Sports and the Outdoors – One Teenagers View

photo 1Not too long ago, my baseball season ended — falling just short of winning a state championship title.   It was a heartbreaking loss in the State Finals to Sterling Heights Christian Parkway held at Michigan State University.   Being from a small school in the small town of Portland, this was an amazing accomplishment!  To put this into perspective, St. Patrick High School has a total of 89 students, 47 of them being guys.    Along with baseball, I play basketball, run cross country, and play golf.  However, these four activities do not match up to the love I have for the outdoors.  

photo 2When I was 10 years old, I was given my first two guns:  a .410 and a .22 long rifle.  From that day on, my passion for the sport has only grown.  Through my outdoor experiences, I have gained much respect for all wildlife.  I am also a fisherman — a BIG fisherman.  Anything from panfish to longnose gar to Steelhead.  With nearly hauling in the state record longnose gar this summer (it popped off my hook at the side of the boat before we could get a picture, but we got the measurement…. 60 inches! (7″ more than the state record), my quest has only gotten greater.  If it’s in the river, it’s on my rod.  Like most fisherman, my pride trophy fish is bass.  Living right next to the Grand River (the longest river in the state) it’s only fitting that I absorb all avenues of fishing.  Along with using rod and reel, I bowfish for carp and redhorse suckers.

 

Being an outdoorsman, I have enjoyed passing this trait down to my 8 year old nephew.  I gave him his first two guns two weeks ago, which were MY first guns.  I also bought him his first fishing rod.  Taking him squirrel hunting and bass fishing has given me the opportunity to share my passion and experiences.  There’s no better feeling  than that first jolt and then the drop in the rod tip, especially when it’s in the hands of a young boy.  Being able to pull yourself away from the hustle and bustle of life is what I truly appreciate about the outdoors.  Sitting back in peaceful silence watching nature do what it does best, that’s my love for the outdoors.

Graham Smith – YCC Member, Lyons MI

 

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End of Summer Bucket List

It seems like yesterday we were flying out of the school doors as soon as the final bell rang. We were elated to finally had freedom from our teacher’s lectures, the excruciating hand cramps that come from note taking, and hours of homework. We said our farewells to dear friends with the promise to hang out all summer long and the shared goal of never running out of new adventures. Now, with September just around the corner, we worry about the meager amount of days left to fulfill our goal. We are disappointed that we missed out on all the new experiences on our bucket lists. With the first day of school slowly encroaching, we let ourselves fall back into the bland, school-year mindset. But, fear not! We can still soak in these last weeks of summer! It’s never too late to create a summer bucket list!

Ten Adventures To Do Before Labor Day!

1.  Go camping and have a bonfire!

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2.  Go kayaking! Be sure to bring a life jacket and a buddy!

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3.  Climb a tree! All you need is a good tree and a partner to keep an eye on you as you ascend!

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4.  Go fishing!

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5.  Find a river to swim in! Go on a really hot day so it’s extra refreshing! Also, make sure the current isn’t too strong.

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6.  Host a picnic!

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7.  Go for a hike!

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8.  Go for a challenging run with a friend!

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9.  Watch the sunset!

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10.  Build an awesome sand castle! Invite friends so you can team up and make it a sand castle building contest!

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DOCUMENT ALL OF YOUR ADVENTURES— Always take videos and pictures of all your experiences. Not only is it fun to capture the moment, but it’s really great to look back at what you’ve done over the summer.

Nicole Jarvis – YCC member

 

Saving Bats!

Did you know that one little brown bat can eat 60 medium-sized moths or over 1000 mosquito-sized insects in one night? Because bats are so important and critical to our environment, I recently decided to take on the mission of building bat houses for my Eagle Scout Project in Boy Scouts.

I am a member of Boy Scout Troop 763, which meets at First Baptist Church, in Midland, MI. I have been in Scouting for 11 years!  Ever since I was a Cub Scout, I have wanted to build bat houses for my Eagle Scout Project.  I love the outdoors, and especially admire bats in our environment.  Therefore, I was so excited when this project became a reality this past Spring.

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Most bats spend summers in trees, under bridges or in old buildings where they give birth and raise their young. I wanted to build a home that mimics these natural homes for bats who can’t find a space of their own in a forest.  In addition, there is a critical need for these smaller bat houses to be placed in my hometown of Midland.  There is a disease called the White Nose Syndrome that is killing bats in our area due to bats living in large enclosures and spreading the disease to each other.  Providing smaller houses for bats to live in will help to control the spread of the disease.

With the help of other scouts from my Troop, along with some adult volunteers, we recently constructed 8 bat houses. They were built from treated lumber that was donated by the

City of Midland from ash trees that had been cut down. Recycling is always a good thing!  The bat houses will be placed in 5 parks within the City of Midland.  We visited each park in order to choose a bright and sunny location at the edge of the forest where the bat houses will be installed.

The installation of these bat houses in the City Parks will benefit the bats, our community and the families that live there, gardeners, and the ecosystem as a whole. Bat houses give the bats a home and in turn, they will eat thousands of insects.  Bat houses give the bats an alternative to our homes, thus reducing the chance of human to bat contact.

In regards to the current status of my Eagle Scout Project, I will lead a team of volunteers to install the 8 bat houses in the City Parks by the end of this summer. So, if you are ever visiting the parks in Midland and notice my bat houses, stop and take the time to think about these wonderful creatures and the awesome job they do in protecting our environment!

Tyler Squires – YCC member, Midland

Trapped on a Deserted Island

Have you ever been stuck on a deserted island? No? I have. Well I wasn’t really trapped. I was in an intro to field biology class at the Central Michigan University Biology Station, and our adventure for the day was hiking Garden Island.

Garden Island is an uninhabited island in Lake Michigan. It is home to the largest Native American burial ground in North America. We took a boat from Beaver Island to Indian Harbor. First we walked to the Native American burial ground. Our instructor told us about how each family had a special symbol to signify where they were buried it could be as simple as a tipped tree with a scratch in it. You could tell the importance of some of the graves by the way they were decorated. More important people had huts built over their graves with stones sitting on them.

After we viewed the burial ground we walked to the North Shore of the Island. From the North Shore you could see the Upper Peninsula. We sat on the rock beach and ate our lunches. It was crazy to think that nobody had sat where we sat in years.

From the North Shore we decided to hike to Keewaydinoquay Pakawakuk Peschel’s house. She was a medicine woman that had lived on the island years ago, but passed away. People would travel to the island to learn from her. As we were walking to her house we heard music being played. This was strange because we were on a deserted island. Why is there music being played? As we got closer to her house we saw huts that people were clearly living in. When we got to her house there were about 5 people living near her house taking care of it.

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The people were her descendants and live on the island during the summer to take care of her house. We asked them if we could look at her house and they let us. Above the door to her abandoned house there is a sign that says, “This is my heart’s home. If you’re shipwrecked or starving to death you are welcome to share whatever I have. If you are just out for fun please leave equipment and supplies as you find them. I need them to save my life. Megwitch.” We then thanked the people and continued back on our hike to Indian Harbor to be picked up by the boat to take my class back to Beaver Island.

This was such a cool experience to reconnect with nature. Our class didn’t take our cell phones, we were completely disconnected. Walking around in the quiet forest that hadn’t been touched in years was a great experience. That’s how Keewaydinoquay and her relatives want it to be. If you do head to the island leave everything as you find it. Do not take the Native American artifacts, it is their home and you need to respect it.

If you ever want to be stuck on a deserted island, head to Garden Island. Adventure is out there you just need to find it!

Emily Butko – YCC member

Volunteering Outdoors

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Measuring and mapping Fleming Creek

As busy high school students, we are trying to do it all–school work, sports, working, volunteering, chores, while trying to have a little fun along the way. We have lots of demands on our time, yet most of us choose to volunteer in some way.  We all have choices where we spend our volunteer efforts.  I choose to spend my volunteer time outdoors with my local watershed.

 

Michigan has 86 major watersheds and are simply an area of land where all of the precipitation flows to a small stream which then flows downslope into a bigger stream or river. A network of streams and rivers that flows to a larger river system will eventually end up in one of the Great Lakes. So, what runs off the land of the area surrounding a watershed eventually ends up in the Great Lakes. Taking care of our local watersheds not only helps to protect our local water supply, but helps to keep our Great Lakes clean too. Here is a list of Michigan’s major watersheds: Michigan Watersheds

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Aquatic Insects collected from Hay Creek

 

Volunteering at my local watershed has been a great experience. Not only is it close to my house, but I have met a wide range of people from those with PhD’s in environmental science and chemistry to others who just love the outdoors and want to help to protect and restore the environment. Because we gather data on the river, I get to apply what I am learning in my science classes about the scientific method to real life–STEM education in action–#makingmyscienceteachersproud!

Trip 2Volunteering at the watershed can be interesting and exciting. For example, twice a year we take samples of stream-beds looking for macro invertebrate organisms. Finding and counting these organisms helps us understand the health of the streams–the more organisms per sampling–the healthier the stream. If you ever want to see a bunch of watershed staff get excited, trying finding a new organism that hasn’t been seen in our local rivers in a while. The following weekend, parents and kids come and help us identify and count the organisms–people love doing this!

My local watershed has about 10 different activities where they need volunteers and they provide excellent training. Last summer, I volunteered conducting surveys with people fishing along the rivers asking them about their knowledge of best fishing practices during spawning season. Our local watershed is hopeful to grow the fish population in our local streams to balance our ecosystem, so practicing catch and release during spawning times is critical to this effort. It was great to speak with people fishing, learn about their experiences and it was nice to hear how much they thought our local rivers have improved.

We all have choices in how we spend our time. My suggestion is to volunteer for the environment; it gets you outdoors and helps to protect our drinking water as well as preserves and restores our natural surroundings. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) also has several other great opportunities for kids and teens to volunteer. DNR -How I Can Help. I strongly suggest you spend your volunteer time outdoors because you never know what you will find or see!

Trip Apley – YCC member

A Sunday in the Woods

Well, spring finally arrived!  After the extended winter in Michigan this year, signs of spring began blooming.  By slowing down and looking closely I found the forest floor adorned with an array of new life popping through the soil.  Dainty Wildflowers to brilliantly colored fungi testified that spring had finally arrived.

Walking along the muddy banks of the St. Joseph river the tracks from several active critters were easily seen.  One can only imagine what sort of lively social scene comes alive after the sun disappears into the woods.

Further along, beautiful blue feathers scattered across a rotting log hint on an unsolved story of mystery.  While contemplating the suspects my attention was drawn the Ker-Plunk! sound of frogs jumping from their perches along the sunlit shore into the river, and high in the tree the chirping of birds.

The day was highlighted by the glowing hue of the sun as gently fell through the treetops.  A day full of nature made for an enjoyable hike.

Jordan Sanger, Litchfield

YCC member

 

 

Three Reasons to Love Hiking

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ONE!

Hiking is very relaxing. From standardized testing to extra-curricular activities, high school students, like myself, have a lot going on. Hiking offers a much needed break from those demands. When you step into the woods all your stresses disappear. Instead of listening to a lecture, you’re listening to the babbling stream. Instead of walking through school hallways, you’re walking through a hallway of trees. Instead of eating in the cafeteria, you’re having a picnic under the blue skies. Eventually, you have to go back to the classrooms, the hallways, and the cafeteria, but right now it’s just you and nature.

TWO!

There is always somewhere new to explore. Unfortunately, it is impossible to hike every trail on the planet. You can visit all the National Parks or summit every mountain, but you will never see it all. There will always be something you haven’t seen or somewhere you haven’t been, and that’s the thrilling part of nature. Nature in infinite, so get out there and explore. Go find that spring you always hear, but never see. Go hike across the country. Go hike in a new country. Go have an adventure!

THREE!

Hiking is a great way to bond with friends and family. It’s a common misconception that hiking has to be Survivorman alone in the woods with a backpack and a walking stick, but this is simply not true. Of course if you want to hike the Appalachian Trail all by yourself, please, don’t let me stop you, but hiking can also be a team sport. In fact, I personally think hiking is more fun that way. It is so rewarding to share nature with other people. Without the distractions of the city and technology, conversations and experiences are more genuine while on a hike.