Go north for more winter. Or seek these folks to plan year of adventures.

1 month ago South Bend Tribune

Go north for more winter. Or seek these folks to plan year of adventures.

Last week’s rain, then snow left us a thin white dusting. Good for what? Tracking for snow, I watched online reports to the north. And, within a two-hour's drive Friday, I found surprisingly good snow for cross-country skiing and sledding just north of Holland, Mich.  

The well-marked trails had a few inches of pillowy soft snow, which packed down to just an inch under my skis, at Pigeon Creek County Park. I skied past sunset, thanks to trail lights, and heard (I believe) a coyote serenade. 

The snow there is withering, though I’m guessing that an icy base or patches may remain on the mostly wooded trails. But Michigan’s snow line is holding on. A forecasted storm in the middle of this week could replenish trails and hills in the state’s northern half, which also took a warm beating Sunday. Watch areas like Muskegon (Muskegon Winter Sports Complex with trails and luge, 877-879-5843) and Cadillac and Ludington and north of there to get more inches of snow.  

But also realize that nearby downhill resorts are still skiing and have plans to keep it going into early March. In fact, active-duty and retired military get a free lift ticket and ski/snowboard equipment rental on Feb. 26 at Swiss Valley Ski & Snowboard Area in Jones. Bring your identification to qualify. And its Snow Cup Games at the beer garden on Feb. 25 include a frozen fish toss at 1:30 p.m., stein holding at 2:30 p.m. and snow shoe race at 3:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, biking and paddling seasons knock at our door. Got a plan?  

Here are some events to find fellow adventurers with both experience and ideas for where to go.  

Oh, and Pigeon Creek is at 12524 Stanton St., West Olive, three miles east of U.S. 31 (616-786-4847).

Plan your adventures 

The annual Quiet Adventures Symposium — a gathering of adventurers, outdoor clubs and experts from Michigan and beyond — returns to a big, live event March 4 at Michigan State University.  

This is a grand event to spark ideas for trips and learn more about “quiet” sports like hiking, biking, paddling, sailing, camping and so on. The symposium has been going on since the mid-1990s, and this year it seems good, life-affirming medicine after last week’s shootings on campus. Students returned for classes on Monday.  

The symposium has been virtual the past two years. There won’t be a virtual component this time, but organizers don’t rule it out for the future. 

There will be more than 100 exhibits, and typically, they’ve included some sweet, handmade canoes and kayaks, too.  

The 34 speakers will cover, among other topics, paddling Prince William Sound in Alaska, biking Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, hiking the North Country Trail, avoiding tick bites, community youth biking programs, gravel biking, the basics of stand-up paddleboarding, the wolves and moose of Isle Royale, bears, and the pros and cons of e-powered recreation (a panel discussion with the League of American Bicyclists). The League will have information about various Michigan bike tours, too. 

Kids ages 5-18 will find hands-on educational activities from 4-H volunteers on topics such as entomology, soils, fisheries and marine life. 

The symposium will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Michigan State University Pavilion, 4031 Farm Lane Road, which is south of Mount Hope, East Lansing. Admission at the door costs $20 per person, $5 for students and free for those 11 and younger. Advance tickets can be bought for $15 online through Feb. 28. Learn more at quietwatersociety.org. 

Paddle Michiana meet-up

The Facebook group Paddle Michiana will gather at 6 p.m. Feb. 25 in the deli at Martin's Super Market, 3800 Mishawaka Road, Elkhart, to plan local and regional paddling trips for this year. Grab some food and head upstairs (there’s an elevator if needed). 

The group regularly meets up. Members pitch in to lead trips, and they already have sights on places like the Pine River, Turkey Run and Chain O' Lakes state parks and others. There are races and festivals to learn about, too.

Paddle Michiana invites anyone to bring their own ideas for places to paddle, good weekend trips or other suggestions to this meeting.  

You’ll meet the group’s Facebook page manager, Margaret Easton, who was just named the Indiana state director for the American Canoe Association, which focuses on education, stewardship and races. Not surprisingly. She’s been a true local paddling advocate in recent years, having worked to educate the public about the sport and having represented paddlers on the Indiana Division of Natural Resources’ Trails Advisory Board. She knows her stuff.  

Bicycles and …

∎ Race team: Pumpkinvine Cyclery will host a kickoff meeting at its Middlebury bike shop at 6 p.m. today, Feb. 22, for its racing team that focuses on gravel and mountain bike races. It’s open to anyone interested. 

∎ Warsaw swap meet: The KCV (Kosciusko County Velo) Cycling Club will hold a swap meet for used bikes and bike gear at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at Mad Anthony’s Lake City Tap House, 113 E. Center St., Warsaw. For more information, visit kcvcycling.org.

∎ South Bend bike swap and ski sale: The annual bike swap meet at St. Patrick’s County Park in South Bend will return from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 26 in the park’s big red barn. On the same day, the park will piggyback and also sell off its own used cross-country skis and boots from noon to 4 p.m. in the white barn.

∎ Melting Mann to start at Swiss: The 10th annual Melting Mann bike race on March 25 will move its start/finish point this year from Vandalia to Swiss Valley Ski & Snowboard Area in Jones. So it will launch right at the tricky, sandy entrance to Mann Road, the race’s namesake. Mann is known for its hilly challenge and how a certain low point can turn muddy. It is among the many dirt and gravel roads featured. We’ll look at the ins and outs of what the new start means in a future column. Race either 24, 35 or 60 miles. Cost is $65, including food and beverages. Details at meltingmann.com. 

∎ PALM ride from New Buffalo: The annual PALM (Pedal Across Lower Michigan) bike tour, which started in 1982, crosses the lower peninsula via a different route each summer. This year, its first day of the six-day tour goes 37 miles from New Buffalo to Niles, then proceeds eastward, reaching Trenton, near Detroit, for the finish. The longest day on this family-friendly ride will be 55 miles. The tour runs from June 17 to 23 and offers camping and meals. Find details at www.palmbiketour.org. 

Black history in park

Did you realize that Potato Creek State Park in North Liberty and points east of it bear key sites in local Black history?

Samuel Huggart, a free African American, brought his family and settled there in 1834. They were part of a community of anti-slavery Quakers who played roles in the abolition movement. Other Black families then settled and farmed near the Huggarts.

When they died, the residents were buried in the Porter-Rea Cemetery for both Blacks and Whites, now enveloped by Potato Creek. Marked with a historical sign, it intersects with Trail 4 along Worster Lake. 

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has a StoryMap website, linked here online, that details more about the Huggart Settlement. It offers a map that shows a few key points in the cemetery and a map with a few historic sites east of the park, including Olive Branch United Brethren Church, founded in 1878. It’s worth studying as we close out Black History Month.  


∎ Tracks and Snacks: Kids ages 5 and older will learn tricks for identifying animal tracks along park trails and also get hot cocoa and a snack from 10 to 11 a.m. Feb. 25 at Cobus Creek County Park in Elkhart. Register by today, Feb. 22, at elkhartcountyparks.org. 

∎ Spring turkey hunts: The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has just begun taking applications for spring turkey reserved hunts at state properties across Indiana. You can apply through March 19 at on.IN.gov/reservedhunt, where you’ll find the list of sites that are available. You must have a hunting license for the hunt you’re seeking. Hunters will be selected through a random computerized draw. 

Find columnist Joseph Dits on Facebook at SBTOutdoorAdventures or 574-235-6158 or [email protected]
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