Heading Straight into the Spring Season in the Mackinaw City Area

Spring is a beautiful time of year in the Mackinaw City area, as the winter melts away and nature comes out of its deep slumber. Plenty of seasonal activities are planned to celebrate the arrival of spring and all its beauty—from the flora to fauna to astronomy to aviary.

Savoring Michigan’s sweet treat…maple syrup

Did you know that maple sugaring is Michigan’s oldest agricultural activity…dating back to the earliest Native Americans? Or, that Michigan ranks #5 in the nation for production of maple syrup…generating more than $2.5 million for the state’s economy?

The longer, warmer days means sap begins to flow in the maple trees that dot the landscape around the miles of woodland trails. In the furthest reaches of Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park visitors can find the Maple Sugar Shack, nestled along one of the hiking trails. While the sugaring season will have wrapped up by the time the interpretive season begins at here in May, guests can still find the shack and interpretive panels detailing the history of sugaring in this area and the process of doing it.

Beauty from the ground…wildflowers abound!

One of the surest signs that spring has arrived in the north woods is the appearance of an abundance of beautiful wildflowers covering the forest floor. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, there are at least 18 wildflowers native to Michigan including Arrowhead, Beach pea, Black-eyed Susan, Dwarf Lake Iris (Michigan’s official state flower, a threatened species only found in the Great Lakes region), Harebell, Purple coneflower and others. Other spring beauties include the Yellow Trout-lily, Spring-beauty, the Large-flowered Trillium and the smaller Nodding Trillium, Marsh Marigold or Cowslip and Jack-in -the-Pulpit.

Head out along the hiking trails at Wilderness State Park, The Headlands International Dark Sky Park, at Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park and along sections of the North Country Trail. Please remember that trillium are protected in Michigan and that picking them is illegal (but photographing them is recommended).

Foraging from the forest floor…morels, ramps and fiddleheads!

In addition to an abundance of wildflowers, spring means the arrival of wild edibles – such as morels, ramps and fiddleheads – the most hunted spring treasures. May is morel month in Michigan but depending on the weather these illusive fungi can be found as early as April and as late as mid-June, especially the further north you go. Morels begin to pop up along the woodland floor when the daytime temps reach around 60–65 degrees while the evening temps stay above 50 degrees. As you search, look along southwest facing hills where the sun’s rays warm the ground around tree groves mixed with living, dead and dying ash, elm, oak and aspen trees. Given there are a lot of “false morels” and other poisonous mushrooms, it is advised to take a guide (either a person or a printed book) to help you identify a true morel. If you can’t find them in the woods, look for them on the menu of area restaurants during the spring season – topping fish, chicken or steak, fried to a crispy goodness or cooked into a creamy bisque.

Cast a hook, line and sinker!

Fishing really is a four-season activity here in the Great Lakes State, but as the ice melts and the temperatures rise, the rivers, streams and lakes become a hotbed for a variety of species. The Straits area offers opportunities for migratory steelhead and salmon, as well as other freshwater fish. Spring fishing begins in April when the smelt begin to run, followed by trout season in late April and walleye season which opens mid-May. As we move into summer, look for lake perch and bass off the coast of Wilderness State Park or head to Paradise Lake, just five miles south of Mackinaw City, where bass, pike, walleye and panfish are plentiful. Be sure to check the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for specific season dates and licensing information.

Hunting Michigan’s beloved Petoskey Stone!

Many people think that Petoskey Stones can only be found in Petoskey. Yet this hexagon fossilized coral (Hexagonaria pericarnata) from a coral reef that existed during the Devonian era 350 million years ago, can be found along the Lake Michigan shoreline from the Sleeping Bear Dunes area as far north as the Straits of Mackinac. Spring is the ideal time to scour the beaches for rocks that have been churned up over the winter, before the thousands of tourists have had the time begin their search. Established as Michigan’s state stone in 1965, the Petoskey Stones were formed as a result of glaciation, in which sheets of ice plucked stones from the bedrock, grinding off their rough edges and depositing them in the northwestern portion of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

Please note, Michigan State prohibits individuals from removing more than 25 pounds of rocks or minerals per year from state parks, recreation lands and Great Lakes bottomlands.

Look to the skies…and beyond!

Although there is no way to predict when Northern Lights (aurora borealis) will light up the sky, the Straits area provides the perfect night sky conditions for viewing this unique phenomenon. Northern Lights are collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere, creating dancing color of lights such as green, pink and purple. Located along the Lake Michigan shoreline just south of Mackinaw City, the Headlands International Dark Sky Park is a popular place for settling in for the sky show.

Check out this wonderful #PureMichigan video – Dark Sky – which launched in early April and will run through mid-May. It will air before the start of PG and PG-13 movies playing in 261 cinemas across 2,021 screens in Michigan as well as Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota and Wisconsin – as well as showing on 12 cable channels nationally: http://bit.ly/MiDarkSky.

For spring travel ideas and lodging options, visit MackinawCity.com.

Experience Michigan Trails Week in the Straits of Mackinac

A new season is upon us and throughout the Straits of Mackinac area, acres of woodlands surround scenic trails ideal for exploring during the fall color tour season—especially during Michigan Trails Week, September 22-29. Michigan Trails Week concludes on National Public Lands Day, a day for volunteer-led efforts to beautiful and build awareness about the value and breadth of U.S. public lands.

Michigan State Parks and Recreation Areas in Northern Michigan offer some of the best outdoor recreation opportunities in the Midwest. One of the most enjoyed activities is hiking, whether for exercise, nature observation or while on a backpacking trip. Some of the best hiking opportunities exist in the Mackinaw City area south of the Mackinac Bridge and once you cross into the Upper Peninsula.

A few of the key spots to visit for a hiking excursion include:

The Headlands:

An Emmet County Park on the Straits of Mackinac. The Headlands property is made up of nearly 600 acres of forested lands, four miles of trails and two miles of beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline including Michigan’s only Dark Sky Park. You will experience breathtaking sunsets, pristine lakeshores and natural surroundings full of wildlife. St. Helena’s Island, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the Mackinac Bridge, Waugoshance Point, Wilderness State Park, Cecil Bay and Trails End Bay are all visible from the shores of the Headlands. The Headlands has been painstakingly preserved by local residents and groups for your enjoyment.

Wilderness State Park:

Offering 12 miles of designated foot trails that weave throughout the park, Wilderness State Park boasts several marked trails include Sturgeon Bay Trail, Swamp Line, Boundary Trail, Nebo Trail, Pondside Trail, Red Pine Trail, Hemlock Trail and Big Stone Trail. Check with the DNR staff first, as parts of the shoreline are closed in the spring and early summer when the endangered Piping Plover is nesting. It is also suggested you request a complete hiking map to fully enjoy the sites and trails. This is a wonderful area to explore the ecosystem of the Great Lakes meeting the great hard woods of Northern Michigan.

Mill Creek:

Situated on over 600 acres of beautiful forests, wildflowers and scenic views, Mill Creek State Historic Park is also home a reconstructed sawmill. The park has 1.5 miles of trails including a half-mile nature trail that borders the creek and passes two scenic overlooks from where the Straits of Mackinac and Mackinac Island can be viewed. Departing from the nature trail is a mile-long spur to a beaver pond. Interestingly enough, Mill Creek has a one of a kind mile loop nature trail that is totally handicap accessible.

Mackinac Island:

There are 140 miles of roads and trails on Mackinac Island with many of them designated for foot traffic only, as there are no motor vehicles allowed on the Island. The majority of them are paved roads that are shared by bicyclists, carriages and pedestrians. The longest walk is the “Round the Shore” trip, an 8.2-mile journey along Lake Shore Road which takes you by many natural features of the Island and shows off the breathtaking scenic shoreline. Other popular routes are “Across the Turtle’s Back,” “A Tranquil Bluff Trail” and “British Landing Nature Trail.” For detailed trail maps, purchase a Historic Visitor’s Guide to Mackinac Island on the ferry boat or at the Mackinac Historic Park Visitor Centers, for $1.00.

North Country Trail:

The North Country National Scenic Trail passes through seven northern states, from New York to North Dakota—traveling extensively through Michigan’s two peninsulas. When completed, the 4600-mile trail will be the longest continuous hiking trail in the United States. Coming out of Petoskey, the trail travels through Mackinac State Forest and Wilderness State Park where it follows the Lake Michigan Shoreline to Mackinaw City. The trail enters town on the southern border and its entire one-mile stretch inside the village is also a paved DNR Rails-to-Trails project named the North Western State Trail. From the trailhead there is also access to the DNR’s North Central State Trail, which will take you from Mackinaw City south to Gaylord. For those wanting to continue north via the Mackinac Bridge, The Bridge Authority provides a shuttle to the trail’s Upper Peninsula connector.

For lodging reservations for this weekend, or throughout the fall season, visit MackinawCity.com/stay/.

 

#MiTrails #PureMichiganTrails #MakeItMackinaw #MiTrailsWeek

 

PHOTO: Photo by Kathryn Bartoszyk courtesy of Michigan Trails Magazine.