Hidden Gems to Hike in Michigan

| 1 min read

Chuck Gaidica with Paul Yauk and Dan Muncey



About the Show
On this episode, Chuck Gaidica is joined by Dan Muncey, an onsite well-being coordinator at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Paul Yauk, a state trail coordinator for the State of Michigan. Together, they discuss the local park system and the health benefits of hiking.
“I see some people are almost scared but start slow… Start at your steps and then walk the corner. Walk to the mailbox. Walk somewhere and then build on that. Start small and then go out and then get your friend, ‘Let’s go to the county park. Well, you know what? I’ve got a rec passport on the back of my car. We can go out to a state park.’ Just take advantage of those opportunities.” – Paul Yauk
In this episode of A Healthier Michigan Podcast, we explore:
  • The 100-year celebration of Michigan’s state parks
  • Where to start your hiking journey
  • Important items to bring on a hiking trip
  • How hiking is beneficial to your health
  • The long and eventful history of Michigan’s parks
  • How to navigate local trails
For more information on Michigan trails and the Centennial celebration, visit the Department of Natural Resource’s official website.
Trail Resources:

Listen on

Chuck: This is A Healthier Michigan Podcast, episode 30. Coming up, we discuss the benefits of hiking. And you can share some hiking tips with one another. We’ll do it with you. And we’ll also offer up a few gems to hike around the state of Michigan.
Chuck: Welcome to A Healthier Michigan Podcast, the podcast dedicated to navigating how we can all improve our health and well-being through some small healthy habits we can start implementing right now. I’m your host, Chuck Gaidica. Every other week we sit down, we’ll talk to a certified health expert from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, have other experts with us as well, and do a deep dive into fitness and we’ll cover nutrition, and in this case breathing in some fresh air and taking in the sights and sounds of nature. And that’s what we’ll be talking about today as we deal with some great places to hike, enjoy, state parks, federal lands, community parks, just gems in your backyard.
Chuck: We’re joined by Dan Muncey and Paul Yauk. Dan is with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan in the wellness department. He’s got more than 10 years experience working in the health industry. He’s a part of a team now that goes out and visits. He’s on the road all the time on behalf of Blue Cross, but he’s passionate about a culture of health and well-being and organizations and his own personal well-being. He appreciates being around family, enjoys mountain biking, hiking. He wants to get into cross country skiing. It’s good to have you with us.
Dan: Thanks Chuck. Good to be here.
Chuck: You’re like a super guy. I mean, just reading the bio it’s like I just want to be you when I grow up. It’s good to have here. And Paul Yauk is with us. He’s going to help us celebrate a 100th birthday, not his own, but the 100th anniversary, the centennial, in the state of Michigan. Is that a centennial of the state park systems?
Paul: The centennial of the state park system.
Chuck: Oh, my gosh.
Paul: 100 years old. First park we were calling just south of Traverse city… I don’t remember the name now.
Chuck: That’s okay. Well, when you get to be 100.
Paul: But anyway, we got a great system out there. A lot of great parks. We’ve got something for everybody. And I just love that you said fresh air because that’s the key. Get out and enjoy that fresh air.
Chuck: Well, and it helps all of us. I want to tell people more about you because you are the state trail coordinator for the state of Michigan and you went to Michigan Tech. So you studied forestry. So you get the whole up north. And when we say up north, we mean way up north, right? And then Michigan State University, a bachelor of science in landscape architecture, lives in Lansing and enjoys the outdoors and then some. So this is really what we’re talking about, just let’s all get moving and get outdoors. And what a better time in life. I know we’re celebrating this 100 years, but do you agree, what better time to be able to partake in everything that Michigan has to offer?
Paul: We’re really fortunate here in Michigan. I’ll talk about public lands. We’ve got a great land system. And we talked about the centennial with the state park system, but we are fortunate with the state, with the forest land, with the state parkland, with wildlife land. And it’s close by.
Chuck: Yeah. I mean, really it could be right outside your back door and you don’t know it.
Dan: Absolutely. I mean, even personally going over to Pontiac Lake or Bald Mountain there’s some great state parks that are in the Metro Detroit area that I think we lose track of. We think we got to go all way up to Houghton or Hancock and visit Copper Harbor or Keweenaw Peninsula. But there’s some great things that are just out the corner.
Chuck: So for mere mortals like me, guys who are just… I tinker with this idea. And I have to admit I’m going in a week or so to meet my brother. We get together. We’ll go hike Sleeping Bear Dunes. We’ll go hike outside of his place in Tustin. That’s a good example of something in your backyard. But for beginners who are thinking about getting out and starting to hike give us some tips because some of us just want to start small. We’re just afraid to take the leap.
Dan: Sure. I think like anything in life, you’ve just got to take that first step. And I think that’s why it was great that Paul and me we’re talking about how it is, just taking that first step outdoors. Maybe even just walking your sub division, finding a local trail nearby because there’s so many great opportunities in the area that we might not even know of. And when you start looking you find some things you didn’t even know you might stumble upon.
Chuck: So my brother is in Tustin, south of Cadillac, and he and I we’re exploring, and I know we’ll talk about a few great apps and places we can go online to help us find trails. So we’re googling around and we find this trail, the reclaimed rail trail that’s from Tustin. And what did you say?
Paul: It’s called the Fred Meyer White Pine trail. 92 miles long.
Chuck: We didn’t go that far. We didn’t hike that far, but we went out and we sort of started to wander and got lost. It was one of the most enjoyable afternoons. And this spot, the starting spot for us anyway, wasn’t more than five minutes from his house and neither one of us knew it existed.
Paul: You find things like that all around Michigan and the good thing is you may have something going on at work or at home. Just go out and go out with a friend, go out with a loved one, kids, grandkids, or your dog, whatever you may. Just get out and enjoy it.
Chuck: One of your tips, Dan, too is use a buddy system. So by default, which is a good default for me, I’m out with my brother. We’re enjoying some bonding time together. Why do you recommend that we should be thinking about going out with a buddy?
Dan: Well, I think if you haven’t taken time to hike or spend time outdoors, especially in a while, we’re just getting out of a nice wet Michigan winter, just getting physical activity maybe back under our belt. And it’s important to let people know where you are, not only from a safety standpoint but for your own health, because if you think about it if you’re going out on a long hike now and you’ve never done it you might need not even overestimate how far it might take you. Maybe if you’re thinking about maybe 20 minutes a mile and if you have a friend that’s with you, yeah, that ability to be like, “Hey, you know what? I might need to take a break.” You might need to have that conversation. Get lost in your own head while you’re out there and enjoy it.
Chuck: And that’s a nice way of overestimating. I have to admit to you, I went out to Maybury State Park. In the day I was running… it’s kind of sandy loam soil with leaves that can get wet. And I’m going up and down these little hills and I hear a pop. It’s just me. And it’s a tendon in my right foot. Well, it took me a minute to get back to the car. And to your point I never would’ve thought I should only go running with a buddy, but it sure would have helped that day. Yeah.
Paul: Well, you can enjoy the outdoors with people. It’s springtime and early spring you get the spring peepers out there and you hear all this noise and it’s these little frogs and they are a chorus. And there’s a lot of things like that out. The butterflies are back. The moths come back. The monarchs are back in my yard now. And then the migratory birds. There’s a lot of things to see out there, a lot of things to enjoy.
Chuck: And some of those birds… So you were talking off mic a few minutes ago about a woodpecker, and those are delightful to just kind of… we say people watch. How about we just animal watch?
Paul: Oh, it’s great.
Chuck: And then when you see some of these open bodies of water, if you are lucky enough to catch a blue heron or a swan coming in for a landing, I mean, you think you’re in Jurassic Park for a minute if you’re close enough, right?
Paul: Yeah. And the noises you get out there. The sandhill cranes are back in Michigan. And if you’ve never heard sandhill cranes calling… and it sounds like, you’re right, Jurassic Park because they’ve got a call that we’ll just curdle you, and it’s great. You don’t hear it back here, but just step out into life, step out into the country and the park. You’ll hear a lot of things.
Chuck: So for guys like you who do this often do you feel like it’s a… when you think of your buddies or you think of your wife or even your family do you find it to be an obligation that you help us take that leap? I mean, do you say to your friends when you call them up, “Hey, let’s go together?” Are some of them…
Dan: I’m not trying to guilt trip my friends into a Saturday morning after maybe going out and having a beer or two on Friday night they want to get up and go for a hike. But I’ll tell you what, it’s a highlight for every weekend for me since I’ve been doing it. And I told you, Chuck, that it started as rehabilitation for my knee to just kind of get up and work on my eccentric and concentric movements going up and down these hills-
Chuck: Because you blew out your knee. You shattered your knee in a skiing accident.
Dan: I did. I did. In a great Michigan place off of Mount Bohemia. But ever since then it’s been an amazing opportunity to not only improve my own health, but then it’s the mental health that I’ve gained by being out in nature. There’s plenty of research about it and I’m sure I’ll maybe go into a little bit more in the podcast, but the green space is good and it could even eliminate mild depression. So it’s important that as you are starting to spend more time in nature to think that it’s just as good for you mentally as it is physically.
Chuck: So for those of you listening that aren’t as old as I am you may not remember the name, top of mind, President Ronald Reagan. But I remember he said he never felt closer to God than when he was out in nature. And, I mean, we always saw these images, which I know some are crafted because he’s the president, but he was always out chopping wood. He was always out riding a horse. He was always out walking or hiking. And I think back as I was looking at the information and looking at you two guys that were going to join us today, I’m thinking to myself how much healthfulness comes from just getting out.
Paul: That is a really good point. I’ll get calls and they’ll say, “Well, I’m going to Saginaw or I’m going to whatever town. What park is close by?” And I’ll mention, “Well, this is close by and here’s what you can do. And here’s the opportunities.” And you may go out for a walk and you’ll see a fox with its litter. You just see things. It’s always a surprise. Always a new day.
Chuck: You’ve talked about this a little bit, Dan, but we’ll get to the healthful benefits in a second. You talk about being over prepared. So now are you carrying a backpack all the time now?
Dan: Yes.
Chuck: That’s part of your workout I take it.
Dan: Yes, it is. Yeah. Getting a little extra weight in that pack can help make the weight and the hike a little more challenging. But in that pack, like I said, I make sure I have enough water. With bugs coming out I might have some spray, sunscreen, wearing an extra hat, bringing a towel if I might need it. Maybe an extra pair of socks because you might be willing to sweat through those when the heat starts coming. But yeah, I mean, just being more prepared. I mean, even if you have a trail map. I mean, obviously, nowadays with your phone you can access it with an app. And if you go there is actually the website for the state parks as well. The DNR has a website that you can check and see what even amenities they have at the parks as well.
Dan: But yeah, packing a pack, making sure you have your basics, even maybe a first aid kit just in case you got a cut and you want to put some neosporin or some alcohol swab on it to clean it out. It doesn’t hurt to be prepared.
Chuck: Yeah. And when you got into this where you always, obviously looking even at your background, Paul, where you went to school, where you always intrigued by nature or was this something-
Paul: Oh, yeah, yeah. You have to be. And the thing is you start off slow and you kind of go to something that’s close by, and then, “Next weekend let’s go a little bit farther up.” Up in UP we looked at waterfalls at Tech down in southern Michigan. “You know what? Let’s go over to Lake Michigan. Let’s look at some of those dune parks.” And I talked about birds and I talked about wildlife. It’s completely [inaudible 00:10:17] once you get in that sand dune area. Over on the sunshine side of the state… and it’s different there.
Chuck: And then talk about the urban centers because you just shared a statistic a minute ago. It blew my mind. Belle Isle state park is what now in terms of national attendance?
Paul: It’s third in the country. We get over 4 million people that come to Belle Isle.
Chuck: Come on. Wow!
Paul: And that’s huge. Over 90% increase in the last few years. But you’ve got a facility that’s in a metro area. You can easily get to it. People just really enjoy… you have an active water system. You’ve got great fishing, and you’ve got some greenery that in an urban area you need that release. You need to just get back out and walk and see the trees and see the water. And again, the wildlife and the birding is spectacular.
Chuck: I know. You were talking about it with me. I’ve been on a bicycle cycling the Dequindre Cut. So this idea that you have to be way out in the boonies somewhere to partake in anything we’re talking about, no way, because so many times now, whether it’s one of these reclaimed rail trails or otherwise, you can find some great spots to go that are just delightful.
Dan: Even walking the Riverfront and even just connect the two, whether you’re going from the Dequindre Cut over to Belle Isle, just a beautiful scenery if you haven’t had the chance to. And like we keep saying, it is just in your backyard. You go out your door and you don’t even realize even metro parks that are in the area or city parks, just green space in general. I think that anybody who’s taken time to get out in nature you kind of get overwhelmed by this feeling of just good. It’s definitely different than being under those fluorescent lights all day maybe typing at a computer. But spending some time outside, getting that fresh air, kind of maybe helping your body unwind and relax it’s been very helpful for myself too.
Chuck: So let’s try to focus for just a minute on the healthfulness of this, and we’ll deal with some of the benefits of hiking and of course of nature. So when you’re talking about hiking are you burning more calories than if you’re just going for a stroll with the dog?
Dan: Yeah. So that’s one of the things that I’ve… Not only you don’t have to necessarily have a backpack like me and put some weights in it, just even just going up and down these hills you can burn up to 28% more calories going on a hike just because of the challenging trails that you might be on. And like Paul said, if you’re in sand… I always try to run in sand.
Paul: Sand is tough. Sand is tough.
Dan: Definitely be burning some calories that way. And then again, that goes in thing that I brought up about bringing water with you. You’re probably going to be sweating a lot more than you’re used to while you’re out there, especially as the heat springing up, having an extra pack, a couple of more bottles of water you’ll be thankful by the end of it.
Chuck: Yeah. And, Paul, do you have any personal habits, any hacks that you can share with everybody of things you’ll take with you or things you do for the healthful reasons?
Paul: You know what? You better have a good pair of shoes. That’s key. Make sure you take care of your feet and your socks. Water, have any kind of liquid, a hat, something for bug spray, but just getting out… what I like about going to state parks is a lot of times we have volunteers that will be at a state park and “We’re going to go out for a walk in the dunes. You want to come along?” Take advantage of it. And the things that you’ll learn that you just kind of overlook. You see something green, “Well, this is a special wild flower,” or you have other different plants and animals and you go on Lake Michigan and you see sassafras. Well, you don’t see that. It’s an endless thing.
Chuck: I don’t know if I’ve ever used the word sassafras, much less seen it.
Paul: Sassafras trees out there. And in the old days they made drinks out of it. They had sassafras and they had root beer and you think and he goes, “Well, scratch that bark and smell it.” And you go, “Oh, my goodness.”
Chuck: That’s where it comes from.
Paul: That’s where it comes from. Sure. Sure.
Chuck: So do you find, in your own personal style of doing things, can you tell that you are finding more healthfulness? Are you feeling you’re detaching from the busyness of the world? Your blood pressure’s going down. I mean-
Paul: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Like over the weekend I was at Waterloo Recreation Area, 22000 acres. It’s our largest state park in southern Michigan and it’s close by to the metro area. And you can literally… you talk about getting lost, but you’ve got dunes, you’ve got water, you’ve got estuaries, you’ve got little pocket lakes, you’ve just got an opportunity. You feel like you’re up north, and you can just get lost in that.
Chuck: And, Dan, is there data that suggests that indeed we do see blood pressure go down? It’s not just the way we feel, which may be helpful to know.
Dan: Absolutely. There’s been studies I’ve seen that logging cardio in the form of hiking can lower your blood pressure by 10 points. And then even echoing what we were talking about, hiking and physical activity, you’re training your muscle, right? Your heart is a muscle. So the more exercise you’re giving… I mean, think about all the ailments and diseases that you can prevent just by spending time with more physical activity. I’m talking heart disease, diabetes, things that are plaguing most Americans.
Chuck: Well, and just being obese to begin with. I mean, let’s just talk about this idea that while you may not be doing it for weight loss the notion that if you do anything with consistency you’re getting out there and you’re having fun and you’re enjoying yourself, and the benefit is that you’re getting healthier physically, I mean, it’s the bonus of bonuses.
Paul: You know what? I see some people are almost scared, but start slow. We talk about your own front door. Start at your steps and then walk the corner, Walk to the mailbox, walk somewhere and then build on that. So start small and then go out and then get your friend, “Well, let’s go to the county park. Well, you know what? I’ve got a rec passport on the back of my car. We can go out to a state park.” And just take advantage of those opportunities.
Dan: And I’d like to echo that, Paul, because that was a great opportunity that I had with my friends as I started doing this for my own self, just finding time to get out in nature, rehab my knee, just finding different ways to exercise. And now I have a group of friends that we might get together on the weekend and actually drive somewhere different. We were up in the Petoskey State Park the other weekend, and it was beautiful. You don’t really realize what’s available in our state and how lucky we are until you look at a map, and maybe you just Google hikes by me, trails by me, parks by me, and it’s just overwhelming what we have available to us.
Chuck: And when you’re out walking with your buddies you were saying earlier that you actually start sharing things about life.
Dan: Yeah, absolutely. I think in a lot of ways I think my hike started for my physical well-being and now it’s more my mental well-being. So this whole well-being mindset of thinking that I’m sharing some personal stories with my friends that I might have trouble like just working through with my girlfriend or things that I’m just worried about in the future for job. And it’s just been amazing to have that, those companionship out on the trail. And obviously we’ve shared some funny stories too, but it’s something that I feel like I wouldn’t get nowadays being able to connect with my friends like that, undistracted in nature.
Chuck: And isn’t it funny how in today’s world we hear a version of this phrase, “Let’s be in the moment, be in the moment with your spouse, be in the moment with your God, be in the moment with your friends,” and with you guys here right now. But when you’re out in nature you’re in the moment if you’ve got friends with you, if you’re lucky enough, you’ve gone out. And even if you’re by yourself. Talk about being in the moment.
Paul: You know what’s funny is people call me and say, “Well, I’m going to be in this part of the state.” And I say, “Well, what do you like?” And I’ll say, “Do you like ghost towns? Do you like history? Do you like all of this heritage?” And there’s just so many things to look at. And if you look at our rail trails there are a lot of old ghost towns. There’s a lot of why did this trail come through or why did this railroad grade came through here? Well, there was something that was important. Cal Haven trail is a great example because of the mint.
Chuck: And where does that run? Tell us.
Paul: That goes from Kalamazoo to South Haven. And you go through the old mint fields, and if you knew a guy by the name Wrigley who invented chewing gum it came from those mint farms in southern Michigan.
Chuck: No kidding.
Paul: And you just find there’s just story after story. And then some of these little ghost towns where you see a couple of pieces of equipment or a foundation and 100 years ago, well, this was a thriving little community. So there’s just avenues for different people who have different wants and likes. But it gets you out there thinking. Then you get to the community and you stop at a store and there’s just great stories. Everybody’s got a great story to tell and just get out and enjoy it.
Chuck: But doesn’t that help us with the idea of… we’re looking for all these things. And for some people it may just be a pill. They’re just trying to figure out how to de-stress their lives. And here it is, whether it’s rain or shine or snow or it’s the heat of summer, we’ve got the ability to just really get out. What were you going to say? Were you going to…
Dan: No. Yeah. I just wanted to echo that. I mean, I think you guys have brought up great points so far that make my job easy. I’m here talking about the health benefits and you guys are bringing them up for me. But, I mean, just getting out, you’re talking about less stress. Your body is going to produce less of the stress hormone. You’re going to lower your blood pressure and your heart rate is going to be lower than technically if you were in the hustle and bustle of a city. Studies have shown that being in nature is going to have those kinds of effects on your body.
Dan: And I think, again, it’s something you don’t know until you live it. Like I can’t tell you. That first time you finally get out into nature you’re immersed in it and you feel something come over you. And I know what it is, but I really enjoy it.
Chuck: And I think about this idea of stress, and there’s good stress and bad stress and listening to you guys describe your own experiences and hearkening back to mind when you talk to your friends, they tend to bring up a story of something that was maybe a little more dramatic than a typical hike. But if I were to see foxes, if I were to see a fox and baby fox cross my path there may be a little stress involved in me like, “Well, what do I do now? I mean, I better just stop.” But that’s probably the story that I’m now going to share.
Paul: Oh, sure.
Chuck: With everybody. And they’ll say, “Really? Gee, where were you?” And that gives us an opportunity to really be evangelists for this idea, “Come out with us,” Right?
Paul: Yeah. It’s funny, we did see that. Actually, it was up in Tawas. And first you see the pups and they’re rolling around and you’re thinking, “They’re having a great time and I’m sitting back there and we’re getting our camera out. “Well, where’s mom?” And we’ve got a little bit closer. Mom over here on the side. She has got her eye on it. She’s got her eye on things. And you just see things like that, and you do, you remember that. We get back with these friends and that’s the first thing we talk about.
Chuck: Isn’t that wild? Yeah. And isn’t that good for our mental health too that we’re having these experiences and we’re able to share? Even if it’s not while you’re on the hiking trail maybe it is over a beer with your buddies.
Dan: That’s true. I mean, I think that there’s obviously an opportunity to engage with your friends and family by getting out on the trail. And I also think it helps with your outlook on life. I know that for me personally it’s had a positive impact, and I did a little digging and it shows that spending time outside in nature your prefrontal Cortex, part of your brain associated with negative thoughts, becomes less active. So literally you could be more positive by spending time in nature.
Chuck: That’s wild. It really is. So we hear these numbers, and you were sharing some earlier, but blow our minds with this idea. When you talk about all these trails and places they connect you’re talking about tens of thousands of miles.
Paul: Our state dedicated system is actually now 12600 miles of state dedicated trails. And that’s the network. That’s kind of the web. But then you have the county parks and the regional parks and the city parks. So everything kind of weaves together. But we have this foundation that you go from city to city, let’s say from Jackson to the Kalamazoo or from Jackson to Ann Arbor down here. Then from Ann Arbor on to Oakland county to Port Huron then into Detroit. Detroit has a phenomenal system.
Chuck: And you’ve got things like the Slow Roll in Detroit, which started-
Paul: Slow Roll-
Chuck: … with my buddy Jason.
Paul: … is fabulous.
Chuck: He had this idea-
Paul: Fabulous.
Chuck: … and I just watched come out and about and watch people coming to downtown on purpose to just ride their bikes slowly and take in neighborhoods and hear people tell them stories from their porches. I mean, it’s a great idea. So, Dan, when you think of any personal places you’ve been are there standouts for you?
Dan: Yeah. I grew up in Rochester and whether that was… Bald mountain was right in my backyard. It’s a great state park. And there’s actually two locations and there’s the gun range. So if you’re feeling like shooting some clay pigeons while you’re out there you have the opportunity maybe to do that yourself. But Bald Mountain was something that I not only was able to do when I was younger but it’s something I take time to get back to. They have great hiking and mountain bike trails. And then in the winter if you feel like snowshoeing or cross country skiing.
Dan: But recently I’ve been doing a lot over at Pontiac Lake. They’ve got a huge system with the equestrian trails, the mountain bike trails, and the hiking trail. And it’s something that I… like I said, it’s close to me. I live up in Waterford right now. It’s less than 20 minutes from my house. And I was even talking to you, Chuck, that I even want to make it up to Highland just maybe not even 20 minutes further than that. So there’s state parks that are all around us and those were just probably some of my hidden gems that I’ve been going to lately.
Chuck: And you were talking about preparing. Half the time I’ve gone out walking I’m taking one of the dogs or I guess they’re kind of taking me for a walk at the beginning. And sometimes I forget. I’ll have water, so I’m using my hand. I can easily have a fold up bowl. I mean, if you’re taking your buddies with you, you’ve got to remember that, right? Yeah.
Paul: Yeah. Take care of your buddies.
Chuck: You have a favorite that jumps out even going back to your school day?
Paul: You know what? When I was a kid my dad would go mushroom hunting at Waterloo Recreation Area.
Chuck: You mean morels?
Paul: Morel. Yes, yes. So we’d go out as a kid and we’d get our stick and kind of poke around for mushrooms. So that was when I was a little boy. 21000 acres there. Pinckney Recreation Area is right next to it. That’s another 11000 acres. So over 30000 acres in public land. And then when we had kids moved to Lansing and we’d go to Lake Michigan. Hoffmaster State Park was always a gem. You’ve got a nature area there. The Gillette Nature Center is there. That’s my gem over there.
Chuck: Are you ever inside a house? I mean, do you ever-
Paul: Oh, gosh. I’m in a building too much.
Chuck: Do you want to be out more?
Paul: I need to be out more. You get a job like this and you spend a lot of time inside.
Chuck: So we’re able to find so many resources in today’s world to help us understand the fitness of this, the healthfulness. But when you’re looking for places to go how are you finding places, Dan?
Dan: Well, one, I think word of mouth too. I mean, we were just chatting with us before and we were all talking about different hikes that we’ve gone on to and things that I never even thought about doing. But then not only does the DNR have its own website but there’s this app that I’ve used called AllTrails. It’s free. Obviously, like most free apps you have to pay for certain upgrades, but you can even just spend time even just getting on Google. Google your town, your trail, things that are close to you, and as long as your location is in there it’s going to pull it off for you.
Chuck: Now, I’ve checked out all these websites and I looked at AllTrails and let’s start there. I looked at it on a laptop. So it wasn’t on my phone yet. When I look at it I’m able to type in all kinds of coordinates. But if I were to upgrade it will actually track how far you’ve gone. It will let you know what’s along the trail. So it gets pretty sophisticated.
Dan: Yeah. I think that if that adds to your experience it’s worth it. For some of us it is that first step, right? It’s just taking it, getting outside your door. As much as I want to sit here and preach and probably talk about my favorite hike up in Copper Harbor and get everybody to drive to the tip of the Keweenaw I don’t think that’s for everybody. And I think if it is, that’s awesome, but if not, let’s look at what’s local. And if it is a Slow Roll, riding some bikes with your friends in a neighborhood or taking the Paint Creek Trail. I mean, there’s some great trail heads in our area in Metro Detroit that I’ve been able to experience, and that’s what I like talking about.
Paul: Yeah, yeah. You mentioned going up to the Keweenaw but getting up there in Marquette you’ve got the Iron Ore Heritage Trail, phenomenal heritage of our mining industry, of our steel mining. And there’s just opportunities like that all over.
Chuck: And when we say the word adventure we sometimes think we’ve got to go to some far reach of some corner. We’ve got to go to-
Paul: You don’t.
Chuck: Oh, my gosh.
Paul: Oh, you don’t.
Chuck: And you can also do a hybrid, right? I mean, with the way the system is laid out you can hike to a spot that does a canoe rental or a kayak rental. Have fun that way instead of hike your way back.
Paul: Sure. Sure. That’s right. You don’t have to have some of this equipment. You can rent. You go to Traverse City and there you can rent thousands of bikes. Take the TART Trail and the Leelanau Trail, and a lot of communities are doing that. Even downtown Detroit, you can come in and rent a bike and you can bike the entire watershed or the entire river course right there from bridge to bridge. It’s beautiful.
Chuck: Now, I know we have focused intently and I want to get to these apps again in a minute, ways for us to find the trails on the healthfulness. But let’s be fair, I go to hike with my brother and he knows a spot up near somewhere near Sleeping Bear Dunes where we can get the best chicken, and somebody else is going know where they can get the best wine in the Leelanau.
Paul: Sure. Sure.
Chuck: So it’s okay for us to also plan some of our trips that, “Well, we’ve worked off the calories, we feel great.” There’s a way to connect with our friends and our loved ones as well over a nice meal or something.
Paul: I talked about every community has a story and they’ve got a great history to tell. Take advantage of it. Go into town. What made this little community great? And that’s part of the trip. The journey is part of the whole thing and getting there. And then get out some exercise and see great views that you usually don’t see.
Dan: Well, Chuck, I did a little planning myself. So when we are up in Petoskey saying, “Well, I’m not going to bring my bike up there,” but then I knew I could rent a bike and then I finally got to take that bike ride, take it from Petoskey all the way up to Charlevoix and back. And it was such a beautiful trip. And I would say it was raining. So I could probably say it’s important to pack accordingly. As long as you’re dressed appropriately, the weather doesn’t bother you. But, I mean, obviously I wish it was 85 and sunny, but it didn’t turn us away from getting out and seeing beautiful Lake Michigan rolling in.
Chuck: But when you say in Michigan you’ve gone from Petoskey to Harbor Springs all the way up to Charlevoix when you’re saying that out loud and the visions of the places you could go, even though it was raining, did you stop at a place for lunch?
Dan: Absolutely.
Chuck: Did you get a little fudge; a little taffy?
Dan: You’ve got to look for Petoskey stone too while you’re at it. Do some skipping on the water while you’re cruising by. And absolutely the fudge up north it’s a hidden gem in Michigan.
Paul: Well, at the end I’ve got a question for you. Did you stop at the Odin Fish Hatchery?
Dan: I didn’t. See? I messed up.
Paul: Oh, Dan. Everybody should stop at the fish hatchery.
Chuck: Why?
Paul: It’s fabulous. Because first of all, the department, we raise fish for Lake Michigan and trout in the first streams, and you get an active fish hatchery there. When you get on site you go on, there’s a little creek and they’ve got a little glass window on the side of the creek and there’s going to be brook trout in there.
Chuck: Come on.
Paul: But it’s great. I mean, I can’t believe that… it’s just outside of Petoskey. It’s just north of town and it’s fabulous.
Chuck: But you can spend hours. I was with my grandson and my granddaughter and my wife and our family. We spent hours looking for the right, not for a Petoskey stone, for the right seven year old and four year old version of a Petoskey stone. And once we found it, and it took hours, it was a perfect day. And time just goes away. And it’s okay that it goes away.
Paul: And it’s a simple pleasure. I’m going to go back to the state park. We’re fortunate to have these great land masses that you can get out too. And it’s not just in one part of the state. It’s all over. It’s on the east side. It’s on the west side. It’s in the middle of the state. So go out and enjoy it. It’s your resources to use.
Chuck: And from the standpoint of the Department of Natural Resources in Michigan tell us about the resources that you’ve got. What is the DNR trail map?
Paul: Well, we have a trail map that’s online that talks about… let’s say you’re an equestrian. We have our equestrian trails. Our mountain bike system and a lot of that’s on state and federal land… any kind of a opportunity that you want to do from walking, to mountain biking, to hiking it’s out online and it’s an opportunity for you to use.
Chuck: So as we start to wrap things up, do you see a particular point that you want to bring up, Dan, of something that we should all be focused on here? Is-
Dan: Yeah. If I can, I could maybe highlight a couple of tips.
Chuck: Sure.
Dan: I think we all talked about a few things that we like to do ourselves. I think it’s important to start small. I think, like we said, just take that first initial step out the door and realize that it doesn’t have to be a huge hike. Find what you enjoy, maybe find an area you haven’t even been to. Maybe that’s an opportunity.
Dan: And then from there you got to prepare for the worst. Like I talked about maybe having a poncho with you in case it starts to rain, making sure you wear the right shoes, bring in an extra pair of socks, and if you fall it doesn’t hurt to have a first aid kit with you. And we talk about the buddy system. It’s important when you’re out there to let people know you’re hiking. We talked about, Chuck, that you might even have sprained an ankle and it took you a little bit longer to get back. But if you had a buddy there, maybe have somebody to help shoulder the load or help if it was worse that you have somebody that can make the phone call for you and get the help that you need.
Dan: And then obviously I talked about overestimating your time. I think that’s very important. I think that we can see a trail and think that it’s paved and it’s going to be fine, but once it starts getting windy and you’re going up and down hills it can be challenging. So it’s important to maybe give yourself more than enough time to be out there and enjoy the hike or the bike.
Dan: And then lastly, I think it’s just important for me to continue to do what Paul did in the beginning is highlight our state resources. I talked about state parks, whether, like I said it was Bald Mountain or Pontiac Lake or Highland, but that’s just what’s around me in my area and that’s what I know. But I would just encourage everybody else to get to the DNR website and plug that in and see what’s available in there.
Chuck: And you raised this idea of making sure that we’re safe when we’re out there, leaving some breadcrumbs. I mean, if I’m going to leave the house it’s probably helpful not only out of courtesy say, “Honey, just so you know where I am.” But if you’ve got kids, especially teenage kids and they’re going out you need to let them know. Let us know where you’re going because it’s me, it’s dad. I don’t want to have to become Liam Neeson and come in for you, but if I have to-
Dan: You can do that.
Chuck: I need to know where you are. So happy 100th birthday.
Paul: Thank you.
Chuck: … to our state park system.
Paul: Thank you. Thank you.
Chuck: And a big plans. Should we be looking for anything special?
Paul: You know what you need to do? There’s going to be events all over the state. So go out and enjoy it. See how many state parks you can see this year.
Chuck: Yeah. Wouldn’t that be great?
Paul: Yeah. Go on out and check it out.
Chuck: You don’t pop out of a cake or anything. I mean, there’s nothing like that.
Paul: No, no, no. We have Smokey Bear out there. We’ve got a lot of things. But I don’t pop out of the cake. But do go out and enjoy the natural resources and come back in a year and say, “Hey, I’ve looked at 60 state parks this year.”
Chuck: What a great idea. Well, good to meet you. Thanks for being with us, Paul. Dan, good to see you too.
Dan: Thanks, Chuck.
Chuck: Be safe as you’re venturing out, and I hope you get a takeaway from this episode of our podcast because we really are talking about getting out, enjoying the state, no matter the season, no matter the weather the day you look out the window because you can go anytime you want to.
Chuck: Thanks for listening to A Healthier Michigan Podcast brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. If you like the show, you can check it out at ahealthiermichigan.org/podcast and we will also be linking or placing the links we’ve talked about, the DNR trail map, and the AllTrails app for you. So you’ll be able to find those as well and you can forward them to friends and loved ones when you’re trying to make your plans for the weekend or beyond. And don’t forget, you can always leave a review or rating on iTunes or Stitcher. To get new episodes on your smartphone or tablet be sure to subscribe to us on Apple Podcast, Spotify, and there are a few other ways to your favorite podcast app. Get out, take a hike. I’m Chuck Gaidica. Thanks for joining us.

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
No Personal Healthcare Advice or Other Advice
This Web site provides general educational information on health-related issues and provides access to health-related resources for the convenience of our users. This site and its health-related information and resources are not a substitute for professional medical advice or for the care that patients receive from their physicians or other health care providers.
This site and its health-related information resources are not meant to be the practice of medicine, the practice of nursing, or to carry out any professional health care advice or service in the state where you live. Nothing in this Web site is to be used for medical or nursing diagnosis or professional treatment.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other licensed health care provider. Always consult your health care provider before beginning any new treatment, or if you have any questions regarding a health condition. You should not disregard medical advice, or delay seeking medical advice, because of something you read in this site.