Sunday, October 8, 2017

Island Lake Blue Loop

Island Lake Blue Loop:
Island Lake State Recreation Area
Trailhead Elevation: 919 ft.
Distance: 10.01 mi. (my Forerunner 230)
Elevation Gain: 238 ft. (my GPS)
Start Time: 4:59pm
End Time: 6:41pm

Trip Report:

On my drive up to northern Michigan I finally found an opportunity to try Island Lake once more. I planned an hour for myself to start out at the shopping center, run the 4/10 of a mile to the Blue Loop and do a 6-mile out and back run. The trail starts at the far east end of the shopping center which is just off of US-23. It is a fairly obvious trail near signage. The first four tenths are mostly flat and good trail which a few small side trails that break off. I found the "main" trail to be relatively evident. It picks up the blue loop at a bend in the blue and immediately heads south. I ran into two bikers in this early section whom I moved aside for.

Once on the blue loop the flatness of this trail continued. At times it was firm and clear dirt, at others it was somewhat of a bed of pine needles, at others it was tree-rooted. Sometimes it would be a true mountain bike trail with a few bends and turns, at others there were easy straightaways. After turning to the east the trail hits the park road for just over a 1/10 of a mile. The trail's return to the woods was fairly evident once more. I found that I was running against the flow of the bikes which was a good thing as at times I would have little to no advance warning of their coming up on me and I was glad to be able to see them first.

The trail winds around east of the road in the woods for just over 3/4 of a mile and then hits the west side again. There was a modest hill climb once into the woods again on the west side and not long after I hit my 3-mile mark. I was surprised how well I was feeling today and I also weighed the possibility of a turnaround and having my bikes at my tail instead and decided to just go for it. By that I mean to go for the whole Blue Loop. I knew it was close to 10 miles and I decided the extra 4 miles were in the cards for today.

As I moved on I made it to the southern end of the trail and it moved east once more. It neared the road and then came upon a pond and day-use area. Here the trail widened out, basically double-track and the scenery opened up as well. I had to pay attention to what was actually the blue loop and what was either roadway or side use trails in here. After that the trail follows the creek a bit as it headed north and eventually ran into the park road again. It followed the road just briefly til leaving it and heading north. It wasn't long until I hit the main trailhead parking lot. I moved through the lot and gained the trail (combined with the Yellow on the north side) and continued on.

The trail winds through the woods and heads south again until a westward turn where the trail straightened out. There was soon an old bridge crossing and not longer after the Yellow trail left and headed north. I was still moving well, though getting thirsty, and I hadn't brought along any water. The trail wound around on the north end of the park for awhile until heading more southwest. It neared a residential area and some of the colors on the nearby trees were beautiful. I finally met the railroad tracks and the trail ran mostly straight and parallel next to the tracks all the way out to the Park Road. It again joined the park road for two tenths of a mile before heading west through a beautiful section of woods.

Eventually this brought me westward back to the "shortcut" that heads out to the shopping center. I lost track of how many bikes I had run into today. There were also perhaps a dozen or so hikers and walkers I ran into. I saw signage indicating bikes were supposed to yield to walkers, but as I saw bikes approach I found it much easier to simply move off to the side. Overall there were a few beautiful areas of this loop and it was notably flat with only a few small hilly areas.


I have a track and waypoints from the hike all contained in a KML file that you are welcome to download and use (at your own risk).  

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