Learning to Love Running on a Ga-zillion Newaygo County Trails

Learning to Love Running on a Ga-zillion Newaygo County Trails

           The trees are heavy with the afternoon’s rain. Sagging evergreen branches hang over me; drip, drip, dripping onto the leafy floor. The sky is wrapped with clouds; dark blues and greys seeming to hold the sky closer to the Earth. The path is damp, rain having soaked through the first layer of floor, but the plants were desperate and took what they could, leaving no mud. My feet hit the path rhythmically, my breathing, though, is erratic and heavy. I’ve always hated running. I mean that word: hatewith all its intensity. When I was in high school and ran track, I would often fall behind the other girls on long runs. I would take short cuts. I would take breaks, hide out, emerging only at the end, the others wondering why my face was never as pink as theirs.

            I started this year because life got in the way of my having any type of normalcy. Life does that sometimes, gets in your way, weighs down on you. Having a specific schedule or joining a gym wasn’t in the cards for me, but I craved taking just a few minutes a day to be on my own, to better myself, to focus on things outside myself. So I started running (or walk-running, if I’m being honest). I started on pavement: down my family’s driveway, down our little road to M-37, down another side road, and back. I ran next to traffic, breathing in exhaust, waving at passersby, embarrassed by my cherry-face and sweat-stained t-shirts.

            …After a couple weeks of this, I had an epiphany. I live in River Country. We have endless legions of trails, paths, walking, hiking, and biking trails. Why was I not using those? I started in Croton, running the small loop down Front Street, then taking the consumers Energy trail along the Muskegon River, popping back out next to local favorite, Red Anchor. I would run it down and back, covering a mile and a half of trail. I enjoyed the quiet. Early in the morning, the light would bounce off the river and hit the trees, shimmering through their leaves. Fish were active in the morning. So were turtles, which would jump off logs as I’d pass by on the high bank.

            It took me weeks (because really, even at this point, I still dislike running), but eventually I was ready to go further. So I found a 5K Trail Run, beginning with the path that the Two Dam Tuff event uses on every October. It is exactly a 3-mile loop directly under Hardy Dam. It crosses one bridge (Built by Boy Scouts of America), winds around through heavy forests, wraps its way underneath the trees that line the Muskegon River. It is mossy and beautiful and well maintained. I’ve spent the summer watching it change: seeing the once few, now plentiful grasses forcing their way out from the leaves reminiscent of last fall. Oak and Maple leaves turning deep green, branches of evergreens extending, now hanging low with healthy needles. Baby birds are taking flight now, and their enthusiastic chirps echo off trunks, the cicadas buzz in a chorus of fervor.

            You do not have to be a runner to enjoy these trails. By all means, I am nota runner. But there is something meditative of being out of breath, zoned in to every step you’re taking. Jumping over logs, navigating tree roots, swatting at flies. Our County is littered with 1 to 3-mile sections that can get you out: walking, jogging, running. When I first began, my inhales came in sharply against the back of my throat, my stomach would cramp, I would miss steps and fall, scrape my knees. But now, it is not enough to just be outside. It is barely enough to suck in the air, to smell the growth, the hear the birds, to feel the pounding of my feet on the ground.

I recommend the Coolbough Natural Areas, which has trails in Newaygo, just off of Basswood and 68th. To see their map and for more information, visit:


The North Country Trail also has beautiful sections in White Cloud and Brooks Township. You can explore them on the Newaygo County Exploring website, as well as on the official North Country Trail Site:


For information on the Hardy Dam Rustic Nature Trail (The 5k trail I prefer to run!), check out: https://www.michigantrailmaps.com/member-detail/hardy-dam-rustic-nature-trail/


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About The Author

Carmen Faulkner

Carmen Faulkner is an avid travel enthusiast who grew up in Newaygo County. When she isn’t on the road, she splits her time between her home in Newaygo and the mountains of British Columbia. Her love for all things outdoors is paralleled only to her appreciation of food, coffee, and craft beer. You can find her in our community kayaking down the Muskegon River, hiking the North Country Trail, or enjoying the small businesses of downtown Newaygo.