Photos and story by Julie Burrell
Recently we asked folks to share their hiking stories with us.
This one comes from Ms. Burrell an N3 friend and author of the Burrell Business Brief
Raise your hand if you grew up less than 10 miles from a national treasure and didn’t know it…. Just me?
My childhood was spent on the banks of Minnie Pond & roaming through the Manistee National Forest… little did I know the North Country Trail was literally in my backyard. This national trail, spreading across the US from North Dakota to Vermont, stretches through Newaygo County for 40+ miles. And I didn’t step foot on to this trail until 2018.
Fast forward to 2021, I committed to the North Country Trail Association’s annual Hike 100 challenge
which is far more than I’ve ever hiked in my life.
Living in Hesperia and a being a fan of convenience, I normally start at the M-20 trailhead and enjoy out & back hikes during the occasional lunch hour or a weekend morning.
In preparation for my 36th trip around the sun & needing to use some vacation time, I planned a long (for me) hike.A few weeks ago, I had an unusual full Saturday morning of no chores and occupied kids, so I took off toward my favorite trailhead – planning to go all the way to Echo Drive and back. I normally stop about half way between M20 and Echo, so it was really great to see this stretch of trail. The most interesting was a swampy section, utilizing a really long rustic boardwalk – don’t walk too fast though – it gets slippery!
Feeling confident after my 7ish miles, I felt ready to tackle the 8+ mile stretch of Echo Drive to 40th street on my birthday. My father-in-law even gifted me a decades old walking stick, forged by his dad from Alaskan wood.
Huge thanks to the famous Charles Chandler, providing crucial car spotting service, I started at Echo Drive around 8:40 in the morning. Only slightly terrified of running into a bear, thanks to a circulating photo on the White Cloud Community Network page the night before, I began my trek.
It was a little chilly and slightly damp, but the woods were serene. It was quiet, peaceful and exactly how I wanted to spend my birthday morning. I saw dozens of birds (only few of which I can identify – the birding skills of the family I married into hasn’t rubbed off quite well enough yet), and oddly – lots of slugs.
I enjoyed the sights - a few yellow flowers sprouted near some water, lots of greenery and my favorite – the blue blazes.
The volunteers who support the trail across several states continue to amaze me – I mean, check out this boardwalk!
I crossed a few seasonal roads, some open water, and even stumbled across a rare coastal marsh – just a few hundred feet from M-37 between White Cloud and Newaygo.
The North Country Trail is just one of many trails in our beautiful county that you probably pass every day – take my advice…..don’t wait 30+ years to give them a try!
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