First day of Spring 2015 and oldest son Fisher and I left Mile Marker “0” from the bike and kayak rental shack at The River at Clinch Park downtown TC on West Bay, to ride 17 speed skinny tired Fuji Hybrids to Sabin Dam for an interview with Steve Largent at the Grand Traverse Nature Conservancy along a portion of the 27 miles of TART Trails.
50 and sunny with 20 mph SW winds slowed us down considerably on the way there but the return trip we rode like a bat out of hell. Fisher was starving to death and I promised him a wood fired pizza at the Filling Station at the old train depot on Boardman Lake. (Best pizza and a craft beer restaurant in the midwest)
It was good to see Steve. He is an extremely skilled and dedicated outdoorsman/conservationist and undoubtedly the leading authority with all the contentious and awesome things happening along the 130 miles of Boardman River. Fisher wandered off to check out the natural history museum and the topo maps while I got the “what’s new” from Steve: The snow pack wasn’t nearly what it was last year so the flooding has been minimal, making Steve’s important work a little easier. A grotesque clearing of the utility easement was done late last fall leaving a 50 foot swath of moonscape along the West side of Boardman River North and South of the Nature Conservancy.
In contrast, Lake Michigan is up nearly 2 feet from last year at this time. Plans for the removal of Boardman and Sabin Dams are still on track. Carnage from the 2013 breach at Brown Bridge Dam has for the most part healed up. The neighborly Blue Ribbon Boardman has again found it’s natural flow and the wondrous and miraculous Mother
Nature has taken over. Bears are starting to emerge from their winter dens insatiably searching for a skunk cabbage or bird feeder. And finally Steve reported that indeed summer will be back. Spring he suspects will be warmer than usual.
Good news for me being in the rental and outfitting business, 231 Outfitters especially after the disappointment of last summers temps and conditions! Kayaks are readily available and transportation available for those wanting to float this lower ten miles of River emptying into West Bay.
The TART TRAIL is absolutely incredible. The efforts of so many organizations as well as individuals has built a system of hiking and biking trails that rival any in the world, including the recently completed Heritage Trail that winds through the Sleeping Dunes National Lakeshore between Glen Arbor and Empire. Incidentally, I grew up in Glen Arbor and many family members including bro Bobby still live there. Bob is proud owner of Cherry Republic and stocks over 170 cherry related foods and wines at their headquarters on Lake Street across from the Glen Arbor Art Association.
Stop in for a piece of Cherry pie and fresh roasted local coffee and check out the local art scene. The TART boasts a 17 mile trail called the “Leelanau” (lee la naw) that winds from Clinch Park to Suttons Bay through picturesque cherry orchards, vineyards, forests, lakes and ponds. Built on the old railroad bed allowing for a very flat and paved excursion, families even towing trailers have no problems. Also, for those that perhaps entertained a glass of wine or a pint of craft beer in the quaint village of Suttons Bay and don’t feel like riding back, you can hitch a ride with your bike for three bucks on the BATA Bus.
The peninsulas of Old Mission and Leelanau along with the Boardman River Valley and the VASA Trails in Acme are now easily accessible. From mountain, road, fat tire or even beach cruising, lets get outdoors and make some memories!