Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wilbo Discovers a Hiker on the North Country Trail Who Ain't Got Time to Chat Long Near Kalkaska @PureMichigan

I am incorrect. The North Country Trail follows the north bank of the Manistee River. Searching in vain for a boardwalk that a sign described. The bridge carries US 131 over the river, the freeway heading toward Kalkaska. I see few signs of trolls although admittedly this would be an okay place for a backpacker to escape rain for a while. A straight down rain would gather on the roadway. A sideways rain might leave no spot dry for a backpacker without a tent. Plus the entire slope except for the trail bed has been strewn with granite boulders, rip rap to hold embankments in place.

While walking the North Country Trail to this point, through a dense forest with trees blazed with blue paint marks every few feet, I encountered a hiker who was making his way downriver. 

He asked, "Is this the camp ground".

"It's a rest stop with a boat launch. A sign posted says 'No Camping'. That's a little odd if a national trail passes through".

We just kept walking. 
"Naw, it's okay. It's too close to the highway. I didn't realize it last night when I set up camp on the hill. I heard the highway moaning with truck traffic all night long".


"I had wanted to see a moonrise and a sunrise but my position on the hill didn't work for that".

"It was quite a moon, close to the earth and surprisingly bright. The moon beams threw shadows".

He had his walking stick working and a small pack on his back, a rolled up yoga mat attached for bedding down anywhere. I didn't see a tent upon him. He looked damp with dew. His pace exceeded mine.

"I wish you a good day!" And he turned toward his walking with focus.

"Happy Trails to you".

I had a few minutes to ponder the purpose of walking trails. A vagrant stays in place and takes up space that customers might use? And then a community might have to care for him if sickness strikes? A hiker, or better yet, a pilgrim, stays in motion, a man with a plan called next. When a stranger comes to town without a brick and mortar place to stay, why incarcerate when it is simple enough to say, "keep moving"?

Europe suffered the dark ages for decades and the pilgrimages forced leaders, Charlemagne notably, to require villages to feed and shelter pilgrims temporarily. Ingenious plan because a man could keep walking, have a hot and a cot and a welcome for a night or two. Until he learned the customs and language well enough to fit in, maybe find a position and a welcoming bed with only one inhabitant? The skilled tradesmen of Europe still wander the world going from job to job, following this traveling agreement that spurred the Renaissance.

Michigan has trails that might just work like a circulation system for talent.

All in all, it's an interesting rest area with a boat launch and a national trail, across the river from a kayak livery on Chippewa Trail road. I found the boardwalk that passes through the forest and reaches a platform where one can contemplate the Manistee River. How's that for a dog run? The stop honors an employee of the Michigan Department of Transportation who smiles with energy and life in his official portrait, taken before his passing at age 46 nine years ago. He had the idea that rest stops could be parks with playgrounds and amenities. This stop might have been the fullest expression of his vision.
 — at North Country Trail.

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