If you are an outdoor enthusiast like me, July tends to be the time of year in Michigan that camping fever sets in. Most summers I have plans in place to go camping and hiking at least a few times before fall – but this year was different. With the chaos and confusion surrounding the quarantine, I did not even know how to start planning a camping trip. Luckily, with the 18 parks in Portage I was able to find some great day hiking spots to satisfy that nature itch.
BISHOP’S BOG PRESERVE
One of my favorite spots is the Bishop’s Bog Preserve and depending on how much hiking I plan on doing, I park at either the Eliason or Schrier Park entrance. With Schrier Park, I have the option to hike a trail connecting to the South Westnedge Park, and at Eliason, I have a more naturesque route. With 140 acres of ancient preserve, Bishop’s Bog is the largest remaining “relict bog” in southern Michigan with several rare plant species, like the Orange Fringed Orchid and the Stemless Pink Ladyslipper. This is a great place to escape that city feel and one of the many reasons I enjoy traipsing the trails here.
SOUTH WESTNEDGE PARK
South Westnedge Park is home to the region’s softball complex, with multiple fields and leagues playing throughout the summer. This area also has a large dog park, a “street plaza” style skatepark, and an inline skate hockey rink for the community. With a trail leading to Bishop’s Bog and the West Lake Nature Preserve across the road, this is an ideal location to unwind and have some fun. Did I mention the local Dairy Queen is nearby as well?
On those hot days when I just do not feel like doing much, I love hitting up Ramona Park. With its newly expanded beach, concession stand, and lake activity rentals; it is the perfect spot to relax! Sometimes, I join a game of volleyball or sign up for a few tennis games in their recreational league. During the summer they also host beach bonfires, swimming and fishing lessons, and movie nights that I like to attend.
The place I visit the most is Bicentennial Park. With over 200 acres and eight miles of hiking trails, it allows me to see the most of Portage. On the trail to the library, I always make a stop at the historic Celery Flats to check out their buildings from the 1800s. My favorite being the Manor House, many ghostbusting crews have come to visit that haunted place, but none have survived… Just kidding! Though, there are claims that things move on their own – take a tour to find out.
The Portage Parks & Rec Department hosts a multitude of programs and events during the year, ESPECIALLY DURING THE SUMMER. We all want to enjoy our summer while staying safe, so I hope I provided you with some fun and easy ways to get outside! Check the Portage events page on social-media or their website for the dates and times of upcoming events.
Hannah Reuter graduated from Western Michigan University in 2015 with a bachelor degree in Economics and currently resides in Portage, MI. In her free time she enjoys strumming the guitar and painting. She is the author of two YA books under the pseudonym, H.B. Catherine. You can find information on her books and writing at hbcatherinewriting.com.