Thursday, July 28, 2016

Running the Kal-Haven Trail

Kal-Haven Trail
Before the advent of automobiles and highways, trains carried Michiganders and cargo across a system of rails connecting small towns, big cities, and Great Lakes ports. As cars and air travel became more popular, this rail system slowly became obsolete. Beginning in the 1960s, conservationists and outdoors enthusiasts around the country started a movement to convert these railroads to trails for public use. Michigan now has approximately 120 rail-trails totaling more than 2,000 miles.

On my recent trip to South Haven, I had the opportunity to run along the Kal-Haven Trail on the morning I left town. The trail is a 34.5 mile former railroad that connects Kalamazoo and South Haven. I started at the trailhead, which is about one mile northeast of downtown South Haven. I parked in the trailhead's lot, stretched, and began running.

A view of the Black River from the Kal-Haven Trail
I ran an out-and-back of approximately 15 miles, so I only saw about 7.5 miles of the trail. The first stretch of the trail is paved before it eventually turns into crushed limestone. The starting mile marker is probably about 0.2 miles into the trail. The trail has a mile marker every mile. I  questioned the accuracy of a couple of mile markers because twice I had a very quick (for me) split immediately followed by a slow split, and I don't think my pace was varying that much.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Weekend Getaway in South Haven

Lake Michigan and the South Haven Lighthouse
This past weekend, my wife, Allison, and I visited South Haven for a quick vacation. South Haven is on the shores of Lake Michigan, about an hour drive from Grand Rapids, two hours from Chicago, and three hours from Detroit. We arrived around 4 p.m. on Friday and left around 1 p.m. on Sunday, just enough time to get a taste of South Haven and to leave us wanting more.

Our Accommodations

We stayed in the beautiful Yelton Manor Bread and Breakfast on North Shore Drive. South Haven is carved into two sections by the Black River, and Yelton Manor is on the north side of town, across the river from the downtown. It is far enough away from the crowds downtown and the larger beaches near the mouth of the river to give guests a relaxing setting to unwind.

The Manor
Even though it is on a quiet street removed from the downtown, Yelton Manor is close enough to walk to almost everything South Haven offers. Downtown is about a ten to fifteen minute walk away, and the South Beach lighthouse near downtown is about a twenty minute walk total. Best of all, a public beach access is across the street from Yelton Manor.

Monday, July 11, 2016

An Afternoon in Lake Orion

Downtown Lake Orion
Michigan has so many great towns to visit for a weekend, a day trip, or even an afternoon. In Metro Detroit, there are a lot of walkable downtowns with restaurants and shopping, but not many of them are within a short walk to a lake.

A dragon guarding the art center
Lake Orion in northeast Oakland County feels like a small resort town that you might find Up North, but it is only 45 minutes north of Detroit. The town actually served as a vacation destination for people from Detroit and beyond in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and it even had an amusement park. The lake and a public park (a park pass is required during the summer) with a swimming beach are only a few blocks from the downtown.

Public art near Paint Creek
My family and I visited Lake Orion on a Saturday afternoon and parked in a free public lot between Broadway and Anderson streets. There is also ample and free street parking throughout the downtown, but the street spots have a two-hour limit, unlike the 23-hour limit of the public lot.