Letters

Letters 04-14-14

Benishek Inching

Regarding “Benishek No Environmentalist” I agree with Mr. Powell’s letter to the editor/ opinion of Congressman Dan Benishek’s poor environmental record and his penchant for putting corporate interests ahead of his constituents’...

Climate Change Warning

Currently there are three assaults on climate change. The first is on the integrity of the scientists who support human activity in climate change. Second is that humans are not capable of affecting the climate...

Fed Up About Roads

It has gotten to the point where I cringe when I have to drive around this area. There are areas in Traverse City that look like a war zone. When you have to spend more time viewing potholes instead on concentrating on the road, accidents are bound to happen...

Don’t Blame the IRS

I have not heard much about the reason for the IRS getting itself entangled with the scrutiny of certain conservative 501(c) groups (not for profit) seeking tax exemption. Groups seeking tax relief must be organizations that are operated “primarily for the purpose of bringing about civic betterment and social improvements.”


Home · Articles · News · Features · Shingle Mill Pathway
. . . .

Shingle Mill Pathway

Mike Terrell - July 26th, 2010
Shingle Mill Pathway: As close as you can get to wilderness in the lower peninsula
By Mike Terrell
One of the great wilderness tracts in the Lower Peninsula is the
97,000-acre Pigeon River Country State Forest.  Located east of I-75
and Vanderbilt, it is host to a wide variety of outdoor activities;
hiking, mountain biking, trout fishing, hunting, horseback riding,
and, in the winter, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and
snowmobiling.
 While it may be a misnomer to call the state forest wilderness – most
of it is accessible* – the Pigeon remains a haven of peace and
wildness.  It is home to the largest elk herd east of the Mississippi
River, which I’ve seen while both mountain biking and cross-country
skiing.  There are also lots of deer, black bear, bobcat and snowshoe
hare.  You see massive beaver lodges on many of the little lakes that
dot the area.  Pileated woodpeckers and eagles are often spotted.
I’ve never seen one, but the DNRE has confirmed that wolves are
present in the northern Lower Peninsula.  With a natural food source
like deer and elk present, the Pigeon would be a very attractive
habitat for wolves, but, to my knowledge, none have been spotted yet.

CHOICES, CHOICES
Ernest Hemingway hunted and fished all three major rivers as a
teenager – the Pigeon, Sturgeon and Black rivers – that flow north
through the state forest. He loved the area and wrote that it was
“wild as the devil.”
The forest offers a couple of opportunities for backpackers.  There’s
the High Country Pathway, a 77-mile loop that passes through four
counties and the heart of the northern Lower Peninsula.  Most
backpackers need at least five days, and many take a week, to complete
the circle hike.
You can camp almost anywhere along the route as long as you’re 100
feet away from the trail or any body of nearby water, and there are
also designated campgrounds.  Three of the campgrounds exist along the
most popular trail, the Shingle Mill Pathway, which is an 11-mile loop
with shorter segments.  The first-half of the loop shares the same
trail as the High Country Pathway.
Shingle Mill is popular with both hikers, for overnight trips, and
mountain bikers, who enjoy biking along the scenic Pigeon River.
Along the way you cross the Pigeon twice, cruise along scenic
“sinkhole lakes” -- meaning small lakes and lily ponds -- and climb to
a panoramic overlook of Grass Lake and distant hills up to 20 miles
away.  The trail is mostly hard-pack dirt with a few sandy sections
and lots of roots.  Oh yeah, there’s also one long section of
boardwalk over a bog-like area near the end.  Walking your mountain
bike over the fairly narrow walkway is a good idea.

LOGISTICS
The trail starts in the back of the campground that you encounter
after crossing the Pigeon River Bridge on Sturgeon Valley Road out of
Vanderbilt.  The bridge is about 11 miles due east of the village.
You park across the road from the campground in the designated parking
area.
There are three small loops when you first start out that total about
a mile-and-a-half between signposts 1-4.  When you come to signpost 3
you head toward signpost 5 and the 6, 10 and 11-mile trails.  If you
head towards signpost 4 it leads back to the campground and starting
point.
You quickly move away from the river, which you won’t see for another
three miles.  The trail climbs a wooded ridge once you leave the
river.  It descends to the Pigeon River Country State Forest
headquarters at about two miles, which is an impressive large log
lodge full of information on the land, its history, and all the
recreational opportunities that it holds.  The lobby displays are
quite nice.
At three miles the pathway drops down into another campground and
crosses the Pigeon on a forest road bridge where you can soak your
feet in a pool that campers created by partially damning the stream
with rocks.  Many of the campsites are right along the rustic river.
There are toilets, picnic tables and drinking water from an artesian
well.
The six-mile loop breaks off here, climbs a steep ridge and heads over
to rejoin the longer loop at signpost 12.  It’s about a
mile-and-a-half across to the post and than another mile-and-a-half
back to the Pigeon River Bridge campground and starting point.

GHOST TOWN
If you choose to continue on the longer, scenic trail, you head on
over to signpost 7 where the 11-mile loop splits from the 10-mile
loop.  I wouldn’t recommend the extra mile for mountain bikers.  If
you’re hiking, it’s okay.  It drops steeply down by the river again
and back up.  It does pass a historical marker where an old lumbering
mill once stood that was called Cornwall Flats.
The 10-mile loop continues on over to Grass Lake, another walk-in
campground on a lily-padded pond, and climbs to the scenic overlook at
signpost 10.  Distant hills, 20 miles away, blend into the horizon.
It’s a great place to relax and enjoy the incredible view after the
long climb.
At signpost 11 the High Country Pathway, which you’ve been sharing
since leaving the starting point, heads on north and Shingle Mill
turns back south.   After a nice long downhill run by the Devil’s Soup
Bowl, one of two sinkhole lakes that you pass, you drop down along
beautiful Grass Lake.  Stop and observe some of the large beaver
lodges found along its edge.
The Pathway continues rolling through forest and some extensive
clear-cut areas before passing Ford Lake and reaching signpost 12.
You’re just a little over a mile from the end.
It’s one of the truly great mountain bike rides in the Lower
Peninsula, and not a bad hike either.  Jeremiah Johnson would have
loved this place.

“Wilderness” is a term generally reserved to any place that requires
at least a full day’s hike from any road -- ed.

 
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