Travel Through the Trees

The Virgin QueensWant to see some unsacrificed virgins? The nearly 10,000-acre Hartwick Pines State Park in Grayling boasts 49 acres of old growth white pine — some as old as 350 years. Pay a visit to the trees and to the park’s on-site logging museum, then saw some wood — figuratively speaking, of course — in the 100-site campground (rates start at $25 per night, 800-447-2757) or the secluded rustic cabin ($60; 989-348-7068), which sleeps six.

Valley of the GiantsIt’s June. You’re on an island. You’re standing in a grove of white cedars that rise 100 feet against the sky. Sunlight filters through the canopy, the sweet aroma of cedars wafts through the air. Is it heaven? Close — it’s South Manitou Island’s Valley of the Giants. Hike the 3.5-mile trail to the grove with a picnic in your pack, then return to one of the island’s three campgrounds for a starry night Van Gogh himself couldn’t improve. Manitou Island Transit runs a ferry to and from the island daily in summer. Reservations essential, 231-256-9061. Campground rates start at $5 nightly. 231-326-5134.

Road TripIf you like a bird’s-eye view, soar along the treetops via River Road, a 22-mile scenic byway set atop high sand bluffs overlooking the Au Sable River valley. It’s a former westward link for Native Americans and French fur traders, but you, without the weight of any pesky musket, will be free to traipse down a truly tree-mendous detour: A 300-step descent into Iargo Springs, which flows from a hillside covered in huge hemlocks, white and red pines and yellow birch trees. At bottom, you’ll find 1,200 feet of boardwalk to explore. Want more walkin’? Also at the site is the trailhead to the Highbanks hiking trail, a seven-mile backcountry route with big trees, high bluffs and wildlife o’ plenty. River Road Scenic Byway begins 6.7 miles northeast of Hale, at the intersection of M-65 and Rollways Road, then continues east on M-65 to River Road until Oscoda. 989-362-8961.

Lynda Twardowski is travel editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.[email protected]

Note: This article was first published in June, 2006 and was updated for the web February 2008.

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