Dayhiking the Mariner Trail

While not the wilderness we usually hike in, the Mariner Trail had many ammenties such as traffic lights and blacktopped hiking surface.

Being back in Manitowoc Wisconsin (also the home of "the Lorax") is kind of a letdown after spending a significant amount of time backpacking in Montana and Wyoming this summer. There just aren't a lot of mountains here---none, actually, nor are there a lot of hiking trails in and around our town. Feeling somewhat depressed at the prospect of waiting 11 months until I could get back to the mountain time zone, Geisha Hiker and I decided to dayhike one of the few trails in the area---The "Mariner Trail". I wasn't expecting too much from the "Mariner Trail" in all honesty as the only things I knew about it was that it's about 8 miles long, paralleled Lake Michigan, and was about 10 years old. But what the was a beautiful day and I was desperate to hike.

Having not decided until later Sunday morning to do this, we prepared ourselves for the hike by sitting on the couch watching "Titanic" on HBO until 2 PM. After the movie was over we each grabbed our Teva's, a diet Coke and raced to the trailhead about 5 minutes away. If we could get started by 2:20 PM I felt our chances of completing the hike before dark were good. The parking lot wasn't very full and I was able to park my truck without much difficulty. After slipping on my sandals, grabbing the cell phone, Coke and $10 we were off on our adventure.

After but a few steps on the trail I was amazed at how well it was maintained and appreciated walking on blacktop as opposed to rocky, dusty, horse-crapped western trails. Also absent were the annoying up and downs, crystal clear streams and small alpine Lakes we commonly encountered in the Winds or the Absaroka-Beartooth just weeks earlier. No, this was a real trail, taking us through the pristine wilderness on the western shore of Lake Michigan. Though it looked like it could be tough going, we were ready for whatever the Mariner Trail could dish out.

Some of the hike was extremely rugged as Yumi was to find out. here we are off trail climbing a talus field.

Our first problem was encountered just minutes away from the trailhead: Senior citizens. The geezers were everywhere and walking 3, 4 or 5 abreast and slowly---almost as if they were enjoying the incredible scenery for the last time. Luckily, Geisha Hiker and I were able to muscle past them at one of the many convenient benches erected at numerous points along the trail while they gawked at the sailboats and a barge. About a mile and a half of hiking found us at the high point of our trek. While we did this hike without the benefit of a GPS or map, I'd say our total elevation gain was about a foot. I encountered another mild annoyance when I inadvertently stepped on a dog turd while waving to a small child riding his bike. Other than that, the hike to our turnaround point 3 miles north went smoothly.

We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at our aformentioned turn around point to find a small gift shop just about 100' west of the trail. We decided to get off the trail, cross highway 42 and check out this outpost of civilization. Once inside, Geisha Hiker used the ladies room while I browsed their fine selection of teas, honey and other assorted crap most commonly bought by Illinois douche bags heading back home from Door County. Once Geisha Hiker reappeared from the ladies room we decided to get ice cream cones and relax while playing some backgammon. After Geisha Hiker kicked my ass, we crossed the highway and got back on the trail for the return trip home.

Having already hiked this stretch of trail, we thought it would be interesting to test our route-finding skills and went off trail down to the Lake Michigan shoreline. The scenery was incredible! While we didn't see much wildlife, we knew the area was teeming with it. Dog tracks were everywhere. One of these days I'll go back in hopes of actually seeing one of these elusive beasts. We even saw a dead bullhead floating belly up along the beach and I immediately regretted not bringing fishing gear along. Next time! After about a half mile bushwhack, and quickly running out of beach, we thought it best to climb a large talus field in hopes of finding the trail again---this was no place to be lost as we had no rain gear, food, water or shelter.

The climb back up to the trail proved to be easier than anticipated and before we knew it were back on the blacktop. The rest of the trip was pretty tame compared to the talus field and we arrived back at the trailhead without incident.


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