Category Archives: Winter Activities

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 www.iceboat.org. To see more great photos from this weekend’s event check out www.iceboat.weebly.com.

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 VisitEscanaba.com 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.

The Bike Shops of Delta County

The weather is (slowly) warming up in Delta County, and locals are in the process of switching out their skis and snowshoes for hiking boots and mountain bikes. As we gear up for the warm season, we’re taking a look at three local bike shops, each of which takes a slightly different approach to their craft. Spoiler alert: they’re all awesome.

the beaten path escanaba michigan1The Beaten Path

1015 Ludington Street, Escanaba

(906) 789-6220 / beatenpathup@gmail.com

Open Mon-Fri 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sat 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

The Beaten Path is the newest of Delta County’s three bike shops. Opened in March 2011, this place bills itself as the largest disc golf shop in the entire U.P. – and it doesn’t disappoint. According to owner Jon Harris, the Beaten Path has about 500 discs in stock and works with virtually every supplier in the country – from Discraft and Prodigy to smaller and more obscure outfits. Harris is also heavily involved in the local disc golf scene, sponsoring three Escanaba-area courses that have opened in the past year and advocating for the opening of two more. A lifelong skateboarder, his shop is also the best place in Delta County to find a full lineup of skateboard gear.

The Beaten Path is a bike shop too, of course. Harris used to work at Mr. Bike, another Escanaba shop, and maintained a “mini shop” in his garage until opening the Beaten Path. Within the first couple weeks of opening, he had sold several dozen used bikes that he had fixed up, so he started contracting with national brands like Schwinn and GT. These days, he does steady business in new bikes, but the shop sets itself apart as the only Delta County outlet that regularly accepts trade-ins. And since winter will be here again in due time, we’d better mention that the Beaten Path has a huge array of winter sports equipment, including snow bikes, snowshoes, XC skis, skates and snow skates.

Brampton Bike and Ski

910 Delta Avenue, Gladstone

(906) 428-2135 / mikenbike1@charter.net

Open Mon-Fri 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sat 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Located in the beautiful town of Gladstone, just up US-2 from Escanaba, Brampton Bike and Ski holds it down for residents of Delta County’s second largest municipality. Like the Beaten Path, Brampton is a full-service shop that features a wide lineup of new bikes and plenty of additional sporting equipment – minus the extensive disc golf selection, of course. When it comes to bikes, they aren’t shy about their offerings: “If it’s got wheels and it looks like a bike,” they say, “we probably have it…and if we don’t have it, we can get it!” That’s reassuring. As the moment, Brampton features full lines of:

  • Specialized
  • Electra
  • Redline
  • Raleigh
  • Diamondback

Those who aren’t into biking – or who aren’t content to spend five months out of the year at the gym – can check out Brampton’s selection of snowboards, downhill skis and winter clothing accessories. For discerning winter sports enthusiasts, the shop’s selection of Atomic, Salomon, Nordica and Fischer – among other brands – is sure to be reassuring. And for those who like to get out on the water when it’s not frozen solid, Brampton’s stocks kayaks from Dagger, Wilderness Systems and other fine brands.

mr bike ski and fitness escanaba michigan2Mr. Bike, Ski and Fitness

1016 Ludington Street, Escanaba

(906) 786-1200 / mrbike@mrbikeonline.com

Open Mon-Wed 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m., Thu 9:30 a.m. – 7 p.m., Fri 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sat 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Mr. Bike is right across the street from the Beaten Path, so it’s not too hard to find. The first Mr. Bike opened way back in 1985, when owner Matt Marenger was fresh out of high school. Fast forward to the mid-2010s and Mr. Marenger finds himself in a sprawling (6,000+ square feet!) location in the heart of downtown Escanaba. When he’s not swimming, biking, hiking or skiing the wilds of the Upper Peninsula, he’s tending to his sizable lineup of mountain and road bikes. Looking for a particular brand? Mr. Bike has:

  • Cannondale
  • Trek
  • Bianchi
  • Giant
  • and many more

Like Delta County’s other two shops, Mr. Bike also stocks a pretty comprehensive lineup of outdoor sporting equipment. Nordic skis? Check. Downhill skis? Check. Snowboards? Check. Snowshoes? Check. (Marenger is an avid snow sports enthusiasts, so engage him in discussion about these things at your own risk!) Mr. Bike also has plenty of fixed fitness equipment and high-end apparel for serious exercise enthusiasts. And if you’re in the area on a Tuesday night, don’t be shy about stopping by at 6:30 p.m. for Tuesday Cycle Night. There’s nothing like a friendly workout on a warm summer evening!

Ski the Days River Trails

days river trail bridgeThe Days River Trail system just a few short miles from Gladstone, Michigan is one of the most scenic and enjoyable set of cross country ski trails in the area.

5 Loops – 8.6 Miles

A series of five stacked loops, ranging from easiest to difficult, make up the five loops, with only the furthest (5th) loop classified as “difficult.” The first four loops are either easy or moderately difficult trails that should be well within the capability of most skiers. (I’m not very skilled yet and I was able to ski them without much trouble.)

Oh, and in addition to the five stacked loops there’s a 2.3 mile dedicated skate/ski loop for those looking to skate!

Trail maps at each intersection make it very easy to find your way around, and there’s a rustic (read no running water) outhouse in the parking area.

dais river trail gladstone mi 3 My Experience Skiing the Days River Trail

I wasn’t able to make time to get out and ski the Days River trails until March. And of course, March in the Upper Peninsula often brings a little rain, as it did the day I decided to finally get out there and ski. The rain made the trails a bit icy for my ski, but overall they seemed really well groomed. I just wish I would have gotten there in February!

My dad and I are both novice cross country skiers, but were able to ski the first four loops without much trouble. We stopped a couple times at the top of some of the bigger hills to take a breather, but there wasn’t anything too difficult.

days river trail map gladstone miThat said, the trails were definitely fun and interesting. There were more ups, downs and turns then any other trail I’ve skied recently. A good part of the trail follows the Days River, part of it skirts the Gladstone Golf Course and all of it goes through a nice mix of forest. Much of the trail goes through pine forest but there were a couple really pretty sections of birch forest as well.

From the parking area, around the first four loops and back ended up being just under seven miles. It was a great ski on a set of beautiful trails and I’m looking forward to getting back there!

Side note: the Days River Trails are also popular hiking and biking trails in summer.

How to get there:

To get to the Days River Trail, from the intersection of M-35 and US2&41 in Gladstone, continue on three miles toward Rapid River and then turn left (west) off US2&41 onto Days River 24.5 Rd. Drive two miles and look for the trailhead on your right.

3 miles north of Gladstone (near Escanaba) Go north on US 2/41 from Gladstone to Days River Road, then west on Days River Road 2 miles. Parking is on north side of road.

The Escanaba Pathway Snowshoe Trail

Escanaba snowshoe trail

The entry to the snowshoe trail is shown here to the right.

I’ve written about cross country skiing on the Escanaba Pathway trails, but the Escanaba pathway trails also boast a dedicated snowshoe trail.

The 1.6 mile long snowshoeing trail begins on the right side of the ski trail about 100 feet from the parking lot off North 30th street. It’s a single track trail that (roughly) follows North 30th street for a while before looping away from North 30th, through a tall stand of pines and then back along North 30th to the trailhead.

The trail is well marked with blue diamonds to help keep you on track. Although, due to a good amount of use it’s likely that the trail will also be very packed down. Possibly to the point where snowshoes are’t needed, depending on how much snow has recently fallen, of course.

My Experience on the Escanaba Pathway Snowshoe Trail

escanaba mi snowshoe trail3I visited the snowshoe trail in early March, after a winter of activity. It was really packed down, to the point where I didn’t need snowshoes, but I wore them anyway just in case. I have to say, it was really nice to be able to snowshoe on a dedicated trail as opposed to either walking on the cross country ski trail or blazing a brand new path through deep snow off in the woods somewhere.

I hiked the completed snowshoe trail from start to finish but noticed that there was an area labeled “under construction,” so I’ll look into that and write about it more in the future. Hopefully we’ll be getting some additional lengths of snowshoe trail!

Due to it’s proximity to North 30th street, the snowshoe trail isn’t quite as peaceful as the secluded cross country ski trails, but nonetheless it was still nice to get out for a good winter trek. Next time I’ll just bring my iPod and listen to some of my favorite music as I walk through the woods. I stopped plenty of time to take photos and it took me about forty five minutes to walk the loop.

All and all, the Escanaba Pathway snowshoe trail is a great little loop and I’ll definitely be back.

Looking for place to stay in the Escanaba area? Check out the Places to Stay page for a full list of area lodging options.

– Written by Jesse Land of Things to do in the U.P. on behalf of Visit Escanaba.

Ski the Escanaba Pathway Cross Country Ski Trails

escanaba pathway cross country ski trail3A Little About the Escanaba Pathway

The Escanaba Pathway cross country ski (and snowshoe) trails are right in Escanaba, but feel like they’re deep in the woods. The trails are made up of three main loops. Loop # 1 is 4.2 miles, loop # 2 is 1.7 miles, and loop # 3 is .74 miles.

The sign at the trailhead breaks down the loops like this:

Loop #1 – 4.2 miles (6.77 kilometers)

Loop #1 & #2 – 5.2 miles (9.52 kilometers)

Loop #1, #2 & #3 – 6.6 miles (10.65 kilometers)

However, there’s also a smaller “unofficial” loop that starts at the parking area and makes up part of “loop # 1.” This small loop is mostly flat, beginner friendly and is about two miles long. Let’s call it the “mini loop.”

The trailhead for the Escanaba Pathway trails is right off North 30th street in Escanaba, about .35 miles from US Highway 41. North 30th is a busy street, but as soon as you get away from the parking area, the sound of cars whizzing by is quickly replaced by the quiet of the woods.

My Experience at the Escanaba Pathway (Skiing the “Mini Loop”)

My stepson wanted to try cross-country skiing, and I wanted to pick it back up. So, we rented some skis and ventured out to the Escanaba Pathway. Being that it was his first time cross country skiing and my first time out in well over a decade, I wanted to pick an easily accessible trail with a short loop. The trail we picked turned out to be perfect.

escanaba pathway cross country ski trail1We skied the “mini loop” that’s part of the official “loop # 1.” The mini loop is mostly flat, though it does have a couple easy uphill climbs and, subsequently, fun little downhill runs. I don’t think this loop could have been more perfect for our first time out. It was easy, scenic and fun.

The day we were out on the trail the temperature was a few degrees below zero and the wind chill brought it down to negative twenty. We were dressed for the cold, but the sheltered nature of the Escanaba Pathway trails was a really nice surprise. At least on the mini loop, we were only exposed to the wind once or twice, and even then for just a few seconds. It ended up being really comfortable in spite of the chilly temps.

And though the trails were good for us beginners, I can see how they’d be great for someone of a higher skill level as well. With almost seven miles of trails to ski, I’m sure those with more experience (and better form) would really enjoy it.

Trail Conditions

escanaba pathway cross country ski trail2The Escanaba Pathway trails were groomed beautifully. The “two track” ruts were packed down and clear of obstructions the whole way and there was no “tampering” with the tracks. That is to say that anyone who was walking or snowshoeing on the trails did so well away from the groomed area. I look forward to hitting the Escanaba Pathway trails again soon to ski the rest of the loops!

How to get there:

Turn onto North 30th street from US 41 (you’ll be heading north) and drive .35 miles. Turn left into the small parking area. A green sign that reads “City of Escanaba Recreational Non-Motorized Vehicle Pathway” marks the spot.

– Written by Jesse Land of Things to do in the U.P. for the Bays de Noc Visitor’s Bureau.

Snow Tubing at the Gladstone Tubing Hill (Gladstone Sports Park)

gladstone sports park gladstone michigan4The Gladstone Sports Park (sometimes called the Gladstone Ski Hill) is a great place for family fun in the winter. With three snow tubing runs, a terrain park, a bunny hill and more, there’s plenty here to keep a family busy for a whole day. In this blog post we’ll focus on snow tubing.

The Basics

The hill boasts three snow tubing runs, with a rope tow to get you back to the top. There’s a warming shack at the top of the tubing runs, where a campfire is often blazing. And there’s also a ski chalet concession building where you can have a snack, lunch, or warm up with a cup of hot chocolate.

The Details

gladstone sports park gladstone michigan5Upon arriving at the Gladstone Sports Park, park in the main parking area in front of the ski chalet, walk inside, and purchase your tubing tickets at the left side of the concession counter. (The right side is where they sell concessions.)

As of this writing, ticket prices ranged from $5.00 per day for preschool aged kids to $14.00 for adults for a full day pass. Half-day tubing passes are $8.00 per person.

The parking area for the tubing hill is separate from the main parking area. So once you’ve got your passes, hop back in your vehicle and drive around the bunny hill (to the right) and you’ll see a sign for the tubing area after just a few hundred feet. Turn there and park.

The Tubes

If you’ve never been snow tubing, here’s how it works. The snow tube is a standard rubber tire tube that’s surrounded by mesh sleeve. Attached to the mesh sleeve is a short rope with a rubber loop on the end made for hanging on to the rope tow paddle.

gladstone sports park gladstone michigan1Once you’ve slid down the hill (and hopefully without incident!), you’ll walk to the rope tow and an attendant will help you loop your rubber loop onto one of the rope tow paddles. (The paddles have small notches cut out to help keep the rubber loops in place as you’re pulled up the hill.)

After you’ve watched the process a few times, feel free to try to get the your loop on the paddle by yourself. It takes a little coordination but it’s not very difficult once you get the hang of it.

Tips

There are plenty of tubes available, so even on a busy day you should have quite a few to choose from. However, as you might expect the hill is less busy earlier in the day, which means shorter lines (or no lines) at the rope tow. During peak times on a busy day you may need to wait in line a few minutes for the rope tow.

There are a few family friendly restaurants (like Main St. Pizza) only a short distance away in Gladstone. If you want to break up your day of tubing with a sit down lunch you won’t have trouble finding a spot.

Other Things to Note

The view from the top of the hill is just beautiful. From the top of the Gladstone Sports Park you can see down the tree lined Gladstone bluff and out into little Bay de Noc.
The hill is also available for private tubing parties for an hourly rate based on the number of people you’ll have tubing.

How to Get There

The Gladstone Sports Park is located off M-35 on North Bluff Drive, close to downtown Gladstone and just minutes away from Escanaba.

From Escanaba, turn left on to M-35 in Gladstone (at the light), merge into the right lane and then drive about .8 miles, “up the hill.” You’ll see a sign that says “Sports Park” on the right. Turn right onto “Bluff Drive / Minnewasca Q Drive” shortly after that. The Ski Chalet will be on your right a few hundred feet after that turn.

Address: 900 Bluff Drive Gladstone, MI 49837

Phone: (906) 428-9130

Website: http://www.gladstonemi.org/SkiPark