Maia Turek, a.k.a. the Michigan state parks guru, is back on the Michigan Runner Girl Show, this time to talk about ways we can enjoy our 103 state parks all winter long. From lantern-lit snowshoe excursions and “owl prowls,” to DIY events like make your own snowshoes and special hiking and cross country skiing opportunities at cool spots (even a lighthouse!), there are lots of ways to explore outdoors, embrace the snow and cold, and feel strong and happy throughout the season. Indoor events throughout Michigan also are mentioned. {To listen to this episode, click on the player at the top of this post}

Maia, who is the statewide recreation programmer for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, also shares news of awesome merchandise partnerships the DNR now has with two Michigan-based companies (and what that means for state park visitors like us). Heather and Maia also talk about the #OptOutside movement this coming Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. For a second year, Michigan State Parks are following the lead of outdoor company REI in embracing this hashtag—and they’re encouraging us to do the same. This Friday, Nov. 24, choose to #OptOutside with free admission to all Michigan State Parks.

Here’s more about #OptOutside:

Residents and visitors are encouraged to put away leftovers and #OptOutside as part of their day-after-Thanksgiving traditions. To encourage folks to tap into Michigan’s great outdoors and gather with friends and family, on Friday, Nov. 24, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources will waive the regular Recreation Passport entry fee that enables vehicle access to Michigan state parks, trails and boating access sites.

Exploring some of Michigan’s best outdoor destinations is a great way to recover from holiday shopping excursions, burn off some of those Thanksgiving calories and enjoy the many benefits of nature.

“In Michigan, you’re never more than a half-hour away from a state park, recreation area, state forest campground or state trail,” said Ron Olson, DNR Parks and Recreation Division chief. “#OptOutside is an invitation to residents and those traveling to spend time outside during the holiday weekend and help continue or build new Thanksgiving traditions. The DNR hopes the free entry opportunity will encourage residents and visitors to explore new places and experience the outdoors’ many physical, mental and social benefits.”

There are plenty of ideas to incorporate into popular day-after-Thanksgiving traditions, including opportunities to:

  • Find a new mile to hike or run on one of more than 12,500 miles of state-designated trails.
  • Cast a line in a state park and put fishing on your Friday festivities menu.
  • Try mountain biking.
  • Jump on the Iron Belle Trail – the longest designated state trail in the nation – and crisscross more than half of Michigan’s counties along both hiking and biking routes.
  • Find a new hunting spot by exploring one of Michigan’s vast recreation areas.
  • Enjoy the peace and quiet of camping in the off-season.
  • Download a geocaching app and take part in an outdoor treasure hunting game that utilizes GPS-enabled devices.
  • Seek out historical markers and learn a little bit more about Michigan’s backstory.
  • Make a bird-watching scavenger hunt for kids and start a list of the birds you spot.

“The holidays can get hectic with added obligations, no matter how happy or anticipated they may be,” said Olson. “Our #OptOutside promotion is an opportunity for folks to take a deep breath of fresh air, share an experience with your favorite people and make some great holiday memories.”

Although the Recreation Passport vehicle entry fee into 103 Michigan state parks, 138 state forest campgrounds and parking for hundreds of miles of trails and fee-based boat launches is waived Nov. 24, camping and other permit and license fees still apply.

Interested in learning more about things to do and places to visit? Visit the DNR website at michigan.gov/dnr to learn more about fishing, hunting, forest land, state parks and much more. To search for a list of Michigan state parks, rustic state forest campgrounds, state-designated trails and associated activities and amenities, visit www.michigan.gov/recsearch. Interested in the Recreation Passport and how it helps Michigan state parks, trails and waterways? Visit www.michigan.gov/RecreationPassport.

The #OptOutside movement was started by outdoor recreation cooperative REI Inc. in 2015 to encourage people to spend time outdoors on Black Friday. For the third year in a row, the Michigan DNR has encouraged people to utilize the outdoors as part of their Thanksgiving weekend celebrations.


The Michigan Runner Girl Show is made possible in part by the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa

 If you enjoy what you’re hearing on the Michigan Runner Girl show, we’d be so grateful if you’d take a few moments to write a review on iTunes. This will help more runners and Michigan lovers like yourself find the podcasts. Thank you!! Also, the quickest way to get the podcasts is to subscribe to the show via iTunes or via Stitcher or your favorite podcast app. 

A special thanks to Mike Moran, Mike Youker and Jonny Tornga of Quarter After Productions in Traverse City, Mich. for producing the show. Check out this studio’s work here.

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