with Larry Harris
Living in West Michigan has its advantages. A large selection of trails are within four hours travel time from anywhere in the state. Most weekends you will find the West Michigan Off-Roaders grabbing this excuse as a reason to pack the trucks and head off to the Dunes or a local spot called Sullivans. This is a new park opened to all types off-road activities. It was once an illegal hang out for teens looking for a place to go. The township acted on the needs of the community and turned it into an off-road park. It now has posted hours of operation making it safer for the 4x4 crowd and allowing the neighbors some quite time at night.
Going to Silver Lake Sand Dunes and Sullivans time after time can get a bit repetitive. It was time to increase our range. Out come the maps. It is decided by the club we will test our skills against some of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) approved trails around Luther Michigan. The trails selected are well within our four hour travel limit. We opted for the Lincoln Hills, Tin Cup Springs and Little Manistee trails that are located in Lake County.
We leave Grand Haven on US 31 going north to M37. Take M37 north past highway 10. The easiest way to get on the Little Manistee trail is to take a right at the "M37 Bar and Grill." This is Three Mile Road. After turning onto 3 mile you will come to the trail entrance very quickly. Still fully loaded with camp supplies we take off to explore the trails and find the state campground at Carrieville. The first day was pretty uneventful. We enjoyed a day of wide trails full of whoops surrounded by the Little Manistee Forest. We did find a very large sand bowl and were able to spend some time playing there. Not much other time spent in four wheel drive on these trails. Around 5 we find the campground. The best thing about this campsite is in its location. This state park is right on the trail! We set up camp fill the trucks with gas and enjoy a little campfire and food followed by the beverage of choice. Around 9 PM we take off for the night run. It is amazing, the trails we had just completed that day become a little more challenging and look quite different at night. As you are slowly taking in the night scenery be watchful of the large white tail deer, they are everywhere.
Sunday morning brings on a fresh day and a recharged group. Tin Cup Springs is the last trail for the weekend. We break camp and head south to the trail entrance. We have only been on the trail for a short time when it is spotted, the mud pit from hell! Being the ever careful Samurai owners we walk the first hole. Darn it is only 6 inches deep. Samurais can do this in two wheel drive. Into the trucks' men there is mud to conquer!! The first hole is done. We beat it. On to the second hole "Grouche" blows right thorough. Jody is coming up next... across the radio comes the dreaded "not going to make this one". This comes just as I am telling him the 3rd hole is deep. As the front right side of my Zuk goes under the muddy water across the radio it can be heard. "In fact this one is real deep!" Pulling in at a high RPM I am thinking we can beat this one "Grouche" is wearing new 33x12.5 Thornbirds and lockers. As soon as the truck falls in to a 44 inch rut I call back to Jody. "Not going to make this one either." There is no place to go forward after getting out of the mud pit. Up ahead the trail can only be describe as an impassable gorge. The only way out is backward the way we came in. Setting in the mud pit the front fender and winch under water my thoughts drift to, we are going to get real muddy. Bummer! We work on the Samurai for two hours, Thanks Jody!.
Lessons learned the hard way.
- A 4500 pound winch will not extract my truck from deep mud. Take the winch connections to the battery. Get a bigger alternator. Get a bigger winch!
- Take care of your winch and held connections so they work better underwater.
- Take care of your high lift it will not pull you out if the pins are rusted.
- Being locked at both ends and having big tires will not always save you from a dumb move.
After being dislodged from the mud we continued the tour of Tin Cup Springs. This is the trail for Samurais. We had a blast. It is a very tight ATV trail making it a perfect place for our trucks. There are plenty of off camber areas with some deep sand. If you ever get to West Michigan this is an area you have to try.
The West Michigan Off-Roaders are always looking for new adventures. Trails are getting harder and harder to find. "Legal" trails are disappearing at an alarming rate. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is aware of this trend and they have provided numerous Off-Road Recreational Vehicle (ORV) trails. These trails range from the Silver Lake Sand Dunes to smaller Michigan Cross Country Trails (MCCT). The trails are provide in three different designations.
- ORV Trail -- for ORV's less then 50 inches in width. Off-road motorcycles and/or ATV's
- ORV Route -- for ORV's of all sizes
- Michigan Cross Country Cycle Trail -- motor cycle trails
There are many "ORV" trails here in Michigan. So far we have only visited three. Stay tuned for more trip reports;-) Get involved with local and national fourwheel drive clubs and associations to make sure we continue to have fun on our trails.