Going Extreme on Classic Michigan Trails
I received two emails recently from what only can be described as “extreme trail users,” people who push it to the limits and then some.
The first came from Roy Krantz of the Midland Hiking Club. In 2003, Roy and a friend hiked the entire Lakeshore Trail in Pictured
Rocks National Lakeshore – 42.4 miles from Grand Marais to Munising – in one day. Or 14 hours and three minutes to be exact.
Extreme or just plain crazy? Before I could decide Roy dropped me a line with his latest challenge:
In an effort to figure out the next hardest thing to try, my crazy buddies and I are planning a non-stop yo-yo hike of the Lakeshore Trail at Pictured Rocks for this fall. This year, we’ll be starting in Munising hiking to Grand Marais and then back to Munising in 28-30 hours (hopefully). I want to make sure that I go far enough to make it official but not any farther than I have to. A woman at the park told me that the official starting and ending points are Munising Falls and the Grand Sable Visitor Center. Is that your understanding? Can you help?
My reply: Roy, you are crazy but if I can help with that insanity, I’ll try.
I then went on to say it has always been my understanding that the Lakeshore Trail went from the Grand Sable Visitor Center to Munising Falls because it was set up soon after the park was created in 1966, meaning it predates the North Country Trail, which connects to it at each end.
If you’re crazy, Roy has posted a You Tube video, inviting other hikers to join him and his buddies. It’s pretty funny but I’ll pass.
A few weeks latter Eric Charette sent me an email with questions about the 42-plus mile Greentsone Ridge Trail on Isle Royale National Park:
As an ultrarunner and having grown up in the UP and graduated from MTU, I have been fascinated with running the Greenstone Ridge Trail. From my research, it looks like the fastest known time (FKT) from Windigo to Lookout Louise is 10 hours 17 minutes. Having just run rim to rim to rim in the Grand Canyon for fun in 11 hours (41 miles) I think that I can run the GRT in well under 10 hours.
Anyway, my questions are numerous, but to start I need to know if this travel schedule is possible. I have researched the options a hundred times over and as an engineer this is a complex problem to solve!
I answered the questions as best I could and I think Eric is, pardon the pun, off and running.
His plan is to run from Windigo along the Greenstone Ridge Trail to its east end at Lookout Louise this July. Because Lookout Louise is a rather isolated spot in the park, his support crew is going to rent a canoe and paddle across Tobin Harbor to meet him at the finish and take him back to Rock Harbor Lodge where they have booked a room for the evening.
His main concern will be how much weight he’ll need to carry while running, particularly water. He plans to carry have 130 ounces of fluids but will also have a water filter in case he runs out.
I’ve hiked the Greenstone Ridge Trail almost a dozen times. It is truly one of Michigan’s classic trails. But I’ve always hiked it, taking the usual four to five days to complete the foot path that spans from one end of Isle Royale to the other and hauling along some 40-pounds of gear to spend the night in the backcountry.
To me, the beauty of either the Greenstone or the Lakeshore Trail is the length of them that allows you to escape into the backcountry for days at a time. Only then do I slip into the natural rhythm that is long distance hiking, where there are no deadlines other then setting up your tent before dark (and sometimes not even that).
You eat when you’re hungry; you take a break when you’re tired. You move at your own pace because all you have to do by the end of the day is to reach the next backcountry campsite. Only by being out in the woods for so long do I feel spiritually refreshed when I return home.
But my hat is off to Roy and Eric and I’ll be following their escapades closely to see how they do.
Editor’s Note: Jim DuFresne has covered both these trails in his guidebooks; Isle Royale National Park: Foot Trails & Water Routes and Backpacking in Michigan. You can order the books through the MichiganTrailMaps.com e-shop at www.michigantrailmaps.com/store.html.