Our plans were to head north as soon as possible but we had to change and go east because of the vast flooding in Missouri. The camp we had reservations at completely flooded and they were even trying to call me to let me know they had to close. With this event we headed to Hayes Canyon Campground in Illinois. www.hayescanyon.com With over 11 hours on the road because of the rerouted traffic and usual pit stops for dogs, humans and of course the main actor Cisco who refused water at every stop adding to the frustration by making me want to stop more often to offer him water! We finally arrived at Hayes and were warmly greeted by Ben and Patti Laubscher, the husband and wife team who live there with their 4 kids. The sites were tight but level and I backed in next to a $100,000 plus motor home with no horse in their corral. Cisco plainly rejected the slanting, small pen with the obligatory tree in the middle and I noticed that the adjoining pen had one as well. I had reserved a stall but Patti told me they were 10 by 10 and Cisco was just too big to be stuck in that size stall after such a long ride so he had to make do in his arboretum pen with enough walking space to stretch his legs a little. He hated it and screamed and called and that continued all night. Burton was exhausted but we finally got a snack and threw ourselves into bed. He snored, the dogs snored and horse screamed….long night for me. With sleep not an option at this point I decided to try one of the two very comfy recliners I had gotten to replace my couch but in order to raise the foot rest I had to move one of the snoring dogs. Talk about grumpy, you would think I asked him to go hunt for food! Got the dog moved, raised up my feet, kicked up only to hear Cisco determined to get me out there and do something about his accommodations. I pacified him with a half ration of his breakfast and tried to go back to bed/recliner. Dogs still snoring, husband …well, that was now a full blown roar and again I had to move one of the dogs to put up the foot rest. Sometimes my only salvation is day light and night lingered on with me being serenaded for several hours until light broke. Cisco must have found a comfortable spot (I’m glad somebody did!) so I leased the now fully recovered and energetic dogs and took a stroll around camp. I found many permanent sites and a few that looked like they were for haul-ins. With the dogs walked and husband still snoring, I decided to saddle up and see some of the trails. Salvation at last…the trails although muddy were awesome, creeks and rock formations were enticing my attention in every direction. So worth the ritualistic serenade night had brought! Back at the trailer I wasn’t speaking to Burton, he can get his own lunch, in fact he can get his own dinner for that matter. So here’s a guy who sets aside his whole routine to help me fulfill my agenda….and I’m mad at him because he snores? So slap me, I’m a real “ b” gal when I don’t have any sleep!
Yankee Springs outside of Bradly, Michigan was our next camp and we arrived after 9 hours of driving. Chicago was a real bear to get around with the road heavy with construction. But, Yankee Springs was a delight. No hook ups but large sites and plenty of grass for Cisco. We set up his electric pen and settled in for the night. Sleep, oh, I couldn’t wait and didn’t…I fell right off, never knowing if Burton or the dogs whistled up a tune or not. But, sleep for me is a real luxury and to make sure I didn’t get a full night a truck pulling a rattling, flat- bed trailer announced it’s arrival at about 4 am. Within a second a fellow started to flash his spot light all around looking for something he must have left at the adjoining site. So now I got up to try to be sure Cisco wasn’t upset with all the light beams shadowing through the trees, dogs just slept, Burton never moved an inch. Me, I was wondering where my 38 was…
Up and ready to leave by 9, but not until after I took Cisco over the confidence course the riding club had set up right there in camp. We headed to Chase, Michigan where we were to camp at D Bar D Campground. D Bar D was perfect with water, electric and pens. We connected the trailer and Cisco had a big pen right outside the door.
With Cisco safe in a pen Burton and I went to locate the next few remote camps to see if we could get our big trailer to them. Cadillac was first and the gate was locked as I had been told, on to Hopkins Creek and we found a very nice primitive campground, then on to Schecks and there we found lush grass knee high and very accessible for our trailer. I was good to go on Wed.
Cadillac to Hopkins Creek 17 miles
Hitting the trail felt wonderful! Cisco rode like a wild horse with so much energy that he was almost uncontrollable. I had started to feed him Purina Senior to boost his calorie intake and he always acted like rouge horse until he burnt a few calories off. The trail was easy to follow but relatively flat with just a few undulating hills. The trail turned onto a road and we followed it for miles with big trucks and flying cars but Cisco didn’t seem to mind any of them until a large chicken manure truck roared up a hill and barreled down on us. Luckily I had pulled him off the road onto a hill side when I heard the engine and even with some trees between us Cisco was sure he was about to be eaten. Back on the road we continued for miles with Cisco getting thirsty and we were able to get water from under a bridge (I threw my bucket over the side and hauled it back up) We had tried to ease into a few wet areas for a drink and the sides of those were too bog like with Cisco sinking immediately so we backed out and waited until the bridge being very cautious as I had been told about Michigan’s boggy creek sides swallowing up horses. Finally the trail pulled off and headed towards the distant camp. Crossing a few creeks and riding a long meadow we saw the trailer in the distance.
Hopkins Creek to Schecks 21.5 miles
I couldn’t wait to get to Schecks nestled along the Boardman River. The entire camp was lush with green grass and Cisco was constantly reaching for the fresh stuff, only eating hay when he had to. The transition to travel feed and Cisco’s big, abundant grass pasture at home is always touchy and I stay aware for any signs of discomfort
so seeing grass made me feel much more at ease. So far the Michigan camps have been primitive and with only poles for high lines and areas to park. I hadn’t expected much else as my research suggested that even in private camps with hookups there weren’t any pens. Cisco easily adapted to his electric pen except that I had been feeding him Equine Senor to help with his digestion and weight and it had him so high that he saw spooks in every shadow. He could have easily walked right over the white tape but he was respectful and never tested it. Getting to Shecks was interesting with a lot of road walking and hot sand road base. A few times we ducked into the woods and enjoyed the single track but mostly it was two track and heavy sand. We had to cross Hwy 131 and there didn’t appear that the locals had any regard for horse people as they zoomed by at 70s miles per hour in the 55 zone. We finally caught a break, crossed and hurried along to get out of ear range of the traffic. Our final few miles was heavy sand until we got close to the river and there it was an oasis! Trees shaded the river which we gained on as we climbed down to it. I had been warned that the river crossing might be difficult and I fretted about crossing this one. Was I to expect a boggy bottom, swimming deep water….well, how about a concrete bridge! We crossed right over Boardman and Bo tried to find access to the water but the banks were too steep. Now just a short bit to camp and Burton had parked in a wonderful spot where Cisco could see the river and eat grass all night.
Schecks to Rapid River (Kalkaska) Camp 18 miles
Schecks to Rapid River was a long ride travelling over an old dirt road for much of the trail. We rode through young trees which had recently been harvested and followed the dirt road for miles. The temperature was fine and Cisco covered it with ease. I had fretted about the river crossings and even searched out locals to advise me but was pleasantly surprised to find that the river crossings looked challenging but actually were good footing and easy, although rather deep.
Bo enjoyed the swim and the current wasn’t strong enough for me to worry about him. We rode right up to where Burton had already set up camp with a nice paddock for graze and a level spot for the trailer.
Rapid River to Goose Creek 23 miles
Oh, Goose Creek – it was a delightful camp which Burton and I went to look at before I rode to it. I was not looking forward to the 25 miles of riding to get there, though, Burton trailered us to Meyers Road across from the golf course and we started off from there. We followed along the road with Bo almost getting hit by a speeding car but finally got to a single track and enjoyed the scenery. We crossed what looked like rivers on the maps but turned out to be nothing more than large creeks but I did fret about crossing a couple of fingers of the Manistee River which was just before getting into camp. Again the river crossing wasn’t an issue. Burton again had a nice camp set up.
Goose Creek Camp to Four Mile (24 miles) 8 miles
The trail to Four Mile involved miles and miles of road walking and I really didn’t want to expose Cisco and Bo to the heavy traffic so I only rode a few miles out to I 75 and had Burton pick me up at Interstate 75. Although the trail was pretty so far I just didn’t want to chance the road crossings and traffic. The short ride was interesting with meadows, some elevation gain and recent logging and logging equipment along a good sandy path. I enjoyed knowing it was a short ride and gaited and galloped until Cisco was tiring.
Four Mile to Luzerne Camp 22 miles
Four Mile Camp turned out to be a very sad camp. We decided to not even stay there and hauled to Luzerne Camp. Burton drove me back to the closest place on the trail where it wasn’t a nasty dirty gravel road. This was at McDonald Trailhead and I started right off going on the wrong trail. It took me a half mile to realize I was on the hikers trail and had to back track. Once I headed out on the correct tail I would only have to ride 14 or 15 miles to Luzerne and only cross highways and not ride along side of them, although I still had 3 crossings of big highways. We rode along a high line and then down into Barker Creek where there was a nice horse watering spot and
interesting bridge for horses and foot travel called Smith Bridge. Crossing the bridge we entered into the forest again and rode away from the road. Finally, we crossed Hwy 72 and rode along on an old railroad bed enjoying the signs of hard mule work which put in the rocks and timbers to make the grade level. We did have to duck in and out of branches and go around many downed trees. Along the way we saw a mother bear heading right in our direction and I finally realized she was trying to get to her cub so I called Bo close and hollered at the mama – both mama and baby bear joined up and were startled to find us in their path. I really liked this part of the trail and it’s wilderness feel and elevation changes. We passed the Walsh Road cut off and soon arrived at Luzerne Camp where Burton had a wonderful camp set up under big trees and it even had a bit of graze.
Luzerne to McKinley
The trail out of Luzerne was lovely and in deep woods and I was looking forward to riding the long bridge which they had just rebuilt for the horse people. This Luzerne Bridge was a long wooden structure with high sides and passed over a swamp, unfortunately the bridge was not finished so I had to either go around on roads or back to Luzerne and get Burton to haul me around it. I chose to haul to McKinley and ride back west. It was great and mostly single track, passing through timbered land but always interesting and pretty. McKinley was a great primitive camp with lots of places to camp with graze for Cisco. We truly enjoyed our stay.
McKinley to South Branch
The trail out of McKinley started out mucky and slippery, undulating and crossing many bridges. I decided to split the ride up into two days as it was 27 long miles to get to South Branch.
Burton and I had agreed to meet at Bamfield and Brodie Road where there was a big 4 way intersection and several trees with graze to relax. The trip down the trail was along the AuSable River but I couldn’t see much of it from the saddle. The trees shielded the river and banks but was certainly pretty and I enjoyed the wild life and serenity. When I came back the following morning I was delighted to be able to see the river and we rode for miles following it. I found a couple of nice watering spots, seeing birds, a young owl and lots of deer. I found this the most beautiful part of the entire Michigan Shore to Shore Trail and was happy to see the South Branch Camp was a lovely campground with pines and oaks and lots of graze.
South Branch to River Road and Oscoda.
As we enjoyed South Branch so much we decided to use it for home base for the next few days and Burton hauled me back to camp each night. The ride to River Road just basically was parallel to River Road but south a few miles. The trail was rather dull after riding next to the AuSable River yesterday and it turned out that the River Road Camp hadn’t been opened for the season so Burton had a hard time turning around on the little dirt road but he managed and loaded up and went back to South Branch. The next morning the trail was plain and lacking challenge except for the in town riding we did to get to Lake Huron, but Lake Huron was an adventure. The wind had the lake frothing and swells were ocean like…Cisco didn’t want any part of it but we had to at least put our feet in it! The temperature was very cold and with the strong wind pulling the waves towards us we decided that pictures were okay and didn’t press the issue.
Walsh Road Camp, Johnson Crossing
From South Branch we hauled back and went north to Walsh Camp. I enjoyed our camp at Walsh as there were other horses and campers. The trail out was mostly old road and I quickly became bored with it but did enjoy the prospect of possible cross country riding if we were to stay. We didn’t and headed north to Johnson Crossing. The trail around Johnson crossing was again mostly road so I had Burton pick me up and we headed north to Stoney Creek. Again the trails were on roads although mostly dirt but we decided to haul to Mackinaw Camp, Lake Michigan and just take a few pictures. Cisco was happy to be riding and resting in the trailer and we found our way to the public beach and Trails End Bay. It was so cold the dogs wouldn’t even get out of the truck so we could get their pictures.
Schecks to Lake Dubonnet, Garey Lake to Lake Michigan
Hauling back to Schecks Camp was a delight except that now the camp was spoiled with some “entitled” horse person who didn’t clean up after himself. The pristine camp had piles of hay and manure which I cleaned and dispersed cursing as I did. We were able to camp outside the regular camp area where there was tall grass and big trees to shade Cisco from the sun. Up and saddled by 7 I rode off towards Lake Dubonnet following along a single track until we came to Blair Townhall Road. We ended up passing right by the fairgrounds and Burton really wanted some electricity after only having the generator for weeks so he pulled the rig to the RV section and Cisco had a “draft” stall to lounge around in for the night! We decided to make that our home base for the rest of the trip and haul out and back each day. Next morning we disconnected the truck and searched the trail ahead only to find that there was again a lot of road riding and this area was serious roads where Bo would not be able to come along. The trucks and highway traffic had no interest in yielding to a horse and rider let alone a dog. I was very disappointed in the number of miles of paved road and dense traffic. It was unsafe and I would never recommend anyone ride this section unless they were with the organized group which gathers a couple of times a year. A solo rider is at severe risk! But we hauled back and forth with me calling Burton
and getting him to pick me up whenever I got sick of the roads. I finally just gave it up and we drove to Empire and took some pictures of Lake Michigan!
I am delighted to have been able to experience this trail but would never recommend the Michigan Shore to Shore as a "solo ride" because of the miles of heavy traffic road riding! But, I loved going and glad I did!