April doesn’t have to be “the cruellest month.” Just get outside!

Hoary Puccoon, one of my Favorite Beach Wildflowers at Sleepuing Bear Dunes. (OK, I REALLY love the name...)fa
Hoary Puccoon, one of my favorite spring beach wildflowers at Sleeping Bear Dunes.
(It’s intensely bright, but I REALLY love that name…)

By MIKE NORTON

Here in Traverse City, we have a whole collection of sayings with which we console ourselves when the winters start to feel unbearable. They range from the self-congratulatory (“Think how crowded this place would be if we didn’t have winter to clear out the wussies every so often.”) to the dubious (“A long cold winter means a long, warm summer.”) and the ludicrous (“Well, at least it’s a DRY cold…)

Until this week, I’d been starting to wonder if we shouldn’t save up a few of those aphorisms for spring. (It was T.S. Eliot, after all, who called April the cruellest month, “breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing  memory and desire, stirring  dull roots with spring rain…”) Sheesh, I thought, here we don’t even get lilacs for another month. But then I was out in the yard and saw the little gold and purple heads of snow crocuses peeking out from the lawn.

There’ve been crocuses blooming in town for weeks, I know, but our yard is almost the last place in the region to thaw out. When I saw those little guys, I knew that the end was in sight. Amazing what a couple of little flowers can do to lift the spirits…. And I remember what it was like living in parts of the country where there really isn’t much difference from one season to the next. Yeah, it was nice for a while. And then it got really boring.

Spring never comes early enough and autumn always leaves too soon. We know this, right? But somehow we have to adjust to this reality every year, as if we’re doing it for the first time.

So, if you REALLY want to get into the swing of things, consider taking a jaunt over to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore this month for one of their “Saturdays at the Lakeshore” ranger programs. Every Saturday at 1 p.m., you can meet up with a park ranger at the Visitor Center in Empire for a guided walk focusing on some spring topic.  The hikes are usually about an hour long, and if you’ve got kids it’s a great way to get them outdoors

This past weekend, the program was about the many myths and legends about Sleeping Bear. Next Saturday’s is called “Spring Love Is in the Air,” and they say the topic will be “flora and fauna fondness.” (Hmm…) On April 16, the emphasis will be on health – a 2.8 mile jaunt along the Sleeping Bear Point Trail (my personal favorite) to get those joints and muscles ready for the summer. (It’s also the kick-off event for National Park Week, when the Park Service waives all entrance fees at Sleeping Bear and other national parks around the country!)

On April 23, it’s National Junior Ranger Day, which is a big deal at Sleeping Bear. I remember very fondly all the badges and patches our youngsters earned whenever we stayed at national parks around the country. And here they’ll be opening things up to “kids of all ages” with exploration programs at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and an official junior ranger ceremony at 3 p.m. Finally, on April 30, they’re doing a ranger program called “What’s Lurking In The Trees?” about the invisible pests and diseases that are threatening American forests.

Reservations are not required, but are suggested if you want to bring a group.  You can call 231-326-5134 ext. 328 for details, or visit www.nps.gov/slbe

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About mikelovestc

These days, I’m the media relations guy for the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau, but before that I spent 25 years as a reporter and columnist at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, a job that frequently took me out into the most remote backroads, forests, beaches and islands of the beautiful Grand Traverse Region. My strategy was pretty simple — just drive, paddle, ski or walk until you’re certain you’re lost, and then find somebody to talk to. It was a great job! I never intended to live in Traverse City. I grew up in Grand Rapids, spent four years in the Coast Guard in places like Miami Beach, Monterey and San Francisco, and when I finally graduated from college I took a summer job at the Miami Herald. To my surprise, I discovered I didn’t like the tropics nearly as much as I thought I would — and when the Record-Eagle offered me a job I took it, figuring I’d put in a year or two and head off to someplace like Seattle or Portland. What I discovered very quickly is that this place gets to you in a variety of unexpected ways. The beaches here are as lovely as anyplace else I’ve ever been, the weather is mild all year round — warm enough for swimming in September and cold enough for skiing in December — and just about the time you’re getting tired of one season you get another one every bit as pleasant. The people are laid-back and friendly, the music and arts scene is awesome, and the place still hasn’t gotten so sophisticated that a guy like me feels out of place.
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