Modern Explorers take a Rugged Ride around Drummond Island

With everything progress has brought to our modern world, it’s refreshing to know there are still places on the planet that remain pristine. Michigan brims with more places like this than many expect, and a group of would-be adventurers, true modern explorers, seek and discover these hidden gems.

Modern Explorers is a crew of ten men and women that make it their mission to find these often wild and remote places in the hopes of inspiring others to do the same. From the northern shores of the Upper Peninsula’s Keweenaw to the great National Huron and Manistee Forests, they have visited ancient copper mines, followed in the footsteps of Au Sable lumbermen, camped in the ruins of abandoned ghost towns, and, most recently, visited the historic Drummond Island.


Dirty and haggard from the day’s ride, we pulled up in front of a Drummond Island restaurant. The rumble of our ORVs’ engines immediately attracted the attention of the Bear Track Inn staff and patrons, as did our excitement from discovering the sunken wreckage of the Agnes W when we entered.  We soon found ourselves at home and in animated conversation with erstwhile strangers, one of whom turned out to be the restaurant’s owner, Steve Walker.  After hearing about our passion for the roads less traveled, Steve told us about the natural wonders of the island.  But, he warned, “you have to risk something” to get there.

The word “risk” means something to our team, the Modern Explorers; in our minds, this word is often accompanied by its seductive partner, “reward.”  We listened eagerly as Steve explained he was not only a restaurant owner, but along with fellow islander Mike Kelly, also responsible for the design and maintenance of the island’s trail system.  Steve knew Drummond’s most compelling destinations and the relative difficulty or “risk” associated with reaching them.  As Steve admitted, the trails were created such that visitors had to “earn the right” to see the best Drummond has to offer.


One of the destinations Steve described particularly called out to us: the cliffs at Marble Head.  These majestic cliffs tower over a pristine Lake Huron, granting a clear view of the Canadian coast. More seductively, they are accessible by two routes, one rugged and the other nearly impassable.  When Steve solemnly stated that only an experienced driver equipped with a winch should consider the latter, our path was set.

As promised, the “trail” to Marble Head was punishing, a series of unyielding, jagged rocks separated by pits of deep, sucking mud.  Drivers and vehicles were both tested as we moved slowly through this obstacle course, pausing often to consult with one another on the best way through nature’s next trap.  In more than one instance we underestimated the depth of the water across the trail, nearly drowning our vehicles in the process.  What was worse, we didn’t know when—or if—the road would open up and become more passable.  We began to question whether we had chosen our path poorly, but by that time it was too late to turn around.


We were convinced our vehicles would require field repairs when we reached our destination.  This feeling was reinforced by the dejected remains of a Jeep, its steering linkage ripped from its chassis, which was the only sign of other riders anywhere near our route.  While this trail had stymied explorers before us, our team persevered and arrived at Marble Head, men, women, and machines intact.  Whether it was superior machines, driving skills, or (most certainly) pure luck, we made it to the cliffs unscathed.

Gazing upon the gorgeous and unspoiled view, we were pleased to have taken the road less traveled and passed Steve’s test.  The cliffs were beautiful, rugged.  Even the last few hundred meters to the cliff’s edges amazed as we gingerly walked down what could only be described as steps carved into the rock by natural forces.  The drive, and short walk were made worthwhile when we looked across Lake Huron towards Canada’s shores.  As if to make the point that we were in nature’s land now, a bald eagle soared overhead.

Opting for the less difficult route home, the return to our base camp was comparatively uneventful and we arrived before sunset.  That night we sat under a clear sky, warmed ourselves by the mandatory campfire, and reflected with pride and satisfaction on our trip to Marble Head.  Another day of modern adventure, another night of camaraderie with friends and colleagues, another trip that challenged us and nourished our souls at the same time.

Drummond Island, we will be back.

me4Christian Anschuetz embraces the duality of modern life, and freely moves from being a technologist for work and an avid outdoorsman for play.  An IT executive, entrepreneur, and former Marine, he happily leads the Modern Explorers crew as they discover Michigan—choosing for them the path fraught with obstacles, dirt, and adventure.

You can reach Christian at

To learn more about the Modern Explorers:

Modern Explorers YouTube Channel

A Welcome Stillness in the North Woods

Peggy Dolane is a digital writer who lives in Seattle and shares each summer, and her heart, with Antrim County Michigan. Today, Peggy shares with us a recent experience she had at the Glacial Hills Pathway Natural Area, where she was able to quietly enjoy the beautiful Michigan landscape.

Read about her experience below, and tell us in the comments section some of your favorite places to enjoy a peaceful afternoon in Pure Michigan.

There’s a stillness in the woods that you can’t find on any mediation retreat. Walking along a quiet path the trees stretch up into the sky and embrace you in their canopy.

It’s easy when summer finally arrives in Antrim County to sit all day long on the shore of a sparkling, aqua lake and never venture into the forest. But on grey days when the North wind blows, a hike deep into the woods is a welcomed outing.

For years I’d driven by Glacial Hills Pathway and Natural Area near the Village of Bellaire without giving it a second thought. This summer I heard Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy has partnered with Antrim County and Forest Home Township to develop a series of hiking and biking trails in this 763 acre upland forest. So on a grey July day I decided to check it out.

You’d hardly guess that these woods were logged off more than 100 years ago by Maine investors looking to grow their riches out “west”.  After the lands were logged clear and the lumber barons gone, nature took care of reforestation.

Eventually maples, beech and oak grew up into a high canopy. You’ll also find random groves of red pine evenly spaced like soldiers in their rows. These trees were planted in the 30s by the Civilian Conservation Corp, bringing depression-era jobs to this impoverished region as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Farm houses and back-road single wides have changed little over the past 50 years, and the quiet forests of one of the nation’s most beautiful regions have been left untouched.

Trail designer, Brad Gerlach of Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, expects the 20 miles of trails — featuring rolling hills, wild flower meadows, brilliant fall colors, and stunning territorial vistas — will make this local treasure a mountain biking destination.

It’s easy to get lost in the quiet of the place even with well-marked paths and despite it being just a quick ride down the road from Bellaire. Not having my bike with me, I was happy to wander awhile and listen to the sound of the wind in the tree tops. Drinking in the lush green surroundings, for one precious moment, I sat alone, in the presence of the woods.

Peggy Dolane is a digital writer who lives in Seattle and shares each summer, and her heart, with Antrim County Michigan. You can follow her @PeggyDolane.