The Imaginary Line

I’ve never been much good at understanding imaginary lines such as the one that exists between the Nordhouse Dunes and the Lake Michigan Recreation Area. I like to call the former the primitive section of the Recreation Area where you can’t find roads or motor cars as it’s primitive as can be. Now where have I heard that line before?

What you can find here is unspoiled nature at its finest! There are miles and miles of land to explore. I love to take my huskie dogs Frick and Frack here because they have the time of their lives. This is where the Manistee National Forest hugs the shoreline of dunes and Lake Michigan in a shared respect for one another.

Once you get here you won’t want to leave.  If you want to get in touch with your inner self this is the place to be.  I’m always armed with a compass and canteen whenever I come to this place of the imaginary line.  I like to think of this area as my own private beach similar to the one on M-116 just outside of Ludington. 

If you’re ever in the area, give Nordhouse a try even if you might have to cross some imaginary lines to get there from the Recreation Area. 

Climbing Those Many Steps

In my younger days, I could run all these steps to the top of the lookout tower without even breaking a sweat.  Now in my advancing years, it takes a tad longer to climb the some 400 steps to get to the top and what you see is just the first tier of steps.  There are several more but when you do get to the top you have a super view of both the Manistee National Forest to the east and Lake Michigan to the west.

This particular lookout tower, and there are two here, is at the Lake Michigan Recreational Center which is about midway between Scottville and Manistee, Michigan.  It is about seven miles due west of US 31 and full the full extent of that ride all you can see are trees from this national forest.  Once you park in the lot there is only a small sand dune between you and Lake Michigan and this staircase is at the base of that dune.

Just below the tower is  a huge shaded dune down to te very essence of this forest.  Rather than hot sand, it is a cool walk due to the shade offered by the forest.  Sometimes I wish this site would have an escalator for us older folks.

The Ever Daunting Sand Dunes

Whenever I am at the Lake Michigan Recreation Area, I am somewhat leary of those majestic sand dunes before me. Being quite petite, for every step I take upward, those shifting sands take my feet several steps backwards instead.  And, since that sand is very hot to begin with frustration mounts as I seem to be getting nowhere fast.

That is why I prefer to capture them on film over that of mounting them.  In my mind I can climb them any time I desire ss I glance t my finished product.  I am a very unabashed climber in my living room as I mount those majestic dunes in my imagination as  I glance at several photographs of them.  And my feet do not burn much to my pleasure.

Now, I’ve never minded running down those dunes as that seems to be my favorite way of attacking them.  I always have my husband’s hand and patience in gong back up them.  I strongly prefer the dunes facing Lake Michigan between Ludington and the Hamlin Dam area as they are much easier for me to climb.  So why climb then when they are much easier to photograph?  Then I can leave my climbing to my imagination which is a far better climber than I could ever hope to be.  I love it when  plan comes together!

Swimming at the Recreational Area

I had a great swim in Lake Michigan today and I don’t care how cold the water was. It was very refreshing and invigorating. To be brutally honest I miss my home state. I even miss the winter. But I love my wife Darlene more and I promised her that when I retired we would move South and so now we find ourselves in Arizona. But not this week. Here in the Manistee Forest touches Lake Michigan so I get the best of both worlds. Darling as usual is sunbathing. She might wade a little bit but she’s not a big fan of Swimming in Lake Michigan. She likes the Lakes we visit in Arizona. But I still have four more days in Michigan before I have to return to Arizona. And I’m going to enjoy every single minute before we board that plane to head home.

Great Views from The Lake Michigan Recreational Area

This is the main road leading into the area from M 37. It’s about seven miles in length. It leads to a campsite area and parking. You leave the forest by climbing a short sand dune right to Lake Michigan. There are two lookout towers at this site. Overnight camping is permitted.

Inviting Lake Michigan

Why are the beaches empty just before Memorial Day? The temperature is warm again and don’t those waves look inviting?This is the Lake Michigan Recreation Center where the Manistee National Forest slides right up next to it. The water is empty because the water temperature is only 54 degrees. in about three weeks it should be ready for swimming. That’s not too long to save lives.

235 Steps Up to the Lookout Tower- Part Two

The Salesian Boys Club kids had themselves an hour once atop this lookout tower. For half that time they played king of the hill down the shaded dune to the east and had a blast. The sand was so cool there. Then for the rest of that hour, they just talked about what a great view they were taking in while snapping some great pictures with their cameras.

Then we all climbed back down those 235 steps and hung a right at the bottom.  We went up and down a singular dune and had all of Lake Michigan before us.  We spend about two hours swimming in that unsupervised area as well as getting a tan while sun-bathing. 

After that we grilled some hot dogs and had them with soda pop before heading back to Big Bass Lake.  This location was always a favorite with the boys even more so than at Ludington.  And, I had about a year before I would again be climbing those 235 steps with the next group of kids coming up to our property. 

235 Steps Up to the Lookout Tower- Part One

Wow! This brings back those memories with the Salesian Boys Club of Columbus, Ohio, when we came to the Lake Michigan Recreation Area. I recall that even in my late 20’s, I was tired by the time I got to the top of this lookout tower. To the east all you could see was the Manistee National Forest and to the west Lake Michigan.

Just to the east of the tower was a steep downhill run on a sand dune that was shaded by trees.  At the very bottom of the dune was all forest as the sand ended right at the bottom.  The sun rarely had any impact on that sun so the boys could go both ways without their feet getting scorched. 

The kids enjoyed the view and were more amazed at the forest side as all they could see were trees.  But they should have known that for ever since they left US 31, the last seven miles were all forest.  Yet once we got to the parking lot of the Recreation Area, there was one sand dune to climb and then Lake Michigan was before them for all the swimming fun they could ask for.

The question remains as to whether or not there were really 235 steps up to the top of that tower.  Each step was a hot one, though, as the sun did have access to those wooden stairs.  Thus it kept you moving fast all the way to the top. 

Tomorrow I will have some more on our trip to this lookout tower.

The Lake Michigan Recreational Area

Here I am atop the lookout tower at the Lake Michigan Recreational Area with a beautiful view of the Manistee National Forest behind me. In front of me is Lake Michigan in all its glory so you get the best of both worlds from this vista. Directly behind me and under me is a vast sand dune that reaches down into the bowels of this forest.

I had taken a boys club trip to this are and the kids were busy taking my picture while begging to take a swim on this rather hot day. We had brought inner tubes to enjoy a rather wavy day. The kids had a blast swimming and this is the time where we had laid our towels and other materials down and gone into the water. After about an hour of frolic we went back ashore only to find nothing of our equipment! We thought someone had ripped us off but unknown to us, the current of Lake Michigan was the culprit.

It had taken us downshore about a half mile without anyone noticing a thing. As we walked back on shore we found all our stuff right where we had left it. All that seemingly movement without us feeling a thing! Remarkable.

Scorching Sunset

On a trip with the Marion Boys Club we had an extremely hot day where the temperature reached close to 95 degrees. I kept the kids at camp that day and didn’t do very much strenuous activity. Every hour or so they had a swim to cool them off. In the afternoon of that day, I took them to the Lake Michigan recreational area for a real cool dip in Lake Michigan. We stayed till almost 5 in the afternoon. Then I treated them to a restaurant dinner in Manistee Michigan where it was ai where it was air-conditioned. By the early evening it was cool enough to get back to camp. The next day the temperature dropped nearly 10 degrees and we continued our normal schedule. That was the hottest day on any camping trip I took.

Lake Michigan Recreation Center

On a trip to Lake Michigan with the Marion boys club, we took with us Some frisbees and Played frisbee golf With Lake Michigan shots a penalty. In this game The boys didnt mind penalty shots as rhey shot that way on purpose. By the eighth hole The game turned into Ultimate frisbee. All the boys were in the water and the fun had just begun. The boys would toss the frisbee Toward a wave and catch it on the fly. It was a great afternoon of frisbee.

Lake Michigan Recreational Center Lookout Tower


One of my favorite places to visit is the Lake Michigan Recreational Center which is about twenty miles from where I live. There are no lifeguards at this beach so swimming is at your own risk. The center is off US 31 halfway between Manistee and Scottville. From that point on all you’ll find is a curvy road and the Manistee National Forest until the road ends.

The Manistee National Forest actually touches the sand dunes and that is all there is between the forest itself and Lake Michigan. Climbing the lookout tower is an exercise in itself especially in the summer. But what a view once you reach the top. The stairs to this tower are just before the path over the dunes to the beach.

Once on top you can not only view Lake Michigan but on the flip side is the neverending forest where you can see for literally miles.

There is also a camping ground at the center along with a picnic area, restrooms, and even showers.