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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

North Country Trail: Freesoil Trailhead to Bowman Lake

July 17-19, 2015
~54 miles roundtrip

Of all the national scenic trails, I have currently hiked the most miles on the North Country Trail, a 4600 mile trail from North Dakota to New York (soon Vermont). Whether it be beautiful segments in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (Border Route TrailKekekabic Trail), along Lake Superior's beautiful shoreline (Superior Hiking TrailPictured Rocks National Lakeshore), or in Michigan's Lower Peninsula (Manistee RiverJordan River Pathway), the NCT has provided exceptional backpacking opportunities.

I will have time to hike a significant portion of trail this summer and coming fall in Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula. Section hiking the NCT's established trail in the Lower Peninsula is becoming a realistic goal. This hike includes great scenery in the Manistee National Forest including the Big Sable River, McCarthy Lake, the Ward Hills, the Pere Marquette River, and Bowman Lake.

I began the hike at the Freesoil Trailhead, the same spot that I had turned around the previous weekend. For a map of the route see below.


Kiosk at the Freesoil Trailhead

There was an interesting stump on the trail.

There was some great single track through the forest.



There were also some large trees.


I came out to W 5 Mile Road and began an evening road walk.

On the way I passed a barn and also a campground.

The road walk also went between scenic lakes.

I reached the end of the road walk and joined official NCT.

There was a great evening view through the trees.


I came to the Vince Smith Memorial Bridge and the Big Sable River.


Big Sable River


Big Sable River

Big Sable River

I continued quickly to make it to McCarthy Lake before dark.

McCarthy Lake

I set up camp nearby.

McCarthy Lake in the morning


Back on the trail I enjoyed an extended stretch of trail to Highway 10.  I saw several mountain bikers out for early morning rides.  The trail was in good condition.  As I hiked the sky became quite dark and windy.  I contemplated using my headlamp.  Soon it began to rain and I looked up to make sure a tree didn't fall on me.


Highway 10

After crossing Highway 10, I returned to the trail until I came out to a road by some rail road tracks.  By this time it was raining quite hard so I took a break under the tree cover.  Soon I decided to continue hiking and hiked over to the Pere Marquette River.

Pere Marquette River

After crossing the river, the NCT entered the woods near the river.  There were some impressive steps constructed into the hillside.



The trail passed an interesting stream.


After another short road walk I came to the Bowman Lake Loop and continued on the NCT.


There was a group camped by Bowman Lake. I followed the trail around the lake's southern end.

Bowman Lake

I began my return hike on the other side of the Bowman loop.

I re-joined the NCT and continued the return to the road-walk.

The weather was warm and I took a break at the road.  Soon I was back at the Pere Marquette River.  I stopped at an overlooking ridge for a break.

Pere Marquette River




The Pere Marquette River is an officially designated National Wild and Scenic River.

I returned to the road-walk near the trail tracks.


After a fine stretch of trail and crossing Highway 10, I came to the spur trail to Timber Creek National Forest Campground.  I hiked over to the campground and re-filled my water supply at the pump.  Back at the junction I met some mountain bikers taking a break.  One had biked over 300 miles of the NCT in the Lower Peninsula on 5 different occasions.  He reported the need for bikers to take detours in certain sections, but this part of the NCT is certainly a favorite for bikers.

I decided to set up camp in the Ward Hills.

The next morning I continued my return hike.

There was some nice morning light shining through the trees.

Soon I was back at McCarthy Lake.

I took a break at the Big Sable River.

Big Sable River


I hiked the road walk portion.  I believe ~30 cars passed me as I hiked.

Back on the trail I passed some interesting mushrooms.

There was great forest hiking, but also a nice clearing with flowers.

Soon I was back at the Freesoil Trailhead.  Overall, this was another excellent weekend on the North Country Trail in lower Michigan.  I look forward to future adventures as I strive to complete a portion of this special National Scenic Trail.

About Me

I've been born and raised in the great state of Michigan. I recently graduated from physical therapy school. I enjoy being active, playing sports, and running. Backpacking has become a great interest as it is a physical challenge that provides many rewarding views and experiences. I strive to make a difference in the lives of those encounter in every day life, on the trail, or even just on this blog. May God bless each of you. Now go find an adventure! It's only a few feet away!