I like to put one boot in front of the other in the sand dune country of Michigan, the mountains of New Zealand or the great wilderness areas of Alaska, following a path away from the chaotic noise of civilization and into the slower and quieter pace of the natural world.
I like to hike whether it’s for only 30 minutes on an interpretive path or two weeks across Isle Royale National Park. I like to hike because it cleanses the mind, refreshes the soul and – literally – strengthens the heart.
I like to hike because it’s uncomplicated, unrushed and inexpensive. All I need is a pair of well worn boots and a trail. I’ve been lacing up the same pair of boots for years and I’ve devoted most of my life to finding the trail.
In Alaska I went from being a sports editor to an outdoor writer. I gave up covering basketball and football to write guidebooks to wilderness areas. My first book, Tramping in New Zealand, was about backpacking in that Down Under country and was published by Lonely Planet. My second was a travel guide to Alaska with an emphasizes on escaping into the wild on the cheap. My third, Isle Royale National Park: Foot Trails and Water Routes, was a guide to Michigan’s wonderful island park.
Today trails form the basis of almost everything I do outdoors; hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing.
I’m lucky because I grew up and now live in a state that is blessed with trails. The Michigan State Park system has more than 90 units that are laced with nature walks, foot paths and mountain bike areas, so are the four National Forests in Michigan and the county parks that are found in every county. Isle Royale has 160 miles of hiking trails, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has more than 100 miles, the Michigan State Forests have 65 pathways that total 750 miles. The longest trail in the nation, the North Country Trail, crosses the Upper Peninsula and then the Lower Peninsula for a hike of 1,150 miles!
Most of my writing career has been focused on covering these trails in guidebooks, newspaper articles and magazine features. But due to the demise of print media, fueled by the Internet, I have recently chosen a different path.
Earlier this year a handful of us launched www.MichiganTrailMaps.com, an online resource for trail users. The basis of the web site is to help people find a trail, whether they want a long hike, an overnight trek, a winding single track. Coverage includes custom maps that can be downloaded and printed, detailed coverage, photos and, in the near future, video.
You can choose a trail by length, activity, the region in which it’s located or by the county. The site contains features and news on Michigan trails, organizations and resources for trail users and a newsletter that will highlight the newest trails that we’re researching.
You will also be able to read my blog, Trail Talk, a place where I plan to deliver commentary, views, humor, and the random thoughts that have occurred to me while following a trail through the woods.
With our limited staff, we realize that it’s going to take time to build up an inventory of trails on our site because we’re not just posting a park map and listing directions. We’re actually out there, mapping and photographing the trails so we can provide the best coverage possible. Still within a half year of launching, we’re up to 75 trails, more than most guidebooks offer, and can easily envision the day when we have hundreds online in every county of Michigan.
To those who have purchased my guidebooks and read my thousands of newspapers articles in the past, I want to say that I deeply appreciate it. Now I hope that I can encourage you to continue following me. My work is the same; promoting my passion for trails. It’s just the delivery that has changed.