Posts Tagged With: hiking

Hard Work to Make the Green Pine Lake Pathway Enjoyable

This press release was written on behalf of the Friends of Clare County Parks & Recreation and a group called Hiking Michigan.  It concerns a state pathway in western Clare County that was quite overgrown.  In fact, I got lost on the pathway a couple of years ago and blogged about it.  That post caught the attention of Mark Wilson who is the director of the North/Central branch of Hiking Michigan.  He contacted me and put him in touch with Friends and the two groups worked together since Friends was looking for a way to get more people interested in the pathway. And who says good can’t come out of blogging? 

Hard Work to Make the Green Pine Lake Pathway Enjoyable

Beavers may have a different priority

Green Pine Trail MapThe Green Pine Lake Pathway is one of Clare County’s hidden treasures. The Pathway—really three loops and one connector trail—is located in Freeman Township in the western part of the county. Two of the loops are accessible from a parking lot on the south side of M-115, just west of Lake Station Ave., while the connector trail leads to a state forest campground and nature trail on Big Mud Lake (off Brown Road near Garfield).

In the past, the overgrown trails and lack of markings have posed big challenges to those who have ventured to walk either location. Now, thanks to the hard work of numerous volunteers during the last weekend in April, visitors can focus more on the beauty of their surroundings, and less on determining which direction the trails go.

According to Gerry Schmiedicke, president of Friends of Clare County Parks & Recreation, a local non-profit that seeks to improve and promote the county’s parks and recreational opportunities, his group wanted to get the word out about the wonderful hiking experience residents and visitors along would find. However, “Friends” did not want to promote the Pathway until the trails looked better and people could use them safely. The group’s small number of members meant it could not accomplish all the tasks by themselves. (While increasing numbers is something the Friends group is working to change, the trail work needed tackling ASAP.)

Enter the North/Central Branch of Hiking Michigan, an organization that encourages and invites people to explore and better the natural environments while enjoying the camaraderie of like-minded outdoor people.  “Their Director, Mark Wilson, contacted us and said the group was interested in re-marking and clearing the trails,” Schmiedicke said. “We were happy to partner with them on this project and much appreciate the hard work of everyone who turned out.”

“The three trails that make up the Pathway have a lot of potential to attract visitors,” Wilson said talking about what attracted his group to the project. “The small 2.5-mile loop off the parking lot that skirts Pike Lake offers a nice little day hike and the trail is now well defined. The same is true for the nature trail at the Mud Lake State Forest Campground. And those looking for more of a challenge should enjoy the hike from the parking lot at M-115 to Mud Lake via the east leg of the trail that loops around Green Pine Lake.”

Green Pine Lake CleaningWhile Wilson credits the volunteers and staff from the DNR for the work done so far, more work remains. A few of the bridges and boardwalks need work; and signage is needed at a few intersections. (The signage, an Eagle Scout project, is currently being restored.) “We hope to complete those tasks at second work project this summer,” said Wilson.  There’s one project he admits might not get done—at least not for a while because of a beaver dam that has flooded a portion of the 5-mile long southern loop.  But Wilson isn’t going to complain, saying that we just need to remember we are visitors here while the beaver call Green Pine Lakes their home. “Plus,” he adds, “There are plenty of other trails for those of us who like terrain that’s a bit on the drier side.”

A parking lot on the south side of M-115 just west of Lake Station Road provides plenty of parking to access to trail with its two lakes. To learn more about Hiking Michigan, go to www.hikingmichigan.com.  For Hiking Michigan’s free downloadable map of the trail, go to www.hikingmichigan.com/PDFinfo/GreenPineLake.pdf.

Friends of Clare County Parks & Recreation invites you to their annual Gateway Event on June 1, 2013 to help raise funds to improve recreation in Clare County. Learn more at clarecountyrecreation.org.

Categories: Clare County, ecology, General, Michigan, recreation, Travel and tourism | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Ride on the Pere Marquette Trail in Clare County

Along the Pere Marquette Trail.It was a good day to be on the trail. Few people, fewer bugs, just the way I like it. It was 8 a.m. and still cool as I rode my bike on the paved trail west of Clare, Michigan.  My bike had 15-speeds but I hadn’t used more than a couple on the smooth, relatively level asphalt trail. It was quiet save for the birds and frogs.  I had hoped to see a deer but thus far my wildlife viewing had been restricted to a pair of butterflies playing tag in the morning sun and an occasional chipmunk scampered across the trail.

An hour into my ride, a large white structure appeared, looming high in the distance and reflecting the morning sun in the cloudless blue sky. The rectangular structure appeared out-of-place, an alien intruder in what up to now had been primarily a natural setting of trees, ponds and fields. As I got closer, I recognized it as the century-old concrete coal restocking chute in Lake that had once been used to refill the coal cars of the steam-powered locomotives that ran over the same route on which I now rode my bike. It was not the first railroad artifact I had encountered. And they were expected. After all, I was riding the Pere Marquette rail trail, on the bed of a former railroad track. Now it was an 12-foot wide multi-use trail for bikers, hikers and equestrians in the summer and used by snowmobilers in the winter.

Clare Train depot during railroad eraOnce the railroad depot in Clare, 10 miles to the east, saw up to 40 trains a day rumbling past, engines chugging, whistles blowing and their black smoke filling the sky as they hauled logs such as pine and hemlock along this route from the forests of Clare and surrounding counties downstate to help rebuild Chicago after its 1871 fire and to meet demand of growing Michigan cities like Midland, pond along the Pere Marquette rail trailSaginaw, Flint and Detroit.

However, before the turn of the 20th century the old-growth forests that had brought lumberjacks, shopkeepers and entrepreneurs to the towns and cities of this area had petered out. And as the people left in search of greater opportunities the railroad lines that connected small towns in the area like Lake George and Leota were slowly abandoned. With the coming of the automobile and accompanying roads the abandonment accelerated. Eventually, this Pere Marquette line out of Midland was handling only freight for a few of the industrial customers; eventually it too became unprofitable and was finally abandoned around 1988.

There are signs of the railroad as one rides. A concrete mile marker lies west of Concret Mile marker from the railroad days.Farwell and if one stops along a curve of the  trail, it’s possible to pick up pieces of coal dropped as the the trains.

I  started  my ride that morning (Saturday, July 9, ) at a gravel parking lot just east of Farwell and headed west. A 30-mile stretch of the Pere Marquette rail trail, from Midland to Clare’s eastern border, had been completed in 1993 and the state (thanks to federal money) has been working on the trail west of Clare in spurts. This summer, a 10-mile section from west of Lake to Evart was finished. All that now remains to complete the 55-mile long trail from Midland to Reed City is a 6,000 foot section through Clare.

The trail I rode that day crossed forests of pine and oak, ran alongside ponds where turtles sunned themselves on logs and near an occasional field.  I rode slowly enjoying the sights and even stopped a time or two to pick raspberries.

Although riders must be vigilant since the trail crosses a number of roads, the sights of the modern world are not normally seen along much of this section of trail. That is in contrast to the section east of Clare that parallels U.S. 10 for much of the way.

I rode as far as the new section of trail that had been just laid down west of Lake, about two miles past the concrete coal chute. The section to Evart and beyond will have to wait for another time. As I rode back toward my car, the sun was warm on my face. I greeted a couple of bikers and a woman who was running with her dog.  Everyone was smiling. Yep, it was a good day to be on the trail.

Categories: Clare County, ecology, Michigan, Travel and tourism | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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