In 2004, while I was in college in Southern Michigan, I began to get a little cabin fever. You see, I'm form Georgia and I love the heat and the beach and pretty much anything that is the opposite of snow. After a very cold winter that I thought would never end, the blistering cold finally gave way to moderate temperatures sparking the desire, and dare I say, need to go on a weekend camping trip. My original destination of choice was Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
I told a friend of our plans and he quickly suggested an alternative. For just a short drive more we could get the same scenery but without the crowds (solitude). His suggestion: Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness. After asking him to repeat that bizarre name several times I asked the guys what they thought. No one seemed to care. Everyone just wanted to be out of the dorm. Perfect. Nordhouse it is.
We packed the car at noon on a Friday and jumped in the car. It was about a four hour drive from our Jackson MI home to the southeastern corner of the wilderness on Nunberg road. The wilderness area is technically contained within the larger Manistee National Forest. The wholearea is pretty secluded, but this Federally designated wilderness area is the cream of the crop. When you get to the end of Nunberg Road, don't expect a grand reception. In fact, don't expect anything but an empty parking lot. You're there by yourself my friend (at least we were). There is a box right there with tags for your car with a place to write how long you plan on being in the wilderness area. There is no "fee" for parking but they do ask you donate something. Donations are placed in the same box you get your tag out of.
There is a path at the end of the parking lot. It's about 2 miles to beautiful lake Michigan. It's a nice hike. While you're hiking begin to take it all in. The sand, the squirrels, the wind, the fresh air...listen hard you may be able to hear the lake. You'll feel all your muscles just relaxing from all your daily stress and a part of you coming alive. This place is truly spectacular.
We finally arrived at the lake. It was great. We jumped in, climbed some dunes, yelled at the guy who left the water in the car etc... I should say that when you get to the lake it's beach and dune. Just behind the dunes are the trees. We decided to set up our tents and fire ring under the trees. However when the sun went down and the stars came out, we all elected to forgo the tents and sleep on the dunes. Awesome choice. I don't know how much sleep I got, nor how many stars I counted. All I know is when I woke up the next morning I felt alive.
This is the place for those who like the beach but not the crowds. We did finally see some people on Saturday afternoon, but they were only there for a bit. We had the stars to ourselves again that night. Two nights may not seem like a long time, but when its this good it counts triple. We had a poor college kid luxury vacation. We packed up and left and were all so excited about the weekend we had we celebrated with steak and eggs at a diner in town a few miles away.