By Jerry Dennis
Here’s what turns my crank: free-flowing rivers in wild country, ponds hidden in tamarack swamps, campsites under white pines swaying in a breeze, trout gulping mayflies. I like pushing off in a canoe, slinging a backpack onto my shoulders, and knowing that if I find woods or a pond or a stretch of river that suits me I can stay put for a few days or a week. And I like going my own way, at my own pace, and stumbling upon beautiful and interesting places.
So of course I like Michigan. After a lifetime of exploring it, my appreciation just keeps growing.
For one thing, we’re never more than a few miles from water here. And with so much of the two peninsulas protected by state and national forests — more than in any state east of the Mississippi — there are thousands of miles of two-track roads and hiking trails to explore. The opportunities for adventure are endless, and you don’t need to go far to find it.
On summer weekends my wife Gail and I like to throw some gear in the back of the truck, strap our canoe to the racks, and head for the woods. We take our time and drive the trails slowly, with the windows open, so we can spot berry bushes and smell sweet fern and more easily catch glints of water through the trees. On the seat between us we keep a county map-book open so we can make notes in the margins (“Good bluegill lake,” “Grouse cover along this creek,” “Lots of blueberries here, 2009”).
In a radius of 50 miles from our home are more streams, lakes, and ponds — and more forests, swamps, bogs, and dunes — than anyone could explore in a lifetime. There are birds and wildflowers to study, fish to catch, berries and mushrooms to gather. Meandering trails will lead us to them, and they can get us happily lost, too.
And isn’t that the point? So we can discover new places, forget about work and money worries and the latest political scandal. It allows us to learn more about this place we love and maybe learn a little more about ourselves, as well. ≈
Award-winning author and new BLUE columnist Jerry Dennis lives in Traverse City.