Newaygo North Country Trail Section 5 – Oak Ave. to 40th St.
By Bret Brummel
Distance: 7.21 miles
I have maps printed out for each section of our trip and I calculate both distance and time prior to beginning each leg. I also use the maps to find landmarks to use as motivation if I find myself struggling. Ryan had run this section last year and had warned us about one sand hill and a long dirt road. He said this section felt longer than it actually was.
I’m always the first one up in the morning and Anna is next. That gives me time to look over the maps before we run. This morning, Anna came to me in a hurry informing me that we had to run now if she would have time to make the weightlifting session scheduled at school. I quickly changed, grabbed our water bottles, and headed out the door. Without checking the map, I told Anna the trip was 6 miles. The temperature was 76 degrees and we decided that this section wasn’t long enough for us to carry our water bottles as we ran. We completed the warm-up stretches on Oak Avenue and took off down the trail.
The first mile consisted of a winding single-track trail through pines and some open fields. We successfully navigated the sand hill that Ryan had mentioned, and I noticed that the humidity was making it hard to breathe. The trail was a bit harder to navigate than other sections we had completed. It intersects some private trails and crosses a connector trail that leads to the Coolbough Natural Areas. Twice we had to backtrack when we realized we had turned on a trail that was not marked with the blue rectangles we normally follow.
At the 3-mile mark, I noticed Anna slowing down. Ahead were some railroad tracks I estimated to be at the 3.5-mile mark where we would stop to get a picture. When her watch read 3.5 miles, the railroad tracks were nowhere in sight. In another quarter mile, Anna stopped to catch her breath. That is not something she normally does. We walked for a while swatting many deer flies we hadn’t noticed while running. Her wind returned, and we continued. We stopped for a picture at a man-made bridge through some wetlands and a bridge over Bigelow Creek. It wasn’t until the 4.5-mile mark that we found the railroad tracks. I couldn’t believe my calculations were that far off.
The trail led us along Basswood Drive. Anna wasn’t able to run the entire distance to the finish. We would run a few hundred yards, walk, then repeat for the rest of this section of the trail. As we watched a train pass by, Anna confessed that she had not properly hydrated before we began this section. She woke up later than she wanted and forgot to drink water before we left. The water bottles sitting in our van couldn’t come quick enough for the both of us.
The six-mile section I promised Anna turned into 7.21 miles that kicked our butt. Not only did this section feel longer that it was, due to a miscalculation on my part, this leg literally ended up being longer than it was. To reach 100 miles, we will have to repeat a few sections of the trail. We both agreed that this will be the first we repeat.