Monday, May 20, 2024

No products in the cart.

HomeAdventureMichigan Trail Adventures™A Day of Adventure and "Surprises" at Big M

A Day of Adventure and “Surprises” at Big M

Big M Recreation Area – Manistee National Forest – Manistee, Michigan

Nestled within the heart of Michigan’s lush Manistee National Forest lies a hidden jewel known as the Big M Recreation Area. This secluded haven offers an enchanting escape for nature enthusiasts and adventurers alike, where ancient tales rustle through the trees and winding trails invite exploration.

On a sunny August afternoon, Taran, Rooster, and I embarked on what we hoped would be a captivating journey to the Big M. Armed with hiking gear, water, and snacks, we set forth to uncover the secrets of the new trail system that promised a thrilling 12-mile day hike.

We enjoyed the 2 plus hour drive to our destination, roads trips are always something we relish in. They are a journey within a journey. We love the anticipation of the open road stretched before us like a canvas of possibilities, each mile offering a new discovery waiting to unfold. The hum of the engine and the rhythmic movement of the wheels are like a soothing melody offering freedom and exploration.

As we entered the forest, a sense of serenity mixed with anxious anticipation arose within me. We had been to this forest before, but not this trail system. We spent one month camping and hiking in Manistee National Forest back in 2020 – our way of socially distancing ourselves from the world. Entering this forest brought those comforting memories to the surface.

The towering pines in this place possess an enigmatic quality that captivates the senses. Standing tall and noble, they beckon you into their embrace, their presence evoking both a comforting sense of sanctuary and an underlying feeling of unease. As their branches sway gently in the breeze, there’s a palpable harmony that seems to whisper secrets of the forest. The interplay of light and shadow amidst their thick foliage creates an intricate tapestry of nature’s artistry, inviting you to ponder the mysteries that lie within their depths. These pines, guardians of time, bear witness to the passing seasons and the stories woven into the very fabric of this land, leaving you with a sense of wonder and curiosity that lingers long after you’ve walked among them.

We began our adventure traversing through the Corkpine Trail, winding through the woods like a secret passage to another world. I marveled at the brilliance of green that surrounded us and listened to the melodic chirping of birds, which seemed to sing a chorus of welcome and perked Rooster to a heightened awareness of the wilderness around him.

Always eager for more of a challenge, we tested our skills on the Bullwacker Trail. This trail was the largest part of our hike – and it lived up to its name. It Bullwacked us with twists and turns that challenged our knees (Taran) and hips (me), and flushed the lactic acid from my calves. Adrenaline pumped through my veins as we navigated the elevation changes through the heavy humidity, my pants surely echoing through the trees.

I enjoyed traversing through the elevation changes. The sloping hills thick with sentinel pines are a magnificent sight. I always appreciate the more challenging hikes because I know that very few tred where I do. It makes the scenery around me that much more special to behold.

Once we reached Point 30 , we began our accent along the Firetower Trail, eager to reach the crown jewel of the Big M Recreation Area.  The hike was invigorating and challenging, and as we ascended higher, the forest canopy opened up to reveal the Manistee Fire Tower. It’s sturdy structure standing tall against the backdrop of a blue sky surrounded by a sea of green. We had hoped to climb to the top for what we hoped would be a marvelous panoramic view as we stood perched like kings and queens of the forest. But alas, the tower is not open to the public for our climbing pleasure. It was a bit of a disappointment. We read up on the brief history of the tower before we quickly began our descent down the tower hill.

Our adventure did not end there, we saved the best for last—the Catamount Trail. This multi-use trail led us through diverse terrain, from gentle slopes to rocky paths, and overgrown brush on the narrower parts of the trail.

Along the way, as Taran and Rooster traveled a bit ahead of me, I heard what I believed to be a faint, but not too distant “growl” behind me. With my hair promptly standing on end, I stopped in my tracks and focused on the sound. My heart began to pound loudly in my ears. I took out my air horn (the bear spray remained tucked comfortably away in the closet at home) and held it tightly in my hand. I heard the faint growl again. I started talking loudly to myself as I took in my surroundings and picked up my pace.

As I came out from a path along a sentinel of pines to a dirt road where Taran and Rooster sat waiting, I realized what the “growl” had been. Like characters stepping onto a stage, a couple approached us, their side-by-side vehicle grumbling into view. They initially thought Rooster was a bear, and my bear was the low growl of their side-by-side. We laughed, both relieved that we were each not the other’s bear.

As the sun moved further west in the sky, casting a warm glow over the forest, we decided at mile six that we had little daylight left and had to cut our 12-mile hike down to nine and promised ourselves that we would travel back another day and take on more of this marvelous trail system. We calculated that we were only hiking about 2 miles per hour due to the challenging terrain and humidity. Even Rooster, that usually exuberant embodiment of canine vitality, appeared to acknowledge the trail’s formidable spirit. His usual bursts of energy were tamed, and he navigated with an uncommonly measured step with Taran’s pace.

The unease this forest holds for me carried with me throughout the hike.  There were many times along this hike that I found myself alone, as Taran and Rooster hiked upwards of 5 minutes ahead of me. I always hike at a slower pace and stop to capture nature in her splendor and the intrigue of the forest around me. Standing beneath the canopy of pines, I was reminded of how majestic nature truly is. And as night began to beckon with the hush of the trail, I was also reminded of the unknown that surrounded me.

Alone amidst the trees, under the assumption that Taran and Rooster were well ahead, I continued my path from the trail’s end. Suddenly, a stir in the underbrush to my right captured my attention. I halted, straining my ears for any sound beyond the thudding of my own heart. The forest around me seemed to hold its breath. After a moment, I ventured forward. The rustling grew more pronounced, and from the midst of the foliage emerged a brown form, causing my heart to race even faster. It turned out to be Rooster, doubling back to ensure his mama was fine. For an instant, I had mistaken him for a mountain lion. It was the second time that day I had been relieved that nature’s surprises were not as alarming as they first seemed. The forest held an enchanting aura, but the shadows of the unknown can send shivers down your spine, particularly as dusk approaches.

As we eased out of the parking lot, our adventure’s final chapter unfolding, the allure of Big M was already beckoning us for another visit, promising more of nature’s unassuming magic. Perhaps we’ll venture back on a less humid day.

Watch our Trail Adventure.

Tamara Graham
Tamara Graham
With an adventurous spirit and a burning desire to make the world work for all of us, Tamara encourages others to embrace self-love, compassion, empathy, understanding, and an ever important sense of humor. With over 30 years of diverse marketing experience, including a decade in publishing, she brings a fresh and innovative perspective to the industry. Her concept revolves around experiential magazines that captivate both online and in print. Tamara's visionary project, LIVE. LOVE. LOCAL. MICHIGAN™, unveils the wonders of our breathtaking home state, igniting love and admiration among Michiganders for where they live. By fostering this deep connection, she inspires a genuine appreciation and love for where we live!
- Advertisment -spot_img