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Every mile counts

Michigan Trails Week Challenge coming up

Riding on off-road vehicles is one way to take part in the upcoming Michigan Trails Week Challenge. The event is set for Sept. 20-27. (Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

MARQUETTE — Are you up for an outdoors challenge when leaves change colors? During Michigan Trails Week, Sept. 20-27, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance invite Michiganders to enjoy trails and collectively walk, run, ride, hike, bike or paddle 100,000 miles.

Michigan is home to 13,000-plus miles of diverse, state-managed trails, plus thousands of miles of local, county and federally managed trails and pathways, according to the DNR. Trail veterans and newcomers can help make every mile count by tracking mileage spent on any nonmotorized trail in the state during these eight days.

“Michigan Trails Week is the perfect time to get out and explore Michigan’s amazing network of trails,” said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division, in a news release. “Whether it’s on your first trail, your favorite trail or one brand new to you, the Michigan Trails Week Challenge is for anyone and everyone who wants to get out of the house and connect with nature.

“Explore Michigan and report your mileage; it’s that easy. Participants earn badges for completing miles — any distance counts. Every badge earned is another entry in a drawing for cool outdoor gear and Michigan-branded prizes.”

Participants earn a badge when they register for the event and log at least 1 mile, and then every time they:

≤ horseback ride for 5 miles;

≤ walk, run or hike for 5 miles;

≤ bike for 10 miles; or

≤ paddle for 2 miles.

There is no limit to the number of badges that can be earned. The more mileage people log, the more badges they earn, and that boosts their chances to win and helps the DNR and Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance reach the 100,000-mile goal.

“During this past year, trails have provided me with endless peace of mind,” said Andrea LaFontaine, executive director of the Michigan Trails and Greenway Alliance, in a news release. “Now, more than ever, we are seeing the importance of trails to our personal well-being and to our communities. I encourage you to invite a friend, recruit a family member and sign up for the event. I look forward to hitting the trails with you, virtually.”

The Michigan Trails Week Challenge is also an opportunity for people to support trails by donating to projects in need of help. The Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance will act as fiduciary, ensuring that all monies raised for specific trail projects will go directly to those projects.

In that vein, the DNR will continue expanding, developing and maintaining the state’s vast trails system.

The DNR manages one of the largest interconnected trail systems in the United States, and many of those trails are accessible to people of all abilities; accessible kayak launches and track chairs also are available. There are many accessible recreation resources at community parks, too, so check with local recreation authorities to see what’s available.

The challenge is a good way to socially distance during this time, but people should a mask and bring hand sanitizer with them. Social distancing also is a good idea, even on outside trails that can be heavily used, so people should keep 6 feet apart from other folks on the trails.

For more information on Michigan Trails Week and to sign up for the challenge, visit Michigan.gov/TrailsWeek. Here, you can find links to various trail-related spots such as the Superior Birding Trail, which encompasses places in the eastern Upper Peninsula for “superior” birding.

Those places include Whitefish Point, where numerous raptors pass during their spring and fall migrations. The Whitefish Peninsula, which juts into Lake Superior north of Paradise, also attracts songbirds, shorebirds and waterfowl.

For hiking and biking, the Iron Belle Trail is considered Michigan’s “showcase” trail that touches hundreds of municipalities and crosses through 48 counties over 2,000 miles from Belle Isle in Detroit to the far western end of the Upper Peninsula.

In Marquette County, participants have many trail choices, including the North Country National Scenic Trail, the Iron Ore Heritage Trail, the city of Marquette’s multi-use path, the Fit Strip, the Noquemanon Trail Network and the trail system on Marquette Board of Light and Power land.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net

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