Art in a Small Town

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The AuSable Artisan Village is coming to town.  An exciting new project, created by an idea from Kirtland Community College President, Tom Quinn, this looks to be the solution to many needs for both visitors and residents from surrounding community.

A three part project, the AuSable Artisan Village offers one goal, bringing art to Northern Michigan. The three parts that make up this ingenuitive plan include the following:

  • Education – Classrooms and classes offered in art fields offered by Kirtland Community College to help educate the community and surrounding communities
  • Gallery – To display the many wonderful artisans located throughout the Grayling area and other surrounding areas
  • City Beautification – To help restore our storefronts and create a theme that will make the City of Grayling stand out and be a more beautiful place to be vacation and live.

Grayling already offers a number of opportunities for visitors and residents to enjoy. The natural beauty alone draws thousands of tourists to Grayling every year. The AuSable River, Hartwick Pines State Park, and events put on throughout the area celebrating the outdoors offer ways to experience the beauty of nature all year long.

The AuSable Artisan Village will bring the community together, offering a new source of revenue, increased number of visitors and a way for the talented artisans of the area to show what they have to offer. There are a huge number of incredibly talented people who call Northern Michigan home.  The AuSable Artisan Village seeks to showcase that talent.

There is one way in which this new and exciting project will succeed, community involvement.  There are many ways that people can get involved. First you can learn more about it. There are many meetings which serve as a way for those interested to be informed. The new website will also be available soon for those interested in updates. If you have talents, skills or a desire to help in any way, there will always be a place to help out. Though donations are welcome, you don’t have to have a donation to be a part of this great new project.

Get involved in the AuSable Artisan Village, it’s a great way to enjoy all that Grayling has to offer.

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Say Yes To Michigan

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This weekend I spent some time in Alpena, Michigan. Not far away, but like many other people, I just don’t spend much time in places not far off.  I don’t know if I just assume there is nothing there, or if I just don’t take the time to seek them out, but whatever the reason, it’s going to change. As an one time natural history interpreter, I love and adore all that is outdoors. Places like the Jordan River Valley, Largo Springs, and the Ausable River are just a few of the many amazing natural features Michigan has to offer, but for now, I digress on those topics as my focus today is on Alpena.

Though I didn’t get a chance to go exploring due to time constraints and poor weather, I did look up the natural features and activities popular in Alpena and thanks to a little help from my friends, am now officially sucked in to this beautiful little town.  As a destination junkie, I love finding the best places to enjoy specific activities and diving and shipwrecks are incredibly mysterious and attractive to me. All this time I have spent learning about the Caribbean and Pacific and the shipwrecks there, when right here in Michigan, we have a wonderful place to explore our own mysterious and amazing shipwrecks.

Located on Thunder Bay, Lake Huron, Alpena is home to the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center.The Marine Sanctuary is the location of almost 200 shipwrecks which due to the cold water, are remarkably preserved. Ranging in depths from a few inches to 200 feet, divers and snorkelers from around the world come to explore this amazing site. A visit to the Maritime Heritage Center also holds a number of wonderful exhibits and a discovery center which allow visitors the opportunity to explore the history of many of the stories behind the wrecks in and around the area.

This is not the end of my journey to explore Alpena and it’s amazing history, but just the beginning. When next I talk about Alpena, I will be able to share my own experiences of this great Michigan town. What I did learn on my first trip to Alpena is that it is beautiful, has wonderful people, and a great heritage worth exploring. The houses are beautiful, the John A Lau Saloon is very nice and has an amazing history, and I will be returning.  Lesson learned. Never discount the amazing sites and towns in your own state, get out and explore the sites and destinations near to you and learn why people travel to your state.

If you are interested in learning about Alpena, I am attaching a link to their website. (click here to visit Alpena’s website.)

This is a video I found of a dive in the Marine Sanctuary in Alpena.

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Happy Holidays!

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The snow is fallling, the glint of the sun is beautiful and all is wonderful. Wishing all a happy new year and a great 2010.

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Hartwick Pines State Park Beauty

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I have decided to write about one of my favorite places in the world. Beauty is in the eye the beholder, most travel blogs are about larger or more famous places, but what about the less well known special areas with their own amazing history? Hartwick Pines State Park holds a very special place in my heart. I have been exploring the area for over 10 years and still love it. The history of the area is very obvious when you explore off the main trail.

History of Hartwick Pines State Park

Created in 1927, 8236 acres were donated to the State of Michigan by Karen Hartwick, who after her husbands death, decided that the remaining old growth timber needed to be protected. Though the area was logged heavily, a small area of the Old Growth timber was left, not really sure why, except that people had already started coming to the area to picnic in the early 1900’s.

For whatever reason Karen Hartwick decided to protect the area, it then continued to grow in both size and popularity. It now encompasses 9,672 acres, making it the largest State Park in the lower peninsula of Michigan. It has a variety of ecosystems including some of the rarest and most well preserved natural features in the state.

Amazing ecosystems

Hartwick Pines is most well known for its Old Growth White Pine stand. 40 acres of 200-400 plus year old White Pines in an almost pure stand invoke visions of the past. On a warm summer day, when you step into this part of the park, it takes you back to a time when Michigan was new. The smell invades your senses, warm pine, cool soil and a sense of almost loneliness make you forget everything else. The sound of the breeze through the treetops, some almost 200 feet tall, sounds like the ocean. It is one of the most serene places in the world in my opinion.

Further down the trail, you come to a choice, stay on the well traveled path or take the spur to a younger, less traveled trail in the park. The AuSable and Mertz Grade Trails take you upland into younger, mixed forests, up large hills, and down into damp valleys. Through marshes, wetlands and deeper into the habitat of a variety of species of wildlife including, black bears, bobcats, coyotes, ruffed grouse, foxes, and perhaps even an elk.

These areas represent what Michigan is more well known for today. Beautiful mixed hardwood forests, which are the dominant natural forest type today, block much of the sun from ever reaching the ground. In fact, only about 10 % of the sun ever reaches the forest floor in the Beech-Maple forests common in this area. Rich in food sources, this area is beautiful and unique in its own way, but far less mystical than an ancient pine forest. A variety of wildflowers and bird species bring you almost overwhelming smells and sounds.

The Bog

Perhaps one of my favorite areas is the bog. located across the street, this is a bit more difficult to reach and a guide is helpful. An ancient peat bog, this small area was once a lake. A lack of fresh water allowed the area to become closed in and over the years, peat formed on top of a small lake forming the bog today. Bog formation is actually quite interesting, as are the amazing flora that exist only in this type of area. In fact, three species of carnivorous plants are found here including the pitcher plant, horned bladderwort, and round leafed sundew. I once did a floristic quality assessment on the area and found that the area has very little invasive species, and is considered a very high quality bog. Located near the old Mertz Grade Railroad, the area is home to a large number of specialized plants and ecosystems which are very interesting to explore. Flora is varied and  includes black spruce, eastern hemlock, tamarack, some white birch, sedges, grasses, sphagnum moss, a variety of shrubs and much more. Bog exploration is an amazing thing.

This post is inspired perhaps by nostalgia, as I used to work at the park, but also by the fact that right now I am looking out at feet of snow and missing the warmth and peacefulness of summer and times gone by. When I was there, we had many first time visitors, but the returners were the ones who enjoyed it the most I believe. Once you experience this amazing natural area and all it has to offer, it will leave you yearning for more.

My hope here is that more  people will explore and fall in love with what nature has to offer. Beauty, uniqueness and a sense of peace that is hard to find in today’s world are all just a step away. Find what makes your heart soar.

Categories : Nature
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‘Crazy Turtle Woman’ transforms graveyard into maternity ward

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Today I have been inspired by CNN to write about protection of species.

I believe that we are and should be stewards to the earth and all of its creatures. We decide now where things grow, when they grow, where they live and if they survive. Before technology, we were at mother natures mercy, today, we control almost all aspects, or at least think we do.

I believe as a civilization, we have a serious control  issue, scientists are always looking for a way to better manipulate something in nature for “the betterment of our society”. I use that phrase loosely. If society means only the people in it, then maybe they are right, but I am of the opinion that the web of life includes everything in it, not just the top of the food chain.

Stories like this about the ‘Crazy Turtle Woman’ inspire me. I have always loved protecting animals, down the the smallest insect. I am known to walk around after a rain storm, moving the worms off the road so they don’t get run over. I long to protect all species, not just the endangered ones. I am passionate about the preservation of species and management of areas for species.

I live in an area known for its population of endangered species, The Kirtland’s Warbler. They are a great example of a Michigan species dependent at this point on us and our ability to control the environment. This is why our control is important. If we were able to just let nature happen without our interference, we wouldn’t have this problem now, so the Kirtland’s  Warbler will survive, or become extinct based on our decisions.

If you are unfamiliar with the Kirtland’s Warbler here is brief introduction to them. They are a small warbler species known for its bright yellow breast and white eye rings. The exist solely in young jack pine plains. There have probably never been a huge amount of them, but their numbers neared extinction in the early 1970’s.

The Jack Pines are a fire dependent species. They grow in Northern Michigan and are a pioneer species that requires full sun. Their cones are are sealed with resin, and open only in heat, usually that means a fire. With our fire management rules, the jack pines do not grow the way they historically did, in large areas of pure stands. This is why we select areas to burn and then replant with jack pine. These artificial areas are the reason the Kirtland’s Warbler has a habitat at this point.

The Kirtland’s Warbler are ground nesting birds, which makes them susceptible to another problem, aside from their choosiness in habitat, which is the brown-headed cowbird. This bird historically followed the buffalo herds which roamed free until their massive slaughter. Now, the brown-headed cowbirds have found another way to survive. They are a bird which uses parasitism to survive. Ground nesting birds such as the warbler, lay their eggs and then so do the cowbirds, in the warblers nest. The cowbird chick is then raised by the warbler who takes care of the bigger chick and this means a loss for the warbler.

The cowbird population is controlled by constant trapping and disposal, which at this point is a necessary evil if the Kirtland’s Warbler is to survive.

Now, back to why I started writing in the first place. I know a lot of people that could be considered the crazy person who saves an animal, but if they don’t then who will? In a world with so much negativity, just look at the headlines, I appreciate stories like this about people making a difference to even the turtle. Here is the link to this story

I will end by saying, thanks to everyone who sits on the beach here in Northern Michigan and watch the Piping Plovers hatch. Thanks to all the people who follow the sturgeon to spawn in the spring. Thanks to the people who forego speed on the lake to protect the Common Loon and its chicks. Thanks to the people who maintain the Warbler habitat. Thanks to the Crazy Turtle Woman,  and everyone else in the world who takes time out of their schedule to preserve and protect our wildlife.

Categories : Nature
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Northern Lights

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I was going to write about the maple tree tonight, but as I was sitting here listening to a new song, I saw a picture on the internet of the northern lights and immediately thought back to a wonderful memory I feel I need to share.

I was going to first reference a poem but I have decided not to. I will simply tell my story instead. My reasoning for this is,  this was my result from google: 1,080,000 for northern lights poems. Obviously there is much to inspire you if you search yourself, so I will let you choose your own inspiration, here is mine.

My family owns a cabin further north in Northern Michigan, near Mackinac. My better half and I have been traveling up there for weekends for going on 15 years now. Our journeys would always start late and one particular trip will always remain as one of the best memories in my life. I have had other wonderful experiences, but this one was just a series of perfect events that will never be outdone because it was provided to us solely by nature.

Our drive began as normal, nothing special until about Indian River at which point, the aurora borealis caught my eye. Faded at first, just an indication that something wonderful was going to happen, then the further north we drove the brighter they got. Greens, yellows and whites began dancing before our eyes. It was a show just for us.

As we drew nearer to the cabin, I got more excited to run down to the dock and see it with my own eyes, not through the windshield of a car.

We arrived and did just that, ran to the dock and just watched. It was magical, but what really made it amazing, was what happened next, and what makes me yearn for the wilderness. A pack of coyotes started to howl, that mournful sound that only they and the gray wolf can make. Then, the icing on the cake, our pair of Common Loons began to wail across the lake. It was everything that invokes peace, calm and serenity in our lives.

In a world of chaos, we all need to take advantage of all the calm moments provided by nature. They are gift to the world, when we as a destructive society do not deserve such a gift. That was our gift from nature, I made it ours and ours alone. I encourage everyone to go and find themselves a moment that in years to come, you can sit down in your busy world, hear a song, see a picture and remember the time that you had a moment as magical as we did.

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In The Beginning

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I started talking at the age of one and have been told that I have never shut up since.  I know that I am not the only one in the world with the “gift of gab”, but it seems to me there is only one problem with this gift. Not everyone thinks about what they should be gabbing about. I have had 33 years to find out what is really interesting to me, and I hope to others as well. This is why I am setting up this blog, to find an outlet for my incessant need to speak.

Although I am interested in many things, my passion is really nature. To narrow it down further, Northern Michigan. I was for 7 years, a natural history interpreter at Hartwick Pines State Park. It started out as a seasonal job while I was in college, but it became my passion.

I now work in my degree field, which is art, but my love of nature has always been a part of my life, and has been my major inspiration for my own art. If it crawls, slithers, waddles or sways in the wind, I am probably interested in it. Trees, plants animals, insects, or the environment that these exist in, are my inspiration.

My ultimate goal is to blog about my interests, I invite anyone who has like minded interests, to contribute to the conversation. Thanks for reading and I hope that I can enlighten others to share my passion with the Northern Wood Experience.

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