A Travel Summary: Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area Overnight

A couple weeks ago, I was feeling a little cramped into my daily life.  I felt the need to explore, so I knew I needed to take action.  Friday afternoon, I found the only designated wilderness area in the lower peninsula of Michigan.  So, naturally, early Saturday morning I drove up the the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area from Detroit to go overnight backpacking.   

Just a few of us walked along the lake shore that day

Just a few of us walked along the lake shore that day

Walking past the entrance sign and map, you make it to the main trail into the wilderness area.  The main trail runs past a number of smaller lakes, and cuts into a number of smaller trails down the way.  Following the main trail, I found my way to the Lake Michigan shoreline. For a few miles, I hiked along the shoreline taking in some of the most beautiful views.  Trails along the lake existed up and down the dunes as well.  Traveling along all of them gave extensive views from higher up locations, and places where the cold waters didn't wet your feet as often.  

Mid-afternoon sunshine over a perfect trail to the lake

Mid-afternoon sunshine over a perfect trail to the lake

Modest campsite, the hammock helped to have more options since I didn't need level ground

Modest campsite, the hammock helped to have more options since I didn't need level ground

As the day waned, I walked over the the lake shore again to watch the sunset.  The wind started to pick up more after this, and the chiller breeze lead me to cozy up next to the fire.  Little did I know how cold the night was going to get.  After making dinner of polenta and lentils, I cozied up in my hammock, and went to sleep for the night.   

The view waking up

The view waking up

After a very cold night, I woke up early to find an absolutely beautiful view of the sun rising through the trees.   Taking on the struggle of getting out of the hammock, I got up to make breakfast of Bulgar Wheat and coffee to warm up.  I packed up my stuff, and hiked back to my car.  At this point, I found myself back in the heat of civilization (i.e. the heat of my car), and drove to the nearest coffee house to get my second fix for the day.  

While the night was freezing, it was an absolutely amazing overnight trip, and I learned an overwhelming about both colder weather backpacking and hammock camping.      

Entry sign into the Wilderness Area with information and maps

Entry sign into the Wilderness Area with information and maps

Driving into the Manistee National Forest a series of long winding dirt roads take you to the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness.  The parking area at the end of the road is normally full, so parking along the road on the left side is normally the way to go.  A quick tip for the wise.  Drive down all the way to the parking lot, then pick up a green envelope to pay for the entrance fee.  Once you have the envelope, go back along the road to park on the now right side of the road where there is a spot.  This is stop you from making the somewhat longer walk to the parking lot and back to your car again to pay the entrance fee (i.e. something that a person as ill prepared and dumb like myself would do).

The required selfie

The required selfie

After a few hours of hiking around the dunes and woods area, I found a nice spot to make camp for the night.  This was the first time that I had ever hammock camped, and I was excited (ridiculously unprepared) to try.  

A stunning sunset over lake Michigan

A stunning sunset over lake Michigan

Keeping the feet warm next to the fire, it was so very cold 

Keeping the feet warm next to the fire, it was so very cold 

After a few hours, I found myself woken up shivering to death.  The temperature had dropped down to the mid 30s.  This was a bit colder than the expected 48 F that I was expected.  But, my biggest mistake would undoubtedly be lack of a sleeping pad for my trip.  It was much a slim sheet of nylon that insulated me from the cold outside from my back.

After a long and cold night I woke up to get some of the best coffee I've had.

After a long and cold night I woke up to get some of the best coffee I've had.