Friday, April 8, 2016

Flashback Friday: Backpacking Nordhouse Dunes on Lake Michigan

The sunset over Nordhouse Dunes last May.
A map found on trail.

The weather is (supposedly) warming up in Michigan, though I swear it's snowed more so far in April than it did in January here in my Oakland County home.

But warmer temps are coming, and that means it's time to start thinking about warm-weather trips. While any of these trips can be done most of the year, it can be slightly more enjoyable when the sun agrees with you.

That's why I've recently reminisced about one most recent trip, a May 2015 backpacking excursion to Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area, part of the Huron-Manistee National Forest. This property encompasses more than 3,400 acres of forest, abutting the Lake Michigan coastline north of Ludington.

It's a spot I've backpacked several times, first as a teenager, again in college and most recently in May. It's a reoccurring trip for the group I work with at my church because it's such a unique place with great views of Lake Michigan from many campsites. It's a lengthy drive to the starting point from the state highways, further preparing you for being more alone than usual.

It's a sandy trail to begin with, with thick forest scattered throughout. To get to any views of Lake
Hiking along the sandy dunes.
Michigan from where we started, we had a few miles hike through the woods. Bushwhacking through the underbrush was a challenge, trying to head toward the lake to find our campsite. To access Lake Michigan, hiking over a large hill was all but necessary. Steep with little to hold onto at certain parts, I've always remember the ascent to the top was a challenging one with a pack.

But it's worth it for the view, looking down at the dunes with grasses and other vegetation. And it's uplifting to see the waters of Lake Michigan in the distance.

Hiking in the woods near Nordhouse Dunes. Just like most
trails in western Michigan.
A popular place to camp is along the water, but inland enough where you can set up a tent with the shield of a dune protecting you from the wind. Head up and other the dune, and the water is right there within a few hundred feet.

May is a great time to head to this park. It's typically very quiet with few other people around, though this past trip saw many more crowds along the lakeshore, possibly because of an article written about Nordhouse Dunes in an online article on The trees are green, the water is still cold (though many of the youngsters we took on this trip braved the water) and the sights aren't dotted with other humans.

It's a place I'd recommend highly. Just not the weekend's I'm there. I prefer my national forests quiet.

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