Trail Running on My Northern Michigan Roads

Despite a knee that aches (not a new development – it’s done this since high school) and not being built for it (I am decidedly not lanky), I am a runner. I used to argue this point with Tony – him for, me against – until I finally accepted it. I almost never go for more than ten days without running, and though I am not fast, I am very consistent. Since it’s something I frequently enjoy, I thought I’d take you along. You don’t have to run.

We live on the “paved” mile of a four-mile block. The remaining three miles are pretty much packed sand. A moment, please: We bought our house in February 2010. We dug through snow and happily confirmed that unlike many northern Michigan roads, ours was paved.

Our road, buried under fresh snow in 2010

O joyous day! Pavement!

As it turns out, we got incredibly lucky finding that yellow stripe, because I’m not entirely convinced our road isn’t simply bubble gum – like the big patches you see in parking lots. Many days I wish our road was “just” packed sand. That’s what that “paved” is all about above. Moment over. Back to the regularly scheduled programming.

Unless we’ve had inches of recent rains, the sand is a perfect surface to run on. Combined with the almost non-existent traffic, close woodlands, and open pastures, it’s like running on a wide trail. At this time of year, the scenery is nearly breathtaking. Good thing, because otherwise I’d have to forgo the running πŸ˜‰

I warm up for about the first half mile. It’s paved (remember? – ha!), and I try to avoid that, because it’s harder on my knees. Plus, it’s mostly uphill, which isn’t a great way to start a run from my perspective.

It is under a canopy though, which is currently blushing, so that’s all right then

The first mile rolls down then up a hill, and forests closely guard the path. Squirrels chatter, chipmunks sprint across the surface with their flag tails proudly raised, and turkeys peck for hidden morsels.

Looking back down that first hill


Continuing around the curves

Brilliant trees toward the end of the first mile

In the second mile, the trees give way to some open pastures. Very infrequently a fox scurries away. Deer laze in the late afternoon warmth, often springing off at my approach.

Pastoral opening surrounded by trees


Hardwoods, pines, grassland – Michigan staples


Can you smell the fragrant pine?


British Soldier lichen – a personal favorite – just off the road

Unlike the mostly climbing first half, the third mile is nearly all downhill, with trees creeping closer. Bending across above, they hide the road in deep shade. Raspberries flourish just steps off the packed sand.

A rare opening invites beaming sunlight

The last mile marches up, up, up until the rise finally crests less than a quarter mile from our house. Horses eye suspiciously, ambling nearer, but never close. Home beckons. You can stop here for the ice-water that awaits, but I will keep going to round out the four mile journey.

The oft-photographed pasture belonging to our neighbors, Gary and Jill

Home, until the road calls again.

All these pictures were taken this afternoon. The color change has accelerated markedly in the last week or so. How are things looking in your neck of the woods?

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13 thoughts on “Trail Running on My Northern Michigan Roads

  1. Oh yes, such beautiful scenery for a runner to traverse. Our son is a runner, too. He had a knee scope after an injury in high school football and he’s got a dad with two bad knees–but he will not give up running because he loves it so much. May all your knees be well.

    • I don’t understand the pull. And sometimes the push. There are days that I don’t really feel like it, but I feel like I must anyway. And I always love it. Even when I have to take ibuprofen for the swelling. My problems relate to the disparate muscle strength on the inside vs outside of my knee. My physician said I can wear a knee brace and take NSAIDs, or I could get cortizone shots. Ibuprofen it is!

  2. What a lovely environment for walking. For me, walking. There was a period of time in this life that I ran at night after work, dinner and relaxing, but I never liked it. I like walking, I admire those who have the desire to run. I did enjoy walking along with you – obviously, you run slowly and I walk fast because I kept up!

    • Teehee. I would never go so fast that you couldn’t keep up at leisurely pace πŸ™‚
      Tony hates running, but we frequently walk around our “block,” and I can assure you that it’s a great walking environment. Thanks for joining me!

    • I was chatting with my mom while walking the block, and I was so excited when I saw it. I took a photo of a red maple leaf on some moss on our property just a few posts ago, and called it my stand-in. I don’t know why – perhaps the cool name? – but I really love that red-tipped lichen.

  3. Wonderful! I have a four mile favorite ‘block’ too, that I used to run. Then injury. Then recovery, but to date no running. I DID drive around it yesterday and almost felt the pull…and considered walking it with my camera. Though I live in the country in the lower peninsula, it looks sort of like your four miles…complete with some horses, some woods, some open…and mile three being mostly downhill and the final mile being almost all uphill. Hmmm…you weren’t running here were you? πŸ™‚

    • Hahah. Perhaps? I broke my ankle just as I was starting to run again after the winter last year, and it was a rough spring/early summer watching all the runners out by the bay. Take your time – I eased back into the walking, then running, and even though I still have soreness, I never did have anything close to a re-injury. That fourth mile is a tough one, isn’t it? I ran a different route that doubles back on itself a bit yesterday, which put a half mile hill in for the 1.5 – 2 mile section, but then no uphill 4th. I think it’s what I’ll stick with for a while πŸ™‚

  4. Pingback: Not running « Change Is Hard

    • Thank you πŸ™‚ My husband was commenting that the real coup would be to see the aurora at “The Bridge” under a new moon. I saw a photo today (think it was on MyNorth) from a photographer from the bridge last night. Two outta three aint bad! I feel so fortunate to live in a place where all I have to do is look out my windows to see the aurora – they have been wonderful this year, and my understanding is that we should be seeing more of them in the next 6 months or so.

      • Guess I could have paid attention to see that you were replying to a post other than the one I posted earlier πŸ˜‰ Oops! Yes – our fall color is much better this year than I thought we might get after the summer we had.

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