Wander Hartwick Pines’ Old-Growth Wonders

Power up your morning with an old-fashioned sugar shock at Goodale’s Bakery in Grayling (500 Norway Street, 989-348-8682). Fresh coffee and fried cakes (doughnuts, to you) are the game plan here. Try a lemonade-flavored fried cake for a sweet good-morning jolt, then bag a few chocolate-chunk-pecan cookies for the road.

Head north out of Grayling along Old 27 then veer right onto M-93 at the blinking yellow light. About four miles up the road is the entrance to Hartwick Pines State Park (989-348-7068, www.michigan.gov/dnr). At nearly 10,000 acres, this is the largest state park in the Lower Peninsula. Pull up to the Michigan Forest Visitor Center to find brochures, trail maps and to snag a pass.

The most popular trail is the Old Growth Forest Trail. At just over a mile long, this wheelchair-accessible paved path snakes through beech-maple woods to a stand of pines that are centuries old. Don’t miss the famous Monarch. This colossal white pine is more than 300 years old, and stood more than 155 feet tall before a storm toppled its crown a decade ago. Further ahead is the Logging Museum, where full-size exhibits and grainy black-and-white photos of flannel-shirted lumberjacks let you learn about life back in the logging days.

To immerse yourself in the lumberjack vibe, consider spending a night or two at Hartwick Pine’s rustic cabin overlooking Bright Lake (989-348-7068 for reservations). The cabin sleeps six – just right for an adventurous family overnight. Not up for roughin’ it? Pick up an event calendar and plan a return day trip during one of Hartwick Pines’ annual summer festivals when you can watch lumber-era reenactments like blacksmiths and weavers working as the tunes of dulcimer music float through the pines.

Emily Bingham is assistant editor at Traverse, Northern Michigan’s [email protected]

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

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