We’ll just be honest with you: No Northerner worth his net sack is going to show you his secret morel-pickin’ patch. These steaks of the fungi world are sacred. Still, if it’s spring—say, about six weeks after the snow’s melted—you’re going to want to be out hunting these delectable treats. Some how-to hints:
Where: Look in sandy soil, near tall trees—typically elm, ash and poplar trees, sometimes fruit trees (old orchards are awesome), but never under pines. The Pigeon River State Forest is a fave hunting ground for morel seekers.
When: Morels like things warm and moist (not soggy), so a day following a spring rain improves your odds. Hunt when daytime highs have hovered in the 60s and nights have gone no lower than the 40s.
How: Slowly, patiently, carefully. Pinch and twist the stem at ground level, leaving the roots and a few whole mushrooms to reproduce again next season.
Tip: Collect morels in a mesh or net sack—an onion bag is perfect. Not only will the holes allow your mushrooms to breathe and keep them from turning to mush, the mushrooms can
cast their spores as you hike, hopefully inspiring growth in new spots.
Identification: Like many mushrooms, morels have lookalikes. Uncertain you’ve got the real McCoy? Have your haul checked at the Otsego County- Michigan State University Extension Office in Gaylord. Find it on the fourth floor of the J. Richard Yuill Alpine Center in Gaylord. 800 Livingston Boulevard, Suite 4A-2, 989-731-0272.
Post-Shroom Celebration: After the hunt, rest your caboose at The Old Depot in Johannesburg, here you can refuel with buffalo, steaks, chops, seafood, ribs and some of the best-darned homemade desserts around. 10826 M-32 East, Johannesburg, 989-732-3115.
Fishing on Otsego Lake
Otsego County boasts more than 90 inland lakes, and these beloved waters rule for wetting a line:
Otsego Lake Walleye, perch, smallmouth and largemouth bass, pike and crappie.
Pickerel Lake Rainbow trout, perch, big bass, little bluegill.
Big Bear and Dixon Lakes Smallmouth Bass. (Big Bear is stocked every other year by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources with tiger muskies.)
Grass Lake Bass and bluegill.
Big Lake Lightly fished with bluegill, perch and pike.
62 Miles of Up North Challenge!
The resurfaced Gaylord to Mackinaw City Trail, officially known as the North Central State Trail, opened
on June 7, 2008, National Trails Day. The Gaylord to Mackinaw City Trail is a former railroad line that was improved with a crushed limestone surface.
The designated trailhead is located just north of downtown Gaylord on Fairview Road right across from the Soccer complex where parking is available. The view along the trail showcases some of the prettiest landscapes in the North. Farms, forest and open fields share the scene with scads of sparkling lakes, rivers and marshes buzzing with wildlife.
HARTWICK PINES With nearly 10,000 acres for exploring you’ll want to pack comfy shoes. Hartwick Pines State Park is the largest state park in Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula. Take the forest trail through a natural white pine cathedral—the largest virgin stand remaining in the Lower Peninsula. Then tour the Logging Museum, depicting life as a 19th-century lumberman. Allow 2 hours for the trail and museum, more if you plan to take in a Swampers vintage basketball game. michigan.gov/dnr
FACT OR FICTION? A Chip from Around the Block
Last year, American farms grew 2.8 billion pounds of potatoes for Frito-Lay chips. Who made those tasty taters possible? None other than Sklarczyk Seed Farm in nearby Johannesburg. The 67-year-old family farm supplies more than 10 percent of the seed potatoes—those are the Mama and Papa potatoes—that produce the oodles of offspring potatoes grown at the 80 tater farms around the nation upon which Frito-Lay relies for its chief chip ingredient.
Fiction. The Sklarczyk Seed Farm actually supplies more than 75 percent of the seed potatoes for over eighty farms around the nation!
A Bite of History
Used to be, way back in the early 1900s, you called the spot where you got your sweets the sugar bowl. Heaps of American towns had ’em, and in 1919, George and Harry Doumas opened one right here in Gaylord. When churning ice cream stopped turning a profit, the guys served up sandwiches. When prohibition went bust, they added beer and wine. The menu may have changed, but the Sugar Bowl’s mission is much the same as it was 90 years ago: Serve up the good stuff at the city center and folks will gather.
Want to join ‘em? Take a seat at this celebrated landmark—breakfast, lunch or dinner any day of the week—in the casual Family Room or more formal Open Hearth Room. While you’re here, check out the old news clippings, menus and snippets of community history that line the back halls—proof positive that this place has always been a sweet spot. 216 West Main Street, 989-732-5524.
Shop Til You Drop
Shopping in Gaylord
Woolybuggers Outfit yourself or your cabin, cottage or lodge in cozy Up North style—think: Michigan food products, women's & men's apparel jewelry, home decor and rusticfurniture. 246 West Main Street, 989-705-1111.
Saturn Booksellers Gaylord’s hometown book store. An eclectic atmosphere...think chalkboard walls with a log cabin built right into the store. 113 West Main Street, 989-732-8899.
Rusty Pelican This wine shop offers award winning Florida wines as well as favorite northern Michigan wines. Also gifts to compliment wine.
240 West Main Street, 989-448-8697.
Isabella’s Copper Pot This spicy lil’ specialty shop has everything for the gourmet kitchen.
118 North Otsego Avenue, 989-731-9700, isabellascopperpot.com.
Glenda’s From offbeat odds and ends to contemporary home decor, Glenda’s is one boutique you won’t want to miss. 118 North Otsego Avenue, 989-731-9700.
Do South Looking to do eclectic? Do South! Antiques, vintage jewelry, furniture, pottery, glass...you name it, they’ve got it. 110 West Main Street, 989-731-0557.
Delphine’s Quilt Shop A Quilter’s Dream! Reproduction prints, batiks—even the fabrics of today. Kits, tools and a resourceful staff to assist you. 114 N. Otsego Ave. 989-732-1252 delphinesquiltshop.com