There’s some old railroads in my area that have been converted into hiking trails, and JJ and I have been hitting portions of these trails during many of our weekends over the past few months. It occurred to me recently that if JJ and I targeted a couple specific areas, than we will have cumulatively covered a continuous stretch of trail that’s 47 miles long! That became a new goal… and I reached that goal on Sunday.
Check it out: We’ve covered this entire 23.5-mile trail, twice! (There and back.)
(Click on the map to see it bigger.)
Most of the trail is called the Clinton River Trail, but the portion that goes through West Bloomfield is conveniently called the West Bloomfield Trail.
I’ve blogged about some of these hikes before. My quest to reach the M-5 Pedestrian Bridge was accomplished by using this trail, as was a recent hike where I stumbled across a Mastodon fossil site.
Just so it’s crystal clear: JJ and I didn’t hike 47 miles at one time. We did different legs of this route on seven different occasions, on seven different days spread out over roughly two months. That means our average hike was 6.7 miles.
Our longest leg was eight miles, and it was the eastern-most leg. Part of it was in Bloomer Park, a huge park that has big stairways that I’ve trained on before, and was home to an extremely challenging trail race called ‘What the Hill.’ I actually took a brief detour off the trail to go and climb the stairs once.
(I didn’t climb it more than once because I had already gone about five miles at that point, and knew I had a few miles ahead of me.)
Our shortest leg was 4.2 miles, and we didn’t hike it, we ran it. It was the only leg that we ran, and we ran it because I’m training for an upcoming virtual 5K race.
And, in case you’re wondering, while most of the trail is called the Clinton River Trail, you can only see the actual Clinton River on a few rare occasions.
These hikes have been great for my sanity over the past couple months. Often times they’ve been the only time I’ve left the house during that week, due to Michigan’s stay-at-home order, and I’ve always been safe, because the trails are very sparsely populated, and there’s plenty of room to maintain social distancing when I do pass other people.
Sunday’s hike was near the middle of the map shown at the beginning of the post, through a city called Pontiac. This is the one section where the old railroad route hasn’t been converted into a public trail yet, so there’s an official detour on city sidewalks for the time being. I’m somewhat familiar with the area, as it’s very close to my work, but I still learned a few things on my hike today.
We passed by a local American Legion post, which uses a building that was likely a gorgeous, stately home at some point but has now seen better times. And out front was a tank! An actual tank!
I couldn’t figure out how to take a selfie with me, JJ, and the tank, so I just got a picture of JJ with the tank.
We also passed by the M1 Concourse, a motor speedway that was having some sort of race or event today. At one point I was able to peek through a fence to watch exotic and fancy sports car racing around a track.
I also came within a stone’s throw of the Phoenix Center stairs, another venue I’ve used for stair training in the past. I didn’t take a detour to climb them today, because I didn’t want to cross a busy, curving, 4-lane road with limited visibility and no convenient crosswalk nearby, so here’s a picture of those stairs from another day.
And here’s the best part of this adventure: it can keep going! The trail continues in both directions. A little more research is needed to figure out how much farther it goes headed west, but I already know there’s a spur that continues east for another 20 miles, maybe more.
I haven’t committed to doing any more yet, just because adding more legs onto this adventure also means adding more driving time to get to the various trail access points. But it’s something I’m going to keep in mind as I plan my weekends, because it’s fun to switch things up and explore new areas.
Plus, hiking different parts of this trail takes something simple and mundane, like a weekend walk, and turns it into a piece of a much bigger, exciting picture – one that provides a greater sense of accomplishment. A five-mile hike is nothing to sneeze at, but adding it up with other hikes and realizing you’ve done dozens of miles is crazy rewarding. I highly recommend it!
So start looking around and figuring out longer routes that you can break into chunks and tackle over the summer months. Find potential starting and stopping points along the way where you could easily (and legally) park your car for different legs. If you don’t have a long trail, maybe you could walk from one end of your county or town to the other, or from your house to a landmark or point of interest in your area. The options are endless!
Keep it up, David!
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