Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Nordhouse Dunes Trail Guide Updated

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Nordhouse Lake (photo by jhy)

By Joan H. Young

The guide to Nordhouse Dunes trails (Mason County, Michigan) on the companion site to this blog has been updated.

The trails within this designated wilderness area were previously unnamed and unsigned. Recently, the trails were given names which adds a bit of character to the site. Some of the names are simply descriptive: "Nordhouse Lake Trail," but a couple of them invite further exploration of their meanings, such as: "Nippising," and "Algoma Ridge."

Surprisingly, signposts have been placed at many of the trail junctions. Generally, signage within Wilderness areas is not allowed. However, the minimal information is welcome. There are enough trails that it's nice for hikers to actually be able to know where they are.

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on the Lake Michigan Trail (photo by jhy)

What is now called the Algoma Ridge Trail had been completely blocked by a straight-line wind event several years ago that filled a portion of its valley route. The Forest Service chose not to clear the way, because of the time involved to cut through the large blowdown with hand tools (no power tools are allowed in wilderness), and because wilderness areas are generally allowed to change naturally, which includes blowdowns. This trail has now been re-routed to join the Lake Michigan Trail at a slightly different location. The re-route is a good solution, as it encourages people to reach the Lake Michigan Trail by a sustainable route rather than climbing straight up the bluff when they reach the tangled trees.

I was pleased to note that a number of damaged hillsides and braided trails have begun to regenerate plant cover and heal. In recent years, overuse and abuse by people scrambling everywhere has caused a significant amount of damage. Perhaps having certain trails named and designated is encouraging hikers to remain on the established pathways.

Responsible recreation by the many users of Nordhouse will be the key to preventing the establishment of quotas by the Forest Service in the future.

Nordhouse is a highly popular destination with 3450 acres of open and forested dune ecosystem. Lake Michigan is to the west and the area includes the small kettle lake, Nordhouse Lake. It is located within the Manistee National Forest, and dispersed camping is allowed. Parking permit required.

The Get Off the Couch web site map for Nordhouse has been updated, along with all trail descriptions to reflect the new names and re-routes.

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