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The Tawas Bay Area - A great outdoor getaway for all four seasons
Mon, 27 Mar 2017 07:34:54 EDT
click on the picture to enlarge
Outdoor writer Dave Mull on the look out for a rabbit on a hunt in the
Huron-Manistee National Forest during a MOWA meeting in Tawas Bay.
The Tawas Bay Area - A great outdoor getaway for all four seasons
By Tom Lounsbury
The Tawas Bay area has a lot going for it in regards to being a great outdoor getaway for all four seasons. Its Lake Huron shoreline offers an outstanding beach and Tawas Bay itself offers a uniquely unfettered and secluded setting. It also offers versatile fishing opportunities (including on inland lakes) as well as access to expansive acres of forested public lands (with miles of hiking trails - not to mention a 12 mile long bike path along the shoreline), and it isnít that far from the mouth of the Au Sable River. A convenient key for me is that it doesnít take long at all to get to Tawas Bay from my Thumb area residence.
Needless to say I was delighted when the Michigan Outdoor Writers Association (MOWA) decided to have our Winter Rendezvous in East Tawas recently, and needless to say there was an amazing variety of outdoor activities for writers to select from. There was fishing for various species from blue gills on an inland lake to steelhead on the Au Sable River, and Tawas Bay itself offered ice fishing for perch, walleye and lake trout and despite the unbelievable balmy February weather, the Tawas Bayís ice was still a foot thick (and with ice shanties still in operation). There was also rabbit and predator hunting, and bird watching and hiking. Originally there had been cross country skiing/snowshoeing offerings, but the unusual and ongoing sixty degree mid-February weather was putting a kibosh to that activity with fast melting snow.
Putting everything together for a gaggle of outdoor writers featuring multiple interests was Heidi Zanner-Dewald of the Tawas Bay Tourist and Convention Bureau (www.tawasbay.com ) and she did a fantastic job. Our meeting took place at the Tawas Bay Beach Resort (1-800-336-8601) which provided great accommodations. The first night found us meeting a whole bunch of local folks who made a great turnout and were clearly very proud of their area. The first thing I noticed in the banquet room was a full-sized, genuine Mackinaw boat, and being a bit of a Michigan History fan, I homed right in to check it out.
The Mackinaw boat actually owes its ancestry to the freighter canoe used during the fur trade. Something was needed to travel the upper Great Lakes that could use a sail for faster transportation, carry a big load and remain seaworthy in rough waters. Double ended like a canoe, it featured a retractable centerboard that could be deployed for sailing, as well as it could be rowed in the shallows and was durable enough to be slid up onto and launched from a beach, if need be. It proved vital to the fur trade and got its name from being a popular and dependable watercraft around the Straits of Mackinac (and Lake Superior as well).
When the fur trade began to ebb in the 1830ís, the Mackinaw boat was used by commercial fisherman who needed to get their fresh catch quickly to fish stations for brining (there was no refrigeration in those days). It would remain an essential watercraft for this into the early 20th Century until it was replaced by motorized watercraft. A lot of the original settlers (many of Irish descent) on Mackinac Island and Beaver Island were commercial fishermen who depended upon Mackinaw boats for their livelihood.
The Tawas group promoting and building these historical boats is Heritage Coast Sailing and Rowing (www.heritage-23.org or call 989-460-2642 or email firstname.lastname@example.org). This year they will feature Heritage Coast Sail Days from May 21 to June 21, with a Mackinaw Boat Symposium on June 9. This group has certainly perked my interest because I have long wanted to take a ride in a Mackinaw boat.
Our first guest speaker that night was Micah Jordan, Lead Park Ranger for Tawas Point State Park. Michiganís State Parks are self sustaining through camping fees and the ($11) Recreation Passport that can be purchased whenever you license a vehicle, and do not require taxpayer dollars. Tawas Point State Park features a beautiful beach, campsites and cabins, a historical lighthouse and the point itself features unique winds that attract kite-boarders (a fast growing sport which features a surf board and a flying kite for power - itís amazing the feats that can be performed) from all over the world. Tawas Point is known as the Cape Cod of the Great Lakes and its beach is the summer home of the migratory Piping plover. Micah Jordan explained how it can be a juggling act in protecting a nesting endangered bird species on a public beach. It was also explained how all the boat docks are being renovated.
The second guest speaker was District Ranger Tony Martoglio of the U.S. Forest Service in charge of the 122,000 acres of the Huron-Manistee National Forest. Managing the forest which includes logging, controlling forest fires and promoting access to the resource by multi-users is all a part of this. Also included in this is the jack pine areas managed for the endangered Kirklandís warbler which is making a comeback. Continual prescribed or controlled burns and clear-cutting of jack pines is required to maintain this birdís unique habitat.
Ranger Martoglio also gave a great description of the River Road National Scenic Byway that is a 22 mile road which follows the beautiful and historic Au Sable River and features scenic overlooks and a network of riverside boardwalks.
Tawas Bay happens to be a major bird path for migratory birds, and avid bird watchers are a major part of the scene. Actually Iím an avid bird watcher myself (and so is my wife Ginny) and this is something that Iím interested in checking out as well. There will be the Tawas Point Birding Festival being held May 18-24 (www.tawasbirdfest.com ) and there is an amazing amount of migratory birds passing through the area (and some staying for the summer) during this timeframe. Besides a Piping plover, Iím hoping to also see a Kirklandís warbler to add to my list of birds Iíve both seen and identified.
Heidi Zanner-Dewald pulled out the all stops in regards to activities for the MOWA group, including for spouses. Ginny is pretty self sufficient in regards to finding something to do while Iím off on ďhook and bulletĒ adventures at these meetings. She is quite happy with sight-seeing and of course in helping the local economies out with shopping (Iíve discovered she can find a place to shop even in a remote Indian village in the Panama jungle, accessed only by dugout canoe). Ginny, along with other MOWA spouses, thoroughly enjoyed what was planned for them that day.
There was a tour of the Iosco County Historical Museum, a visit to the Tawas Point Lighthouse and beach, and then a quaint lunch at ďMiss Susannaís Tea ParlorĒ (989-362-2025) where a variety of teas are brewed the proper English way, as well as a wide selection of delicacies to dine on (Ginny is definitely returning for more of this). This was followed by shopping downtown in East Tawas, of course.
My typical selection for a winter outdoor activity was rabbit hunting (in this area it can entail cottontails or snowshoe hares - a diversity I appreciate), something I normally do at a MOWA Winter Rendezvous. As a result Iíve sampled rabbit (and hare) hunting opportunities all over our great state, including the Upper Peninsula. This day found us following our rabbit hunting guide in our vehicles down running-board deep muddy-water trails, thanks to fast melting snows in the balmy temperature, and that in itself was a great adventure. The Huron-Manistee National Forest offers ample rabbit hunting opportunities and I plan on returning for more of it (as well as Iíd like to give predator hunting a whirl - I saw plenty of coyote sign).
Saturday night found us dining at Northwoodís Steak House. When an eateryís dťcor features whitetail buck mounts, full-sized mounted black bears, fish and waterfowl mounts, and great outdoor artwork on the walls, not to mention a great steak cooked just right, it is my kind of place.
I heard no complaints at all from my fellow MOWA members, and in fact all I heard were compliments about our Tawas Bay experience. I canít speak for them, but I know for a fact that Iím coming back for more, much more.