequently in the winter.

So winter can be a great time to partake in Michigan’s water wonderland, as many of the state’s 11,000 lakes, 36,000 miles of rivers and streams, and even the Great Lakes can offer lots of cold-weather fishing fun.

Venturing out this time of year can be rewarding to anglers willing to pursue it – especially for families. Ice fishing offers something for kids that open-water fishing doesn’t: space to run around while they wait for the fish to bite.

While children often find sitting in a boat during the summer months a squirm-worthy activity, heading out on the ice to fish lends itself to all kinds of kid-friendly activities, like skiing, skating and snowball fights. Creating a fun atmosphere and memorable experience just might spark a family ice-fishing tradition.

Two youngsters eagerly await a big bite while
ice fishing on Higgins Lake.
If you’re new to ice fishing, don’t be intimated by the idea of heading out! Learn about the kind of equipment you need and the safety precautions to take. The DNR offers plenty of online information about the ins and outs of ice fishing.

If you already go ice fishing regularly, consider taking on a new challenge by targeting a different species. Popular winter species include bluegill, crappie, smelt, walleyes and yellow perch, among others.

It’s helpful to know some simple tips when targeting these species. For instance, did you know the best time to target crappie is during the first and last hours of the day? Or that Michigan has an unusual smelt fishery, and in the winter anglers often use a hook-and-line to catch them while during other times of the year they are typically netted?

Did you know that during colder months, bluegill – a popular species no matter the time of year – suspend in the water column? As a result, avid ice fishermen use depth finders to find out where the fish are swimming. Ice fisherman also love targeting walleyes, typically by jigging (which means moving the fishing rod tip up and down while the bait is in the water) or with tip-ups. And avid anglers know yellow perch – quite possibly the most popular fish to eat – can often be found in shallow water towards the end of the ice-fishing season but at a wide range of depths earlier on.

Learn about these fishes and even more tips on how to catch them in the winter by checking out the “Michigan Fishes and How to Catch Them” section of the DNR’s website.

Young friends engage in a popular part of any
ice fishing experience – being social!
Still not convinced this winter is a great time to head outdoors to go fishing? What if you didn’t have to purchase a Michigan fishing license to test the waters?

That’s the case this February as the 2013 Winter Free Fishing Weekend arrives Saturday, Feb. 16 and Sunday, Feb. 17. During those two days anyone – residents and non-residents alike – can fish all waters without purchasing a license, although all regulations still apply at that time.

The DNR coordinates the Winter Free Fishing Weekend each year as an opportunity to showcase the great angling opportunities available in Michigan, but alleviating some of the financial investment needed to get involved. It’s the perfect time to discover the state’s winter water wonderland.

If you’re still nervous about heading out on your own, check out one of the official 2013 Winter Free Fishing Weekend events taking place throughout the state. Many of these events generously offer fishing instruction and free use of equipment and bait to help participants enjoy the experience. A sample of events includes the ice-fishing contests on Feb. 16 at the Bath Community Center in Clinton County from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; at Seven Lakes State Park in Oakland County from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.; or on Sunday Lake in Gogebic County from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (CST). These events, and many more, can serve as great introductions to wintertime fishing in Michigan.

Consider exploring the wealth of fishing opportunities Michigan offers this winter. Start planning your next fishing trip at www.michigan.gov/fishing.

VIDEO: Catalina Travel Trailer

Well, we've come to the final video I took at the recent Detroit Spring Camper & RV Show.

Patty Bonacorsi of Kline's RV Center was gracious enough to give us a tour of one of the several Catalina travel trailers they had on display. This brand has proven very popular over the years, and it's easy to see why. Full of what people need to be comfortable when camping, these trailers know what people want and provide exactly that.

Enjoy the video and hopefully we'll see you camping this season!

Visit Bay City State Recreation Area today for 20th annual Winter Festival

Explore Michigan’s great outdoors at Bay City State Recreation Area today (Saturday, Feb. 16), from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. as the mICHIGAN Department of Natural Resources hosts the 20th annual Winter Festival. The annual festival is offered on the Saturday of Michigan’s Free Fishing Weekend and is one of many “Winter Project GO Get Outdoors” special events offered throughout the state for the entire family.

The Winter Festival kicks off at 9 a.m. with the annual Youth Ice Fishing Clinic. As part of the clinic, participants construct a fishing pole, learn how to rig it, design an ice fishing jig, learn about ice fishing safety and get a few tips on how to ice fish. An ice fishing derby starts at 9:30 a.m. Bait and loaner fishing poles will be provided. Pre-drilled holes for ice fishing will be offered to all children participating.

Winter Festival will offer activities for all ages, including morning bird hikes and bird feeding workshop, a “snowball” tournament, live wildlife presentation, Snow Snake Clinic and tournament, ice crystal treasure dig, snowshoe hikes out to the beaver lodge, and an evening owl-calling hike. Participants will be eligible for many prizes and trophies awarded throughout the day.

The festival is cosponsored by the Saginaw Bay Walleye Club and Frank’s Great Outdoors of Linwood. For a complete schedule, visit the Saginaw Bay Visitor Center page on the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/saginawbayvc.

"The Winter Festival is a great opportunity for area families to try out traditional outdoor winter recreational activities. All equipment and instruction is provided,” said park interpreter Valerie Blaschka. New this year, youth will be able to learn how to tie a fly for ice jigging. This will kick off a series of Saturday afternoon programs on fly tying which will be offered at the visitor center in February and March.

The Bay City State Recreation Area is located at 3582 Park Drive in Bay City. For more information, stop by the Saginaw Bay Visitor Center, located within Bay City State Recreation Area, or call 989-667-0717.

This event coincides with Free Fishing Weekend; no fishing license is required, however all fishing regulations still apply. A Recreation Passport is required for entry to the park.

VIDEO: Lance Truck Camper Model 1191

One of the campers that caught my eye at the recent 2013 Detroit Camper & RV Show was a truck camper by Lance. Specifically, it was the side entry on their model 1191 unit that was on display by A&S RV Center.

Now, I'm sure side entry truck campers have been around for years. But, I don't own a truck and no one in my extended family of RVers owns a truck camper.

So this was the first time seeing one up and close and personal for me, let alone a side entry model.

I have to say, they're pretty nice! A lot more space inside than I ever would have guessed. Don't think one would work for my family of five, but that's not their intended audience anyway.

Larry Andree of A&S RV Center was busy with customers, so I gave myself a tour for the video.

Snowmobile Safety

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is reminding snowmobile operators and riders to take extra caution this year when snow falls in Illinois. Every year throughout the state, people are seriously injured or lose their lives on snowmobiles. Many of these accidents could have been prevented had reasonable and proper precautions been taken.

In most instances, being alert, knowing the trail, and traveling at a reasonable rate of speed for trail conditions can prevent most accidents. In North America, more than 50 percent of snowmobile fatalities involve intoxicated operators.

Last season (2011-2012) in Illinois, 11 reported snowmobile accidents resulted in 3 fatalities.

“It doesn’t matter what your intentions are before you set out to ride. If you aren’t prepared and using common sense, accidents can happen,” said Illinois Conservation Police Chief Rafael Gutierrez. “Most snowmobile accidents or fatalities we see could have absolutely been prevented had safety been practiced before and during the ride.”

While IDNR encourages everyone to take a snowmobile safety class before their first ride of the season, state law requires that persons at least 12 years of age and less than 16 years must have in possession a valid Snowmobile Safety Education Certificate of Competency issued by IDNR in order to operate a snowmobile alone.

While most of the traditional instructor led safety courses administered by the IDNR have taken place this year, snowmobilers can also satisfy state safety requirements by taking one of two online courses to become familiar with safe sledding practices or to refresh themselves on staying safe. Individuals can earn legal safety certification through either www.snowmobilecourse.com or www.snowmobile-ed.com. Both courses are administered by private companies and do charge a fee to take the course.

Basic safety tips for safe snowmobiling
  • Know your equipment and make sure that equipment is in proper working order.
  • Wear sensible, protective clothing designed for snowmobiling like a full-size helmet, goggles, or face shield to prevent injuries from twigs, stones, ice chips, and flying debris. 
  • Avoid wearing long scarves. They may get caught in moving parts of the snowmobile. 
  • Know the terrain you are going to ride. If unfamiliar to you, ask someone who has traveled over it before. Be aware of trails or portions of trails that may be closed. 
  • Drowning is one cause of snowmobile fatalities. When not familiar with the thickness of the ice or water currents, avoid these areas. 
  • Know the weather forecast and especially the ice and snow conditions in the area. 
  • Always use the buddy system. Never ride alone or unaccompanied. 
  • Travel at a reasonable rate of speed for your visibility conditions.

Reminder to riders and hikers
A minimum of 4 inches of snow cover must be present for snowmobile use on state-managed property. Please call ahead to site offices to get the latest snow conditions and trail closures at individual sites. Ignoring these closures can result in a minimum $75 fine and possible arrest. For a list of site offices please visit the IDNR website at http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/parks/

VIDEO: Park Model by Vacationland Sales

We have had a park model on display at the Detroit RV Show, so when one popped up at the recent Sring Camper & RV Show, I just had to step inside.

It was nice! Spacious, full of light and a clever second story screaming for the grandkids, the park model by Vacationland Sales was one of the more popular RVs on display.

The person from Vacationland Sales was extremely busy, so I took the opportunity to provide a tour to myself.

Cottage & Lakefront Living Show opens Feb. 21 in Novi

The sixth annual Cottage & Lakefront Living Show returns to the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi Thursday, Feb. 21 and runs through Sunday, Feb. 24 with exhibits and experts for cottage, lakefront property and vacation homeowners or those looking to buy, build or rent.

“We cover every aspect of cottage and lakefront living at this pre-season event,” said Mike Wilbraham, show producer of ShowSpan, Inc. “Information and educational materials to start planning, purchasing or renting will be available.”

The Log and Timber Frame Showcase will include how a cabin is put together, floor plans, profiles, roof options, log species, cedar siding, full logs, post and beam and do-it-yourself or contractor built home packages. Builders and contractors will be available for scheduled private consultations through the show’s website.

Sharing and keeping the cottage in the family for use currently and for future generations, environmentally sensitive lake practices and smart gardening at the cottage, nature photography, hobbies and other ways to enjoy your cottage more will be explained by the Cottage Living Stage experts.

Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership will provide informal advice and educational materials from Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Michigan Lake & Stream Association and other agencies, organizations, contractors and landscape professionals on shoreline construction projects and natural shoreline landscaping that benefit lake ecosystems and protect Michigan’s inland lakes.

Michigan artists at the Cottage Fine Art Show will present wildlife photography, Great Lakes and Michigan inland lakes steel silhouettes, Petoskey stone art, jewelry and custom woodcarvings for sale. Decorative accessories, Home d├ęcor, furnishings, decorative accessories and food products will be available for purchase at the Lakefront Marketplace.

Handcrafted building techniques of a stand up paddleboard will be demonstrated and displayed by DreamCatcher BoatWorks of Grand Rapids, Mich. Michigan Chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society dedicated to the preservation and enjoyment of historic boats will have boats on display.

Sand Pirate Janet Schrader of Fairy Godmother Services in Lakeside, MI. will share the secrets of sand as she builds a giant medieval sandcastle, teaching how to make towers, doors, windows and stairs and hosting a sandcastle contest. The Beach, a giant sandbox complete with sand and carving tools for creative building by children and adults, will allow you to join the fun and turn a pile of sand into a sand sculpture. Children will have the opportunity to fish at the Live Trout Pond fully stocked by Michigan B.A.S.S. Federation Clubs, take photos at the Family Photo Booth, play in the kid’s activity center or climb on a portable climbing tower at the Cran-Hill Family Zone.

Cottage Living Center will provide the opportunity to relax and work on a community puzzle, put a pin in an oversized Michigan map to show where cottages are located, listen to music chosen from the 2013 Cottage Favorite Play List or read a book selected from the 2013 Essential Cottage Reading List. Patrons are able to post a cottage for sale or rent on our Community Cottage Available Board.

The Water & Woods Photo Contest Display will allow you to vote for the best photo that depicts cottage and lakefront living traditions.

Ideas to increase your outdoor living space are incorporated in the landscape displays that include wooden cabins, fireplaces, cooking options, patios, decks and gardening products. Other exhibits include log, timber frame and cedar homes, cottage rental, cottage furnishings, lakefront homebuilders and realtors, lakeshore maintenance, boats and docks, outdoor recreational equipment, non-profit environmental organizations, government agencies, financing and other products and services. Experts throughout the show will provide tips, advice and knowledge on purchasing, planning, maintaining, financing and landscaping for spring, summer and year-round cottages and lakefront living.

Suburban Collection Showplace is located at 46100 Grand River Ave. between Novi and Beck Road in Novi. Show hours are from 2 – 9:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10; $4 for children 6-14 and children 5 and under admitted free. Discount coupons for $2 off Thursday or Friday adult admission are available at show’s website and participating Wendy’s restaurants. Free crossover admission from the Cottage & Lakefront Living Show to Outdoorama. On site parking is available for a fee. For more information, visit www.NoviCottageShow.com, Facebook.com/NoviCottageShow or call (800) 328-6550.

VIDEO: Sunset Trails ST32RL Travel Trailer

One of the coolest things I saw at the recent Detroit Spring Camper & RV Show was a flat screen television on a Sunset Trail ST32RL travel trailer by Crossroads RV.

A flat screen TV? What's so big about that?

Well, this particular TV swivels so that it can be viewed both inside and outside the RV.

I know!

Plus, there's a lot of other things to like about this RV. Steve Gubics of National RV Detroit provides us with a tour of this awesome travel trailer.

DNR reminds public to play it safe on the ice this season

As ice-related activities become a more prominent part of Michigan’s outdoor recreation scene, Michigan  Department of Natural Resources officials remind anglers, snowmobilers, skiers and others that no ice is ever 100-percent safe.

“All ice has the propensity to be dangerous,” said Lt. Steven Burton of the DNR’s Law Enforcement Division. “Obviously, during some times of the year, some ice is much better than other ice, but no ice is ever completely safe ice.”

Anyone who ventures out onto the ice is advised to keep the following precautions in mind:
  • Check with local sources of information -- such as the bait shop or corner store – about ice conditions before venturing out.
  • Travel in pairs whenever possible and make sure someone knows where you are going and when you plan to return.
  • Carry a spud to test the quality of the ice as you move further onto the ice.
  • Avoid inlets and outlets, areas with natural springs or currents, and places were structures – docks, pilings, dead trees or other vegetation – extend through the surface of the ice.
  • Pay attention to wind direction – especially on large bodies of water.
  • Wear a personal flotation device (PFD) and carry personal safety devices such as spikes and rope to help you get out of the water should the ice break.

“It’s important to stress that just because water is frozen doesn’t mean you shouldn't carry a PFD. It’s not the law; it’s just good common sense,” said Lt. Burton. “A personal flotation device like a floatable boat cushion or life jacket may not help you get out of the water, but will keep you floating until someone responds to pull you out.”

Lt. Burton said it’s also important for residents to remember that ice doesn’t form with uniform thickness on any body of water; there can always be thin spots. He added that ice formed by melted and refrozen snow will appear milky and is very porous and weak.

“Any ice covered by snow should always be presumed unsafe,” he said.

In the event that someone witnesses a person breaking through the ice, the DNR advises:
  • Call 911 immediately.
  • Do not run out to the victim. If help is not immediately available, approach cautiously – lying on the ice to distribute your weight – and attempt to reach the victim with a rope, pole or ladder.
  • Take exposure victims to the hospital for treatment.
“Outdoor recreation is one of the best things about Michigan winters. Whether you’re an angler, a hiker, a snowmobiler or someone who simply likes to explore the outdoors, there’s no better place to be,” said Lt. Burton. “Just make sure to keep ice safety as a key part of your winter recreation plans.”

To learn more about recreation safety, including DNR class offerings in traditional and online settings, visit www.michigan.gov/recreationalsafety or www.dnr.state.mi.us/recnsearch/.  

VIDEO: White Water Retro by Riverside RV

It's no secret that RV manufacturers are tapping into our longing for the good old days with tiny campers adorned with all things retro.

One such little gem stopped me in my tracks at the recent Detroit Spring Camper & RV Show.

A couple of White Water Retro by Riverside RV travel trailers stuck out among the 291 other RVs in a major way. They weren't big, they didn't have any slideouts and between the two of them there was but two axles.

But they looked awesome. Shiny pewter siding with fire engine red accents were just screaming for Lucille Ball to come running out with a can of Veggiemite. Each less than 15 feet in length and weighed in at less than 2,000 pounds (total dry weight), but they packed a lot of living in their small footprint.

Not to mention they'll turn every head in the campground.

Justin O'Bryan of Vicars Trailer Sales in Taylor, Michigan, provided us with the video tour.

Get a taste of summer at the Detroit Boat Show, Feb. 16-24

Postholiday sales aren’t the only deals to be found during the winter months. Starting in February in Michigan, boat shows take place offering some of the best pricing and incentives of the year — a major draw for the 83 million Americans who take to the water each year. For those ready to plan their summer fun, boat shows are the place to start.

And the biggest and best boat show in Michigan is the 55th annual Detroit Boat Show, which is Feb. 16-24 at Cobo Center in Detroit.

The Detroit Boat Show features hundreds of marine businesses filling two halls of exposition space at Cobo Center. On display will be hundreds of boats with the latest engineering, design, materials and colors for new boats of all types and sizes: sleek yachts, runabouts, personal watercrafts, pontoons, fishing boats, ski and wakeboard boats, inflatables, cabin cruisers, paddleboats and bowriders.

Also featured will be the latest services, accessories, engines, trailers, electronics, fishing gear and more.
Boat dealers and other vendors will offer one-stop-shopping: on-site financing, insurance, slip rental, brokerage, vacation planning, charter trips, maintenance and most all other types of extras needed by boaters.

Featured attractions include special appearances by
Trapper Joe and Trigger Tommy from Swamp People.
Featured attractions include special appearances by Trapper Joe and Trigger Tommy from Swamp People; walk and roll in the Waterwalkerz; a free boater safety course; Quadski Concept Boat; and a fully stocked Tiki bar.

Admission to the Detroit Boat Show is $12 for adults. Children 12 and younger attend free with an adult, and seniors older than 62 receive free admission on Monday. Discount tickets are available at www.detroitboatshow.net.

Hours are 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Saturdays, Monday and Friday; 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. Sundays; and 3 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Parking is available at Cobo Center and surrounding lots. The Detroit Boat Show is sponsored by Great Lakes Scuttlebutt, its official magazine. For more information, visit www.detroitboatshow.net or call 1-800-932-2628.

Boat buying tips
Boat shows create a unique shopping experience when hundreds of boats are under one roof to board, browse and buy. However, most people don’t know about the additional perks these events offer. Discover Boating, the national awareness program to help get people on the water, offers the following tips to make those boating dreams a reality:
  • Do that nautical homework. Do a little research and have a plan. Spend time on DiscoverBoating.com to research different types of boats that fit your budget and lifestyle with a new boat selector tool or use the loan calculator to estimate monthly payments.
  • Warm up with hot deals. Unlike auto shows, boat shows are the place to buy. Hundreds of new-year models are available to buy right at the show often at some of the best prices of the year as exhibitors generally offer special show pricing or other incentives. Plus, it’s the perfect time to order a new boat to ensure it arrives ready to launch in spring.
  • Try out the boating lifestyle. Boat shows are a great place for beginners looking to learn not only about the boat-buying process, but also the boating lifestyle. Visit the Discover Boating Center at the Detroit Boat Show for unbiased advice on finding a boat that best suits your lifestyle and budget.
  • Get your feet wet. Boat shows bring the great outdoors indoors, creating an environment to enjoy the sights and sounds of summer. With affordable admission prices, anyone can take advantage of an array of activities (often at no additional cost) including: concept boats, special promotions, antique boats, giveaways and more. Plus, it’s a great place to meet other boaters as many make their local boat show a winter rendezvous.
Winter boat shows are an easy way to learn how to get on the water, plus a chance to enjoy a taste of summer during the coldest months of the year. Start planning your visit today at DetroitBoatShow.net.

VIDEO: Indigo Bluffs RV Resort

I came across a new-to-me campground, Indigo Bluffs, located in Empire, Michigan. Empire is in the shadow of Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan's northwest Lower Peninsula.

Gary Becker, president of Indigo Bluffs, said the resort is actually a new name for a campground that has been around for years (I wish I could remember the name of it).

He bought the park a few years ago, spent a year studying and listening and decided that high-end motor homes could exist alongside pop-up campers. Actually, what he really said was the park's original business plan of being an ownership park was fine, but he added a rental campground to the facility.

So there's Indigo Bluffs Motorcoach Resort for the owners and Indigo Bluffs RV Park for the renters.

According to camper reviews on RVParkReviews.com, the ownership vs. rental campgrounds get along quite nicely. You should take the time to click the link and read the reviews - all campground owners should be so lucky to have such outstanding word-of-mouth.

While you're at it, do yourself a favor and click on over to the Indigo Bluffs website. It's easily one of the snazziest campground websites I have ever come across. It's so nice that I "appropriated" some of the photos from it for the video.

Showcasing the DNR: Sparking new connections at state parks' Mitten Mixers

Improved physical health, mental well-being, a stronger kinship with the natural world – all of these are well-documented perks that come from time spent outdoors.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources – with an offering of special Valentine’s Day weekend events – hopes to add new relationships and friendships to that list of benefits. The DNR has planned a series of “Mitten Mixer” outdoor recreation events Feb. 14-17 at state parks and recreation areas statewide, geared to get singles outside, active and enjoying the company of others. 

“We want to take our love for the great outdoors and provide creative opportunities to bring people together who just might be looking for a new way to meet like-minded folks,” said Maia Stephens, recreation programmer in the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division. 

Stephens said the idea for Mitten Mixers grew naturally – no pun intended – out of the DNR’s ongoing effort to more broadly market Michigan’s world-class parks and outdoor recreation resources to residents.

“Michigan has more than 100 beautiful parks, and you just can’t beat the scenery or ambience,” said Stephens.

“Whether you want to meet new people or simply enjoy a different kind of ‘date night,’ our Mitten Mixer lineup has something for just about everyone,” she added. “And as you’re meeting people at these events, how great is it to know you already share something in common?” 

Lantern-lit cross-country skiing is just one outdoor recreation
offering at the Department of Natural Resources’ Mitten Mixer
events in February – scheduled at a number of state parks
throughout Michigan.
For example, anyone who’s ever been curious about snowshoeing along a lantern-lit path will want to check out William Mitchell State Park in Cadillac on Thursday, Feb. 14. 

Everyone can warm up around the campfire, roast s’mores and meet other singles with an enthusiasm for the outdoors. There will be time to explore the visitor center and enjoy hot chocolate, coffee and cookies (from the Friends of William Mitchell State Park, for a small donation that will go toward planting more trees at the park). 

Even if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate with ideal snowshoeing conditions, people will still be able to enjoy the northern winter scenery with a hike along the trail. 

Think your destiny is written in the stars? Bundle up for a night of stargazing at Wilderness State Park in Emmet County on Friday, Feb. 15.

Outdoor enthusiasts of all ages can have
fun in the beautiful, natural settings of Michigan
state parks at the Department of Natural Resources’
Mitten Mixer events – designed to bring people
together in outdoor recreation opportunities.
Known as a “dark sky park,” Wilderness State Park is considered an excellent place from which to view various star patterns. At this Mitten Mixer outing, randomly selected groups of four will head out on a constellation search along a 1.5-mile, lantern-lit trail. Constellation diagrams and information will be available at stops along the route. 

Afterward, stargazers will return to the park for some group games and a warm-up with hot cocoa. 

Those who prefer something a little different might want to venture on Saturday, Feb. 16, toward Muskegon State Park for a glide on the skating rink, or to Holly State Recreation Area for a photo scavenger hunt, followed by snacks, games and good conversation ‘round the campfire. 

Stephens, an avid outdoors-woman and fan of all things Michigan, believes the state parks’ Mitten Mixers offer singles the right blend of adventure, excitement and encouragement – while building residents’ awareness about the parks’ plentiful amenities and real value. 

“For just $11, you can get the Recreation Passport, which gives you access to every state park and recreation area statewide,” she said. “With the Recreation Passport, your outdoor playground just got a whole lot bigger. 

“I can’t think of better places to meet people and explore the great outdoors with newfound friends.”

Beyond the Mitten Mixers, the DNR has planned a number of family- and couple-friendly events designed to keep winter recreation going strong. On Saturday, Feb. 16, consider: 

Muskegon State Park Winter Sports Complex is just one location
offering a Department of Natural Resources Mitten Mixer event this
February. Gliding along the ice-skating trail at the complex is a
great way to stay fit, have fun and meet new friends.
Winter Festival at Bay City Recreation Area – Celebrate winter with a family ice-fishing derby, snow snake races, crafts, bird marathon, backyard bird feeding workshop, ice fishing, snow shoe hikes, raffle and a live animal program. 

Family Ice Fishing and Bonfire at Waterloo Recreation Area – Watch an ice-fishing demonstration, make your own fishing pole and enjoy other winter games and activities. Part of the lake will be cleared for skating. Warm up afterwards around a bonfire while you roast marshmallows and drink hot chocolate. 

Snowshoe Walk at Ludington State Park – Enjoy a one-and-a-half-hour guided snowshoe walk through the park’s snow-covered sand dunes, while learning about the nature and history of the dunes. Snowshoes are available for loan on a first-come, first-served basis. 

No matter what folks are interested in trying this season, Stephens said the DNR hopes that people just decide to mix it up a bit and make some connections at Michigan state parks.

“Try something different, meet new people, and surprise yourself,” she said. “It’s time to learn or rediscover just how much fun a Michigan winter can be.” 

To get more details about all upcoming Mitten Mixers – on Valentine’s weekend and beyond – and other outdoor recreation programs available through the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division, visit www.michigan.gov/stateparks.