2018-01-11 / Outdoors

Leelanau a snowshoer’s delight this weekend and beyond

SNOWSHOERS TRUDGE through a powdery trail at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. 
Photo: National Park Service SNOWSHOERS TRUDGE through a powdery trail at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Photo: National Park Service When conditions are right, Leelanau County is nothing short of a gold mine for snowshoers.

Tom Ulrich is well aware.

“People come out to play in the snow,” said Ulrich, the deputy superintendent of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. “We’re lamenting the rain.”

Although Tuesday-morning forecasts called for rain and warmer weather this week, snowshoeing opportunities should still be plentiful.

In fact, starting this weekend, Sleeping Bear Dunes will add Sunday ranger-led snowshoe hikes to a program calendar that already includes regularly scheduled Saturday hikes.

“There’s a lot of interest,” said Leelanau Fee Supervisor Dennis Hauck. “We’ve had a lot of people make reservations, but the cold discourages them. Now we’ve kind of turned the corner on the cold and my phone’s been ringing steadily. I’m registering people but I still have plenty of room.”

Since hikes are free and snowshoes are loaned free of charge, registrants just need a park pass and warm clothes.

Those interested are encouraged to call 326-4700 ext. 5010 to make a reservation and meet at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center. Hauck said Sunday hikes, which start at 1 p.m., will be a “repeat” of the Saturday hikes.

Billed as “mildly strenuous,” the ranger-led hikes are easy and intended for all ages. They proceed at a leisurely pace for 1.5 miles at most.

And Hauck said he isn’t too concerned with rain in the forecast.

“If anything it should firm it up and give it a better base,” he said.

Another guided snowshoeing opportunity at 1 p.m. this coming Sunday is a Leelanau Conservancy hike in which docents Kathy Ricord and JoAnne Gerben will discuss “plant and animal survival techniques” at Chippewa Run Natural Area. Registrants are asked to rendezvous at Empire Recycling off LaCore Street.

Other Conservancy snowshoe/hikes are slated this winter at Swanson Preserve, DeYoung Natural Area, Hatlem Creek Preserve, Teichner Preserve and Kehl Lake Natural Area. Details and sign-up information is available on the Conservancy website.

Snowshoe trails can also be found along the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail, which continues to effectively pair wine with outdoor recreation.

Blustone in Lake Leelanau, for example, will offer a two-night “Torches & Tracks” snowshoeing event on Saturday and Sunday from 5 to 8 p.m. Cost is $10 per adult; kids snowshoe for free.

“It’s the first time we’re trying it,” said John Molenhouse, vineyard manager. “The idea is you can snowshoe around the vineyard here at night. We’ll have a trail that goes up the hill — it’s fairly short, three-quarters of a mile to a mile. It’s intended for the family.”

In addition to Blustone favorites, the winery will serve up hot mulled wine, hard cider and, for the kids, hot chocolate.

Snowshoe rentals will be available through Suttons Bay Bikes.

The trend of pairing winter recreation with wine is one many county wineries have cashed in on.

“Several wineries, like Black Star (Farms), will let you snowshoe through the vineyards,” said Lorri Hathaway, executive director of the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail.

Still looking for a spot to snowshoe?

Don’t forget about the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail and Leelanau Trail, which are groomed frequently. The county-operated groomer is also active at Veronica Valley Park and another will be active soon at Myles Kimmerly Park in Maple City.

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