Winter Feels Good in the Forest!

Plans are underway for the seventh annual National Winter Trails Day event at the Rapid River National Ski Trail on Saturday, January 21st from noon until 4:00 p.m.  Winter doesn’t have to be a time of year when you feel like you are trapped inside.  National Winter Trails Day is designed to encourage people of all ages to get outdoors and enjoy winter! 

National Winter Trails Day event at the Rapid River National Ski Trail

 Thanks to a long-standing partnership between Brampton Bike and Ski, Entrees Etc., numerous ski trail volunteers, and the Hiawatha National Forest, cross country skis and snowshoes will be available free of charge for the public to use from noon until 4:00 p.m. on January 21st.   Mike Williams of Brampton Bike and Ski will provide cross country skis, boots and poles as well as snowshoes for children and adults.

Volunteers who groom the ski trail during the winter will be on hand to outfit everyone with the proper gear and to teach the fundamentals of both skiing and snowshoeing.  To ensure that adequate equipment and instructors are on hand, please pre-register for the event by calling Brampton Bike and Ski no later than 4:00 p.m. on Friday, January 20th at 906-428-2135.  In addition, Mary Malnor of Entrees Etc. will be on-hand with hot drinks, steaming soup, and a blazing bonfire, so everyone is guaranteed to stay toasty!

Group of Skiiers at the National Winter Trails Day at the Rapid River Ski Trail near Escanaba, MI

This local event is one of 100 events across the country and one of only two events in the Upper Peninsula.

The Rapid River National Ski Trail is located 6 miles north of Rapid River on US Highway 41. For more information, call the Hiawatha National Forest at 906-474-6442.

Predator Quest’s Les Johnson Returns to Trappers Convention

World Champion predator caller Les Johnson will be on hand at the 54th Annual Trappers Convention/Outdoor Expo.  Les hails from Nebraska where he grew up spending every minute he could trapping, hunting and fishing. His love of the outdoor sports led him to become probably the best predator caller in the world. His accomplishments in the predator calling arena are many. He won the Calling Triple Crown in 1999, and in one 15 year stretch, he placed in at least 26 calling competitions (many of them 1st place). He has been named Sportsman of the Year several times as well. “Les has been here before and is always a big hit,” said Convention Coordinator Roy Dahlgren.

Les JohnsonLes has produced action packed videos of his hunts and his TV show Predator Quest, on the Sportsman’s Channel, and has won numerous awards including “Viewer Favorite Hunting Show.” Les will be doing a predator calling demo each day of the convention.

Along with Johnson, many other famous experts will be doing demos throughout the two days.  Steve Gappa, Lesel Reuwsaat, Harry Nestell, Greg Schroeder, John Chagnon and Richard Clark are all in the demo lineup.

In February, we had nearly 150 youngsters attend our annual Trappers Workshop, showing that many youngsters have a strong interest in trapping. “Having all the experts here sharing their knowledge and methods is one super opportunity for the kids and even us “old-timers” to gain valuable insight into the outdoor sports,” stated Jim Fornetti longtime member of U.P. Trappers.

Event Details

The Expo will be held at the U.P. State Fairgrounds in Escanaba Michigan on July 15 & 16, 2016. Hours will be: Friday 8:00 a.m. – 6: 00 p.m. and Saturday from 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (EST).

There will be many activities for the kids along with many items of interest to the ladies. Hundreds of vendors and tailgaters (trap dealers, hunting, fishing, guns, knives, quilters, crafters etc.) will be there offering convention special prices on their wares.  Food and refreshments will be available on the grounds throughout the event. Attendees also wont want to miss the dance on Friday Evening.

Further information may be obtained by contacting Roy Dahlgren (906) 399-1960;, or by visiting

Forest Service Celebrates the 150th Anniversary of the Peninsula Point Lighthouse!

 Peninsula Point Lighthouse, a historic site within the Hiawatha National Forest, is a great destination for the entire family to explore. Located at the tip of Lake Michigan’s Stonington Peninsula, you’ll find limestone shorelines yielding 500 million year old fossils to comb, more than 200 different species of birds to identify, droves of late summer monarch butterflies on the move, and – of course – great picnicking opportunities. The lighthouse is open to public viewing and offer’s spectacular panoramic vistas of Lake Michigan.

The Blue Water Ramblers, a folk music band that has been performing around the Great Lakes region for over 30 years, will be performing at the 150th Anniversary celebration of the Peninsula Point Lighthouse on Saturday, August 18th.  They will offer two hour-long maritime performances:  one at 1:00 and a second at 3:00.

The Blue Water Ramblers, a folk music band that has been performing around the Great Lakes region for over 30 years, will be performing at the 150th Anniversary celebration of the Peninsula Point Lighthouse on Saturday, August 18th. They will offer two hour-long maritime performances: one at 1:00 and a second at 3:00.

In addition to the usual fun at Peninsula Point, the Hiawatha National Forest will be offering extra incentives for visitation on July 18th during a 150th anniversary event!  Enjoy Great Lakes folk music celebrating this region’s rich cultural heritage by the Blue Water Ramblers and join Forest Service staff as they bring to life the Point’s natural and historical resources through engaging and interactive programs.  The entire event is free to the public.

 The celebration begins at 1:00pm on July 18th and festivities continue until approximately 4:30pm.  Folks are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs or blankets. 


This file photo shows what the Peninsula Point Lighthouse looked like prior to the 1959 fire that burned the attached lighthouse keeper’s dwelling.  Now all that remains of the lighthouse is the brick tower.  The Forest Service will be celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the lighthouse on Saturday, July 18th from 1 to 4:00 PM.

This file photo shows what the Peninsula Point Lighthouse looked like prior to the 1959 fire that burned the attached lighthouse keeper’s dwelling. Now all that remains of the lighthouse is the brick tower. The Forest Service will be celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the lighthouse on Saturday, July 18th from 1 to 4:00 PM.

From 1866 until 1936 the Peninsula Point Lighthouse served a critical role in safely bringing in ships teeming with fish, lumber, iron ore and other products to the communities of Escanaba, Gladstone, Fayette and Nahma. In 1937 the United States Forest Service was granted custodianship of Peninsula Point Lighthouse and shortly following, the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed picnic grounds on site for public use. Thanks to many dedicated individuals and user groups the Peninsula Point Lighthouse stands today as a monument to this region’s steadfastness and tenacious ability to overcome adversity.

The 40 foot brick tower is all that remains of the Peninsula Point lighthouse today.  Visitors are welcome to climb the spiral staircase to the top of the tower to take in the panoramic view of Lake Michigan. Be sure to bring your camera and a picnic lunch!  The Forest Service will be celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the lighthouse on Saturday, July 18th from 1 to 4:00 PM.

The 40 foot brick tower is all that remains of the Peninsula Point lighthouse today. Visitors are welcome to climb the spiral staircase to the top of the tower to take in the panoramic view of Lake Michigan. Be sure to bring your camera and a picnic lunch! The Forest Service will be celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the lighthouse on Saturday, July 18th from 1 to 4:00 PM.

To get to Peninsula Point from Rapid River drive 2.4 miles east on US-2 to County Road 513 turn right (southwest) on CR 513 and drive 17 miles to the RV parking lot. Please note that the last 0.8 mile road to the lighthouse is single lane, narrow and winding, and is NOT recommended for recreational vehicles or trailers over 16 feet long or 8 feet high. Pull-offs have been provided in case you meet on-coming traffic. A parking area for larger vehicles can be found at the beginning of the final mile of road, and folks are welcome to walk the interpretive trail to the lighthouse or walk the road.

For additional information, please contact Anne Okonek at the Forest Service office in Rapid River at 906-280-4135.


Walleye Fishing on Bay de Noc, Lake Michigan

Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit Returns To Bays de Noc July 31-Aug. 1

World-class walleye fishing on the Bays de Noc

A high-stakes, big-water walleye fishing battle of epic proportions will break out when the Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit returns to the world-class waters of Little Bay de Noc out of Escanaba, Michigan, for a regular-season qualifier July 31-August 1.

Judging by past tournament results, the upcoming Cabela’s MWC qualifier should yield great fishing and more than a few behemoth baskets. For example, when the Circuit visited Escanaba in 2011 for a regular-season event combined with the Cabela’s NTC, it took more than 30 pounds per day to claim the crown. Circuit vets Korey Sprengel and Derek Navis eventually claimed top honors with a 64.41-pound, 10-fish limit. Thanks to the Circuit’s lucrative payback program, Sprengel and Navis earned more than $20,000 for their MWC victory in cash and sponsor contingencies.

Payouts are based on the number of teams entered in each event. In 2014 the Circuit rewarded anglers with a total payback of more than 127 percent, and that trend continues this season. Plus, the MWC Big Fish Pot and sponsor bonuses from Ranger, Lowrance, Abu Garcia, Zippo Outdoor Brands and Okuma add thousands more to the total.

As an added incentive, the first-place team will win a $1,000 Cabela’s National Team Championship Prize Package including paid NTC entry, travel stipend, team jerseys and plaques. And new for 2015, the creation of an option pot adds even more chances to cash in. At the recent Petenwell Lake qualifier, for example, tournament champions Barb and Danny Plautz added $2,730 in option pot cash to their total winnings.

Adding to the excitement, all Cabela’s MWC tournaments are designated as “State Championship Qualifying Events.” Teams from the state where the event is held are eligible, along with teams from a state not hosting an MWC event in 2015 (provided at least 10 teams from their state are competing in the event). Besides bragging rights, state champions will earn a $1,000 prize package including custom trophies, custom State Champions rings by Tight Lines Jewelry, decals, a berth in the Cabela’s NTC, and a spot on the MWC website’s Wall of Fame. In states hosting two events, teams must fish both tournaments to be in the running, which means Michigan teams must have fished the Detroit River qualifier along with the Bays de Noc event for a shot at the state title.

Teams will be allowed to weigh five walleyes measuring 15 inches and over each day, and the team with the heaviest two-day total weight will be crowned the winners. Weigh-ins, which are free and open to the public, will be held at Gladstone Harbor beginning at 3 p.m. daily. As a bonus to budding tournament fans, the Cabela’s MWC, National Professional Anglers Association, Pure Fishing and Zippo Outdoor Brands will present a Youth & Family Fishing Clinic immediately after the day-one weigh-in. The first 50 youths will receive rod and reel combos courtesy of the NPAA.

Under the umbrella of The Walleye Federation (TWF), the Cabela’s MWC is open to avid walleye anglers from all walks of life. Deadline to register for the Bays de Noc tournament is Monday, July 27th.

Cabela’s, the World’s Foremost Outfitter for hunting, fishing and outdoor gear, is in its 14th season as title sponsor of the MWC. Official sponsors include: Berkley Gulp!, Abu Garcia, Lowe Equipment Attachments, Lowrance Electronics, Mercury Marine, Ranger Boats, The Walleye Federation and Zippo Outdoor Brands. Associate sponsors include: Yellow Bird Fishing Products, Okuma, T-H Marine and Tight Lines Jewelry. For more information, visit, email, or call (580) 765-9031.

Leigh’s Garden Winery: A “Fruitful” Endeavor in the U.P.’s “Banana Belt”

A Taste of Bay de Noc Red, a sweet-wine produced by Leigh's Garden Winery at the Escanaba, MI winery.

A Taste of Bay de Noc Red, a sweet-wine produced by Leigh’s Garden Winery at the Escanaba, MI winery.

Who would have thought that Delta County could be a great place to produce international award-winning wines? Leigh Schmidt did. Well, at least he had a hunch that the area could be. In 2009, he opened Leigh’s Garden Winery in downtown Escanaba and each year has proven more fruitful than the last.

Leigh learned a bit about wine-making as a home-winemaker several years before retirement and planted his first cold climate grape vines in his backyard at his Escanaba home. Wanting to find vines that would survive in a climate like the U.P., he stumbled across the Minnesota Grape Grower Association and after several years of learning about the cold climate grapes being hybridized by the University of Minnesota, he planted a small vineyard in south Bark River on property leased in 2006.

After three years of caring and pruning and growing the grapes, his colleagues at the Minnesota Grape Growers Association pressured him to get started with the wine-making. By this time he was retired and could spend time in this “hobby”, not expecting half of what it has become today. Encouraged by community support and a fool-hardy stupidity, he invested in an historic building downtown which featured a bar as part of the tasting room and an empty cellar which became the winery production location. He established contact with two growers who were also growing Univ. of Minnesota hybrids and would supply him with quality grapes. He decided to take a leap of faith and made the move forward, not knowing the reception the winery would get, nor if it would endure through the very tight years of 2008 and beyond.

As word about the locally-made wines spread by word of mouth and some very limited advertisement, Leigh grew from 400 gallons the first year to 1,100 gallons in 2014. Leigh’s Garden Winery is now able to provide wine on a yearly basis to our local customers and the many tourists they see annually.They have also become a sort of information center about Escanaba’s downtown area, which he refers to as Old Escanaba. “We do our best to not only serve customers a taste of wine, but also project the friendly side of Escanaba.” says Leigh.

Leigh's Garden Winery offers Award Winning Wines in their Escanaba, MI Tasting Room.

Leigh’s Garden Winery offers Award Winning Wines in their Escanaba, MI Tasting Room.

In 2014, Leigh entered 5 of his wines in an international competition at the Cold Climate Grape Competition held in Minneapolis, MN and brought home 5 medals; three bronze, one silver and one gold.

Leigh and his staff offer approximately 15 varieties at the start of their season, which is April annually. They carry wines that are sweet, semi-sweet, and dry in both red and white varieties, trying to provide for the variety in taste of customers. They also feature some associated products and souvenirs, but let’s face it, people go to the winery for wine. When visiting the winery guests (21 years of age & older) receive two complimentary tastes of wine, or they can purchase a Leigh’s Garden Winery souvenir glass with 6 tastes. They offer this because they think customers should be able to taste a wine before they purchase it. Leigh is always quick to remind customers that his wines are made in very limited quantities and sell out in short periods of time, or over the course of the year.

Their home at 904 Ludington Street has been upgraded with some minor changes during winter months making the setting more appealing, relaxing and enjoyable to customers. The building they are housed in went up in 1881 and has some features related to the era. The bar, was added to the building in 1972, when Marlys Thone purchased it from King’s Bar once located a bit further up Ludington Street.

Customers enjoying a taste of wine at Leigh's Garden Winery

Customers enjoying a taste of wine at Leigh’s Garden Winery.

Leigh’s favorite part of what he does is the people that come through the door, locals and tourists. “They come in not knowing what to expect or having a preconceived notion of small mid-west wineries, and we just knock that out of their heads with our wines, our service and our friendliness. But you can find this all through downtown, friendly owners who work their shops, attend to and appreciate their customers, engage you in conversation, and are involved in their community. I know this sounds like an advertisement, but it is such a great place to do business, that once someone finds us, they come back.”

When Leigh isn’t busy serving customers his wines, he keeps busy tending the wines in the cellar or the vines in the vineyard, picking the grapes in season, and spending time with family and friends. Leigh has lived in Escanaba for over 40 years after moving here from Cleveland, Ohio and marrying “a local girl” as he says. Connie Bichler and Leigh met at NMU, and her first job as an elementary teacher for the Escanaba Area Schools brought them back to her hometown, Escanaba. He took a job with the Delta-Schoolcraft ISD. They raised two children, Emily and Soren in Escanaba and retired together about 11 years ago. Leigh says his connection to the Escanaba area grew stronger with each year as he learned to appreciate the people, the slower pace of life that was so different than a large city and the joy of nature here.

Leigh Schmidt, The Wine Maker in the Vineyard

Leigh Schmidt, The Wine Maker in the Vineyard

To learn more about Leigh’s Garden Winery, stop into the tasting room and chat with Leigh yourself. If you aren’t able to do get to the winery in-person, head over to their Facebook page where updates about winery happenings are posted on the regular.

– Written by Escanaba resident Carrie Bartel.

Kids Agree: Escanaba Family Fun Park Rocks

Kids can be fickle. Just when you think you’ve found the perfect activity that you can go back to again and again, they up and refuse to do it. And they make sure to let you know about it.

But Family Fun Park in Escanaba is different. (At least, as different as anything in our neck of the woods.) It’s chockablock with exciting, kid-friendly activities that parents enjoy too. It’s conveniently located just outside the heart of Escanaba. And it’s big enough that you’ll have trouble squeezing everything it has to offer into a single day of fun. So load up the car, grab the kids and head out to Family Fun Park. We have a feeling you’ll be back sooner rather than later.

Here’s what you’ll find at Family Fun Park.

Go Karts

Who doesn’t love Go Karts? Kids over 52 inches can drive their own Go Karts around Family Fun Park’s “fast-paced track,” and those who aren’t quite big enough can ride with a driver who’s at least 16 years of age. Family Fun Park’s Go Karts are fun, safe, and in great working order, so you can speed (or crawl) to your heart’s content.

Adventure Golf

This ain’t no typical mini-golf course. It’s 18 holes of challenging lies and fun obstacles that present a mind-bending puzzle for even the most seasoned stick-wielders. There are plenty of water hazards and varying hole heights, so you can’t just play once. And if you get a hole in one on the 18th hole, you’ll have to play again — because you’ll get a free game!

Bumper Boats

Bumper boats are basically go karts in the water. Sounds fun, right? Kids as young as 6 can take Family Fun Park’s bumper boats out for a spin on the park’s closed course. Flotation devices and adult supervision ensure safe, wholesome fun.


“Bank shot basketball” is “a combination of mini-golf, basketball and billiards — pure shooting fun,” says Family Fun Park. And fun it is. You’ll love trying to bank in each shot off a crazy backboard, with variable hoop heights and other obstacles thrown into the mix for an additional challenge. Who knows? You might find out your kid has a real talent for basketball on the court here.

Batting Cages

Family Fun Park’s all-ages batting cages feature hardball and softball pitching, challenging novice batters and seasoned Little Leaguers alike. In fact, local leagues often use Family Fun Park’s cages for a little extra practice. Show your kid how to keep his or her eye on the ball here!

Location, Hours and Group Events

Family Fun Park is located at 2929 3rd Ave N in Escanaba. It’s open “weather permitting,” which basically means any dry day during the warm season (once the snow and mud have gone, of course). From season open until Memorial Day, and then again from Labor Day until season close, Family Fun Park is open on weekends from 12 or 1 PM until 9 PM. (In May, there are special weekday sessions from 4 to 9 too.) From Memorial Day to Labor Day, it’s open 12 PM to 10 PM every day except Sunday, when it opens at 1 PM.

If you’re looking for something to do with a big group, like a birthday party or business meeting, Family Fun Park offers special group rates for gatherings of 10 or more. You’ll need to call for pricing and reservations, though.

Dobber’s Pasties

A pasty from Dobbers in Escanaba

A pasty from Dobbers in Escanaba

Mix together hard work and tradition, some spices, rutabagas and some other local fresh ingredients; bake them in a delicious crust and you’ve got a Dobber’s Pasty. Originally called the “Red Onion Pasty Shop” and located in Negaunee, MI in the 1960’s, Dobber’s Pasties has been serving up their version of the staple of Upper Peninsula culture and cuisine for generations.

Brad Mantela, owner since 2008, and the third generation of his family to serve the Yooper delicacy, has brought the business into today’s competitive age. He introduced their website, revamped their facility to become USDA compliant as well as modernized the production process with new equipment. As one of the only USDA certified pasty production facilities in the Upper Peninsula, Dobber’s is able to ship their pasties to all 50 states and make products for wholesale and fundraising activities. The USDA certification was a very important step for Brad and his staff, it required them to change the layout, material, and equipment and have a federal USDA inspector in the facility every day they are in production. The hardworking employees at Dobber’s produce 10,000 pasties a week.

dobbers pastys escanaba michigan Folding crusts for post 2Brad knows that Dobber’s is truly something special, after all he and his wife Josie elected to carry on the family tradition in 2008 after the passing of his mother, Bonnie. She and his father Doug, who was nicknamed Dobber as a child, brought the pasty shop to Escanaba in 1975. That iconic name was added in 1989. “[In] our particular business, pasties, we are a destination for people. People are always telling us how they always stop in on their vacation. How they found us on the internet and sought us out. How someone told them they must have a Dobber’s Pasty. I should charge people to take their picture in front of our sign. You can’t believe how many people do that and take pictures of themselves or people in their group eating pasties.”

According to their customers, Dobber’s serves the BEST pasties in the Upper Peninsula (or anywhere outside of their own mother’s kitchen). They make pasties for both of their locations, Iron Mountain and Escanaba, in the Escanaba kitchen. They peel fresh local potatoes, chop and blend beef from whole muscle fresh meat, and hand peel 300 pounds of rutabagas a week. Along with the traditional beef pasty, they offer five other varieties; veggie, chicken, breakfast, ham & cheese, and pizza. While all are popular and delicious, the beef pasty remains the most popular and sought after. Want to learn more about what it takes to make a pasty? They also offer pasty making tours to visitors and community groups. In Brad’s words, “You get a little tour, history, and you get to make, bake, and eat your very own pasty.”

dobbers pastys escanaba michigan pasty closeup 2Brad sincerely values the communities his business has grown in, both in Escanaba and Iron Mountain. “When you need help, you can call just about anyone else in business and they will do amazing things to help. We know how special it is to be part of this unique business community, and I love the support from across the U.P.”

For Brad, his business and his life are really one in the same and he thoroughly enjoys it. “In fact, even though I am far from it, I had an employee ask me how I could ever retire. She could never see me not having my days filled with something business related. I have to agree.” Managing the day to day operations at Dobber’s keeps Brad busy, but he finds time to enjoy the typical U.P. activities; hunting, fishing, biking, hiking, off-roading with his wife and two children, Gabe and Victoria. Somehow he manages to find time to be very active in the community as a member of the Escanaba Rotary Club, a board member for the Gladstone Planning Commission, a precinct delegate for the Delta County Republicans, as well as an active member at St. Anne Catholic Church.

Brad looks forward to carrying on his family’s tradition for pasty making for many years to come. So, on your next trip through Escanaba or Iron Mountain, take a moment to stop in to Dobber’s and bring home a bit of Upper Peninsula history to your family. Head over to and send a pasty (or a dozen) to your out-of-town friends and family, we’re certain they will enjoy the Yooper sentiment.

Phone: (906) 786-1880
Address: 827 N. Lincoln Rd. Escanaba, MI 49829

Ice Boats on Little Bay de Noc

This past weekend if you had a chance to come within view of Little Bay de Noc, you would have seen almost 45 iceboats zipping across the ice-covered bay. Both Friday and Saturday, the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club held an International Skeeter Association Regatta (or Renegade Championship) on Little Bay de Noc. This was their first visit to our area and were welcomed warmly by the community.

Iceboat racing is head to head on an upwind/downwind course. Buoys are set at least one mile apart upwind and downwind and the boats race for either three or four laps.

ice boat escanaba michigan 2Deb Whitehorse, a Race Committee Member with the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club was very happy with the weekend’s event. “We were all extremely pleased with the warm welcome we received from the local residents who were all extremely helpful and couldn’t do enough for us. We chose the area because it was the only suitable ice sailing site in a three state area, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. She also adds that “Local residents, like Jim Walsh of Gladstone, knew that the ice was perfect for us and was in contact one of our Menominee sailors, Mike Derusha. Terry Reynolds was also helpful with providing information about areas that we should avoid.”

ice boat escanaba michigan 1“We felt very welcomed in this area, kind of like rock stars! It was exciting to see the local residents come to the beach and either walk out on the ice or watch from the shore. The accommodations and food were excellent. If there are suitable conditions (no snow on the ice) on Little Bay de Noc and the timing is right, we will definitely be back! It was a great central location for our sailors in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.”

For those who missed this unique sport in action this weekend, and want to learn more about ice sailing, check out To see more great photos from this weekend’s event check out


Sledding at Ludington Park 4When visiting Escanaba, a stop at the historic Ludington Park is a must during any season. As residents will confirm, sledding down the snow-covered Lake Michigan hillside is a pastime shared by many generations.

According to Dr. Charles Lindquist, a park historian, the mile long, Ludington Park has evolved greatly over its existence. Even offering attractions such as a zoo around 1915 and a toboggan slide in the 1920’s. Most of Ludington Park as we know it today, came to be in the 1950’s. That’s when Aronson Island was built, along with the Karas Memorial Bandshell and water treatment plant.

Sledding at Ludington Park 2

As soon as Escanaba sees winter’s first dusting of snow, you will find locals racing down the hillside towards Lake Michigan on tubes, sleds and occasionally an heirloom toboggan. Growing up only a few blocks from the park myself, my brother and I made the trip down the hill so many times we resorted to using garbage can lids and cardboard boxes when our sleds broke from overuse. We spent many-a-snow day competing to see who could slide the fastest and farthest.

Brooklyn sled Ludington Park 2The area of the park that offers the “best” sledding is the portion of the hill above the soccer field’s north-end goal and Harbor Hideout playground. Once snow covers the hillside completely, someone, presumably tired of struggling back to the top of the hill, usually ties a rope to a tree or light post for everyone’s benefit.

Sledding at Ludington Park is free, but it isn’t fancy. There are no tow ropes to pull you back to the top and the hill only offers a straight-shot down to the bottom, with an occasional snow jump built by adventurous sledders.

But if you are looking a fun outdoor winter activity to wear-out the kids and banish the winter blues, which also offers spectacular views at sunset if I might add, this is your ticket. Besides, in today’s age of connected devices, obligations and stress, it sure can be wonderful to go back to a much simpler time and just slide down a snow covered hill on our backsides.

– Written by Escanaba resident Carrie Bartel.

Ice Fishing on the Bays de Noc: Part 1

As a Yooper, I think ice fishing is something everyone should experience, even if only once. With that said, I have never been ice fishing. My reason? I am afraid falling through the ice. So with my fear in mind, I talked to some experts of this outdoor U.P. tradition. You guessed it, I talked to some Yoopers.

Based on the comments I received from my friends and family members, I learned to dress warm, not to fall through the ice and that the BEST way to go ice fishing for the first time is to go with someone who knows what they are doing. I was also advised to bring beer, build a heated 12 foot by 12 foot ice shanty, and to watch out for the Loch Ness monster. I’m not going to elaborate on those last bits of guidance. Instead, let’s focus on the “good” advice.  You should consider this a very basic How to Get Started Ice Fishing Guide written by someone who is has never been ice fishing

Staying warm and dry while you are ice fishing will greatly affect your level of enjoyment. Let’s face it, you’re probably going to be sitting for hours on a bucket on ice. Just as with most other outdoor winter activities in the U.P., wearing layers, keeping skin covered and staying dry are crucial. Waterproof boots and outerwear and extra gloves and socks are strongly suggested. We all know ice is cold, so bring a blanket and cushion to sit on and those nifty hand warmers and while you’re at it, get some for your boots.

While we’re on the subject of ice, according to several local ice fishermen, “There is no such thing as SAFE ice.” It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to be aware of the local ice conditions before and during your ice fishing excursions. Stay away from areas where there is water flowing or standing over ice. My best suggestion is to talk to locals about what they are seeing on the Bays and do your own research. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources posts weekly fishing reports available online and by phone (855-777-0908). The reports include local ice conditions, the types of fish being reported and which bait seems to be most popular.

As for the advice to find someone who knows what they’re doing and get them to take you ice fishing, I think it’s pretty sound advice. Ice fishing has been a tradition here in the U.P. for generations. Families have been venturing out onto the ice to catch fish, tell stories and “just get away” for as long as people have lived on the shores of the Great Lakes. Talk to local family members, we all have an “Uncle Mick or Grandpa Leroy” who may be willing to sacrifice an afternoon of time on the ice to pass along this tradition. Lacking a friend or family member to be your personal guide? There are several fishing guides for hire in the area. Simply talk to any one of the local bait and tackle shops, they can make recommendations.

Head on over to this post on for more information about ice fishing gathered by the Bays de Noc Convention & Visitors Bureau. There you will find details about the Michigan DNR’s requirements for Ice Shanties and license fees, as well as Maps, Fishing Guides and locations that offer winter access.

Please stay tuned for a continuation of my experience going ice fishing for the first time.

– Written by Escanaba native Carrie Bartel.