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Winter is alive with camping and recreation at Michigan State Parks

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New Years, 2014, it is time for resolutions and for myself and everyone else that loves nature, near the top of the list should be getting outdoors more.

Sure, it is cold, there is snow on the ground and for me, it could not be better. There is plenty to do at Michigan State Parks, from cross-country skiing and snowshoeing to winter nature walks and camping. Yes for those of us that love to be out in the cold, the state parks cannot be beat for camping on the snow.

If you are a winter camper like I am, there is a state park somewhere near you or where you want to go that is open. The easiest way to find a park, is to go to the new online reservation system for the state parks. If you have not used the new site, take the time to check it out because the amount of information offered and ease of navigation is light years ahead of the old site.

To find a park in an area you would like to head to, there are a variety of way to do this. You can search by the date you would like a campsite for or by looking over a map or list of all the parks in the state that are open. When it comes to winter camping, you must enter a date that you are planning on heading out, if not the system will assume it is summer and indicate that all parks are open.

Once you have entered a date, you can select the park either by looking at a map of the state showing the location of each open park or by going over a list of the parks. If you know which parks you would like to consider, then look over the list and sort by those that have the dates available. In the case of winter camping, there are 14 spread across the state. If you are unsure of where you would like to go, then take a look at the map of the state, which will indicate which parks are open for the dates you have specified.

Campsites range from those for tents or campers with electrical hookup to mini-cabins, log cabins and even yurts.

When I head out in the winter, if I want to really have a relaxing time, I grab the big tent and head to a campsite with electric service. This way the modern wonders called space heaters keep me warm. I have done this many times as a way to escape, do a bit of writing and at the same time be in the outdoors.

With electric service I can power my laptop computer, charge my phone and have about the most natural setting in the world for my temporary work room. When I get tired of writing all I have to do is head out the tent door to go cross country skiing or snowshoeing.

Depending upon what services are available at the parks, rates for campsites range from $18 to $26 per night and accommodations like the mini-cabins like at North Higgins Lake State Park are $35. There are also rustic cabins at some parks available, but you need to check each of the open parks by selecting "lodging" in the reservation type to see what is available. There is a complete list of which state parks are open in the winter, but it does not show what accommodations are available.

One of my favorite locations is Rifle River Recreation Area. Not only do they have campsites with electrical service, but they also have heated showers and restrooms. They do this by installing a temporary and insulated wall with a door at the comfort building in the campground. When I have been there was really nice to be able to walk into a warm building and take a hot shower, all without leaving the park.

For someone like me that backcountry camps in the winter, this is about as luxurious as it gets when sleeping in a tent.

There are options galore at the Michigan State Parks for camping in the winter, so spend a little time to check out the website and find out if there is a park you are interested in heading to while the snow is on the ground.

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