This 36-mile trail meanders over glacier-crafted ridges, through thick woods and across marshy lowlands. It isn't a technically demanding trail, though it has plenty of topography. A hiker should bring plenty of water, a compass, and a reliable trail map. As the name indicates, the trail has two distinct sections. The longer of the two, at about 23 miles, is the Waterloo portion. I sought to complete this portion by hiking it in 3 to 6 mile sub-sections. (For a couch potato like me, that is ambitious.)
Above is perhaps the most tranquil spot on the W/P Trail. I took this photo from a secluded nook on the shoreline of Crooked Lake. (Note the absence of a rectangular shoreline.) In addition to cozy vistas, the trail also has its share of critters. Below is one of two turtles I encountered. He was quite shy, but I managed to grab this shot as he fled into the underbrush.
Though he looks big in this photo, don’t mistake this turtle for a tortoise. Although tortoises are technically turtles, they are much larger than the average turtle and hence more confident when dating. Now onto the ominous section of this blog post.
I felt pretty macho for continuing past the above sign. Plus, notice how the DNR mounted it so the hexagonal screw doubles as an unnecessary period. Punctuational coolness! Evident in the background is thick foliage typical of the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail. I recommend hiking it in pants, not shorts. Still, there are places where the landscape opens up and offers something approaching majesty.
Passing this marshy lowland, I closed in on my goal to complete the 23-mile Waterloo trail segment. An entourage of flies and mosquitoes urged me on like that crowd of cheering kids in the jogging montage of Rocky II. I swatted several of them (the mosquitoes).
Pictured below, Sackrider Hill is billed as the high point on the trail. I headed up Sackrider's wooded slope with that sense of anticipation one always feels when nearing a summit.
As you can see, it's a nice spot. No real view to speak of since the lookout tower is 10 feet shorter than the trees, but still a pleasant plot of ground. Reaching this low summit after a hike of maybe 40 yards from my car was a letdown. Frankly, it was so anticlimactic that I belched out a disappointed, “What the hell!” Then I learned an important hiking lesson. When emerging suddenly from tree cover—but prior to exclaiming ‘What the hell’--you should scan the clearing for couples enjoying a quiet picnic.
Completing the trail took several hikes. In addition to modest hills, there were other obstacles. Let's talk about getting your feet wet!
On my final hike, I had to wade through a flooded area (not deep, but sizable). Lacking proper footwear, I’d turned back from this obstacle on a previous trip. This time I came prepared. When I reached the flooded section I donned an old pair of Chucks. With the late morning sun rising high over my back, sloshing through the water felt great. I headed to a marker about a hundred yards up the trail and tagged it. That marked my completion of the Waterloo portion of the W/P Trail!
Here is me celebrating as I switched back into my dry footwear for a 6 mile return hike to my car. Not close to the magnitude of heroism shown by those who have climbed on Mount Everest, but still the picture of a truly happy boy. In full sincerity, the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail is a Michigan treasure. Anchored by lakes for boaters and swimmers, and with the Gerald E. Eddy Discover Center in the middle, it has provided me with many soul-feeding excursions. And I expect more to come as the cool breezes of autumn begin blowing across Lower Michigan.