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Hiking and Snowshoeing the Upper Peninsula
with Steve & Sue


Escanaba
Recreational Pathway

 


The city of Escanaba has a ski-snowshoe-bike-hike trail cut through the wetlands just west of and adjacent to the city, with some higher terrain in the center and west. It is part of the Delta County Non-motorized Trails Network - https://dcntrails.com/

Ashford Lake Pathw.
Beaches/Shorelines
Bruno's Run

Days River Pathway
Escanaba Pathway
Fayette State Park
Indian Lake Pathway
Little Presque Isle
ManyTracks

McKeever Hills Trail
North Country Trail
other trails
Presque Isle Park
Pine Martin Run
Rapid River Ski Trail
Seney WL Refuge
Snowmobile-ORV
Valley Spur
 

 

Conditions on this trail depend greatly on the amount of snow or the amount of, or lack of, recent rain, and the hardiness of the user. But it is a good attempt at a local pathway and considering the terrain it is an admirable try. The access from the south-east trailhead (a commercial parking lot) is, at this time, barely passable unless frozen or well covered with snow. The north-west area has more higher ground so better for walking. **Update -- see the October 21, 2021 trail report. A great deal of work has been done on this trail. What a difference!!



October 4, 2022 -- Escanaba Westshore Pathway

Escanaba Pathway new map 2022We were interested to read of the Escanaba Pathway's newest boardwalks and new signage plus a new map. All would be welcome additions. So we decided to check it out. Maybe we would finally get to walk that missing Loop 3. The new map is very nice though in studying it we realized the trails hadn't changed but the naming had. There were now Loops A, B, C, D, and E, in addition to that low EZ Loop through the wetlands (best traversed after frozen and covered with deep snow). So off we went to enjoy the newest boardwalks (truly appreciated as a lot of the area is wetlands) and the new signs. They have indeed added some nice simple signs which help orient one (as long as you follow the "ski" way not the other way). The only spot completely confusing is, unfortunately, near the beginning in a large sandy opening with no less than five trails leading out (or in), with no signs at all! But considering this Pathway is a result of a lot of volunteer work (in addition to DNR and City) this is not a complaint, just an observation. It's possible more signage is forthcoming. There were a few other intersections we had to stop and think about, but it really isn't too complicated a trail system.

It was a surprisingly warm day and I ended up in shorts, enjoying the expanded "summer". We followed around Loop A, enjoying the wonderful high ridge with beautiful big trees, declined (with no discussion) to head out into the EZ Loop wetlands, onto Loop B, onto C where we finally figured out the "missing" other Loop 3, now designated as rest of C, plus D, and E. There was a gate, as there had been, blocking what we had thought might be the Loop 3 that we'd never found. The No Trespassing sign was still there but added was the explanation "Sludge Ponds" -- the latter words a pretty good deterrent to tresspassing we thought. This area backs up to the Delta County Landfill. And just before the gate is now a newly signed path noted as "Summer Bypass Trail". And it hit us why. One wouldn't be able to traverse this area until the ground (and sludge ponds??) were well frozen and covered with snow. THEN it would allow an additional area for the cross country skiing route. We would likely never walk that part of the Pathway, and it would be available to skiiers only in those good winter years. Escanaba is relatively "warm" and not known for excessive snow. But it would be a nice addition when it happens.

We finished Loop B back to the starting trail. One can go on around the "easy" snowshoe loop at this point and we decided to, until we went just a little ways down into wet ground so, on second consideration, to leave that until winter freeze up. Back to the main Loop and the welcome, and appreciated, very long, boardwalk across the all too common wet ground (even on this dry season) on up the hill back to the parking lot. It is a relatively short adventure but a quite nice Pathway, off the sidewalks of the City.


February 8, 2022

We headed on into the Escanaba Pathway and spent a bit over an hour walking the nice shorter (the more cleared part) of the snowshoe trail then on around on Loop 1. A skiier came out as we were going in and said we wouldn't need snowshoes. The trails are only occasionally groomed and pretty beat up with the traffic (people and dogs) and as the skiier said, it was a nearby convenient place to go and it gets him out, but it isn't a well maintained trail. But we appreciated the trail as he did and it was a pleasant hour's walk to finish our day in town.


January 7, 2022 -- Escanaba Pathway on Snowshoes

We have hiked on the Escanaba Pathway with bare ground, with a little snow, with more snow, and now there was snowshoe snow. Would the Snowshoe Path be more easily traversed with more snow? But I really thought that we would just walk on the Ski Paths since they are plenty wide for snowshoeing along the edge. It was only mid teens but calm and we were getting acclimated to the colder weather now.

As we started out a couple came back off the snowshoe trail a'foot. We asked how the path was without snowshoes and he said it was fine, and she said it was OK except in one area. So we decided to go with snowshoes. We had a nice chat because theirs was the only other car in the parking lot and it was a Subaru Impreza. We exchanged similar enthusiasm for having a vehicle that was good in the snow since he had also just gotten his vehicle this winter as we had.

We decided to go the Snowshoe Trail, at least as far as the shortcut to Loop1. There were a lot of tracks, both boot and snowshoe and it was well packed. We widened and flattened the path a little more with our wider Iversons but the snow was soft and easy. It's a nice, pretty, hilly trail through the woods at this point.

beginning of snowshoe trail at Escanaba Pathway 1-7-22

At the cutoff most of the traffic went that way but someone had gone on ahead and we decided to follow. Following someone who has packed the snow makes it easier walking which was nice. But a ways up where the trail got brushier the lone snowshoer turned back. We could have, too. But we decided to forge ahead. Something about the challenge I guess. We'd been here before and knew what we were getting into, or thought we did. Off into the deeper snow we went, breaking trail. Soon we were in the thick tangle of cedars, fitting our snowshoes between the trunks. Thankfully there was enough snow to cover most of the brush and small growth underfoot.

 cedar tangle at Escanaba Pathway snowshoe trail

Then came the even thicker tangle of mostly dead tall thick swamp bush clumps (alders? dogwoods?) and marsh vegetation. With age and high wind events the trail was constantly blocked by usually dead crossed stems and branches. So we made our way, mushing through the snow made deeper being upon the undergrowth, through and over young whippy growth; breaking off what we could, moving what we could, somehow getting through what we couldn't, taking turns leading. The trail wasn't really apparent, but looking around it was easily apparent where you couldn't get through (all around), so you just had to take a few steps forward into that little space, hoping it would be obvious what the next step would be. Obvious being relative. It was certainly an adventure! Onward we pushed. We talked about volunteering next summer to do some much needed trail maintenance -- on bare ground!

It got worse as we got to an area that included more trees. There were many blowdowns to get over or under (remember the Limbo?). We laughed at our gymnastics, and at ourselves for doing this. But I kept thinking we must be getting close to the end, by North 30th Street, where one suddenly comes out of the dense brush into a small clear stand of red pine, then turns to walk along the road to the clear, wide ski trail. But we couldn't hear any traffic, nor see any pine trees above the swamp woods. We made our way around a few blowdowns, re-finding the path, such as it was. The sun was getting lower. Then we were confronted with a truly major blowdown mess -- cedars and birch and hemlocks, all thick within the thick alders and dogwoods, every which way. We looked, and looked, but there simply was no getting around or through. We were stopped. The trail for sure ended here, and my guess it will from now on. We turned back.

It was easier walking since we had already broken trail and cleared out most of the crossed stuff. We stopped at the few blue plastic trail markers to add a note that the trail ahead was blocked (pencil worked fine on  the plastic). Then we heard voices ahead -- three snowshoers had followed our tracks. But then they turned back, and when we realized we were catching up to them we stopped for a break, not wanting to intrude in their trail experience. We were glad they had turned before it got really rough. But it was nice to know other folks were able to make use of our breaking trail.

Soon we came to that cutoff for the alternate snowshoe trail, crossing over to Loop1 of the ski trail, where almost all traffic had gone. We followed. It turned out to be a really nice loop, hilly but not challenging. When it came to Loop1 where it used to follow along the ski trail the snowshoe trail made a quick turn off onto one of the new boardwalks. Very nice!

boardwalk in snow at Escanaba Pathway

Then back on the ski trail back to the parking lot. It was so nice to see that on this nice wide trail there not only was plenty of room for both skiers and snowshoers/walkers but that not one person a'foot stepped on the ski tracks, staying to the side. People do know how to share the trail, given the space to do so. Almost all the traffic was a'foot but there had been two skiers go through recently. Very recently it turned out because as we got to the parking lot the skiers came along off their trail to their car. They had had a nice run and so had we. One and a half hours out, and only one back. It was a good walk, and a good workout!



November 24, 2021 -- Checking for Trail Markers on the Escanaba Pathway           

An appointment in Gladstone today meant a good excuse to head on over to the Escanaba Pathway to see if they had put up any more trail markers. It was 45 degrees, hazily sunny, a bit windy but no precipitation -- we just had to go for a walk somewhere. And this was a good choice with deer hunting season still on (no hunting within city limits). Besides, I realized we had few photos of the Escanaba trail, which didn't seem fair since some of the other trails we hiked often had plenty of photo PR. It was a good enough reason to go (not that we really needed any excuse). We had a very nice two hour walk, meeting several dogs and their humans, and even a woman without a dog. And we got our photos.

The Pathway has some real nice scenic sections up on the ridge; always a joy to walk:

Escanaba Pathway ridge trail section

And the big news of the Pathway this year was the 2000 feet of boardwalks put in this year and last, to enable easier accessibility to the area which is mostly part of a large wetlands. This most definitely upped the enjoyment of the trail and made it possible to walk sections that even in this dry season would have meant wet feet and churned up muddy trail (with subsequent damage to this fragile marshland). It will be interesting to see if the former rutted paths that the boardwalks bypass mend and recover. Though it's not clear if the maintenance vehicles might still run on them since they (ATVs) wouldn't be able to go on the narrower 2-board walkways.

boardwalk on the Escanaba NMT Pathway

Signage (see our October 21 report on the trail) -- well, there are indeed a few more signs and markers, which helped, more or less depending on where they were. It's still often hit and miss, with unmarked intersections and crossings, and new bypasses not on the map (which is hard to match to the trail anyway). But they are making progress and we applaud the effort. We did manage to go all around Loop 1 this time, thanks to the new boardwalks, with only a few short backtracks and wonderings where we were. We think we ended up doing Loop 2 twice, and still don't know if unmarked Loop 3 is there or not. We did see signs that possibly they are rerouting the snowshoe trail, which is very much needed and would be a big improvement. There is a lot happening here with, I'm guessing, few people doing it. But we'll be back, to enjoy the trail and appreciate the ongoing work to make this an inviting area to walk and ski and snowshoe.

Since it was only mid afternoon we decided this might be the day to check out the little Days River Nature Trail on the Kipling Road on the way home. We didn't like to leave any trail within our area unexplored but this one was, like the Esky trail, on low ground so we'd passed it by many times. Maybe today would be its day. 


October 21, 2021 -- Giving the Pathway Another Chance

We were in Escanaba and had time for a walk so we decided to check out the local trail. Even though it had been a dry summer and the ground wasn't yet frozen we figured the west/north section might be OK. We weren't at all inclined to start at the south-east end heading through the marsh, likely wet even now.  

It was a pleasant day, cool but dry, partly sunny. There were no cars in the parking lot so we had the Pathway to ourselves. The signage at the beginning is a bit obscure, with several trails leading in and out (more obvious in the winter with ski and snowshoe tracks) but we set out on what we thought was the right one, soon crossing a wide intersection with no signage, trying to remember which trail went where. We planned to walk out and back on the high ridges of the south part of Loop 1 (the north side is lower through marshlands), then come back and walk the smaller Loops 2 & 3 which we hadn't been on before.

Thankfully, there were some blue triangle markers, and some kind soul had written in felt pen the trail directions. There were also short metal stakes with pink paint. As we walked we came upon more stakes and pink paint marked trees, and occasional blue trail markers with simple hand written directions. They obviously were in the middle of new signage. We soon realized that the way to go was to follow the pink paint! Which we did, with great appreciation for the person(s) with the paint can and felt marker. Before we made that realization we did end up going down into the all too common marsh, looking for hummocks to step on, trying to get through without wet feet. That wasn't working too well so we went back and took a different path. That's when we realized we had to follow the pink paint. And we found the first of the great surprise of the Pathway...

New Boardwalks!! Not just one, but many; short two board crossings and long cross board boardwalks, bypassing or crossing over the many wet boggy spots on the trails, again and again. What an incredible job they had done. We walked on, marveling at the work, now enjoying the low sections as well as the beautiful high ridges. We did the out and back on Loop 1, stopping to eat our packed lunch at a nice sunny spot on the ridge. Then around Loop 2. We found several blocked trails which we guessed to be Loop 3, no longer accessible (or maybe only in the winter). Unfortunately, we didn't have the phone camera with us to take a picture of the beautiful boardwalks, but we sure did appreciate them. When we came around on Loop 2 to where 1 and 2 merge we saw where they had one of those boardwalk bypasses to skirt that wet section we had started out on. Now that we know how nice and pleasant a trail this is now we will make use of it on our trips to Escanaba.  It will be fun to return and walk it with signage in place.


February 3, 2021 -- Return to the Pathway

Escanaba Pathway snowshoe-ski routeOur third day of beautiful sunny skies and calm. It was also the last day before the forecasted big snow storm. Well, maybe not big but at least it included snow which there has been very little of thus far. A lot of snow lovers are pinning high hopes on this one. For us it meant get out hiking before we have to don snow shoes. It was a perfect day, cold to begin with but promise of low thirties. We decided to try out the snowshoe trail (yellow dashes) at the Escanaba Pathway which we hadn't been on. The map said 4 miles and the track looked curvy enough to be interesting. And interesting it was! Though it's really only 2 miles long (4 miles out and back).

Of course, one had to find that elusive north trail head, nicely marked on the map with no roads or directions to it. The only directions we found was 19th Ave N behind the Great Lakes Sports, which didn't ring a bell. Turns out we'd been by it many times. The Great Lakes Sports was the gun/shooting club before you get to the Delta County Landfill where we take our recyclables. So, US2 to Danforth Rd, turn onto 19th Ave N by the big sign for the Landfill and a faded Great Lakes Sports sign. Across on 19th and sure enough the road to the trailhead was right beside the gun club building. Take a left at the Y to a large parking lot which is also the trailhead for an ATV trail. There was a large map-sign for the Recreational Pathway. And they nicely had a clean Porta-John as well as multiple benches. One appreciates such amenities. There were several pickups and well packed snow all around with a number of trails to choose from. The big question was, which might be the designated snowshoe trail?

The map was upside down to and not aimed in the direction of the trails so was a little hard to decipher. But while we were looking at the various options, all packed hard with vehicle and foot tracks, we heard an ATV heading toward the parking lot. Someone to ask! Not just a random someone, but a friendly volunteer on a nice tracked ATV he uses to groom and maintain the trails. We got complete directions which was good because the "snowshoe" trail was not obvious heading up over a bare mound between close spaced trees. But it did have a blue diamond, there and along the trail, which with his directions we were able to follow. There were a set of recent tracks (the only other tracks). Real recent, it turned out, as it was a fellow who was doing a GPS route of the Pathway that day. Plus there was heavy equipment noise coming from the trails area as they were working on making a new route to avoid some wet spots. This was why all the trucks in the parking lot. The volunteer directed us around those, closed, sections. We were the only recreationist which certainly didn't bother us.

Escanaba Pathway cedars snowshoe trailOn to the "snowshoe" trail. It started off nicely though narrowly down between trees, curving along the edge of the ridge -- down into the wetlands. This seems to be the fate of snowshoe trails. But the first part of the trail was rather fun to walk as it wriggled through a dense cedar swamp, up and over roots, hummocks and brush, between and under leaning close spaced cedars. It was really quite pretty with the sun coming through here and there and this was the best time to be in there, when it was well frozen but with enough snow for traction. One most definitely wouldn't want to try this on showshoes! But you would find that out pretty quickly. Not only would they catch on the debris they wouldn't fit between the trees unless they were quite small.

Soon the cedars gave way to an expanse of wetland shrubs (unfortunately mostly dead and dying) and vegetation, much like we'd encountered on our December walk from the south entrance, though this track wasn't quite as ankle turning. The trail-makers had done their best to make a long trail out of a small amount of land and it snaked tightly through the vegetation, finally getting into an area with some cedars and a scattering of other trees. This was certainly not a fast hike! But then we weren't in a hurry. Back through more shrubs and marsh grasses, finally ending up near busy North 30th Street on a bit of higher ground and a very welcome small red pine plantation with dry ground covered in soft pine needles. We enjoyed a small break here for drinks, snacks, and to adjust layers (it was getting warmer, probably 32 degrees and sunny).

Not being inclined to reverse our walk back through the wetlands we headed across along North 30th Street to the original east trailhead where we knew we could get on the ski trail for the hike back. Here we found a wide, straight, nicely flattened track straight through the wetlands to some woods up ahead where the trail started curving and the traffic noise was blocked by the trees. The trail was well trod with footprints here. Not surprising, this was where folks walked. But we were happy we'd checked out the mostly ignored no-snowshoes trail. And now we were happy for better walking on the frozen ski (once there is more snow) track. After a half mile of flat lowland we came to the section we had walked before, and knew where it headed -- up onto high ground.

Escanaba Pathway ridge Loop 1This is a real nice trail, from EZ Loop to Loop 1 as it winds up and through a pretty hemlock and fir woods. It was getting time to stop for lunch but we decided to wait until be got to the top of the ridge which went up in several stages. A bit of wind now then and the shade from the trees kept us from over-heating and we appreciated the sun that made it through to us. And it was a nice sunny spot that we came up upon the enticed us to stop before we got to the highest spot. It was just too nice to pass by and we soon settled into that spot of sun, sitting on the low trail-side bank, eating our macaroni and cheese lunch, enjoying the view.

Up higher on the ridge and around Loop 1, then north back to the parking lot. Only one truck was left and our car, and it was earlier than we usually ended our hikes. So we headed out towards home but first we stopped by the Days River Pathway for a quick, easy, very pleasant walk around the first loop, ending as the sun was heading for the horizon and it was cooling off. It was the perfect finish to a day of hiking, and now we could look forward to winter finally arriving with (possibly) a good snowfall.



December 17, 2020 -- Still No Snow

It's like anything - the more you give your attention to it (no matter what it is) the more it comes into your life. For us right now it's happening with hiking. Need to go to Escanaba to get some boards at Menards? Sure, there's some kind of trail right nearby.  We'd have time for a short hike. We'd passed the small trail-head turn-out numerous times and knew it headed off into a big tag-elder (or something similar) lowlands which didn't look too inviting but one never knows. So we decided to check out the Escanaba Recreational Non-motorized Pathway in person, starting at the south-east end off the back of the Comfort Suites parking lot. Now they say it is for cross-country skiEscanaba Pathway maping and snowshoeing in the winter; and hiking, biking, running in the summer. With a couple feet of snow I'm sure it will be a nice cross country ski trail. But the hiking, biking, running is a bit overstated, at least at the south section..

The trail IS generously wide, well marked, with some nice conifer woods and a nice ridge. But one has to first get through about 20 minutes worth of wetlands, really wet lands, which are thankfully well frozen right now. It is also full of frozen swamp grass hummocks and stumps sticking up through the ice and a generous covering of recently mowed thick dried (but very pretty) grass/sedge/reeds, with occasional stubble, all of which we traversed like drunken sailors, sliding a bit, walking and bouncing on and off the hummocks. We now know we both have very good ankles! This was the "EZ Loop". But one does get through that to Loop #1 and up onto the ridge and woods. It really was quite a nice trail at that point, especially being somewhat warmer (than recent outings) at about 30 deg and only a mild breeze. Loop#1 heads down and back out of the wetlands now and then but not hummocky like the beginning (and ending) trek. But considering what they had to work with the folks who built, and maintain, this trail through difficult terrain have done an admirable job and I think it might be a popular local ski trail. There are a couple of northwest loops that look more promising for hiking, however, with a north-west trail head which we'll check out on a future trip to Esky.  




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Copyright Susan Robishaw and Stephen Schmeck
 



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