Summer is a great time to discover the Clare County outdoors. But if you’re new to the county, want to begin walking or biking, or have friends or family with whom you want to enjoy the outdoors, where should you go? While most who regularly enjoy the outdoors here have their favorite trails, here are two of mine; one for walking and one for biking:
Mid Michigan College has three walking trails, each one about a mile long. They are wide, well maintained and level. You can treat them as one-way trails and return the way you came or be adventurous and make a looped trail.
My favorite is the Oak Trail that can be accessed from the gate at the Mannsiding Road entrance. Park at the nearby lot and access the raised trail behind the sign and kiosk. A portion of the trail follows along an old railroad bed from the 1880s. There are plenty of tall and gnarled trees, and you’ll pass through few sunny openings as you walk. You’re bound to see wildlife, including chipmunks and deer as you walk, especially if you are quiet. In any event, songbirds will keep you company. Since it IS Michigan, you will encounter a few mosquitos depending on when you walk, although the fact the trails are wide and mowed frequently keeps mosquito and tick numbers down.
I’d suggest downloading a trail map at midmich.edu or use your phone to take a photo of one of the maps posted along the trail. You really can’t get lost, but you can get a mite turned around since a lot of the colleges 500 acres is woods. By the way, as you walk you may see mountain bikers on the school’s 10-miles of designated biking trails. (Bikers are not allowed on walking trails.) You might also encounter disc golfers using the course that was installed last year.
The paved Pere Marquette State Rail Trail runs from Clare to Baldwin, nearly 60 miles. That’s a long ride in anyone’s book and waaaaaay too long for me. I like the stretch between Farwell and Lake Station, just about 6-miles one way. Once part of the Pere Marquette Railroad, the trail is relatively flat. Along the way, you’ll pass ponds, creeks, farm fields and woods. The best part is the impressive old coal tower just outside of Lake Station. If you have travel companions who have never seen the tower, I’d suggest starting at Farwell and biking west. As you near Lake Station, the coal tower begins to loom in the distance and your companions may well ask you what it is they’re seeing. Make them guess, especially if they’re kids! Anyway, there’s signage on the tower that tells its history. It’s something to be proud of since it’s only one of a few remaining in the state and only one of two you can actually walk under and around.
No matter which direction you ride, there are restaurants in Farwell and Lake Station to visit. However, if you bike the trail in mid-summer, you might want to just fill up on the black raspberries that can be found along the trail.
Enjoy the outdoors!
Member, Friends of Clare County Parks & Recreation
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