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Hiking a linear trail has its challenges, foremost, avoiding the dreaded double-back. Worse, someone forgets to bring you back to your vehicle. Therefore, either leave your car where you want to end and ride to the start point or employ a spotting service, which is what I did when hiking a section of the North Country Trail just south of Paradise.
The North Country Trail exits Tahquamenon Falls State Park and is a road walk on Tahqua Trail and M123. It passes the Rivermouth unit then juts into the woods sharing time with a snowmobile trail. The trailhead is well marked but there appears to be no place to park. So, I left my car at the Naomikong Overlook Trailhead on the Whitefish Bay Scenic Byway.
I would like to note the scenic byway is an excellent place to explore, if you are not up to a ten mile hike. Numerous places to park and spur trails bring you right to Tahquamenon Bay on Lake Superior. Several pullouts have interpretive graphics. All the trails in the are well marked and easy to follow.
My first mile or so was on a snowmobile trail, until it crossed Silver Creek, then it became a tread through a tunnel of trees. Although well marked and having a definite trail corridor, the late summer vegetation was knee high in places.
After 2.2 miles from Silver Creek, the trail comes out to the scenic byway, and, you’ll have to walk a marked road walk before the trail goes back into the woods. For the next 4 miles, the trail follows the shore of Lake Superior. On this particular day, a stiff wind out of the northwest, compounded with water that was barely 40 degrees, made for a day where warm clothes were a requirement. I also witnessed a seche, where water is pushed from the north and was higher than normal on this day.
For the next 4.8 miles, the trail has to use the road to cross the Ankodosh, Roxbury, and Naomikong Creeks, and to circumvent where Lake Superior ate away the beach. Keep following the blue blazes in and out of the woods and you’ll find your way.
Although lightly used, I did run into a trail maintainer, two groups of dog walkers, and a grandfather with his grandkids fishing one of the inland creeks.
Tahquamenon Bay is very shallow, and, was under water for quite a period of time after the glaciers retreated. Today, many of these inland areas are conifer swamp. This is evident when the trail turns inland for the final mile as you utilize several boarwalks in cedar swamps. Climb up several set of stairs to the overlook and hopefully your car will stll be there.
Tom Funke is the author of 50 Hikes in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Looking for a good hike? The North Country Trail has plenty
I have recently inked a deal to write my second book, which will cover 50 different segments of the North Country Trail. To celebrate, I thought I’d share some notable sections of this 4600 mile long trail.
My dad and I hiking Trapp Hills
In the same class of trails as the Appalachian, the North Country National Scenic is over twice as long as its older cousin. However, few Michigander’s have heard of this trail let alone walked any part of it. Here are some notable segments worth noting. .
The longest & wildest section of trail that crosses the fewest paved roads runs from Copper peak (near Ironwood) to Sidnaw. This segment is about 110 miles long and is a true wilderness experience. Traversing through the Ottawa National Forest, experience hills, waterfalls, and deep forests during this wild hike.
Although the trail passes through some federally designated wilderness areas, I believe the wildest segment can be found on this stretch in the Trapp Hills. Deep in the hilly forests of Ontonagon County, encounter high peaks, gorgeous views, low swamps, rivers, and hardwood forests. These features will allow for a scenic, but strenuous hike. Make a day trip starting at M-64 and end on Forest Road 222. Make sure to pack a lunch and enjoy your siesta gazing over the treetops. This is bear country so take the usual precautions, since you are more likely to see these furry creatures than another human.
The closest segment? You probably have walked on it without even knowing it. If you have stepped foot on the Linear Park, you’ve walked a certified segment of the trail. Next time you are eating a meal at Clara’s, stare out the window and wonder if the hiker in view is on their way to Crown Point, NY or Lake Sakakawea, ND, the eastern and western ends of this longest National Scenic Trail.
Backpackers on the North Country Trail
The most used segment hosts well over 10,000 backpackers a year. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has a very popular 42 mile long stretch that parallels Lake Superior. Although it is a high quality experience, best to hike before Memorial Day or after Labor Day to avoid the crowds
The trail is not designed to isolate the user from surrounding land uses. As it does in Battle Creek, the trail penetrates downtown areas in other cities, too. From small towns like Petoskey to metropolises like Cincinnati & Duluth, the trail shares sidewalks, old railroad grades, and bike trails winding its way through many urban centers
A segment worth mentioning is the stretch in Minnesota that parallels Lake Superior. The trail is within eyeshot of Lake Superior most of its 300 mile stretch but only comes into contact with Lake Superior one time. The name of this segment? Superior Hiking Trail!
Finally, there is a segment of this National Scenic Trails that is only open for one day a year, and a very short time at that. Walk the Mackinaw Bridge on Labor Day and claim you’ve walked the least accessible segment of this trail.
For more information: www.northcountrytrail.org
Tom Funke is the author of 50 Hikes in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. His next book, “50 Hikes on the North Country Trail in Michigan and Wisconsin” will be out in the summer of 2015.
Well, I finally did it.
I stepped down from my full time job to pursue my writing & outfitting businesses full time.
Such a decision was not taken lightly, and, was years in the making.
I have leveraged a career and income opportunity using my 50 Hikes in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula book (you do have a copy, right?). It all started with the Tahqua Trekker at Tahquameon. My wife and I, while at Tahquamenion, had a couple of people bum rides off of us. Upon calling the park manager, we found out there was no shuttle service. That was in 2007.
In 2010, we started the Pictured Rocks Shuttle Service. We also contracted with another vendor to run shuttles on the Kal-Haven Trail. The Kal-Haven Trail shuttle shut down temporarilly as we were competing directly against the county bus, which was charging $3 a ride. They have stepped aside and we will be resuming shuttles shortly.
At Pictured Rocks, we still compete directly against the county transit system, although, we clearly offer a better service with more routes, flexibility, and knowledge of the trail. Hopefully, they will step aside like they did on the Kal-Haven but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
In 2014, we opened Fort Custer Outfitters, operating as the state park concession at Fort Custer Recreation Area. We offer rentals and food service, but will be moving into programs, tours, trips, retail, and gear rental.
So, you can probably see why I cannot work a full time job!