2016-12-15 / Outdoors

Winter starts in Lakeshore with skiing, snowshoeing


THE NATIONAL LAKESHORE will once again host its popular holiday and winter snowshoe hikes. Here several visitors are about to embark on a hike with Ranger Sarah. 
Photo: National Park Service THE NATIONAL LAKESHORE will once again host its popular holiday and winter snowshoe hikes. Here several visitors are about to embark on a hike with Ranger Sarah. Photo: National Park Service With snow expected to fall in some form — heavy or light — this week, outdoor enthusiasts are gearing up for hiking and skiing in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Unfortunately for outdoor lovers, most of the snow that fell last weekend in northern Michigan blew right over the Lakeshore. As of Monday, not enough of the white stuff had fallen near Empire for the Friends of Sleeping Bear organization to break out its cross country grooming machine.

“The snow is flying right over Empire, and landing more inland,” said Gary Vanderziel, executive assistant to the superintendent at the Lakeshore. “We still have snow here, but not enough to get into our grooming mode.”

But that hasn’t deterred folks from strapping on their skis to enjoy the Sleeping Bear Dunes Heritage Trail.

“There are people out there skiing. They don’t need us to groom, but they would prefer that. Before the groomers, people just grabbed their skis and made their own trails,” Vanderziel said.

He credited the Friends of Sleeping Bear group with watching over the trail through all four seasons.

“They do such a tremendous job because we don’t have the manpower to do that type of thing. They fill a huge void,” Vanderziel said.

Also this season, the Friends group has agreed to groom cross country trails in the Palmer Woods Forest Preserve, which was recently opened to the public by the Leelanau Conservancy.

Looking for more winter fun? The Lakeshore also offers ranger-led holiday snowshoe hikes — or winter hikes if snow clouds continue letting loose more inland.

Hikes will start at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 28, and Saturday, Dec. 31. Hikers should meet at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire.

Snowshoe hikes will continue on Jan. 7, and continue on Saturdays through March 11.

Snowshoes will be loaned at no charge to those who need them. Participants will need a park entrance pass or an annual pass.

All ages are welcome. Rangers will provide basic snowshoeing instructions and then everyone will travel by car to a trailhead or area of the Lakeshore selected for that day’s hike.

The ranger will talk about the park’s unique features and winter’s effect on them. The hikes are mildly strenuous, but proceed at a leisurely pace for about 1 1/2 miles. Plan to be outside until about 3 p.m. Dress in layers and wear waterproof boots.

Reservations are required; call 326- 4700, ext. 5010. If you need to cancel a reservation, please call the Lakeshore so those on a waiting list can be contacted.

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