FRESH EYEZ: Northern Michigan Nature Preserves Offer Cabin Fever Relief

  Complying with stay-at-home orders is having a positive effect on the COVID-19 pandemic. Our discipline is paying off. Cases are dropping and our collective hermitism appears to be flattening the curve.

  But, at what cost? Our sanity?

  Perhaps.

  There are ways, however, to responsibly escape the house or apartment. Luckily, Northern Michigan is home to a slew of fine nature preserves, where well-marked trails and beautiful sights can salve – if only temporarily – the monotony of weeks spent indoors.

  We recently set out to explore a few of these natural havens, hoping to find some that weren’t teeming with other wild-eyed fresh air seekers such as ourselves.

  With social distancing in mind, we first aimed for the Agnes S. Andreae Nature Preserve east of Indian River in Cheboygan County.

  Our planning paid off: there were only two cars in the small parking area. The fewer people on the trail the better, we thought.

 

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Trail at the Agnes S. Andreae Nature preserve are spacious and offer easy walking.

Situated on the Pigeon River, the Andreae preserve is a Little Traverse Conservancy (LTC) property spanning 181 acres. Steep bluffs, pine forests and the river itself are all display as we navigated the five miles of very walkable trail.

 

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Overlooking the Pigeon River at the Andreae nature preserve east of Indian River

  We did encounter a few other families on our walk, but there weren’t many and we gave each other plenty of space as we passed on the trail. This reinforced in our minds that choosing a more remote hiking spot was a good idea.

  The Agnes S. Andreae Nature Preserve exceeded our expectations, and we vowed to return in the summer, when the forest is greener.

 

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Fungus sprouts on a decaying log at the Andreae nature preserve.

  A few days later, with cabin fever again mounting, we did a little homework and came up with Oden Island Nature Preserve, which has a Petoskey address. Though it’s closer to town, we still thought its Crooked Lake location was far enough away.

  The preserve’s small, trailhead parking lot confirmed our predictions: only three cars there and room for one more – ours.

  Oden Island is a smaller preserve with only one mile of trail. But, the path offers very easy walking through an old-growth forest speckled with moss and lichen growth – electric green against the brown, wintry backdrop of dead leaves and limbs.

 

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Trees and their wild root systems seem to pile on one another near a walking path that winds through Oden Island’s narrow peninsula, jutting into Crooked Lake, across from Ponshewaing.

  Further out, the trail traces the island’s eastern edge before jutting out along an ever-narrowing peninsula lined with twisted old trees and their wild and gnarly root systems, which are very interesting. Finally, the tree-lined trail spits hikers out onto a grassy patch on the narrow strip of land’s point – in the middle of Crooked Lake.

  Again, we saw a few other families on the trail, and again we gave each other a wide berth for safe passage. Everyone was eager to wave and say hello.

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The Oden Island walking trail winds through old forests, reminiscent of  scenes from The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. But, after weeks spent mostly indoors, this was better than TV.

  Both hikes were extremely enjoyable and very welcome breaks from being indoors. The weather wasn’t perfect. It could’ve been warmer, greener, more colorful. But, we took what we could safely get.

    And it was worth it!

  To find out more about Little Traverse Conservancy’s vast trove of nature preserves, visit their informative website, www.landtrust.org. Maybe you, too, can find a place that will provide some temporary relief from Cabin Fever.

(Photos by Eric Cox. All rights reserved.)

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