Go Hike! Celebrate National Trails Day

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

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There is something soothing about hiking purely for pleasure. Saturday, June 4th, is the American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day®, the country’s largest celebration of trails. National Trails Day events take place across the nation, on trails of all sorts, including water trails.

The American Hiking Society states that in addition standard hiking, the day celebrates biking and horseback rides, paddling trips, bird watching, geocaching, gear demonstrations, and stewardship projects.

Michigan has thousands of miles of trails, with hundreds of miles of trails in Oakland County. Many Oakland County trails are family friendly and suitable for all ages.

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Links to major trails within the expanding Oakland County Trail Network are found at the websites of Huron-Clinton Metropark, Oakland County Parks and the trails link of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and are good resources for trail information.

Our county also has excellent local government trails including the West Bloomfield Trail Network and the Milford Trail, and of course there is the Polly Ann, Paint Creek and Clinton River rail-trails.

Have a passion for paddling? Consider the Shiawassee River Heritage Trail, the Huron River Water Trail or the Clinton River Water Trail.

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If new to hiking, or perhaps fearful of getting lost, get comfortable with well-marked trails at Kensington Metropark or Independence Oaks County Park.

An easy to follow network of Kensington Metropark natural surface trails begins at the Kensington Nature Center, and includes the one mile Chickadee Loop where chickadees may just land on your hand for a sunflower seed hand out. If a longer hike is in order, or you wish to cycle, consider the eight and one-half mile paved loop that circles around Kent Lake, one of the most popular trails at Kensington.

Independence Oaks County Park has a great variety of trails including the 2.4 mile Lakeshore Trail that circles Crooked Lake and is an excellent place to watch waterfowl. The 2.2 mile River Loop Trail, a flat terrain paved trail that embraces the headwaters of the Clinton River, is an easy and scenic trek. For a leg and lung workout at Independence Oaks, head to the interconnected Ted Gray, Rockridge and Spring Lake Loops. They have steep elevation changes as they cross glacial moraines.

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Why should we celebrate trails? Forget for a moment the numerous health benefits for the mind and body. Here’s the back story from the American Hiking Society.

“National Trails Day® evolved during the late ‘80s and ‘90s from a popular ethos among trail advocates, outdoor industry leaders and political bodies who wanted to unlock the vast potential in America’s National Trails System, transforming it from a collection of local paths into a true network of interconnected trails and vested trail organizations. This collective mindset hatched the idea of a singular day where the greater trail community could band together behind the NTD moniker to show their pride and dedication to the National Trails System.”

What the American Hiking Society does not share is this: hiking can be addicting. And it’s a lot of fun, no matter where you are. On this National Trails Day, I will be solo trekking the backcountry of South Manitou Island, an offshore island of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and my home base until the end of June. Where will you hike?

Jonathan Schechter is the Nature Education Writer for Oakland County Government and blogs weekly about nature’s way, trails, and wildlife on the Wilder Side of Oakland County.

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