-- The Botanical Garden of Northwest Michigan, which formed in 2000, has an option to purchase 81 acres of land tucked in growing East Bay Township near the busy intersection of Three Mile and Hammond Roads. This former farmland is situated along Vanderlip Creek and includes a medley of ecosystems from meadows and wetlands to ponds, hardwood and softwoods stands plus stunning views of Grand Traverse Bay.
Since 2004, the society has offered monthly Walkabouts the first Saturday morning of the month. These free events run from March through November and feature a different program each month. This summers schedule includes bird expert Kay Charter on July 1 and Mushroom Man Ed Rienert in August 5. Families and individuals are welcome.
Schedule and info: (231) 935-4077 or http://www.northwestmichigangarden.org/Events/
-- The Grand Traverse Conservation Districts annual Discovery Hikes series offers educational adventures for all ages. During the one- to two-hour guided events, participants explore the Grand Traverse Natural Education Reserve. Situated be-tween Cass and Keystone roads, this 420-acre stretch of county parkland along the Boardman River is conveniently located just south of Traverse City.
Kicking off June 20, the weekday morning Hikes for Kids series, geared to children ages 5-12, covers topics ranging from bugs, birds and rocks, to trees, edible foraging and ponds. Five hikes for family and adults are also scheduled during the June, July and August, including birding and lunch, a hike and canoe trip, and a nighttime expedition to learn about moths.
Schedule and info: (231) 941-9060 or http://www.gtcd.org/news.shtml and select the Discovery Hikes for 2006 option.
-- The Grand Traverse Hiking Club maintains a 90-mile section of the North Country Trail, which stretches from New York to North Dakota. Think of this multi-state trail as an Appalachian Trail-style work in progress. The clubs section runs from M-37 on the south to Starvation Lake in Antrim County on the north. Most of this section is on paths through woods but about 10 miles is still on roads. Public hikers are encouraged to explore the scenic trail and the clubs website includes links to detailed descriptions of local trail sections as well as trail notes and directions to trail heads.
More info: (231) 938-9655 or
-- The 28 nature preserves owned or managed by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy include more than 24,000 acres of land in Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Manistee counties. The organization also holds 115 conservation easements and has protected nearly 50 miles of shoreline along lakes, rivers and streams.
The conservancys website includes descriptions of and directions to eight public preserves open for self-guided hikes.
More info: (231) 929-7911 or
- The 1,165-acre Grass River Natural Area preserve in Antrim County includes a variety of habitats as well as miles of self-guided trails for hikers, bird watchers and other outdoor enthusiasts. The organizations website includes directions and a map for visitors who want to explore the land on their own.
Guided hikes, pontoon trips, classes and activities are available for all ages. The organization offers a Nature Nuts series for children ages 4-6 plus their parents or grandparents and a Nature Explorers series for children ages 7-12.
Schedule and info: (231) 533-8576 or www.grassriver.org and select the Classes and Events link.
-- The Harbor Springs Chapter of the North Country Trail maintains a segment of the seven-state North Country Trail in Emmet County, from approximately Mackinaw City to Petoskey. Hikers along this trail will pass through potions of the Pere Marquette State Forest and Wilderness State Park.
More info: http://wwwnorthcountrytrail.org/hrb/
-- The Leelanau Conservancy has ten natural areas open to the public, nine nature preserves available during guided hikes only and two critical areas off limits to the public. Leland residents Edward and Barbara Collins founded the conservancy in 1988 to protect and preserve the character of Leelanau County and its natural areas.
The organizations staff and volunteer docents have compiled a robust schedule of hikes with multiple events weekly at various locations throughout the summer. The website also includes information, maps and extensive descriptions of the ten areas open to the public for hiking.
Schedule and info: (231) 256-9665 or http://www.theconservancy.com/
-- Since 1972, the Little Traverse Conservancy based in Harbor Springs has worked to preserve and protect land parcels and scenic areas in the Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Emmet and Mackinac counties.
Hikes for adults and families are scheduled during the summer in both the Susan Creek Natural Preserve and the Wilderness State Park in Petoskey.
The conservancy website, www.landtrust.org, has maps and information about the 164 preserves the organization owns or manages for anyone interested in self-directed hikes.
The conservancys summer series Young Naturalist Trips, is for children ages 7-12 and features a program every Wednesday morning at various locations for five weeks beginning June 28. Knee-High Naturalist Trips for youngsters ages 3-6 is a four-week program held every Tuesday morning at the Thorne Swift Nature Preserve north of Harbor Springs.
Schedule and info: (231) 347-0991 or http://www.landtrust.org/FieldTrips/listofevents.htm
-- The Sierra Club Traverse Group has more than 850 members and covers the region including Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau, Manistee, Missaukee, Otsego and Wexford counties. In addition to environmental activism and advocacy, the group offers regular outings to explore regional natural highlights. Events including hikes, canoe trips and beach parties plus road and beach clean ups will be held all the summer throughout the nine-county area.
Non-members are welcome at outings; each adult will be charged a $2 fee to participate. Attendees under 18 must be accompanied by an adult and all participants are required to sign a liability waiver. Carpooling is encouraged and hikers who want to bring a dog must check with the hike leader before the event as some trails do not allow dogs. The club recommends confirming the hike before heading out.
Schedule and info: http://michigan.sierraclub.org/traverse/Getoutdoors.htm