Finding the Outdoors in Your Own Backyard – Midland, MI

Have you ever been to Midland, Michigan? I was born and raised in this city, and am excited to share with you all that our great town has to offer in terms of outdoor entertainment!

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The Tridge

 

One of my favorite outdoor attractions in Midland is the Tridge!  In case you haven’t heard of it, the Tridge is a 3-way wooden footbridge spanning the Chippewa and Tittabawassee Rivers as they flow together.  It opened in 1981, and is located near downtown Midland in Chippewassee Park.  The total length of the bridge is 541 feet.  It is cool to stand on the Tridge on the 4th of July and watch the fireworks being set off over the river, or walk across the Tridge for the annual Labor Day walk.  Also in the evening, the bridge’s arches are lit which make it a very appealing location for nighttime walks any time of the year!

The Tridge also marks the starting point of the Pere Marquette Rail Trail, which is another one of my favorite outdoor attractions in Midland!  It is one of the most heavily used trails in Michigan with its paved, flat walkways that welcome all non-motorized users, such as walkers, bicycles, skateboards, and in-line skates.  The scenic trail is 30 miles long, and runs from Midland to Clare County.  It is recognized as one of 25 Rails to Trails Conservancy Hall of Fame trails in the U.S.  There are many access points along the trail, as well as benches for users to stop and enjoy the scenery!  Whether it’s spring, summer, fall or winter, the Pere Marquette Rail Trail offers a peaceful place for viewing wildlife such as deer, chipmunks, and an assortment of birds.

Another awesome outdoor attraction in Midland is City Forest, which is 520 acres and Midland’s largest park!  It is ideal for year-round outdoor activities and there is no charge to enter the park.  In the warmer months, City Forest offers two trail systems for bikers, runners and outdoor enthusiasts.  My favorite thing to do there is ride my mountain bike on the trails because they are well maintained and offer a challenging ride!  In the winter, you can enjoy sledding, ice skating, tobogganing, cross country skiing and snowshoeing, along with a trip to the City Forest Café, which offers snacks and beverages!

Lastly, a trip to Midland wouldn’t be complete without visiting Dow Gardens.  It is a 110-acre garden, with over 1700 varieties of plants!  It was started in 1899 by Herbert Dow, founder of The Dow Chemical Company.  The property offers paved walking trails that lead you around streams, bridges, and many beautiful scenic spots.  Dow Gardens offers many year-round events such as lunchtime concerts, outdoor movie nights, the Butterfly House, and my personal favorite, the evening luminary walk during the Christmas Holiday.

While I have only touched on a few of the great outdoor activities Midland has to offer, there are many more to explore on your own! They include:  Chippewa Nature Center, Stratford Park, Whiting Forest, Dow Diamond, etc.  So, the next time you are looking for a great place to visit and explore, come to Midland, or look for those special places around your home town and enjoy the outdoors!

Tyler Squires-YCC member, Midland, MI

Sailing Lake Superior aboard the Mary Lou

Menigoz pic 1Littered across the beaches of Lake Superior are innumerable amounts of driftwood. Having spent so much time around these one summer, I soon hatched a plan. It is the dream of every boy’s since the likes of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn- to build and sail your own raft.

The construction of such a vessel would take about two days. I gathered the best of the logs I could find (and there was no shortage to choose from) before getting to work. The bonds that would hold my raft together were coils of rope I had found in my barns. The work started slow, attaching one log at a time and going around and around with my rope. Finally, however, I tied my last knot and stood in pride of my work. The only step left was to christen the craft. This would soon prove to be the easiest task of all. It seemed only right to name the raft after the owner of the beach house we were using. And so it was that the next day was to be the Mary Lou’s maiden voyage.

Menigoz raft flagI couldn’t have picked a better day out of the whole summer for such an event. The sun shone out of blue skies and the lake lay still. My destination was two miles away, but it would take me more than two hours to reach it. I propelled myself with a long skinny log which took some getting used to. The saying ‘It’s all about the journey, not the destination’ proved all too true this day. I moved slowly and quietly along the lake, enjoying the scenery and solitude. I rowed rhythmically with hot skin and sore muscles, but this only made me enjoy it more. This is not to say however, that when I did finally reach my final destination I was not glad. I was admittedly relieved to rest after the tiresome journey. And though I had not gotten wet the entire trip, as I attempted to dismount the raft I fell fully into Lake Superior in front of my amused family and relatives. Quite an unexpected ending to such a memorable day.

Henry Menigoz, YCC member – Ontonagon

 

Taking the Challenge

This blog post is a little different than most. What I’m writing about hasn’t actually happened yet, so let me back it up a little bit and explain. I’m in an agriculture class in my high school and along with being in the class, I am also a member of the Lapeer County FFA. Many people don’t know much about FFA, if anything at all. Members of the Michigan FFA Association participate in anything involving agricultural or animal related, from engineering to vet sciences to biology.

This is where my event that hasn’t quite happened yet comes into explanation. Each year, FFA members have to compete in a Career Development Event (CDE) at Michigan State University. Because I dream of becoming a wildlife biologist, I am competing in the Environmental and Natural Resources category of the competition. In this category of the competition, I am required to know all Michigan wildlife and aquatic species, as well as plants, trees, invasive species, aquatic insects and environmental tools. Along with that, my team and I will have to evaluate and judge a parcel of land and test the quality of a certain body of water.

There are 10 members on my team and we all have been working very hard for the past six weeks to prepare for this upcoming competition date. If our team places top, we move on to the national completion, which involves FFA chapters from around the entire U.S. My team and I only have a few more weeks until we complete and I cannot wait to update all of you on our results, we are all very excited, especially me!

Olivia Walker, YCC Member – Lapeer

Daydreaming Turkeys

The woods are quiet. The smell of pines and ferns drifts to my nostrils as if trying to lull me to sleep. Then, suddenly, I hear it. “Gablgablgabl-gabagabagabl.” The calls begin to increase in proximity in accordance with my heart rate. All of a sudden, I can begin to make out the vibrant red head and outstretched fan. I begin to raise my gun.

SUDDENLY!

Wild Turkey

The sound of tires on gravel wrenches me out of my fantasy. I jerk the wheel and maneuver the car off the shoulder of the road, at the same time cursing myself for allowing the flock of turkeys I’d caught in my headlights on the way to school to distract me into making such a careless mistake.

My mood is sour the rest of the way to school as I come to the realization that this year will be different and I won’t have too many of those surreal moments this spring. It’s my junior year in high school, and, at least for me, the busiest year I’ve had so far. Throw in the golf team and my school’s participation in the local jazz festival on top of the rigors of the classroom. There just won’t be as much time to pack up the decoys and head out to one of my grandpa’s favorite turkey spots for the weekend.

What I am learning is that sometimes commitments will get in the way of activities I truly enjoy. That’s why, this spring, I’m going to have to make the most of the few times I get out to chase turkeys. More importantly I am learning to cherish the memories I’ve already made – just not while I’m driving to school!

Martin Chown – YCC member, Traverse City

We Have National Parks Too!

Here in Michigan, we have many outdoor opportunities, from the great lakes to the sand dunes, there are so many things to do! What you may not know is that Michigan also has quite a few National Parks right here in our great state.

Spotted by 35 campgrounds and lined with 165 miles of trails, Isle Royale is very beautiful.  Surrounded by Lake Superior, Isle Royale continues to be a hotspot for environmental research and everyday tourists like me. There are boatloads to do there! The National Parks Service suggests backpacking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, scuba diving and fishing.

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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Another popular place to go is Pictured Rocks, which is actually a National Shoreline. Pictured Rocks covers more than 40 miles of Lake Superior Shoreline. As a kid, I remember staring down at the water and hiking the trails with my family. There are over 100 miles of trails throughout the area that are amazing for sightseeing. Also, there are some really nice ranger lead tours.

 

One place that I love going to is Sleeping Bear Dunes. Sleeping bear dunes is also another national shoreline. Right on the coast of Lake Michigan, the dunes measure up to around 450”. My favorite thing to do there as a kid was slide down the sand dunes with my sister which is something that I have always remembered. In the summer it’s also fun to go swimming in the water and relax on the beach. Walking and biking the heritage trail are pretty popular activities too.

All of these magnificent places are just calling for adventure, and should be widely enjoyed for people of all ages. So take a couple of busy days off and enjoy the nature that Michigan has to offer!

Carolyn Hagler – YCC member, Grand Blanc

Early Spring Hike


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It can be hard to find outdoor activities this time of year for me. Ice fishing can be unsafe and there is no open water fishing because there is still ice. There is also no hunting that I participate in, so I usually enjoy hiking and taking pictures. It is a great time of year for hiking after the cold, snowy winter and it feels great to get some fresh air.

I have hiked multiple times these past few weeks. There are many trail systems close to my house that I can take advantage of even in the winter months. I always have my camera on my phone ready for pictures because there are many stunning sights in early spring. I have taken a number of quality pictures while I am on my hikes. The forest is returning back to life and it is not uncommon to see raccoons, porcupines, rabbits, and a variety of birds. The backdrop of snow and the growing amount of sunlight can make for some beautiful pictures.

It is usually this time or earlier when the bucks in northern Michigan shed their antlers. I always keep my eye out for sheds when I am in the woods because they are exciting to find. Also, by finding sheds you can find out what kind of bucks are in the area for future hunting spots. By hiking in the early spring, it gets you outdoors, you can enjoy the sights and sounds of nature returning to life, and take some great pictures.

 Owen Boyce, Bellaire – YCC Member

 

 

New Winter Activities and Waitin’ on Spring

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Nice Grand River Smallmouth

This winter was one to remember. Not because of the mounds of snow we got in mid-Michigan (I wish), but the very opposite. With limited snow and warmer spurts of heat, it gave great opportunity for quality winter fishing. Prior to the warm weather, coyote hunting was an every weekend ordeal.

 

 Over the last year and a half, coyotes have increased their population in the local area. After multiple deer and chickens were killed near my house, my neighbor and I began decided to do a little hunting. I took advantage of this with my Savage .223. I began to stalk the predators and learn their habits. After successful hunts, I began to get offers from farmers to help control their coyote problems. Coyote hunting has became one of my favorite pass-time activities. These opportunities allowed me to grow closer to nature and to see the wilderness from a new perspective.

 Along with great hunting came quality fishing. I live near the Grand River, a well-known waterway in Michigan. As all fisherman know, the spring is the best time to consistently catch big fish. In my area, this includes walleye, small and largemouth bass, pike and catfish. Although it is just peeping into the spring season, the weather seems as if we are supposed to be rolling into the summertime soon. The fishing this year has been an above average year. After multiple 19 and 20+ inch bass, I have begun able to lower my long lasted fishing-fever. 

 With turkey season on the door step, it’s time to buy new decoys, a license, and some shells. One of the best outdoor sensations is hearing the thunder birds gobbling back to your call in search of that hen. Harvesting a turkey is a wonderful experience, one that you will always remember. But the most beautiful part of it all is being able to sit in the woods and see Mother Nature in action. 

Graham Smith, Portland – YCC member