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Backpacker Magazine – October 2000

Hiking With Michigan's Elk Herd

What's good for elk is good for backpackers on Michigan's High Country Pathway.

by: James Campbell

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DRIVE TIME: The High Country Pathway is 260 miles (about 4 = hours) north of Detroit.

THE WAY: Take I-75 north to Wolverine (exit 301). Drive east on Afton Road for 1 mile. Here, Afton becomes Webb Road. Continue to Osmun Road and turn left. Proceed north for 2.5 miles to Duby Lake Road and then east 0.5 mile to Dog Lake. Park, and hop on the High Country Pathway where it skirts the north shore. Several access points farther south allow trips of various lengths.

TRAILS: For a 30-mile, point-to-point hike, begin at Dog Lake and end at Town Corner Lake Campground.

ELEVATION: Though you'll encounter a few stop-and-gaze-awhile vistas, this trail is mostly about sylvan solitude. Elevations range from 800 to 1,300 feet.

CAN'T MISS: The vista over the legendary Black River Valley, if you like the High Country Scenic Overlook above Grass Lake--continue half a mile beyond Town Corner Lake.

CROWD CONTROL: You should have the High Country Pathway to yourself most of the year. The state campgrounds along the trail get crowded in summer, but backcountry camping is allowed with a free permit from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR); see Contact below.

GUIDES: The Field Guide to the High Country Pathway is available from The Pigeon River Country Association (P.O. Box 122, Gaylord, MI 49735; $4.75) or you can call the DNR (see Contact below). It takes nine USGS 7.5-minute quad maps ($4 each) to cover the entire trail: Onaway, Tower, Afton, Lake Geneva, Silver Lake, Hardwood Lake, Atlanta, Hetherton, and Saunders Creek; call 888-ASK-USGS or visit

WALK SOFTLY: Stay on the trails even when the going gets wet. Trailblazing around bogs damages the environment, and may not keep your feet dry, anyway. Give the elk a buffer zone: Stay back at least 75 feet.

CONTACT: Gaylord Department of Natural Resources; (517) 732-3541;

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