I am trying to cover as much as the NCT in my area as I can. I have the MI-04,MI-05 and MI-06 NCT maps and I am the type that needs to walk the trail to really find out where it actually goes. The maps are pretty close aside from some minor changes here and there. I am a time person. I need to know how long and how far in real steps.
On Father's Day this year, I started at the Mayfield Rd trailhead and wanted to hike south to the Manistee River. I had never hiked this section of the trail before. I had all I needed for a four hour hike. It was 9:30 am when I started out. It was already getting warm and muggy. I always pack to much water and on this day it would end up being a good thing. The terrain started out fairly flat and very green. The trail moved due south along a sand two track. About five minutes into the hike there is a small pond on the right. Ten minutes later there is a stream crossing the trail from left to right and off to the left there is a swampy looking area. Very green and the sun is rising above it. Trail moves out of the swamp and into some mixed hardwoods. See a deer and some turkeys just before the trail passes a gas well/ gas holding area. Has the smell of sour gas. About twenty minutes in the trail crosses a cycle single track. Just a few minutes later the trail crosses Cedar Creek Rd. Trais now a single track. Thirty minutes in the trail crosses Barker Creek and water is flowing well. Trail opens into a pretty meadow lined with oak and maple trees. Blazes have been in tact and with the fern heighth I need to pay attention to the blazes. Trail turns right and goes due west for about five minutes until it turns south again and a few minutes later I see a power pole and a house. Trail now turns into a gravel road. Road walk for about fifteen minutes until I come to Vans Lane. Before long I am back on a single track and moving right along.
The hike thus far has been interesting as are most of them. Rarely do I feel bored at any time on the trail. It seems very adventurous most of the time. I usually hike alone if I am going to cover eight or more miles. I usually do not really stop for the first few hours. I can't wait to hit the trail. That statement is always true. It does a body good. And is great for the mind.
Soon the trail crosses M-186 just west of Fife Lake and heads south still. I encounter my first elevation change of the hike it is a steep drop down into a bog/marsh area and the perfect shade of green. the trail has been very well maintained and I move right along to a strong uphill out of the marsh. The next three miles come and go and I arrive at the M-113 crossing and stop to have a bite. I am only about forty minutes from the Manistee River at this point, or so I thought. The plan was for my wife to pick me up at the 131 SFCG and I called her to let her know it was going as planned. I continued south and crossed a set of train tracks and moved right along and suddenly I looked up and I not only didn't see the trail but the blazes were gone also. I backtracked and spent a few minutes looking and instead of bushwhacking I returned to M-113 and my wife picked me up there. I do not like to chance anything. It was at the end of my hike and I really did not want to get mixed up in the woods. It was a great day and good walk. I will walk the return route from the Manistee River and find where the trail meets.