Despite cold temperatures (40 F) and the potential for rain, I decided I needed to get outdoors and do some miles on the trail. So, I headed to the east of Battle Creek to complete another segment of the North Country Trail (NCT). Starting from the parking area at Kimball Pines Park, I first followed the trail to the community of Wattles Park, then turned around to hike all the way through to the northwest parking lot of the Ott Biological Preserve. Having reached that goal, I returned to Kimball Pines. The whole walk took about 3 hours, which included me taking a lot of pictures.
The trail is well blazed in all of these areas, even to some extent on the road connectors. It is also very level with little elevation change.
The major deviation from map MI-02 was addressed in my trip report for Historic Bridge Park to Wattles Park, so I won't repeat it here. I will note that there is apparently a trailhead at the western end of Historic Bridge Park where a trail enters what is called on some maps Riverside Park, so the entire trail may be available for use, but I did not verify whether or not you can walk the whole thing.
Initial hike south of East Michigan Avenue, including Kimball Pines Park
Since I parked my car close to the middle of this segment at the Kimball Pines Park parking area, I will report this hike in the order I walked it. Kimball Pines has a very large parking area; there are few events that would fill it (such as the Renaissance Faire). The entrance to Kimball Pines is at the rear of the Calhoun County Medical Care Facility & Adult Day Care at 1150 East Michigan Avenue in Emmett Township (east of Battle Creek).
I started in the New York direction (south), going into Kimball Pines. The pines are very pleasant to walk in and the trail is soft, often covered in pine needles. As you leave the park, the trail descends a bit and proceeds along a rail line (to the right). A drainage stream is located in this area, which drains under the track. Fortunately, there is a board bridge followed by a nice wooden bridge to allow hikers to cross without getting wet. The trail then ascends, still following the railroad until it makes a turn to head for the grounds of the old Wattles Park Jr High School. As I previously mentioned in the Introduction, there is a deviation from the map (though apparently there is still a trail) and now the NCT continues on roads down Crosby Drive in the community of Wattles Park.
When I reached South Wattles Road, I had met the "tag-up" spot from a previous hike, so I turned around to the North Dakota direction. Immediately, it started to rain and wind started blowing hard - a headwind, of course! Fortunately, it was only a five minute shower and the only one of the hike (and I was prepared for it, too). The walk back to Kimball Pines had not changed, of course - and I stopped on the wooden bridge for a picture of the stream.
From the parking lot at Kimball Pines heading in the ND direction, the NCT follows a couple of "holes" of the disc golf course located there. No one was playing as I walked through, and it was a short distance to leave Kimball Pines. There are no NCT markings on the paved driveway past the medical care facility, but at East Michigan Avenue there is a marker to point the direction of the NCT (right). On E Michigan there are several opportunities in a very short distance for refreshments, as well as a sign to point you to the Ott Preserve.
Ott Biological Preserve
From East Michigan Avenue, the NCT turns left onto Arlington Avenue and you can see the south parking lot for the Ott Preserve a block away. Through the parking lot is the entrance and the NCT again leaves roads for trails. The trail through the Ott Preserve is well marked, though it is also signed (and blazed) for the Ott's own trails. There are many benches to rest upon, though I only saw them in the southern portion of the Preserve. There are two boardwalks through sensitive wetland areas (one of them pretty long), which leads me to think that "Biological Preserve" is simply a nice way of saying "swamp".
Two of the trails (East Esker and Main Esker) have the word "esker", which is a glacial deposit that forms a ridge. I learned that from one of the nice signs located throughout. Evidently, the trails are on the eskers so you don't have to walk in the low swampy places! The NCT proceeds through the Ott Preserve to the northwest parking lot, which is located next to a trailer park in the community of Brownlee Park (also in Emmett Township). At this point I turned around to head back (in the NY direction).
As before, there was nothing different about the trail on the return trip. However, I stopped to take some pictures of Brigham Lake (just off the NCT on a very short side trail). I also noted the the signs were biased toward travel in the other direction. Emerging from the woods into the south parking lot, I continued on Arlington Avenue to East Michigan Avenue and took a right.
Final hike back to Kimball Pines Park
There are two nice road signs to take a left for Kimball Pines Park and the NCT on East Michigan Avenue, but it is not obvious exactly where to take the left. The place to turn is into the driveway for the medical facility. At the back of the drive is the Kimball Pines Park entrance, as previously noted. Right after you enter, the NCT kiosk and the trail go into the woods to the right - along the disc golf course. Soon, the trail comes to the parking area and this is where I ended my hike for the day.
See the attached album. The pictures were taken in time order. However, for travel order they should be viewed in the following order.
Wattles Park to Kimball Pines: 1333 - 1340 - 1346 - 1348 - 1353a - 1354 - 1354b
Kimball Pines through E Michigan Ave: 1356 - 1401 - 1405 - 1407 - 1411 - 1415 - 1416 - 1419 - 1419a - 1422
Ott Preserve: 1425 - 1427 - 1430 - 1437 - 1446 - 1453 - 1459 - 1504
Ott Preserve: 1504a - 1505a - 1514 - 1528 - 1532 - 1540 - 1542a
E Michigan Ave through Kimball Pines: 1545 - 1548 - 1550 - 1553 - 1554 - 1557 - 1557a - 1300 - 1303
Kimball Pines to Wattle Park: 1311 - 1312 - 1313 - 1319 - 1322 - 1324 - 1332
Additional scenery pictures are:
1354a (looking upstream from the wooden bridge)
1435 (Ott Preserve sign - what an "esker" is)
1439 (looking toward Brigham Lake from bridge on boardwalk)
1522 (Brigham Lake)
Connector info to the next NCT segments
In the ND direction, after the Ott Preserve the NCT follows some of the ugliest road walk you will see anywhere. The Battle Creek Linear Park is 1.8 miles away. I don't want to beat up on Brownlee Park too badly - and I am sure there are nice people who live there - but it is not the nicest neighborhood. After that, it is about a mile of industrial hell (including a foundry and a cement plant). There's a decent looking bridge on Emmett Street, but it goes over a major set of railroad tracks. I suppose I could mention that for male hikers looking for a diversion there is a "gentlemen's club" a short distance south as you turn from Jameson onto Raymond (the NCT goes north here). But, I do not guarantee the quality of the scenery in that place, either! (No, I have not been there myself, in case you were wondering.)
In the NY direction, from the corner of Crosby and South Wattles in Wattles Park, the road connector south to Historic Bridge Park is about 0.7 miles.
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