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Days River Pathway
The DNR maintained Days River Pathway, north of Gladstone-Rapid River, is a well maintained, easily navigatable, sking, biking, hiking, snowshoeing park. Seven well laid out loops and signs at crossroads/trails are exceptional and easily understood. It is a popular and enjoyable trail. Delta County Nonmotorized Trails organization has a Facebook page with information on Days River Pathway and Rapid River Ski Trail: www.facebook.com/DCNTrails/
Ashford Lake Pathw.
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 skiers. Then we turned to the fairly short snowshoe trail, heading on over to the nearby groomed snowmobile trail (see the "Snowmobile-ORV" page). When the snow left we turned back to hiking the trails.
May 3, 2022 -- Getting Used to Bare Ground
Our hikes are usually shorter now as our attention is drawn more toward working/playing on the homestead. But we fit in walks whenever we're out and about. And we are very much enjoying walking on bare (as in no snow or ice) ground. It is hard to explain to those not involved in cold seasons how special that can be! The photos may not be as spectacular, actually down right common, but the change was a welcome treat to our feet (and us, too). And the "no bugs" yet appreciation high. A few loops at Days River, not long in time but long in joy.
April 5, 2022 - Mushy Walk
Being cloudy but no precipitation we headed over to Escanaba then checked out Days River, hoping for some melt there. The ice spots were indeed melting and the packed snow softer but the Pathway was still well covered. We decided to walk anyway so we slushed our way around Loops 1 and 2, which was plenty enough given the wet and sliding footing. But it was almost 40 degrees, mild wind and brightening skies, and it felt good to be out. We know bare ground is coming.
March 29, 2022 -- Hiking Day at Days River
Cold and cloudy but with a promise of some sun -- this was our day to take to the trails sans snowshoes. No rain, no snow in the forecast. It was a balance between getting out while the snow was still frozen yet wanting some warmth for comfort. Maybe Days River Pathway would be past ski season now; there hadn't been as much snow in the southern U.P. as they had up north so it was possible. So off we went with a hot lunch and hot drink. When we arrived it was obvious the skiing was over -- the trail was a frozen patch of icy boot and paw prints. We donned our packs and took to the trail, carefully treading the uneven surface, heading to the outer edges for footing. There was still plenty of snow in the woods but some bare spots were emerging, around tree trunks and high points.
It was a slow walk but enjoyable none-the-less. When we left the most popular Loop 1 and headed onto Loop 2 we also left about half the footprints behind. So the trail had more crusty snow and less ice and the walking was easier. We still had to keep a good eye out for the icy patches and there was a fair amount of slipping and sliding. I often took to the firmer footing of the edges or up on the snow. There were a couple of rare but much enjoyed patches of bare ground. It was so good to feel bare ground underfoot.
At the intersection of Loop 3 we lost all but one set of tracks and the trail was now nicely packed snow with few ice patches. We thoroughly enjoyed the transition. About half-way around the sun came out, warming us and the trail surface, but it was still firm enough footing. When we came to Loop 4 we decided to save 4 and 5 for another time and bare ground. The almost 7 miles of 1, 2, and 3 would be plenty for today and the longest hike of the winter. But it was time for lunch so we began watching for an appropriate downed tree, and was soon settled in the sun filtering through the branches, very much enjoying our warm pasta lunch.
Back on the trail it seemed no time at all before we were heading down the west side, joining the tracks of people and dogs on Loop 2 and coming onto the longest stretch of bare ground. Nice! If brief.
Back to Loop 1 and the many tracks of this well trod trail. But now the ice had softened enough to make the footing easier. The incredibly loopy winding creek down below the trail was as picturesque as ever; a treat along this Loop.
Before we knew it we saw the parking lot ahead and we were back at our car having had a delightful three hours on this favored trail. And we were in plenty of time to meet our fiddler friend Sharon at Jack's Restaurant to return her fiddle that Steve had repaired. A very nice day.
December 30, 2021 -- Groomed Trail!
We read that the Days River Snowshoe Trail was now open. We weren't sure what that meant but thought we'd check it out. The trail would likely be flagged and possibly have had some traffic so we wouldn't be the one making the trail like we did three weeks ago. Though that was fine, too. There should be enough snow now anyway. We'd go on to the snowmobile trail to check it out, too.
Well, to our surprise, the snowshoe trail was not only "open" but it had been groomed! We'd never seen a groomed snowshoe trail before but it was neat and flat (except where the snowmachine groomer had a bit of trouble getting through and around tight trees -- it couldn't have been easy), and snowshoe width. It must have been done that morning, and no one had been on it yet. We rather hated to walk on it, sort of looking like white carpeting. But of course we did. With our "old style" snowshoes we didn't make much of a dent.
At the far end we left the pretty groomed trail and headed off through the trees, following a skier's tracks. We aren't the only ones who enjoy the wide snomo trail where we were headed The snow was soft as temps were in the teens, bright cloudy with light snow falling, very pretty. We hoped it would warm up a bit as we went along (it did). When we got to the bridge and the snomo trail we were delighted to see it had also been recently groomed, very wide and flat, with little traffic yet. We decided to keep our snowshoes on, as it was a toss-up as to which would be easier boots or s'shoes. The track was so much easier walking than our last visit and we enjoyed a nice long walk.
We were passed by two snowmachines (we stepped off the trail) and on the way back we were passed by a dog, with her owner walking briskly along behind. It was nice to see other folks out enjoying the day. We returned from the snomo trail trek and turned back to the Days River S'shoe trail, crossing the ski trail as a mother and young son came along, returning from their run. Maybe new ski's for Christmas? Back at the parking lot a bicyclist was strapping his bike on his car. What a nice diversity of people this trail serves. We enjoyed our outing and suspect that they all did, too.
December 8, 2021 -- Checking Out the Snowshoe Trails
It was a bit chilly when we headed out this morning (it had warmed up to zero by the time we left) but it was clear skies and a forecast of calm and 24 degrees later. Steve had sold one of his older fiddles (having bought a new one and running out of places to store them) and had offered to deliver it to Trenary. We wanted to get some cedar shavings from the Trenary Mill anyway (really great fire starters!). We tossed in the snowshoes with plans to check out a couple of snowshoe trails. The recent snowstorm had been pretty widespread across the U.P. so snow and snowshoeing was pretty much assured, starting from our front door.
Our business completed, our first stop was the Rapid River Ski Trail. ... see that page for report.
Now on to check out the Days River Snowshoe Trail and possibly the Snowmobile Trail.
After a few stops, including lunch, we pulled into the snow-covered and slippery Days River Pathway parking lot (all back roads and lots are in that mode now). We saw a fat-tire bike heading out on the nearby snowmobile trail so hoped that meant it had been groomed as that was really our destination. It was still clear and warmed up to low 20's which was nice. It looked like the ski trail had been roughly groomed but not sure if tracks had been laid down yet as it was also churned up with foot and dog tracks. But we soon saw why folks were still walking the ski trails as there was no sign of of the snowshoe trail -- no markers, no sign with arrow to show where to go. The snowshoe trail markers here are temporary and put up each year (just plastic tree tape). But at least there was enough snow to cover the stumps and brush that has made the trail hard to walk in the past.
We knew where the small east snowshoe loop went and could pretty much see the wider openings through the logged pine plantation so once again we did the 'grooming' job and made a track. We found widely spaced yellow flag markers now and then to confirm that this indeed was, or will be, the snowshoe loop. We were just early. When we crossed the ski trail over to the west loop of the snowshoe trail there were no markers at all and it was harder to tell where the trail had gone. I let Steve lead here! Since our goal really was to go through the woods and get to the snowmobile trail on the other side he pretty much just followed along the ridge with the winding creek down below; a nice walk and I think part of it at least was on the "regular" trail. It was something someone else could follow anyway.
Soon we saw the bridge of the Snowmobile Trail and found that it had not been groomed either (this is the first real snow of the season and not necessarily the best for grooming; plus some clubs don't start grooming until Dec.15 when muzzleloading season is over). But a couple of snowmobiles had gone through making a rough path to walk on.
see the ORV/Snowmobile Trail page for that report.
We retrieved our snowshoes and soon crossed the bridge and turned back into the woods to retrace our tracks through the woods of the Days River Pathway. We tried to find the old "official" snowshoe trail to make a proper loop back to the parking lot. But after ending up in some recent logging slash (which catches in the snowshoe webbing making progress very difficult) we headed back to our original track along the creek and returned that way. It's hard to say if they'll be making a snowshoe trail at all this year, or maybe they just hadn't gotten to it yet. It seems that the best way to keep people from walking on the groomed ski trails would be to provide a good alternative. But I think that's a low priority. And it is a lot of work to clear and keep clear a trail through the woods.
Our legs could feel the combined walks of the day, the longest yet on snowshoes and in soft snow this season, so we were happy to get back to the car after 1 3/4 hours, still in the daylight though the sun was well behind the trees now. The biker was also there, dismantling and brushing the snow off his bike to put in the back of his car. We chatted and found he had similar experiences on the trail. The snowmobile trail near where he lived had been groomed and he was expecting that here. But with the regular single track bike trails at the Pathway not groomed yet he made do with the snowmobile trail as it was and happy to be out on such a nice day. We all knew that the coming forecast of above freezing temperatures and chance of rain would likely keep us off the trails for awhile.
Back at the garage we finished our snowshoeing adventures for the day, with the final 1/2 mile walk down the hill and through our extremely beautiful woods (in our opinion!) with enough light in the sky and a bright quarter moon to guide us along our well packed trail. LilliB wasn't even concerned about it being a little past dinner time, and the temperature was 5 degrees warmer than when we'd left in the cold this morning. Another beautiful day.
November 19, 2021 -- Days River Loop 5 Beckons
Seven months later almost to the day from the last post and here we were, on the same trail and a somewhat similar conditions. It was cooler -- mid 30's instead of the mid 40's -- and only partly sunny, now and then, but the wind was light and we were comfortable. Much dryer this time as well, with no visible water in the bogs (but they were still beautiful green gems) and only slow and shallow action in creek and river. There were two cars in the parking lot when we left, and two different ones when we returned, but we didn't see anyone. It was a relaxing, calm walk. After the "watch your step concentration" hikes at McKeever Hills, Rapid River Ski Trail and the North Marquette NCT it was enjoyable to be able to look around while we walked. There are some nice ups and downs but they seemed much more gentle after hiking those other trails recently.
We donned our orange vests (it being that time of year) and went the five loops, easy with the now familiar trail, again choosing to skip the Skate Loop (it's mostly a sandy rutted two-track), going the "ski way" (counter clockwise) except for Loop2 on the way back (we crossed back over to the east side as we think that's more scenic). Lunch (macaroni and tuna) was enjoyed when we started Loop4 but we didn't take any other long breaks, just the usual drink-and-snack pauses about every half hour or when a scenic view dictated. There are some nice large white and red pines on the trail, and equally large deep ravines down to the river.
On the way up the east side of Loop5 as we walked along the lowlands of the Days River we stopped at the sight of a fairly recently beaver chewed stump. Then another, and a few more. What a fine sight! We could imagine them out there, waiting for these interrupting people to go on by so they could get back to work. The smaller trees and the tops of the larger ones had been hauled off but one tree, successfully downed, had fallen into another and was hung up a ways off the ground with the top (the part they wanted) too high to reach. Undeterred, the beaver had carved its way partly through higher up on the now downed tree, getting half way through before being interrupted. I assume it will come back to finish the job, and hopefully get it down so they can nip off and use the parts they want. The impressive carving marks didn't show up very well in the photo but they were quite obvious, along with the chips. We just hope they are left to be in this world which is more theirs than ours. What amazing creatures they are.
Less than 4 hours later we were back in the car, having enjoyed the nine mile walk and happy to be in shape to do it. We had done numerous shorter walks on the Days River Pathway through the summer on our way home from Escanaba or Gladstone but it was nice to take a longer hike. It's such a convenient, well maintained trail and easy to access. It's easy to see why it's popular. Today there were two cars in the parking lot when we left, and two different ones when we returned, though we didn't see anyone. We'll likely get in many more walks there before the snow turns the trail over to the skiers.
April 16, 2021 -- A Hiking Day
This past week has seen quite a bit of rain and cold and wind, with a few weather breaks to get us outside now and then. But mostly it's been a good week of working on indoor projects. Steve has made good progress on his redesigned rudder system on his boat and I've enjoyed finishing a number of small projects. And life in the spring greenhouse has begun which is always fun.
But after more than a week without a long walk we were ready to take a day off to hit the trail, and since today was expected to be warmer (mid 40's), almost partly sunny, no rain, and less than gale force winds it was a day for a hike. There was that brisk north wind to contend with so we'd choose a walk in the woods. The previous week of unusually warm weather had spoiled us a bit but we did still remember how to dress for the cold, and we did.
We didn't feel very adventurous and Steve needed a bolt from town so we went for an easy hike at Days River Pathway, this time skipping the extra Skating Loop. The north wind kept us from overheating and the sky cleared to a beautiful clear blue for a time giving us some nice sunshine. It was a beautiful day, with a lot of adding and removing layers with the changes in sun and wind exposure, though nothing too extreme. The wetlands were indeed wet, and no longer frozen. The creeks and river were running a good pace thanks to the recent rains. But the trail was surprisingly dry thanks to the sandy soil, and the snow was gone. We stopped at the small bridge to admire and enjoy a small falls in the creek made by fallen trees and branches. In the summer I imagined how good it would feel to cool one's feet in the clear water. Today our feet were happy to be in warm socks and shoes!
We walked the whole Pathway again but this time in reverse. It's surprising how different things looked just by going in the opposite direction. Plus one can see the bicyclists (of which there were several) in order to quickly step out of their way rather than having them surprise us from behind. There seemed to be more steeper "ups" going this way which I'm sure the skiers and bicyclists enjoy since it would be "downs" for them. Though I guess the ups and downs all have to even out. We met several other hikers, too. It was nice to see others obviously enjoying the day as much as we were.
We had a lunch in the woods near a pleasant quiet bog, then later took a break by a noisy rush of water over a short dam across Days River where the path goes near, with calm water on one side and rushing swirls of water on the other. We wondered at the history and the reasons for this small cement barrier. [Looked it up when we got home and it was built in 1978 to prevent sea lampreys from heading up river.] This spot is the only large opening on the trail as it crosses a wide power-line clearing and we enjoyed warming up sitting out in the sun amidst rock fill on the hill by the River.
It felt good to be back on the trail and we enjoyed our four hour walk.
March 25, 2021 -- Bare Ground!
What a difference a few weeks can make. We had stopped by Days River a a week ago on our way home from Escanaba (and a nice walk around town with friends) to see how the trails were looking - melting but still pretty muddy and quite a bit of ice and packed snow, so not yet. Two days ago, also returning from Esky and a nice long hike around town and through the parks, we stopped to check. Bare ground, though still some icy/snow patches showing. It's quite interesting how our criteria changes with the weather patterns. Today was cloudy, 28 degrees with a light NW wind, but no snow or rain or high winds in the forecast. Great weather for a hike, considering. Surely Days River would be clear enough now and we wanted to "finish" that trail, going all around including the Fifth Loop that we hadn't gotten to in December. The days being much longer now we would have plenty of time. And we felt like going on a longer hike.
After having an unusual stretch of warm weather in the 40's it took a bit of thinking to dress and plan once again for cold. I made and packed a lunch of hot spaghettiettes and we took hot drinks. It did get up above freezing but remained cloudy with that moderate north wind, which we were mostly protected from by the trees. We did get to take off a layer or two now and then but mostly it was pleasantly cool and we thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful pre-bug post-snow season. It was such a treat to walk the trail again with only occasional patches of icy snow. Thanks to the sandy soil the mud was minimal. We had the entire Pathway to ourselves except for a group of boys/young men we passed, carrying fishing poles and gear, obviously disappointed, heading back to the parking lot. When Steve asked how they did he got a mumbled "didn't even make it to the river", at least that's what we think the fellow said. I imagine the trek looked shorter on the map than in reality, and they didn't appear to be into hiking. Hopefully they found an easier accessed site to fish.
This is such an easy trail, just right for a longer stretch but with plenty of interesting ups and downs. As one heads north the woods get more pleasing, from the thoroughly managed, logged, and pruned red pine plantation of the first loop into progressively less logging, older, and more varied woods. It seemed that we kept heading up and up and up, with some downs, of course, looping along ridges through pines, then hardwoods, then mixed conifers, then more mixed woods. The crows pretty much kept us company throughout and we saw one squirrel. We stopped fairly early in the hike for lunch, being hungry and it being quite a while since breakfast, finding a nice downed log seat just off the path. Our spaghettiettes (spaghetti broken up into easier managed small pieces before cooking) were still hot. Re-fueled we hiked on.
The beautiful looping Days River comes close to the trail at several spots in the 2nd and 3rd Loops, running briskly down below, even though there is minimal snow melt to help it along this year. And the bridges over the creeks, now without their mufflers of snow and ice, are always a stop-and-admire highlight. Toward the upper part of Loop 3 we headed down and down into a magical world of bog and swamp with numerous small culverts and fill to keep one above the wet. The water was mostly frozen and the moss an eye catching bright green in a muted brown and gray world. We agreed now was the peak time to admire this section and it shone as a special gem, the moss very much alive.
The trail didn't stay low for long. Soon we were climbing once again, onto and through the really nice woods of the high ground Fourth Loop and onto the farthest north Fifth Loop. This northern part is well worth the walk to get to with such a beautiful woods, impressive large trees, and equally impressive high ground. The east and north part of the section follows the Days River and you can often look down (and it is very much "down") onto the brisk flowing, often fairly wide, incredibly loopy dark river and the narrow flood plain on either side. There are small rapids here and there so the audio adds to the joy of following along the River, especially where it turns in near to the trail. This Fifth Loop makes the Days River Pathway, for us, a particularly specail trail.
After we made the turn around the tip and headed away from the River and starting back down the west side of the Pathway we stopped for a break and to finish our lunch. It was so nice to have mild enough temperature (and mild wind) that it was comfortable to take a longer sit-down break, instead of the quick snacks of winter. The spot we chose was apparently a particular crow's chosen territory. He let us know in an admirable array of voices and calls that this was his area and, I think, he (or she) would much prefer we just move on down the trail. So we did.
The west side was as enjoyable as the east. We once again ran into (or I should say, through) the bog area of Loop 3 and that beautiful moss, and another photo op. The photo just doesn't do it justice but we did our best to admire it thoroughly.
Towards the end of the Second Loop the "Skate-Ski Loop" crosses and since we both felt good, though this was our longest walk yet, decided to add this extra couple miles to the hike. Now the entire trail is well marked (with appreciated new additional markers and signs at the previously confusing Fourth/Fifth Loop intersection). But I don't think they planned on hikers walking the Skate Loop, which in the non-snow months is a sandy two-track road through the plantation. It has few markers or signs and has a number of other roads crossing which makes it a bit challenging. Steve had to dig out the compass and get us going back in the right direction. We aren't real sure just where we went off but I'm pretty sure we added some extra steps to that "extra" loop. But we made it back onto the First Loop, back along the beautiful creek, over the bridge and to the parking lot, feeling good and happy for spending a wonderful afternoon, a little less than five hours and 10 to 11 miles, on the Pathway.
March 4, 2021 -- A Quick Walk at Days River Pathway, that was the Plan
Since we we'd had a good work-out with yesterday's hike this was a no-hike day. But it was so beautiful out, clear blue, sunny, almost warm and Days River was right on our way home from a trip to Esky. We'd just stop and see how the trails looked. And maybe a quick loop around the snowshoe path would be nice to stretch our legs.
Pulling into the parking lot we got an instant hint at the conditions -- solid ice. We walked (carefully) over to the trail-head and were sure glad we hadn't planned on skiing. The trail was packed smooth and icy. We could easily walk on the ski trails without causing any problems, if we wanted to go skating. The snowshoe trail wasn't much better but at least it was bumpy and there were those stumps here and there to give you an occasional footing. It was just too nice weather to not go for a walk. There was still that cold north wind so we put on our layers and our packs and made our way along the snowshoe trail. I often took to the edges, preferring to hole it in the snow (it wasn't nearly as deep here as up north at Bruno's Run), and I wasn't the first to go that route, but Steve skated and slipped along the trail. It did seem much longer than it used to be! But we decided to make it to the snowmobile trail and maybe that would be better walking.
We did, and it was. See the Snowmobile Trail page for a description of the hike.
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.
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.]
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.
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 Days River 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.
Copyright © by Susan Robishaw and Stephen Schmeck
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