2 days/1 night/12 miles
When I first became interested in backpacking and the outdoors I was surprised to find out that options for overnight backpacking trips in my home area of Southeast Michigan were extremely limited. If you want to find longer trails to hike and non-RV campgrounds you have to look North and West to Huron-Manistee National Forest or to the Upper Peninsula.
From what I have found so far the one area within an hour drive of Detroit that offers good backpacking trails is the Waterloo and Pinckney State Recreation Areas. Waterloo offers the 36 mile , point to point Waterloo-Pinckney Trail and Pinckney Recreation Area has the 17.5 mile Potawatomi Trail. The Potawatomi is a loop that is most popular for mountain biking and my idea of a nice hike does not involve watching out for bikers, so that's not an option. The Waterloo-Pinckney trail has a number of campgrounds along it and all but one are RV friendly. It is traveled by hikers and possibly equestrians. The one and only hike-in site on the trail is at Blind Lake. The best way to access it for a short, 1 night trip is to park at the Green Lake Campground and hike 6.5 miles in.
Last Thursday night I found myself itching for a hike and some fresh air, so I checked the site availability at Blind Lake and found a number of sites available. I booked site #9 for Saturday night and then informed Sarah that we'd be going for a hike. I hope she didn't have anything else planned!
Upon arriving at the trail head at 1:00 pm we loaded up and headed straight into the woods. It was around 80 degrees. Sarah was carrying my lightweight 44 liter Gregory G-Pack and I had my 75 liter Deuter ACT-Lite 65+10. At first I found my pack to be a bit uncomfortable, but it just required some adjustments. I like having my pack ride high on my hips, so after really tightening down the hip belt I was good to go.
The 6.5 mile hike goes over pretty mild terrain. There were a few short, steep climbs up ridges and some descents over loose rocks that required some careful foot placement. I was glad to have my Black Diamond Trail Back trekking poles in a number of sections especially on the 2nd day when my legs were a bit weary. Overall it was a nice hike that offered enough varied terrain and scenery to keep it interesting. The trail goes through mainly wooded areas that are dotted with small, grassy meadows and a number of large marshes. The opportunities for stopping to rest off of this trail are very limited because you're either surrounded by thick underbrush, tall grasses or marshland. Despite passing many small, stagnant ponds there are no opportunities to collect and filter water along this stretch of the Waterloo-Pinckney trail. You could technically filter the pond water, but I only recommend doing it in an emergency. This hike is short enough that the chances of a water emergency are very small.
The marshes offer a sunny change after trekking through the shaded forests. They all had well-maintained boardwalks to keep your feet out of the muck and all sorts of wild flowers to check out. As beautiful as they were we were always glad to get back under the cool shade of the canopy.
The hike in took about 4 hours and we got to camp at 5:15 pm. While Blind Lake Campground is a hike-in only area it does offer a water pump and an outhouse that is stocked with toilet paper. There are 10 sites that are spaced apart nicely. It used to have fire rings, but the park had to remove them because people started cutting down trees for firewood.
After getting settled at our site we took a few moments to check out the lake and dip our tired feet in the water.
For dinner Sarah pre-cooked a pad thai sauce at home using tofu, scallions, and a jarred thai peanut sauce. All we had to do to finish it at camp was cook the rice noodles and a couple eggs and add the sauce and some fresh lime. It was delicious and we ate it by the water while watching the sun begin to set and small fish swimming along the shoreline.
Bedtime came quickly. We were tired from the hike and at around 9:00 pm we dozed off while being serenaded by frogs and crickets.
I'm an early riser when I am sleeping outside and this trip was no different. I woke up around 6:00 am to very sore muscles (damn you, desk job!) and laid in bed until around 8:00 am listening to each bird wake up. It started very quietly and by 7:30 am the forest was alive with sounds of dozens of familiar and totally unfamiliar sounding birds. While Sarah dozed in the tent I took the opportunity to snap a few photos of the low fog on the lake and enjoy the quiet.
Sarah eventually got out of bed after I presented her with a cup of coffee and joined me for some oatmeal before we packed up and headed out.
Most people like to do backpacking loops for short trips, but this was an out and back trip. What I found surprising was that on the way back I noticed a number of flowers and berries I didn't see on the way in. We also spotted a little wildlife in the form of a garter snake, vulture, frog, and a crazy looking caterpillar.
I think it is only appropriate that as summer begins to wind down the last photo I took before my camera battery died was of a changing leaf.
Despite sore muscles the hike back to the car ended up being even more enjoyable. Could have been the earlier start and cooler temps or the fact that starting a hike at a campsite feels better than starting at a car. Either way we found a really nice hike-in campsite close to home that provides an easy getaway from the day to day life. I can't wait to visit this trail during other seasons to see what other surprises it has.