Make your walk in Northern Michigan more fun, interesting and comfortable with these ideas from experienced outdoor educator Molly Ames Baker, of Harbor Springs, Michigan.

Walking Games for Families

Shape Walk: Search for shapes in nature—find circles, squares, stars, etc.

Numbers Walk: Find a specific number of objects (1 tree, 2 rocks, 3 clouds)

Alphabet Walk: Letters are hiding on the ground, in trees, and the sky. Start by looking for the letters in your first name. Then try the rest of the alphabet. Carry a camera or sketchbook and take your letters home as photos or drawings.

Penny Walk: Bring a penny along. How many things can you find that fit on it?

Bigger/Smaller Walk: look alternately for something bigger, then something smaller as you walk. Or try finding things shorter, taller.

Onion Walk: rub an onion on leaves and trees at nose level. Have a friend see if they can smell the trail left behind.

Name It Walk: Pretend you’re an explorer naming all the natural things you find based on what they look like or what they remind you of (e.g., trillium is popcorn plant, yellow birch is banana tree because of its peely bark).

Inventions Walk: As you walk along, pick up objects and think of how many different ways they could be used (e.g., a leaf could be a plate, washcloth or boat).


Summer Weeds

Be on the lookout for these non-native, invasive “weeds” that were once revered for their many uses. Check out Wildflowers of Michigan by Stan Tekiela as every flower description includes “Stan’s Notes,” full of fun facts and folklore.

Plantain: Known as “Whiteman’s Foot” since the seeds were brought over to America by the colonists. Used as a cure-all to treat everything from ulcers to fevers but mostly for skin ailments by putting crushed leaves on stings, cuts, bites, sores and rashes.

Dandelion: Its jagged leaves look like lion’s teeth (from the term “dents de lion” in French) can be eaten in salads. Rich in vitamins A and C, the leaves are a powerful diuretic and were used to treat skin irritations like eczema and acne.

Goldenrod: Its Latin name means to strengthen, as it was used to heal wounds. Often mistaken for ragweed as the cause of hay fever. Stems often become the home for the larvae of wasps and flies creating a large ball known as a gall.

Garlic Mustard: Grown in European gardens so the leaves could be harvested for salads. Its tiny black seeds can be used as a pepper substitute.

Walk With a Group

Contact these organizations for a summer schedule of group hikes and outings in Northern Michigan open to the public:

Grand Traverse Hiking Club,

Grand Traverse Audubon Club,

Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy,

Petoskey Regional Audubon Society,

Little Traverse Conservancy,

North Country Trail Association,

10 Essentials to Pack

If you’re venturing out on a longer hike, be prepared for the unexpected by bringing these essential items plus the knowledge to use them:

  1. Water and purification
  2. Extra food
  3. Extra clothing
  4. First aid kit
  5. Fire starter
  6. Flashlight or headlamp
  7. Map and compass
  8. Knife
  9. Whistle
  10. Sunglasses and sunscreen

And of course, don’t forget duct tape, the ultimate multi-purpose item. Wrap some around your water bottle or hiking pole/s.

And carry this thought …

Why is it so difficult to make a habit of something so simple as opening the door and going for a walk? As author Paul Swatek pointed out in A User’s Guide to the Environment, “Walking is the most natural form of locomotion. It’s been in use since before the discovery of fire and the invention of the wheel.” It’s invigorating. It’s reliable. And it’s free. Yet, I can find a lot of excuses to not walk.

Happy walking!—Molly