Autumn on the North Country Trail

Changing colors on the Thornapple River 

Visiting western Michigan as we transition to fall has made for a great week of running. For our last long run here, Ann's dad dropped us off in Middleville and we ran back to his house on the North Country Trail, which traverses 4,700 miles from North Dakota to Vermont. 

Nice canoe/kayak put-in in Middleville

The North Country Trail is the longest in the National Trail System, but it feels very different from the Pacific Crest and Appalachian trails; distinct sections pieced together along short stretches of road. Our first stretch, the Paul Henry Thornapple Trail through Middleville, wound along the Thornapple River, through a marsh, and under a tunnel of trees. 
We're on a giant chair!


Trail distances-- we're in staunchly in the middle
Tunnel of trees


Mile markers and exercises to do along the way (no, we didn't do them)


This section ends at a small road, to a bigger one, and then back onto a dirt road before getting back onto trail. Different parts of the trail have distinct feelings-- sandy pine groves, riparian forests, spent soybean fields, boardwalks along marshes. After a week of becoming familiar with the trails in Yankee Springs Recreation Area, it was a fun change to run point-to-point. 

Peets Road, connecting trail segments
Go straight
Go left
Go right

Signage along the North Country Trail is pretty great-- there are blue blazes on trees to mark the trail and whether to go left, right or straight ahead. A few sections are public hunting grounds, with signs marking the seasons. Some areas are more developed than others, with lots of informative signs, lovely benches, and brand-new boardwalks.

Brand new boardwalk

Neat benches
A soybean field post-harvest
How to read NCT signage

After crossing a couple of familiarly-named roads (Chief Noonday and Gun Lake), we were back in familiar territory: Yankee Springs Recreation Area, where we've run every day we've been in Michigan. Finally, we split from the North Country Trail to follow the Hall Lake Trail out to the road and back to Ann's dad's house. Next time I'd like to try more of the North Country Trail, from the opposite side.

Tiny mushrooms
Neat pink fungus
Great signage
Autumn colors starting
Stella and Fred came to cheer us on at the end

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