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      Winter perks in Tahquamenon Falls

      It's hard to imagine that 48,000 acres of land could be kept secret. But Tahquamenon Falls, the second largest east of the Mississippi River, seems to get left out in the cold every winter.

      Theresa Neal, the Park Interpreter, explains what gets lost in translation.

      "One thing is that we are actually open in the winter. A lot of people think we close once the color season is over, but we're open year-round," remarked Neal.

      Over 400,000 visitors roam through the park on a given year, and the majority of the sightseeing falls in the summer. While warmer temperatures might seem more alluring, the winter has it perks, too.

      "If you want to come just to hike or to see the falls,, it's a great time of year, even now, to come check it out and not fight the crowds and not fight the bugs," Neal added.

      Both the Upper and Lower Falls offer a treasure trove of trails for snowshoeing and cross country skiing. There are established trails, but park officials encourage snowshoers to forge one of their own. Trailblazing offers more traction, a better workout, and sights and sounds foreign to the main routes.

      Mary Jo Meehan has been coming to the falls since she was a little girl, even working at the park for a time. In her mind, the joyous experience isn't bound by any one season.

      "There's snowmobiling all around the area. There are trails in the woods, and park rangers do snowshoeing here in the winter. They even give lessons on some days," noted Meehan.

      Every Saturday in February when the heaviest snowfall covers the park, guides from the park's headquarters set up a slew of activities. Free snowshoe rentals, guided trails, and a lantern-lit run, which can be traversed by ski or shoe, highlight the day's festivities. One of the advantages of coming in the winter is you have the entire park to yourself to come relax, listen, and even reflect.

      Three-fourths of the park's visitors are Michiganders, hailing from across the U.P. While the trek to Newberry might appear daunting for some, the benefits of being a snow bird are well worth the trip.