My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

P. J. Hoffmaster State Park, North

On Saturday, I went hiking in P.J. Hoffmaster State Park, which isn’t that unusual, I have hiked there many times in the past. I have always hiked the southern part of the park, that’s where most of the hiking trails are, and it is away from the camping area. But, after seeing photos from the north end of the park on Plants Amaze Me blog, I wanted to hike the northern part of the park, which is what I did. All I can say is “Wow!, Why haven’t I done this before?”

I’ll start with some links from the Michigan DNR, first, the watchable wildlife page for Hoffmaster, then, the informational page about the park and camping, and finally, here’s a link to the map of trails.

First of all, we are so lucky here in the State of Michigan, Hoffmaster State Park is located between the cities of Grand Haven to the south, and Muskegon to the north, and yet, there are over three miles of beach area within the park. It’s no wonder our system of parks always ranks near the top when compared to other states!

There are 297 campsites in the park for those of you who may be interested in camping there, I would definitely make reservations early if you do, as it is one of the more popular state parks in Michigan.

Now, the hike. I parked in the beach parking area and started out on the walk-a-mile trail as I often do, but when I came to the beach, instead of turning south, for the first time, I headed north, towards the camping area. I was surprised how few people were in the park, the weather was about perfect for a winter day hike, in the 40’s, bright sunshine, and only a little bit of a breeze off from Lake Michigan.

There were lots of the typical Michigan tweety birds around, I didn’t manage to photograph any, but I wasn’t trying very hard either, for the most part. There were some golden crowned kinglets in the flocks of chickadees, nuthatches, and titmice, I was chasing them around, but never saw one long enough for a photo. Tough birds to photograph! They are even smaller than a chickadee, and spend all their time in evergreens, which means that about the only time you see them is when they are moving from branch to branch, or to another tree.

I did see this very, very large burl growing on the side of a tree.

Very large burl

It was at least 3 feet in diameter, I’m not sure if I have ever seen on that large before. A burl is a tree growth in which the grain has grown in a deformed manner. It is commonly found in the form of a rounded outgrowth on a tree trunk or branch that is filled with small knots from dormant buds. A burl results from a tree undergoing some form of stress. It may be caused by an injury, virus or fungus.

Then I came to the beach.

Lake Michigan beach

One of the main attractions is the sand dunes.

Sand dune in Hoffmaster State Park

But I have posted many photos of the dunes before. I will post a couple of photos of the beach for newer readers who aren’t familiar with the Great Lakes. People hear Lake Michigan, and they assume it to be like a lake they are familiar with, but the Great Lakes are called great for a reason. They are inland freshwater seas more than lakes. Ocean going vessels make their way up the Saint Lawrence Seaway to call at ports on the Great Lakes.

Lake Michigan beach, looking north towards Muskegon

Sparkles dancing on Lake Michigan, looking west towards Milwaukee, Wisconsin

What’s notable about the first one is that there is no ice! It’s the first of February and Lake Michigan is almost ice-free!

I continued walking north to where Little Black Creek flows into Lake Michigan.

Little Black Creek flowing into Lake Michigan

The creek and the lake are always fighting each other, aided by the sand and the wind. The prevailing westerly winds off from the lake push sand around, trying to dam up any creek or river flowing into Lake Michigan. The rivers and creeks are constantly changing their course, cutting new paths into the lake through the sand. If you were to go to this spot a few weeks from now, you would probably find that the scene had changed somewhat. All this leads to some interesting patterns in the sand and water.

Sand and water

Sand and water

Sand and water

Sand and water

Sand and water

Here’s a shot of the battle taking place.

The battle of sand, water, and wind

Since there wasn’t much wind this day, the waves on Lake Michigan were small, very small for the lake, so the creek was busy trying to cut itself a shorter course through the sand.

The battle of sand, water, and wind

Blue water, blue sky, tan sand, and a weathered tree stump make for a great photo.

Lake Michigan at Little Black Creek

Even without a weathered tree stump!

Lake Michigan at Little Black Creek

I continued on, crossing a bridge over the creek, and walked the Ridgeview trail, which took me up above the creek on the north side of it. Along the way, I saw this interesting tree, this happens quite often.

Two rooted tree

As the sand eroded away from the tree’s original root system, the tree grew another root system and a new portion of trunk to keep itself alive, leaving the remnants of the original root system about four feet above the sand.

Here’s a view of Little Black creek looking back to the south from on top of the sand dune.

Little Black Creek flowing into Lake Michigan

And another shot taken with my Canon.

Little Black Creek and Lake Michigan

I walked the Ridgeview trail until it joined the Little Black Creek trail, and it was there that I saw the only downer of the day.

A dredged tributary to Little Black Creek

I’m not sure what body of water this is, but the creek has been destroyed by straightening it out into nothing more than a slow-moving slough. OK, I looked it up on my map, it is Seider Drain. I’ll bet that at one time, it was a pretty little creek.

I tried to get a good photo of Little Black Creek to show how a creek should look, but between the light and other factors, I wasn’t able to.

I stopped at a bench on the north side of Little Black Creek and took a nice long break from my hike. It was wonderful! Sitting there in the warm sunshine, listening to the birds and the creek.

Taking a break

This isn’t the bench, but one of the others along the trail, and I love the words!

A bench in Hoffmaster State Park

I started back towards my vehicle, following the beach.

Looking south towards Grand Haven, Michigan

On the way, for some reason, I noticed what looked to be a part of a twig moving on the beach, right at the water’s edge.

It's ALIVE!

It isn’t really part of a twig, well, it was at one time, now it is being used by a case building nymph of some type of insect as its home and shelter. I saw several of these, I don’t know if they had been washed on shore, if they had molted their skins, or what the deal was. I am glad that I pay attention to everything though, or I would have missed this.

In all, I hiked over 5 miles, I don’t have the exact distance yet, I haven’t downloaded from my GPS unit yet. This is the first time I have used it in a while, and it drove me crazy yesterday. The rechargeable battery didn’t last the first mile, it lost its fix every time I walked through an area like this…

The deep woods in Hoffmaster State Park

…I can’t find a convenient place to carry it and my cameras and other gear, and the set of alkaline batteries had to be nursed for them to make it to the end of the hike.

I don’t really need to post my map of the park anyway, you can use the link from the beginning of this post for the State’s map. I walked the Walk-a-mile trail to the beach, the beach to Little Black Creek where I picked up the Ridgeview trail, then that and the Little Black Creek trail back to the campground and to the beach, then the beach back to where I had parked.

It was a fairly easy hike, one thing about walking the sand dunes in the winter, the sand is frozen and doesn’t shift from under your feet with every step. Still, my legs were tired by the end, there aren’t any hills around here where I do my two miles a day, and the dunes are more work than I am used to, unfortunately. My legs were tired, but the rest of me wanted more, and since it was only late afternoon, I took another little excursion which I will post about later, and you may not want to miss that one!

Anyway, if you ever get the chance to visit P. J. Hoffmaster State Park here in Michigan, you’ll be glad you did! It may be busy during the summer months, especially if Lake Michigan warms up to swimming temperatures, but there’s lots of room to roam around, and lots of wonderful things to be seen!

That’s it for this one, I am off to walk Muskegon State Park today, thanks for stopping by!

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11 responses

  1. Love the information in your posts as well the pics thanks for sharing!

    February 5, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    • Thank you, and thanks for checking out my blog.

      February 6, 2012 at 12:52 am

  2. Again, thanks for the memories, as you know I am from Muskegon. I will look forward to a post about Muskegon State Park. One of my favorite places when I was growing up there.

    February 5, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    • Thanks Bob, I may not do a post on today’s hike, it was deader than I have ever seen it at Muskegon today, and I only took a few photos.

      February 6, 2012 at 12:52 am

  3. That looks like such a great place to explore. And it does look more like the ocean than a lake. I’ve seen many lakes, but it’s hard to imagine just how big they must be.

    February 5, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    • The Great Lakes are large enough that waves to twenty feet aren’t uncommon, and in big storms, we get waves over thirty feet high. You’ve probably heard Gordon Lightfoot’s song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”, the Fitzgerald was 730 feet long!

      February 6, 2012 at 12:51 am

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  5. Northern Narratives

    Such a beautiful place. Thanks for the great photos.

    February 7, 2012 at 11:30 am

    • Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment!

      February 7, 2012 at 2:38 pm

  6. Lara Stukoff

    I was camping in Hoffmaster campground last 4th of July and have a few comments to share. First of all, the check-in process was a pain in the ass. The stuff was unfriendly to extremities. Was it because I have an accent or just they are simply not supposed to be in customer service. IMHO park rangers are the customer service and HAVE TO BE polite and welcoming.
    The young girl who was checking in my group bluntly refused to do it, saying that I am not the one who reserved the site. Despite the fact, that our friends, who have reserved it, were already checked in and left all needed info about us in the park office. She basically kicked us out from the booth and, once we have asked for her name, she refused to answer. After a long drive to the park with small kids in the car it was a disaster. I don’t know where park administration hires the intern rangers but they don’t do the decent work. I will never come back to the park.

    July 9, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    • I’m really sorry for the experience you had, but I have heard similar stories from others. I don’t camp in any of the state parks, most of the DNR employees I talk to are full time staffers, very good at their jobs, and they try to be very helpful to the public.

      July 10, 2012 at 1:02 pm