Michigan’s Thumb: Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park

Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park

Michigan’s Thumb is too often ignored when people recommend places to go for Michigan hiking. In the next couple of blog posts, I want to put to rest the assumption that the Thumb isn’t a hiking destination.

Being from Michigan, I’m used to showing off where I live by pointing to a spot on the palm of my hand. It’s a rite of passage of being a Michigander. We are the Mitten State, you know. However, I barely make it over to the Thumb region. I’ve gone to Port Huron very few times outside of crossing over into Sarnia, Ontario. I have hiked around Metamora and Ortonville but those areas are quite different than typical thumb terrain.

From a March 1st trip to the Thumb. Flat farmland and wind turbines abound

On May 2nd, I decided to do my own day of Thumb hiking adventures. Since I am working on my Michigan State Park Challenge of visiting all of the Michigan state parks, I decided it would be great to incorporate a visit to the Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park.

Sanilac Petroglyphs Nature trail

The park, also known as ezhibiigadek asin (Ojibwe for “written on stone”) consists of 240 acres in Greenleaf Township, Sanilac County, in Michigan’s Thumb. It contains the largest collection of Native American petroglyphs in Michigan. The carvings were created in the pre-Columbian era and represents aspects of Native American spirituality. There is also an interpretive hiking trail within the park along the nearby Cass River (source: Wikipedia).

The lot is not paved and has plenty of parking. In fact I was the only vehicle there. I got out looked at the signs describing native plants and more info about the petroglyphs.

Learning about native plants in the area
A sign at the trail that shares more info about the petroglyphs

I also grabbed a photo of the map describing the hike. I always take a photo of the trail map just in case I need to reference it later! It’s a great tip for longer trails that may not be well marked or blazed.

The trail map legend and lots of flies

At the trailhead there was a sign posted that the petroglyphs would not be open for viewing until after Memorial Day. *facepalm* That’s what happens when you don’t research a trail thoroughly and head there on a whim.

The petroglyphs hidden from view

The petroglyphs were behind a fence and protected from the elements. At first I was really disappointed, but I also understand the fragility of the environment and how the sandstone must be protected from not only the elements but humans. There is a history of the area being vandalized and someone actually cut out one of the carvings.

“The sandstone slab in which the petroglyphs were carved is fragile and subject to weathering and other environmental forces. It has been walked upon and vandalized with graffiti over the years; someone, long ago, chipped out an entire symbol and the surrounding rock for a keepsake. The most recent act of vandalism occurred in 2017 when three images were carved on the rock by unknown individuals. This human activity combined with natural weathering has made the actual petrogyphs difficult for visitors to see, and there is concern that unless more is done to preserve the carvings better, they will be gone by the late 21st century (source: Wikipedia).

And this is why we can’t have nice things…ugh.

I know you are curious about what the petroglyphs look like and how to see them. Me too! Check out the official state park information I found here.

Even though I couldn’t get any sort of view of the petroglyphs, I wanted to still hit the trail and learn more about the history and geology of the area.

Potholes on the trail

I hiked the trail counterclockwise. For the first half the trail was pretty much in the woods. First following the river and eventually crossing it a couple times.

At about a tenth of a mile in you will come across a geological formation called potholes. One of the interesting features on the trail are the bowl shaped holes (potholes) caused by glacial erosion. I found a very interesting tidbit on potholes from a geocaching site. Check it out!

You’ll have to watch your step on this rocky path. This is definitely a trail you could twist an ankle on if you aren’t paying attention closely to your footing.

The trail will follow a stream for a short bit

The rock outcroppings are really cool, especially as you see the trees growing around them and sometimes in between them. Another thing not to miss is the lichen and moss on the slabs.

At about half a mile in you will cross the bridge pictured above. It looked like it had recently been updated and was in great shape.

A boardwalk keeps your feet dry and out of the mud.

At just under a mile, you’ll come to an area full of slab rocks and boulders. It’s a great spot for any of the littles to climb on, for you to rest and even have a snack or picnic lunch. I read that around this area was once a Native American village.

The highlight of my walk was seeing this large “survivor” pine at around the one mile marker (I mean, I didn’t get to see the petroglyphs!). There’s an interpretive sign that tells about the Great Thumb Fires of the late 1800s. If you listen to my podcast episode, I read it and share more about the devastation that occurred in this area.

You’ll cross the river again by traversing a sturdy bridge and make your way back to the pavilion where hopefully you were able to see the petroglyphs. After that, you walk along the path that brought you from the parking lot.

For more information and details about this hike, I recommend checking out the Hiking Michigan book by Roger E. Storm and Susan M. Wedzel

Hike Stats

Length: 1.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 20 ft

Location: 8251 Germania Rd. Cass City, MI 48726


Hike Explores Michigan

Last March COVID quarantines changed my world. It changed all of our lives. I had just started a new position which would take me back to Georgia up to three weeks out of the month. With my free time, I’d be in the North Georgia mountains and hitting up Western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge and of course the Smokies.

On March 10th, it all changed. That was the day I showed up to the office to an eeriely empty parking lot. The office was closed. And I ended up spending my last 48 hours in the North Georgia mountains. I thought I’d be back in a few weeks. And now over a year later, I don’t have a date of when I’ll be going back.

What the time in quarantine taught me was that even though I didn’t have the mountains in my backyard anymore, I did have trails. And it was time to explore them and appreciate the beauty of Michigan.

I’ve thought a lot about ways to showcase some of the Michigan State Parks to my listeners. I’ve sprinkled topics in here and there. I’ve shared some amazing Midwest hikes and stories of fellow Midwestern hikers. But I kept feeling like I needed to do more. That’s where the Michigan Explorer idea became more than just a thought that I tossed around in my head from time to time.

Hike in all of the Michigan State Parks over the next year. Okay…hike in as many of the Michigan State Parks over the next year that I can. Learn about the history of the parks. Put up my tent in both rustic and modern campgrounds. Find some local gems along the way as I take to the road. And finally…share it all with you.

Hike Explores Michigan is coming in May 2021. It’s a special season that’s dedicated to my home state. I have no idea where this adventure is going to lead, but I’m excited to bring you all along on it.

Christmas Eve updates

It’s Christmas Eve! I hope all of you, dear readers, are enjoying this holiday season. I haven’t been hiking these last several days like I wish I had. I’m crossing my fingers that tomorrow I get out to the trail. Are you hitting up a trail over the holidays? Let me know in the comments.

I’ve been working hard on the podcast. It’s definitely more time consuming that I had anticipated – from lining up content to the post production process. I have a huge appreciation for others who are also doing it on their own.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to share my interview with Britany Freeman of The 11th Essential. She and I had a candid conversation about her hiking experience in Colorado, practicing leave no trace, the impact of social media on the environment and actionable things we all can do to promote good stewardship of public lands. Her passion was evident and contagious! I hope you all give it a listen and let me know your thoughts.

Upcoming on the December 29th episode, you’ll hear my interview with Kathy Dalton of Go Adventure Mom blog and podcast. She’s gives some tips on how to set goals and stay motivated for 2019, including joining a challenge such as the 365 Mile Challenge.

Also I had an early Christmas gift yesterday as the Hike stickers I designed made their way to my mail box. Pretty happy with how they came out for my first foray into sticker design, and I plan on coming up with more sticker designs and merchandise in early 2019. More to come!

As for this batch of stickers, I’m giving them away to Hike listeners and supporters as a thank you. Let me know if you’d like one! Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas! – Lori

These are the perfect size for a water bottle! Love them!

Reflecting on 2018 and goal setting in 2019

Finding peace, one trail at a time. 

Goals. goals. goals. As soon as I have one thing checked off my list, there’s three more to add on. December has me thinking a lot about what I’d like to do in 2019, and where I want to take Hike Magazine and podcast.

First of all, it’s been quite a whirlwind. At the start of 2018, neither the magazine or having a podcast was anywhere in my mind.  The only hiking goals I had were to see more mountains and spend more time on the trail.

Circumstances through the year though led me to want to put something out there that I could share with others. And that’s where the magazine came about. I love to photograph while in nature and document time on the trail. I enjoy being able to share that experience. And that’s where the magazine seed started germinating. While there’s a lot of outdoors and backpacking magazines out there, there isn’t really anything that just simply speaks and focuses on experiencing a certain area via hiking. For me, it was essential to start in the Smokies and the communities around that area.

The podcast was another way to venture into the hiking community and collaborating and learning from others who hike and support hikers. I have loved it. I’ve been inspired, enlightened and humbled. And am thankful that I listened to my friend who asked the question of why I hadn’t yet done a podcast. (Challenge accepted!)

In many ways, I feel like the new kid on the block. But that’s not entirely a bad thing. I’m learning as I go and love being exposed to such an amazing group of fellow bloggers, podcasters and hikers. As they say, hike your own hike. And in this case it definitely applies!

I’m pretty excited about what 2019 is going to bring. More content – from the basics to life experiences on the trail. I’m working on building partnerships with like minded people who can share gear reviews, trail tips and some old fashioned conversation. All of that I plan to bring to my listeners.

In 2019, I am also planning on setting some hike experience goals – such as getting out to some new summits and breaking out of my comfort zones  which means hiking new places and conditions. However, I still got lots of love for North Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee – so expect to see lots of me in those Southern Appalachians mountains.

Today, I recorded a podcast with Kathy Dalton of Go Adventure Mom podcast and we shared some thoughts about how to incorporate getting out with our busy lives and setting goals in 2019, including the 365 Mile Challenge.  That episode will be coming to my podcast on December 29th. Stay tuned for more info here on the blog and my social media.

Readers, now it’s your turn. Tell me what hiking goals you have set for 2019. 

See you on the trail!

~ Lori the Explorer

why I hike…

I sit here in my windowless office, staring at the photos that I’ve placed on my desk of happy moments. Hikes at Mount St. Helens. Ones with majestic views of Mt. Jefferson. Feeling that pull to be somewhere so far away from where I am. Sometimes it feels so impossible, yet I know that shouldn’t be the case. But there is a sadness in knowing my heart is somewhere else my body is not.

There is an overused quote that is slapped on everything from books to t-shirts – “The mountains are calling and I must go.” For me though it isn’t the mountains. It’s my heart. It’s my heart calling me back to places that feel like home. Roots gnarled and rocks that are sure to trip me. The feeling I get when I walk along a ridge line. The layered vista of mountains rolling like gentle waves in the distance.

Many hikes have been alone with my soul finding refuge in the spaces between the blazes. Somehow it’s on those mountain walks where I feel strongest and most alive. It’s in those moments that I forget about the insecurities that are threaded through me – attaching themselves into every fiber within my body. I stop comparing myself to the ones who came before me and seemed to have what I cannot hold. In the mountains, I find my worth.

Yet, it’s in the shared hikes where love shines. In the mountains, it’s goofy smiles at the summit. Eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Sipping water from our Nalgene bottles. Heads resting on shoulders and hands pulling each other up when our bodies need help.

I hike for those moments. I set my boots to the trail for the strength it gives my body and the clarity it provides my mind.  I hike because my heart needs to write these love letters when my mouth has no words.

And it’s in these afternoons when my mind drifts to dreams of the crisp mountain air, I realize I hike to remember the love that surrounds me on the trail.

Love. 35131220724_0f68ea8c54_o.jpg




The evolution of the Hike Podcast

Starting the Hike: Explore | Wander | Live podcast really wasn’t something that I ever thought about doing. In fact, I have been struggling to finish up my Hike Magazine issue after everything seemed to go on creative hold when my focus shifted to my father’s ailing health.  I didn’t even have a podcast app on my phone. But all of that changed when someone very special to me talked about the podcasts that he was listening to. And when he casually added that he was surprised I hadn’t started a podcast. In hindsight that may have been because I tend to start a lot of projects.

However, that’s when it clicked. I wanted to lend my voice to this space in an effort to share both my hiking stories and those with much more interesting ones to tell. Creating isn’t entirely new to me. I had spent some time crafting two minute videos about my hiking adventures which I called the Hiking Bedtime Stories series. They were meant to be fun and to not be taken ultra seriously. I was just sharing my thoughts and scenes I took in on the trail. I realized I enjoyed the creation of content – blogging, vlogging, photo layouts – and bringing it all together.

So a podcast? What would I do when there were no visuals? And so I spent the better part of an afternoon researching how to start a podcast. I downloaded the open source audio software Audacity. I put in an order for an inexpensive microphone. I made a list of all the topics I was interested in as a hiker and someone who wanted to support those who supported the hiking community. I started “cold calling” by sending out emails and direct messages requesting interviews. For the most part, people have been super supportive and willing to share their stories. And if they weren’t interested in going on air, they recommended those who would.

Yes, there were a couple who weren’t interested in taking a chance on someone unestablished. I had to be okay with that. Because after all, this project for me is more about sharing the love of the hike. I’ve been lucky to connect with others with a shared passion for hiking and the outdoors. I’m not really one to spend too much time focused on the closed doors, when there is so much out there ready to explore.

My first two interviews were with hikers who shared some common trails. Both Plug-It In and Danny Bernstein have completed the 900 miler club, which is a challenge within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to complete all of the official trails. Danny’s interview is up now and Plug-It In’s posts on December 1st. I hope you subscribe and take a listen to both as they share their unique and inspirational experiences with me

I’m learning that interviewing is an art and just as challenging as the mountains I love to hike. There are times I stumble, but like the advice Danny gives me when it comes to taking on a challenge such as the 900 miler – it’s about perseverance. How true that is.

Hearing other peoples hiking stories has led to an even deeper discovery that we find ourselves and happiness in the space between the blazes.

I hope you’ll join me on my podcast adventure. This wouldn’t be possible without having the support of someone who loves me and encourages me to be my best. And during this Thanksgiving Day weekend, that is something I am especially grateful for.