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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mark Lewis Hikes Near Loda Lake

red pines
a red pine stand at Loda Lake (photo from the White Lake Beacon, used with permission)

OutdoorBlips: vote it up!
based on a news article in the White Lake Beacon, "The road More taken," by Mark Lewis, July 13, 2009, used with permission

Mark Lewis is a writer for the White Lake Beacon, and his entertaining story of a hike on the North Country Trail in the southern Manistee Forest is sure to amuse. His hike occurred soon after the infamous South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford claimed to be hiking while instead he was having an affair with a lady in Argentina! Lewis quoted a cable news station, "Nobody hikes alone, I mean, who does that?"

Yet there was Lewis, hiking a section of the NCT, alone. The answer is that lots of us hike alone! But unlike so many portions of the NCT, he found that this one near Loda Lake was well used, and hiking alone wasn't a very solitary experience.

His enthusiasm for outdoor recreation shows in the promise, "Opportunities to get outside, into some pretty fantastic and wild places, are as abundant as they are economical. I practically could have thrown a dart at a map of Northern West Michigan and hit a winner." Yet he chose to explore the fairly new NCT/ Birch Grove Trail loop near Loda Lake and the North Country Trail Association Schoolhouse. The schoolhouse was the first headquarters of the Association, and is now managed as something of a hostel / meeting place by the Western Michigan Chapter.

This section of the NCT is open to bicycles, and Lewis was passed by several groups, and also met hikers. He calls this section "the road more taken." He describes it thus:
The North Country Trail/Birch Trail loop is a nearly 10-mile circular stretch that travels through several different kinds of typographies. While slight hills dominate the western portion of the loop, things seem to get a little flatter the further east one goes. On the eastern side, the trail meets up with a junction at the Loda Lake Sanctuary Walk, a two-mile loop which takes hikers through the only wildflower refuge in a national forest. At the southern-most edge of the trail, two miles south of Loda Lake, Camp Swampy and Diamond Lake County Park provide hikers with a convenient place to camp and swim.

Lewis had hoped to camp near the trail in the National Forest (dispersed camping is allowed), but the large number of trail users made him think twice about this since he had planned to set up camp and then leave for a while to explore further. Instead he chose to stay at Camp Swampy, a Forest Service campsite (daily fee required).

The next morning he spent more time at Loda Lake, the only wildflower refuge within a National Forest. "I love to sit in there in the early morning, as the sun climbs the sky, and listen to (and watch) the long skinny trees croak and crack, their limbs pressing against each other while their trunks ache back-and-forth," Lewis shared.

For a great weekend experience, this section of the NCT and connecting trails near Newaygo would be a good destination, just be aware that it is one of those rare sections of the NCT that have been discovered!

See Newaygo Birch Grove Loop Trail Dedicated
See North Country Trail Triad- Workshops, Hike and a Bar-B-Q
See Western Michigan Chapter of the North Country Trail Association

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