Michigan DNR: Scared of snakes? No need to be

This spring, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources put out the call for people to report the herptiles – reptiles and amphibians – that they observe across the state. The request is part of an atlas project, designed to monitor the presence and distribution of “herps” across the state.

“It’s for all species, common or rare,” said Lori Sargent, a DNR wildlife biologist who keeps track of Michigan’s herptiles. “The other day I got a call about a spotted turtle (a threatened species) in an area where they’d never been spotted before.

Blue racers are among Michigan’s
largest snakes. (DNR photos)
“There are not a lot of people working on herps, even at universities,” she continued. “They’re not a game species. They’re not high-profile.”

While herps don’t usually evoke the same warm and fuzzy emotions folks often express about other wildlife, there’s one group of herptiles – snakes – that brings out the opposite reaction. Snakes have gotten a bad rap ever since Adam and Eve and that apple, and it doesn’t seem to have changed since.

“We’re hearing of more of kids who are afraid of snakes,” Sargent said. “Maybe this will help educate people that snakes are valuable at both ends of the food chain. They keep rodent populations in check. They’re important. And they’re cool.

“I get pictures of a dead snake with a note – what kind is it? People are so quick to kill them and then identify them. What did snakes ever do to you? They’re mostly harmless.”

Snakes are legless reptiles that inhabit a wide range of habitats, cold-blooded creatures unable to generate their own heat. They are most comfortable in warm weather and pass the winter in frost-free shelters, often below-ground burrows.  They typically breed in the spring; some lay eggs, others deliver live young.

Michigan is home to 18 species of snakes. Some species of snakes are docile, retiring creatures; others are more aggressive and will strike if harassed. None of them – except for the rattlesnake -- is harmful to people. Ordinary snake bites should be treated like any other cut or abrasion.

The massasauga rattlesnake is Michigan’s only venomous reptile.
The eastern massasauga rattlesnake is the only poisonous specimen in Michigan, and it’s the smallest of rattlesnakes with the least toxic venom. It is shy and prefers to avoid confrontations, but will strike if threatened.  The massasauga lives in wetlands and associated uplands and feeds largely on rodents. Massasaugas aren’t often seen; folks who spot them should enjoy the experience and leave them alone. If bitten by a rattlesnake, seek immediate medical attention.

Loss of wetlands habitat and other factors have made massasaugas a “species of special concern” in Michigan and given them a status of “protected.” Their status is under review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine if they deserve “threatened” status.

Adding to the massasauga’s woes is snake fungal disease, which can kill them. First discovered in Michigan in two specimens the Grayling area in 2013, a total of five tested positive for the disease among 16 rattlesnakes necropsied by the DNR in 2014. (Vehicular trauma was the most common cause of death.)

Perhaps the most common snake in Michigan is the garter snake. There are two species (eastern and Butler’s). Eastern garter snakes are more widespread, found in both peninsulas. They feed on earthworms, frogs and small mammals. Butler’s garter snakes have not been documented in the Upper Peninsula and prefer earthworms.

Northern water snakes are common and widespread in Michigan.
There are two species of water snake in Michigan, the northern and the copper-bellied. Northerns are common and widespread. Copper-bellied water snakes, among Michigan’s largest snakes, are listed as an endangered species in Michigan and are threatened nationally.

The largest snakes in Michigan are black rat snakes, which (rarely) can attain a length of 8 feet as adults. Found in woodlands, often near water in the southern Lower Peninsula, rat snakes are rare and declining. They are a “species of special concern” in Michigan and are protected.

Among the larger snakes in Michigan are blue racers, which can measure up to 6 feet in length. A species that was once common but is in decline – probably due to habitat loss and persecution – blue racers eat rodents, insects and other snakes.

Among the more fascinating snakes in Michigan is the eastern hognose snake, a slow-moving, thick-bodied reptile with an upturned snout (hence the name) that inhabits sandy woodlots and dunes. When accosted, hognose snakes will begin an elaborate ruse – inflating their hoods and pretending to strike – like a cobra. This has led them to being nicknamed “puff adders.” But if the show fails to deter the harasser, the hognose snake will roll over on its back with mouth agape and play dead. Roll it back on its belly, and it’ll roll back over on its back. Hognose snakes feed almost exclusively on toads and are completely harmless.

Brown snakes are small, shy critters that feed
on earthworms and slugs.
Among the more striking snakes in Michigan is the smooth green snake, a small, docile creature that feeds largely on insects. They have been recorded statewide, but have largely disappeared from southern Michigan, perhaps because of pesticides, given their diet.

Due to a strange wrinkle in state law, reptiles and amphibians are regulated by the DNR Fisheries Division. A fishing license is required to take snakes for personal use; they may not be shot with a firearm, air gun or bow.

People may not take or possess six species of snakes in Michigan: black rat snakes, eastern fox snakes, copper-bellied water snakes, Kirtland’s snakes, queen snakes or massasaugas.

The daily limit on snakes is three, with no more than six in possession.

Much more information on snakes can be found at the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/wildlife. Be sure to check out the “60-Second Snakes” videos on the DNR’s YouTube channel.

Snake (or other herptile) sightings may be reported to www.miherpatlas.org.

Top Independence Day RV Parks named by Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide

Phoenix RV Resort
For June, the Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide is highlighting Top Independence Day Parks as part of the publisher’s 12 Months of RVing promotion.

The RV parks on this pull out all of the stops for their nation's birthday, hosting celebrations the include fireworks, colorful parades or excursions to nearby celebrations. Some parks host patriotic musical performances, while others serve up barbecued hot dogs. All parks on this list help guests appreciate the biggest day of the summer travel season in the United States.

The editors and consultants of the Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide chose the list of Independence Day parks from the annual publication’s database of more than 7,000 private parks.

Top Independence Day RV Parks:

Catherine's Landing at Hot Springs, Hot Springs (see video above)

Los Angeles Fairplex KOA, Pomona
Mission Bay RV Resort, San Diego

New Jersey
Long Beach Carefree RV Resort, Barnegat

Phoenix RV Park, Salem

Two Rivers Campground, Nashville

12 Months of RVing
The 12 Months of RVing lists celebrate the diversity of the RV lifestyle. Regardless of RVing travel preferences, the Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide helps consumers find the parks that support their interests.

Parks participating in this program are featured in press releases, enewsletters and blog posts. Each of the parks will have Top Parks badge in their park information page. Click here for a list of all parks included in the 12 Months of RVing.

In addition to in-depth listings of RV parks and campgrounds across North America, the Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide features RV lifestyle articles, travel tips, helpful maps and informative itineraries that RVers can use for a journey anywhere in North America.

Showcasing the Michigan DNR: Kids, sportsmen help DNR improve Drummond Island grouse habitat

A Drummond Island Elementary School student shows
off the trees he’s about to plant at the DNR’s GEMS site.
(Michigan DNR photos)
A recent work day at a Department of Natural Resources recreation site on Drummond Island had it all: local sportsmen, statewide conservation clubs, public employees, citizen volunteers. And kids. Thirty-five of them.

The event was a tree- and shrub-planting day at the state Grouse Enhanced Management Site (GEMS). It brought together groups with varying purposes to fulfill one mission: improve the habitat for ruffed grouse and other species on the northern Lake Huron island.

“This is what we do with the kids for Arbor Day,” said Brian Plowman, president of the Drummond Island Sportsman’s Club and a captain on the island’s ferry boat. “This has been going on for a lot of years before I was involved.”

The Drummond Island school kids’ tree-planting project was begun by John Ostlund, an Elk Rapids resident who owns a camp on the island. Known as “Bugman” – Ostlund says “it’s because I bug everybody,” but really he has a background in entomology – the 77-year-old Ostlund started taking the elementary school kids out to plant trees years ago. They planted pine trees on various tracts that were lacking in tree cover.

“We have to help out nature at times,” Ostlund said. “She can’t do it all herself.”

Youngsters plant trees at the DNR’s Drummond Island
Grouse Enhanced Management Site.
Ostlund’s mission has evolved over the years, and the program the DNR embarked on last year to create showcase ruffed grouse management areas dovetailed perfectly into this year’s event.

“We’re moving more toward shrubs that help the wildlife,” Plowman said. “Elderberries, high bush cranberries, dogwoods – we’re planting anything that has anything to do with helping out wildlife.

“And the kids love it,” Plowman continued. “They don’t care what kind of trees we’re planting. They just want to go out and plant trees.”

DNR biologist Dave Jenthoft, who works out of the DNR’s Sault Ste. Marie office, said this was the first project at the Drummond Island GEMS, which was established in 2014.

“This is a good project,” Jenthoft said. “We get some good habitat work done, and it’s a good collaborative project, getting the kids involved and getting them out here to understand habitat. And it’s good to work with so many different groups.”

Among the groups were the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) and the Michigan Sharp-Tailed Grouse Association.

Marty Sarrault assists a youngster with trees to be
planted to improve wildlife habitat on Drummond Island.
The RGS, which partners with the DNR on the GEMS program, is a natural fit. Terry Lamb, a regional director with RGS, said his group acquired the trees and shrubs through the Leelanau County non-profit group Saving Birds Thru Habitat.

“We do this throughout the state,” Lamb said. “It allows RGS to work with the chapters on more than just holding banquets. People are getting out and doing something worthwhile for the environment – using elbow grease on the ground – but it’s a good social outlet, too.”

The sharp-tailed grouse group, which works to benefit a grassland species, believes the species it focuses on will derive some benefit from the planting, too.

“Sharptails will utilize these areas in the winter for cover and for the mast crop,” said Marty Sarrault of Cheboygan, president of the Michigan Sharp-tailed Grouse Association. “It’ll work for them, too.

“Besides, I spend more time going after grouse and woodcock than I do sharptails.”

Youngsters, gathered at the sign at the DNR’s Drummond
Island GEMS, prepare for a day of tree planting.
Elly Plowman, the teacher who escorted the 35 Drummond Island Elementary School students (third through sixth grades) to the site, said the event was a great fit for the children.

“Our school theme is CREW – caring, respectful, enthusiastic workers,” she said. “This fits in perfectly. This project is a good way to give them the opportunity to be good CREW members.”

Trevor Norris, a sixth-grader who said he planted six trees, agreed.

“I like helping the ruffed grouse,” he said. “I like to hunt them, once or twice year. I’ve gotten a few.”

Mike and Amanda Fairchild, cattle farmers on the island, showed up with their fifth- and sixth-grade sons to help out.

“It’s a good time,” Mike said. “The kids learn how to plant trees and help the wildlife, and some of these kids don’t get to do this sort of thing very often.

DNR biologists Dave Jenthoft (left) and Al Stewart discuss
logistics as volunteer Marty Sarrault hands out trees for
youngsters to plant at the Drummond Island GEMS.
“And it’s good to see the Ruffed Grouse Society involved, too. It’s a good outing.”

Charter boat skipper Ivan Gable, who grew up on the island and retired there after a long career downstate in the automotive industry, says the kids are the key.

“They’re out here picking up rocks, asking what they are, learning about trees – they can’t teach that in school,” he said.

Al Stewart, upland gamebird specialist with the DNR, said he thinks the GEMS program – with seven sites across the state – is a winner.

“GEMS projects coordinate the community into activities that advance wildlife and help develop stronger partnerships with our constituents,” Stewart said. “It allows everyone to have an investment in the land and its management.”

The GEMS will be heavily managed with an eye toward producing top-quality habitat with easy accessibility. The sites will benefit from accelerated aspen-cutting rotations, improved trails that are easily negotiated and seeded to clover, and planting trees and shrubs that are attractive to grouse, deer, and other wildlife.

“The local chambers of commerce in these communities want to have showcase areas that attract people to them,” Stewart said. “And there’s an educational component, teaching people what habitat to look for, or if you’re a landowner, what kind of habitat to strive for on your own property.”

For more information on GEMS, visit www.michigan.gov/hunting.

RV Geeks Video: 10 Quick RVing Tips & Tricks from Long-Term Full-Timers

Enjoy this video from the RV Geeks on the "10 Quick RVing Tips & Tricks from Long-Term Full-Timers."

Here's what RV Geeks had to say about their video:
We've picked up a lot of RV tricks & tips over the years, so we thought we'd share 10 quick little RVing ideas that might make life in your motorhome, 5th wheel or travel trailer just a little bit better.

About RV Geeks

The RV Geeks offer RV maintenance, repair & travel tips from “Do-It-Ourselves” full-time RVers. They’ve handled most of their own RV maintenance during more than a decade of exploring North America. While not RV technicians, the RV Geeks are mechanically inclined and have learned a lot about RV systems over the years. They handle most of our own minor service, repair and upgrade work on our 2005 43′ Newmar Mountain Aire diesel pusher. We also maintained our 2002 39′ Fleetwood Bounder Diesel during our first two years on the road. Visit their website and subscribe to their YouTube channel.

RV Education 101: 10 Easy Steps to Keep your RV Ready for the Next Trip

Enjoy this video from Mark Polk of RV Education 101 on the "10 Easy Steps to Keep your RV Ready for the Next Trip."

In this informative RV how-to video Mark walks us through 10 easy steps to keep your RV ready for the next RV trip. Now when you are ready to go the RV is too.

RV Education 101 e-book series
As I've said many times, Mark Polk is my favorite RV expert. I'm pleased he and his wife, Dawn, have allowed me to sell his RV e-book series. E-books (electronic books) are immediately downloaded to your computer after you make the purchase. The RV Education 101 e-book series includes:
  • "The Original Checklist for RVers"
  • "The RV Book"
  • "RV Campground Basics"
  • "101 Tips for RVers"
  • "RV Care and Maintenance"
  • "Insiders Guide to Buying an RV"
  • "Winterizing & Storing your RV"
  • "RV Awning Use & Care"
  • "Deep Cycle Battery Care & Maintenance"
  • "RV Buyers Survival Guide"
  • "Complete Guide To: RV Towing, Weights, Hitch Work & Backing"
  • "Pop-Up Basics 101"
  • "Dinghy Towing"

Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide names Top Culinary Parks

The Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide is highlighting Top Culinary Parks as part of the 12 Months of RVing promotion.

Asheville Bear Creek RV Park
These select RV Parks are located in regions known for distinctive local cuisine or in areas that host popular food festivals. Culinary parks are found both in fertile farming regions and in large, sophisticated cities. The common denominator: they're ideal for adventurous RV food lovers seeking great meals on the road. The editors and consultants of the Good Sam RV Travel Guide and Campground Directory chose the list of culinary parks from the annual publication’s database of more than 7,000 private parks.

Top Culinary RV Parks:

Pechanga RV Resort, Temecula (see video below)


Naples Motorcoach Resort, Naples (see video below)

Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping, Mackinaw City (see video above)

North Carolina
Asheville Bear Creek RV Park, Asheville (see video below)


Salt Lake City KOA, Salt Lake City

12 Months of RVing
The 12 Months of RVing lists celebrate the diversity of the RV lifestyle. Regardless of RVing travel preferences, the Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide helps consumers find the parks that support their interests.

Parks participating in this program are featured in press releases, enewsletters and blog posts. Each of the parks will have Top Parks badge in their park information page. Click here for a list of all parks included in the 12 Months of RVing.

In addition to in-depth listings of RV parks and campgrounds across North America, the Good Sam RV Travel Guide and Campground Directory features RV lifestyle articles, travel tips, helpful maps and informative itineraries that RVers can use for a journey anywhere in North America.

Keep Your RV Mildew-Free With Three Easy Steps

Editor's note: Enjoy this guest post from Eva-Dry.

An RV is the invitation to an adventure, and a huge investment to protect. Your home on the road can also be a battleground for mold and mildew. The most common factors that affect the humidity inside an RV include temperature changes, washing, and cooking. That damp air can settle on the RV walls and cause serious damage, which ultimately extends to the entire structure. Stop moisture in its tracks with Eva-Dry dehumidifiers.

Follow these three easy steps to reduce humidity, which can lead to mold and mildew.

1. Invest in a good dehumidifier.
  • A portable, mini dehumidifier, like the Eva-Dry E-500 or the EDV-1100, will extract moisture from the air and protect your seating, bedding and walls.
  • Unlike most dehumidifiers, Eva-Dry mini dehumidifiers are silent, safe around children & pets and eco-friendly. 
  • They won’t spill when the camper is moving, and they don’t require any electricity or power to work. Many models are reusable up to ten years. Eva-Dry is available at your local Target store and RV store/distributor, online at www.eva-dry.com or by calling 877-382-3790.
2. Attack the source of humidity.
  • Cover all pots and pans when cooking to minimize water vapor.
  • Dry clothes outdoors.
3. Ventilate your RV.
  • Use extractor fans, normally mounted in bathrooms and in the ceiling of your RV, when taking a shower or cooking.
  • Briefly crack a window to slow condensation formation. 
These steps should keep your RV mildew-free, and you free to make more memories. Hit the road in your home away from home.

About Eva Dry DehumidifiersFor the past decade, Eva-Dry compact dehumidifiers have been the safest, healthiest and most efficient way to reduce moisture, with a higher absorption rate than more traditional (disposable) dehumidifying products on the market. The compact renewable units, fight mold, moisture and mildew, throughout homes, boats, RVs, safes and storage, to protect valuables. Visit www.eva-dry.com, or call (877) 382.3790for more information.

Guest Post: Late Spring Snowpack Leads To Solid Rafting Season on Colorado River

Late spring snow pack and rains bode well for river rafting vacations this season on the Colorado River System, reports Western River Expeditions.

This river system, built by flows from numerous western rivers, is providing as of now, positive impact on the company’s roster of trips on the Green and Colorado Rivers in Utah and Arizona. On the Green River these are adventures through Desolation Canyon, and on the Colorado River, trips through Westwater and Cataract Canyons. Trips in the Grand Canyon are also impacted because hydrologists anticipate increased releases from dams that affect river flows.

“A few weeks ago, we were looking at a very low water year. We were planning for it, we had prepared the guides and the gear for it, then it started to rain down low and snow up high.  On May 5 the snowpack in the Upper Colorado River Basin was sitting at 41% of normal making it one of the driest years ever. Two weeks later, it had increased to 75% on average with some areas exceeding 100%.  This is an unprecedented gain of snowpack so late in the water season,” said Brian Merrill, CEO of Western River Expeditions.

More snow in the mountains means more water in the rivers, and this company is now anticipating what Merrill called “a fantastic year.” After the snow began falling, “we quickly made adjustments in what style of rafts we will be using and the river guides are happy as clams.  Judging from the reviews we are getting from our guests, they are also ecstatic about the predicted water levels.”

He added that the snowpack also represents an unexpected boost for the reservoirs on the Colorado River.  Water managers are revising upwards predictions about lake levels that feed into this system including Lakes Powell and Mead, a boost for water-based recreation all along the Colorado River system.

As of the start of June, snowpack on the entire Colorado River System stood at 141.52% of the June 2 historic average. Only a few weeks ago the figures were discouraging as snowpack in the Colorado River basin stood at just a fraction of that.  For up-to-the-minute snowpack reports see: http://snowpack.water-data.com/uppercolorado/index.php

“We want to get this upbeat report out to rafting enthusiasts who may be concerned that the drought menacing California waters has spread into other river systems in the western United States,” added Merrill. “An above-average snowpack in the Northern and Central Rockies means we’ll have the best season in years for rafting on the Green and Colorado Rivers in Utah.”
For a copy of the 2015 Western River Expeditions catalog, questions, availability and reservations call toll-free: 866.904.1160 (Local: 801.942.6669), or visit: http://www.westernriver.com/. For more information on Moab Adventure Center please call (435) 259-7019 or (866) 904-1163 or send an email from http://www.moabadventurecenter.com/contact/.

About Western River Expeditions
Western River Expeditions is an adventure travel company headquartered in Salt Lake City, with operations and offices in Moab, Utah and Fredonia, Arizona. Annually from March through October it escorts more people down rivers on professionally guided rafting trips in Utah, Idaho and Arizona than any other company. It is the largest licensed outfitter in the Grand Canyon and the largest single tour provider in Moab, UT, through its division Moab Adventure Center 

Gone with the Wynns video: Keeping Cool In Extreme Heat - Ideas From Burning Man

Enjoy this video from Gone with the Wynns, a popular RV blogging couple.

Here's what the Wynns had to say about their video:
For us, there's no better place than Burning Man for a little outside-the-box thinking, especially when it comes to staying cool in extreme heat. With the desert highs reaching into the 100’s and no shade trees for miles, people are forced to be resourceful to keep themselves and their RV cool.

About Gone with the Wynns
Jason and Nikki Wynn are a couple of perpetual travelers, RVers and modern day documentarians. Their RV is the home of their discoveries and adventures, all depicting the unscripted tale of the quirky couple who traded in everyday life to satisfy their wear-out-your-shoes sense of adventure. Visit their website.

Husky Announces Two New Power Jacks

Husky Towing Products announced that its most powerful new tongue jack, the 5,000-pound capacity Super Brute HSB5000R, features a completely redesigned exterior housing, best-in-class screw jack design and the convenience of remote control operation.

Proven power, extended reach and built in position shut-off are core features of the new jack. Additional enhancements include bright LED lights for the hitch area and a handy trailer connector storage bracket.

At the core of the Super Brute is a super solid screw with a Hi-capacity ball nut, which can withstand the forces of lifting two and half tons of weight up to 18 inches at a rate of 6 inches in 60 seconds. When the jack reaches its full travel up or down, Smart Stop technology cuts power to the motor to avoid hitting a hard stop. Smart Stop technology contributes to longer jack life.

Also available in the new Super Brute design is the HSB4000 with 4000-pound tongue weight capacity. Ball bearings reduce friction between the ball nut and the solid jack screw to increase efficiency and durability when lifting up to two tons of trailer tongue weight with the HSB4000.

The Super Brute 5000R comes equipped with remote control and includes two remote control key fobs. The operator can check for level while operating the jack or move to a position visible in the mirror to the tow vehicle. Drivers can even use the remote while watching the hitch ball in their truck backup camera.

Weather-protected, soft trigger switches are mounted on a  backlit panel. High output LEDs light up the trailer A-frame tongue area for those predawn departures and after-dark arrivals. The LEDs flash when the jack is turned on or off using the remote.

Hardened steel gears, soldered electrical connections and overheat protection all add to the durability of the Super Brute, which draws 24-amps of current at full load.

Husky's innovative trailer connector storage bracket provides a place to park the trailer connector plug out of the weather.

The Super Brute includes 6’ 10 gauge power supply wire, a 30-amp resettable circuit breaker and mounting hardware.

Power, speed, range of travel, rugged construction and the convenience of remote control make the Super Brute 5000R the power trailer jack of choice for owners of conventional trailers.

RV Education 101 video: KOA Green RV Series Part 3

Here's what Mark had to say about his video:
In Part 1 and Part 2 of our Green RV Series we discussed some green RV initiatives you can take prior to leaving on a trip and when you use the systems on the RV after arriving at your camping destination. In this Green RV Series finale we discuss what we as campers can do to contribute to the green RV experience during our stay at the campground. This includes topics like energy savings, water savings, recycling, and using eco-friendly tank treatments and cleaning supplies.

RV Education 101 e-book series
As I've said many times, Mark Polk is my favorite RV expert. I'm pleased he and his wife, Dawn, have allowed me to sell his RV e-book series. E-books (electronic books) are immediately downloaded to your computer after you make the purchase. The RV Education 101 e-book series includes:
  • "The Original Checklist for RVers"
  • "The RV Book"
  • "RV Campground Basics"
  • "101 Tips for RVers"
  • "RV Care and Maintenance"
  • "Insiders Guide to Buying an RV"
  • "Winterizing & Storing your RV"
  • "RV Awning Use & Care"
  • "Deep Cycle Battery Care & Maintenance"
  • "RV Buyers Survival Guide"
  • "Complete Guide To: RV Towing, Weights, Hitch Work & Backing"
  • "Pop-Up Basics 101"
  • "Dinghy Towing"

Volunteers sought for stewardship workdays at state parks in southwest Michigan

Summer is a great time to get outdoors at Michigan state parks and join in the effort to protect critical dune, prairie and forest habitats. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources today announced the schedule of DNR Volunteer Steward activities for the month of June at state parks throughout southwest Michigan (from Berrien County to Mason County).

Volunteers will learn how to find and remove garlic mustard from critical dune along Lake Michigan before seed begins to fall. Activities at Fort Custer Recreation Area will support seed collection of native prairie species.

Workday dates, locations (counties) and times include:

  • Wednesday, June 10: Fort Custer Recreation Area (Kalamazoo), 10 a.m.-noon
  • Saturday, June 13: Warren Dunes State Park (Berrien), 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Sunday, June 14: P.J. Hoffmaster State Park (Muskegon), 1-4 p.m
  • Wednesday, June 17: Holland State Park (Ottawa), 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Saturday, June 20: Saugatuck Dunes State Park (Allegan), 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Tuesday, June 23: Fort Custer Recreation Area (Kalamazoo), 10 a.m.-noon
  • Saturday, June 27: Warren Dunes State Park (Berrien), 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Sunday, June 28: Muskegon State Park (Muskegon), 1-4 p.m

For more details on DNR Volunteer Steward activities, including meeting locations and activity descriptions, please visit www.michigan.gov/dnrvolunteers and click on the link for the Calendar of Volunteer Steward Workdays.

Equipment will be provided but volunteers should wear appropriate clothing for outdoor work (including long pants and sturdy, closed-toe shoes) and bring gloves and drinking water. All volunteers are asked to register using the form available on the DNR website or via email. Any questions should be directed to Heidi Frei at 517-202-1360 or freih@michigan.gov.

On stewardship workdays, volunteers can enter Michigan state parks without a Recreation Passport.

Nine of Missouri’s state parks and historic sites awarded TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence

Roaring River State Park
Missouri State Parks was recently awarded nine Certificates of Excellence by TripAdvisor. This prestigious award recognizes establishments that consistently receive great TripAdvisor reviews from travelers.

Missouri state parks and historic sites receiving the recognition are: Bennett Spring State Park, Castlewood State Park, Deutschheim State Historic Site, Elephant Rocks State Park, Ha Ha Tonka State Park, Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, Roaring River State Park, Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, and Table Rock State Park and State Park Marina.

“The fact that our guests are having an outstanding experience is reflective of the great work being accomplished by staff,” said Bill Bryan, director of Missouri State Parks. “This type of recognition underscores the 97 percent approval rating we consistently receive from visitors. It’s our goal that every time a family visits a state park our historic site, they have fun and make great memories.”

The Certificate of Excellence Award was founded in 2010, and honors hospitality businesses that demonstrate hospitality excellence and represent the top quality of businesses listed on TripAdvisor. Honorees must maintain an overall TripAdvisor rating of at least four out of five bubbles on the site’s bubble rating system, have at least the minimum number of reviews necessary, and be listed on TripAdvisor for at least twelve months.

TripAdvisor is the world’s largest travel site. The site features visitors’ reviews of places to stay, visit and eat, and offers a ratings system as a guide for prospective visitors.

How to set up a Palomino Popup Camper

Since our tow vehicle at the time was a Pontiac Montana minivan (with the tow package), our first camper was going to be a popup until we came across the Trail Lite Bantam hybrid/expandable.

New Book Paves the Way for Travel in an RV

Traveling in a small recreational vehicle can be an enjoyable experience, especially if you know what you are doing. An expert of such travel – a retiree and his wife who average more than 10,000 miles each year in their RV – share their experiences and tips in a new book packed with information.

With more than 12,000 Baby Boomers retiring every day, the number of people traveling in an RV is expected to increase as well, with some hitting the road only during the best season, some going full time and others becoming snow birds, heading south in the winter and north in the summers.

“240,000 Miles in Small RVs” features tips for Baby Boomers and anyone else traveling in an RV to save both time and money, thanks to what Botts has learned while driving and maintaining several vehicles.

The couple’s current RV – a 23-foot remodeled 1977 GMC motorhome – provides plenty of space while keeping maneuverability for driving on normal roads and bridges, as well as smaller roads along scenic routes.

The book’s tips include everything from suggestions on remodeling and furniture choices to tire options, required tools and maintenance schedules. Just as important as vehicle maintenance is personal maintenance, and Botts describes devices to limit motion sickness, provide emergency information to first responders and keep muscles limber.

His years of traveling in an RV mean Botts has plenty of stories to share about spectacular scenery, tacky tourist traps and intriguing fellow travelers. Botts and his wife meet full-time RV travelers who barter skills for campsites, and they visit unusual places such as a former bordello turned into a museum and seek out wild horses in a national park. The book deftly delivers valuable information for fans of RVs, whether readers enjoy detailed description of the mechanics that make RVs run or simple tips for getting the most out of RV travel.

Author Chuck Botts and his wife, Mary, average more than 10,000 miles per year in their RV, exploring historic sites and scenery. Botts, a certified machinist with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, has spent 40 years turning ideas and concepts into reality and completely remodeled his 1977 RV to give it modern technology. His latest changes detail how he improved his RV gas mileage by 43 percent with his hybrid HHO system and how he made clip-on lenses that corrected his red-green colorblindness. He and Mary live in San Diego.

Garmin RV 660LMT Expands the RV Series with Advanced RV-Specific Navigation Features

Garmin International Inc., a unit of Garmin Ltd. (NASDAQ: GRMN), today (June 4) debuted the new RV 660LMT, a 6-inch navigator packed with features built specifically with the recreational vehicle driver in mind.

Helpful RV-specific road warnings inform drivers of bridge heights, weight limits and sharp curves, while custom routing (1, see footnotes below) takes into account the size and weight of an RV or towable trailer to prepare the most convenient route for a driver’s journey. The RV 660LMT also boasts a comprehensive directory of RV parks and services that allow owners to easily find campgrounds and service locations, which can be filtered based on preferred amenities like onsite water and Internet access.

“The new RV 660LMT offers a dedicated solution for customers focused on specific RV-friendly features,” said Dan Bartel, Garmin vice president of worldwide sales. “Thanks to its versatility, custom routing, and helpful road warnings, the RV 660LMT is also ideal for drivers pulling towable trailers – so whether you’re in an RV, pulling a trailer, or behind the wheel of a day-to-day vehicle, the RV 660LMT makes the freedom of the open road easier than ever to access.”

Safety and convenience play an important role in the feature set of the RV 660LMT. The new Elevation Profile displays possible steep grades along a route for drivers to exercise caution. Voice-activated navigation allows customers to speak commands to the device while keeping their hands on the wheel, and Bluetooth technology for hands-free calling (2) is also offered to reinforce safe-driving behavior. The RV 660LMT is equipped with spoken Garmin Real Directions to guide drivers like a friend, using landmarks and traffic lights.

Additional features designed to simplify the journey on the open road include:

  • Easy Route Shaping, which allows RV users to change their routes to include preferred roads or cities just by touching the screen;
  • Up Ahead feature that displays a constant stream of nearby places like fuel services, rest areas and campsites alongside the map;
  • Bird’s Eye and photoReal Junction View helps drivers navigate interchanges with ease;
  • Active Lane Guidance shows a live-action model on the display indicating the proper lane needed for a route. 

Customers can easily download the free Smartphone Link (3) app to subscribe to real-time services such as live weather radar to know what’s ahead on a route. Drivers can also take advantage of pre-loaded Foursquare data on the RV 660LMT, which adds millions of new and popular points of interest like restaurants, shops and more. Bundled with detailed maps of North America, free lifetime traffic (4) and map updates (5), the RV 660LMT is designed to support the unique demands of customers living an RV lifestyle.

Helpful features include school zone warnings, current street name, current speed and speed limit information, to help drivers know exactly what type of street is being navigated at all times. In addition, the RV 660LMT is compatible with the Garmin BC 30 Wireless Backup Camera (sold separately) that allows drivers to easily see behind the RV while in reverse.

The Garmin RV 660LMT is expected to be available this month with a suggested retail price of $329.99. For more information, visit www.garmin.com.

(1) Not available in all areas. Entering your RV or trailer profile characteristics does not guarantee your RV’s characteristics will be accounted for in all route suggestions. Always defer to all posted road signs and road conditions.

(2) Requires Bluetooth-enabled smartphone (sold separately).

(3) User’s data plan charges, if any, will apply. Contact your mobile service provider for more information about your service plan’s data and roaming rates. Subscription may be required.

(4) Lifetime traffic extends for the useful life of your Garmin traffic receiver or as long as Garmin receives traffic data from its traffic supplier, whichever is shorter. A traffic receiver’s “useful life” means the period during which the receiver (a) has the required technical capabilities to utilize current traffic data service and (b) is capable of operating as intended without major repairs. Traffic content not available in all areas.

(5) Lifetime Maps entitle you to receive map updates when and as such updates are made available by Garmin during the useful life of 1 compatible Garmin product or as long as Garmin receives map data from a third party supplier, whichever is shorter. For the meaning of a product’s “useful life” and for other important terms and conditions, please see Garmin.com/LM

REI Launches evrgrn, a New Brand of Outdoor Gear

One of the nation’s leading outdoor retailers, REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.), recently announced the launch of evrgrn, a new brand of gear designed for socializing outdoors in comfort and style.

According to a company release, evrgrn serves up rocking camp chairs, backpacks that keep 24-packs cool and portable picnic tables. The brand, focused on key moments when friends gather outdoors, includes a tent specifically designed for stargazing, a squishable and dimmable lantern and a sleeping bag with leg and arm openings to be worn from campfire to bed. Available exclusively at REI stores and REI.com the brand launches with 11 pieces of gear.

“At REI, we believe that an outdoor life is a life well lived, no matter where you are. evrgrn delivers on REI’s track record of quality and performance with thoughtfully designed and versatile gear so our members can focus on what matters most – having fun outside with friends,” said Nasahn Sheppard, divisional vice president of Product Design, REI Private Brands.

REI recognizes that the current generation, like generations before, is redefining itself in the outdoors. Designed from extensive customer research – tracking both macro-trends like urbanization and micro-insights like the campfire experience – the collection of gear serves the many young people who view the outdoors as something that starts at their front door, is part of everyday life and is best experienced with friends and family. Combining style and function for to increase versatility, evrgrn gear goes from the city park to the campsite to the concert, integrating seamlessly into the socially connected lifestyle of this generation.

In the spirit of REI, founded in 1938 by young friends who loved the outdoors, evrgrn gear is made with durable materials and quality craftsmanship that is built to last outdoors. The initial evrgrn line includes:

Campfire Rocker – lightweight, collapsible rocking chair with sling seat and handy stash pockets is sized just right so no matter where you go, you'll always have the best seat in the house ($99)

24 Pack Backpack Cooler – fits 24 12 oz. cans in its waterproof, insulated liner with shaped and padded shoulder straps for extra comfort ($75)

Crash Sack – lightweight, warm and soft sleeping bag you can wear around camp – bottom clips out of the way for walking around, arm holes let you grab what you need, and inside pockets to stash your stuff ($119)

Downtime Hammock – kick back with a couple of friends or stretch out solo – take it with you to the beach, park or campsite in its carry back with shoulder strap; includes everything you need for easy setup ($130)

Starry Night Tent – 90 x 60 in. floor sleeps two comfortably with an unobstructed moonroof for stargazing, while lightweight aluminum poles and waterproof fabric make for super-easy setup ($250)

Lowboy Lantern – hanging loop opens to attach to your tent or a tree branch, crush-proof silicon housing and rotating dimmer lets you set the mood so you can keep the good times going long after sunset ($35)

Picnic Table – foldable bamboo top elevates your outdoor feast and is easy to take to the beach, park or campsite in its carry bag with shoulder strap ($70)

Center Stage Rug – lightly padded, waterproof rug provides enough room for a gathering or for two to take a nap on the beach ($65)

Grounded Cushion – waterproof, abrasion resistant fabric features five inches of cushy goodness and two hidden drink sleeves so you can have the best seat in the house ($35)

Sum Tote – fully lined open top bag with zippered pockets and sturdy nylon handles is your everywhere gear hauler ($25)

Cluster Table Cloth – 72 x 52.24 in. durable cloth turns a standard picnic table into something more festive ($20)

The REI, REI Co-Op, Novara and evrgrn brands are sold exclusively through the co-op’s retail stores, and online at http://www.rei.com.

'Roughing It' continues to get a little less rough

More than 40 million Americans will head into the wild on a camping excursion this year, but 2015 is different from previous years in that people are ditching the basics and spending significant dollars to take their outdoor experience to a whole new level, says Leslie Linevsky, Catalogs.com cofounder, in an announcement.

According to sales indicators from hottest outdoor gear retailers, campers this year want to “rough it,” but only if that means they have creature comforts on-hand.

“People want Dutch ovens and accessories, comfortable camp furniture such as hammocks, Yeti coolers and survival gear,” said Katie Barnes, eCommerce Manager for C-A-L Ranch Stores. These are all smart purchases considering that the average camper spends at least 13.6 days per year in the wild, according to the 2013 American Camper Report, an Outdoor Foundation study.

Among campers, 79% call their excursions an adventure and 75% consider it an escape, according to the same study. Whether campers call themselves adventure enthusiasts or wilderness escapists, e-marketing experts at Catalogs.com report that year after year, campers cause a May through June surge in consumer traffic at online stores and catalogs specializing in outdoor gear and camping equipment.

“So far, 2015 is no exception, and the activity for outdoor specialty stores is already up 60% over this time last year,” said Linevsky. “Consumers are ready to hit the trails, but first they are searching for high-end camping equipment, slick bird watching books and stylish outdoor clothing.”

She points to Sierra Expeditions, which specializes in top-of-the-line vehicle-dependent living gear for RVs and four-wheel-drive vehicles, and Camping World, which carries a wide variety of good-looking, well-designed camp furniture and deluxe RV equipment, as stores reaping the benefits of the “glamping” movement.

“Old school is really, really big this year, and even though it’s basic, it doesn’t mean it’s not high-quality equipment,” said Wil Radcliffe of 3Rivers Archery. “More people are going ‘stick and string.’ They’re looking old school, and youth are really inspired by the hot movies and TV shows right now, such as Hawkeye, The Hunger Games and The Hobbit.”

Primitive bows at 3Rivers Archery run from $200 to $500 and up, and archery accessories that add style to the sport, like the Robin Hood laced leather bracer, are big sellers.

Brands such as Camp Chef, Lodge and Stansport are huge for C-A-L Ranch stores, says Barnes, and the reason? They create convenient, easy to use cooking appliances that aren’t over-the-top, but take your glamping experience beyond basic pot and campfire.

Campers of all shades are looking to connect with the glamour camping trend, including those who prefer to travel and stay in RVs. And, the Outdoor Foundation says that hiking, which requires little more than quality boots and a water source, is the most popular camping activity among all campers.

“Whether you’re spending your trip bird watching, scarfing s’mores or relaxing in the shade, if you have the basic necessities in the most comfortable and stylish versions tailored for today’s ‘glampers,’ you won’t lose that sense of adventure,” added Linevsky.

Camping experts at major retailers suggest that would-be-campers need ready-to-go foods (or the means to catch their own), food prep items, and water purification systems.

They report that for the most part, campers are still purchasing tents to shield them from inclement weather, but high quality and trendy half-shelters and all-weather sleeping bags are increasingly popular this year; thousands of campers use them in lieu of full-sized tents so they can experience the romance of sleeping beneath the stars.

“At this time of year, people are not just planning camping trips,” Radcliffe said. “They are also shopping for Renaissance fairs and summer sports games, and they are spending more for a more elaborate experience. Archery — like other traditional sports — is really hot because it has such a historical foothold in all summer activities and the cache of what’s trending to go along with that.”