Friday, November 27, 2015


One of the best things about running is using it to explore beautiful places you'd never see otherwise.

We were down in Michigan last weekend to visit with friends and take part in a "race" that was every bit as silly as I'd expected it to be. I knew that under 3mins of running would just make me want to get out for a real stretch of my legs, so I made sure I brought plenty of kit and laid some plans.

Serious racing. Really.

Nuttin' but silliness - just as it should be.

We were staying outside Belleville, MI just a few minutes away from Lower Huron Metropark. Tanker and I had cycled through there on another visit to MI back in May of this year, and I wanted to explore the Bob White Nature Trail that is restricted to foot traffic only. With a winter storm predicted for Saturday afternoon we left the bikes at home, but I was bright enough to bring trail shoes and everything else I'd need for a cold weather run.

Well, in my estimation anyway. Before leaving I got asked if I was going to put pants on.

I don't understand the question.

As big, fat, fluffy flakes of snow cascaded down from the leaden skies, I got our friend Mac to drop me off at the trailhead, then he and Tanker drove back further North in the park to find a place to walk and smoke cigars in the hush of the woods. I set out on the nature trail, accompanied only by my camera and the sound of my puffing breath as I trotted through the snow-laden woods.


Like running through Narnia

The nature trail was just under a mile long, so I soon emerged onto the bikeway that Tanker and I had cycled in the spring. 

It looked slightly different in May

Of course I ended up running straight into the wind.

After taking a small unplanned detour on a spur of path that led to the par-3 golf course, I found my way up to the spot where the lads were having a smoke. 

While it snowed sideways.

I put on a bit of weight along the way.

It's a truly incredible spot at a bend in the Huron River, and reaching it just after sunset meant a truly extraordinary quality of light that lent an element of fantasy to the white-blanketed landscape.

Looks more like a painting than a photograph

I halfway expect a unicorn to come trotting across the footbridge.

The snow kept up through the evening, laying down no less than 5" of fluffy flakes. It was like living inside a snow globe - what every kid hopes for on Christmas Eve.

Still coming down

Heavy load

It's like the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man exploded

Sunday morning we awoke to blue skies and sunshine, so I knew I had to go run the other place I'd found that had me thoroughly fascinated. I'd been idly poking around the area of the apartment complex we were staying at to see if there was a decent running route nearby - something handy that I hadn't seen before if I couldn't get down to the Metropark. In looking around the region, I found this in the satellite view:

Interest level: HIGH

Just 20mins down the road in Ypsilanti, MI - a little place called North Bay Park. Yes, that is in fact a huge boardwalk running down the Western shore of Ford Lake, and then a chain of narrow islands linked by bridges forming almost a freshwater atoll across the water.

I had to check this out.

You start out at a parking lot just off of I94, then run down a steep, switchbacked hill to a boardwalk that leads to the lake.

Approaching Ford Lake
From a fork in the trail you turn right and head up a few steps (or a wheelchair ramp, which is what I took) and onto the huge boardwalk that closely parallels the shore.

There's an observation tower visible just before the bridge to the chain of islands.

The boardwalk takes you to the first bridge to an island, then you're running across the water - over 600m of trail unlike anything else I've ever run.

At the far end you reach another fork in the trail, the right hand of which will take you across a lovely footbridge and up a paved pathway that comes up to meet S Grove St. in Ypsilanti Township.

Looking back at the island chain from the pathway
Up slightly above street level there's a beautiful lookout spot with an informational placard. Another 200m or so and the trail peters out, joining the Washtenaw County Border To Border bike trail in the form of an on-street bike lane. I turned around at that point and headed back, pausing at the lookout for a moment.

On the way back, I took a different route, since the trail forms a couple of loops. First I hooked right to take the non-paved side trail from just below a parking lot off S Grove St.

This turned out to be a very muddy option.

It hooked back up with the paved trail I'd taken off the end of the footbridge.

Crossing the footbridge again, I took the right-hand fork in the trail to go through the woods instead of back across the chain of islands. This turned out to be a fitness trail, with a few pieces of equipment along the sides and placards with suggested exercises (which I totally did not do).

Very pretty despite the lengthening shadows

Another small footbridge before the loop meets up at the shoreline

Reaching the start of the boardwalk at the steps & wheelchair ramp once again, I took my last right-hand turn to head back up the huge hill to the parking lot.

Which looks like nothing here, but took my fat arse a lot of huffing and puffing to climb.

Almost back out again.
Emerging from the woods, I grabbed Tanker (who had been enjoying another cigar in the parking lot area) and brought him for a walk down to the start of the boardwalk, since he had to see this incredible trail.

Duly impressed.
My real point here is that I never would have known this extraordinary place existed if I hadn't been looking for places to run - our friends had never heard of it, but now have plans to go for a walk there to check it out. With as late as we got to the park, though, I never would have been able to see the whole thing if I hadn't run it; it simply would have taken too long to walk it, and with the day fading fast and us needing to get home (4hrs away) I'd only have seen a portion of the beauty it has to offer.

So the next time you're taking a trip somewhere, I highly recommend looking around to spot the hidden gems that may be in the area. You never know what kind of magic you may get to experience!

Take it from me!

1 comment:

Go on, have at me!