I had taken a prior trip to this trail a few years ago but only hiked the Manistee River Trail (MRT) side of the river. I really wanted to do the whole loop as it is one of the most popular trips in the lower peninsula.
My goal for this trip was to clean out the cob webs that had built up over winter and try out some new gear. I had purchased a new backpack (Osprey Atmos 65) and rain gear. I had a 30-mile 3-day trip the next weekend so I just wanted to make sure that I was comfortable with every thing I was packing.
I started out at Red Bridge and hiked north on the MRT. Early on I had some early rain and put on my new Marmot Precip rain jacket. It was nice, light and had a few ventilation zippers which helped keep me from overheating. It never rained too hard to put on my rain pants so I would have to save those for another day.
I camped on the Manistee River Trail side of the river that night and planned on finishing up the MRT and tackling the second half of the loop the next day. I was so tired that I actually slept for 10 hours on Saturday night.
I was excited to use my new Sawyer Squeeze water filter. I had never filtered water before and it will help keep from carrying so much water weight on my trips. The Sawyer Squeeze. I was amazed at how clear the water was and how great it tasted.
The next day I finished up the MRT and crossed over the suspension bridge and over the North Country Trail (NCT). I had about a 13 mile day so I had to keep moving.
After about 8 miles I am getting a pretty significant amount of ankle/foot pain. Though I love my hiking shoes (Keen Targahee II) I might go into REI and get a better pair of insoles or get fit for a new pair of shoes/boots. I’ll keep you updated as I work on my gear reviews over the next few weeks.
I was surprised by the ups and downs on the NCT portion of the loop. It is a lot harder of a trail and has only one (I believe) access to water along the whole 8.5 mile section.
While the Manistee River Trail is extremely busy the NCT portion is very lightly traveled. I attribute it to the fact that the hiking is harder, not as many campsites, lack of water access and the views of the river are few and far between.
A thirteen mile day was very ambitious but I finally finished in about 7 hours. I was very sore so sitting down in my car felt glorious. I kept notes on my phone to prepare for my trip to Pictured Rocks the next weekend.