By Mike Terrell
Last spring in early April it was one of those picture-perfect days for outdoor activities: warm and sunny. The only decision to be made was would I go mountain biking with my labs or opt for a paddle in my kayak minus the dogs.
Fortunately, there was a solution that would satisfy both a trip to Lake Dubonet where I was able to ride the seven mile Lost Lake Pathway and paddle the scenic lake afterwards. Both my dogs and I were happy. The pathway runs by the boat launch and shaded parking area, which is located within the state campground. You bike and paddle from the same spot. What could be easier?
The Lost Lake Pathway has always been one of my favorite area trails for a nice, easy outing with great scenery. About a mile of the trail hugs the Lake Dubonet shoreline, and the remaining six miles of pathway meander through a landscape of transitional sinkholes created by glacial debris and melting ice deposits. Its typical of how the glaciers helped form our regional topography.
The trail passes a couple of large blueberry bogs along the back part as it goes around the Lost Lake basin. They were, at one time, completely covered by the small lake remaining at the north end of the basin. In just a couple of centuries the water will probably completely disappear, which is the fate of small pit lakes that were created by the last glacier passing through here 10,000 some years ago. Its hung on for quite a while.
At times the trail follows old railroad beds created during the logging era, a little over a century ago. Some of the beautiful red pine stands that you pass through are at least that old. They somehow managed to escape the loggers ax.
At one point, the pathway had interpretive markers placed along the trail explaining the history, topography and nature of the area, but most are now long gone. Unfortunately, the DNR in cost-cutting moves never replaced them, but maps and post markers do still exist at most trail intersections. The well-worn pathway is fairly easy to follow, but you do have to pay attention. Forest roads and other trails do pass through the area.
The Shore-to-Shore horseback trail also passes through here crisscrossing the Lost Lake Pathway at least a couple of times. Luckily, horses werent have been on the hiking trail. Unfortunately, thats not always the case. The DNR needs to put up no horse trail signs at all the intersections. Horses are not permitted on the hiking/biking trail, but no signs detail this, and they sometimes stray onto the trail.
The earthen dam you cross a couple of times during the ride was created in 1956, forming Lake Dubonet. The stream flowing away from the dam is the formation of the Platte River. Prior to the dam there used to be two small lakes Big Mud and Little Mud Lakes that formed into one large lake when the dam was erected.
The lake is fun to explore by kayak or canoe. It was created to improve waterfowl and fishing habitat, which has proven to be successful. Dubonet is one of the best pan fishing lakes in the region. The north end of the lake, covered with old ghost forests, offers some interesting paddling as you work your way through the silent, gray trunks and small islands created by the flooding. Theres even a floating island.
A pair of loons has nested here for years and you can often hear their eerie call echoing across the lake in late afternoon. That wild call and mostly undeveloped shoreline could almost make you think youre on a lake in the Canadian wilderness.
Youre not, but its a nice touch so close to Traverse City and Interlochen. Once you leave the campground on the hiking/mountain biking trails you wont see any signs of development.