Manistee River Trail Backpacking Trip

This is the blog post from Sara Lowe, who led the Manistee River Backpacking Trip this weekend. Photo credits to Josh and Rachel Hickam and myself. 🙂

The South Bend Adventure Club headed north this past weekend for a backpacking adventure in the Manistee National Forest. Eight adventurers set out on Friday afternoon to set out on the Manistee River Trail at 10 p.m. (Indian food was to be had in Grand Rapids).

A night hike is highly recommended. Headlamps and flashlights provided the only lights below the stars twinkling in the cloudless sky above. Hundreds—if not thousands—of croaking frogs provided the chorus that guided our three-mile walk through the forest. We finally set camp a little after midnight and settled in to rest for the next day’s hike.

Saturday morning was bright and crisp, with very little humidity. After breaking camp, Joshua and Rachel, Amy, Chrissy, Jennifer, Kerry and I set out to cover 8 miles to reach the half-way point of the trail, where we would stop for lunch and gather the water we needed for the second half of the day’s mileage.

The Manistee River Trail follows the Manistee River, a fast-moving body of water that sparkled in the sun. We had already climbed high to reach a plateau that allowed us to view the river and its banks from above. It was a beautiful sight. We reached the half-way point in four hours and gathered under a perfectly shaded spot to stretch our (already) sore legs and have lunch together.

Setting out again, we set out on the section of the North Country Trail that covers Michigan from north to south. The NCT connects North Dakota to New York and spans 4,600 miles. It was thrilling to hike a section of a major interstate trail!

For many of us, this trip was our first backpacking experience. The information shared at the Backpacking 101 class in April was helpful for me and I was able to pack light and make good decisions about what to bring and what is not vital. Hiking the (relatively) flat trails of Manistee and the NCT is work in and of itself, but to have a pack strapped to your back, weight begins to be a major factor. Water is nectar after a mile in the sun, but it also makes up for the most weight in your pack. Add a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, a change of clothes, food, heat, and toiletries, and before long, there is 25-30 pounds on your back as your climb and descend hill…after hill…after hill.

This trip was definitely a life-changing experience. For three days, I had everything I needed for survival in a pack that became a part of me, in a ways. I pushed through uncertainty I felt about my abilities to hike 20 miles in the forest and proved myself wrong. Further, getting out into nature is cleansing; breaking away from civilization for a little while is a priceless gift of a new perspective. Also, after three days, I appreciated the comforts of vehicular travel, hot coffee, and cell phone service.

Taking the lessons that are learned during these trips (pain is a part of backpacking—let’s be real), many of us are looking forward to our next adventures in the backcountry.

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