Worth the wait, Ludington State Park
Regular readers of this blog know that I planned to go up to Ludington State Park yesterday, and camp in the back of my explorer. But things didn’t go as planned on Wednesday or Thursday, so I finally made it up there today, Friday November 25, 2011. It was worth the wait, it was one of the best hikes I have ever done.
Since I originally posted this, I returned to Ludington State Park for a day of kayaking, which you can read about here.
I “rediscovered” Ludington State Park back in April, when I went on an excursion to photograph some of the lighthouses on Lake Michigan. As I wrote back then, my family used to go there often when I was a kid, but I have found many places on my own since then, and haven’t been to Ludington in years. The dirty little industrial town has cleaned up its act, and now is pretty little tourist town. The state has done a lot with the park as well, adding hiking, cross-country skiing, and a canoe trail. Here’s a link to a map of the hiking trails, here’s a link to a map of the canoe trail. Ludington State Park is on a strip of land, mostly dunes, between Lake Michigan to the west and Hamlin Lake to the east. Hamlin Lake empties into Lake Michigan by the Big Sable River that flows through the park.
The weather started out beautiful, bright and sunny, although the wind was pretty stiff out of the south. I made a stop at the Ludington City Park to see if the waves were crashing into the lighthouse or the breakwater, they were, a little, not enough to spend time trying to get a photo. So I continued on to the state park. I tried finding a map, but they were all gone, the park gets a lot of use, even this time of year I found out.
I started out headed north on the Island Trail, and what a cool trail it is. There are a series of bridges and boardwalks connecting some of the islands in Hamlin Lake.
Some of the islands are large enough that they have bogs and marshes on them. I could bore you to tears with all the marsh and bog photos I took.
There are more islands farther out that aren’t connected to the trail system.
I was under the impression that the canoe trail weaves its way around these same islands, but I was wrong. There are even more islands south of the island trail trailhead from where I started from, and the canoe trail weaves around those islands, not the ones I hiked today. Why the state hasn’t added these islands and marshes to the canoe trail, or marked these as a second one, I have no idea. The entire time I was hiking the island trail, I couldn’t help but think what a fabulous paddle it will make.
One of my fears was confirmed though, I didn’t see a wading bird of any species today, I am pretty sure they have all flown south for the winter. I did see some trumpeter swans, geese, and mallards though.
And a huge flock of American coots.
That’s less than 10% of the flock, I zoomed in so you can tell what they are. The place looks like a waterfowl wonderland.
There was a lot of fresh sign that beavers are in the area.
You can see the sap running, it hasn’t been too long since a beaver was gnawing on this tree. And here’s a shot just because I love it, nothing special, just an old stump in a marsh.
Towards the north end of the island trail, you can see where the dunes from Lake Michigan are encroaching on Hamlin Lake.
I got to the end of the island trail, then cut over on the connector to the ridge trail. There’s a shelter there along the way, made from field stone.
Here’s the view out the front.
And out the back.
The woodpecker stopped by as I was taking a break and changing the batteries in my GPS unit, and I shot the picture through the back window of the shelter.
Then it was time to start the climb on the ridge trail. I almost wish I had gone the other way around, as the ridge trail seemed somewhat anti-climatic after the island trail. It s a much more typical Michigan trail through mixed forests along the top of a sand dune ridge. You do catch a glimpse of the Big Sable Point Lighthouse from time to time.
But you have to look carefully through the trees.
You may even see one of the reasons for the light being there.
As you can see, it was getting cloudy and hazy, and not long after these last two, the clouds really thickened up and so I didn’t take many more photos. I got back to where I started from, but wasn’t ready to leave yet, so I wandered along the Big Sable River, from the dam to a footbridge across the river just downstream a way. I took a few photos, but they aren’t worth posting here, except this one of a herring gull taking off…
This one of the sand drifting like snow in the wind…
And a close up of an American coot taken from the bridge…
Other than the sun disappearing on me, the only other negative was the number of people there in the park today, it surprised me. Most people walk the first half of the island trail to the lost lake trail, or walk along the river from what I could tell, so the time I was on the north end of the island trail, and all the time on the ridge trail, I was all by myself. The ridge trail has some steep hills to climb, so I think most people avoid it. I imagine that this park is like an ant farm in the summer, with people crawling all over it. I sort of knew that already, but I didn’t think there would be crowds the day after Thanksgiving.
Anyway, the island trail is worth dealing with the crowds, it is my new all time favorite trail! The only question will be will I hike it again? Sound funny? I am thinking that the next time I go there, it will be with my kayak next spring when the waterfowl and wading birds are back. With all those islands…
All those marshes…
and dozens of nooks, crannies, and coves to paddle around in, I am sure I can spend most of the day on the water in my kayak, just getting out from time to tie to stretch my legs and explore the islands that aren’t connected by bridges…
What I should do is what I planned on doing this weekend, hike one day and kayak on the other. There are still a lot of trails there I haven’t covered yet, and it looks like it will be about the perfect still water paddle. How many days til spring?
Thanks for stopping by!