This weekend I was heading to the northern lower peninsula of Michigan to hike the Fife Lake Loop Trail. It is a 21 mile loop trail. Loop hikes are perfect for solo backpackers like myself. It eliminates the need to shuttle a car or backtrack the same way you came.
This year I accepted a challenge to hike 100 miles of the North Country Trail (NCT). Finishing this loop brought my total to about 50 miles. I have hiked about 70 miles in the last month so I will be due a few weeks of downtime. The dark brown sections in the picture above is the NCT section I completed.
I found my way to the Old 131 State Forest Campground to drop my car and hit the trail. I decided to tackle the 11-mile section first. It turned out the be the most scenic section with views of the Manistee River, several creeks and lakes.
The Grand Traverse Hiking Club maintains this section as well as 100 total miles of trails in the area. They even have a Trail Log in the middle of the trail for people to sign.
I enjoyed reading the trail log. On trails where there are many thru hikers they usually use logs like this one to pass on messages or see how far ahead other hikers (that they shared trail with) are in their journey.
Towards the end of the hike I was running low on water and had to filter out of a lake. Normally I filter out of running water (river, creek, etc) and it tastes so good. Pond water tastes like pond water. =)
I also realized that I need to do more research before a hike to map out places to filter water. This should really drive how much water I bring/carry. Towards the end of day 1 I was running low on water and was a bit dehydrated from hiking in the hot weather.
My home for the night was Spring Lake State Forest Campground. The first state forest campground in Michigan. It was a very nice campground with nice facilities. Pit toilets, hand pump for water, lake access, fire ring and dumpster to empty your trash.
Another thing they had at each site was a picnic table. If I had done my research, the picnic table and presence of benches on the trail might have helped me decide to leave my camp chair at home. For coffee I just use instant coffee. One packet of Nescafé instant coffee and a packet of Starbucks Via.
Leaving Spring Lake Campground I found that the blazes on the Fife Lake side were orange. The blue paint underneath made me think that this was the original route for the NCT until the more scenic side of the loop opened.
On Sunday I was able to cover 10 miles in about 3.5 hours. That is really good time but in thinking about it…. it was largely due to the long straight paths and the lack of elevation change.
Something really has to catch my eye to get me to stop, let alone bend over with a heavy backpack and today it was this orange flower. I found out that it is called Orange Hawkweed aka The Devil’s Paintbrush.
Almost back to my starting point I found a few campsites that probably get used by the NCT thru hikers. I did make a mental not to come back here to camp and fish on the Manistee River nearby.
Just one more set of root stairs that were between me and the cold Mountain Dew that was waiting for me back at my starting point. It is really amazing the kinds of things you crave while on the trail.
It is always a nice weekend when I get to turn my brain off for a while, re-learn how to enjoy the simple things and come home utterly exhausted.