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Though the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore hasn't placed signs at the route that winds past the historic Treat farm, it still gets plenty of traffic. The relatively flat terrain on this approximately two-mile roundtrip is perfect for novice skiers, but snowshoers leave their prints here, too. So do animals - deer, rabbit, coyote and even a cougar has been sighted in these parts. It's no wonder man and beast can't stay away. Set in a field that's tucked between a hardwood forest and a Lake Michigan bluff known as Old Baldy, the Treat farm is all that its name implies.
To find it, head south on M-22 1.5 miles from Empire's blinking yellow light. Turn right on Norconk Road. The picturesque farmstead you'll see at the first curve is the old Crouch farm, now used for National Park Service housing. The two-track into the Treat farm begins at the bend in the road, behind the gate. Park your car on the edge of Norconk Road.
Where the tree-lined lane ends you'll find yourself at the Treat farm. Built in the 1880's, the farmstead consists of a barn, recently refurbished by the Park Service; the white farmhouse; and assorted out buildings - including an unusual dome-shaped root cellar. Ski up the knoll, through a thicket of old apple trees and around the back of the house, and then imagine what life was like in this glorious but secluded spot.
Continue on and follow the trail across the open field to ski south along the base of Old Baldy. When you come to a stand of scrawny, half-dead poplars, begin watching for the trail's right turn that takes you to the bluff's edge. Once there, the wide-open horizon leads you to the brink. To the north, the Empire Bluffs drop away into the great lake and its wintry blue. Look south, and the coastline rolls from the crescent of Platte Bay all the way to Frankfort. Drink it in.