Our Forest in the Fall

I don’t think that there’s a more glorious season in Michigan than the fall and that sure holds true for Big Bass Lake. All of falls fantastic colors are reflected off of Big Bass Lake making them doubly beautiful. I enjoy taking a walk in the woods and hearing the crunch of leaves beneath my feet. One can see twice as far without all those leaves hindering your eyesight.

Fall soon gives way to winter’s whiteness and frigid temperatures only to yield to Spring’s painting the landscape green again.  All those three seasons allow one to reflect peaceably on the shores of Big Bass Lake without being shoved aside by high powered speed boats.  On Memorial Day everything changes as the hustle and bustle of the lake begins anew.  Summer was my time to relax and enjoy an inner tube dip in the lake.  Perhaps doing a little fishing.  But soon those leaves would give way to a rainbow of colors and my hiking shoes would come out again.  What a great place to live year round.  If only our cottage had been winterized.  I guess you can tell I’m a Michigan snowbird.  In a few weeks it will be my time to head south for the winter.

See you in early Spring!

Trails Within Our Forest

There are many trails within our property but this one is unique as it runs along the swamp that is behind our wooded beachfront. It’s located right off Noreika Road and the old logging trail. It takes a right turn and follows along trees on one side and swamp on the other nearly all the way to Matson Road. At first the trail has forest on both sides, as you find here, but very soon the trees on the right give way to swampland.

Just before Matson Road there is a small pond or swamp, if you will, on the left. That area almost looks like the Florida Everglades as it appears mysterious and somewhat forboding. I like this trail for jogging as it gets me out on Matson Road where I can hike back North to another path that leads back into our property fairly close to a stream.

Eventually that pathway leads back to the old logging trail and then back onto Noreika Road. Its good to have a trail system within one’s property and this was largely established during my days with boys club trips where all these trails were used often.

Hiking the Outskirts of Noreika Forest

Now and then, for a little variety, some of our hikes took place on Big Bass Lake Road following our property line. A Marion YMCA trip had our boys begin our hike at our driveway and we proceeded west for about twenty yards before turning north on Big Bass Lake Road. For about a half-mile, we followed our farming field that took us to Noreika Road. That part of our hike brought us into direct contact with the hot sun overhead and was the most tiring part of our hike.

Mark Aldefer had to rest a few times along the way as the temperature was in the high 80’s that day with humidity. After we passed Noreika Road we had the shade of our forest the remainder of the way. As we passed our gravel pit, a few of the boys ambled down into it. Jay Smith thought it was neat although no great thing whatever that meant.

Just past the gravel pit Big Bass Lake goes downhill and around a curve. Just before that curve is another one of our swamps. Then it was a straight shot to Matson Road which we followed back to Big Bass Lake. For a time it hugs the actual lake with only a few feet separating the two.

Then we passed by a cottage directly behind our campsite. I’ve never seen anyone occupy that cottage ever. So the kids had a great hike on the outskirts of our property and readied themselves for a refreshing swim in Big Bass Lake.

Bales of Hay


Most people that own farms are familiar with this scene. In the distance you can see our house and garage but before it in our field are countless bales of hay stretching from just beyond the public landing all the way to Noreika Road.

Our field was rather long and somewhat narrow for the majority of the acres involved but in the picture you see is the widest section of that field.

In another time bales of hay were stacked nearly to the rafters in our barn. As a boy I enjoyed climbing as high as I could in that barn and had a great time doing it. But it takes a lot of work to get all that hay in for the winter that can feed the stock.

Our Quagmire Swamp


Just behind our wooded beachfront on our property was a quagmire swamp. It was quite close in proximity to our second campfire pit. It ran all along the backside of our camping area and was one of the primary reasons we each year had a fern smoke fire to rid that area of mosquitoes.

Some of the kids were real curious about that swamp. Quagmire takes a person down slowly. Unlike quicksand, which one can actually swim in, the same does not hold true for quagmire as the consistency is too thick. Keith, in particular, was real dubious about it. He once asked if he could wade in but I told him what if he got in and started to sink? He said throw me a rope and I said what if the rope broke? That was the end of that conversation.

Another time on a YMCA trip to our property, another supervisor was not watching the kids too closely on a hike as they were scattered about and one boy actually stepped nto a quagmire swamp. It was a small area and he was pulled out, but the suction took his shoes and socks, plus his pants. He was coated with thick black mud. By the way, the only thing that really works taking the aroma off is to wash with tomato juice.

We had several quagmire swamps on our property and the boys were warned about them. Our errie photograph above is the impression I wanted to leave on the boys about the dangers of those quagmire swamps.

Noreika Gravel Pit Today

My thanks to Kent for taking this photograph of how our gravel pit looks today. It’s not quite so scary as when I was a youngster. On another post here I tell of an incident with a spider that was as large as a rock. For a long time, as a young boy, I would not frequent this location at all. It is just north of Noreika Road on the right side of the road.

In the 1970’s several Boys Clubs of America kids searched this gravel pit from all sides.  We once approached it from the western side and a rather steep hill was before us.  It may once have been in active use but not since I’ve been alive.  And, I’ve never asked my grandparents or aunts about it.  Maybe when I was younger that spider had more impact on me than at first thought?

Today it looks rather peaceful.  In fact, there seems to be little evidence of any gravel yet in it.  In appearance it just looks like a large hole in the ground.  Maybe it’s better that way!

Campfire Fellowship

I have often wondered about the differences between a resident summer camp and the opportunity afforded to the various boys clubs on our property. That was even the topic of conversation with kids from the Salesian Boys Club of Columbus, Ohio, one summer night.

I shared with them about a resident camp I attended as a counselor called Camp Mishawaka in Minnesota that cost kids over $7,000 to attend for eight weeks!  Mike Myers expressed shock at that especially when I told him what the activities were.  He related they could find the same things in Columbus for far less. 

One of the boys noted that at resident camps you are fed but on our trips every boy takes some part in the preparation of a meal.  “It always tastes better when you make it yourself“, said one of the kids with a laugh.

Our kids always enjoyed the various duties they were given at our property except for latrine duty.  No one enjoyed that task!  That was made quite known at that evenings campfire.  However, when compared to the whole experience, the kids said even that was acceptable.  Our wooded beachfront didn’t allow for soccer or tennis to be played.  Instead the boys chopped wood for meals and campfires, cooked, cleaned out their tents daily, and participated in fishing, boating, and swimming.  Hiking was done in our forest area about a half mile from camp. 

The boys learned to work together for the common good of the camp and that was always the goal of each trip to our property.  Boys that chose to ignore teamwork were not invited back on future trips.  That evening there were lots of laughs and good fellowship around the campfire in retelling tales of how the boys viewed the chores and duties they were assigned.  Not a bad topic for campfire that evening!

Map Of Noreika Farm Outlined In Red

Big and Little Bass Lake

Our family farm extended from just west of the Public Landing all the way around on Big Bass Lake Road to Matson Road, on the North side of the Lake. It then was on the west side of Matson Road nearly to Big Bass Lake again. In all the farm was 256 acres. My Aunt Beth Norris even informed me that according to the original maps a small slice of Matson’s island was also considered part of our land on the norhtwest side of that island.

Cutting through the middle of our property was Noreika Road which still falls under that name yet today as a testimony to my grandmother who kept the original name Noreika when the rest of the family changed it to Norris in the 1940’s.

On the west side of Noreika Road was largely what was considered the farm with fields and a short strand of forest. On the east side of Noreika Road was the shoreline of Big Bass Lake, largely forested, including our beach. Between the beach and Big Bass Lake Road was all forest. That land continued all the way to Matson Road.

An old logging trail could take you right to Matson Road. The trail divided near the big swamp with one trail leading back to Big Bass Lake Road and the other heading in the direction of Matson Road.

Our Cabin / Cottage Transition


This is a most interesting picture in that it shows the front part of the old cottage at the end of the driveway where the newer garage will one day be. But the back part of that old cabin is gone being torn down. Then you can see the new cottage closer to Big Bass Lake to the right.

My grandmother had a most difficult adjustment moving from the home she knew for the majority of her years to the newer cottage. One would have thought the newer facilities to have been easier on her but then she was in love with that old cabin and to be truthful so was I. There will never be another kitchen like the one in the old cabin and I wish they had left it intact.

It could have been reworked for my grandmother to live there. I can’t imagine how difficult a transition all this was for her. This is the only picture I can recall with both the front half of the old cabin still up along with the new cottage.

Our Forested Property

Even though we called our property the family farm, of the 250 plus acres, a large percentage of that was forest land. This was a typical picture of that forest. Inundated with ferns, which, by the way, made for excellent mosquito controlling smoke, our forest was full of adventure and fun.

There was an old logging trail accessible from the sandy road that cut through the center of our property. It divided near the large swamp with one path runmning past another rather large swamp and the other way running parallel to a small creek eventually spilling onto North Matson Road.

Our forested beach area was also accessible off the main sandy road about 100 yeards down a small hill. That is where the majority of our boys club camping trips were located. It was right next to Big Bass Lake.

There was a small section of forest running alongside our family field all the way to the sandy road. But the main section of the forest was on the other side of that sandy road.

Daytime Hikes

On a trip to our property with the Marion YMCA daytime hikes were the order of the day. Since there were two supervisors along on that trip bonding hikes with the boys were frequent on our land. I once took a hike with Butch, Mark, and Brad and showed them not only the old logging trail but several other ones such as the one just off Matson Road.

We also did some off trail hiking and walked around the big swamp near the phone lines.  On this hike we even had a scavenger hunt for items of nature and this was held nowhere near a trail.  The Marion Y kids probably knew our property better than any other group as hikes were taken at least twice a day. 

In fact, on this trip, only two night hikes were taken.  One was down the Bloody Antler Trail and the other to Beatrack.  On night hikes the boys stayed quite close to both supervisors.  Even so, I think that the boys enjoyed day hikes on our property the best as they got to talk about everything under the sun.  Having another supervisor along made the difference.  And both of us were the better off for it.

The Eternal Tree

This tree is an oddity in that it stands quite alone in the middle of our large field. Before it is our garden which seems to move about in position probably due to the theory of rotation of crops to keep the land fresh. The tree in question has seemed to remain the same ever since I was a little boy.

In the black and white photo, that is a picture of me and it is the only time that my older sister, Treva, was taller than me. I now stand at 6’10” and that picture was taken of me at four years old. However, the tree in question hardly looks to have aged a day. The color photo was taken in 1980 and that tree stills stands yet today in 2010.

I oftentimes wonder why my grandfather left that tree in that solitary position after chopping down tree after tree to clear our large field that runs all the way to Noreika Road on the north. Perhaps he did so as a shade tree to gather around after a hard days work in the sun?