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Explore Bald Mountain State Recreation Area with Jess & Jeff of Michigan Photography
June 24, 2019
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My favorite shirt ever, has the following phrase written on the back…
“I’d rather be lost in the forest, than found in the city.” As a city dweller trapped in a nature loving body, I often find myself yearning to be in the calm, quiet, and magical forests of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Since the drive to get a “nature fix” of that level is simply not feasible on a weekly basis, Jess and I have recently been on a mission to find some nature gems in the southeast region of Michigan.  Our first discovery this year… the Bald Mountain State Recreation Area!

A recent discovery!

Somehow, living in Metro Detroit for 40+ years, I had never managed to explore the Bald Mountain State Recreation area until this year. While, I regret not being able to appreciate it sooner, I am very pleasantly surprised at just how picturesque the trails, ponds, lakes, and streams have been. So far this spring, we have made the drive to Orion Charter Township two times in our efforts to explore Bald Mountain’s “North Unit” of trails. Here’s a bit of what we have discovered so far!

Not quite the Upper Peninsula, but…

While it’s simply not possible to find the same level of peace and quiet you’ll find in the UP. Bald Mountain does offer a respite from city life aside from a few reminders here and there along the trails. Yes, you can still hear the traffic on the roads surrounding the park. True too, that there are more people on the trails than you’d find in say, the Porkies. However, the Bald Mountain trails do offer a legitimate escape from the hustle and bustle of city life – in a way that only being in the woods can.

The trails here are long enough to get immersed in your hike, while not feeling overwhelmed by the distance. Each complete North Unit loop is in the neighborhood of 4 miles, which is good enough for spending a couple leisurely hours in the forest. The trails are somewhat hilly, and cover a surprisingly diverse terrain that ranges from more of a wetland to fully forested.

Our Adventure Began…

We started out our first trip at the trail-head smack in the middle of the North Unit. We found the parking area near Predmore & Harmon Roads. Our inaugural hike here started with the western trails known as the “White & Blue loop”. For our first adventure here, we arrived a bit later in the day, so we had only time enough for one. We decided to follow the full loop following the markers in numerical order… 1 > 2 > 3 > 4 > 5 > 6 > 1.

Here’s what we saw on the White/Blue Loop of the North Unit:

This adventure began at picturesque Heart Lake. To follow our path, you only need to head south from the parking path and you’ll find yourself immediately surrounded by beautiful forest and a clear, obvious path. Being early spring, we were surprised that there were very few muddy areas to navigate through, especially given the many marshy areas along the way. The early parts of the trail look much like the photo below.

North Unit of Bald Mountains trails.
You’ll quickly find yourself surrounded by a variety of trees early in the trail.

Having been cooped up all winter, Jess, myself, and both of our pups were all feeling liberated at being free from the city, and enjoyed our nature fix to the fullest. We took our time, however, and poked around as much as we could. Early on in our adventure, we happened upon this flooded area that was simply teeming with the sounds of spring. While the scene is beautiful in itself, be sure to check the video to hear what was going on!

A view of the forest springing to life at the Bald Mountain State Park north unit trail.
Beautiful spot we happened upon! Just off the trail there was a bit of a flooded area that was full of life with insects and amphibians calling out their songs of spring.

Walking further along the trail, we found another access to what seems to be an unnamed lake/pond. Reaching this spot after a short hike off the trail, we were able to enjoy a still, relaxing scene of the view just below. We managed to access this beautiful spot between markers 4 and 5. It’s a little off trail but, the entry way is obvious as there is a metal barricade in place to keep vehicles (presumably snowmobiles) from happening upon the area.

A hilltop view looking into the forests of Bald Mountain State Park.
After you pass the barrier, you’ll find yourself upon the top of a hill overlooking this scene. Look to the right to find your way to the view in the next photo.
A small lake at Bald Mountain State Park.
After you head down the hill, you’ll be able to get right next to this beautiful scene! It gets pretty wet before the lake shore, so be sure to wear waterproof boots.

After moving on, we found a clearing right near the lake opposite the position that was last pictured. If you look closely, you can see the clearing where the last photo was taken, on the shoreline.

A small lake at Bald Mountain State Park's North Unit
Clear blue skies reflected in this large pond. As we hiked this day, the sky just kept getting prettier and prettier!

Heading away from the lower spots on the trail we trekked up into an area that had a higher concentration of Oak trees. Many of which were still hanging onto their rusty orange leaves. These persistent leaves had managed to hang on through the winter months. We are excited to see what this area will look like when we return in the fall. Though, we will be returning sooner than that as we are both really curious to see the effect of spring growth on these beautiful woods.

Oak leaves left over from last season and still hanging on!
A close up view of some persistent oak leaves, still hanging on after the winter months.
Oak trees still hanging onto their leaves from last season.
A wider view showing just how many leaves were still stubbornly hanging on after several months of (sometimes brutal) cold weather.

Not far from the pocket of oak trees, our dogs were happy to let us know that there was a running stream that they could explore. There weren’t too many of these in the park and, I’m guessing that this will be a stream that largely dries up when the dry summer heat sets in.

A small stream as seen in spring. Bald Mountain State Park.
Jess and Anoush enjoy the beautiful little forest stream.
A small stream at Bald Mountain State Park.
Bald Mountain is full of little surprises, like this little stream.

As mentioned before, the sky kept getting more and more vibrant. We happened on this marshy clearing and this was the view mother nature provided to us! Facing south, this scene is on the East/West portion of the trail located between points 5 and 6 on the white loop.

Beaufiful Skies and scenes at Bald Mountain
A peaceful little marshy clearing nearing the end of our journey for this day.

After we finished our short reprieve from city life, we decided to stick around for a little bit and see if a sunset would be in the cards. Persistence paid off here, as the sunset was not disappointing! While I’ve seen more spectacular sunsets, the light here was simply amazing. The scene at Heart Lake did this beautiful light justice providing back lighting for the reeds and a gorgeous reflection on the lake’s still surface.

Heart Lake sunset at Bald Mountain State Recreation Area.
Perhaps a harbinger of beautiful light to come this summer! The season’s first sunset attempt did not disappoint.

Our second adventure. We visit Bald Mountain State Recreation Area North Unit again!

A couple weeks later, we had to go back and see more of what the park had to offer. We were set on the North Unit again for one reason primarily: it is further from the noise of the gun range in the south unit. If you are looking for peace in the metro area, these two trail loops are probably your best bet for some respite. Our second time here again was a pleasant surprise at just how beautiful this conveniently located state park is.

The North Unit Orange Loop

The North Unit’s Orange Loop was the object of our exploration on this day. We started out at the same spot, at the parking area near Heart Lake. Our path on this day was as follows: 1 > 6 > 7 > 8 > 9 > 10 > 11 > 12 > 13 > 14 > 15 > 7 > 6 > 1. The distance is pretty much the same as the white and blue loop but, there is more wetland to enjoy here with bigger lakes and more accessible wetlands to take in.

Our trek begins, and we were almost immediately blessed with a pleasant surprise of spring… Marsh Marigolds. Far from a botany expert, we had no clue that these beautiful yellow flowers were found in our part of the state. The only other time we’ve had the pleasure of seeing these, was during our last spring trip to the Upper Peninsula a couple years back.

Marsh Marigolds on the trail at Bald Mountain.
I’m always on the lookout for wildflowers like these Marsh Marigolds. They are what I see as one of nature’s pleasant surprises!

Our first photo stop was the shore of West Graham Lake. Our pup Duncan was happy to roll around on the fresh grass as I set up to take a few photos of the beautiful scene.

Duncan the Collie enjoys a moment in the grass.
Duncan loves to get down and dirty when he loves a certain place! It seems he really digs the Bald Mountain State Recreation Area!

After enjoying a moment of frivolity with our fur-babies, I set up my camera to take in the scene below. Are you interested in learning long-exposure photography? Below you’ll see my first hand-held test shot.   The following two pictures will show you the effect an ND filter can have on your images.  You will see here, the water gets smoothed out a bit and the reflections are emphasized a bit more.

One of the many gorgeous little lakes at Bald Mountain

Here’s a hand-held test shot.

Lake view at Bald Mountain
The first long exposure attempt. In this case, I wanted to frame the lake as much as I could with the land, and smooth out the water to enhance the reflection.
Bald Mountain State Park's many beautiful lakes offer peaceful, gorgeous views of nature.
The last of my two long exposures. In this shot I wanted to give more focus on the tree line on the opposite shore. So, I framed it with the sky and water.

While we didn’t have as much time or opportunity this time to take as many photos. The spots to enjoy photography on this particular trail were top notch! But, before we get to the next spot… You must take a look at our trail sentinels, fervently guarding our rear.

Collie dogs Duncan and Anoush pose for a portrait at Bald Mountain
Our Collies, Duncan and Anoush reluctantly take a break to pose for a photo.

The next spot we are guessing is “Duck Pond”.  This little body of water is located on the north side of the loop near trail marker number 11. Truly a beautiful spot, filled with nothing but peace and quiet (aside from the sounds of nature). It looks like this area was experiencing a bit higher water level than normal. We won’t know for a few months though, if our guess is correct.

A beautful pond on Bald Mountain's trails.
This is a perfect spot for a breather! Enjoy this peaceful scene before moving back onto the trail. You can find this view on the orange loop of the North Unit’s two trail options

The last stop on this tour is the best we had as far as a sunset is concerned. It is also on the last leg of the trails between markers 13 and 14 right near East Graham Lake. There was a bit more wind than on our last visit here.  As a result, I wasn’t able to get a long exposure of the sunset. However, the scene is gorgeous as ever! Whenever we are craving a bit of natural beauty… We will be sure to visit the North Unit! This state park will be high on our list of escapes.

Bald Mountain State Park Sunset over the water.
The sun sets on another Michigan Photography hiking adventure!

For now, this will conclude our photo tour of the more scenic spots of Bald Mountain State Recreation Area North Unit trails. We will be back to get more photos from this park. But first, we will need to explore the South Unit of the park and let you know what we find!

Stay tuned…

Happy Shooting!

Jeff

Our first fine-art print is available from this adventure here!

AllTrails has some great information on the specific trails of Bald Mountain.

Get camping and event info on the Pure Michigan site.

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