Fall into a park

Autumn is a special season to find time in Michigan’s forests, where leaf canopies are blazing red, purple and gold and hundreds of activities, workshops and festivals take place throughout the state.

Hartwick Pines Trail“It used to be parks cleared out after Labor Day,” observes Maia Turek, recreation programmer for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources DNR). “But we started holding Harvest Festivals eight to 10 years ago. Now we have 80 scheduled between August and October and people come rain or shine.”

The event lineup at state parks this fall season includes everything from disc golf tournaments to chatting with lumberjacks. Wild edibles fans have an opportunity to learn about safe and unsafe mushrooms at a “Fall Mushroom Hunting” workshop Sept. 14, held at Bald Mountain State Recreation Area in Lake Orion. Runners, meanwhile, can learn about form at Wednesday clinics throughout September at Sleepy Hollow State Park in Laingsburg. 

Peace sign medals, tie-dyed shirts, yoga and music are all to be part of the groove at the Sept. 5-7 “Woodstock Run,” a bash planned at Pinckney State Recreation Area where “hippie” participants can partake in events like the Flower Power 5-mile Run. 

Model airplane enthusiasts also plan to enjoy the great outdoors on Sept. 6 at Island Lake State Recreation Area in Brighton. That’s when the Skymasters RC Club will hold a “Regional Float Fly” showcasing the abilities of radio-controlled float plane owners. 

Further north, Hartwick Pines State Park in Grayling — home to the state’s only historic logging camp and the Michigan Forest Visitors Center — is hosting an “Evening at a Logging Camp” on Sept. 13. Re-enactors will be on-site, sharing stories from varied slices of life during the 19th-century logging era, when Michigan led the nation in sawed lumber production.

Visitors can also wind 1.5 miles from the Logging Museum through one of Michigan’s largest surviving stands of towering virgin pine 300 to 400 years old.

“We get campers who come and stay,” notes park supervisor Greg Kinser, “and people who come just for the day to walk through the old growth. The museum is also very popular.” 

Hosted walks and trail events are especially big Sept. 20-27 during “Michigan Trail Week,” a statewide celebration (michigan.gov/trailsweek). 

While these events and other fall programs are free, notes Turek, a recreation passport is required to enter Michigan’s 102 state parks and recreation areas. The $11 passport can be purchased when renewing license plates or online at michigan.gov/recreationpassport. 

For a complete listing of state park festivals, workshops and events, visit Michigan.gov/calendar.

— Howard Meyerson, Michigan BLUE Magazine & Photography courtesy Grayling Visitors Bureau

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