What is now an awe-inspiring scene of towering trees was, nearly a century ago, a sea of stumps, thanks to the Jordan Valley’s early logging industry. Time has healed the valley’s scarred landscape, but storied spots remain on the pathway where you’ll tread.
“Big Sam” Graczyk wasn’t the only logger to die on the Jordan Valley’s treacherous ridges, but his violent end lives in infamy on this hill that drops more than 400 feet to the valley floor. It’s where the Jordan Valley Pathway trailhead begins and Big Sam’s life ended on May 20, 1910. Legend says the strapping young lad, due to be married, was guiding a load of logs—chained to a set of “Big Wheels,” the giant wheels used to transport logs in all four seasons—down the hill’s steep, narrow and spring-soggy path. Despite the fact that another log was hooked up to drag behind the wheels to slow the descent, gravity got the best of the operation, the wheels rolled over Sam and crushed him, and the hill was forever named Deadman’s.
The wildlife-rich wetlands just beyond the junction of the Jordan Valley Pathway’s 3-mile loop and 18-mile loop are traversed by a raised boardwalk today, but in 1910, that boardwalk line was an elevated railroad bed built by the White Lumber Company. The means to transport timber to one of the many White Lumber Company mills in East Jordan, the railroad was one of many the company built. The timber company’s most famous rail was the Boyne City Gaylord & Alpena Railroad, which became the first independent cross-state railroad in Michigan when a train crossed the Michigan Central tracks at Gaylord and kept on rolling to Alpena on December 20, 1918.
Pinney Bridge Campground
Rest your head where the men of East Jordan Logging Company’s Camp No. 2 did. In 1915, the woods-fringed meadows of Pinney Bridge Campground were home to 60-plus loggers who bunked up in narrow barracks built atop mobile flatcars. Two decades later, Civilian Conservation Corps workers stayed at the site while they worked to re-plant what the saws of the loggers had taken down.