Category: Manistee National Forest

Canoeing the Pere Marquette

I know of some folks that believe that they can get from the Baldwin, Michigan, area to Lake Michigan in no time flat along the Pere Marquette River, that is, as the crow flies. But crows don’t paddle all the twists and turns of that river so to go that distance in just a few days is not a reality.  One man, in particular, only made it about half way in the time limit that he had alloted for himself, much to his displeasure.

I’ve never taken the Pere Marquette River in any sort of speed contest as that would ruin it for me.  This river was meant to be enjoyed and part of that pleasure is to camp along its banks and get in some good fishing.  If you’re in some sort of speed contest, you’ll miss all that this river offers you.  I even enjoy a brief swim in the cool waters of the Pere Marquette. 

This river was meant to be enjoyed to its fullest and each and every time that I dip my paddle in this river, I take my time to enjoy every minute.  What’s the rush?

Disc Golf

My good friend Dave Norris would be thrilled to learn that now the Manistee National Forest even has Disc Golf Courses!  I think he refers to them as Frisbee Golf Courses since Indiana is not quite up to par with the term Disc Golf yet.  Maybe they’ll catch the “birdie” on this one sooner than later.  It took o’le eagle eyes Michael (my hubbie) to spot this course.

Disc Golf has eighteen holes that are found in metal baskets and they are sprinkled throughout this portion of the national forest.  Mike and I play whenever possible but I usually come out with the victory.  He handles a frisbee like I handle a fishing rod.  I don’t think it prudent to play this course at night for one might encounter the “bogie” man.  Ouch!  My humor is starting to get like David’s. 

The Marion YMCA Bus Ride

Do you remember the Lucille Ball movie, “The Long, Long Trailer”?  Well, on a trip to our property in Michigan from the Marion YMCA we had an old bus to get us there and the trip took a long, LONG time!  It seemed that the top speed of that bus was between 45 and 50 miles an hour in speed zones of 65.  And, for that entire trip we only passed one vehicle and then we did so by going over a railroad track without first stopping and opening our doors.  We were halfway around that person before realizing the tracks were just ahead of us.

 Some of the boys joked that the guy we passed was probably some Amish farmer with a literal two horse engine!  Our bus driver made several stops for bathroom breaks, lunch, and for fuel.  The trip of 360 miles took nearly eleven hours to get us there so since we left at 8 am we didn’t arrive until 7pm leaving us little time to set up the tents and get our camp site in readiness before nightfall.

 Along the way we sang songs, played alphabet games with road signs, snoozed, or just enjoyed the scenery.  However the scenery was just likeIndianauntil we passed Grand Rapids, Michigan, and got onto Michigan 37 for the final eighty miles of our journey and that was all through the Manistee National Forest.  At the time the kids were riveted at just how big that forest actually was as they marveled at passing lakes and streams.

The bus really went slowly up a big hill just outside Baldwin, Michigan, and then the kids looked behind them for a glance at a long dirt road snaking through the forest behind them as if they could see for miles.  Finally just past the Club 37 restaurant we left Michigan 37 and proceeded for the last twelve miles down back roads to Big Bass Lake.  The kids were amazed that we were still in that same forest and for the next ten days, that forest was to be their home. 

We stopped a mile short of our goal at the Big Bass Lake store to get some last minute snack food before proceeding to our property.  But, what a long, LONG trip that had been only to be rewarded with some hard work setting up camp before bedtime.  The fun part of that trip was to commence the next morning.  That long, LONG day was finally about to end. 

Wonderous Forest

Here is another of those unpaved roads in the Manistee National Forest that my husband, Mike, loves to journey upon.  He calls them his one tankful trips and thank goodness he sees fit to fill up the car before we head out into this forest.  For one thing, sometimes these roads lead to other unpaved roads and it seems like we’ll never find civilization again.

Yet that’s the mystique of this wonderful forest.  It seemingly never ends and one can spend a whole day traveling it and never run into a town if you plan your day well using a map.  Mike does but if something ever happened to him on one of our trips, it would take me nearly forever to navigate myself out of this forest.

I am not the best at map reading unless I am going to a CITY with stores.  Then there’s no one my equal but it amazes me how well Mike navigates the back roads of this forest.  And, he loves to explore it taking turns that he had not initially planned on taking.  But when he’s ready to stop exploring and head for home, we’re on either US 10 or 31 in a heartbeat.  It’s rather spooky how he knows all the ways back to the main highways.

Little wonder why green is Mike’s favorite color.  Mine is too but it’s the green that comes out of his wallet for me to go shopping!

After a stop at the Dublin General Store (mentioned a few days ago), the Salesian Boys Club kids and I set out for the Pine River Bridge near Wellston for an afternoon of hiking and dining.  Our gourmet special for the afternoon was hot dogs and potato salad.  First, though, the kids descended down a spiral wooden staircase that was situated over a spring that gently flowed down beneath their feet. 

Once at the bottom, there was a sandy trail that led under the spacious Pine River Bridge and into the picnic ground.  While one of the boys and I began to prepare lunch, my older member, Jughead, took the rest of the boys on a hike along the river where they could observe both canoes and kayaks floating by.  They walked to where they could easily observe the island (above) and then returned back to the picnic area.

By then delicious hot dogs awaited them along with several condiments plus potato salad and soft drinks.  Then the kids played Frisbee or just took it easy before our return walk under he bridge and back up that spiral staircase to our car above.  You know, come to think of it, I never took the kids over that bridge by way of the car as our destination was in the opposite direction back to Big Bass Lake. 

Even so the kids were always impressed with our Pine River side trips that gave them an afternoon away from our campsite at Big Bass Lake.

In the small town of Dublin, Michigan, is the Dublin General Store and of all these kinds of stores in the area, this one is a classic.  On a trip to the Pine River Bridge near Wellston, the Salesian Boys Club kids and I stopped at this store to pick up supplies for our picnic.  However, Whitey Meier found the right size battery for his larger than life flashlight, Timmy Flannery purchased long shoelaces for his hiking boots, and Mike Myers found a particular brand of cookies that he had not found at other general stores in the area.

The Dublin General Store is a kind of Wal-Mart in the middle of the Manistee National Forest.  The Big Bass Lake Store, on the other hand, had limited items and often one had to go to Scottville for a full shopping trip.  At the Dublin General Store you could also have a full shopping experience and then even more than that with all the specialty items they carried. 

I know that the Salesian Boys Club kids appreciated them.  They came out of that general store beaming with their unique purchases.  And I got all the things I needed for a great cookout at the Pine River that day.  Don Clodfelter took a great picture of this store.

The Haunted Field

I came across this meadow once on a hike north of Scottville between that community and Baldwin about two miles north of US 10.  Legend has it tha light shines through the trees in various patterns there that emits strange rays right out of the ground.  Of course I never saw any of those rays but perhaps I was there at the wrong time of day?

The rays are said to carve up the ground something fierce.  Yet in my journey there I saw no evidence of that.  Although if you will take notice of that flowery section of that meadow there might have been some break through of the ground within that patch but I did not take the time to check that out either.  Legends have their way of taking on their own life so to speak.  I know my friend, Dave, has made mention of his Haunted Island on Big Bass Lake many times. 

Perhaps he should have taken his boys club kids to this meadow just before sunset?  Then maybe at that time the legend might have taken place right before their startled eyes?  Then again, maybe not?


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.

Sandy Road Intersections

As I’ve mentioned before, my wife, Darlene, and I often drive the many sandy roads of Mason and Lake Counties in the Manistee National Forest but one of the problems is that with all the many intersections one encounters, a compass could well be your best friend.  Being a good map reader also helps however not all these dirt roads are on area maps. 

Darlene keeps track of each turn we take during our drives and sometimes she almost needs a calculator to keep up.  We both love to explore this magnificent national forest and each time we set off on our journey from different starting points.  It is our hope that we will be able to map out just about every road in this two county area over the course of time. 

Yet it is easy to get lost so each time we set out with a full tank of gasoline.   I’ll keep you updated on our progress.

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.


I took this picture with my feet in Lake Michigan feeling the cold water lap around them with wave after wave. This picture probably best describes the closeness of the Manistee National Forest to the shores of Lake Michigan as only that small sand dune separates the two. Just over that sand dune is a camping area with picnic tables galore and the road that takes one back out to US 31, and then a short jog over to the Freesoil Road and then back to Big Bass Lake.

Hiking trails also abound in this area. This area also has two multi-step lookout towers that provide you with an excellent panorama of both the Manistee National Forest and Lake Michigan.

One of our boys club camping trips took place in a cabin over looking the Little Manistee River which was about five miles from our property. It was situated off of Big Bass Road on a sandy road and quite remote. The cabin had a small kitchen, large living room, indoor bathroom, and a large bedroom. Five boys were with me on that trip. Once while lounging inside the cabin one of the boys kept clicking off his flashbulb camera at something that was outside. As I approached the window I beheld a snarling wolf. I told him to cease and closed the shades immediately.

I had visions of tha wolf crashing through that window. About two hours later one of the older boys ventured out to my station wagon to get something he had left there. The car was parked less than twenty feet from the cabin. When he was halfway there the wolf charged from the woods but he was apparently after something else and darted right past the ever scared teenager. To this day I’m not sure if that was really a wolf or just a wild dog.

That was the last we saw of that critter over the entire stay of our trip which was more than enough for me. Since our beach area on our property was flooded at that time was the reason we opted for the cabin. All and all it was a great trip but I’m sure none of us has forgotten that incident.

A Natural Shower

My friend, Ben, and I came upon this natural shower on a recent hike through the Manistee National Forest and it just seemed to beckon us to undress and go under it for one of the most refereshing showers I can ever recall.  The water pressure on this given day was just perfect as sweat and dirt disappeared fast.  Ben thought the water could have been a tad warmer but nothing is perfect.  Unless, of course, that Mother Nature is at our beckon call?

Water like this not only cleans us off but also massages aching muscles from our daily walks.  I wish I could pocket this falls and take it along with us so that it would always be available when needed.  You can even take in a good gulp or two of water at these times to refresh your throat.  Later this same waterfall would serve us both as a fishing area at the bottom of the falls. 

You know, afterthis, my home shower just won’t seem the same anymore!

On one boys club trip we encountered an old deserted errie looking house right next to a swamp in the middle of nowhere within the Manistee National Forest not all that far from Big Bass Lake. Fortunately for the boys we encountered this house in the daylight hours so after we hiked around the swamp they set out to explore the old building. That is, all except Alan, who said he had enough what with the island haunted house and all. Now he let us all know he was dead set against visiting this land locked haunted house. Yet he reluctanly tagged along anyway.

As we approached it the kids swear they heard sounds coming from it. I only heard a sound as we approached it as a racccon bolted out the open wall on the far side of the building and darted into the woods. The kids began exploring as I kept a watch for that raccoon as that is one critter that I don’t want to mess with.

After twenty minutes or so the boys tired of searching around that house and we then briefly talked about who would have wanted to live way out here by themselves. The kids thought the old swamp was just as spooky and worse probably at night.

I did inquire of them if they wanted to spend the night there and got a quick response, “No way!” I tried to find this place again on another trip but lost my bearings to where this place was. It was ordained to be a one time event.

One thing that I like to do is drive around the Manistee National Forest until I find a side road and then to take that deeper into the forest.  I then like to stop the car and explore that particular area for about an hour or so.  I just never know what i might find that I didn’t know was there before.  For example, one time I find a small lake about a mile inside of where I parked my car.  There it was just sitting there in the middle of the forest and  knows ff anyone had stumbled over it before?

Other times I find an old deserted cabin and set about exploring that to see if there is anything worthwhile within it.  More times than not there is nothing to find but I enjoy searching anyway.  I usually take Darlene with me as she also enjoys exploring the forest.  But her searches lend more toward wild flowers or mushrooms.  Nevertheless she often finds just what she is looking for and rarely comes away disappointed. 

I like to take these journeys about once a month in largely the summer, fall, and spring.  I’d recommend these types of trips to anyone as you just don’t know what you might find in the Manistee National Forest.

Black Bear Honey Escapade

Once, hen hiking in the Manistee National Forest in the 1970’s with the Marion Boys Club, we happened acorss an overlook that provided us with a full view of the valley below. What we saw was amazing. We noticed a bear trying his best to get into a large log that was obviously full of his favorite treat- Honey! With our binoculars, we focused in on that log and saw a mass a bees surrounding that bear even though he seemed to give them little notice.

That bear was more centered on the honey within that log. His claws shredded it time and time again as he stuck his nose deeper and deeper into that log. The bees did their best to discourage him but he was not to be denied. The boys each took a turn at the binoculars to see what was happening and then we moved off to leave the bear to the task at hand. I don’t think that he bear was ever conscious of us being above him on that overlook as his attentions were turned elsewhere.

Instead of finishing our hike that day, we returned to the car for the trip back to Big Bass Lake as I thought it wise to cease our hiking of that day in the event that other bears might be in that same area. And, while the bear might have had his full of honey, the kids had a “honey” of a time watching his efforts from that overlook and that is something they will never forget.

The Vigil of the Lonely Ice Fisherman

I sometimes think of my husband out there on some lakes iceoack allby himself and without the aid of an ice tent. He has bore a hole in the ice and sits upon his seat dangling a line into the icy waters waiting for a fish to take his bait. Mike does this several times each winter and I don’t know what motivates him to do so.

He usually goes out on bone chilling days in the middle of some ice covered lake where the wind swirls about even making it colder still. Yet Mike maintains his vigil until he has landed about four to five fish. He doesn’t have to put them on ice, per se, since they are already swimming about in icy waters. Now and then his friend, Ben, will go with him but not to fish. Ben is there for moral support and to crack a few of his one liners.

I could think of better ways to spend my time four days before Christmas such as looking for a suitable present for his wife?? I sure hope that present isn’t cutting out fish guts because then someone else will be in that frying pan.

Is this putting your best foot forward? As young Jon was taking a nap at the cabin we rented near Big Bass Lake, I caught this photograph. Jon was a member of the Hoffman Estates Boys Club and after one of our hikes he drifted asleep in one of the living room chairs. Within seconds he was out like a light and his foot gently crossed over the arm of the chair to provide him for room for his slumber.

He was just starting to relax after that hike and he drifted away while the rest of us were talking. Sometimes a picture DOES say a thousand words! To allow Jon his privacy the rest of us left the cabin and walked down to the Little Manistee River to cool our feet. Under out cabin bedroom was a barbeque area. I never felt comfortable using the barbeque grill there so we moved it in front of the cabin.

About an hour later Jon joined us as if he had never drifted off into sleep and said he was only resting his eyes. Chris said they had about an hours rest. Jon didn’t believe him until he saw the evidence on another boy’s watch. After a few laughs we barbequed up some hamburgers and had a great evening.

By the way, Jon put his best foot forward again by volunteering to clean up the barbeque grill that night.

Whoa there, Bambi, you’re sticking out like a sore thumb. Human talk, you know, cause if you stay around them long enough you’re gonna pick up their lingo.  We might as well be carrying a neon sign tonight.  At least we ought to give those hunters some sort of challenge.

Say, maybe it’ll snow tonight and then we’d fit right in?  But tonight a hunter would have to be blind to miss us.  And, don’t be tail gating me Bambi.  I don’t like to be crowded especially during hunting season.  A fella needs some space to move around in especially if we hear a rifle shot. 

And no salt blocks tonight either.  I know you’re hooked on that stuff but they don’t need no salt block to see us.  Hey, maybe we could roll around in some mud down by the creek?  Or we could paint each other saying, Protected Species List.  Maybe even write out, “Eat at Na-Tah-Ka”.  Nah, cause they might take that literally and then they’ d be having supper with us as their main course!

You know the only logical thing we can do is to pray for snow.  Or that their guns might misfire?  I just hope that Big Buck ain’t out hunting Little Buck tonight.  You know I think that mud idea is the best so let’s set out for that creek and forget that salt block,Bambi, as that would be hazardous to your health tonight believe you me!

Ah, the ever winding roads of the Manistee National Forest send out a true sign of green marking St. Patrick’s Day knowing that Spring is just around the corner. And, with each passing corner one knows what they will find and that is more wonderful scenery full of the green.

Yet of all the winding roads of this forest, I prefer the dirt or sandy ones as they are more into the primitive aspects of the MNF. And, at any time, I enjoy just stopping the car and commence hiking. What are your memories of the Manistee National Forest?

%d bloggers like this: