Welcome to March. Here are some ways to make this month sweeter, literally, as well as emerge smarter — through a hike, hunting class, outdoor sports rendezvous or a crazy bike race on dirt roads.
• Sarett sugar: Sarett Nature Center at 2300 N. Benton Center Road, Benton Harbor, will offer several classes on the maple sugar process this month.
Learn to identify maple trees as you walk through the woods and how to tap trees, collect sap and turn it into syrup at 1 pm March 5 or 2 pm March 13; cost is $8.
Take a “Maple Sugar 101” class for hands-on learning for families or small groups covering the whole syrup-making process and take home a quart of syrup per group from 1 to 4 pm March 6, 13 and 20; cost is $60.
A “Women in Nature” program at 10 am March 12 will teach the basics of making maple syrup and candy; cost is $15.
Call 269-927-4832 to register for any of these.
• Maple in the dunes: The Chellberg Farm at Indiana Dunes National Park will bustle from 10 am to 4 pm Central time on March 12 and 13 for its free Maple Sugar Time festival.
But you can drop in during those hours on March 5 just to watch volunteers making syrup in the sugar shack as the Chellberg family did in the 1930s; They’ll be working at the shack daily through the festival, too.
At the 45th annual fest, you can also learn how Native Americans and early settlers boiled sap in kettles. Kids will learn to tap a tree, meet farm animals and eat a maple syrup snow cone. You can buy Indiana maple syrup and products at the farmhouse and learn how to make syrup at home.
Chellberg Farm is at 618 Mineral Springs Road, Porter, between US 20 and US 12.
Hike hunt and bike smarter
• 100th Hike: The Harbor Country Hikers will mark the 100th hike since the group began in 2017. At 2 pm March 5, they’ll explore the Jens Jensen Preserve, 6851 Parkway Drive, Sawyer. (Take the Red Arrow Highway just south of the Sawyer Road traffic light and turn right onto Parkway Drive.)
Treasurer and co-founder Bob Mueller will give a brief history of the group and a quick biography of Jensen, an early 20th century landscape architect/preservationist.
The other co-founder, Pat Fisher, will then lead a 1½-mile moderately difficult hike through the wooded preserve and the adjacent Pepperidge Dunes Nature Sanctuary. Fisher has led many of the group’s hikes, some of which have also featured botanists, naturalists, geologists, preservationists and historians.
• How to hunt turkey: The Indiana Department of Natural Resources will offer two free, introductory workshops on hunting turkey March 5. One will be from 1 to 5 pm at Pigeon River Fish & Wildlife Area in Howe. The other will be from 8 am to noon CST at Kingsbury Fish & Wildlife Area in LaPorte. Both include indoor and outdoor instruction. You must register to attend. Find links to do that in this column online.
• Canoeopia: This blow-out rendezvous of recreational sports returns from its pandemic hiatus on March 11-13 to the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisc., with more space between exhibitors but also with pre-recorded virtual presentations that you can watch anytime for 90 days .
Tickets are $15 for one day, $30 for all three (free if 17 or younger) or $15 for the virtual presentations. Find details at www.rutabaga.com/canoecopia.
• Melting Mann: This rural bike race of 24, 35 or 60 miles over mostly gravel roads returns March 19, starting from downtown Vandalia. Cost is $80. Online registration runs through March 16 at meltingmann.com.
• Beware the ice shelf: On Feb. 21, a 22-year-old Indianapolis man died when the ice shelf he was walking on collapsed and dropped him into Lake Michigan at West Beach in the Indiana Dunes National Park. He was with friends, also on the ice shelf.
No matter how cold it is, ice shelves are always prone to breaking. They appear solid but actually have weak points and trap doors, thanks to the uneven sloshing of waves. Just stay off of them.
The main column:There’s great ice at Howard Park and snow at Swiss Valley. But for how much longer?
Follow Outdoor Adventures columnist Joseph Dits on Facebook at SBTOutdoorAdventures. Contact him at 574-235-6158 or [email protected]