Sunday, July 19, 2009

Newaygo County Sports Park Hike

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a guest post by Dave Goodman

On Saturday, July 18, 5 hikers and a dog gathered at Newaygo County Sports Park on M-37 north of Newaygo, MI. The plan was to hike north to something called a "coastal marsh" even though none of us really knew how a wetland with such a name could be so far inland from Lake Michigan. We were about to find out!!

By coincidence, the Newaygo County Board of Commissioners was holding a dedication ceremony at the same time for recent renovations and developments in this park, including permitting the NCTA to build a spur trail that connects to the main North Country Trail nearby. Before the requisite speeches, I mentioned this hike to the commissioner who was going to speak, and at the end of his re marks, he let the small, gathered crowd know that they could come on our sort-of-dedication hike.

As a result one hiker, Cindy, the daughter of the man the park's John Graves lodge is named for, joined us. So 6 hikers gathered behind the lodge which is atop a hill overlooking Little Lake Placid. We then proceeded down the new trail as it wound it's way down the steep hillside to the lake, then across the sledding hill and disused toboggan runs which were iced in the winter to provide for a FAST experience. Cindy took this opportunity to tell us how, as a child, she and her sister would spend entire winter days at the Sports Park, which also offered a rope tow for skiing. After perhaps a mile, we reached the main North Country Trail, and here Cindy returned to the park, while Teresa Two Feathers from this board turned right and east on the NCT, heading for Croton Dam 9 miles away.

We four remaining group hikers turned left, immediately crossing M-37, and hiked north about 2 miles, desperately seeking wetlands but finding yummy blueberries (where a yellowjacket also found my finger...OUCH) north to a sign that explains the large coastal wetland that spread out before us. We explored this special environment, following it for a quarter of mile along the road that edges it, yet it continues into the forest well out of sight, so it's quite sizable. At first glance from dry land, it doesn't look wet at all, rather it looks like a grassy field, a misconception dispelled by my walk a short way into the wetland itself, where the ground is slightly spongy. However, we did find a spot that had some open water even in July. Zeke the wonder dog decided to check this out for himself but retreated in the face of the mud at the marsh edge.

Returning, we passed the trail register where on one of her earlier hikes in this area Two Feathers had left some plastic "flatware" as a form of trail magic. We also stayed on the main NCT past a view of Twinwood Lake from a hill, then it was the back way in to the Sports Park and back up the winding hillside trail to John Graves Lodge.

See Newaygo County Tourism
See North Country Trail
These links are checked on the date of the article. As the article ages, some links may become invalid

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