A Journey Into The Pines

Hartwick Pines State ParkMichigan is home to more than 100 state parks, over 130 state forest campgrounds and 17 harbors, all of which offer ample opportunities for us to get out and enjoy the beauty of our Great Lakes State. From lakes and streams to sand dunes to forests, there are thousands of unqiue and beautiufl destiantions througout the upper and lower peninsula.

Parks are a funny thing. If you have ever spent time, or perhaps worked at a park, they become like your own. Those of us who have been lucky enough to have happy childhood memories of camping or hiking in a state park or wonderful and beautiufl memories of being able to make a living and educate the public working at a state park, you likely understand. It is this inate love of “your” park that makes it difficult to choose the “best” park in the state. while each offers its own unqiue and special features, there is one park that is hands down, the best park in our state, welcome to Hartiwick Pines State Park.

A run down of the basics are as follows:

Hartwick Pines State Park began its life in recent history as the perfect place for some outstanding timber for the Salling Hanson Lumber Company. While much of the land was logged and in fact, an old railroad, 100 year old stumps and archelaogical eveidence of camps can still be found in the park today, Karen Hartwick recognized the beauty of the area and preserved the land. In 1933, Karen Hartwick, the wife of Major Edward Hartwick, donated 8,236 acres of land including 4 lakes and over 90 acres of old growth white pines, to the state in his memory. Today the park encompasses around 15 miles of land (9672 acres) and a remaining stand of around 40 acres of old growth white pine which stands some 130 to 170 feet tall and is estimated to be around 350 to 450 years old.

All facts aside, what makes this park amazing may begin with its place in our country’s history and include the pines and how old they are, but those really are just the facts. What really makes this park amazing is the way it sounds on a warm summer day as you sit and relax in the forest, the buzz of the cicadas, the see see see suzeee of the black throuated green warblers a hundred feet above you, the wind whispering throught the pines elliciting an almost “waterfall” quality  and then there is the smell. The smell of the hundreds of years of pine needles and leaves baking in what little sun does reach the ground in the dense forest, the smell of amazing and unique wildflowers such as the trailing arbutus which blooms in spring. It may be small, but the first time you bend down and put your face in this little flower, you will understand what makes this a flower that will keep you coming back year after year.

There really is not enough time to say what makes this park so special. Yes its festivals, and there are four, are enjoyable and very informative, and yes, the old growth trail and the visitor center are a must see for their information and historic importance as well as their beauty, and yes the logging museum will teach you a thing or two. The park is all these things, but it is much more. Hartwick Pines State Park is magical. It is filled with plants and animals, some of which are threatened, endangered or extirpated from our state. It is filled with smells,tastes and feelings which transport the daydreamers to a time that has long since passed. It is home to lakes, rivers, wetlands, forests both pine and leafed, and best of all, for those who know and love it, it is filled with memories.

Take a walk on one of its hiking trails, there are three. Go for a bike ride through the woods, there are 15 miles. Ski or snowshoe in winter. Find out more about the history or even the bog. Go for a scenic drive, its 7 miles. Have a picnic, camp or just relax and enjoy one of Michigan’s best state parks.

Hartwick Pines State Park is located just outside of Grayling Michigan at exit 259 off of I-75. Open year round, take advantage of all the seasons. Find out for yourself what makes Hartwick Pines State Park, the best park in Michigan.

“Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.”

― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac: With Other Essays on Conservation from Round River

Filed Under: Northern Michigan


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