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:

http://www.brookstownship.org/cool.html

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:

https://northcountrytrail.org/docs/maps/NCT-MI-MNFNewaygoCoKiosk.pdf

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/

 

Freedom Fest

          When I grew up, it was a seemingly simple affair. We were a small family, myself an only child, and our extended family didn’t visit often. During the cold-weather holidays, we would always venture their way, with some dish wrapped tightly in towels and hot...

Guiso What?

Guiso What?  The joy of cooking – over a fire! Campers, holiday-makers, hostesses and hosts: what is your favorite table to sit around? Is it one that you decorate during the holidays with special napkins, plates, crystal or glass? Is it the one you congregate on...

Power Paddle

            On Saturday morning at 10am, under sheets of rain, they sat waiting for the gunshot. The solo canoeists (known as C1), steadied their boats in the chop. The shot rang out, barely audible over the wind and rain meeting the lake; the racers plunged their...

A Tale of Shaky Legs

            “I don’t like it,” Ron says, smiling. I’m holding the board as close to the dock as I can, trying to steady it while he steps on. “I don’t like it,” he says again as I push it gently away, and hand him the paddle. (He’s still smiling, mind you). His legs...

How About a Walk on The Edge?

The Edge is a hiking and biking trail that runs along the Muskegon River on roads from Hardy Dam to Croton Dam. It's a slightly downhill stretch, so if you are running expect to have a fantastic pace per mile. I participated in a race a few years ago that started at...

Take a Walk – Art Gems in Fremont

When the weather and schedule permits, I walk to pick up my children from school. This gives us a chance to talk about their day without having to navigate after school traffic and attitudes. If we drive home, the ride is filled with complaints about car-sickness and...

A Branstrom Park Afternoon

With the sun shining brightly and spring in the air, one Sunday afternoon was the perfect day to hit the trails. I headed for Branstrom Park, in Fremont, to take a tour around the hiking trails there. The trails double as the Fremont Cross Country course, and the fun...

Birds of Newaygo County

In Newaygo County we’re lucky to have a plethora of birds to see and hear while exploring the trails and natural outdoor spaces throughout the region. It is true that many birds don’t stay in Michigan during the winter-yet even then we have many bird species. One...

Michigan-Made Syrup

Tapping and Boiling: A (Mostly!) Spring Guide to Michigan-Made Syrup The Tap I’ll never be one to complain about the coming of spring. Every year I look forward to the snow being replaced by morning frost, warming throughout the day. I look forward to the budding of...

Success at Dam to Dam 2018

by Carmen Faulkner At sunrise, the serious contenders went out. They walked or snowshoed or rode snowmobiles. Some carried ice shanties, others stuck true to what I would consider to be the ‘old school, torturous’ tradition of sitting on buckets in the wind and cold....

Acquiring and Operating Snowmobiles

By Samantha Breza There are no places to rent a snowmobile at in Newaygo County at this time. Snowmobilers have to own a snowmobile already or purchase one at David Allen Racing Motorsports on Maple Island Road. Winter clothes and goggles can be purchased at Dunham...

A Beginner’s Guide to Snowshoeing Apparel

By Samantha Breza What supplies are needed on a snowshoeing trip depends on where the snowshoer is going and how long they’re going to be there. Snowshoers hiking on mountain trails during the winter need hydration systems, avalanche transceivers, signaling mirrors,...

Rookie Deer Hunting in Newyago County

By: Nick Smith As a new Newaygo County Resident, I was very excited to find a place to hunt this deer season.  Over the past year, I have heard many successful hunting stories from people I have met, and seen some nice size deer while traveling from place to place. ...

Ensley Township Nature Preserve

By Wendy Sinicki Tucked in the southeastern corner of Newaygo County is a wonderful place to spend time hiking, especially with the family. The Ensley Township Nature Preserve, 6985 136th Street, Sand Lake, just west of Cypress Avenue, is designed with children in...

Are You Two Dam Tuff?

Are you Two Dam Tuff?   It's a question that gets asked the first Saturday in October each and every year in Newaygo County.  For those "in the know", The Croton and Hardy Dams are separated by about 6 miles as the crow flies, and are spectacular tourist draws in...

Exploring the Rustic Trail

The Hardy Dam Rustic Trail is just that: rustic, but in the best sense. This gem offers tree lined trails and picturesque views giving hikers of all abilities a sense of reconnecting with nature even for just a short time. For the first-time user, it is helpful to...

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.