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Residents urged to explore during Michigan Trails Week Challenge

News Photo by Julie Riddle The Mitterling family — James, Anna, Rachel, and 3-year old Connor and twins Carter and Kaylin — explore Norway Ridge Pathway in Alpena on Tuesday. The trails were “pretty mosquito-y” earlier this summer, James Mitterling said, but the coming weeks, with leaves changing colors, should be excellent times to take a walk in the woods.

ALPENA — Go take a hike, state environmentalists are telling Northeast Michigan residents.

Next week, Sept. 20-27, is Michigan Trails Week. To highlight the importance of trails to the health and happiness of state residents, a pair of organizations are hoping to tally 100,000 miles of trail exploration through a Michigan Trails Week Challenge.

Over 4,700 people have already signed up for the virtual event, according to Andrea LaFontaine, executive director of the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, which partnered with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to organize the challenge.

This spring has been a boom time for Alpena-area trails, according to local resident Tom Dowd.

A former president of the Thunder Bay Trails Association — which oversees maintenance at Norway Ridge Pathway and Chippewa Hills Pathway — Dowd said sales at his Alpena bike shop have surged this summer, with many bikers headed for local trails.

“It was crazy how mobbed the trails got,” Dowd said. “People had nothing to do. They wanted to get outside and get some exercise.”

Beginning on Monday, participants in the Trails Week Challenge can log miles walked, run, biked, or explored in any way, on any trail.

Participants earn badges for completing miles, and every badge earned counts as an entry in a drawing for outdoor gear and Michigan-branded prizes.

Logging 100,000 total miles in one week seems daunting, LaFontaine said, but Michigan’s 13,000-plus miles of state-managed trails — plus thousands of miles of local, county and federally managed trails and pathways — offer infinite ways for anyone, of any ability, to participate.

Participants can use step trackers, smartphone apps, or other devices to determine their distance travelled. Or, LaFontaine suggested, walkers can use the average of 25 minutes per mile walked — for an average walker — to record their travels, which participants can do any day during the challenge week.

Trails often give an economic boost to communities that embrace them, promoting business traffic and prompting startup business. Breweries seem to do particularly well when a trail is nearby, LaFontaine said.

Mostly, though, trails help people clear their minds, unwind, and reset, LaFontaine said.

A latticework of snowmobile trails in Northeast Michigan offer a wander with a canine friend, and paved trails like the Huron Sunrise Trail that runs through Rogers City let bikers and rollerbladers fly past striking views of Lake Huron.

Old, meandering two-track roads at Rockport allow walkers to explore side-by-side. Multi-purpose trails like those at Chippewa Hills and Norway Ridge invite mountain bikers, equestrians, and cross-country skiers to explore the woods.

Favorite backwood paths rich with stories, woodchipped trails through the timber atop Island Park, state park trails past delicate wildflowers and rough-barked giants — it all counts toward the challenge, LaFontaine said.

“Get out there,” LaFontaine said. “Find the nature near you, and just go have fun.”

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