GARDEN - Despite the steady rain and mild temperatures last weekend, a popular winter event is still on in Delta County.
The annual Lantern Lit Cross Country Ski Hike/Snowshoe event will be held from 6-8 p.m. Saturday at Fayette State Park near Garden.
"The good news is the hike is still on," said park supervisor Randy Brown. "But we lost most of our snow from the soggy weather (last weekend), and there are a lot of bare spots on the cross country ski trails. As far as skiing goes, bring your skis, but bring your boots too in case the trails are not passable."
The park offers cross-country skiing on trails lit by old fashioned kerosene lanterns. Brown encourages people of all ages to come out and navigate their way down the trail, either by ski or snowshoe.
"I wish we had a foot of snow on the ground for Saturday," Brown said. "But the lanterns will still be glowing, we'll build a roaring fire and there will be hot chocolate and marshmallows too."
What is unique about Fayette State Park compared to other state parks in Michigan is two side-by-side paths groomed down the trail.
"The right hand side of the trail is for the classic skier," Brown explained. "The left side of the trail, as you go into the woods, is groomed flat for snowshoers and hikers. This way, we can allow people who just want to walk to take part by using the snowshoe side of the trail. It's easier for the snowshoer if there is more snow and tougher for the hiker."
The snowshoe trail has become so popular it is maintained all winter long, not just for the lantern-lit event. Brown says a new half-mile segment opened this winter, "because we anticipated beautiful, snowy weather."
Over 150 people attended the lantern-lit event last winter and while Brown would love to see that number show up again Saturday, he realizes that might be a pipe dream.
"That's our goal, but with the weather and trail conditions we have, realistically, that number will likely be down from last year," said Brown.
Other state parks in the area offering lantern-lit or candlelight skiing events include Indian Lake State Park in Schoolcraft County Feb. 13, and Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in Ontonagon County every Saturday through February. Each park's contact information can be found by visiting the Department of Natural Resources website at www.michigan.gov/dnr-recreationcamping.
Fayette State Park is located about eight miles south of Garden on M-183. Saturday's lantern-lit event is free, but a state park motor vehicle permit (available at the park or any Michigan State Park) is required.
Cost for the permit is $6 a day for a Michigan resident and $8 for out of state residents.
The annual state park sticker costs $24 for Michigan residents ($29 out of state) and is good for any Michigan State Park.
Despite less than ideal skiing conditions, Brown remains optimistic as far as Saturday and how many people will attend are concerned.
"It's still winter," he said. "We'll light the lanterns and we want the event to be a success for whomever shows up."