Newaygo North Country Trail Section 4 – Croton to Oak Ave.
By Bret Brummel
Distance: 3.44 miles
With the road sections of the trail behind us, it felt like this was the actual beginning of our adventure. The parking area at Kimble County Park in Croton has been a starting point for many of the North Country Trail runs Anna and I completed last year. The familiarity of the trail was going to be a home course advantage for us. Because this section was going to be the shortest section we would be completing, we decided to replace one of Anna’s coach assigned mid-week runs with this section of the trail. For me, that means I’m going to have to pick up my pace from our normal “conversation” pace we tend to use as we run.
Anna took the lead as we headed up the single-track trail along bank of the Muskegon River. The trail is well marked with blue rectangles on the trees to guide you. Many places are not wide enough to run side by side, so I spend a lot of time playing follow the leader as we run. That way Anna sets the pace, and I try to make sure I can keep up. It wasn’t long into the run that I noticed the distance between us was gradually increasing. At the trail crossing at Croton Drive and Pine Avenue, I was thankful that traffic forced Anna to stop so I could catch up. I informed her that we would be crossing two more dirt roads and that our van was parked at the second road. That way, if I couldn’t keep her pace, she would know where to stop. We crossed the road and off she went, while I plodded on behind trying to keep her bobbing ponytail in sight.
I appreciate the land owners that allow the trail to run through private property. It would be impossible to have this trail without their cooperation. Along with the blue rectangles we follow, you will see “Posted” signs reminding hikers to stay on the trail. Over halfway into our run, I noticed Anna stopped ahead. She had seen a posted sign we had noticed last fall. It said: “Trespassing is the best way to meet the Lord”. Definitely a unique way to discourage trespassing! I snapped a picture and we continued down the path. A few turns into an open field, back through some mature planted pines, and we were back to Oak Avenue and our van. Anna was a half mile short of her assigned goal of four miles, so she continued up Oak to finish her run while I caught my breath.
I was disappointed that I couldn’t keep up her pace on this run. I guess I have to train a little harder. Oh, if you do plan to trespass on this section of the trail, I’d be sure to visit a local church first. It might make the meeting with the Lord a little more pleasant.