Mild temperatures in the 60s, 70s and even 80s across Michigan this week means that campers will be picking up their phones or jumping online to make campground reservations for the upcoming warm-weather season. According to the Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC) – Michigan, this is just another indicator of what is expected to be a great summer travel season.
“This year’s RV, outdoor and consumer shows have been a huge success,” says Tom Briggs – owner of Grand Rogue Campground & Paddlesports in Grand Rapids and President of ARVC-Michigan. “So far, we have distributed more than 50,000 copies of our 2010 directory at these shows, which is an increase over last year.”
During the winter months, ARVC-Michigan attended 10 RV shows throughout the Midwest, in addition to partnering with West Michigan Tourist Association (WMTA) for distribution at nine additional shows and Anderson’s Brochure distribution Service which attended four shows around the country. The annual guide is available at all Michigan welcome centers, member campgrounds, and is online in PDF format at www.Michgacampgrounds.com.
According to Jim Wolfe from Leisure Time Campground in Irons, reservations thus far this year are already ahead of schedule. “We’re already seeing a large number of reservations for Memorial Day Weekend…two to three weeks ahead of this time last year.”
Although camping is a year-round activity in Michigan, spring signals the onset of the warm-weather camping season in Michigan. By mid-April, a large number of the privately owned campgrounds in Michigan are welcoming guests looking to shake off the winter blues and enjoy the great outdoors.
Here are 10 great reasons to head out to your favorite Michigan campground this spring:
1. Wildflowers. April showers bring May flowers, like the trillium that blanket the forest floor. Spring also brings the blossoms on the apple and cherry trees, making this one of the most fragrant times of the year to get out and travel the Great Lakes State. The Blossomtime Festival (April 30-May 7) in St. Joseph/Benton Harbor and Blossom Days on Old Mission Peninsula (May 15-16) are two events not to be missed. Of course when it comes to spring flowers, one can’t forget the annual Tulip Time Festival in Holland (May 1-8), it’s a sure sign of spring!
2. Woodland Edibles. Morel mushrooms, wild ramps, leeks and fiddleheads are all delicacies that can be found by foraging through the woodlands of Michigan. After a successful “hunt” you can savor these mouth-watering finds, paired with a fine Michigan beer or wine. Several cities throughout the state – including Mesick (May 7-9), Lewiston (May 7-8) and Boyne City (May 13-16) – have been hosting festivals celebrate the “mighty morel” for more than 40 years. For recipes and other ideas on how to savor these scrumptious selections, check out Earthy Delights online at www.earthy.com
3. Fishing. Whether you enjoy fly fishing on the rivers and streams, heading out on a charter on the big lake or casting a line for pan fish in an inland lake, you’re sure to catch something while spring fishing in Michigan. From walleye, trout, steelhead and salmon to perch, bass and bluegills, this is a fisherman’s paradise.
Spring is also a great to visit one of the state’s six fish hatcheries or the famed Fish Ladder in Grand Rapids. The 74th Annual National Trout Festival (April 21-25) in Kalkaska, the Freeland Walleye Festival (April 23-25) and the Mancelona Bass Festival (June 3-6) are among the many opportunities to enjoy spring fishing celebrations in Michigan. June 12-13 is also a “Michigan Free Fishing Weekend,” sponsored by the Department of Natural Resources & Environment.
4. Wine Tasting. While the nearly 70 wineries throughout the state of Michigan are open year round, spring is the ideal time to visit as this is when the new releases are available for tasting. Be sure to purchase a bottle or two, to pair with those woodland edibles and fresh catches! April, after all, is Michigan Wine Month…so celebrate! For a list of the state’s award-winning wineries, visit the Michigan Wine Council’s website at www.michiganwines.com
5. Bird Watching. Nature centers, sanctuaries and wildlife viewing areas are thriving with opportunities for spring bird watching. The Whitefish Point Bird Observatory Annual Spring Fling (April 23-25) in Paradise, the Tawas Point Birding Festival (May 14-16) in Tawas, the Kirtland Warbler Festival (May 15) in Roscommon County and the Cerulean Warbler Weekend (4-6) at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Hastings, are among the many spring birding events that you may want to check out this season. For more about birding, visit the Michigan Audubon Society website: www.michiganaudubon.org
6. Paddling. With thousands of miles of rivers and streams, not to mention the inland and Great Lakes, spring is the perfect time to get out in your canoe or kayak and head out on the water for some peace and quite. For more information, check out the website for the Michigan Association of Paddlesport Providers: www.michigancanoe.com
7. Peddling. Michigan is home to some of the most scenic biking trails, ranging in distance and level of difficulty. Whether you’re taking a short family trip along a paved trail or are heading out for an off-road mountain bike adventure, you’ll find plenty of opportunities around the state – including special events geared toward cyclists.
Michigan boasts five official State Park linear trails, including Kal-Haven Trail, White Pine Trail, Van Buren Trail, Hart-Montague Trail and Lakelands Trail. Converted from abandoned railroad corridors, these are the only State Parks that do not require a motor vehicle permit; entrance is free.
For more information on biking trails and events around the state, check out the website for the League of Michigan Bicyclists at www.lmb.org
8. Hiking. From nature centers to city, county and state parks, you’ll find countless trails waiting to be explored. In Michigan, you can hike more than 200 miles on the Shore-to-Shore Trail that connects Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Or, take a day hike on any breathtaking section of the North Country National Scenic Trail which operates is national offices from Lowell, Michigan. www.northcountrytrail.org
9. Golfing. Michigan is home to more than 800 golf courses and during the spring season, the rates are often lower, there are fewer people (and bugs) and the temperatures are pleasant. For a detailed list of courses throughout the state, visit the Golf Association of Michigan online at www.gam.org
10. Driving. Michigan Highways offer a state-wide listing of Heritage Routes – in three specific categories: Scenic, Recreational and Historic routes online at www.MichiganHighways.org. Among some of the more noted routes are the M-119 “Tunnel of Trees” which hugs the coastline of Lake Michigan from Harbor Springs north through Good Hart to Cross Village; The US-23 “Sunrise Side Coastal Highway” which skirts the Lake Huron shoreline from Mackinaw City south to Standish for 193 miles; US-12, known as the Sauk Trail, which travels from New Buffalo to Detroit and was once a route for early travelers, Native Americans and slaves traveling along the Underground Railroad; the Allegan County Heritage Trail which travels 122 miles throughout the county, stopping at 28 historic sites including a former POW camp; and the “West Michigan Pike” which extends from the Indiana-Michigan state line north to Mackinaw City and is part of the former Dixie Highway system.
While on the road, be on the lookout for the handful of covered bridges which allow automobile traffic including Pierce Stocking Bridge (on the famed Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive) in the heart of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the 282-foot Langley Covered Bridge in Centerville (the longest in the state of Michigan), Zehnder’s Holz Brucke (wooden bridge) leading to Bavarian Village in Frankenmuth, and Fallasburg Covered Bridge spanning the Flat River in Lowell and the historic community of Fallasburg. Details on all the state’s covered bridges are online at www.Michigan.org
No matter which spring activity accompanies your camping trip, be sure to travel with camera in hand to capture the awakening of all around you. To learn more about how to enjoy Michigan’s “Springtime Splendor” and cure your cabin fever, visit www.SpringtimeSplendor.com.
The Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds – Michigan represents 200+ member campgrounds with more than 30,000 sites available throughout the state. The new Michigan Campground Directory, published by ARVC-Michigan, is now available at various locations statewide, including all state Welcome Centers. The directory not only lists campgrounds by region, but also includes helpful information on the type of sites available, various amenities such as restroom, laundry and dumping station facilities; recreational offerings such as pools and golf courses; and seasons of operation. For an online directory of ARVC member campgrounds, log onto www.michcampgrounds.com.