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Arcadia Dunes: Pete's Woods
Anchoring the northeast corner of Arcadia Dunes-C.F. Mott Nature Preserve, more than 4 miles from Lake Michigan, Pete’s Woods lacks the impressive dunes or views of Baldy Trails or the miles of rugged single track that mountain bikers crave at DryHill Trail. But come May there is not a better place to experience the explosion of spring wildflowers than this patch of rugged woods.
Swamp Road may lead to the 135-acre tract but Pete’s Woods is a second growth, beech-maple forest crowned by century-old trees. Stewardship of the preserve includes the removal of garlic mustard, an invasive species, which improves the diversity of the understory. In short, more wildflowers. During the brief window between spring thaw and summer leaf-out – sometime between late April and early June – blooms will range from spring beauty and Dutchman’s breeches to squirrel corn, yellow trout lily and bellworth. Trilliums are a given. So are morel mushrooms.
The preserve is named after Pedro Rodriguez, who with his wife, Iva, owned the forested ravines and the adjoining farm where they grew corn for cattle from 1928 to 1971. Consumer’s Power purchased the land in 1971 and the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy permanently protected Pete’s Woods in 2005 as part of Arcadia Dunes.
Pete’s Woods Trail is a 1.5-mile loop up and around a forested ridge. The landscape is hilly, but the hiking is surprisingly easy as the gradual climbs follow the natural contours of the ridge. Although mountain bikes are allowed, off-road cyclists are encouraged to ride at nearby Dry Hill Trail, a trail system designed for them.
If Swamp Road is passable, Pete’s Woods is a delightful snowshoe trek and in October the northern hardwood forests make it a place to view fall colors. But it’s spring when you want to be here when the wildflower display is unparallel anywhere else.
From the parking area you cross the end of Pedro Rodriguez’s old farm field and then pass red and white pines that he planted in the 1950s. The trail then begins to climb the forested ridge and quickly the junction with the return trail is reached. Following the right-hand fork to the west the trail continues to gradually ascend the ridge, though if the wildflowers are out you’ll hardly notice the climb.
Eventually the trail swings due south and then east and at Mile 0.8 you realize how rugged the preserve is. From the trail, you can peer into a steep wooded hollow where more than 100 feet below is Swamp Road snaking through the woods.
At this point, the trail swings around the high point of the ridge at 954 feet and at Mile 1 begins its steady descent back to the trailhead. Within a third of a mile, the trail bottoms out just above Swamp Road and parallels the two-track back to the junction that was passed at the beginning of the hike.
There are no facilities at the Pete's Woods trailhead except for parking an information kiosk.
There is are no vehicle entry fees at Pete's Woods. The nature preserve is open year-round.
From Elberta head south on M-22 and then east on Joyfield Road in 7.3 miles. Swamp Road is 3.5 miles to the east from M-22 or 1.7 miles west of US-31. The dirt road heads south past orchards before plunging into a wooded ravine as a rutted two-track and passing the Pete’s Woods trailhead within a 0.3 mile from Joyfield Road. At the trailhead is an information kiosk but no toilets or a source of drinking water.
For more information contact the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy at (231) 929-7911 or online at www.gtrlc.org.
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