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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Conclusions About the Midland to Mackinac Trail

 
A lot of you readers have stuck with me for almost two months, since I announced my intention to hike the Midland to Mackinac Trail. Now, I've actually done it, but not much at all in the way I planned. That's OK. The trip cost me a lot more than I expected. That's OK. I wanted an adventure. I sure got that!

Midland to Mackinac Trail sign

Let's talk about the quality of the experiences one can find on this trail route. First of all, recall that this is an attempted approximate re-creation of a Native American pathway. As such a transportation route, a lack of elevation change was considered a good thing. Therefore, with only a couple of exceptions, the M2M Trail chooses to follow valleys rather than search out the peaks.

A lot of the route is on old two-tracks, woods roads, snowmobile trails, etc. For the most part, I don't think that really diminishes the experience. Some of the ATV trails were churned up sand which made really difficult walking. Those were not much fun, but they were a minority of treadway experiences. Here are two examples you've not seen before of the kind of "roads" the trail often follows. These are definitely appealing to me.

Midland to Mackinac Trail

Midland to Mackinac Trail

This area of northeast lower Michigan has a backcountry and remote feel to it, similar to the western Upper Peninsula, but much closer to where a lot of us live. Although most of it is criss-crossed by two-tracks, it's hard to miss the "wild" feeling of the tall spruce. Vast stretches of jackpine forest are carefully protected for Kirtland Warblers which helps keep civilization at bay. Except for very recent cuts which can be unsightly in their raw-ness, even the logged areas are interesting because they open up the landscape to give longer views of the topography.

Midland to Mackinac Trail trees

Most of the lakes along the route are not encircled by cottages or cut by motor boats. That's largely because much of the trail is in State Forests. I almost didn't realize how unusual it would be where I live to find so many small lakes with little or no human influence.

Midland to Mackinac Trail Stoney Creek Pond

Midland to Mackinac Trail Cornwall Flowage

Although this was the most significant footbridge I encountered, the trail either uses road bridges or has good structures at river and creek crossings. Except for the very smallest (where there were at least log bridges), there were solid bridges. The only places I had to wade were a lot of deep puddles which probably are not there when things aren't so wet, and some beaver flooding the last day before I joined the rail trail. (I'm not counting that fiasco on day three in the real beaver flooding, since the trail actually had been re-routed away from there).

Midland to Mackinac Trail bridge

I think this trail has the potential to take some pressure off some of the other popular trails in the state. For those who prefer loops over everything else, there are abundant old two-tracks that would probably create some nice loops. I haven't measured it, but there is certainly a loop that could be made with the High Country Pathway that would be shorter than its 80 miles.

Since so much of the trail is in state and national forest, dispersed camping is allowed. With a little research to be sure you were on public land, any number of short trips could be planned- one doesn't have to do all 210 miles.

Now for the difficult part. I lost the blazes on 12 of the 25 hiking days. Four of the hiking days were rail trail and another all roadwalk. That means that 12 of 20 days where there was single-track trail, the trail was impossible to find. There were two other times where I just happened to guess right as to which way to turn at a major junction with no blaze. There were several places where I managed to find blazes and make my way through, but it might have been luck as much as skill. In all fairness I should say that at least 4 of the problem areas have already been fixed.

This is a trail maintained by Boy Scout troops with a bit of help from some dedicated adults. But it needs more help. And it needs more hikers. If it were used more, at least there would be a visible treadway to follow, which was not always (often) the case.

My guide will be ready to go in just a couple more days. It's very close to complete. I hope some people will venture forth and give sections of the Midland to Mackinac Trail a chance. It would be awesome if some people would volunteer to help do some clearing and blazing as well.

See Sticking My Foot Out
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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Day Twenty-Six - Midland to Mackinac Trail

 
Today was exquisitely inefficient, and possibly stupid to bother to do, but it completes the project! Om and I were gone 12 hours, almost to the minute, so that I could hike maybe 9 miles.

Give Om a warm car and chances to take pictures of pretty leaves and he is happy.

person taking pictures of fall colors

I'd already driven this piece once, and drove it twice more today before I walked it so Om could see where he needed to go wait for me, and then I finally walked it. But there are always things to see on foot that escape at car speed, even when going very slowly on poor roads.

The day was absolutely lovely. Since I hiked so many wet days this felt like a real gift, and a nice ending.

dirt road with a tunnel of yellow autumn trees

It was chilly at first, but it warmed and the sky was gorgeous.

blue sky above aspen trees

The art of a beech tree decorated with white pine needles.

yellow beech leaves with white pine needles

More leaf art- I call this the super-pressed leaf technique. Materials: 1 muddy road, fallen leaves, multiple trucks.

leaves compressed in muddy road

Sure, it was a roadwalk, but there was nothing shabby about the scenery. It was a gorgeous bright, breezy day with golden leaves skittering out in front of me and swirling around my shoulders.

back road with fall colors

On the way home, Om and I stopped in Gaylord and ate at the historic Sugar Bowl. We didn't have a chance to do anything for our anniversary in August (50 years), so we celebrated today.

Sugar Bowl restaurant in Gaylord

I had a Reuben and Om had a bleu burger. Who are those old people?!

people eating at Sugar Bowl restaurant in Gaylord

Total miles today: 9 (which was really 8, but I needed to add one on to the day I came into this point from the south, so I'm calling it 9). Total miles for the trail: 215.5 (estimated, but the official estimate is 210, so not far off). Total miles actually walked to reach that goal: 299 or thereabouts!

I walked either THE trail, or some alternative to connect the points where trail was lost. In some cases I went back and picked up the missing sections from the other direction.

There will be one more post about the Midland to Mackinac Trail, with some conclusions about this adventure. Probably tomorrow.

See Day Twenty-Five
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Monday, October 15, 2018

Onaway Steers the World

 
The place I stayed the longest while hiking was the city of Onaway. It has quite an interesting history. Its slogan is "Onaway Steers the World."

This comes from the former industry that made wooden steering wheels, and before that, wooden bicycle wheels. The American Wood Rim Company was founded in 1901 and burned to the ground in 1926. They used fine-grained hard rock maple to make outstanding products.

Onaway, Michigan steering wheel sculpture

Now the local industry is Moran Iron Works, a national leader in custom metal fabrication. They have created a park on the site of the former Wood Rim factory with walkways, sculptures, and interpretive signs.

Many of the sculptures/constructions are made by Thomas Moran.

Onaway, Michigan knight and dragon sculpture

Counting the bust outside town at the Moran building, there are four famous heads: Washington, Gerald R. Ford, Lady Liberty, and Abraham Lincoln. I had seen the one of Ford before, at ArtPrize a number of years ago.

Onaway, Michigan Abraham Lincoln sculpture

I don't know the artist for this catfish, but it's not in the park, but downtown. Northern Michigan seems to have a thing for big fish- Kalkaska has a rainbow trout and Baldwin has a brown trout. There's one I often pass in Ontario too.

Onaway, Michigan catfish sculpture

This park connects to another city park, which was in full autumn splendor.

Onaway, Michigan park

One of the really interesting places to me was practically across the street from the motel. This building appears to be abandoned. Most of the people I asked about it didn't know what it had been, but one person thought it was a former Masonic Hall. It's just a shame that places like this cost way too much to save.

Onaway, Michigan large building

Just a sampling of my recent trip that wasn't directly related to hiking. That said, I'm making a fast trip back tomorrow to hike those last few miles. It has to happen!

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Sunday, October 14, 2018

Cold Wet Magic

 
I put a few of the houseplants out on the porch for the summer. Told Om to bring them in if it was going to freeze while I was gone. But I sort of forgot that a couple of them really wouldn't like to be cold even if it wasn't freezing.

One of the ones I put outside was this unidentified member of the spiderwort family. It has reluctantly bloomed for me twice.

furry spiderwort

It was given to me as a succulent, but I learned this summer that it really prefers to be nice and moist. It flourished outside, getting watered every other day. The leaves were greenish-white and furry and happy looking.

When I got home Friday, not only were the leaves happy and huge, but even though it has been quite cold, the silly thing was blooming like crazy! Every stalk had two blossoms/buds on the end.

furry spiderwort

In other news: I chilled out and worked hard on the Midland to Mackinac Trail Guide today. I'm closing in on having it ready.

See Other Spiderworts
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Saturday, October 13, 2018

Back to Author Brain

 
Today I was selling books at a DeColores fundraiser event in Muskegon. Sold enough that it was worth doing. Made two new author friends, and got to chat with two I already knew.

It just happened that the women are the ones I knew- Barbara Kompik and Bonnie Jeanne-Marie

authors Barbara Kompik and Bonnie Jeanne-Marie

The men are my new friends- Ron Rowbotham and Glenn Wagner

authors Ron Rowbotham and Glenn Wagner

Ron had a vintage fruit box from Jebavy Orchards of Ludington!

Jebavy Orchards box

I'm just too tired to function. Curled up with a book. I know this is not nearly as exciting as a hiking post, but it was today, and I need to be selling a lot of books to continue doing what I wish to do. I'm sure I'll be rejuvenated by tomorrow.

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Friday, October 12, 2018

Day Twenty-Five - Midland to Mackinac

 
The joke's on me, once again, but it's OK. After giving Nancy the whole spiel about how terrible the roads were to get to the spot we needed to hike to today, here's what happened. Because Nancy was coming from the west, I went over that way to meet her and we drove in from that side. Sue and I had accessed the spot from the east, because we were east of there. It was the way Google sent us, and I had no local knowledge that told me otherwise.

Ha! From the west, the entire way except for the last two miles was paved.

With a little digital magic, I bring you Nancy and me, at the junction where the M2M joins the High Country Pathway for a couple of miles.

hikers at the High Country Pathway

After rain and snow while I was loading the car, the day proved to be wonderful. A bit chilly, but we were dressed for it, so that wasn't a problem at all.

Don't know if they knew I was coming but someone had just touched up the blazes along the High Country Pathway. Like- this week. See the paint on the ferns?

blue paint on ferns

Except for about 3 miles we were on back roads for the rest of the walk. Still, this can be a beautiful experience. I really like the shape of the white pine to the left of the road.

tall trees along a country road
Purple leaves! They really were this color. No digital magic.

purple leaves

And although it remained overcast, the sky was bright enough to set the leaves glowing.

yellow leaves in woods

The drive home was amazing. The trees are about at peak color north of Kalkaska. I had to stop and take some pictures along the way, but this is my favorite.

barn and maples with orange leaves

Nancy and I did about 7 miles. Perfect length for her, she said. And it was fun to have company for the day. No losing the trail, which did not break my heart.

I thought the remaining miles were all on roads of some description, so I attempted to drive through and check it out. They are indeed on roads, and the puddles that stopped Sue and me are drained or dried. Sort of "killed" me to come home with only 9 miles to go, but as of now, I'm planning to go back this next week and finish.

Home again. Had my first ice cream in nearly a month. Got one piece of mail in that whole time which is worth reading. Living room is trashed. I need to be out the door with my author brain on at 7 am tomorrow. Wow! That is a fast switch from hiker brain.

Miles hiked today: 7- which is the same number that count. I like that equation! Total trail miles hiked: 206.5. This means that my guesstimate for my hiking days has been pretty darn accurate. The total will come in at 215.5, and the official guesstimate (no one has actually GPSed this trail) is 210. Good stuff.

See Day Twenty-Four
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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Day Twenty-Four - Midland to Mackinac

 
The proof! Here I am in Mackinaw City at the sign where the Midland to Mackinac Trail heads south. It was eight years ago that I stood in this spot (older signpost then), having reached it from the North Country Trail side and first thought about hiking this trail.

hiker at Midland to Mackinac Trail sign in Mackinaw City
Just go to the next sign, and you can keep going on the NCT- either direction you want! (toward New York or North Dakota)

North Country Trail sign in Mackinaw City
My timing was perfect- perfectly wrong! I sat indoors all day yesterday in warm and beautiful weather, and today I hiked in rain and wind, the entire day. Well, I'm not complaining. I wasn't too hot, and I really needed some rest. Gumby II did the job. And the water enhanced the colors of the leaves.

autumn oak leaves

Can't stop taking pictures of the beautiful stretches of autumn color along the trail.

autumn trees

It was pretty windy too. Look what came down from somewhere. Glad it's late enough in the year that the inhabitants have died off.

wasp nest

First view of the Mighty Mac from the trail! Made me realize that I've walked a long way!

Mackinac Bridge view from the Midland to Mackinac Trail

Today's trail angel that made these 12.5 miles possible in one day- Janice Dillaha, a new trail friend who is also interested in the North Country Trail. Thanks, Jan! And I hope our paths continue to cross.

hiker friends

Saw one other walker- a woman out with two Malamutes. They sure didn't mind the cold and wet, the dogs that is.

One other hilarious incident. As I was just coming into Mackinaw City there were some construction guys putting a roof on a new shuttle bus waiting pavilion. They had their radio playing loudly. Suddenly I heard the announcer say (you can't make this stuff up), "Is the trail calling to you?"
"Why, yes," I thought, "but I don't think they've perfected interactive radio yet."
"Do you wish you could hike, but you're just afraid to?"
"Not so afraid, but certainly curious what you have to offer."
"Visit our orthopedic clinic...."

Forward progress on the trail today: 12.5 miles, which is the same number of miles walked- Hooray! Total trail miles: 198.5

Tomorrow I'm hoping Nancy K and I can get to one of the places I need to connect, and that she won't have driven a bunch of miles to help me for nothing. We shall see- then home.

See Day Twenty-Three
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