It's been a tough winter for those who like the white stuff.
Warm weather, little snow that usually melted quickly, and no ice for fishing past a skim or two. It might get better and it might not, but if you're twitching to enjoy cold weather sports, I know where you can find them. Just head north, though not right this minute. Michigan has had a warm winter too, and when I checked one of my favorite spots, Houghton Lake, they reported no snow and no ice. But Michigan is Michigan and any day now they could get a heavy blanket or two, this long before we get even a few flakes. Then the fun will begin.
Where will you go? Cadillac is usually a good choice, a city that likes to call itself the "Snowmobile Capital of Michigan," (a title others also claim), but it does work unusually hard to accommodate snowmobilers. Check the chamber of commerce Web site there and you'll find the city is a hub with snowmobile trails branching in all directions. You can travel east or west clear to the coasts over a network of groomed trails, or head north or south as you wish. There's even a three-kilometer lighted stretch, the Red Pine Trail.
I've got to admit that snowmobiling is an exciting sport. I drive my rented machine a little more sedately up there than many, but it's still fun to roar through miles of forest and meadow, crossing lakes and small streams, flushing small herds of deer and wild turkeys, sending a coyote hurrying on its way. The air is crisp and clear, plumes of snow rise high, and there's plenty of time to stop, eat a sandwich and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate. It beats laying on the couch and watching TV.
Some folk from this area make periodic pilgrimages north, and they'll make a weekend of it or even several days, overnighting here and pressing on the next morning, having lunch in this little town and dinner in the next, and taking their kids along to share the fun. With 6,000 miles of snowmobile trails, the sky's the limit in Michigan.
If you don't own a snowmobile, and most of us don't, it's still no problem. Again, check the Web for Michigan snowmobile rentals and you'll find them from Indian River to Ludington and Atlanta to Traverse City. In fact, I'd be surprised to find any fair-sized town up there that doesn't have a dealership with a few used machines they'd be willing to rent.
What about cross country skiing? It's much the same. Just for example, Benzie County has 25 kilometers of groomed ski trails that range from beginner to advanced. Boyne Highlands has 35 kilometers, and the Porcupine Mountains has a 42-mile long system with four main trails and several shorter side trails. You can ski to exhaustion in this country and never see the same tree twice on literally hundreds of miles of trails that travel picturesque terrain. And since the skies are quiet, there are even better opportunities to see wild creatures, even including bobcats and the rare wolf.
Ice fishing is what draws me to Michigan most often in winter. I've not gone a single time down here yet, and I'm thinking hard about traveling north this winter myself. Last winter I fished Houghton Lake for several days, basing at Lyman's On The Lake, which has an apartment complex and rental shanties on West Houghton Lake Drive, and caught more than two dozen pike on golden shiners and chubs. Lots of fun.
Again, you can find literally anything you need by just checking the Web. Google in Michigan snowmobiling and you'll get plenty of information, try any fair-sized chamber of commerce and you'll find words on everything from events and festivals to rentals and accommodations, and you can do the same for skiing and fishing. If you don't own a computer, don't worry. Visit your local library and they'll have several with employees happy to show you how to use them. Remember, if the mountain won't come to Mohammed, then Mohammed must go to the mountain. And it will soon be waiting a few hundred miles north.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ohio sportsmen will see little change in next year's hunting and trapping regulations, based on proposals to the Ohio Wildlife Council by the ODNR. The proposed kick-off date for the fall hunting seasons again is Sept. 1 with the opening of squirrel, dove, Canada goose, and rail hunting. Open houses will be held March 4 in each of the state's five wildlife district offices to provide the public a chance to view and discuss proposed hunting and trapping regulations. Directions to the open houses can be obtained by calling (800) WILDLIFE.
Youths interested in learning the art of fly fishing can enter a lottery for a youth only clinic at Cold Creek near Castalia. To apply, applicants must submit a postcard listing their name, age, address, and phone number. Each applicant must be 15 years of age or younger and be accompanied by a non-fishing adult. Send cards to Division of Wildlife, District Two, 952 Lima Ave., Findlay, Ohio 45840, Attn: Youth Fly Fishing Clinic.
Ohioans with watercraft registrations due to expire March 1 are urged to visit ohiodnr.com on the Internet to renew their boat registrations. Last year a total of 9,149 watercraft registration renewals were completed through the online system which can be accessed 24 hours of each day through Sept. 30. About 130,000 renewal notices are currently being mailed to watercraft owners with registrations due to expire.