From Lake Michigan To Lake Huron- A Journey On Trails
By Shelley R. Spivack
Traversing nine counties, 34 cities, towns, and villages, and 16 trails, Michigan’s new Great Lake-to-Lake Trails Route #1 is “the crown jewel of a state that leads the nation in non-motorized trails.”1 The first of five proposed trails crossing the state, Route #1 begins in South Haven and ends 276 miles later in Port Huron. After 10 years of planning, the trail came to life on 9/13/19 with a six-day inaugural ride sponsored by Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance.
After hearing about the inaugural ride, plans to cycle the trail began spinning in my head. Within a few days I had a group of 14 planning to join me on the trail. As most of the group were from the east coast, we decided to start in Holland and spend a day exploring the beaches and towns along Lake Michigan.
When COVID-19 hit this spring, the group of 14 slowly dwindled down to 1 – me. As Gov. Whitmer lifted the Stay at Home order, I began recruiting riders from the Midwest. By mid-June a group of four eager cyclists was ready to hit the road.
On June 27th we headed to Fennville, a small farming community a few miles south of Holland, and spent two days exploring the roads, trails, beaches, and breweries around Saugatuck, Douglas, and Holland.
On Monday, we headed south to start the cross state journey. We cruised past the pristine lakefront estates marking the entrance to South Haven, once known as the “Catskills of the Midwest.” After dipping our back tires in Lake Michigan we dodged tourists and traffic to find the 33-mile Kal Haven Trail – a linear state park built along an abandoned rail line connecting South Haven with Kalamazoo. As we edged closer to Kalamazoo, the Kalamazoo River Trail brought us to our artfully restored 19th century Bed and Breakfast. The smell of bacon and homemade peach scones woke us up in the morn-ing as we readied ourselves for the next leg of the journey.
Diversity in scenery, as well as trail type, defines the Lake-to-Lake Trail Route #1. On day two as we passed through southwest Michigan, we rode the Battle Creek Linear trail, an urban trail connecting neigh-borhoods with the downtown riverfront, and the Calhoun County Trailway, a gravel hiking and biking trail cutting through a Biological preserve. Pulling into downtown Marshall for a mid-afternoon snack, the retro storefronts and historically preserved buildings made us feel as if we were living in a by-gone era. A few miles later, the Albion Trailway delivered us to another delightful Victorian Bed and Breakfast and a local brewery in Albion’s downtown historic district.
As we headed east the “Falling Waters Trail” led us towards Jackson, where the MLK Equality Trail took us through the city. While I had been to Jackson many times to visit clients in the area’s prisons, I had never explored the city and its history. The Michigan Theatre, an art deco structure built in 1930 with a lavish terra cotta facade, stood out in a downtown filled with modern architecture. Most interesting was the site of Michigan’s first prison built in 1839. Here we learned of Michigan’s first prisoners and the story behind the world’s largest walled prison. With several of the original walls still standing, the site now houses several art galleries and a bicycle co-op.
One of the biggest surprises on the trip was riding through the metro Detroit area al-most exclusively on trails. Staying in Whitmore Lake on our third night, we cycled on trails through Island Lake State Park and Oakland County, landing in Auburn Hills for our fourth night. The Michigan Air-line Trail, a newly-paved trail from Wixom to West Bloomfield, show-cased art repro-ductions from the DIA , while the crushed limestone West Bloomfield Trail hosted a variety of birds and wildlife as it meandered through a nature preserve.
The Clinton River and Macomb Orchard trails carried us out of metro Detroit and into Macomb’s peach and apple country. Leaving the trail in Richmond, we then had to share the road with cars until arriving at Port Hu-ron’s Bay to Bridge Trail. As we cruised along the St. Clair River we were steps away from our destination – Lake Huron. Dipping our front tires in the lake by the lighthouse at Fort Gratiot, we finished a most delightful journey.
For more information about the trail: https://greatlaketolaketrails.org
To see more photos: https://www.flickr. com/photos/shoshannarobi1n/albums