Here’s the face of a happy camper, standing in a park in Richmond, Michigan:
How did I end up in Richmond? I walked there! It as the end of a months-long pandemic challenge – a quest to hike the entire length of a trail that spans two counties. And I made it!
This trail used to be a railroad, but it’s been decades since any trains have whizzed on by. Cities and municipalities along the route have one by one converted it into a public trail, and how it goes by a variety of names, depending on where you access it: Air Line Trail, West Bloomfield Trail, Clinton River Trail, Macomb Orchard Trail.
The western terminus is Wixom, a town in western Oakland County, and the eastern terminus is Richmond, in northeastern Macomb County. In between are 51.3 miles of trail!
Let’s just zoom in on that figure, in case you missed it.
And I did the whole thing twice – there and back. So in total, I hiked 102.6 miles!
If this is sounding familiar, it’s because I’ve blogged about my progress before. I started hiking portions of this trail when Michigan’s COVID-19 lockdown began in March, and my first goal was to make it to a pedestrian bridge over the M-5 highway. I reached that goal in April, and decided to keep going, hiking a different segment of the trail every weekend.
I also ran part of the trail when I competed in the Cedar Point Run & Ride Virtual 5K, and provided updates on my progress when I hit 47 miles (in May) and 73 miles (in July).
But if you’re new here, or forgot all about those posts, here’s the gist: I didn’t hike these 102.6 miles all at once. It did a hike every weekend, and I would go, park my car, and hike for 3 or 4 miles, until I reached a spot where I could park my car next time. Then I’d walk back to my car, making it a 7-8 mile total hike, and then park my car the next weekend at the new spot and keep going.
My friend John joined me and JJ for the final four segments, and it’s been great having someone to talk to. (I talk to JJ, it’s just that he never talks back.) Those final 30 or so miles were mostly through farmland, but we saw some cool stuff, like a hot air balloon taking off…
…and a bra that someone left hanging on a branch. Maybe it was a ‘take-a-bra, leave-a-bra’ sort of situation?
We also crossed another pedestrian bridge, which I loved, because I. Love. Bridges.
JJ likes pedestrian bridges, too! He told me. Especially ones that look like barns.
One morning it was incredibly foggy when we started our hike, but it cleared up within an hour.
And on another day, the sunlight filtering through the branches was glorious.
Every so often, we crossed a creek. There’s not a good story for every picture, folks.
Our last hike was the longest of the entire challenge – 9.66 miles! It took us almost four hours, with only one break. I love how straight and boring the route is – a side effect of hiking along former railroads!
Oh yea, and I burned over 1,500 calories that morning!
It’s been wonderful having this challenge to keep me moving during the pandemic, when most races have been cancelled or postponed until next year. Going on these hikes has been a great way to get out of the house and be outside in a safe and totally uncrowded location, too.
I have my eye on a couple other trails, but to be honest, I’m going to take a break from hiking for a couple weekends, and then figure out what I want to do. This challenge took me six months to complete, and I’m not sure if I want to start another one of this size right now, especially if I can’t finish it before winter arrives.
But that’s a problem for another day. Today is about celebrating! 102.6 miles, done!
Keep it up, JJ…
…and keep it up, David!
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