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Days River Pathway
The DNR maintained Days River Pathway, north of Gladstone-Rapid River, is a very nice park. It is easily navigatable whether skiing, biking, or walking, and they welcome all three. With seven well laid out loops it is accessible to most everyone no matter skill or time. Their signs at crossroads/trails are exceptional and easily understood. It is a popular and enjoyable trail. Delta County Nonmotorized Trails organization maintains a Facebook page with updated information on Days River Pathway (and Rapid River Ski Trail) conditions and activities: www.facebook.com/DCNTrails/
Our first walk on the Days River Pathway was December 4, 2020. With no snow on the ground the ski trails were open for hiking, and we made good use of that opportunity, returning many times to walk the different loops until snow turned the paths over to the skiiers. Then we turned to the nearby groomed snowmobile trail (see the "ORV-Snowmobile" page) as the Days River token short snowshoe trail wasn't very satisfying.
December 4, 2020 -- Enjoying Bare Ground
We continue to have dry and relatively mild weather. No snow on the ground and outdoor chores done (at least those that don't require warmer temperatures) so we've often been putting walking/hiking into our days. It's been great. Now that regular deer hunting season is over we're back to walking in the woods, especially nice when it's windy. We feel so fortunate to be able to just walk out our door and into the woods for as long as we want. But during deer season we simply took to the road, a'foot (and in requisite neon orange). We're enjoying doing what we talk so often of all summer but seldom take the time to do.
Trips to town gives us reason to hike different paths and makes the drive worthwhile. Without snow the cross-country ski trails make wonderful walking trails. Tuesday we stopped by Valley Spur near Munising. With a vast network of trails through wooded terrain it's interesting with a lot of options. However, you definitely want to print off and take maps with you! Their signage is marginal at best and geared strictly for the skiers who simply follow the groomed trails in one direction. In a 2 1/2 hr walk we mostly only really knew where we were when in the parking lot! And we're somewhat familiar with the place. Next time we'll take the maps. But we did make it back before dark and it was a nice side trip on the way home from Marquette.
We found the opposite, signage wise, two days later when we checked out the smaller DNR Days River Pathway, north of Gladstone-Rapid River. A very nice park it was easily navigatable whether skiing, biking, or walking, and they welcome all three. With seven well laid out loops it is accessible to most everyone no matter skill or time. Their signs at crossroads/trails were exceptional and easily understood. Just enough signage without overdoing it. Though the first loops were through recently logged and thoroughly trimmed Red Pine plantation, farther out was some very nice woods, appropriately hilly with a squiggly winding narrow creek coming in and out of view as it followed its own unique path, often quite far below in cuts and valleys. It was easy to see why this is a very popular local destination, with or without snow. It was fun to see a number of people on the trail, with or without dogs, on a bike or afoot, together or single, each going their own speed, every one with smiles as we passed. We enjoyed our two hours there, walking up and around Loop3, and look forward to returning.
12-22-2020 -- Longer Days!
The first of the longer days made a good reason to celebrate - with a hike! And the Days River Pathway seemed an appropriate destination (convenient since we we had to be in Gladstone today). I know we'll continue to have beautiful days but today was likely the last of this warm dry stretch and, depending on whether or not there is any real snow accumulation with the forecasted storm, may be the end of walking on the ski trails.
The day was calm, cloudy, and warmer (34 degrees) with a few inches of new snow on the trail, which made for good traction, nice for the steeper ski hills and fun tracking. We came across fox, coyote, rabbit, squirrel, mouse, deer and grouse tracks, in addition to a large variety of human, dog, and bicycle as the trail wound its way through the mostly young woods. The recent snow in the conifers added a special touch, and thankfully it didn't warm up enough to get them to the drop-wet-snow-on-the-humans state. In spite of all the traffic (which got lighter the farther away from the trailhead we got) we only came across people and dogs back at the parking lot.
Today we added the Fourth Loop to our last Three Loop trek (the trail loops are consecutive starting at the bottom at the south trailhead). With an added short diversion at the top (where the signage is a bit lacking) we went about 7.2 miles, a bit more than 3 hrs, with lunch on the trail and necessary stops to admire the creeks, leaving the Fifth Loop for another time. A very good way to start Winter, with or without snow.
January 9, 2021 -- Is it a Hike or a Walk
The new year begins, and the hiking continues. No new snow so we're still in boots, the snowshoes left hanging on the wall, waiting. But it will come. Maybe. It's quite a change from the last two Januarys with 3-4 feet of snow! We enjoy it all, and this year are enjoying still walking on almost bare ground. We go out daily, together or separate, do a few chores, go to the mailbox, go for at least a short walk, sometimes longer. So I got to thinking - when is a walk a hike? Sometimes we'll head out for a short walk down the road but keep on going and end up coming home 2 hours later. But that's still a walk. It's from home, it's casual. We may or not have taken backpacks, or water. Certainly not snacks or sandwiches. But if we're going to the "big city" (Gladstone or Escanaba or Marquette) we usually plan to include a hike on one of the trails, so we head out with appropriate gear and clothing, water, snacks, sandwiches, for a 2 or 3 hour hike. Manistique is just "going to town", it doesn't get such planning though we often walk the boardwalk along the Lake. It's funny how we categorize things, and how we think of them. But hike or walk, we're enjoying this can-do-just-about-anywhere activity.
Though we haven't much snow there is just enough in this area for the skiiers, and the groomers, to get out on the ski trails so the cross-country ski trails are now off limits for hiking. But both Days River and Rapid River have short snowshoe trails so on a trip over that direction earlier in the week we decided to check out the Days River Pathway Snowshoe Track. It was a mild, barely freezing (so not slushy), calm day - beautiful weather for a hike. The ski trails did indeed have snow so no walking there. So we took to the designated 1.8 mile "snowshoe" trail which was definitely not appropriate for snowshoes! But they did make an effort to provide a track in an effort to keep walkers off the ski trails. It was lumpy, bumpy, stump and brush strewn and well beat down. But it was there and so were we so off we went, figuring we'd stop at Rapid River on the way home and check out their snowshoe trail. Between them getting in a little hike.
But to our surprise, halfway around the hiking/snowshoe trail, it crossed an ORV/snowmobile trail at the bridge. A wide, snow-covered, groomed, trail! A delightful place to walk and we could go as far and long as we wanted (ORV/snowmobile trails by nature cover a lot of ground). We weren't the first hikers to discover this windfall - the boot tracks were more numerous than the snowmobile tracks, though they petered out as we went on. We walked north for an hour (yellow section on the map), sticking to the main route, no traffic, snaking through the vast pine plantation of this area. Then we turned around and backtracked to finish the rest of the official snowshoe trail back to the parking lot. A very nice walk. And it reminded us that the U.P. is covered with ORV and snowmobile trails, many of which are good for hiking, especially right now with the lack of snow. We have no lack of options that's for sure, near, far, or in-between. What a great abundance for fun.
[Later we realized we could easily access the snowmobile trail directly from the parking lot and forgo the snowshoe trail, which is what we did from then on. See the ORV-Snowmobile page for those hikes.]
February 3, 2021 -- Sun Today, Snow Tomorrow
Since this was possibly the last chance for awhile to walk the trails without snowshoes (depending on what really happens with the forecasted storm) we, of course, took advantage of the beautiful sunny calm 28-32 degree day to hike. Having spent 3 hrs at the Escanaba Pathway we didn't have a lot of time left in the day but we wanted to take at least a short hike at Days River on the way home. We figured we'd head out on the snowmobile trail but when we got in the Pathway parking lot and looked down the first loop of the "cross-country ski" trail we realized we could walk there. Not having enough snow for skiing the trail was well packed with foot and snow-bike tracks. The trail had been groomed earlier and was nice and flat, very easy and pleasing for a quick hike. The paths are wide enough for walking side by side, or for stepping aside for a bike or other hikers, yet not so wide you felt you were walking on a road. There was time to get around Loop 1 (a little less than 2 miles) before sundown so off we went.
With snow on the ground and the sun shining low through the red pines the feel of the Pathway was quite different than when it was bare ground, though we certainly enjoyed that earlier walk, too. It felt more like you were walking through the woods than on a thoroughly managed (and admittedly well appreciated) groomed and maintained path through a tree plantation. Either way we certainly aren't the only ones who appreciate this trail. Though we were the only car in the parking lot when we arrived we met another couple heading out when we came back and a bicyclist's pickup was in the far corner where we'd seen it before. And if it really does snow I'm sure the trails will soon be full of ski tracks.
For us this short hike was beautiful frosting on a very good day of hiking. Of course, we always end with the best of the best after we pull into our garage at the end of our road, with the half mile walk down our own beautiful trail to home.
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© 2021 by Susan Robishaw and Stephen Schmeck
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