Tag: Kaitlyn Bunting

Friday Favorites – Pyramid Point

Friday Favorites is our new series where we explore some of our favorite places to play in and around the Great Lakes.

Traverse City residents might be rolling their eyes at the suggestion of Pyramid Point as one of my favorite places in the Traverse City area, but hear me out. This (not so) secret trail has been a staple during my time in northern Michigan, always one of the first places I take my friends and family who come to visit. Every time I turn off M22, I grin like a kid who finally caught the ice cream truck, so excited to show off this awesome lakeshore some of us get to call home.

A favorite place doesn’t have to be the most secret, “locals only” spot that nobody else knows about. We all have those, where we go when we want to escape the craziness of summer festivals, need a quiet stroll without boisterous families, or just want to sit and watch the water roll in and out in peace.

Pyramid Point is none of those things. It is, unless you go early or in the off season, consistently full of dogs, kids, and visitors. The 0.6 mile climb up from the parking lot is mellow enough that I have brought friends and family from all areas of my life up there. We have meandered up the path, stopped to chat with folks on the way, raced to see who could make it up first, identified wildflowers, snowshoed in the winter, and trail run laps on the longer loop before heading into Glen Arbor for pizza.

Everyone’s face lights up when they first see the endless expanse of turquoise water. “Wait how is this not the ocean??” they demand, barely taking their eyes off the water to gauge my response. I usually shrug and point out the Manitou Islands, making a joke about lake sharks. Surrounded by kids snacking, dogs gulping water, and friends posing together for the perfect instagram, we wander across the dune face and down the trail for a bit of peace (and sandwiches).

Kaitlyn Bunting, Communications Coordinator

Last summer one of my best friends came to visit from New York. The weather had been rainy and freezing, but we were tired of being cooped up so we headed out to Pyramid Point. After booking it up the trail to get warm, we sat tucked into the dune, watching the sky change from gray to an ominous black. Huge raindrops and hail quickly made us question our choice, our conversation changing from Alaskan adventures to the current weather. After devouring every granola bar and all the hot coffee we’d brought, we raced back down the trail, laughing and shrieking all the way to the car like we used to when we were kids.

Sharing these magical places with my friends and family reminds me of how lucky we are to live here.

Hopefully this series inspires you to enjoy the public land and water we have in northern Michigan, and return to old favorites or check out somewhere new!


Morning on the Manistee

5:32 AM

Bleary eyed, I rolled out of bed and slowly pulled on a tshirt, long-sleeved shirt, flannel, sweatshirt, and jacket. Tossing a bigger jacket, raincoat, and extra socks into my bag, I dragged myself to the kitchen and immediately flipped the switch on the instant kettle. Give me coffee.

“Ready Kate?” My dad was excitedly bouncing back and forth between the door and the kitchen. Outfitted and ready to go he’d been up since 3:00. “Gimme a minute,” I mumbled as my brain struggled to register his words.

We got to the Manistee just as it was getting light, though the sun wouldn’t crest the hills for a few hours. We floated down the river, anchoring just above a hole. My dad was nearly vibrating with excitement. I was shivering.

I am still learning how to fish. I am a confident caster but my hookset is subpar to say the least, the only fish I catch are the ones that literally hook themselves. The chatting and laughing in the boat is often interspersed with a loud, “Set the hook!” “That’s a fish!!” “Kate!” “What are you doing?? Stop looking at the birds!”

To be fair, we saw an incredible number of birds that day, including an osprey, a pair of great blue herons, and even some fishing Arctic terns on their way back north. But, as I was repeatedly reminded, we were out there to fish not to bird.

The team effort.

“The next one is yours.” My dad said after landing the biggest fish I had ever seen in real life. I nodded a little apprehensively, “Okay, let’s do it.” I had already caught a couple trout that I was excited about but we were steelhead fishing which meant I was graduating from trout to wilder fish.

“Kate! Get over here!” The rod was bent, line taut, with the fish way down the river. Hang on to the rod, do not lose the rod, hang on to the rod was the running commentary in my head.

I grabbed the rod, determined not to lose another fish. “Reel, let go, lower, reel, reel, let go, pull up, up, are you kidding what is that!” I leaned back and pulled as high as I could, barely lifting the line enough to net the fish.

Since moving to Michigan I have struggled to find activities to replace my previously adrenaline-fueled mountain lifestyle. Fishing with my dad has become a grounding way for me to connect with this place. Watching the mist rise off the river in the morning, celebrating when the sun finally reaches the water, and studying the fishing habits of the birds sharing space with us have allowed me to truly experience and value our public waters.

But my favorite part of fishing is the minute after releasing the fish back into the water. The huge grins and wildly waving hands that go along with the immediate retelling of how we landed the fish, how quickly it broke off, or how badly I misjudged whether I had hooked a log or a monster.

I love how the stories inevitably get exaggerated, repeated around dinner tables and over beers at the beach. The retellings allow me to go back to that exact moment we were laughing after landing one, soaked and freezing in the sleet, or getting distracted by eagles together on the river.

Spring Is Coming

Although the snow currently falling from the sky would have us believe otherwise, spring is on the way. Tuesday, March 20 is officially the spring equinox, transitioning us out of the stagnation of winter and into the movement and growth of spring. This time of year, the vernal window, brings so many opportunities for observing growth and change. Here are some classic Michigan signs of spring to get you excited for the warmer days, longer hikes, bike rides, and cherry blossoms on the way.



Spring is a time of color and growth. One of the first signs that spring is approaching is willow trees turning yellow before growing their leaves. We will soon see squat skunk cabbage popping out of the soil, with just about every color wildflower you can imagine following behind. If you live in northwest lower Michigan or the Upper Peninsula, keep a special eye out for the Michigan monkey flower, an endangered species native to Michigan. Only found in 15 locations in the world, Michigan monkey flower is extremely rare, so if you are lucky enough to find one, be sure to observe it carefully!



Spring also marks the northward migration of songbirds, waterfowl, and raptors throughout the state. Some of the first songs you will hear are the familiar American robin and the distinctive sounds of red-winged blackbirds returning to Michigan’s marshes. Listen for mallards and other kinds of waterfowl as ice on the lakes begins to melt away. As the days warm, keep your ears out for spring peepers. These small frogs live near ponds, swamps, and wetlands and have a call that would make you believe they are much larger than one inch long.



Though the traditional smell of spring is a damp, earthy scent, its earliest indicator is more often the pungent skunk. Skunks spend the winter denned in a state of torpor, a milder form of hibernation. As temperatures warm and food becomes more readily available, these stinky mammals emerge, bringing with them a very distinctive smell of spring.



For many Michiganders, one of the earliest (and favorite!) signs that we are moving out of the winter months are the ice cream shops reopening. These early cones offer the promise of warmer months to come. After the snow melts, morel and ramp hunting is a popular activity for many. These wild edibles are a delicious addition to just about any meal.



Although “mud season” doesn’t usually have a positive connotation, spring is the season to embrace the dirt. Feel the soft moss at the base of a tree. Build a mud castle with your kids. Touch a tiny, new leaf. Spring brings with it infinite possibilities to get out and experience nature.


Send us your favorite signs of spring at info@flowforwater.org or share them with us on Facebook!

Let’s Go to the Creek!

“Let’s go to the creek!”

Wide eyes and an expectant smile stared up at my dad. Growing up with a state park behind our house, I felt the creek had a mystical quality. We would explore for what felt like days, sliding down the hill, peering in the fox den, but mostly just crashing through the forest and scaring everything in a ½ mile radius. Once down at the creek, we’d clamber across the rocks that worked as a makeshift bridge, ending up various levels of soaked. We’d make it to the other side, “the wild,” and explore until I was too tired to walk and my dad would drag or carry me home on his shoulders, grinning ear to ear or dead asleep.

“Alright, lady, let’s do it.”

My relaxed grin and outstretched hand did little to calm the fears of the high school student I was guiding. Terrified of water, she was not happy about canoeing on String Lake, a shallow lake in the heart of the Tetons. I sat on the bow, feet planted on the dirt, legs gripping the hot aluminum to steady the canoe best as I could. Still hesitating, she grabbed my hand and gingerly put one foot in the air. “You got it, way to go!” She froze. I had broken her focus.

Squeezing my hand harder, she stepped down into the metal boat. One foot followed the other, and she immediately tucked into a tiny ball in the middle of the canoe. Our group cheered and slapped their paddles on the water. She sat frozen in the middle of the canoe, still clutching my left hand while I pushed us off the bank with my right. Slowly, her head peeked up from between her knees, her grip on my hand relaxed and even let go to point out a fish swimming under us. A week later, she was stomping through the water with her friends during our stream research.

Moments of stretching past comfort zones, building confidence and a new comfort zone, are dramatic to support and facilitate. They aren’t always so evident. Sometimes they look like observing a beetle instead of running away, asking a question in front of the whole group, or sitting alone in the wilderness for a few minutes. Spending so much of our life inside today, we are missing opportunities and experiences in the natural world to grow and develop. Many of us see more nature on Instagram than in person. We recognize scenes from Planet Earth, yet don’t know what kind of trees grow at the park.

The idea that our collective relationship with nature is fading is supported by a study that cites only 5 minutes of outdoor exercise as being enough to significantly lift your mood. Kids as young as eight spend over 50 hours a week on a device. In a poll of over 600 American teenagers, only 10% reported daily time outdoors. These jarring statistics all point to a loss of connection with nature, a further separation of our human environment and the natural environment from where we came.

Even if an extensive wilderness trip is not an option right now, outdoor education can be practiced by closely observing a dandelion pushing up between the sidewalk cracks, comparing differences between river rocks, or following the high tide line down the beach. Remember the feeling of running outside after school to play until the street lights came on? Of the forts built, squirrels chased, and knees scraped? Let’s make sure our kids get to experience some of that.

Kaitlyn is an outdoor educator who loves getting kids into the wild, whatever that means for them. She is most excited about helping students develop their relationship with and understanding of the natural world through place-based, experiential education. She has lived and worked in central New York, Wyoming, and currently calls Traverse City, MI home.