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Archive | Outdoors

Quiet—not Absent

By Ranger Steve Mueller

I am not one to sit. I like moving. Outdoor activity is either walking, working on trail maintenance, pruning trees and shrubs, pursing butterflies, birds, or other animals. Three days ago, I broke my leg while walking in uneven ground, in search of wetland butterflies. I fell in a hidden hole. Yesterday the surgeon installed a metal plate in my leg and said I cannot put any weight on my leg for six weeks.

I have been sitting on the back porch and noticing things that are missed daily because I move about too much. For two days I have been seeing Baltimore Orioles moving among the tree branches. A Great Flycatcher quietly landed in a tree in good view. A flock of Cedar Waxwings has been flitting about the conifer branches and I haven’t been noticing them. I have not seen any of these species lately.

Now that breeding season is mostly over, males are not singing to claim territory. It is easy not to notice the birds as they search for food. This evening a Ruby-throated hummingbird visited flowers in the butterfly garden in preference to the sugar water feeder that hangs in the garden. The hummer was actively feeding on minute insects that were flying just above treetops. I could not see the insects but the bird was clearly picking things out of sky as it hovered and darted back and forth.

Family flocks of American Robins have been feeding on creatures in the mowed lawn. Mourning Doves are one of the few birds still vocalizing with their owl-like coo-coo call. They are a bird that may still breed and produce young this late in the year.

Chickadees are not singing their two note song but like me they are contently on the move and do vocalize their chickadee-dee-dee call. I answer with my own version of their call and they come to see who is talking to them. House wrens sing continuously in spring and early summer but now only make a twittering chat.

Eastern Towhees are secretive and spend time under trees and shrubs scratching among the ground vegetation in search of tasty insects morsels. They have not completely given up their song of “drink your teaeeeee.” I still here the “your teaeeee” coming from hidden locations.

Most birds are busy in their specialized nature niches fattening for the long journey south, teaching young by demonstration, or working hard in preparation to survive locally for the winter.

The House Finches have males with red feathers on the head and body but females are brown. At the feeder this week there is a male House Finch with yellow instead of red feathers. I see a few of these annually. Studies indicate that those birds are lacking adequate carotene in their diet to provide the red in feathers. The birds are apparently healthy but display the abnormal coloring. The carotene generally comes from insects that are fed upon.

Now that I am required to sit and watch, I see things I normally miss by being too antsy to quietly sit and observe. I miss being on the move constantly but enjoy getting to see backyard wildlife activity that is quietly going about business in abundance. Don’t break a leg but sit to observe activity in the yard.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.



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Fishing the piers and connecting waters

Eric Payne with a walleye caught near the pier in Holland

Eric Payne with a walleye caught near the pier in Holland

by Jack Payne


Fishing the piers and connecting waters is a lot of fun. Over the next few months, anglers will enjoy a wide range of species. Currently smallmouth bass, walleye, catfish, carp and Sheephead are being caught. In a few weeks king salmon and trout will move in and the whitefish will follow up last. Perch can be caught but often this is a hit and miss deal. Whenever you hear that the perch are in close to shore this will be your best chance to land them off of the pier.

Perch anglers should use some type of perch spreader rig. Good examples are the No Tangle Rig and the Perch Fly rigs from Stopper lures. Tip your hook/fly with a spike or a minnow.

Walleye and catfish offer good sport and good table fare. One great rig is the Ultra Violet Crawler Rig from Stopper lures. The ultra violet spinner blades throw much more light than a standard blade.

The big Colorado blade throws off plenty of vibration and makes it easier for a hungry walleye to home in. Blade sizes range from a size three up to a size 6. Suspended fish that are running in packs really like the larger blades. Bottom hugging fish prefer the smaller blades.

Whenever you casting from a boat or the pier it is a good idea to add a Cast a Weight. This unique weight is added a foot or two above your spinner. You can change weights easily and is adaptable for suspended fish or bottom hugging fish. Add a fat juicy crawler and you are in business.

On the suspended fish try counting it down to five Mississippi. After a few casts let it sink a few seconds longer before starting your retrieve. Under most conditions the suspended fish will be down five to ten feet, or a count between 5-10 Mississippi.

I like using two rods when on the pier or when drifting in front of or in the channel. My second rod often is used for bottom hugging fish. Catfish are always a favorite target and we use a lot of Catfish Tubes or Catfish Bait Balls from Stopper lures. Dip these rigs into a catfish dip or paste and replenish every fifteen minutes.

Another nice option for the second rod would be a slip float. We use a lot of the Big Top Current Floats from Carlisle. They stand tall, are very visible and work great in the current. Under the float you can run spawn egg, a leech, a wax worm or a piece of a crawler. Smallmouth bass, cats and walleye will hit this rig. Don’t be surprised if a huge sheephead or carp gobbles up the offering.

Cast this rig up current and let it drift on the outside of the rocks. The Holland pier, like many others, has sections where huge limestone rocks are piled up. These locations funnel feeding bass, walleye and other species close to the pier. The slip float keeps your offering just above the rocks and snags.

When the fish are out further set your float so that it just glides over the bottom or maybe a few inches above the bottom. Trout and salmon will hit single eggs and spawn sacs. Walleye and bass love a leech that drifts across the bottom.

I like throwing Husky Jerks, Mepps Spinners, Thundersticks and Little Cleo’s on the other rod. Add some glow paint or witchcraft tape to enhance the appeal to a hungry salmon. It’s a lot of fun casting one rod anticipating a jarring strike while keeping an eye peeled on the other rods.

Following Murphy ’s Law, action can come quick and both rods could go off. Nice problem to have. This is common on trout and salmon. Small schools or pods of fish move in and instant action. Then it quiets down for a bit and starts all over.

Our best action is under low light conditions. Getting out an hour before daylight or staying an hour after many times produces the best walleye and salmon action. The piers and connecting waters offer great fishing with minimal expense.


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Weekly Fishing Tip

OUT-Weekly-fishing-tip-lgmouth-bass_originalUnderstanding water temps and their impact on fishing

As Michigan’s inland lakes warm up in mid to late summer, knowledge of a water body’s temperature stratification becomes helpful for fishing. Seasonal temperature influences in lakes form different zones, and as a result, different temperature ranges and oxygen levels are associated with these layers. Knowledge of these layers or zones can lead to increased angling success.

The warm surface zone is called the epilimnion and has an abundance of oxygen. The bottom zone is called the hypolimnion and is typically cold and depleted of oxygen. The middle zone is the thermocline and the point at which warm, oxygen-rich top water is separated from the cold, oxygen-depleted water below.

The thermocline may prove to be a great depth at which to fish due to the abundance of oxygen and temperature found “in between” very warm and very cold. This ideal zone in most Michigan inland lakes typically will be between 10 to 30 feet, depending on lake size and depth. Just like us humans, fish need oxygen to breath and many don’t particularly like to be too warm or too cold.

If fishing in shallow water bodies, look for shaded areas provided by large floating vegetation, overhanging vegetation, submerged logs, or other woody debris, which provides water that is a little cooler and cover, where many fish species prefer to spend their time.

Also don’t forget to try fishing at night during the summer “doldrums” when water temperatures reach seasonal highs. Many fish species become active at night with relief from the daytime sun and heat.

And lastly, take a kid fishing with you for luck, and to teach them about this wonderful sport!

This tip was written by Suzanne Ebright, Outreach and Education Specialist in Lansing.

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Smokey the Bear

SMOKEY THE BEAR: With the help of DNR fire program staff and volunteers, national fire prevention icon Smokey Bear appears at more than 100 wildfire prevention events each year in Michigan. This year marks 70 years since the first Smokey Bear campaign poster appeared.
Photo courtesy of Michigan DNR.

SMOKEY THE BEAR: With the help of DNR fire program staff and volunteers, national fire prevention icon Smokey Bear appears at more than 100 wildfire prevention events each year in Michigan. This year marks 70 years since the first Smokey Bear campaign poster appeared.
Photo courtesy of Michigan DNR.

After 70 years, Smokey Bear still plays a vital role in fire prevention.

When the typical American thinks of wildfire prevention, the first image that comes to mind is surely that of the iconic Smokey Bear. Since the days of Smokey’s first words in 1944, “Smokey says, care will prevent nine out of 10 forest fires” his likeness and slogans have been invaluable to federal, state and local agencies responsible for wildfire prevention and management.

For the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Smokey was not only instrumental in establishing the importance of fire prevention education throughout the state, but also became one of the pillars upon which the DNR’s highly regarded fire program was built. In recognition, the DNR joined the rest of the nation Saturday, Aug. 9, in celebrating Smokey Bear’s 70th birthday and all that this character has done to bring fire prevention to the forefront in Michigan.

The DNR’s fire program first began using Smokey Bear as a de facto spokesman for the cause in the 1960s, and today credits widespread public awareness about wildfire prevention to Smokey’s broad appeal.

Through the years, Smokey has appeared at countless community events and educational programs on behalf of the DNR, and the bear’s image and famous sayings have graced many DNR fire prevention promotional and educational materials.

“Every DNR Forest Resources Division (FRD) field office uses Smokey Bear at parades, fairs, school programs—anywhere we are trying to spread the fire prevention message,” said Paul Kollmeyer, manager of FRD’s Resources Protection and Cooperatives Programs section. “Smokey is the catalyst that gets people’s interest, especially the young people,” Kollmeyer said. “When you’re delivering an educational program to second graders, you couldn’t ask for a more engaging teacher than Smokey. He really leaves an impression.”
Created by an art critic as part of an advertising campaign to educate the public about each individual’s role in preventing wildfires, Smokey made his official debut on a poster on Aug. 9, 1944. Wearing a pair of dungarees and a ranger hat, he is depicted pouring a bucket of water on a campfire.

SMOKEY BILLBOARD: Smokey Bear’s slogans have changed slightly throughout the years, but have always focused on each individual’s responsibility for preventing wildfires. This is the very first Smokey Bear poster to appear in 1944.

Photo courtesy of Michigan DNR.

SMOKEY BILLBOARD: Smokey Bear’s slogans have changed slightly throughout the years, but have always focused on each individual’s responsibility for preventing wildfires. This is the very first Smokey Bear poster to appear in 1944.

Photo courtesy of Michigan DNR.

Three years later, his slogan was modified to the long-lasting and well-known version, “Remember, Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires,” which stuck for another five decades before it was slightly updated to today’s version: “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires.”
Although Smokey was originally a fictional product of the World War II-era campaign, geared at shifting the public’s focus to fire prevention rather than suppression (since many citizens who would normally help fight fires were deployed overseas), his real-life counterpart was found six years later, clinging to a tree at the scene of a wildfire in New Mexico. The bear cub had suffered burns to his paws and hind legs and was flown to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., where he lived for 26 years, becoming an integral part of the Smokey campaign.

In 1952, Smokey became the subject of a song, “Smokey the Bear,” and that same year, his image was legally protected under the federal Smokey Bear Act, which established three administrators of the image: the U.S. Forest Service, National Association of State Foresters, and Ad Council.

Now 70 years old, the Smokey Bear wildfire prevention campaign is a bit of an anomaly in how popular it remains, still striking a chord with audiences of all ages after seven decades of heavy rotation. According to the national non-profit Ad Council, Smokey and his message are recognized today by 95 percent of adults and 77 percent of children.
“What’s so unique about Smokey is the multi-generational appeal. People and kids of all ages can relate to each other over Smokey Bear,” said Gwinn Unit fire supervisor Pete Glover. “One of my favorite parts about our Smokey Bear appearances is seeing a grandparent who is just as excited about having their picture taken with Smokey as their grandchild is.”
With the busy and complicated lives parents lead today, Glover said he recognizes that Smokey’s presence is vital to the positive reception of the many educational programs fire officers give each year.

“It would be difficult to get parents to come to an evening or weekend program if their kids weren’t interested in attending as well,” he said. “Smokey holds the attention of the younger audience members, giving us time to really drive the wildfire prevention message home to the parents and other adults in the audience.”
With the help of DNR fire officers and volunteers around the state, Smokey Bear makes more than 100 public appearances annually, including National Night Out public safety events, where he is typically swarmed with visitors hoping to get a hug, high-five and photo with Smokey. And when they leave an event, Smokey’s fans don’t only have smiles on their faces—they also leave with their hands full of educational “Smokey swag” promoting the fire prevention message.

“Smokey is the linchpin that made fire prevention popular nationwide and in Michigan,” Kollmeyer said. “Without our use of his image, slogans, voice and presence, I am not sure we would have such an educated public when it comes to wildfire awareness and prevention. I hope in 70 years, fire programs around the country will be celebrating Smokey Bear’s 140th birthday.”
Those interested in helping to celebrate Smokey’s 70th birthday this weekend can join the DNR at Orchard Beach State Park in Manistee or Van Riper State Park in Marquette County for cake and festivities (for event details, visit www.michigan.gov/dnrcalendar).
The Michigan Natural Resources Commission will also recognize Smokey’s milestone birthday with a special presentation at its Thursday, Aug. 14, meeting in Munising. For more information about Smokey Bear and to see campaign posters and other images from the past 70 years, visit www.smokeybear.org. To learn more about the DNR’s fire program and fire prevention in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/preventwildfires; to request Smokey’s presence at a community or school event, contact the DNR fire officer in your area.


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Squirrel watching

By Ranger Steve Mueller



When in middle school, we had open lunch period. That meant we could leave campus, venture outside and return for afternoon classes. I usually headed outside with a sandwich. Sometimes the break was spent with friends behind the school or, during other lunch periods, I quietly spent it with squirrels a block from school.

The school was in a city of 100,000 people where many nature niches provided for wild creature needs. Gray and Fox squirrels did well in people’s forested yards. Fox squirrels have reddish hairs mixed among their tail hairs and their bellies are reddish/orange giving them the name “Fox.” Gray squirrels have white bellies with gray hairs dominating their body and tails.

Recently, readers have provided squirrel images with white tails or white patches on the head. I suspect these are natural genetic variations. Black squirrels are less common than normal colored gray and fox squirrels. The black is a recessive genetic trait that requires a black hair color gene from each parent for it to be expressed in young.

In people brown eyes dominant over blue so if one parent provides a brown gene and the other a blue gene, the child’s eye color would be brown. A blue gene is required from both parents to have a blue-eyed child. A brown-eyed person often carries a hidden blue-eyed gene. Eye color inheritance is not as simple as stated above because there are many color and shade options that are inherited.

In squirrels the expressed hair color is simpler than eye color but has genetic variability. Black squirrels became common in the Traverse City area in part because gray squirrels were shot and black squirrels were allowed to reproduce. A squirrel parent can produce both gray and black phase young in the same litter. It is much like a person having children with different hair color. An abundance of black recessive genes in that population allowed the black phase gray squirrels to become common because gray genes were deliberately removed from the population.

Black squirrels have become increasing common in our area. I am not sure why. Black phase is more common among gray squirrels than it is in Fox squirrels but they also have a black phase. Black fox squirrels are more frequent in the southern United States than in Michigan. Again I am not sure why. Perhaps some scientists have addressed the question but I have not encountered explanations.

I have enjoyed squirrels and have been frustrated with how much birdseed they eat. The numbers of squirrels in yards sometimes seems endless. When I lived in Minnesota, a neighbor and his son shot 24 squirrels in their yard during one day. Across the street from our homes was a cemetery with an oak forest. The cemetery provided adequate food, water, shelter, and appropriate living space for squirrels. The squirrels found it easy to visit the neighbor’s feeders for food. They also probably ate many bird eggs. Too many individuals of any species create ecosystem problems.

My fascination with squirrels and their behavior began when I was in junior high during quiet lunch periods watching them busily go about squirrel business in yards that people thought were human yards. Like humans, squirrels stake claims on territories. They do not recognize our property lines but set up their own according to the amount of space necessary to meet survival needs.

Encourage children to spend time observing, connecting, and understanding wild creatures in “our yards.”

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433. 616-696-1753.


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Weekly fishing tip 


OUT-Weekly-fishing-tip-walleye-edit_originalMore hints on targeting walleye


Most anglers targeting walleye know that catching them in the spring is much easier than catching them during the warmer summertime months. In most Michigan lakes, walleye typically seek cooler, deeper and darker waters in the summer, while typically feeding in the shallow waters only at night. Because of some physiological properties of walleye, their sensitivity to bright light typically results in avoidance of shallow waters during day light periods.

Anglers in the summer time months typically target walleye during the evening and morning time “low-light” periods. Targeted water depths will vary between lakes, but most anglers seek drop-offs where walleye will typically move up to feed in the shallow waters during the evening through morning hours. My experience fishing walleye in this fashion is usually successful by using a leech or minnow on a floating jighead weighted with a small splitshot sinker (or two). Anchoring at the drop-off or using a slow drift has been the most productive for me.

Other anglers may want to troll artificial lures or crawler harnesses along the deeper side of the contour lines in order to cover more area in a shorter time period. My grandfather always used to say, “Once you find them, you need to stay on, em.” I think there is a lot of truth to that.

Walleye fishing is sometimes a frustrating activity due to some long waiting periods between catches and finding the perfect conditions. However, once you get a bite it typically signifies something special and hopefully a memorable experience with family and friends.
Good luck in making memories, you will be glad you did!
This tip was written by Cory Kovacs, Fisheries Management Biologist in Newberry. 

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Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

*OUT-Nature niche Ruby throat hummer65By Ranger Steve Mueller

A Ruby-throated Hummingbird claimed the backyard, sugar water feeder, garden, and surrounding woodland for the summer. It is a joy to sit on the back porch and watch it hover at the feeder and to sometimes see it perch for a drink. Soon it will head south for wintering grounds in Central America. They return to breeding grounds starting in April and begin leaving during August. Place feeders out early and keep them filled through September or into October. Migrating hummers may stop for lunch.

Hummingbirds are unable to walk. Their short legs are only good for perching on branches. Other movement is by amazing wing power. It is reported by Michigan Audubon that they beat wings 53 times a second. It is only a blur to my eyes.

In the backyard I planted an ash tree about 30 years ago. It has provided a good perching for many birds. Its open canopy allows filtered light to pass and does not create deep shade. Birds have found it good for gleaning insects from among the foliage. Unfortunately the exotic Emerald Ash Borer beetle grubs are killing it. It is making a valiant effort to stay alive but the canopy is sparse with branches almost bare.

The hummingbird chooses perches high in the tree and darts to the feeder. It flies in an arc when departing for unknown places in the woods. I glance into the tree every time I venture outside and often see the bird. Hummingbirds are not tolerant of others wanting to visit a feeder. Males especially dive toward other hummers that come to drink sugar water.

The male Ruby-throated Hummingbird has what appears to be a black throat until sunlight turns it to glistening ruby. Even its green back shines with brilliance in sunlight. Its tiny body is about the size of the large grasshopper or cicada. The long slightly down curved bill is nearly as long as the body.

One time I was able to watch a mother incubate two tiny miniature jellybean sized eggs. Other times when young were present, the parent feed them frequently. I watched the long thin bill enter the baby mouths and penetrated all the way to the stomach. It seemed as if the mother was going to pierce a hole in her young. She knows how to feed and care for young. My help with care giving is not welcome but I provide healthy habitat where they find wildflowers, sugar water, and have nesting trees. Food, water, shelter, with appropriate living space are my contribution.

The yard is a mix of open sunny areas with wildflowers, shrubland, and mature trees. Somewhere among tree branches, a nest is woven from spider silk, dandelion or thistle down, and lichens that camouflage the nest. The tiny nest is placed on top of an outer branch. Usually the nest is toward the end of the branch and is only as wide as the branch or slightly wider. Two eggs are laid in the tiny cup and fill its minute space. Hummingbirds have let me know when I am near a nest. When walking, a mother has come and hovered near me and it alerted me to look about. Their irritation with my presence helped me find and observe nests on several occasions.

No nests have been seen at Ody Brook. I suspect the nests are constructed high in a tree. Hummingbirds have a special nature niche that brings joy to my life.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433. 616-696-1753.

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Fishing on the surface for summer Bluegill? 

Jared Collins with a decent bluegill caught on the surface.

Jared Collins with a decent bluegill caught on the surface.

By Jack Payne


The day was hot and sticky and darn right uncomfortable to me. Hot humid weather is not for me. I can put on extra clothes but I am limited to how much I can remove. Two good things: one, we were on the water and two, this summer these type of days have been in short supply!

Most summer days you will find me fishing the deep water. But, given the right conditions, I will surface fish until my heart is content. We just enjoyed a few good days of this type of fishing. In many of my articles, I talk about a short window when the big gills will feed on the surface.

Very low light conditions, especially when the surface is glass smooth, is perfect for surface feeding fish. These fish give away their location with the small dimples and rings on the surface. At times you might see a hundred or more on the surface.

Normally the best locations will be found over deep water and downwind from a nice weedbed. Lakes with a nice marl bottom appear to have a larger insect hatch and thus more surface activity. Sometimes this will be in 20 feet of water and other days perhaps 40 feet of water.

Another pattern exists and is rarely used or found. We found it out of sheer frustration. Bluegills most frequently will stay above the thermocline. Any moderate priced graph will show the thermocline.

During our last muggy hot spell, we were on our favorite bluegill lake having minimal luck in the deep water. We graphed few fish, no large schools and a handful of bottom hugging fish. Out of frustration we threw out a slip bobber with a floating spider and a very small split shot.

Within 2-3 seconds we had a fish on. Once we realized that the fish were riding high we switched gears. On each of our rods we placed a Missile Casting Float from Stopper Lures. These are plastic missile shaped floats that are deadly with a fly in the spring time.

These floats have an eye on both ends. Your main line ties onto one end and a dropper or leader line on the other end. The key is in keeping the leader line as long as possible but still a few inches shorter than the length of your rod. This makes casting much easier and keeps distance between the float and your offering.

On the business end we used either a Hot Leg Spider, a Black Gnat fly or an Ice Spider or an Ice Ant. The ice jigs are winter teardrops with either rubber legs or hand tied feather hackle. The two jigs are preferred if the fish are hitting best say down 1-3 feet from the surface. They sink very slowly!

The first two are used on pure surface feeding fish. Simply cast out and reel in the slack so that your line to the float is tight. Let it set for a few seconds and start twitching it in. Move it in 6-12 inches at a time and let it rest for a few seconds.

The flies will stay on the surface and look like a bug skittering across the surface. The ice flies look like some type of plankton or water insects rising up and down. If you wish you can add a spike or a wax worm. We first go without any bait and add if the situation calls for it.

When you find a school of fish you can bet that they will be within 100 yards of the same location the next day. Maybe 200 yards if the wind changes. Only after a hard wind or during a cold front will the fish change up drastically.

Rafts and docks are a great location for surface fish. Just remember that these are private property so avoid walking on them or fishing them when the owner is using them. The best docks sit close to the water and I like the old rafts that have cobwebs hanging off of them.

Fishing with a missile float is much easier for kids. They like the visual sight of the float. The floats come in clear and in two high visibility colors. It is a system that can be used for much of the open water season.



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Isle Royale Guest House for Rock Harbor Lodge. From rockharborlodge.com.

Isle Royale Guest House for Rock Harbor Lodge. From rockharborlodge.com.

E – The Environmental Magazine


Dear EarthTalk: Where are some good “eco-travel” destinations right here in the continental U.S. that I can consider for a family vacation?    

– Janet Devino, Brooklyn, NY

Many of us are looking to green our lifestyles today and this commitment to Mother Earth can also include how and where we travel. And those of us looking to take a vacation that benefits instead of harms the natural environment no longer have to travel to the ends of the Earth to do so. In the so-called “Lower 48,” many resorts and destinations work hard to minimize their impact on the environment.

One example is California’s Costanoa, where guests can use tented bungalows—safari-style canvas tents with hardwood floors, heaters and real beds with high thread-count sheets—as base camps for exploring the surrounding 30,000 acres of state parks and wildlife preserves. Grilling stations for cooking as well as bathrooms with showers are scattered around the grounds so guests can take care of worldly concerns. Interested guests should think ahead as the bungalows book up a year or more in advance.

In Washington State, eco-tourists should check out the Rolling Huts, a series of small mobile cabins designed by modern architect Tom Kundig and situated in a field alongside the rushing Methow River amid one of the nation’s best networks of cross-country ski and mountain biking trails. The “huts” sleep up to four and are heated with wood-burning fireplaces, while the adjacent restaurant Kelly’s serves up local organic fare with panache. If you aren’t lucky enough to score one of the six huts, you can always rough it in the canvas platform tents down a footpath and a world away from the everyday hubbub.

If a more refined form of green is your thing, try San Francisco’s Orchard Garden Hotel, designed from the ground up to qualify for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) status. Among other green touches, the hotel’s guestrooms feature keycard-based energy control system, eco-friendly bath products, and decor utilizing natural woods and fabrics.

Another option is the Rock Harbor Lodge on remote Isle Royale on Michigan’s Lake Superior. Accessible by boat or seaplane only, the lodge offers direct access to the 893 square-mile island wilderness that is America’s least visited national park—where wolves, moose, loons, beaver, fox and other wildlife rule. The lodge rents boats, kayaks and canoes and offers guided fishing and sightseeing tours. Given its northerly location and lack of light pollution, the lodge also serves up free viewing of the Northern Lights.

For another type of domestic eco-travel experience, sign up for a trip with Earthwatch, a nonprofit that sends citizen-scientists on environmental research trips with leading scientists. Some of the group’s upcoming Lower 48 trips include exploring Boston’s urban forest, researching the causes and effects of rising tides in South Carolina and uncovering the mysteries of ancient Colorado.

Of course, there are many other ways to indulge in eco-travel without leaving the continental U.S. A simple Internet search for eco-travel and a specific region will surely yield plenty of worthy options for places to go to get away from that computer screen and interact directly with the natural world.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com.


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Kent County Youth Fair

KCYF-header-webKent County Youth Fair and fair grounds 225 South Hudson Lowell, MI 49331


Daily Audacious Hoops; Performances daily at 1 PM, 4 PM & 7 PM., Saturday 1 PM, 3 PM, 5 PM & 7 PM. The Audacious Hoopers are a professional hula hoop dance troupe specializing in high energy, dynamic performances that elevate simple plastic circles into a compelling art form. Handcrafted hula hoops will be available for purchase. Next to children’s barnyard

Daily Back by popular demand, Chainsaw Carving! Take a log, a chainsaw and a very talented artist and what do you get? Beautiful works of art! Watch them be carved, if you like one you can bid on it our silent auction. South Entrance

Daily 1-5 PM, 6-10 PM Bingo Bingo Tent

Daily Meijer Children’s Barn Yard Kids young and old will love checking out the cute animals. By Entrance

Daily Exhibitor Show & Tell Tent By Children’s Barnyard

Daily Draft Horse & Tractor Shuttles Parking Lots

Friday August 1

10 AM Dog Showmanship, Obedience & Rally Klackle Orchards, 11466 W. Carson City Rd, Greenville MI.

Saturday August 1

10 AM-3 PM Still Exhibit Judging Free Entertainment Tent

Sunday August 3

2:30 PM Explorer Recognition (Special thanks to the 4H Council)Free Entertainment Tent

4:30 PM-6:30 PM Pork DinnerEvent Tent

6:30 PM Opening Ceremony and Royal Court CoronationFree Entertainment Tent

7 PM Goat Team Fitting Reath Barn

Monday August 4 – Heros’ Day

All Day Heroes’ park free! Active military, Veterans, Fire, Police and EMT’s show your ID at the gate for free parking

TodayMichigan Association of Veterinary Medicine – Science, Animals, Medicine and YOU!Children’s Barnyard

9 AM Horse Judging: Fitting & Showing Horse Arena

9 AM-1 PM Off Road Vehicle Safety Class – Presented by: Kent County Sheriff Dept.; The class is free, but please register at www.kcfg.org, Seating is limited. King Building

9:30 AM Goat Judging: Showmanship Breed and Market Classes Costume Contest follows Reath Barn

Noon-2 PM Youth Talent Contest Registration,  Free Entertainment Tent

1-4 PM Michigan Blood Center Blood Drive – Get on the bus! Please call 1-866-MIBLOOD to make an appointment or stop in at the bus! South Entrance

1-5 PM Bingo, Sponsored by Lowell Moose Lodge Bingo Tent

1 PM Audacious Hoops South Entrance

1 PM Cavy Breed & Showmanship Rabbit Tent

2 PM Horse Judging: Grand & Reserve Showmanship Horse Arena

3 PM Horse Explorers: Explorer Fitting & Showing Horse Arena

3:30 PM Horse Explorers: Explorer 7 & 8 Year Old Riding Pattern Horse Arena

4 PM Audacious Hoops South Entrance

4 PM Horse Judging: Horseless Showmanship Horse Arena

5 PM Antique tractor pull weigh in Track

5 PM-Close Carnival Rides Open Midway/Carnival

5 PM Rabbit Breed Judging Rabbit Tent

6-10 PM Bingo, Sponsored by Lowell Moose Lodge Bingo Tent

5 PM Rabbit Breed Judging Rabbit Tent

6 PM Swine Showmanship Reath Barn

6 PM Horse Judging: Senior/Horsemasters Presentations Horse Arena

6:30 PM Youth Fashion Show Free Entertainment Tent

7 PM Audacious Hoops South Entrance

7 PM Antique tractor pull: Open event Track

7 PM Youth Talent Contest – Contest open to kids 19 or under on January 1st, 2014. Cash prizes. Note you must sign up between noon and 2 pm to take part in the contest. Free Entertainment Tent

7:30 PM Horse Judging: Contesting: Down & Back; Poles Horse Arena

Tuesday August 5 – Reading for Rides Day 

Today Michigan Association of Veterinary Medicine – Science, Animals, Medicine and YOU! Children’s Barnyard

8 AM Horse Judging: Jumping Horse Arena

9 AM Poultry Judging Poultry Barn

9 AM Swine Judging: Market Class Explorer Showmanship Following Reath Barn

9 AM-2 PM Boating Safety Class- Presented by: Kent County Sheriff Department; The class is free, but please register at www.kcfg.org, Seating is limited. King Building

10 AM-11 AM Grand Parents Coffee and Donuts Community Tent

Noon Horse Judging: Hunter Hack Horse Arena

Noon-4 PM Reading for Rides – Go to www.kcyf.org to print your registration form. Midway/Carnival

12:30 PM Performing Arts Vocal & Instrumental: Registration Free Entertainment Tent

1 PM Audacious Hoops South Entrance

1-5 PM Bingo, Sponsored by Lowell Moose Lodge Bingo Tent

1 PM Performing Arts Vocal & Instrumental Judging Free Entertainment Tent

Noon-4 PM Free Blood Pressure Check Event Tent

1:30 PM Horse Judging: Hunt Seat Ground Poles Horse Arena

2 PM Cattle Fitting Clinic, Team Fitting Contest Beef Arena

2 PM-3 PM Grand Parents Coffee and Donuts Community Tent

2 PM-Close Carnival Rides Open: Wristband Ride Special $18.00. $3.00 off Carnival coupon available at many locations in Kent County or visit http://kcyf.org to print coupon; Carnival coupon is good for Tuesday ONLY. Midway/Carnival

3:30 PM Horse Judging: Hunter Hack Horse Arena

4 PM Audacious Hoops South Entrance

4 PM Dog Agility Registration Football Field

4 PM Goat Trail Class Reath Barn

4 PM Horse Judging: Bareback Horse Arena

4:30 PM Horse Explorers: Stick Horse Construction King Building

4:30 PM Dog Agility Judging Football Field

5 PM Rabbit Judging: Showmanship Rabbit Tent

5:30 PM Horse Explorers: Stick Horse Parade Midway to Horse Barns/Arena

6-10 PM Bingo, Sponsored by Lowell Moose Lodge Bingo Tent

6 PM Team Tractor Pull 4-person teams will pull a tractor and race against the clock. In front of the Free Entertainment Tent

6 PM Horse Judging: Saddle Seat Pattern Horse Arena

6 PM Horse Explorers: Stick Horse Jumping Practice Arena

7 PM Horse Judging: Pleasure: Saddle Seat, Hunt Seat, Western Horse Arena

7 PM Audacious Hoops South Entrance

7 PM Draft Horse DemonstrationTrack

7 PM Club KCYF with the Mid-west Dueling Pianos Free Entertainment Tent


Wednesday August 6 – Community Day 

Today Local non-profits join us at fair from 3 PM to 7 PM

8 AM Beef Steer Market Classes Beef Arena

8 AM Horse Judging: Hunt Seat & Dressage Seat Equitation Horse Arena

8:30 AM-10 AM Performing Arts: Storytelling, Puppetry & Theater Judging Free Entertainment Tent

9 AM Goat Milking Contest Goat Barn

9 AM Dairy Market Judging: Showmanship, Market, Explorer Reath Barn

10:30 AM-12 Noon Performing Arts: Dance and other evaluations Free Entertainment Tent

11 AM Horse Judging: Hunt Seat, Western & Saddle Seat Riding Patterns Horse Arena

12:30 PM-2 PM Performing Arts: Clown Judging Free Entertainment Tent

1-5 PM Bingo, Sponsored by Lowell Moose Lodge Bingo Tent

1 PM Audacious Hoops South Entrance

1 PM Feeder Beef Judging & Beef Breed Heifer Show (time approx. following lunch break) Beef Arena

2 PM Rabbit & Cavy Individual Quiz Bowl and Breed Identification Rabbit Tent

2 PM-Close Carnival Rides: Wristband Ride Special $18.00 Midway/Carnival

3 PM-7 PM Visit local kid oriented non-profits Main Street

4 PM Audacious Hoops South Entrance

4 PM Horse Judging: Saddle Seat Pattern & Equitation Horse Arena

4 PM Sheep Judging: Market, Showmanship & Breed Reath Barn

5 PM Dodge ball Tournament! Teams of 5 will work their way to the top! Get more rules and entry form at http://kcyf.org Football Field

5 PM Alpaca Obstacle Course Football Field

6-10 PM Bingo, Sponsored by Lowell Moose Lodge Bingo Tent

6 PM Rabbit & Cavy Costume Class & Adult Showmanship Rabbit Tent

6:30 PM Horse Explorers: Explorer Stick Horse Keyhole Event Practice Arena

7 PM The Brian Randall Band – come on down for some great rocking country music. Free Entertainment Tent

7 PM Horse Judging: Contesting: Speed & Action; Keyhole Horse Arena

7 PM Audacious Hoops South Entrance

7 PM Draft Horse Pull (Using Barnyard Rules) Track


Thursday August 7 – Agriculture Day 

8 AM Horse Judging: Dressage Tests Horse Arena

8 AM Beef Showmanship Beef Arena

9 AM -11 AM Goat Quiz Bowl Free Entertainment Tent

10 AM Rabbit & Cavy Explorer Rabbit Tent

Noon Horse Judging: Equitation: Dressage Seat; Western; Gymkhana Horse Arena

1 PM Audacious Hoops South Entrance

1-5 PM Bingo, Sponsored by Lowell Moose Lodge Bingo Tent

1 PM-3 PM Youth Variety Show Free Entertainment Tent

2 PM-Close Carnival Rides: Wristband Ride Special $18.00 Midway/Carnival

2 PM Livestock Sale: Small Animals followed by the Sale of Champions Reath Barn

3:30 PM Livestock Sale Sale Order: Swine, Sheep, Feeder Calf, Gallon of Milk, Beef followed by the Sale of Champions, Buyers dinner  Reath Barn

4 PM Audacious Hoops South Entrance

4 PM Horse Judging: Reining Horse Arena

6-10 PM Bingo, Sponsored by Lowell Moose Lodge Bingo Tent

6:30 PM Horse Explorers: Stick Horse Reining Event Practice Arena

7 PM-9:45 PM West Michigan Bluegrass Music Association Presents Steam Powered Blue Grass & The Patchwork Band Free Entertainment Tent

7 PM Horse Judging: Reining Horse Arena

7 PM Extrication Demonstration: Presented by: Lowell Fire Dept. Next to Foreman Building

7 PM Horse Judging: Contesting: Flag; Cloverleaf Horse Arena


Friday August 8 – Handi-Capable Day

Today Flush Tank Check the schedule on Main Street to see who will be getting dunked.

8 AM Horse Judging: Trail Horse Arena

10 AM Dairy Showmanship Classes Dairy Type Classes immediately following Reath Barn

11 AM Rabbit Agility & Cavy Obstacle Course Rabbit Tent

11:30 AM Horse Explorers: Stick Horse Trail Event Horse Arena

11 AM-2 PM Handi Capable Day – Carnival Rides & Luncheon for Special Needs Individuals. Lunch is from 11 AM to 1 PM, rides are from Noon to 2 PM. Attending is free but please register at www.kcyf.org so we can get a head count for lunch. King Building & Carnival

1-5 PM Bingo, Bingo Tent

1 PM Audacious Hoops South Entrance

1 PM Horse Judging: Grand & Reserve Equitation Horse Arena

2 PM Goat Parent “Fun bowl” Class Rabbit Tent

2 PM-Close Carnival Rides: Wristband Ride Special $18.00 Midway/Carnival

2 PM-4 PM Teen Leadership Judging Event Tent

2:30 PM Tractor Driving Judging Track

3 PM Alpaca Showmanship (including Explorers) Reath Barn

3 PM Horse Judging: Versatility Horse Arena

4 PMAudacious Hoops South Entrance

6-10 PM Bingo,  Bingo Tent

6 PM Horse Explorer Stick Horse Team Games Horse Arena

6 PM Cow Pie Bingo Ticket Sales Beef Barn

6:30 PM-10:30 PM Country Karaoke With Diva Productions Free Entertainment Tent

6:30 PM Horse Judging: Team Performance Games Horse Arena

7 PM Audacious Hoops South Entrance

7 PM Extrication Demonstration Presented by: Lowell Fire Dept. Next to Foreman Building

7 PM Cow Pie Bingo, Silent Auction Beef Arena

8 PM-11 PM Family Line Dance with Lia’s Line Dancing & Dance MovesReath Barn


Saturday August 9 – Meijer Kids Day & Dollar Day

All Day Scavenger Hunt Get your official scavenger hunt page at guest services or print it here. Everyone who completes the hunt will be put into a drawing to win one of several bicycles. Sponsored by “Fry Guy”! All Over

9 AM-Noon $1 parking with 3 or more non-perishable food items from 9 AM to Noon, they will be donated to the food pantry at F.R.O.M.

Noon-6 PMLook for $1 food specials through out the fairgrounds. Food vendors will have $1 specials, carnival rides just $1 each from noon to 6 PM !

8:30 AM Showmanship Sweepstakes Reath Barn

9 AM Horse Award Ceremony Free Entertainment Tent

9 AM Sidewalk Chalk Artist Richard Francisco, creates a masterpiece

Noon Sidewalk Chalk FunShow off your creative abilities and get some help from Richard Francisco! Next to the Foreman Building

Noon-6 PM Carnival Rides:$1 per ride from Noon to 6 PM! Special Food & Game Discounts Midway/Carnival

Noon-4 PM Disc Golf Fun! Football Field

Noon-11 PM Carnival Rides: Wristband Ride Special $18.00 Midway/Carnival

1-5 PM Balloon Animals and creations, by the Balloon Guys Picnic Area

1-5 PM Bingo,  Bingo Tent

1 PM Audacious Hoops South Entrance

2 PM Ice Cream Social – Free, While supplies last Midway

2 PM Project Animal Expo Learn about showing livestock at the Fair! Exhibitors from each livestock area will explain how they care for and show their animals Horse Arena

2 PM Alpaca Costume Classes Reath Barn

2:30 PM Field Day Mixer & Photo Booth Have fun and celebrate with team games! All kids are welcome to join the 3-Legged Race, Blind-Folded Wheel Barrow Race, Relay Obstacle Course Race and Tug of War! Horse Arena

3 PM Audacious Hoops South Entrance

3 PM Princess Tea Party King Building

3 PM Puff the Dragon Pedal Pull: Youth Classes Midway

5 PM-8 PM Release of horses Horse Arena

5 PM Audacious Hoops South Entrance

5 PM Dodge ball! *** NOTE: THE DODGE BALL TOURNAMENT HAS MOVED TO WEDNESDAY AUGUST 6TH AT 5 PM ON THE FOOTBALL FIELD *** Get more rules and entry form http://kcyf.org

6-10 PM Bingo  Bingo Tent

7 PM Off the Radar You will be amazed at this Cover/Christian Rock band made up of very talented young people. Opening for Off the Radar will be Maya Eaton with her original and cover songs and The Preservers with their classic rock covers and original tunes. Free Entertainment Tent

7 PM Audacious Hoops South Entrance

9 PM Release of breeding stock

9 PM Release of still exhibits

10 PM Release of market animals

11 PM Kent County Youth Fair Closes for 2014 Release of all other Exhibits



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