Last week I spoke about adventures in our watershed, but what if you want a true change of scenery? Traffic up north is intense, the state parks are full, and tourist beaches in Traverse City are packed. Just when we want to get outdoors and get away from it all, to see a little more of our beautiful Michigan, everyone has the same need to be free. How do you get out to camp or explore and avoid the crowds?
The SBLC staff may have an advantage in this area, as our jobs get us out in the “bush” more than most. Here is a short playbook for your own adventure.
1. Don’t be afraid to go somewhere new.
With the main outdoor tourism locations getting hammered with in-state tourists, especially on the Lake Michigan side, think about hitting up a place you have never tried before. We have found that many small towns have small businesses eager to serve you at the take-out window. Try Rockport State Park in Alpena, our 100th state park. There are beaches, trails, rivers, and forests all nearby. Many small towns have private or township campgrounds that rarely see the same sort of pressure you will experience at the state campgrounds.
2. Go rustic.
Try dispersed camping in one of our two national forests in the Lower Peninsula. I explored the Manistee National Forest with my son last week and found some incredible spots on the Manistee River. Rustic camping requires little more than a tent, some food, sleeping bag (and a pad), and whatever kit you need for hygiene and your rustic latrine. There are millions of acres to explore and it doesn’t take much to grab a map and find a spot of your own.
3. Hit the trails.
Either on foot or in your four-wheel-drive vehicle, get away from the pavement, and find your own spot in the woods. Most tourists don’t stray far from the resources of the road, so even a short hike can find you all alone in the wilderness. This past weekend, Ted and his family hiked the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore with backpacks. This incredible UP trail takes you on foot for over 30 miles of uninterrupted wild camping and hiking. You will need a permit, and you need to have the gear and experience to look after yourself, so do your homework.
4. Pack in, pack out.
Always leave it cleaner than you found it. With added pressure on natural areas in Michigan, reports are streaming in of increased litter, overflowing trash cans, and more. Be prepared, bring an SBLC Green Bucket kit! We would love to put them into action (email me to find out how you can get one early) or a few spare garbage bags, and do your part to keep Michigan green.
5. Try geocaching.
This fun activity involves using your GPS or phone to find small hidden caches in the community around you. There are thousands of them hidden in Michigan, and many require you to hike in and look carefully at the forest around you. Like any outdoor activity the best part is that it gets you outside!
6. Look to the local land conservancy.
Michigans’ land conservatives (find a local one here) protect thousands of acres of some of the most pristine lands in our state. Most nature preserves owned and protected by land conservancies are open to the public for you to enjoy, and rarely do they see the sort of pressure you will find at a state park. While most land conservancies, ours included, don’t allow overnight camping, you are sure to find nature preserves near places that do. You can camp at the Pinconning County Park, for instance, and then explore the SBLC nature preserves of the Saginaw Bay Coastal Wildlands all around you.
Camping, or day trips if you are not a camper, can be special experiences that make lasting memories. For even more guidance check out the info provided by our partner, Heart of the Lakes.
If you get out and explore Michigan, I would love to see pictures and hear stories of your adventures! I would love to hear from you, you can even reply to this email directly!
With hope for our community and an open heart,