Newaygo North Country Trail Section 7 – Centerline Rd. to M-20 Trailhead
By Bret Brummel
Distance: 4.14 miles
Ryan drew the short straw today and “volunteered” to help transport us to this section of the trail. He follows us in his vehicle to the final destination where we drop off my van. Then, we climb in his car to be taken to the start. The farther north we get, the more time this takes, so Ryan decided to join us on the trail today. After a brief description of the trail, one last drink of water, and a race selfie, off we went. Ryan’s pace is fast enough that it wasn’t long before he was out of sight.
The trail begins with a half mile road section on Centerline turning on Echo Drive before changing to the single-track trail through the woods. Anna was running a nice pace and we quickly found ourselves on a beautiful bridge crossing the White River. A quick stop for a picture may have been a mistake because it offered the deer flies opportunity to land on my head. As we continued to run, I was jealous of Anna for having a pony tail that seemed to be acting like a fly swatter with each step.
I was a bit concerned when we reached the sign for the White Cloud Junction. White Cloud is a designated Trail Town for the North Country trail. At the junction, the NCT meets with a connector trail that leads to White Cloud Park and Campground. When giving Ryan a quick description of the trail, I had referred to our stopping point as 1-mile road and not as M-20 like it was displayed on the sign. I hoped he picked the correct path and didn’t end up running to the Cross Country course used by White Cloud High School.
Up next, we found a unique portion of the trail through the Rattlesnake Creek area. A 2-board wide bridge made of 2” x 8” boards zig-zags through the marshy area for quite a long distance. It is perfect for hiking, but the bridge is an added challenge if you are running. It was hard to decide whether to stay on the board to the left, or the one to the right, or to alternate between them. Both Anna and I had to slow our pace to make sure we didn’t end up falling in the marsh. After what seemed like a quarter mile, we hopped off the bridge, up a small incline, and resumed our familiar single-track path that would take us to the finish.
Anna’s favorite part of the trip came with a half mile to go. We actually ran into some people! It was the first time in 30 miles we had seen anyone on the trail. Having to deal with the heat and the deer flies, it was encouraging to see someone headed the other direction. That meant that we were nearing the finish and we weren’t the only crazy people out there.
When we came to the parking area on M-20, it was full of cars. Ryan had the air conditioning running and had only been waiting for about 10 minutes. Thankfully, he had made the correct path choice at the junction sign. When I asked how he dealt with the flies, he replied: “I just put my shirt over my head when I run. It’s less annoying than swatting at the bugs.” It worked for him. I think I might just bring a hat next time.