4/27/13 Trails project UPDATE

Hello Everyone!

I just wanted to provide a bit of an update for the trails restoration project scheduled for April 27th

Hal and I were out on the larger 5 mile loop marking trail and we found that Beavers are once again active in the Beaver pond. In addition to that the amount of rain we have been getting along with what is forecasted for the next few days may make that area a little too wet to work in, but we’ll keep an eye on it. With that said, there are still plenty of areas that we will be able to get work done in that are good and dry.

We will still be meeting in the Parking area just northwest of the intersection of M115 and Lake Station Ave. We do have at least a couple people that will be staying at the Mud Lake State Forest Campground and also some staying overnight in Evart. I’ll give these words of advice to everyone. Please don’t cut across country from the Evart area on any of the back roads to the parking area on M115. Use US 10 to Lake Station Ave., then North to M115. Turn left on M115 and the parking area will be just a few hundred feet on the South side of the road. The back roads are in very bad condition right now and it is very slow going on the dirt roads so try to stick to the paved roads. The dirt road into Mud Lake has plenty of pot holes but we got in just fine.

Remember a good set of gloves and pruning shears if you have a set. Bring plenty of water and a lunch for on the trail.

Mark Wilson

4/27/13 TRAILS Restoration Project

Many people know of the infamous Scout Camp at Lost Lake, in Clare county. But adjoining this Camp is a State Forest area, where Eagle Scouts had built an extensive set of Trails, Bridges and Boardwalks through many different ecosystems. Without proper funds, these Trails have fallen into disrepair.

GroupWell…..Hiking North/Central Michigan, Clare County and our DNR have joined forces to restore these wonderful Trails at Green Pine Lake. We are starting this project with some simple clearing of overhanging branches and foliage. While we are doing this first Phase in restoration, we will also be noting details for future work on the bridges and Boardwalks and also updating a detailed Map we have started of the area.

This project will take a number of gatherings to finish, but the end results will be a restored Trails system that will serve many people visiting the area.

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DOWNLOAD A MAP OF THE GREEN PINE LAKE AREA HERE:

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DOWNLOAD A FLYER WITH MORE DETAILS & A MAP TO THE MEETING PLACE

Everyone attending the Trails Restoration Project will receive a detailed colored Map of the Green Pine Lake area and Trails. Water will also be available for everyone, along with some snacks. Participants should bring some good boots, Work Gloves and their favorite hand Clippers. Additional snacks for out on the Trails is also recommended.

After the days Work, those interested are invited over to Mud Lake Campground, where a nice Campfire will be waiting, along with some Hot Dogs and other Campfire treats.

There is a group of Hikers coming up from the S.E.MI. Hiking Michigan group, to join in with the Trails restorations. Some of us are staying at the local Hotels in the area. Mark Wilson has recommended the Grand Hotel in downtown Evart, MI. Evart is only a short distance from the Green Pine Lake Forest area, and in-between there and the Campfire at Big Mud Lake Campgrounds. A good central location to stay the weekend. There are also other facilities in Big Rapids and Clare nearby.

GRAND HOTEL INFO     CLARE COUNTY HOTELS     MUD LAKE CAMPGROUND

You can contact Mark Wilson at the Evart Parks & Recreation at: 231-250-2071, or by email at: Mark@hikingmichigan.com.

You can also get further info at the Friends of Clare County, at the Link provided here:  http://www.clarecountyrecreation.org/events.htm

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Car Camping

With the big resurgence in Camping here in Michigan, many people are getting out to the Parks and doing just that. Camping also makes for a less expensive and more enjoyable Vacation as well. When was the last time you headed up north, set up Camp and enjoyed the beautiful places that are just everywhere in Michigan?

Camping does not have to always be a small Tent in the middle of nowhere. Many people do what I call….CAR CAMPING. pack that car up in the right way, get a larger Tent that is roomy and very comfortable, and even set it up at a Campground that may have all the amenities you would like to see. Hot water showers, Flush toilets, Running water and all those little things that will make your Car Camping experience something very rewarding.

Rather then a local Motel, setting up that tent, near the shoreline of a beautiful Lake or Pond, and establishing your base Camp, will allow you to explore right from your Camp site. Walk 100 yards and Fish. Hike right from your Camp site. A Campfire anytime you want one. Just a few of the benefits you get from Camping.

Mark and I put together a few sheets of what we thought where the basics to packing up the car and getting a Camp site at the right Campground for the weekend. You will of course add to the lists we have created here. But we think we have covered the basic needs of almost anyone who wanted to do a Car Camping weekend.

Car Camping is a GREAT way to see Michigan. It is much less expensive then Motels, and it gets you right there, into the beautiful spots you went to see to begin with. No need to leave the Motel or Bed & Breakfast to head out to that Lake or Trails. It is right there just off your Camp site. Done correctly, you will not even have to drive to many of the things you came to experience. You can get to them right from your Camp site.

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You can download the CAR CAMPING info sheets here. Get out and see our beautiful state of Michigan. Do it in a very personal and up close way, by Car Camping. You will not regret it. There are so many different kinds of Campground around our state. Some have every amenity you could ever need, and others are more Rustic. Choose what best fits you and or your Family, and GO GET OUTDOORS in Michigan.

 

Silent Sports

I just read an article called silent sports. It had some interesting points and observations, but also went to places I just did not understand. It is getting to the point that I need an interpreter to read some of these articles, reports and studies about Nature and the outdoors.

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Is it a bad thing now, to just enjoy the outdoors. The Nature aspects of being in the Forest, exploring the shoreline of a remote lake or pond, Fishing, sitting quietly on the edge of a Meadow with binoculars and waiting to see what I can spot emerging into that Meadow?

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Why is everything now a Sport? Challenging……something to be conquered. What happened to just the enjoyment of a special ecosystem or quite place? A place that the only sounds are those of the natural world around you. That stream flowing over the rocks, the wind whipping through the Pine Trees, the Birds singing and fluttering overhead.

SunsetHollyThese are calming things. Things that allow us to turn off from the hectic world and get us connected again, to the Natural world. We need these things as humans. Everything cannot be a challenge, Adventure, Conquering moment or Adrenaline filled experience. What about learning something while we listen to the silence?

Maybe all the direct connections we now have with our cell phones, Tablets and communication devices will no longer allow these quite times. but all it takes is the OFF switch. Turn OFF these devices. Turn OFF that fake need for constant excitement and movement. Be silent with the outdoors. Experience it without hurting, conquering or flying by it. STOP…….SIT or SLOW DOWN…..and see just what you have been missing. Really look around you. See ALL the wonders that make up Michigan’s Forests, Shorelines, Lakes Streams and Natural World.

BoardwalklightThere is plenty of time for all the gadgets and fast paced stuff. Everything does not have to be done quickly or with an intensity that makes it no longer enjoyable, but rather a task that needs to be accomplished in some way. How about accomplishing nothing other then a quiet moment with the critters and natural life in the many beautiful places in Michigan. You do not need any other inanimate objects. You do not need to have any skills at any so called particular Sport. All you need is the effort at walking or Hiking to that special place and relaxing by blending into it all. Pretty simple, easy and actually rewarding.

We need these moments as humans. Especially these days, as life has become so intense and busy for every waking minute of the day. Enjoy the Silence. Enjoy the Quite. Bring nothing with you, and take nothing away but the experience. Maybe a picture or two. 🙂

TRAILS Restorations

There is something very personal about repairing or restoring a Trails system. You may not always get the chance to see the results, but rest assured, your efforts serve many, many people. Helping others to get access to different habitats, or go deeper into the Forest, is work that is some of the most rewarding.

A few years back, I worked on a new Trails system at one of the Recreation areas. New Trails to remove the erosion the previous trail had been causing regularly. The following weekend, after we had completed this brand new section of Trail, we returned to do some clean up and trimming. As we passed through a Meadow the new Trail had been cut through, there sat a family of four. Mom & Dad and their two children running through the tall grasses of this very private Meadow. It was a scene out of a Movie.

I will always remember this moment. This family had gone to a very private place, deeper into the Forest then they would have normally went, and showed their kids a private taste of this beautiful habitat. They would never had been there, if not for our weeks of work on rerouting what was originally, a bad Trail. Something I will NEVER forget.

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So…….Hiking Michigan North/Central director, Mark Wilson has been in working contact with Clare county Parks & recreation and the DNR, attempting to put together a combo effort at restoring what once was a very extensive Trails system at the Green Pine Lake Trails in the Ausable State Forest area. This Trails system was built by local Eagle Scouts, many years ago, and has fallen into disrepair, due to lack of maintenance.

This Trails system is pretty extensive. Boardwalks, Bridges, intense signage, all created by who know how many Scouts, over how long of time period. But it was an amazing accomplishment for anyone.

Mark thought that it was a shame to let all of this extensive Scout work just rot away. Boardwalks and Bridges, and even Trails reach a point of no return without proper maintenance. The Green Pine Lake Trails have gotten to the edge of that point.

So between the reconnaissance work of Mark and Associate Hal, and then Ortonville Scout Master Jeff, these people GPS ed what they could in what remained of the Trails. In many cases, pushing their ways through deep overgrown Trails and Boardwalks. But they managed to GPS the loops there, and with Hiking Michigan’s help, create a Map of these lost Trails.

GET A COPY OF THE GREEN PINE LAKE TRAILS MAP

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So here we are in 2013, and with some contacts and meetings with the DNR and local Clare county Parks & Recreation, Hiking Michigan’s Mark Wilson has managed to get a ball rolling in Trails restoration that hopefully will eventually restore the entire area Trails, to their once beautiful state. Phase 1 of these plans begin on Saturday, April 27th, 2013, at 8am – 4pm+.

This first Phase will be initial clearing of the main Trails and some signage repainting. There will also be many notes taken for Map updates, features and foliage logging and analysis of future work needed to restore some of the damaged Bridges and Boardwalks. As I mentioned earlier in this post, there is nothing as rewarding as Trails work. And this restoration of the very hard work, done many years ago by our local Eagle Scouts, makes this Maintenance/Restoration work, even more rewarding.

DOWNLOAD A FLYER OF DETAILS & A MAP TO THE MEETING PLACE

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Phase 2 of this ongoing project will include some rebuilding of actual Bridges and Boardwalks and some heavier work along the Trails. Hiking Michigan is donating any and all Map signage for the project and along the Trails as needed. Clare county and the DNR will be providing much of the timber and materials needed for the heavier repairs. What is so very needed here is YOU. The people willing to perform these tasks of Trails restoration and maintenance. The Doers! The people behind the scenes, who will make this project a success for so many others to follow behind you and just stroll and enjoy this beautiful area. Thinking these Trails, Boardwalks and Bridges where all just here forever, and just part of the natural environment. 🙂

Besides the huge Thank Yous from fellow workers, and a bit of shinning you will get through the small News article and local mentions in NewsLetters and HM publications, your efforts will be that of Heritage work. You will have continued something that was about to fade away shortly, and made it something that your children will enjoy, along with the many, many others wandering into the area and down one of the Trails. These Trails interconnect to the infamous LOST LAKE Boy Scout Camp, right next door to this State Forest Trails system.

So please come out and join us for Phase 1 of this all summer project of restoring the Trails at Green Pine Lake, During Phase 2, participants will have Free overnight Camping, provided by our DNR, at nearby Mud Lake State Forest Campground. Hiking North/Central Michigan will be providing colored Maps for all participants, and will be working at providing Snacks and Campfire Vittles for future Phases of the project.

HMLOGOThere is nothing we love more here at Hiking Michigan then when many different groups and Organizations pull together for Nature and to serve ALL the people of our beautiful state of Michigan. We have some special surprises for those who follow through with their Volunteerism on this project, which we will keep private for the time being.

If you are interested in being a part of these work projects, starting with the April 27th starter date, then pleas contact Mark Wilson at:  Mark@hikingmichigan.com    or call him at:  231-250-2071.

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Unique Opportunities Coming

Our director for the North/Central Hiking Michigan group has been a very busy man this last Winter. Mark Wilson has become the head of EVART Parks & Recreation, contributing his outdoor knowledge and talents to his community in many ways. Starting with the development of a number of new Park Trails, a Snow Shoeing group, and a number of programs that keep the Parks & Rec. appeal for all ages and different types of individuals.

Well……he has put together something for April 27th that will not only be an interesting experience for many people, but will do something that will affect so many others, for years to come. Mark and associate Hal have managed to put together, along with CLARE county and the DNR, the start of the restoration of the abandon Trails system out at Green Pine Lake, in the Ausable State Forest area, Clare County, Michigan.

This area, NorthEast of the city of EVART, was originally developed by local Scouts from Trails creations, to Boardwalks , Bridges and Signage. It was beautiful in it’s heyday. But it now stands in ill repair. But it was not to late to save this beautiful area. So that is just what has been organized.

On April 27th, Phase 1 begins with Trails trimming and some Signage repainting. There will also be some further GPSing of the trails and area, for a final new Map of the entire Trails system there. Which means that everyone participating in this 1st Phase of work will get experience at Trails restorations, Trails building, Trails Maintenance, Area surveying and analysis, and the logging of specific work and maintenance to be performed. A planning scheme for the complete restoration of an entire Trails system area. Great Fun and experience for anyone interested in just how it all works……the Trails we hike and just take for granted on how there are just there for us.

I have just wrote this little tease because I just could not help myself with the excitement of what was going to start to take place at what could have been a wonderful Trails network, so abandoned that it would soon be un-restorable. So……in the nick of time, three groups will come together and make what once was an Eagle Scouts mission, continue to be a reality. Hiking Michigan North/Central, CLARE County Parks & Rec. and our State DNR, all working together for the best interest of all the people. Does’nt get much better then that.

Look for more details and a full write up on all the Plans coming in Phases, for the Green Pine Lake Trails. This area adjoins the famous “Lost Lake Scouting Camp” area. One of the most beautiful an extensive Scouting Camp in Michigan. We will have more details shortly. I just couldn’t wait. 🙂

GET A MAP OF THE GREEN PINE LAKE TRAILS AREA.

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Why so Different Now?

I have lived my entire life in Michigan. I am third generation Michigander and very proud of that fact. I have always felt very connected to my state. Mostly through the outdoors. The Lands, Waterways, Parks, Rivers and Lakes. Since a child, these are the things I have always thought of when I thought of my state.

But recently. OH…..maybe the last 5-6 years now, I have seen a huge change in how the people in power in Michigan view my state. They think all of the things that have defined Michigan, are for sale in some way. They do not seem to understand the delicate interconnections there are between the Land and Waterways…..between the wildlife and the Trees. They just seem to think that you can sell all the Trees and it does not affect anything else. Or you can drain the fresh waters and it does not affect anything else. I do not understand this thinking. And apparently these interconnections are not understood by our Representatives.

I write this Blog on our North/Central groups site, because I feel that the people living outside of the more populated Southeastern Michigan regions understand this at a deeper level. Now do not be insulted S.E.Michigan people. Many of you know exactly what I am saying here too. I just have seen that most people outside of S.E.Michigan actually live the connections I have mentioned above.

These are not Political things I speak of here. Although some of the issues and reasons why they are happening may have political connections somewhere, that is not their primary beginnings. Money seems to be the starting points on much of these things. But how can anyone think that we can sell our beauty, our Fresh Waters and abundant wildlife in Michigan and not pay a very dear price at some point in time?

I know this may sound naive, but I just do not understand these things. For me, Michigan is my Home, and I could never divide up pieces of my Home and sell them or abandon them for anything. money, Career, or anything. Like the BILL SB 78 that is running through Lansing at this moment. If this Legislation passes through Lansing it will remove Biodiversity and it’s protection in Michigan. Without Biodiversity, we will be left with Zebra Muscles and Asian Carp in our Lakes, and a slew of about dozen Invasive Species being the dominant plants through out our state’s lands. Then what?

There is almost no returning from that. Yet these Senators and their backers push these things through Lansing, for money today, and Nothing tomorrow. They want to sell my Home. Our Home. I thought we had hired professionals and pay them to watch over at least our communal State Lands & Waterways through OUR Department of Natural Resources. Yet OUR state agency has not only failed us but in many case they are in connections with these senators and criminal businesses and Non Profit groups who want to sell pieces of our Home with no regard to what will happen to what is left after they get done with their little piece of controlling things for THEIR little groups.

The majority of us true Michiganders are left with their scraps. Trying to fix what they have destroyed in the name of THEIR little Non Profit group or Company. Again….while the people from our DNR just sit and watch or help them do these things. I can hardly believe some of the things I have witnessed over the last two years or so. I would never have believed these kinds of things could ever happen in Michigan or by our DNR if you asked me 10 years ago. But here they are. A DNR who’s main focus is controlling our Outdoor recreational experiences. Are you Kidding me? I can select what I want to do on my Lands & waterways, and we all expect YOU, our DNR to do the jobs you where hired to do. Watch over the health and well being of our states Natural resources. Get your faces out of our Outdoor Recreational experiences and selections. And forget about sponsoring state Ice creams too. Stupid.

All I can say anymore is……..Help save our Home here in Michigan. Stop our own DNR from destroying it all. Stop these Non Profit groups in connection with our DNR from destroying whatever they want to, just to get a new BIKE Pathway or Recreational activity that is the rage at this time. Ask our DNR why Invasive Species rule our Lands & Waterways while they spend our PASSPORT money on Programs like, “CONQUERING RECREATION 101”, or millions of our dollars given to groups and communities to further build more BIKE Pathways around our state while neglecting Biodiversity and the protection of our Forests and Lakes.

Sometimes one must stand up and protect their Home from intruders. That time has come for us true Michiganders, before it is all taken away, sold down the road or crippled to the point of not repairable. We now must watch things much closer. Do not believe what you hear from these people. The DNR, Non Profit Groups connected at the hip with our DNR, or any of these so called “STAKEHOLDERS” the DNR likes to refer to the people that back THEIR plans in OUR HOME state. Investigate what they are telling us, because most of the time, it is not the truth. Do not let our Home go away on simple lies from simple minded thieves. Their goals are that of money…..Careers….Power and Control. They do not care about our HOME…..MICHIGAN!

Our Latest BIRD ID sheets

With such an increase in Birding interest here in Michigan, we decided we needed to get some ID help going. We asked our members and many expert Birders in Southeastern Michigan for their ideas and help in putting something together that would assist the beginner in identifying different Birds while out on the Trails.

The two sheet we put together should help in telling one Bird from another. Practice is always the best way to get more proficient at IDing different Birds. But these ID sheets should help everyone in getting that quick ID going, rather then just standing there and saying…..”What a Cool Bird that was”. :-)

Birding has taken some huge strides the last couple of years, with all the web sites and APPS for our cell phones and Tablets. These make Identifying Birds out in the field, much easier. But there still needs to be a pattern to what you are looking for and in what order, that will best and most quickly help you ID that Bird.

Here are a few web sites to assist you in Identying various Birds almost everywhere:

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/search

http://ebird.org/content/ebird/

http://identify.whatbird.com/mwg/_/0/attrs.aspx

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birding/backyard-bird-identifier/

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You can Download our new BIRD ID SHEETS here:

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The Day Pack

Here is the 2nd most popular post of 2012 on the Hiking North/Central Michigan BLOG. Mark wrote many useful and informative articles this last year. This is an extra Cool one. Thanks for another great Post, Mark!

I’ve had people question me in the past, and again just recently as to what all I have in that pack I always carry. After seeing the “Anatomy of a Backpacker” picture a couple of weeks back I thought I would put something together on what all I carry around in my daypack, that I never leave home without.

I’ll attempt here to give a basic run-down of the things I carry. Naturally depending on the time of the year and where you are going as well as what you’re doing, the items in your daypack will vary. I  have however found that I have some essentials in there that always seem to remain, regardless of where I am or what I’m doing. Those are the items that I would like to focus on.

First off is my pack itself, which is a Eureka Panther Peak 30 liter, it’s fairly lightweight without a bunch of bulky padding and strapping all over it.

I have to first say that my daypack exists primarily to house my water which leads me to item number one. I always carry a 2 liter hydration bag filled with water regardless of the length of hike that I plan to take. I don’t show it here as a separate item because it is always a part of my daypack.  Always … Period … I’ll consider more water but never less. It’s just one of those quirky little things about me that no one is going to change, I like water, and water is good, and 2 liters is what I always carry.

The next thing you will find in there is a bag filled with protein bars.

I’ve shared these with a lot of people on the trail and I’ve yet to hear anyone complain about them. I also think in the right situation they could be a real life saver.

Rain gear will be the next item.

Again this is an item that is always there. I could make this a seasonal item but I don’t. I use the lightweight stuff so it really doesn’t add a lot of weight, and in a pinch it can be used during the winter months as an extra layer if needed.

I carry two of these zippered stuff bags.

The larger one contains items that I just don’t want floating around loose in my daypack, and the smaller one contains my first aid kit.

In the larger bag I have the following items:

  • Weather proof notepad(You can find these at military surplus stores, and it’s great stuff. You can toss this in the lake pull it out an hour later and write on it just fine.)
  • Pencil
  • Lighter
  • Mylar emergency sleeping bag ( this is really just a back up if I don’t have the emergency bivy along, and I don’t think I would count on this to do much)
  • Ibuprofen (I’m cursed with bad knees)
  • Elastic wrap (these have come in handy in the past and are worth the weight to carry)
  • Insect repellent
  • Bottle of hand sanitizer with a few wraps of extra Para-cord
  • Some light weight clips. (I could go into the 10,000 uses that I’ve found but that’s for another day.)
  • A toilet kit with antibacterial wipes, a trowel, a full roll of toilet paper flattened in a heavy-duty plastic bag with a neck lanyard. (If you have ever had the pleasure of mother nature calling while in the woods … in the pouring rain, or snow, you will know the importance of a neck lanyard on your t.p. bag. If you haven’t had this pleasure, please just take my word for it, nothing makes life any less enjoyable than a roll of wet toilet paper.)

In the smaller bag I have a first aid kit.

I’ve put this kit together myself rather than buy one as a pre-packaged kit. Again this is a daypack, and I’m not a field medic, I just want what I may need, that I know how to use, and I want it in as small a package as I can make it. Everything in this kit I have used or have had a need for in the past. I may add more to it in the future but I don’t see myself removing anything.

  • Anti diarrhea tablets
  • Antibacterial wipes
  • A bag with various sized bandages and gauze pads
  • Benadryl capsules, I’m mildly allergic to bee stings.
  • Moleskin and a small utility tool that has a good pair of scissors
  • Alcohol pads
  • Antibiotic ointment packs and iodine wipes
  • Plastic toothpicks with floss
  • Cotton balls, small roll of medical tape, and rubber gloves
  • Tablets for various ailments
  • Lip balm
  • Super glue
  • Female sanitary napkins vacuum sealed

I also carry a dry bag with an extra pair of socks, and a head net for bugs. I’ve used the extra pair of socks on more than one occasion this summer already.

In the picture above there is also this small 5’x7’ nylon tarp, which I have come to love. It’s made from tent type nylon and it’s not a big pain to fold up and get back into the bag. It’s great to set on, it’s makes a quick shelter to get under in a rain storm, and it would make a great emergency shelter if you found yourself spending a night in the woods unexpectedly.

There are a couple other items that have spent a lot of time in my daypack this summer while I have been out on the Manitou Island’s. .

One is my water purification system, and the other is this Emergency bivy bag made by Adventure Medical Kits.  This bivy bag is lightweight yet very warm, I’ve tried it out and I’m convinced that it would provide a very comfortable night spent unexpectedly in the woods. I think it could be a real life saver for keeping an injured person warm in the winter as well.

Well those are my basic essentials, and like I said there are a litany of other items that make their way in and out of this pack depending on the situation, but these are the items that have taken up permanent residence in my daypack.

Update: Well i just noticed that I left off one very important item that I just found in the front pouch of my pack, and that’s a headlamp. One more item that is always in there.

MUD Lake & Green Pine Lake Trails

We have had alot of responses to Mark’s investigations out at the Green Pine Lake & Mud Lake Trails. We have updated the new maps for the area, and hope to do some Trails maintenance and restoration out along both Trails this Spring. Below you will find one of Mark’s reports on the area.GREEN PINE LAKE MAPGreenPineLake

Posted on June 2, 2012 by 

In either case it was about a year ago that my friend Hal told me about a trail system that was only a few miles from where we live. He said that he and his wife used this trail on occasion, but it appeared to be an underutilized and neglected trail.  I was finally able to get time to go hike this trail with Hal a couple of days ago, on what turned out to be a great day for hiking. The conditions were exactly what we want for a day of hiking… cool, a bit cloudy, with few bugs.

We started our hike at the Big Mud Lake State Forest campground several miles west of M-66 and north of US Highway 10. I know the name Big Mud Lake sounds rather unappealing, but I hope you can trust me when I say the area is very appealing if you are a person who enjoys big woods, quiet lakes, and the universal solitude that nature provides. This area has all of the above and more!

The trail head at the campground is not well-marked, but easily found straight east of the parking area. The trail starts out looking as though it is going to be well-groomed with a nice wide bed of crushed limestone leading you to the first of the trail map signs mounted on double posts. The signs are not fancy by any stretch of the word at first glance, but after you look them over closely you will begin to appreciate the craftsmanship once you take note of the small tag at the bottom of each sign that informs you that the sign and the trail system was an Eagle Scout project of a Boy Scout named Steve Reed of troop 695 in Farwell Michigan, in the year 2000.

These hand-made signs are located at both trail-heads, as well as at each intersection of the trail system. There are some scale issues with the map on these signs, but one gets a general understanding of the overall system at a glance.

One can see on the map below that the trail system consists of a small loop trail near the Big Mud Lake campground, with a long connector trail that runs to the east to connect with two larger loops. The southern loop is the larger of the two loops at about 5 miles. The loops both connect in the area of Green Pine Lake. The northern loop is a 2.5 mile loop that can be accessed from a parking area off of M-115 at Pike Lake.

On the far eastern part of the trail near the Mud Lake Campground there is a small loop that would constitute about a ¾ mile hike if you were to hike it by itself. The north leg of this loop goes up through some DNR food plots that have been seeded to rye for this year. This would be a great little hike for campers staying at the campground with ample opportunity to see wildlife.

Our hike this day took the southern leg of this small loop on the trip out to the western section of the trail, and we would pick up the northern leg of this small loop on the way back in. The first mile or so of the trail is in a cedar swamp area that was loaded with wildflowers. We even ran across a few beautiful examples of Lady Slippers, we also passed by a number of species of fern, finding a couple that are rather uncommon for this area.

The connector trail from the campground at Mud Lake out to the first of the larger loops is actually about 3 and 1/4 miles in total length, and goes from the wet swampy area near the campground into a range of varying habitats.

I’m sure that 12 years ago the trail was well-marked throughout its entirety. Today the trail may be very discernible in one section, but can be very overgrown and confusing in other areas.  There were several areas where we had to stop and really search for a trail, or trail marker, but only on one occasion did we actually overshoot the trail and have to back track several hundred yards to pick the markers up again. The trail appears to have been blazed with the official blue triangular foot trail plastic placards years ago, but many are missing or broken now, so don’t count on having them at regular intervals along the trail. As the middle section of this trail system exists today, it is very advisable to take your time through this section and make sure that you are looking for trail markings as you move along the system as it is very easy to overshot a turn in the trail.

In many cases the blue paint blazing has faded to the point of being barely visible, and the triangular trail placards are long gone. Some kindhearted individual has over the last couple years carried a blue spray-paint can along the trail remarking some of the areas that are fading away and without this good Samaritan, I’m afraid that some parts of the trail would be completely lost and overgrown by now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arriving at the western intersection of the largest of the loops in the system, in what appears to be the least utilized part of the trail system, we found the 3rd trail map sign that was also in need of some maintenance.

This is a very beautiful area that is very secluded along an old beaver pond where the understory becomes very thick with tag alder, and the trail becomes very hard to keep track of so you must pay close attention to the few markings that remain here.

A couple of items of note here are that the map board is oriented so that north is at the bottom of the map, also this  board depicts a cut-off trail that would drop to the south of the “You are here” point, but we could find no sign of such a trail

Hiking north up the western edge of the larger loop we found the most overgrown area of the trail system. Wet boots and tangled briers were the name of the game for a short section that lead us along the top of an old beaver dam.  It was a bit of a struggle to push through this area but the views across the old beaver pond were well worth the effort.

In the midst of this Tag Alder, briers and thick brush was a stream crossing foot bridge that had suffered some frost heaving damage over the years, but it is still very navigable. On this bridge we found another plaque noting that the bridge was the Eagle Scout project of John Ball of Troop 622 in June of 2001. What a project this bridge must have been. I have no clue the distance to the nearest area that a truck could have delivered lumber to, but I’m sure some young Scouts must have hand carried a lot of lumber for a long distance to get it to the site of this bridge.

Both ends of the bridge are nearly over grown with brush and this area around this bridge could easily cause a hiker who is faint of heart to turn-round and head back from whence he came.  But should they choose that lesser option they would missed some very spectacular views of a very unique area.

Continuing up the western side of the larger loop we again passed through a range of habitats finding many points of interest along the way. We also found short sections of trail that were on old two-track roads that make walking a breeze.

After connecting with the smaller of the two loops we continued north up the western side of that loop towards the parking area at M-115 which is the northern most point of the trail system. This area consists of sandy soil and a mix of mature and scrub oak underbrush where the trail can be easily lost if one is not paying attention to markings.

The parking area at M-115 is nothing more than a small gravel area that would serve 10 or 12 cars but hidden back in the brush are the remains of an old State forest campground that are interesting to explore. Also just to the east of the parking area is the beautiful Pike Lake that has a drive in park area located on its east side

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We back-tracked the same trail south until we found the northern most trail map sign that we had passed on the way in to the parking area. This location is the junction that will connect you to the eastern leg of the smaller northern loop. This leg heads around the south end of Pike Lake through the remnants of an old clear-cut that is now very thick.  We found evidence of an active beaver along the swampy area on the south end of Pike Lake.

This leg of the trail was one of the few places that we found evidence of some recent trail maintenance. There were areas where the brush had been clearly cut back from the trail and in one area the trail even appeared to have been widen by cutting brush back 3 or 4 feet on both sides.  Much of this trail was along a high sandy ridge through a 10 or 12-year-old clear-cut, and we found some interesting flowers along this section as well.

Once we arrived at the next trail connector sign we decide that it was getting late in the day and we would take the short connector between the large and small loops to reconnect with the trail that we came in on and head back to Mud Lake. This short connector trail is one that I’m glad that we didn’t pass up. It brings you around the north side of Green Pine Lake. Green Pine is a wonderfully isolated little lake that looks like it would be loaded with fish that have never seen a lure.

The area around Green Pine Lake is so inviting and we did happen to find evidence of campfires in the area. After pulling ourselves away from Green Pine we headed towards the next trail intersection and back into the very overgrown beaver pond area were we would again have to keep our eyes open for the old trail markers.

We made it back to the main connector trail that we had come in from Mud Lake on and started our return trip back on that trail.

We fumbled the trail one time on the return to the parking area, but we quickly got back on track.

At the end of the day we had logged just over 11 miles, and had we taken in the last leg of the larger loop we would have logged in the neighborhood of 15 or 16 miles. So all in all a great trail with many options for day hikes.

This is a spectacular trail system that I plan to use more in the near future, and I would certainly encourage others to explore this challenging trail system as well.  I’m told that there is a group in the Farwell area that maintains this trail. It would be my hope that Hiking Michigan could sometime in the future work with this group to help keep this trail alive. It’s a shame to have such a gorgeous natural resource remain unseen and unused. I can’t seem to find that this trail system is publicized anyplace, so plan on seeing more from me about this trail in the future.

Feel free to contact me with any question regarding this trail

mark@hikingmichigan.com