By Rachel Coale
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Deep in the forest, streams are rushing with snowmelt and tips of green are emerging from gaps between fallen leaves. Blooming time for northern Michigan’s three-petaled wild orchid, the trillium, is just around the corner. Colorful songbirds are making the long trip back to their summer homes with a season of abundance before them.
With this natural beauty in store, now is the time to start planning a getaway to the forest. Make lifetime memories while hunting for mushrooms, casting a line into a trout stream or catching sight of a free-roaming elk.
Want to get out there? Check out our online state forest tour to inspire your trip. State forests can be found in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula, although there are plenty of forested areas to see in parks and recreation areas across the state as well.
The wild character of forests comes with seclusion, so get a hard copy map or download your route before you arrive as cell service can be spotty. Once there, it’s time to unplug – the only reason you’ll need to take out your phone is to use the camera to capture memories.
State forest pathways, part of the state’s trails system, and state forest roads open to ORVs and snowmobiles are two ways to navigate state forests. Some forest roads are maintained seasonally, so do your research in advance before heading out during the winter. Road maps are updated April 1 each year.
Only a small fraction of state forest land is harvested annually, but if you come across an active timber job or planting operation, there are a few things you should know for safety.
First, stay on the trail. Logging companies must keep trails passable and post signage about upcoming activities. Let on-the-ground staff know you’re passing through if you’ll be close to the action, and don’t approach logging or cultivation equipment.
“A machinery operator may not be able to see or hear you while working,” said Michigan Department of Natural Resources Forest Resources Division Acting Assistant Chief Dave Lemmien. “Splinters and wood debris from cutting can sometimes fly through the air and could accidentally hit a passerby if they get too close.”
Timber harvesters can accommodate equestrian groups if notified in advance. Ride organizers should work with the Michigan Trail Riders Association and the local forest resources unit office in the area you plan to ride.
Ready to call it a day? A state forest campground is where a day hike turns into an overnight adventure, complete with starry skies, a crackling campfire and a true wilderness experience.
“Rustic” is the best way to describe these unique campgrounds. Many of these secluded sites are hike-in or paddle-in only and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Facilities available include basic vault toilets, fire rings and picnic tables. Drinking water comes from a hand pump, a novelty that often delights young adventurers and many adults, too.
Many state forest campgrounds are associated with bodies of water and state pathways for cool hiking opportunities right at the campgrounds.
Here are a few state forest destinations to visit, suggested by DNR staff:
Pigeon River Country State Forest
A must-see is the famed Pigeon River Country State Forest – “the Big Wild,” which at 109,000 acres is the largest block of undeveloped land in the northern Lower Peninsula. This forest land is home to Michigan’s elk herd and offers opportunities to camp, hike, fish and ride on horseback. Flowing trout streams, cool sinkhole lakes and a network of trails offer scenic views.
For a challenging adventure in this storied landscape, plan a hike on the High Country Pathway, a rugged, weeklong backpacking trail. Shorter trails are perfect for day hikes and picnics. An interpretive center is a great place to learn about the area’s history and stage your hike.
Jordan River Valley
It’s worth a drive off the beaten path to visit two scenic overlooks perched over the Jordan River Valley in Antrim County. Landslide Hill Scenic Overlook and Dead Man’s Hill Overlook provide spectacular views of the forest and river floodplain below, especially when autumn colors begin to turn.
“The Jordan River Pathway is a great area to visit with many points of interest along the trail,” said DNR forest management specialist Jason Stephens. “Maybe it’s my local bias, but this area is really special.”
The Dead Man’s Hill Overlook, whose name recalls a tragic lumbering accident a century ago, is the trailhead for 3- and 18-mile hiking loops on the Jordan River Pathway. The 18-mile loop, part of the 4,600-mile North Country National Scenic Trail, is popular among backpackers who camp at the Pinney Bridge State Forest Campground.
In addition to excellent hiking in the valley, the Jordan River is a popular water trail for intermediate paddlers. If you don’t own a kayak or canoe, local outfitters can help plan a trip.
Mouth of the Two-Hearted River
The mighty Two-Hearted River meets Lake Superior’s icy waters along the coastline in Luce County. In this setting perfect for exploration, a walking bridge leads visitors to a rocky beach strewn with a rainbow of stones. Rockhounds can attempt to get lucky and find an agate as they catch a lakeside sunset before retiring next to the fire at a 39-campsite state forest campground. A nearby boat launch is an access point on the Lake Superior East Water Trail, and a short trip inland takes visitors to the spectacular Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls.
Sands Lake Quiet Area
In contrast to the nearby bustle of Traverse City, the Sand Lakes Quiet Area in Grand Traverse County is a serene forest designated in 1973 exclusively for nonmotorized uses including hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing and birdwatching. Five small, distinctive “marl lakes” can be found along hiking trails that ramble over 2,800 acres of rolling hills. These glacial lakes have an ethereal teal hue due to calcium carbonate content in the water. A few of the lakes are stocked with trout. Trails and lakes can be accessed starting at the Guernsey Lake State Forest Campground.
Big Eric’s Bridge State Forest Campground
In the Upper Peninsula, Big Eric’s Bridge State Forest Campground, along the banks of the Huron River in Baraga County, is a secluded destination. Visitors will enjoy hiking, camping, fishing, ORV riding and viewing nearby waterfalls, including Big Eric’s Falls, flowing over the rocky riverbed.
“It’s just a really peaceful, beautiful place,” said DNR training coordinator Jan Hebekeuser.
With a campground, road, bridge and falls named after him, who was Big Eric? Eric Erickson, a well-known local figure of an imposing stature, was Henry Ford’s lumber camp foreman more than a century ago.
Before you head out, pack the following information with you.
In the outdoors, Leave No Trace principles are the gold standard for responsible recreation, encouraging people to leave the places they love wild and in better shape than they found them.
That means packing out trash of all kinds and leaving wildflowers alone. Occasionally, you may run into something worse than a few candy wrappers – a dump site. In addition to being unsightly, piles of trash in the woods are a danger to people and wildlife. If you encounter one, report it to the Report All Poaching hotline at 1-800-292-7800 or log it with the Adopt-a-Forest Program so a team can take care of it.
Our editor Alexis Mercer was at her NHS teaching post the day Wesco decided to step up and help with some much needed donut driven distraction. Newaygo’s PBIS team (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports) sprung for the treats while Wesco delivered a donut discount as well as coupons for a slew of slushie coupons for the virtual students.
“So many wonderful people have stepped up to support our students and staff this week. Thank you for all the love.
“The best part about being a Lion is how we pull together in times of need. I’ll never stop praising this community and school for the way they rise up. It’s been a full year since our doors closed for a “3 week break”. And while I truly wish we wouldn’t have had so many opportunities to display our strength as a group, my pride overflows in watching it all unfold."
By Jill Hansen-Aune
Reference Librarian at Fremont Area District Library
I recently read the book We Are Not from Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez. This is the story of three young people who leave the violence of their small town in Guatemala.
When Pulga, age 15, and Chico, age 13 go to the corner store to buy grape sodas, they overhear a robbery that ends in murder. At the same moment, their “cousin," 17-year-old Pequena is giving birth. The murderer--a local gang leader, knows that Pulga and Chico know he's a murderer, and soon, Chico and Pulga are forced to join his gang or die. Meanwhile, Pequena is keeping the identity of the father of her baby a secret because she’s afraid of him after he raped her.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. All three make the choice to leave their family and travel together to the USA. They cross into Mexico and meet up with others leaving Central America. Everyone is looking for La Bestia, the death train. They have to rely on luck, outwit those who wish to do them harm, and look after one another.
The story alternates between Pequena’s and Pulga’s points of view, which I liked. It helped me understand how people would choose to leave family and travel through a country that hates them (Mexico) to a third country that doesn’t want them (The United States). I didn’t enjoy how much the characters had to suffer on their journey. The author is the daughter of immigrants from Central America.
I definitely recommend this book, but I’d also recommend having something happy to read waiting in the wings.
You can place this book on hold in the library’s catalog here: https://bit.ly/3qxSRaj Digital (including audio) copies of the book are also available with your library card on OverDrive and Hoopla. Download the OverDrive or Hoopla Digital apps in your app store to get started or visit www.fremontlibrary.net or www.hoopladigital.com.
Story and photos by Lola Harmon-Ramsey
I used to love to cook. I have a few bookshelves of cookbooks and Pinterest albums full of recipes to try. One of my favorite reads is Martha Stewart’s first book, “Entertaining” that I would have on my lap at my grandmother’s house for years and years until she finally gifted it to me. Suffice to say, I can get myself around the kitchen.
And then, last year happened. I can’t deny that I was lucky to have a safe home to live in and the enormous privilege to provide food for my family during shutdowns and months of uncertainty.
We made the banana bread. I tried a homemade Bolognese. I made more batches of real mashed potatoes with dinners than I would have made time for in my former life. But, as this year has dragged on, and some parts of life have tried to get back on a schedule (yeah, middle school athletics and little league baseball!), I have lost my spark in the kitchen. The monotony of these days has dulled my creative side. The grey skies and cold temperatures kept me down along with everything else. We have had our share of takeout, fast food, and frozen pizza, but my love for cooking and entertaining has retreated to nothingness and I needed a change.
So, perhaps my social sites could feel the frustration through my Pinterest searches, easy casseroles, overnight oats, and suddenly, as it happens these days, ads for meal kits started to show up on my pages. Free shipping! First box free! The ads kept coming and I figured why not? I hopped onto Hello Fresh and ordered their three meals for four people deal. No need for creative thinking or meal planning for three nights? Sold!
Their site was pretty easy to use and I was able to select three meals for our family out of about 15 options. Spicy recipes were a no-go as well as recipes with a main ingredient that included tree nuts due to an allergy in our family. This eliminated about half of the recipes on the available menu. Also out was vegetarian/vegan. There is no allergy with those options, but my husband is certainly averse to eating beans over beef so that eliminated two more menu options. I appreciated the well- written ingredient list for anyone that has dietary or allergy needs and I ended up picking a pork, chicken, and fish dish.
The promotion for this package was these three meals, delivered, for about $60.00. The box was scheduled to be delivered the next Thursday. This promotion shaved off quite a bit of money from the usual price which looked to be around $90-$100 for three meals.
The next Thursday arrived and after picking the kids up from school I came home to this on my front step. Hello, indeed!
After unpacking the box I noticed a few things. First, there is a lot of packaging. For some that isn’t an issue but for me, a recycling provider, I definitely pay attention to the amount of packaging an item has. You can tell that Hello Fresh is trying to address the excessive packaging by promoting recycling the products. Unfortunately, a number of the items that were marked as easily recyclable in our box are not accepted in our local recycling program and thus, making more trash than I am used to creating.
Second, I received this shipment a few weeks ago (sorry editor on the delay) during our very cold snap. Between the frozen ice pack inside the box to keep the food cold during shipping and the cold temperatures we were experiencing outside, the two portions of green beans that were supposed to accompany each meal were all half frozen, half slime, and had to be thrown away.
The other items in the bags were still fine to use and so it was time to make our first dinner. I selected the maple mustard chicken legs as our first meal. It included four chicken quarters, sweet potatoes, seasonings, maple syrup, mustard, sour cream and the soon to be discarded green beans.
The meal was very easy to assemble and I have never used Dijon or maple syrup on chicken. The pre-mixed seasoning was flavorful without being spicy or overpowering. I am glad that I read the potato prep portion twice. Included in the ingredients were two packets, one teaspoon each, of nutmeg. The recipe called for a “sprinkle” of nutmeg in the potatoes. If I weren’t paying attention it would have been very easy to put both packets of nutmeg into the potatoes, which would have overpowered the dish.
I had leftover green beans of my own from the previous week so I steamed those and omitted the pecans (tree nut allergy) and assembled a plate. I think it looks very similar to the recipe card and I was pleased with the results. My family enjoyed the meal but the chicken portions were quite small and everyone wanted a second piece of chicken but alas, there was no more. Snacks were had later that evening. Ramsey Rank: 7 out of 10.
Meal two: Steakhouse pork chops.
This one was incredibly easy. I don’t tend to do a pan sauce with my meat dishes and the shallot sauce made this dish. Without the sauce this would have been a boring pork chop with some roasted potatoes. I learned my lesson on the portion problem with the chicken a few nights earlier and added a few of our own pork chops to the recipe, which did satisfy my crew. Obviously, by adding more pork chops this increased the price of the recipe per person but it was needed at our house. The kids didn’t partake in the shallot cream sauce but my husband and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The green beans for this meal were a frozen steam-in-a-bag type and they were terrible.
Ramsey Rank: 6 out of 10.
Meal Three: Louisiana-Style Tilapia
I didn’t have a lot of hopes for this meal. The evening I made this meal fish didn’t sound all that appetizing but we pressed on. There were a lot of ingredients to this meal and a lot of unintended plastic to dispose of.
I followed the directions and made the slaw side first. This was very easy and included a small chili pepper, which I assumed needed to all be included in the slaw. It was spicy but gave a great heat to the cool dressing on the cabbage and carrot. Next up was breading the tilapia with old bay seasoning, panko and cornstarch. I had never used cornstarch in a breading but it helped create a great crust on the fish with the panko. Here in Michigan we are used to a heavy style tartar sauce to accompany our fish fry. This recipe created a thinner sauce of mayo, mustard, chopped scallion whites, sour cream, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper. It was fantastic. The potato wedges were very basic but crispy. The fish was crispy and not at all greasy. The sauce added a great flavor and the slaw was the star of the show adding a crunch of cabbage with the hint of heat from the chili pepper. We ended up enjoying this meal the most out of all of the three choices.
Ramsey Rank: 8 out of 10.
So, would I order Hello Fresh again? Not anytime soon. It was really nice not having to think too hard about dinner for three nights but the portions of protein were lacking for my family's needs. I don’t blame Hello Fresh too harshly for the gross green beans but it did impact our meals and what we had available to us. The use of potatoes as a starch for each meal was too much for me; we don’t tend to make potatoes for multiple dinners. I think the cost is excessive if you are paying full price for the service and wouldn’t be a sustainable option for us. I think the value is good if you like to cook at home, have smaller appetites, and do not want to shop at the store. I did save the recipe cards to make my own chicken quarters and the sauce from the fish night so those were winners.
In the weeks since this experiment I got some of my old cookbooks out and went through the freezer again. The meal plan is taped on the fridge and there is probably a Season’s Pizza in our future but that is just fine too. Sometimes it’s not just the meal to enjoy, but the people around the table you get to share it with.
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