Manistee River Loop Trail, Michigan 5/26-5/28

Discussion in 'Backpacking' started by AKay09, Jul 3, 2017.

  1. AKay09

    AKay09 Member

    Messages:
    62
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Howdy!

    Over Memorial Day weekend I brought my girlfriend on her first backpacking trip. Our first plan was to go to Red River Gorge in Kentucky for a two nighter but mother nature thought that was a bad choice. So we made a last minute switch to Michigan. The Manistee River trail is a popular beginner backpacking route in the midwest, the loop is created by joining with the North Country Trail as it moves through Michigan. The loop is about 23 miles so we decided to do it in 3 days, with a short hike out to the car.
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    Day 1: The drive was about five hours from the Chicago 'burbs so we arrived around 2pm thanks to the time change. We hiked north on the NCT for a good 10 or 11 miles and the terrain had a lot more elevation gain than I was expecting so it was a more difficult day than I was anticipating but it was okay. My girlfriend is in better shape than me so even though it was her first hike she was more than fine. Around the 7 mile mark was the first water we came across and it was here that I realized that a rubber gasket on my sawyer mini was missing and so my water filter was no good. Thankfully I had some tablets to purify water for the rest of the trip, which was a pain but we survived. We were getting pretty anxious for camp at this point as the first 10 miles were all just in the woods with almost no views and no access to the river. When we finally got to the bridge to cross the Manistee River we were pretty thrilled. Sadly all the good spots for camping were already taken. We ended up taking a side trail down to the river on accident and ended up finding a semi flat area right off the river for the tent and so we took it. We built a little fire, set up the hammocks and relaxed for a bit before dinner and bed. Of course at about 10:30 someone came walking down the trail right up to our tent basically with flashlights scaring the crap out of us before they turned around.

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    Day 2: We got an early start on day two since we knew there are only a limited number of sites along the trail and they are all first come first serve and I had heard some stories about them all being taken pretty early. It was kind of weird, we hiked by a bunch of sites, 6ish?, that were just feet off the trail or that the trail literally ran right through. So we were walking through other hikers breakfast which was a bit awkward. A few of the camps also had full cases of beer and coolers, so people were carrying these in for miles. Besides all the people this side of the river the hiking was much nicer. It had plenty of good views of the river and was a bit more flat. The only issue we had with this day was that we knew we had to be quick so our breaks were short and we hiked fast to stay ahead of others. We ended up getting to our second site before noon and it was the last good site on the trail, so we got lucky. It was also only about 15 yards off the trail as well which was in the way of the river, so for a few hours we had a steady stream of traffic walking by. Again we set up the hammocks and took some naps. Around 5pm the traffic of people really died down so we spent the rest of the evening resting by the river and watching the geese and listening to some sandhill cranes.

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    Out like a light
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    Throughout the night we had the pleasure of listening to a few barred owls chatting it up, so that was nice. We hiked out pretty early in the morning which was only about two miles. I didn't take many pics on the way out so don't have anything worthy of sharing. Overall the trip was fun but the stress of the crowds and the first come first serve site system brought down the enjoyment a bit. The weather was pretty much perfect though, mid 60s to low 70s during the days and low 50s at night so that was good. My girlfriend enjoyed the trip even with the rushing and she can't wait for our trip to the rockies in September so that's good!
     
    gnwatts, WasatchWill, someguy and 9 others like this.
  2. Wanderlust073

    Wanderlust073 Member

    Messages:
    135
    Location:
    Colorado
    If you go back again keep in mind you can camp wherever you like as long as it is a hundred feet off trail/river (or whatever distance the rules say). The numbered sites are nice but not mandatory. Place can be a zoo regardless though. Nice trip!
     
  3. AKay09

    AKay09 Member

    Messages:
    62
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Yeah we knew that but also didn't want to be too close to others so every flat spot we found that wasn't a numbered site was still taken. Didn't really like any areas on the NCT side of the river either. Was definitely a zoo, can't imagine I'll be back any time soon, will try to make it to some other spots in the UP for my next weekend trips. Thanks!
     
    Wanderlust073 likes this.
  4. LarryBoy

    LarryBoy Hiker Trash

    Messages:
    625
    Location:
    Salt Lake City
    Recommendation - plan a return trip in October when the colors are out in full force. There's nobody there, it's pretty, and there are no bugs. Cool trip, great to see Michigan getting some love!
     
  5. Glasterpiece

    Glasterpiece Member

    Messages:
    279
    Location:
    North Salt Lake, Utah
    Thank you for sharing. I grew up in the Detroit area and spent as many weekends as I could in the northern woods.
     
  6. AKay09

    AKay09 Member

    Messages:
    62
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    I think my plan is to try backpacking in the Sylvania Wilderness in the UP in October actually. I've spent a lot of time in the fall in upper Wisconsin and it sure is beautiful. You're right though, I'm sure going back in October when it's empty would help me enjoy the beautiful area a lot more!
     
    LarryBoy likes this.
  7. Wanderlust073

    Wanderlust073 Member

    Messages:
    135
    Location:
    Colorado
    I spent a Friday/Saturday there last October. Awesome foiliage and Friday was great, but Saturday was literally a nonstop parade of people up and down the trail. Cars were lining the road half a mile both directions from Red Bridge.
     
    AKay09 likes this.
  8. metalbackpacker

    metalbackpacker Member

    Messages:
    41
    Classic Michigan hike. Great pics. Yeah it's really packed these days, so many people on the trail. There are so few backpacking options in the Lower Peninsula, everyone goes here.

    The NCT side is pretty boring. Lots of ups and downs with no views of anything. I usually just hike the Manistee River Trail side there and back from Red Bridge instead of making a loop with the NCT. One time I tried to hike the banks of the Manistee on the NCT side though. This was kinda neat, but overall it was hard to get close to the river and not something I'd do again.
     
  9. Rockskipper

    Rockskipper Member

    Messages:
    315
    Location:
    W. Colorado
    I need to get one of those green filters like you have for my camera (j/k). Beautiful country! Too bad so many feet on the trail.
     
  10. Tim Valentine

    Tim Valentine Member

    Messages:
    34
    Location:
    San Diego, California
    That is some green countryside. This is new territory for me. Thanks for posting. You did a good job of keeping people out of your pictures.
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  11. Chuck the Mauler

    Chuck the Mauler Formally known as "kcwins"

    Messages:
    322
    Nice report. Technically you are supposed to stay in the designated sites along the MRT side of the loop (I was told to move and showed the law by the DNR a few years ago). But on the NCT side you can camp where ever you like. However, because of how busy the trail is these days, people camp all over the place. It's a good MI hike. I lived near there for many years and still find myself on that trail at least twice a year. Good stuff!
     
  12. Wanderlust073

    Wanderlust073 Member

    Messages:
    135
    Location:
    Colorado
    metalbackpacker likes this.
  13. metalbackpacker

    metalbackpacker Member

    Messages:
    41
    Heh, I recently camped along the Pine River which is close to the Manistee, flows into Tippy Pond. Anyways, I was all worried about camping within the National Wild and Scenic River Corridor, and had plotted the boundary on a caltopo map which I then transferred to my GPS. When I got to the place I intended to camp, it turned out to be very near a private residence that the public lands wrapped around, literally. This guy who lived right on the Pine River for decades (and basically within the corridor himself) was not aware of the camping restriction within the Wild and Scenic River Corridor, so my impression was is that it's something that's not enforced, at least very often.

    There was actually a campsite on public land right next to the guys house that was within the corridor boundary, yet he says people camp there all the time and he hadn't seen the DNR give anyone any trouble. It was definitely within the corridor. Not saying to camp wherever, just sharing my experience with the Wild and Scenic River Corridors in Michigan.
     
  14. Chuck the Mauler

    Chuck the Mauler Formally known as "kcwins"

    Messages:
    322
    "camping restriction within the Wild and Scenic River Corridor"

    This is what he sited as I recall. Perhaps he was just giving us a hard time. Don't know. I'm only telling you what happend to us on one of my dozens of trips there. And it was just south of the Little Mac (suspension bridge). So yes...it was between the Little Mac and Red Bridge on the MRT side.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2017
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