Northern Michigan can receive snow from about October through April. It can actually receive snow any month of the year in these parts, but we’ll deal with weather generalities for now.
Being from Michigan, one learns to enjoy all the excursions and variety that each season provides. When winter arrives in all it’s glory, it can be the absolutely most rewarding time to head for the woods or wherever.
One of our favorite activities is to snowshoe, and on a recent weekend it was the Hartwick Pines State Park—with 49 acres of old-growth pines, and more than 9,000 acres to explore—that we’d selected as our winter getaway for a day.
Hartwick Pines State Park is a few minutes north of Grayling, Michigan, a quaint town that hosts the annual AuSable Canoe Marathon on the last weekend of every July. Outside of that, it’s a beautiful town of approximately 2,000 (much more in the summer) with character, characters, a must-stop bakery destination and Art Deco theater, to only name a few of the area’s gems.
When plans and nature are involved, there’s always hope sprinkled with a dash of reality on the plate when your day arrives, and on this day our hopes were not only met, but exceeded.
A winter storm had rolled in creating the effect of driving and hiking through a snow globe. Once we’d pulled in to the park, we were greeted by a sign that had Bob Ross on it and the words ‘Happy Little Trees Ahead’—it was going to be a fun day.
There was a time I’d questioned the benefits of snowshoes and whether they were necessary, since my hiking boots had always seemed sufficient. I’m here to tell, snowshoes will give you access to trails that normal boots would have a tough time managing. Plus, they allow for easier ascents and descents on hills. Our snowshoes are from Atlas but do your research and look for something that speaks to you.
Once we’d parked, our snowshoes were attached in minutes and we were on the trails.
The signs and trail markers made the experience free of worry at the possibility of becoming lost.
The trail was unbelievably serene. Even without the snow, it would’ve been that way. After about each three or four mile markers it was if we’d stepped into another outdoor fairy-tale world, each one as gorgeous as the last. There were towering pines, Narnia-like bends of the AuSable River that babbled under bridges and cedar-tree tunnels where black-capped chickadees—every the social birds—fluttered and chatted.
By the time we’d reached our vehicle in the parking lot, our legs were thankful but our eyes and soul were already gearing up to return.
We’d planned to eat at Spike’s Keg O’ Nails, but we’d consumed so much with our eyes instead of our stomachs, we had to return home.
A perfect way to experience the area would be to secure lodging and make it a true all-day experience in Grayling. Another benefit is that you’d have a better chance of seeing a movie at the Rialto.
Really though, for a true Grayling experience, make sure to head to Spike’s and take in the history.
As I’ve been tending to with increased frequency, I brought only my iPhone on this trip for image making. It’s lightweight, available and has incredible image quality. There’s a creative freedom that comes with using an iPhone, or any cell phone camera. That freedom comes from operating a device that’s unobtrusive and simple. If you’re going to bring a camera anywhere, make sure you bring one that will aid in you making the best pictures possible. The cell phone camera is just easy and fun.