Monday, July 31, 2017

Delight along the Manistee River

Back on the North Country Trail beside the languid, meandering Manistee River.

From the north end of the White Pine State Trail, a 92 mile rail trail and linear State Park, I had fashioned a route back to the North Country Trail that took me up a pretty busy road to the biggest, emptiest trailhead parking area in the world

and then on some off-road vehicle (ORV) trails on State Forest Land

to an ORV-only bridge across the Manistee River. 

There the North Country Trail foot-only route intersects with the ORV trail, and I was back in the woods and high above the river with killer views like that in the headline photo up top.

I expected the road walk along Old US 131 to be a noisy, tedious affair.  But I got hit with a fantastic surprise.

Bad news for those sad souls trapped in their cars meant great news for me.  Here's hat number 27 (which says 'Thanks from MDOT' [Michigan Dept. of Transportation]) with the good news.  It's MDOT that I had to profusely thank for their timing.  They had closed Old Hwy 131 for many miles, giving me quiet walking right down the center-line of a usually very busy highway.

All but a couple miles of the road were closed for a complete make-over from the ground up.  They were ripping out all the old pavement right down to the dirt, grinding it up and recycling it, and laying down an all new road.  Even the couple miles that had been finished and re-opened had very little traffic because through-traffic couldn't use it.

Here's the GPS Track screenshot of that sojourn, with the little squiggly part in the north showing the meandering route of the North Country Trail along the Manistee River to the Roadside Park beside the highway.

The roadside park has a quarter-mile elevated boardwalk-to-nowhere through the woods that was worth the side trip just to see the expensive non-motorized trail work.

Too bad it didn't go anywhere.  It ended at an overlook of the river with a view so limited and so boring that they haven't bothered to keep the trees cleared.  You could barely see the water.  I didn't even bother to take a photo.

But that was a side show.  I was back in the woods and back in the good graces of the North Country Trail gods.  Hat number 30 got to celebrate my return to official NCT hiker status.

The sign was at Spring Lake.  I followed the trail back toward the Roadside Park, passing Spring Lake and then pretty Headquarters Lake

and then picking up the Fife Lake Outlet stream

I then enjoyed miles of stream-side scenery in unspoiled woods as the bluffs beside the stream got higher and higher until the stream emptied into the Manistee River.

Because this is part of a fairly newly developed 'Fife Lake Loop' hike, this is a popular section of trail.  It was well-trampled, well-blazed, and reasonably well-maintained.  West of Fife Lake, between Spring Lake Campground and the M-186 trailhead, the trail was more of the usual cobbled-together mix of motorcycle trail, ORV trail, a bit of dedicated foot trail, and forest roads open to the public.

Here's the GPS screen shot of the hike between M-186 and the Manistee River Roadside Park.

If you're looking to zoom in on these tracks to get more detail, you can access them through my Wikiloc page by clicking the logo in upper right below.  Here's the fully interactive map of the section from Spring Lake to the Roadside Park.  Enjoy.

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