Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The trail to Cadillac - the Cadillac of trails

The White Pine Trail's uninterrupted motor-free 92 miles begins in Grand Rapids and runs northward to this gorgeous lakefront park in downtown Cadillac.

Let me share what I saw on the last three days on this adventure.  And let me indulge a bit more in sharing my collection of ball caps.

Hat 26 worn by a real shady character.
Hat 26 actually got a better chance to show off when we came upon this hunter shack.  Surprising how many of these little units have their own stoves up here in the north country.

When I was looking for a subject for Hat 25 to pose with, I met this little grass snake crossing the trail.

"Hey, Mr. Grass Snake, would you mind posing with my hat?"
"Sure.  No problem, dude!"

Hat number 24 got showcased in Reed City.  Here the White Pine Trail intersects with another long distance rail trail, the Pere Marquette Trail.  Reed City is not a small place, but this intersection of non-motorized trails is what they've chosen to use to define themselves.  It's the "Crossroads city".  Here's Hat number 24 resting at the very epicenter.

Nearby is their reconstructed Depot and on the approach from the north they've built a covered bridge near one of the old original railroad mile markers.

Just north of Big Rapids, where my last report left off, the trail crosses the Muskegon River on a bridge that was the most expensive project of the trail.

I took a couple of off-trail days in Big Rapids, and while wandering around town I got Hat number 28 to pose with a failed oil-well turned into a successful mineral water business.  Michigan ingenuity.

Hat 29 posed with a scrawny looking guy holding a treehouse,

and with couple more of the Ferris State U mascots.

These bulldogs are all over town, even on the water tower.

Now for a little discussion of Michigan trails and why I choose to hike selected rail trails (as I did in Ohio too) rather than stick with the route of the North Country Trail.

The White Pine Trail is admittedly flat and straight much of the time.  But it's continuous.  I find that I crave consistency in my trails.  I prefer a long, steady rail trail over getting jerked around on a staccato mash that includes plentiful road walking (including woods roads) with a sprinkling of exclusive foot-traffic-only trail mixed in. 

Even trail that is 'advertised' as pure hiking trail is often a cobbled-together mix that includes logging tracks and other old road beds and jeep trails.  Except where scrupulously protected, such as on the Appalachian Trail, these old road beds still get used by motorized vehicles.  It just doesn't feel like 'real' footpath in the woods.  On the other hand, rail trails tend to be exactly as advertised.  This is true with the White Pine Trail.  And so it won my heart.  It is a linear State Park, allowing bicycle and snowmobile traffic, and hikers of course, but no wheeled motorized vehicles.

Michigan's Department of Natural Resources takes their trails seriously, both rail trails and a big collection of multi-use woods trails that selectively cater to hikers, horses, cross country skiers, snow-shoe hikers, snowmobiles, ATVs, motorcycles, mountain bikes, and ORVs (four-wheel drive cars and trucks).  They've built and maintain networks of these trails on state land, but the only trail types that they've connected over long distances are the snowmobile trails and rail trails.  Hikers are welcome on these trails, of course, but the foot-only hiking trails that they support are loops, not long-distance trails.  And so this long distance hiker has chosen to go with the flow - to find a route that takes best advantage of all the available resources.

I hiked six straight days on the White Pine trail, uninterrupted by any other sort of hiking experience.  That is why I went there.  Here are the GPS Tracks of the last three of those days.

And for a more close-up look, zoom in on the area of interest on this interactive overview map.

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