Lantern hikes at Ludington State Park begin Saturday

December 6, 2023

Lantern hikes at Ludington State Park begin Saturday

HAMLIN TOWNSHIP — The first of six scheduled lantern lit walks this winter at Ludington State Park will take place Saturday, Dec. 9, from 6 to 8 p.m.

A holiday touch will be provided by music in the warming shelter at the beginning of the lantern lit trail. People are invited to bring canned goods to donate to a local food pantry, too.

The lantern lit walks are a cooperative venture between Ludington State Park and Friends of Ludington State Park which provides the volunteers. The walk is free as are the hot chocolate and marshmallows available for roasting at a campfire at the park amphitheater along the trail. A Recreation Pass is required for vehicles entering the park.

If snow is sufficient, snowshoes are available to borrow on a first-come, first-served basis near the Warming Shelter. Or bring your own. If there isn’t sufficient snow, the lanterns are still lit for an enjoyable night walk.

“Up until this year we have held four lantern lit events,” FLSP President Patrick O’Hare said. “Based on all the positive feedback about these events, and with the encouragement of numerous individuals, we decided to add an event in December and one in early March. This is in addition to the four we have typically held in January and February each year. “The December 9 event will have holiday music being performed in the warming shelter by local volunteers. We are hoping that individuals decide to come out and help us spread holiday cheer.”

Other scheduled 2024 lantern lit events are Jan. 6 and 20, Feb.3 and 17, and March 2.

Each walk begins at the Warming Shelter at 6 p.m. where a campfire also is burning to greet people upon arrival and their return from the approximately one-mile lantern lit loop that also passes the amphitheater. Follow the lanterns at your own pace. The lanterns are extinguished at 8 p.m.

“The primary reason we started the Lantern Lit Ski and Snowshoe Event was to get more local people outdoors in the wintertime,” Alan Wernette, Ludington State Park interpreter, said.

“We figured it would be more fun for more people if we offered them a good time when they came out to the park without them knowing that they would be getting more than fun by experiencing the winter’s beauty.”

Many participants experience snowshoeing for the fist time at the event, thanks to the loaner snowshoes and volunteers who help beginners put them on, if assistance is requested.

“Getting a free hot cocoa and to roast marshmallows always gets a big smile from participants.”

Wernette credits Ludington State Park Manager Jim Gallie for bringing the idea to Ludington from Porcupine Mountains State Park.

“We as park staff took his idea and ran with it with the help of the Friends of Ludington State Park. In fact, the Friends of Ludington State Park is the reason it has grown in popularity. They make it happen with their volunteers doing a huge amount of work it takes to set up, run, and take care of the lanterns and greeting people.”

“The lantern lit hikes provide a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy the beauty of Ludington State Park from a different perspective,” Gallie said. “Nearly 80 kerosene lanterns light the path as it winds through the forest.  The Friends of Ludington State Park makes this possible by volunteering to operate the events.  We are very thankful for their help.”

In recent years, The Great Start Collaborative of the West Shore Educational Service District (WSESD) has sponsored book walks during two of the lantern-lit events.

This winter, on Jan. 20, story boards from “Mr. Rabbit’s Wish” will be along the trail. On Feb. 17 “Star in the Jar” will be the featured book. Families with young children get a free copy of the featured book while supplies last on Book Walk nights.

For more information about FLSP events, membership, volunteer opportunities or ways to donate, visit https://friendsofludingtonstatepark.org

OTHER HIKES:

Wernette also will lead guided 90-minute nature hikes this winter at 2 p.m. on Jan. 6 and 20, and Feb, 3 and 17. He will lead a guided evening hike Jan. 27 at 6 p.m. All hikes start at the Warming Shelter. Up to 60 pairs of snowshoes, that fit ages 8 and up, are available to borrow during the hikes if there is sufficient snow.

FLSP volunteers lead guided hikes on the third Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. Meet at the Warming Shelter. Each month, a different trail is selected to hike.

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