Thursday, June 27, 2013

J.W. Wells State Park: Timber Trail (Blog Hike #388)

Trail: Timber Trail
Hike Location: J. W. Wells State Park
Geographic Location: northeast of Menominee, MI
Length: 0.8 miles
Difficulty: 0/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: July 2012
Overview: A forest loop hike near the shore of Green Bay.

Directions to the trailhead: The entrance to John Walter Wells State Park is on SR 35 22 miles northeast of Menominee or 29 miles southwest of Escanaba.  Enter the park, pay the park entrance fee, and continue along the main park road to the cul de sac at its very end.  Drive almost all of the way around the cul de sac to the north end of the large parking area along the cul de sac.  The hike starts at the North Picnic Shelter.

The hike: Featuring 3 miles of shoreline along the north shore of Green BayJ. W. Wells State Park received its name from John Walter Wells, a pioneer lumberman.  In addition to owning several lumber companies and sawmills in the area, J. W. Wells served as mayor of Menominee for three terms beginning in 1893.  The park was established in 1925 when Wells’ children donated these 678 acres of land to the state of Michigan.
            Most of the facilities in the park were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s and early 1940’s.  The park features a large picnic area, a campground, several rustic cabins, and a lodge with 12 rooms (rented on a weekly basis).  The park contains over 4 miles of hiking trails, but many of them either pass through the park’s developed areas or do not form nice loops.  The portion of the Timber Trail described here does form a short loop through the less developed (after you leave the picnic area) southern corner of the park.
            From the parking area, walk down the paved path to the North Picnic Shelter, where restrooms are available.  The Timber Trail starts through the grassy area to the right.  Either before or after your hike, you should check out the sandy swimming beach straight ahead.  Even if you do not plan to swim, the beach gives the best view of Green Bay on this hike.
Beach on Green Bay
            The two arms of the Timber Trail loop depart from the south end of the grassy area.  To hike the loop clockwise, this description will take the left trail now and use the right trail as the return route.  After a brief stint in the forest, the trail passes through the grassy area surrounding the South Picnic Shelter.  This shelter was closed on my visit.  Continue straight to reenter the forest at post #12.  Intersections in the park are marked with numbered posts that also contain a sign with a trail map.
            The wide, grassy, flat trail heads south through the aspen, white cedar, and yellow birch forest.  Green Bay lies only a few yards through the trees to the left, but the green shroud is sufficiently thick that you will rarely be able to see it.  Some interesting wooden bridges made of small logs carry you over a couple of small streams.
Wooden bridge on Timber Trail
            At 0.4 miles, the trail makes a sweeping 180-degree right turn to begin heading back to the picnic shelters.  When I drove into the park, I noticed a large number of downed white cedar trees in the woods along the park road.  Accordingly, this section of trail featured a large number of downed trees that had to be climbed over, under, or around.  These obstacles present the only degree of difficulty on this trail.
Downed white cedar tree over trail
            At 0.7 miles, you pass through the other side of the grassy area around the South Picnic Shelter.  The two-track trail exiting left leads to the other end of the long parking area that contains your car.  Thus, to return to your car you can either turn left here and walk through the parking lot or continue straight to close the loop at the North Picnic Shelter in another 0.1 miles.

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