Hemingway was a Michigander at heart; one doesn’t have to dive very deep in his writing to imagine sitting on a brook trout stream trying to match the hatch or sleeping under a giant white pine in Michigan’s Northern Lower Peninsula.
Although there isn’t much written history detailing Hemingway’s endeavors in what is collectively known as Pigeon River Country — more than 100,000 acres of public land in and around Otsego County— he did write about the piece of landscape calling it the “pine barrens east of Vanderbilt.”
Like any resourceful outdoors person, I would like to believe Hemingway stopped in for a cast on the Pigeon River, camped alongside it on the banks, listened to elk bugle and walked along the hundreds of miles of natural and man-made trails that exist.
With its great expanse and bountiful offerings, there isn’t another area in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula that encompasses all that PRC has to offer: fly fishing, camping, hiking, cycling, kayaking, hunting and the opportunity to see one of Michigan’s greatest conservation success stories — a sizeable elk herd numbering more than 1,000 and thriving for the past 100 years.
In spring, the Gaylord area and PRC hosts thousands of anglers because nearby are the headwaters of five blue-ribbon trout streams — an angler doesn’t have to venture far to find that first Hendrickson or Mother’s Day caddis hatch. The northern boundary of the PRC is carved out by three large lakes: Black, Mullet and Burt lakes. All of these lakes offer excellent fishing opportunities for crappie, bluegill, pike, bass and walleye. Finding ‘gills or bass on their beds is an easy prospect as the water and weather warms.
Otsego County is home to over 90 inland lakes, with Otsego Lake being the largest. Fishing opportunities include many of the aforementioned species, as well as one unique species — sturgeon, one of Michigan’s scarcest fish. Otsego Lake is known for producing sturgeon and is very popular for ice fishing. In fact, regulations are stringent on sturgeon harvest and harvesting one on Otsego Lake is on many anglers’ bucket list.
Littered throughout the vast country, there are numerous other, smaller lakes, some considered sinkhole lakes, that offer ample fishing opportunities, too. Situated on many of the shorelines of these smaller lakes, rustic campsites provide the opportunity to get the family out and breathe in the fresh air so lost in many other areas of Michigan.
PRC is home to one of the state’s most famous white pine stands — towering more than 100-feet high and aging at more than 100 years as well, stepping into this 100-acre plot shows just how truly small we are on the scale of history.
Known for excellent hiking and biking opportunities, Gaylord has worked with the state and stakeholders to add an extension to the popular North Central Trail, which now connects the village of Waters all the way to Mackinaw City, with a convenient trailhead coming to downtown Gaylord by fall 2019. The crushed-limestone trail accommodates the most experienced to the novice. Numerous other trails can be found throughout the area, ranging from paved in Aspen Park to rutted and rustic along the Shingle Mill Pathway.
Rafting along Sturgeon River just north of Gaylord has become an activity for all ages to enjoy. With the chance to see Bald Eagles, elk, white-tailed deer, woodcock, grouse, trout and many other critters, a long, relaxing float might be just what your family needs to recharge the batteries and connect to the long history of species that call Michigan home.
With the heart of PRC situated some 20 miles northeast of Gaylord, the city gives outdoors people the opportunity to seamlessly move from civilization to remoteness. Gaylord offers countless hotels, motels, resorts, restaurants, shopping and other businesses. With its tagline “all outdoors,” Gaylord truly represents a town centered around the pursuit of your outdoor adventure.