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Hiking the Upper Peninsula
with Steve & Sue

~ ~ ~

Valley Spur Trail System

Munising

Valley Spur cross country ski map


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Valley Spur

One of the most popular cross-country skiing (27 miles of loops) and bicycling (10 miles of single track) trail systems is Valley Spur in Alger County. Managed and maintained by a large coalition of supporters - Hiawatha National Forest - Noquemanon Trail Network - Munising Bay Trail Network - Friends of Valley Spur - innumerable dedicated volunteers - and probably others. To say it gets a lot of attention is an understatement. Winter trail condition reports can be found at: www.facebook.com/valleyspur/ 

It does get a lot of attention. In the winter it is groomed at the first snow flake and kept in great shape till the last one has melted. Bicyclists got a big boost when the Noquemanon Trail Network joined the fray. It has always had incredible volunteers. There is a place for snowshoeing. But for hikers? Well, it is beautiful, scenic, variable, abundant, mostly in great shape (except for some wet areas). The North Country Trail runs through the tangle of loops and bike tracks. BUT, and this is important unless you REALLY know the trail system well -- the signs and maps are for skiiers (and bikers) not hikers. Get all the maps you can. Note that the ski map and the bike maps are not in the same scale, though the updated Noquemanon bike map is better than the old Valley Spur bike map. Copy the North Country Trail Map. Take them all with you when you go. A compass is a good idea. One can easily get lost in the maze and the signage is marginal.

Donations, or maybe more properly, fees are expected. There is a lodge and a warm outhouse.  


We've walked and enjoyed the trails at Valley Spur sporadically over the years. We worked on the North Country Trail in that area including through VS. It's often not very busy in the non-snow months, especially during the week. They don't push the hiking part of the multi-use trail; it's not even on the signs, which is both a blessing and a frustration as it's a wonderful place for hiking. We're fairly familiar with it but we've also gotten lost. Mostly we make use as a quick stretch-walk when on our way home in the car. The NCT north, across the road, from VS is good hiking as well and we're more likely to do that for a longer hike. If we were closer and more involved we'd volunteer to help sign the place (and make appropriate maps) for hikers but thus far our attention has been elsewhere. It's the way it is, hikers and walkers tend to be more independent and not so "gather in a group" oriented I think (well, maybe not, thinking of over-used Pictured Rocks). It would be nice to have a good map signs for the both-direction hiker but meantime, just be prepared, give yourself plenty of time, and enjoy the not-logged woods, beautiful creek and some pretty nice trails.


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.

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.


March 9, 2021 - Valley Spur and the North Country Trail

The second day of our first real Spring Melt, with temps in the 40's and a stretch of sunny days. The snow was soft and melting and especially in the southern half of the U.P. snow sports season was over (unless there comes a good snowfall, which could easily happen). Even up north things were getting iffy. But on a trip to Marquette we tossed in our snowshoes in case we might be able to get a walk in somewhere. We could have just walked in town but decided to stop at Valley Spur on our way home. Even at home we had enough snow (we had snowshoed all our home trails in the soft snow yesterday to flatten them and with our wide snowshoes it was good walking) so knew the snow-belt VS would have snow.

The parking lot was icy-mushy, there was but one car but there was indeed still snow. We were happy to discover a sign that indicated two snowshoe loops -- the common short Bunny Loop and a longer 2.6 mile  long snowshoes-only Snowman Loop. We slushed across the lot, put on our snowshoes and thankfully found the snowpack to be quite walkable. Though the trail was well packed it was flat and not too icy. It was warm enough out to soften the top layer which helped a lot. The trail goes through a very nice mixed, not-logged (at least not for awhile) woods with plenty of elevation changes and a beautiful creek. Whoever laid out the track must have had a good time weaving in and out and around trees of all ages. The one thing that keeps this trail from a five star rating is a very steep downhill section with trees and a sharp curve at the bottom that even in better snow conditions would not, and was not, snowshoe friendly unless one has technical shoes with sturdy crampons and rails which not all snowshoes have. Our classic wood frame laced bearpaws definitely don't! There were a few other uncomfortable steeps downhills as well but the majority of the path was enjoyable to walk. Since much of the snowshoe trail is near to the road there is traffic noise but at some point one gets away from that and you can feel lost in the beauty of the woods. Then the trail heads down to wind along near the beautiful Valley Spur Creek. Steve remarked that "Next time we're going to have a creek on our property!". We wondered if we could dig one.

Though hazy/cloudy there was occasional sun and it was an amazing upper 40's. A brisk wind stayed up in the top of the trees so we were plenty warm. We got back to the parking lot after a very nice hour long walk to find the car's occupants changing footgear after their skiing. They were from downstate and had been making the most, NCT map AuTrain to Valley Spurand maybe too much, of their days up here by skiing no matter the conditions. They said this morning was better but this afternoon was pretty sticky what with the soft snow and beech leaves on the tracks which they said act like little brakes. But they were obviously enjoying the trip and we had a nice chat. We mentioned the North Country Trail which runs through Valley Spur and on across the road and it turned out one of the men had volunteered on the NCT near where he lives. We shared similar experiences, told them how to get to the nearest auto parts store and hardware, wished them well then slogged on across the wet pavement, across the road, to check out the NCT.




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Copyright 2021 by Susan Robishaw and Stephen Schmeck
 



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Have you read  "Frost Dancing - Tips from a Northern Gardener"? A fun short read.

or "Homesteading Adventures"    Creating our backwoods homestead--the first 20 years.

and "Growing Berries for Food and Fun"   A journey you can use in your own garden.
 

updated 10/06/2019

 

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