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Hike and Snowshoe the Upper Peninsula
with Steve & Sue

~ ~ ~

Pine Marten Run

 

Pine Marten Run map


The Hiawatha National Forest's Pine Marten Run is mainly a horse riding trail system that is also designated for hiking. With 26 miles of trails through diverse forest and amidst numerous lakes and near the Indian River it offers a wonderful place for walking during non-horse times. Unfortunately, the trailheads are not plowed in the winter so parking is only road-side.

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
 

 

Pine Marten is located close by, only 20 miles north of us and we had walked a portion of it some years ago in the summer, remembering it as a more or less pleasant hike, especially that section that had been closed to horse traffic due to wet areas but still open to hikers so we were able to get off the horse trod and churned up sandy trail. But we were passed by enough horses on the other section to realize this trail was best left to them until the "off" season. Just because someone designates it as multi-use doesn't mean it's a good idea. There are horses who don't like walking by strange shaped and unknown objects (a hiker with a backpack) standing beside the trail, and having a nervous horse pass you by that close isn't very comfortable for the hiker. They also allow bikes but I certainly wouldn't advise it. There is a sign at the trailhead that says horse season ends November 30 and snowshoe and ski begins when there is snow. In-between is a good time to get out on this trail for some real nice hiking.  


February 25, 2022 -- Back to Pine Marten

With a week of stormy, windy snow particularly north of us (when we got 4" of snow the northern half of the U.P. received a gift of from one to four feet!) we've been making do with short walks around the homestead. But the weather calmed down and we were ready to go for a longer hike. With temps in the upper teens and light wind this was our day. Pine Marten is about 20 miles north of us so we knew there would be more snow but didn't know how much.

As we drove north the snow banks got higher (it was a beautiful ride along this curvy road through the northwoods). When we got there we drove past without seeing the trailhead because the small opening was well hidden behind a large bank. But just ahead was the Indian River bridge so we didn't get too far along. And to our delight and appreciation, the snowplow had made a real nice sweeping wide swath along a wide spot before the bridge, large enough for a good number of cars to park, and the plow had just gone through (in fact he came back and finished the other side as we pulled into this wonderful off-the-road parking spot). This is a narrow road and as the snow and banks get larger the road gets narrower and I'm sure they were glad to have the cars off the road as well. Since the DNR wasn't plowing their entrance into the trailhead it was up to the road crews to do something. And we were happy they did!

So we gathered our gear and snowshoes and walked the short distance back to the trailhead. There we were confronted with this very tall fresh snow-bank. We put on our snowshoes and found climbing up it didn't work, so Steve took his snowshoe off and dug a large step. That did the trick. Maybe it wasn't an elegant ascent but we got on top, then over and on into the beautiful fresh snow scene. Not surprising, no one had been in since the latest big storm so we would be breaking trail. We quickly revised our plan from a longer trip down to Triangle Lake to heading straight across by the River to the Shelter, a little over a mile and a half in.

The usual horse-trough track was well filled in with about a foot of fresh and drifted snow on top of probably about two feet of base. The upside of this was we were able to make a nice fresh snowshoe wide track without having to fit our bear-paws into the usual narrow width. This is the kind of hike where one mellows out, moderates expectations, and enjoys a slow but steady forward progression. We switched lead more often as our muscles got used to breaking trail in the deep soft snow. The sun came through the overcast sky now and then to give us a beautiful scene of tree shadows across the soft, curvy snow. And the wind gusted through now and then to make us appreciate that for the most part it was a calm day, and we were well protected by the trees.

After the intersection where we had planed to go down to Triangle Lake we came to a beautiful little not-frozen creek running under a small bridge and flowing into the frozen and snow covered Indian River (this trail follows a fairly straight path along the very loopy River).

Pine Marten Pathway NE trail bridge

The canary (me) went over the bridge first, but since it was made for horses I figured I was in no danger! And we went on our way to the scenic Adirondack style shelter set nicely beside the River. After an hours serious snowshoeing we were ready for lunch and to take a leg break. We enjoyed both equally. (Our current favorite "pasta" now is the oddly named Ptitem, aka Israel Couscous though it isn't a couscous, small white round beads of baked hard-wheat pasta that boil up quickly yet keep their texture better than orzo's. Mixed hot with pasta sauce, and any vegetable leftovers if available, it makes a good winter hiking food). Lunch warmed and revived us.

Pine Marten Pathway NE shelter

The nice thing about an in/out trek in snow versus a loop is that you know the walk back will be easier than the walk in, and it was. There was still plenty of snow but we also knew we were making a real nice packed trail. We hoped someone would come along to take advantage of it before the next snow. We laughed about coming back ourselves tomorrow to walk it! But with brisker winds forecasted we knew we wouldn't.


January 12, 2022 -- Pine Marten East Trailhead

We had planned a longer walk and there was still daylight so we drove up to the East Trailhead of Pine Marten to see if there was a place to park along the road to walk in from there. I'd called the Forest Service Office earlier to find that no, they would not be plowing the PM Trailheads. Sigh... When we got there we found Cty Road 437 well plowed and the Trailhead was at a straight stretch of the road, safe enough to park alongside. And there was indeed a car there, from Minnesota, with fresh ski tracks heading off down the path. We pulled in and parked behind them.

There were other tracks -- boot, snowshoe, ski, so this appeared to be the main way to access the Pine Marten trails in the winter. The trail here is pretty much a straight line, heading west along the scenic Indian River to one of the shelters. It's also a way to get down to the Triangle Lake Loop, and farther on to the Hardwood Loop. We had about an hour of daylight so decided to snowshoe in as far as the Triangle cutoff and see how the path was, thinking ahead to a future trip when we had more time.

Pine Marten Trail east trailheadThe woods were beautiful, mostly varied aged Balsam Fir and scattered mixed hardwood. The path is a trail not a road, nice, and thankfully there had been enough snow to fill in the horse-hoof-made trough to some degree. The previous traffic had at some  point included a snowshoer so the trail was lightly packed and pretty much wide enough for our wood bearpaws, though we were scuffing the edges all the way. The ski tracks of the Minnesota pair were fresh and they were apparently accompanied by a small dog. We felt bad about walking over their tracks but on this trail there is no other option. The path is narrow through the woods and there is no getting out of that horse-trough! It was a nice walk, with glimpses of the Indian River. We came to the cutoff to Triangle in about 20 minutes. The skiiers had gone ahead to the shelter and also south to Triangle Lake. We wondered if they were camping out; it would be a cold night if they were. For us it was a nice addendum to the Ashford Lake walk. I expect we'll be back.



December 23, 2021 -- An Unplanned Section at Pine Marten Run

The day's weather certainly is a factor in our decisions of when to hike but often equally as big is the coming forecast. Thus it was today. Cloudy, calm, 30-32 deg -- great for snowshoeing. And with the promise of rain and freezing drizzle tomorrow, that clinched it. We decided on Pine Marten Run and the Hardwood Loop, hoping there would be enough snow to fill in the horse troughs.

Snowshoes in the car, a nice ride up, plenty of snow, and then a necessary change of plans when we found the Trailhead not only not plowed but with a nice plow-bank blocking even an attempt to get in off the road. Parking alongside wouldn't be a good idea on this snow covered, curvy, narrow road. A bit disappointed but we decided to go on up to Bruno's Run where there would be parking options.

But continuing on the back roads we passed by the West Trailhead of Pine Marten on a not-plowed section of road (no banks) and a little less snow here. Sure enough, with the AWD Subaru we could pull in far enough off the road, as someone had done before us. We are loving having this car for winter! And this would be a new section to walk -- so snowshoes on, and off we went to do the Rumble Loop.

The first part was a straight two-track with the Indian River winding/wiggling on one side and a broad blueberry bush filled clearing on the other. The Forest Service had done a planned burn here several years ago and we could see tops of charred stumps and 2-10 ft blackened up the sides of many (live) trees. Unfortunately, a snowmobile and a truck had gone in (apparently they missed the Non-motorized Trail part!) which made snowshoeing difficult. But soon they took off across the open and we headed to our left to walk along the loops of the River amongst a snow spattered red pine plantation.

red pines along Indian River western Pine Marten Run

We didn't know where the trail was, and there were no markers or signs. I had noticed widely spaced orange tape but we didn't know whose trail markers they were -- hunter? potential new trail? logger (hope not)? hiker? They seemed to be going as we were, more or less along the loopy River, so we decided we'd just follow somewhere between the River and the Orange. Since Steve couldn't see the orange all that well I led the way, making our own loopy trail amongst the trees in the soft snow, seeing the River sometimes (winding so beautifully along) and a bit of orange others.

Indian River at west Pine Marten Run

The plantation pines turned to mixed woods and there was enough snow, maybe a foot, to cover up most brush and branches that might snag a snowshoe. We stopped for lunch at a point we could see the River between the trees and sat on a downed small tree, well snow covered, a bit slippery sitting on our sil-nylon pads but a nice break.

We continued in and out along the River till we met a thicker woods of mostly young hemlock on lower ground, where we and the orange marker tape stopped. We turned away from the River, staying on the higher ground, still in a nice woods. There appeared to be an open area ahead as we came to a snow covered two-track, snowmobile tracks, and off to the left a barrier with a sign. Hurray! The first sign we'd seen. Maybe we could figure out where we were.

barrier and sign at Rumble Loop Pine Marten Trail

We walked up to and around the friendly "Foot Traffic Welcome - Non-motorized Trail" sign onto a straight ahead track through a beautiful mixed older hemlock woods. Though it wasn't particularly low ground we could hear/feel ice under the snow now and then, and a glimpse of water pockets in the woods. Wouldn't want to walk this one in the Spring! Up ahead was another sign (we were on a roll), an official wooden sign with a shelter logo and "Rumble Lake". No arrow, just the sign by the trail. Well, now we sort of knew where we were. We looked around but there obviously was no lake or shelter here. But it looked like the trail made a fork and we guessed the Rumble Loop headed off to the right and we were headed to Rumble Lake itself. We had apparently gotten onto the regular trail when we came out of the woods. We continued ahead, straight, on flat ground along the bottom of a real nice ridge to our right. The hemlock woods transitioned to mixed hardwoods with the usual small beeches giving color, their parents long gone now. We remarked that this trail was obviously not laid out by any North Country Trail crew who would most certainly have run the trail up and over and around that ridge as many ways as possible! Which what makes the NCT so interesting and fun to walk. But on snowshoes, and this far into our trek, we very much appreciated and enjoyed the flat ground of this trail.

Pine Marten Run Rumble Loop map

About 15 minutes later we came to the nice little oblong Rumble Lake. No sign of the shelter. We headed up the ridge but didn't see it. Back down Steve realized the trail continued straight ahead along the lake - there just happened to be a tree fallen across it. Up again around the tree and down the trail and sure enough there was the sturdy Adirondack type open shelter, with a small table and stool. We had thought we would stop for a break there but it was getting late so we decided we best head back. It would be easier and faster on the return since we had our tracks to follow. But we were mindful of the clouds and forecast of snow (which didn't happen until on the way home), and the usual coming evening dark. It was a nice relaxing trek back and we were happy to return to the car after our longest snowshoe walk of the season. At 3 1/4 hrs we figured we went about 5 miles. As you can see on the map the actual Rumble Loop to Rumble Lake is a pretty straight shot but that certainly wasn't the walk we did! Sometimes off trail can be more fun.



December 13, 2020 -- Pine Marten Run

We hadn't planned to go hiking today, since yesterday we had walked a couple of hours going north off our own property, keeping to the woods since there was a brisk north wind and it was only 25 degrees out. But when I checked the forecast this morning I saw 31 degrees (which would likely mean upper 20's in reality), calm wind, cloudy and no precipitation. With colder temperatures forecast after that with lots of wind, maybe snow (though not likely), it seemed today might be a good day to go out. Of course, it was only 22 degrees and we'd gotten a half inch of snow but compared to what might be coming 'round the bend, this was great conditions. And we could still go in walking shoes (with warm socks!). We decided to put away the lists of all the things we were going to do at home today and headed back out.

Pine Marten Triangle Loop map markedOf course, it wasn't an instant walk-out-the-door. We had to decide where to go - there are so many options. Then there is gathering food & snacks, warm drink, deciding what to wear, organizing our packs. But that's a good part of the fun of hiking. We decided to go back to Pine Marten and hike the entire Triangle Lake Loop, going the opposite way around this time. It's a 6.8 mile trail but we figured we had enough time. Days are so much shorter now (maybe you've noticed!) it's something to consider if one wants to get back to the car while still plenty of light to see the trail in a forest setting. We could simply get on the trail earlier but there's always the hope that the day will warm up and the sun appear later. Well, it did get up to 27 degrees and not only was it calm there was absolutely no wind. Quite a change from yesterday's blustery north wind. The sun didn't make an appearance but it was cheery enough. We both were warm and comfortable with our chosen layers of clothing. And with plenty of food and snacks, and enough warm drink, it was a real nice 3 hr walk. 

Pine Marten Triangle Lake loop creekThese trails go through some beautiful mixed woods. There's been some logging but not overly where we were. This worst part was seeing the extensive blow-downs that happened in some very strong storms several years ago. This along with the die-off and subsequent toppling of large dead beeches made for some rough looking woods in areas. It was some real heroes who cleared the trails, not only here but across the U.P.  The Triangle Loop still has numerous step-overs which just made for interest when walking but I doubt would be so nice for horses. I doubt anyone would want to ski this section but it should be interesting snowshoeing when the snows come. The terrain is very up-and-down, rolling ridges and valleys, a diversity of woods. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a flat spot large enough for even a small tent! A pleasant surprise on the trail was coming to a small bridge over a small creek, very peaceful and gentle as it disappeared into the woods (and under numerous fallen trees) in either direction. Creeks are a big draw for both of us. When I got home and looked at Google Earth you could just barely make out its very winding route from Triangle Lake north to the Indian River.

So all-in-all, another enjoyable hike.


December 7, 2020 -- Pine Marten Run

About 20 miles north of us is a Forest Service recreation area called Pine Marten Run. It's mostly a horse trail system with multiple loops through pine and hardwood forests. With several camping areas it's very popular and well used in the no-snow season by the equestrian crowd. You can hike then, too, but it's really best to leave it to the horses. They're happier and a trail well trod by horse hooves is not that great for walking. However, horse season ends Nov. 30 and with this year's extended hiking season we decided to check out these trails. So out we went. It was cold enough to keep the snow frozen, and our feet dry, and a bit cloudy but not too windy. We decided to  go on the nearest Triangle Lake Loop. There was just enough snow to cover the trail and make the track a bit dicey on the steeper parts, especially stumbling a bit on the horse churned, choppy frozen ground. But it was easier walking than in warmer months on the sandier sections. But some sections of firmer ground were flat and easier walking.

It is a beautiful area of mixed woods. We hiked not quite half way around, sometimes beside Triangle Lake, sometimes away. The clouds were getting darker so when we got to the north end of the Lake we decided to backtrack instead of going on. Since we didn't know the trail, or how long it would take to continue on the rest of the way, and we didn't want to get caught out in the low light of a snow storm, or the dark of the sun going down, that seemed best. It was a nice walk on the return and we made it back to the car before dark. But we enjoyed the couple hours on the trail and look forward to coming back to explore the other side of Triangle Lake, as well as other loops.



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Copyright Susan Robishaw and Stephen Schmeck
 



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