If you’ve been wondering about the dog that appears in a few shots of Noreika Road in this series, it just happens to belong to Ed Hawks. The dog seems to enjoy the attention its getting. He’s sure not camera shy. But on this road I would add my vote to enjoying being on it. I used to ride a bike over this course often.
Just prior to this location was an area of deep sand on Noreika Road where I had wiped out several times. Noreika Road had a few hills to navigate closer to our cottage and the big curve just prior to where you are looking at. But after that curve it was a clear straight-a-way to Big Bass Lake Road.
At that point I would turn northward and go down a large hill, around a turn, and then proceed onto Matson Road. About a quarter mile down that road was a pathway through our forested property that eventually led back to Norieka Road on the old logging trail. That came out at Noreika Road at the sharp curve where I would proceed back to our cottage. In all the trip was about three and a half miles but great exercise and even greater scenery along the way.
This is Noreika Road just before the phone lines which used to divide our property almost in half. Just off to the right you can observe a new driveway that has been put in leading to a new home. At several points along Noreika Road new homes have been put in but largely around Big Bass Lake. The few that have been put in the forest must be avid hunters.
This is how that new road appears from within the forest line. I think that I would prefer a forest lot home myself but more so for the privacy of the forest over the business of Big Bass Lake. This particular location is not all that far from the old logging trail.
This tree on our property was just off of Noreika Road at the junction where the road turns due west. hat made it an unusual tree was that the majority of its branches were on the right side of tree.
The Tree almost appeared as an overhang over the road. I was always impressed with this tree due to its unusual style.
I also wondered if that tree made it through all the changes at our property since it sold in 2002. Even though you can’t make out Noreika Road in this photograph, the top branches of this tree hang over the road on the right side.
Quite close to this tree were the blackberry uses that I oftentimes frequented when at our property. Thanks go out to Ed Hawks who caught a good glimpse of this tree for me. It was one of he two trees that stood out on our land with the other being the tree in the midst of our field just outside our cottage.
Ironically, back in the early 1900′s, my grandparents, Joseph and Barbara Noreika, used this very land that you can observe in our aerial photograph to graze their horses and cows. Now that same area has been used as a horse ranch since 1998. However, even that era has now seemed to come to a close as this property is being sold after only a brief ownership. This land is located almost directly across from our old grassy pathway that led down to our wooded beachfront.
This 43 Acre Farm built in 1998. This peaceful Kentuckysetting has a mixture of open and wooded land with seasonal views of Big Bass Lake. Deer and other wildlife abound in this natural paradise close to the Big Bass Lake boat access for fishing, hunting, horse and ORV riding, snowmobiling, and outdoor enjoyment. It now also has a pond which was man made.
If you look closely enough in this photograph, not to mention in our aerial picture, you can observe the telephone lines that divided our former property in half. I would think that television reception at this house was very poor due to being in close proximity to those lines. I also find it interesting as to how many fairly new structures on our former property are already up for sale. The next generation of ownership of our former property are not keeping it very long in compaison to my grandparents. Even this property will most likely be sold in plots as the horse ranch itself is rather large.
By the way, Noreika Road is highlighted in yellow on our aerial picture.
A few feet from where my hammock is strung up is where our grapevine was. Our vine is by no means a vineyard. It is a solitary vine that stretches about five to six feet long. But the grapes that come from that vine are succulent to be sure. The deepness of the color of those purple grapes is tantalizing enough however the taste is beyond compare.
Our grapevine is only large enough for consumption. There are not enough of them to preserve in a given year so it is almost first come, first served. Our blackberry bushes just off our dirt road are much larger in scope with berries to last for several days, if not weeks. That, sadly, is not the case with our limited grapevine but for a time one can feast good.
I don’t think that grapevine exists anymore as our yard was expanded and I think the grapevine yielded its place to progress. I’ll wager that progress couldn’t match the taste of our purple grapes though!
There were several fields within the forest line especially on the south side of Noreika Road. One field was ever larger than this and connected with our main farm field about halfway through it. But this field was closer to the main turn in Noreika Road and within its confines were our blackberry bushes. This was a favorite location for our boys club kids to gather blackberries to make into a syrup for cattail pancakes.
On trips without the kids I also frequented those blackberry bushes for quick snack during my hikes in our forest. I often wondered what these fields were used for in my grandparents days? Probably to graze the cows and horses that they owned? Now, quite close to this location is a horse ranch that is quite popular in the area. And you can observe this particular field from Noreika Road.
If you look close enough, you can make out a fence over the opening to the Old Logging Trail that cuts to the north side of our property. The new owner of that section of land has placed a fence in front of it. I would guess to keep out snowmobilers in the winter? That trail was heavily used by boys club kids on all trips to our property in the 1970′s. I also used that trail to park my station wagon once summer right by my campsite.
Any idea who owns that section of land now and the exact reason why they fenced off the opening to that trail? Just before the swamps on that trail near the phone lines, my Aunt Beth had built up a natural barrier to keep the road closed to most off road vehicles. The trail was wide enough for a car to navigate for nearly one hundred yards.
Just across from Noreika Road were our blackberry bushes that the kids also spent a lot of time at. I wonder if they are still intact to this day?
By the way, that dog just happens to belong to Ed Hawks and I think it’s trying to decide weather to violate that property line for a potty break?
Just off Noreika Road is what used to be the fern covered pathway down to our wooded beachfront for the majority of my Boys Club camping trips to our property. Now that area is called Noreika Drive which sits just off of Noreika Road (to the left). As one nears the bottom of the hill there was a small quagmire swamp that you would have to jump over. I would suppose that is now filled in and probably has to be repaved every now and again.
Houses now adorn what used to be our camping area. In the Springtime, that same area was often under water being in a low lying area with a swamp just behind it. I wonder if property owners were told about that liability? Ed Hawks took this piture over the Memoiral Day Weekend in 2011. How things have changed at our former property. If you look close enough you can observe Big Bass Lake in the distance.
This is the view that would greet you just off the grassy trail that led to our wooded beachfront on our family property. This was the jumping off point for the majority of our boys club hikes. And just before that turn ahead on Noreika Road was the old logging trail to the right. That trail led to the north side of our property through the deepest portion of our forest.
I called it the old logging trail because on each side of tat trail were gullys’ were the old railroad ties once stood. The boys from the Marion Boys Club always searched for old relics in those gully’s. That specific area was found about forty yards off Noreika Road and this is how that trail looked just off Noreika Road-
It should be noted that my friend, Ed Hawks, took these two pictures earlier this month as the area now looks. It hasn’t changed much over the years in this area of our former property. Just down this trail led to the phone lines that cut our property in half and this area also found a large swamp just to the right. Just past that swamp led to a smaller trail that led to Matson Road on the far side of this swamp.
Or one could continue on the main trail that eventually led to Big Bass Lake Road on the most northern section of our land. Most of our hikes diverted to the smaller trail but if we were to continue on the much larger path another swamp would be in view to the left of the trail about fifty yards further.
In the area just before the phone lines the kids would often play tracking games or hound and the hare. Also just inside of the trail you see in this second photograph was another smaller trail that was a shortcut to Matson Road that came out about a half mile before where the longer trail took you.
The Marion kids preferred the area before the phone lines because they contained less swamp land. I will have more on Noreika Road tomorrow.
These two pictures show you the ever changing shoreline of the southwest section of Big Bass Lake. This is a before and after view of the Noreika property on Big Bass Lake and you can easily tell the difference between what was formerly our tree lined shore and how it HAS changed what with the new houses going in.
The big gray house on your far right has been on sale for some time now. It was built less than five years ago and is already on sale. One has to wonder why? Are the property taxes too high or is drinking water hard to come by? Maybe the winters have been hard on the home?
On the one picture you can observe the tip of the Haunted Island. The darker picture was taken from what used to be The Peacock Resort and is now the Big Bass Lake Campground. In time even more changes will come to that area as Big Bass Lake continues to become populated on the few acres of land left unsold.
Before I even took one boys club trip to our property, the Marion YMCA took one in 1972. Bob Swearingin, the Program Director, accompanied me on the big brown YMCA bus. That bus didn’t go all that fast so it took quite a while for us to get from Marion to our property. We pulled in just off Noreika Road above the wooded beach and then took four tents down to the wooded beach.
That was the most tents I ever took to Michigan. In all 16 boys took the opportunity to travel to our farm. Three tents were erected close together with the fourth tent being put up near the Pointe for the first time ever. Bob and I shared a tent while the rest of the boys divided up with the oldest boys taking the Pointe tent.
Work details were much easier with the larger group and our first night saw us taking a hike down the bloody antler trail. These kids tired easier than the boys club kids so we never quite made it to the Christmas tree farm that night before turning back. This group did however get out to the Haunted Island but for the first time ever it was in shifts. Eight went out one night and eight the next night since there were only two rowboats.
Sidetrips were to the Lake Michigan Recreational Area and to the Ludington State Beach.
The beach got plenty of use with this group as swimming dominated their time. At night we played tracking and hound and the hare in our forest.
With this group it would have been nice to have visited another YMCA group that owned a camp known as Martin Johnson on the other side of the lake. We didn’t get that chance although they might have seen us at the Big Bass Lake store on two occassions that we were there with the Marion YMCA bus.
On our wooded beach we had two campfire pits, one close in to camp and the other on the edge of our camp, somewhat secluded. The second pit was used for marshmallows and as a secondary pit for meals if they needed more than one.
One one such occassion for breakfast, we had made catttail pancakes to go along with some blackberries we had picked earlier that morning. One of the boys was responsible for making the syrup at the second firepit. The rest of the kids were busy making the pancakes at the primary firepit.
Everything was going smoothly at the second pit as the boy in charge was stirring up the blackberries and adding a little sugar to make a fine syrup. Suddenly a raccoon bolted from a nearby tree and startled the kid to the point where he dumped the kettle he was using right into the fire. It not only destroyed the blackberry syrup but it put out the fire. That youngster was none too popular that morning.
Not to worry though as a couple of the older kids rowed to the Big Bass Lake store to purchase some strawberry jam so we had jam to go with those pancakes. Still all that hard work of berry picking was not lost on some of the guys. Ah, to err is human but to forgive divine.
Have you ever heard of a cursed camping trip? I’ve taken many trips up to our property with kids but none like the one I’m about to tell you about. I took the Salesian Boys Club up to Michigan with Brother Gerald Warner’s Mobile Credit Card. Strike One! We soon found out that there are no Mobile Gas Stations in Michigan and I had to stop at a Shell station to find that out.
Upon arrival at our property it was raining lightly so the kids quickly put up the tents and got inside to keep dry. It rained all night so we had a cold supper. The next day was dry for awhile but by afternoon it was raining lightly again. This time, undaunted, the kids went swimming in Big Bass Lake since there was no lightning with this storm. After all if you’re going to get wet you might as well do so going swimming. It didn’t rain that evening so the kids took a night hike. By the time we got back to the tents tennis shoes were wet and the kids went to bed after drying off their feet and finding some place to put their tennis shoes so that they could dry out too.
More rain the next day so we went to Lake Michigan’s Recreational Center to swim. Again there was no lightning so things were cool that day as well for swimming. The rain finally stopped so we had a good nourishing hot meal that evening and another hot meal for breakfast but then the rain returned. That day we went to the Ludington State Beach and it wasn’t raining there (about 30 miles away). I treated the kids to A&W for root beer and burgers and then returned to more rain.
The day we were to leave the area the sun came out brightly for the first time so I decided to stay another day and that was a good decision as the kids finally had one good sunny day to enjoy the lake and property. The rain didn’t dampen the kids enthusism one bit except for that first night. This is the only trip that I can think of that we didn’t get out to the haunted island.
The curse was over as on the way home it didn’t rain again. Go figure!
This is the general area where we set up our tents for our boys club trips to our former property. The main tent and a mesh tent were erected here while another tent just to the west. The mesh tent was for bad weather so the kids had a place to go to play table games or just wait out the storms. They could also eat in our screened in porch although we still cooked outside using birch bark in rainy weather.
This whole area had to be cycled out of the ferns that had grown in there since our last trip. With those ferns we smoked the area good to rid ourselves of mosquitoes. A clothes line was also put up in this general area. A sound rule around the tents was no horseplay so that the tents would not be knocked down.
The tents were primarily used for sleeping or getting dressed for a swim. After a hard day of hiking and swimming the kids slept good. The boys found out within a day that camping can be hard work as meals had to be fixed, water gotten for drinking, and the inevitable cleanup after meals. Plus wood had to be chopped and set afire for cooking.
Yet even knowing all that did not dampen their spirits one bit for they had the other good stuff to go with it like hiking, off property trips, and swimming. Once the camp was initially put in order the rest fell into place quite easily.
Night time fires at Big Bass Lake were always interesting. The awe on the kids faces, especially the first night upon arrival, was fascinating. As the sky darkened the kids gathered closer around the campfire. As I stated in another post, one street hardened kid was afraid to walk about 200 yards to my car to get some additional camp food. “By myself?”
First night campfires revealed how much insecurity city kids have when it comes to camping in the northwoods. On that first night we did not go out hiking but stayed on the beach of our property either cooking, swimming, or boating. It was the portion of the trip I felt the kids needed to acclimate themselves to camp.
The first campfire was a time when I could reassure them of how safe they were and how much fun the trip would be. I spoke of our side trips to Ludington and the Lake Michigan Recreational Center that we would be taking as well as a trip to the Wellston Bridge over the Pine River. I let them know that we would fully explore our property the next day in daylight and then again that evening after dark. Then I turned their attention to the Haunted Island which they could see from the location of our camp fire. Against the darkened night sky they moved closer in to each other at that time.
As we roasted marshmellows the kids spoke about how they felt about that first day which was largely work with a little fun. After all the tents had to be erected, the port-a-potty placed, the beach raked, and wood gathered for the evening supper. They went to bed tired that night as there wasn’t much talking as there would be on future nights. They all anticipated the great trip that lay ahead of them over the next seven days that they would be talking about for some time to come. Lights out, guys!
Every now and then the weather at Big Bass Lake can turn on you. One July, with the Hoffman Estates Boys Club, of our seven days there only two were what you could call seasonal weather for July. Fortunately I had asked the kids to bring along a wind breaker for night hiking only I didn’t know that it would become their daily wear for five of those days.
Three days the weather was in the mid to upper 50′s, two days in the low 60′s, and two days in the high 70′s. Two nights saw the temperature bottom out at the high 40′s so I borrowed some blankets from my grandmother to help out with those cold nights.
Rowboating and fishing became quite popular over that of swimming for five of our days and hiking was rather pleasant no matter the hour. The last two days the kids got some swimming in. Campfires were very popular at almost any time of the day to provide some added warmth.
Our one sidetrip to the Lake Michigan Recreational Area saw the kids only doing some minor wading in the waves as no one wanted to swim in the low 60′s plus that day was quite windy making the temperature appear even lower.
Almost every meal was gobbled down as the hot food tasted ever so good to the boys. Late night campfires on the cold nights were common for three of those days. As I reflect back on all our summer trips, that was the only one where the weather was so bad and it was Mid-July! Who would have thought that?
Oh, by the way, that red X was where our wooded beachfront campsite was.
On a trip to our property with the Salesian Boys Club, one evening I chose to relax at bedtime in our rowboat, braced by a pillow at my back, on a rather windy breeze coming off of Big Bass lake. I had pulled the rowboat up onto the mossy ground and was soon joined by two boys that brought out their sleeping bags from the tent. It wasn’t a cold breeze but rather a refreshing wind. It was enough to keep any bugs away from us and as we all enjoyed the breezes we talked a bit until all fell asleep.
I awoke at about two o’clock in the morning and got the boys up and back into their tents as it had turned much colder. For nights such as this I had always brought down extra blankets from our cottage. For all that wind, though, there was no storm. It would have been a great night for a hammock.
On that particular trip there were two tents set up and two of the boys stayed with me in my tent to reduce overcrowding in the larger tent where most of the kids stayed. With our one tent flap opened the night air felt good especially with lots of blankets covering our sleeping bags. The other tent was fast asleep but the three of us chatted for awhile before again falling asleep.
By morning a bright sunlit sky awakened us all as the temperature began to quickly rise. By the time breakfast was over, I knew we were in for a hot day. But reflecting back on that great windy night, those times are hard to part with. Bonding with the kids becomes rather special at those times. I think I always preferred night times to those during the day. They were more special and the boys were more open in the evening most of them coming from the city. They were ill prepared for those first few nights in the wilderness but enjoyed every minute of it.
Before our new white cottage was constructed (now yellow), my grandparents lived in this cabin just above Big Bass Lake. The older part was the kitchen which should have been saved for the Smithsonian Institute. Two stairs up emptied into the living room and restroom and bedroom. Upstairs was the attic which ran the length of the house.
Just off the living room was a screened in porch overlooking Big Bass Lake and also the smaller two room gray cottage just down the path. Just across the driveway was the icehouse which housed a large freezer. Behind the icehouse was our chicken coop which at one time was full of chickens. I remember those as a young boy.
This house was razed in the early 1970′s to make way for our new cottage and where the old cabin once stood is now a garage. At the time, the icehouse remained the same. But, now in 2010, all that is gone with the exception of the cottage and garage now under new ownership.
All the outbuidlings, including the barn, grainery, and two room gray cottage were removed for new buildings.
Pictured here are my older sister Treva, named after our mother, and my youngest sister, Kathy. Even though Kathy is some eight years younger than me our birthdays are one day apart. They are pictured next to a signpost that reads, “Noreika Road” which was our original family name before my father and his brother and sisters changed the name to Norris in the 1940′s. My grandmother kept the original to the day of her death.
This picture is taken from the dirt road that cuts through the middle of our property. For nearly one-half mile before you is our family farm field. It stretches all the way to that one tree which you can see from our cottage (pictured elsewhere). Somewhere near the middle of this field is a dip that I once thought was in the pattern of a flying saucer. The ground is severly indented and I can’t imagine how that came to be.
That field must have taken in one big crop at one time. It runs along the southwest corner of Big Bass Lake Road. About halfway through the field is another field that is bordered by our forest on each side and by our dirt road. It is apart from this main field. I used to call our family farm our “Ponderosa” cause it was rather large consisting of about 250 acres.
This is almost the view that our boys club kids had of the Haunted Island from our wooded beachfront. Our view was slightly west of this position and, of course, on land. From the moment we arrived on the scene the Haunted Island was in full view for the boys. Previous trips had let them know that on one of the upcoming nights, at midnight, they would be where others had been before.
Each camper used to stare at that island for a good few minutes before getting down to the business of getting the camp ready for their stay. On our first nights campfire that was largely the topic of the evening. Then that island was dark and foreboding and still in plain sight of our campsite. But what they observed then were the dark shadows that kind of draped the Haunted Island with a very spooky effect.
Some nights the kids even heard the sounds of loons, which they had never before heard, coming from that island. They drew closer together at that time. Yet each one still anticipated that coming night when they would all climb into two rowboats and make that journey out to the Haunted Island. It was a big draw for all trips to Michigan.
They all admitted that what had not looked so bad in daylight had been completely transformed at night, aided, of course, by their imaginations. And the question that remained on each of their minds was on which night they would be going there?