By John Matonich
Anyone who knows me knows I am not a marathon runner. I was playing golf a few years ago with a friend that typically had a pretty easy time taking my money, but this particular day I was beating him quite soundly. I asked him if everything was OK and he told me that he was a little tired as he had taken a little run earlier that morning. He went 15 miles. I shrugged my shoulders and told him I didn’t run 15 miles in the 1990s. He smiled for a bit until he had to take his wallet out after the 18th hole.
While I may not be a runner or even much of a walker for that matter, I do like things with motors. Pickups, jeeps, ATVs, motorcycles, snowmobiles and boats are all options that keep my blood pumping. It’s not about speed or mud or noise, it’s about the fun of traveling down a back road or trail and seeing all the things Mother Nature has to show you. I certainly have seen a number of those walking on trails, and when I was working I worked on the designs for a few of them in the Lower Peninsula. I have seen the bikes and strollers and runners and walkers using them but never really had any interest in joining that crowd. I may have to change my tune.
Michigan is working hard to become the “Trail State.” A fair amount of money is being spent to help that cause by building new trails as well as improving existing ones. The heart of this effort is the Iron Belle Trail. When it’s complete it will run from Belle Isle in Detroit all the way to Ironwood in the far west end of the Upper Peninsula. I believe it is about 60 percent complete and more gets done each year. A very special section of that trail system was completed this fall from Ironwood to my hometown of Bessemer and it is very impressive. It wasn’t cheap but several old railroad trestles had to be rebuilt and incorporated into this section of the Iron Belle. One of the trestle designs I am told is only 1 of 20 left in the country. Because this once was the home to a large number of iron mines, this section of trail is also loaded with scenic overlooks and placards explains the mining history. A number of my buddies always complain that the motor guys are the ones funding these projects through trail stickers and gas taxes and non-motorized folks don’t pay squat, but even they are impressed with this latest section.
Even though it just recently opened and we are at the time of the year were the white stuff is falling, I see people on it every day and everyone I have spoken with raves about the experience of taking a walk there. I understand the scenery and the explanation of the area’s history is very impressive. Someone recently told me this section has already been named one of the Top 10 trails in the country you should try. If it’s true, that would be pretty impressive and could really bring some folks into the area, which I imagine wouldn’t be a bad thing. So, if you are into putting on some of those fancy running shoes, lace them up and come on up to God’s Country and try this section of trail. I don’t think you will be disappointed. Maybe one of these days I will park my Harley at the trailhead and take a walk. It’s probably about time, as the 1990s have been over for a while.
And that’s the situation as I survey it …
After a 35-year career downstate amongst da trolls, during which he built a successful engineering and surveying business, John Matonich is back home in da U.P. His column will appear here occasionally, don’tcha know. His book “Surveyin’ Da Situation” is available on Amazon.com.