Hiking & Biking

Legendary Ice Caves on Lake Michigan!

via Leelanau.com

mLive called out this incredible video by Tom Auch and George Meredith of the massive ice caves off the western shore of Leelanau County.

Getting to the formations is no easy task, he (Meredith) warned. Observers need to be careful about jagged terrain and ice alterations that could be dangerous. He suggested that some type of walking cleats are needed.

“You have to go out pretty far. That’s the rub,” he said. “You have ridges that you have to go around.”

Since news stations began reporting on the ice formations a couple of days ago, large numbers of people have come to see them.

“This is a once-in-a-decade natural beauty,” Meredith said. “Some of the caves literally have loft formations in them.”

They are located off Gills Pier about 7 miles north of Leelanau and the article includes a map. I feel compelled to add that Lake Michigan is deep, cold and dangerous so please use some common sense and buddy up!

Harvesting Michigan Beechnuts

Absolute Michigan is excited to share this article about a tasty treat you can find in the woods right now courtesy of the new eatdrinkTC website from Traverse City, Michigan. The site is dedicated to Traverse City’s exploding culinary scene and has a lot of great features including business listings, cooking classes, specials and great features like this one!

by Laura Herd, eatdrinkTC

Beechnut-in-shellI’ve been eating beechnuts off of the forest floor for as long as I can remember. I like to roast them and eat them on their own as a treat, so this season I collected a few extra beechnuts to bring back to my kitchen. Read on for lots of beech nut facts, videos and a photo gallery and how to prepare a tasty snack!

From the Hiker’s Notebook:

Beechnuts are encased in a woody husk that is covered with spines, each containing  two irregularly triangular shiny brown edible nuts. They are only produced after the beech has reached the age of about 40 years; annual beechnut production ramps up at this point to reach maximum yields after at about the 60 year point. 

Cold enough for ya?

Blindfold 2XA friend & Michigan expatriate sent me the Michigan Temperature Conversion Chart. I thought it might be nice to pair with some photos, and also that you might enjoy COLD, as performed by the Absolute Michigan Pool.

I’m told that sculptor Jim Gavril of East Lansing deserves the credit for the chart! Click the photos to view them bigger!

28/365/1489 (July 9, 2012) - Squirrel Pancake at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)@ +70 degrees

Texans turn on the heat and unpack the thermal underwear.
People in Michigan go swimming in the rivers.

Future Garden@ +60 degrees

North Carolinians try to turn on the heat.
People in Michigan plant gardens.

Dwarfed by the giant crane@ +50 degrees

Californians shiver uncontrollably.
People in Michigan sunbathe.

Fly By@ +40 degrees

Italian & English cars won’t start.
People in Michigan drive with the windows down.

Fozen Odyssey ... Lake Michigan January 2007 color version@ +32 degrees

Distilled water freezes.
Lake Michigan water gets thicker.

Brothers in Arms@ +20 degrees

Floridians put on coats, thermal underwear, gloves and woolly hats.
People in Michigan throw on a flannel shirt.

Not Gonna Grill No More@ +15 degrees

Philadelphia landlords finally turn up the heat.
People in Michigan have the last cookout before it gets cold.

N. State St.@ +10 degrees

People in Miami all die.
People in Michigan lick the flagpole.

winter morning ritual@ 0 degrees

Californians fly away to Mexico.
People in Michigan get out their winter coats.

Zero degree windchill@ -10 degrees

Hollywood disintegrates.
The Girl Scouts in Michigan are selling cookies door to door.

Walk in the Woods@ -25 degrees

Polar bears begin to evacuate the Arctic.
Michigan Boy Scouts postpone “Winter Survival” classes until it gets cold enough.

No Better Artist than Mother Nature@ -30 degrees

Mount St. Helen’s freezes.
People in Michigan rent some videos.

Drunken Fools@ -40 degrees

Santa Claus abandons the North Pole.
Spartans get frustrated because they can’t thaw the keg.

Curious cows@ -45 degrees

Microbial life no longer survives on dairy products.
Cows in Michigan complain about farmers with cold hands.

Winter Surfing!@ -60 degrees

ALL atomic motion stops (absolute zero in the Kelvin scale).
People in Michigan start saying, “Cold ’nuff for ya?”

Hell Froze Over!!!@ -100 degrees

Hell freezes over.
The Detroit Lions win the Super Bowl!

Photo Links…

  • Michigan Cougar November 11 2012
    Permalink Gallery

    Michigan Cougar Controversy Over? Three more cougar photos verified in UP

Michigan Cougar Controversy Over? Three more cougar photos verified in UP

Michigan Department of Natural Resources News Release – November 28, 2012

Three recent trail camera photos of cougars in the Upper Peninsula have been verified by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Two of the photos, both of a cougar with a radio collar, were taken in October in Menominee County – one near Cedar River and one near Menominee just north of the Wisconsin border.

The third photo was taken in northern Marquette County in November. The cougar in the Marquette County photo is not wearing a radio collar.

The DNR does not place radio collars on cougars; North Dakota and South Dakota are the nearest states where wildlife researchers have placed radio collars on cougars to track their movement. The DNR has not yet been able to determine the origin of the radio-collared cougar that is in Michigan.

In the fall of 2011, a radio-collared cougar was photographed in Ontonagon, Houghton and Keweenaw counties. Although the cougar recently photographed in Menominee County is wearing the same type of radio collar, DNR wildlife biologists are currently unable to determine whether this is the same animal or another transient that has dispersed from western states.

All three photos were taken by trail cameras located on private property and the landowners have asked to remain anonymous. DNR Wildlife Division staff were able to visit each location to confirm the authenticity of the photos.

Michigan Cougar Captured on Film

This story has become the most popular ever on the Absolute Michigan Facebook with almost 200 “likes”, 75+ comments and a whopping 254 shares. The photo was taken with a locked trail cam situated along a well-used wildlife trail in southern Marquette county. When you read the comments on the Facebook link you’ll see that folks all across the state believe they’ve seen cougars.

Marquette County Cougar, photo by Michigan Wildlife Conservancy

A trail cam in southern Marquette County operated by the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy (MWC) recently captured the above photo of a cougar. Dr. Patrick Rusz, Director of Wildlife Programs for the MWC and retired DNR forester Michael Zuidema verified the trail camera’s location on a well-worn wildlife trail atop a wooded ridge. The camera has also photographed wolves, coyotes, fishers and numerous other species at the same site over a four year period.

The MWC is publicizing this photograph because it may be the best, clearest photograph of a wild Michigan cougar ever taken. It is also unusually interesting because Mr. Zuidema has recorded over twenty credible cougar sightings in the same vicinity since the 1970s. These include several sightings within a few miles of the trail camera location.

Dr. Rusz stated that “the long history of sighting reports in the area indicates the cougar photographed on June 1 may be part of a resident population rather than a wandering cat from a western state.” Dr. Rusz has studied cougars for the Conservancy for 14 years and is co-author of a peer-reviewed study that confirmed cougars in both peninsulas of Michigan by analyses of DNA in droppings. He has also identified a long list of additional physical evidence dating back to 1966, and notes that Michigan State College zoologist Richard Manville documented several cougar sightings or incidents when he inventoried the fauna of Marquette County’s Huron Mountains from 1939 to 1942.

“The MDNR cougar team should now look at the very good evidence of a remnant cougar population collected before 2008,” said Bill Taylor, President of the Conservancy. “They could still easily verify cougar photos taken in the 1990’s in Alcona and Oscoda Counties in the Lower Peninsula and some others. The vegetation and other landmarks needed to confirm the photos are still there.”

You can compare the photograph above with photos of a wolf, coyote, raccoon, and porcupine taken by the same camera in the same location at the MWC website at www.miwildlife.org.

The Michigan Wildlife Conservancy is a non-profit citizens group established to restore Michigan’s wildlife legacy. They have restored more than 8,200 acres of wetlands, 2,500 acres of prairies and grasslands, and hundreds of miles of trout streams, and helped with several rare species recoveries and the creation of many backyard habitats.

More about cougars in Michigan on Michigan in Pictures and weigh in with your comments below or on the Absolute Michigan Facebook!

Five Things You Need to Know About Michigan Morel Mushrooms

5thingsMay is Morel Season in Michigan … usually that is. In 2012, however, morel season has arrived early (click for photo evidence). Michigan’s morels are out there, so here’s a classic feature on Michigan morels to help you get out and find the mighty morchella!!

The Elusive Black Morel by cedarkayak
The Elusive Black Morel
by cedarkayak

1 Morechella, true morels, are a honeycomb-like mushroom that  are prized by chefs the world over. The Great Morel Homepage can take you a lot deeper with links about the science of  these woodland delicacies. If you’re looking for information about hunting morels this feature on Leelanau.com has some great tips to help you hunt and to be a good citizen of Morel Nation. Ed Vielmetti in Ann Arbor has a bunch more thoughts on the hunt.  MichiganMorels.com has tons of information as well about where to look, saying: Black morel habitats includes Ash, Fruit and Aspen trees (also known as: Popple or Poplar) or even lawns and fields.White (yellow) morels especially like Elm, Fruit trees, and Maple. And in southern Michigan, the Tulip Poplar tree is a good host.

2 When you find morels, you’re going to want to cook them. The easiest tip is to soak them and rinse very well – they do have a lot of “grit” – and then fry them in butter. You can of course do a lot more with them. Check that Leelanau.com article and the recipes page at The Great Morel (one suggests a Michigan Dry Riesling pairing – we couldn’t agree more!). Even if you don’t find morels, you can buy them from Michigan-based Earthy Delights. On their recipes page they offer several ideas including Spring Wild Harvest Ragout With Fiddlehead Greens & Morels!

My favorite part of Spring by Apocaplops
My favorite part of Spring by Apocaplops

3 Michigan loves its morels and we have two great morel celebrations. The annual Mesick Morel Festival is slated for May 11-13, 2012. Follow their Schroomers Log for updates on who’s finding what and where. The second is the National Morel Mushroom Festival in Boyne City that takes place May 17-20, 2012. When you click that link you’ll hear the strains of the Mushroomers Waltz, and when you visit the festival, you’ll have a chance to taste an incredible array of morel dishes and enjoy an experience much like  Absolute Michigan did a few of years ago.

Although morels are early, Morelfest committee member Scott MacKenzie assures us that restaurants & chefs are storing up plenty for their featured Taste of Morels event. Scott says he’s starting to find black morels and adds “Who knows what Mother Nature has in store. The gal I was hunting with found one gray. If it stays cold, it may turn out just perfect. One thing is for sure: if you come up, I guarantee you’ll have a good time! Thornetta Davis is performing and there’s all kinds of fun to be found.”

4 Finding morels means knowing what they look like, and being able to distinguish them from poisonous false morels. You can see a whole bunch in the Michigan Morel Slideshow from the  Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr, including one from Sunday posted by the Honor Motel.  Michigan in Pictures has a bagful of photos and articles about morels as well. If you want to share YOUR photos with us, add them to the Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr or post them to the Absolute Michigan Facebook!

5 There’s a bunch of great videos out there on morels including a sweet time lapse of a morel growing over 8 days by Ken Scott, a nice tour of the Michigan woods in morel season, one with Zachary Trost and morel expert Tom Nauman and a very nice primer to morel hunting from Country Living. I have to go with my buddy Tony Williams and the Boyne City Morel Fest – enjoy and good hunting!!

The Michigan Transportation Odyssey

The first-ever Michigan Transportation Odyssey is a three-day journey that began in Detroit with stops in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids before it finishes up today in Traverse City. Along the way, a group of Trans4M members have been exploring the challenges and opportunities of Michigan’s passenger transportation system.

Their blog has some more detailed thoughts, but weve found that following along at #MIOdyssey through pictures and posts is the best way to get a sense of the state of Michigan’s transportation network.

Here’s a nice recap from mLive of the Odyssey. Read some of our favorite tweets below!

  • Sleeping Bear Dunes Tours
    Permalink Gallery

    The Daily Michigan: A private tour of the Sleeping Bear Dunes with SBD Tours

The Daily Michigan: A private tour of the Sleeping Bear Dunes with SBD Tours

Today on The Daily Michigan we have guided private explorer tour for up to six people through the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore with SBD Tours!

The emphasis is on the exploring as you check out sites like Pierce Stocking Drive & Glen Haven, take a hike, visit a ghost town or old farm visit and even enjoy a wine tasting!

Through hikes and tours, SBD Tours helps visitors connect with the natural beauty of northern Michigan and the Sleeping Bear Dunes area as they learn about our links to the past and help preserve this wonderful resource! Your tour guide is a Certified Interpretive Guide, a Master Gardener and a Master Naturalist. She has been in this area for nearly twenty years and has a great appreciation for this scenic part of northern Michigan. Visit their website for more information about the tours!

Click here to sign up (and to learn how you can win)

Riding out a hard winter in Michigan with snow bikes!

The snow bike ... by Dr. Farnsworth
The snow bike … by Dr. Farnsworth

In Crain’s Detroit Business, Howard Lovy writes that although overall hotel occupancy rates across Michigan were up slightly for December and January, in northern Michigan where the wintertime color of money is white, the winter of 2011-12 has been a big bust. But as Businesses that need snow find ways to ride out a winter that’s more in the red than the white explains, if there’s one thing Michigan businesses have developed in recent years, it’s perseverance:

Just ask Tim Brick, owner of Brick Wheels, a Traverse City ski and bike shop. In winter, December is the make-or-break month. The lack of snowfall meant business was down 40 percent that month. In January, it was down 20 percent.

It was so bad that Brick had considered laying off some of his 15 employees.

Then a funny thing happened as the customers trickled in. Many were intrigued by a display of “snow bikes” — machines with big tires that can be used when the there’s not enough snow for skis but too much for ordinary mountain bikes. Snow bikes seemed to satisfy a longing for hard-core sports enthusiasts in northern Michigan — where they take their skiing and bicycling very seriously.

Let it Snow! by Rudy Malmquist
Let it Snow! by Rudy Malmquist

Read on for more about snow biking and what other businesses including ski resorts are doing to offset a disappointing winter.

Speaking of snow bikes, the one to the right is made here in Michigan by 616 Fabrication. 616 is the area code for West Michigan, the birth place of two bicycle companies who enjoyed a cult following: Slingshot Bicycle Co. and Nukeproof Mountain Bikes. In July of last year, the former owners of these two companies joined forces to use the best resources, people, and talent that West Michigan has to offer to manufacture some of the most progressive and detailed custom bicycles available anywhere.

You can also check out snow biking at Michigan Tech and Bike the Keweenaw for some trail & riding information from the UP. The Great Bear Ski Race (March 10, 2012) will include 10 and 25k snow bike races on Sunday the 11th. They’ve declared the 25k race the Midwest Snow Bike Championships. Ski on Saturday, bike on Sunday!

If you’re in the market for a snow bike, head over to our Michigan Hiking & Biking page for a stable-full of Michigan bike shops, trails and biking links! Now here’s a little snow biking action courtesy Marquette’s Quick Stop Bike Shop

The Lake in Winter: an excerpt from The Windward Shore

Works by Michigan author Jerry Dennis include The Living Great Lakes, Winter Walks (with wood engravings by Glenn Wolff and design and letterpress by Chad Pastotnik of Deep Woods Press), A Place on the Water, It’s Raining Frogs and Fishes, Canoeing Michigan Rivers and more. Jerry has kindly allowed us to run this excerpt from his latest work, The Windward Shore: A Winter on the Great Lakes. It’s published by the University of Michigan Press and includes wood engravings by Glenn Wolff. Speaking of Glenn, you can read a feature about The Windward Shore by F. Josephine Arrowood in the Glen Arbor Sun that includes great interview with him. Enjoy…

The Lake in Winter
by Jerry Dennis

(January, Cathead Point, near the tip of Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula)

It changes every day, every hour. It is a thousand lakes, changing faces with every shift in wind and light – flurried by offshore wind, whitecapped in squalls, colored flannel gray or pearl-white or stormy black beneath the winter clouds, a dozen blues when the sky is blue.

There’s a contemporary Japanese poet who writes a diary on a slab of stone instead of paper, with water instead of ink. He writes a word, and a moment later it evaporates. This, he suggests, is the true record of a life.

We go to the shore in search of elemental things. Probably it is just coincidence that the elemental things we find there – sand, sun, wind, and waves – correspond exactly to the four elements of the ancient Greeks and Hindus: earth, fire, air, and water. More to the point is that we need elemental things to help us restore our primitive senses to working condition. We need periodically to look, listen, scent, taste, and feel our way through the world, if only for the relief of not having to think our way through. Everyone understands that eliminating superfluities can help us discover what is important in our lives.

That’s not an easy task. Time coats us in natural increase, accruing layers as if we were snowballs rolling down a hill. Jobs, families, friends, houses, cars, dogs, our health – just maintaining it all is full-time work. Add the bulging files of information, the gunnysacks of mistakes and the duffels of misjudgments and the barrow-loads of memories, habits, regrets, opinions, prejudices, principles, laws, and codes collected in a lifetime and you can see the problem. We carry as much as we can, and the rest we stack around us until all our routes to the outside are blocked. Even when we find our way out we’re wearing too many layers of tuxedoes and zoot suits and cardigans, Icelandic woolens, parkas, longjohns, thermal socks, etc. We’re strong but we grow weary of lugging that Collyer-brothers’ accumulation everywhere we go. We bend beneath the load, our backs about to break, groaning as we push our heaped-up grocery carts through the streets.

It’s too much. Now and then we need to strip down to the naked flame at our core. Most of what we carry is baggage anyway – just adornment and vanity, ballast and deadweight. It’s the crap the pioneers threw out along the Oregon Trail.


After lunch I walked to the crest of the dune and looked out at the lake. Even from that small elevation, maybe fifty feet, the water’s clarity was startling. From a boat, on a day like this, with the sun overhead, you can lean over the side and see boulders on the bottom thirty feet down. The pale shallows stepped into blue depths. The offshore sandbars were there, a hundred yards apart, each deeper than the one before, with bands of increasingly darker blue between them. Beyond the last bar a steep drop-off into very deep water turned the lake midnight blue.

Lake Michigan. My lake, I often think, because I grew up near it and because many in my family settled along its shores. So much water, in a body so large they say that the Netherlands could fit inside, with enough room left over for several New England states. It is the second largest of the Great Lakes in volume, and third, after Superior and Huron, in surface area. It is the only one of the five to be contained entirely within the United States.

Most of the 1,640 miles of shore is sandy. Some of that shore, especially around the southern end, through Indiana and Illinois, is lined with industry. Around the top of the lake in Wisconsin and Michigan are scattered limestone bluffs and rocky strands. But most of the rest is blond sand beaches that are among the loveliest in North America. Wind, waves, and ice have shoved that sand into the most extensive network of freshwater dunes on the planet. They reach their apogee about thirty miles south of Cathead Point at Sleeping Bear Dunes, the crowning feature of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, but they extend nearly unbroken for 300 miles along the eastern and southern shores of the lake, from northern Michigan nearly to Chicago. A few scattered dunes are found also along the Wisconsin shore and at the top of the lake, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, but they lack the dimensions of those that face the prevailing winds.

A friend who lives part of every year in the West once told me that Lake Michigan plays the same role in the Midwest that the mountains do in Montana. That’s true for all five lakes. Like the Rockies, you can see them from miles away, forming a backdrop that is also a felt presence, always there, looming in our lives. They are depositories of geological and historical power that shape the land and the culture to themselves. We orient to them and are drawn to them and take for granted that their presence and the weather they create will affect our travels and alter our daily plans.

The lakes have always been the most prominent shaper of the character or “spirit” of the Great Lakes region. The stronger the spirit of a place, the farther it resonates beyond its borders. Alaska, Texas, Vermont, and Maine all have it in abundance. So do large geographical regions such as Appalachia, the Canadian Maritimes, and the Cajun country of Louisiana. A mythological portrait of a place needs to be only approximately accurate to give outsiders an idea of what it is like, or enough of an idea, at least, to inspire them to take some interest in it. That might explain in part why people who have never visited the Everglades or the Arctic Wildlife Refuge are willing to write letters to congressmen and donate money to protect them.

The Great Lakes have not had that advantage. Their mythology is not clearly defined. It was once very clear, a living mythology, inhabited by people, wolf, moose, and bear, but the stories that passed around campfires for thousands of years were drowned out by European invaders wielding their own stories of Jesuit martyrs, French voyageurs, Paul Bunyans of the logging camps, mariners of the inland seas, and up-by-the-bootstraps giants of industry. Most of those stories have now, in turn, lost their power and have not been replaced. Enduring mythologies tend to accrue to dominate features of a landscape. Louisiana has swamps; New England, hardscrabble hills; Montana, big sky. But the Great Lakes are too varied. No representative image fits. The water and dunes and rocks and cities on the shore are lost in a haze of homogeneity. Surely that is why those who have never stood beside the big lakes find it so difficult to imagine them.

Excerpted from The Windward Shore: A Winter on the Great Lakes, by Jerry Dennis. Used with permission of the author and The University of Michigan Press. Visit Jerry’s website at www.jerrydennis.net. Here’s a cool trailer for the book that Jerry’s son videographer Aaron Dennis made that you will enjoy as well!