When the whistle blows at the end of the day, it isn't difficult to think of dozens of things we could do to get out there and enjoy the Upper Peninsula's great outdoors. Kayaking. Biking. Hiking, camping, fishing, geocaching, birding Yes, the list-making is the easy part. The challenge comes in narrowing that list down and choosing which adventure to tackle next.
Complicating the matter: Many outdoor pursuits require the accumulation of at least some technical knowledge along with the necessary gear which in most cases translates into a commitment of time and money, neither of which grow on trees.
To make the process of deciding which outdoor activity to try next a little less intimidating and a whole lot cheaper, Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation staff have developed a full program of free Recreation 101 classes designed to introduce beginners to a multitude of outdoor recreation activities without the requisite commitment that may have previously discouraged newcomers.
In the program's second year, more than 400 Recreation 101 classes will be held at state parks and recreation areas across Michigan. The hands-on classes - ranging across the board from archery to ziplining - are taught by parks and recreation staff or volunteer expert instructors, while equipment is provided through partnerships with sporting goods retailers.
The goal of the classes is for participants to get enough knowledge and experience under their belts that they can then a) feel comfortable trying the activity again on their own and b) decide whether they want to invest money in buying or renting their own equipment.
The entire list and schedule of Recreation 101 classes offered in Michigan can be found on the DNR's website at michigan.gov/stateparks. The following schedule of events in the western U.P. during July will help you get started:
Fort Wilkins Historic State Park
Orienteering, Friday, July 6
Baraga State Park:
Kayaking, Saturday, July 14
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
Archery: Tuesdays in July
Geocaching: Tuesdays in July
Agate Hunting: Wednesdays in July
Outdoor Cooking: Thursdays in July
Recreation 101 classes are available to all park visitors; the only cost involved is the annual $10 Recreation Passport needed to enter state parks and recreation areas, state boat launches and state forest campgrounds. The Recreation Passport is available at the Secretary of State office when renewing your vehicle registration or at state park entrance gates (for details, visit michigan.gov/recreationpassport).
And here's a hint for those of you not sure, for whatever reason, that you want to get a Recreation Passport: Take advantage of the Park and Read program offered through your local library. Through Park and Read, library card holders can check out a one-day state parks pass at participating libraries, allowing free entrance into any of Michigan's 102 state parks or recreation areas within seven days of checking the pass out.
By combining the Recreation 101 and Park and Read programs, you could end up learning a new outdoor activity, with access to top-notch guides and equipment, without spending a dime. For the commitment-phobes among us, it doesn't get much better than that. So go ahead, start making that list of things to do once the clock strikes 5. We'll take care of the rest.
Debbie Munson Badini is the DNR's Deputy Public Information Officer. Contact her at 906-226-1352, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @michiganDNR_UP.