I completed this part of the North Country Trail (NCT) on two separate days, 02 and 17 Apr. 02 Apr was as good of an early spring day as you can get in Michigan. The temperature was projected to be about 80 F with a nice breeze, with a good amount of sun - but not too bright. 17 Apr was also pleasant though cool, about 50 F with sun and clouds.
One of the reasons I am making this report is that it is hard to follow the NCT using just the map. There are some subtle details that are not present, and in general some places on the trail are not well blazed - though mostly this was not the case in this part of the Lost Nation State Game Area.
The trail was generally level with very gentle ups and downs, though there were a couple of decent elevation changes (maybe 100 ft - this is southern Michigan after all). It was generally a dirt trail with no rocks and no paved sections. The woods roads were also dirt with no rocks, but well-graded and could have been suitable for most vehicles.
The NCT deviates from the map west of Tripp Road. I was able to follow it to determine how it arrives at M-34 (Hudson Road), and therefore suggest a road connector to the next segment of the NCT. I verified that there is a blue blaze at the point where a rail trail crosses Blackbridge Road between Beecher Road and Monroe Street in Osseo. This eventually connects to the southeast end of the Baw Beese Trail, which then extends through Hillsdale.
The map indicates that Blackbridge Road and Black Road are road connectors to another uncertified section. On 02 Apr I went to Black Road and could not find any blue blazes at that location, so I believe that this has been abandoned as part of the NCT. In addition, there were no blue blazes at the Trail Road trailhead, so I believe this also is no longer part of the NCT, though it is still a good access point.
Lake Number Five area
On 02 Apr, I started from the nearest parking area to the Lake Number Five trailhead - this is actually located on Gilbert Road, maybe 0.5 mi south. I started in the North Dakota direction, intending to hike for 1-2 hours (whatever felt good) and then turn around at an obvious landmark. After the road walk (9 min), I entered the woods near Lake Number Five.
View of Lake Number Five
Shortly after I started, I heard gunfire. I thought, is it still hunting season? Eventually, I decided to turn back, figuring it was better to be safe. As I walked back to my car I met a local person building a house near the road. He told me that there is a shooting range in the area, right near the path of the trail, and that hunting season is over! Note that I was told the range is safe - they shoot into a bank and there is no danger of stray bullets. (Also, the last season is rabbit, over 01 Apr.) So, the game area is safe for hiking until next hunting season.
I decided to hike this trail from the next trailhead back, so I drove to the Tripp Road trailhead.
On 17 Apr, I returned to complete this part of the NCT. There is parking for Lake Number Five located off of Way Road, so this area can also be used as a trailhead. I started again in the ND direction, and after leaving the Lake Number Five area the trail goes up in elevation. The NCT is not so well-blazed in this area and the trail need some clearing in places. There are some other unmarked trails in this area, so this can be confusing - you need to look for the blazes to make sure you follow the NCT. There is also a sign indicating where the gun range is - and it would obviously be a bad idea to trespass!
The trail ascends
I reached the river crossing, which I had previously determined was a part of the East Branch of the St. Joseph River (see next section), put on flip-flops and crossed back and forth to tag-up my previous hike. The current was rather strong and the rocks were slippery - half of them were submerged! I turned around to the New York direction and returned to the parking area.
Tripp Road area - on and east of Tripp Road
On 02 Apr, from the Tripp Road parking area, I started in the NY direction, thinking I would complete the sub-section I abandoned due to the gunfire sounds. I did not see the trailhead from the car on my drive to the parking area, so I had to walk back along Tripp Road and look for it. I actually missed it again while walking - the blaze is across a narrow river (this is actually the East Branch of the St. Joseph River). I walked all the way to Way Road and finally looked across the water on the way back. The trailhead is just a short distance south of a chicken farm - lots of chickens in this person's front yard! (Noisy, too!)
The water was a little too high to go across on the rocks. I could have gone barefoot but I decided instead that I would return with flip-flops for the water crossing, and do this sub-section another time.
Thus, I turned around to the ND direction to do the next sub-section west of Tripp Road. From the river crossing, I went north on Tripp Road, passed the chicken farm again, and a short distance north of the parking area I turned left for the trailhead.
Tripp Road area - west of Tripp Road
On 02 Apr, continuing in the ND direction, I crossed the bridge/dam (whatever it is) and proceeded on a woods road (probably part of Trail Road, but this is not open to vehicles). Eventually, I came to the place where the trail has been re-routed from the current map. Instead of continuing on Trail Road to the gate and the Trail Road trailhead, it now turns north onto another woods road (probably part of Tote Road, also not open to vehicles). The NCT continues on the woods road until it reaches an earth barrier and then becomes a trail.
On the other side of the barrier is the dead end (for vehicles) of Tote Road. So, this can now be used as a parking area to access this part of the NCT. Tote Road can be accessed from Perrin Road off of M-34 west of Pittsford, Michigan.
Be careful to follow the NCT at this point. I took a detour onto another unmarked trail here and followed it for a couple of minutes before I realized my mistake.
I followed the trail until I reached another water crossing! Again, it was the East Branch of the St. Joseph River, just further upstream. As before, I decided not to wade, and I decided I had done enough exploratory hiking for the day. I turned around to head in the NY direction and returned to my car. There were no other items of interest to report, outside of the nice scenery of the water and woods, and plenty of nice wildlife sounds.
East Branch of the St. Joseph River - no ford!
On 17 Apr, I returned to complete this part of the NCT. I parked at the end of Tote Road and hiked about 7 minutes in the ND direction to reach the river. A crossing in flip-flops was easy; the water was about mid-calf deep with a decent current. It was a little muddy on the north bank. The trail proceeded north and slightly uphill and was well-marked until the blazes ended abruptly. I continued on the now-unmarked trail, which I presume was the NCT, to a trailhead and parking area on M-34. Turning around the NY direction, the hike was uneventful with the return river crossing as easy as before.
I left the timestamps on the picture titles for reference.
FYI - I took most of these pictures with my Blackberry phone camera. That was not my original intention, but my digital camera froze up on me on 02 Apr and the battery ran out on 17 Apr! The Blackberry pictures turned out better than I expected.
Picture order for hiking:
ND direction, starting at Gilbert Road parking area -
20100402 0942, 0944, 0952, 0953, 1001, 1002
20100417 1301, 1341, 1321, 1325
Reach mid-point at Tripp Road parking area -
20100402 1100, 1107, 1108, 1112, 1123, 1123b, 1125, 1129, 1136, 1142, 1147
20100417 1205, 1206, 1212, 1219, 1219a
End at M-34 parking area
NY direction, starting at M-34 parking area -
20100417 1218, 1219, 1222, 1225
20100402 1155, 1204, 1208, 1216, 1217
Reach mid-point at Tripp Road parking area -
20100402 1040, 1046, 1058
20100417 1335, 1338, 1339, 1347, 1350
20100402 1007, 1011, 1013, 1014, 1023
End at Gilbert Road parking area
- 20100402 0958 (Lake Number Five)
- 20100417 1204 (East Branch St. Joseph River)
- 20100402 1044 (Chickens!)
- 20100417 1310 (Shooting range sign)
- 20100417 1347 (Shooting range sign destroyed)
Connector info to next NCT segments
In the ND direction, from the M-34 parking area the NCT road connector turns left onto M-34 (Hudson Road). Then, the road connector takes the next right onto Chase Road - this is about a quarter mile west. Chase Road proceeds north and then northwest for less than a half mile, and then merges into Beecher Road. The road connector follows Beecher Road through the village of Osseo past the green. At the point which the trail crosses Blackbridge Road there is a blue blaze to mark the next part of the NCT. This segment eventually joins the Baw Beese Trail.
In the NY direction, the northwest section of the Lost Nation State Game Area joins the southeast section at the Gilbert Road parking area.
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