Every winter, I promise myself that I am going to continue my daily hikes. Most winters I am pretty good about keeping this promise unless it is bitterly cold or really snowy. Prior to the past week, this winter has been unusually mild in Michigan. (As I’m writing this, the temperature is -14 degrees Fahrenheit and it “feels like” -34 degrees Fahrenheit!) The mild weather allowed Mellow and me to hike almost daily at what I consider our “home” trail: the metro-park that surrounds our house. I love the two mile walk that we always do on the unpaved, wooded trails.
On Saturday, January 12, I decided to branch out and hike a different trail. It was a chilly day, but I felt wearing layers would make a hike possible. Earlier that week, my friend Bev texted me and said we should get together to walk our dogs. We have been talking about hiking together since our hike last summer. Last time we hiked at a park near my house, so it was my turn to make the thirty minute drive to meet up. I immediately thought of Seven Lakes State Park which is near her house. I texted Bev, asking her if she was up for a hike. We hadn’t seen each other in several months, so I was excited when she agreed. Bev recently adopted a new puppy, and I was eager to meet him.
I’ve hiked at Seven Lakes State Park before, but I was with my friend Shanna who knows the trails well since she lives nearby. I didn’t look closely at the map when I hiked with her since she was so familiar with the park. I decided to investigate an online map and get an idea of which trail we should hike. I found this map and looked at some of the trail options.
After briefly viewing the map, I brewed coffee and filled my travel mug and thermos. I am a firm believer in grinding whole beans and brewing good quality coffee at home rather than trying to find decent coffee on the road. I rarely leave my house for the day without a supply of coffee and a Nalgene bottle (or two!) of water.
As I started pulling on layers of warm clothing, Mellow realized that we were going for a walk. Whenever I put on certain articles of clothing, such as my hiking boots or SmartWool insulated skirt, Mellow knows what we are doing. She gets a heartbreaking hopeful look in her eyes; she thinks she is probably going with me, but she isn’t totally sure until I start getting her things around.
I bundled Mellow up in her fleece sweatshirt and Weatherbeeta coat and loaded her into the car. Sipping my coffee and listening to some tunes, I pulled out of my driveway and headed towards Seven Lakes State Park where Bev and I were meeting.
I enjoy road trips, even if they are just day trips. Though it was a chilly, overcast day, it was a pleasant drive. Since there was no snow, the drive was an easy one up 23 north to the Fenton area. Just getting out of the house and doing something different made me excited.
After an uneventful drive, I exited the freeway and navigated to the entrance of Seven Lakes State Park. I realized once I turned into the park that I was in unfamiliar territory. Where was the main trailhead parking? I am so used to hiking at the parks near my house that I forgot to figure that out before leaving home. The entrance into Seven Lakes State Park requires driving down long, paved park roads. The intersections aren’t clearly marked with signs indicating where the trailheads are. I could tell that if I drove around looking for the trailhead without first consulting a map, I would waste time aimlessly driving.
Luckily, the park wasn’t busy that day and I was able to pull onto the shoulder of the park road to look at the online map again using my iPhone. I chose to park at Dickinson Lake since it looked like there were several shorter trail options there. Bev was going to arrive at the park a little later, so I figured I could take Mellow on a quick walk before she met the puppy to burn off some of her energy.
I parked near marker 14 at the Dickinson Lake shelter lot. Mellow and I did a little exploring on our own. We entered the trail at marker 14 and walked clockwise toward marker 10. We hung out on a bench by Dickinson Lake for a few minutes, then continued our walk toward the boat launch and marker 9. We found an interesting structure on this stretch. I remembered seeing this structure on a previous hike with Shanna.
We also found a boat launch for Dickinson Lake. This made me think about kayaking here next summer. I will definitely check this out without Mellow first to see how long it takes to paddle the perimeter and find places where Mellow could get out of the kayak to take a break.
After our quick twenty minute walk, Mellow and I turned around and retraced our steps back to the parking lot to meet Bev and Cargo, her new puppy. Right when we turned to walk across the parking lot, I saw Bev drive up. Talk about perfect timing!
Mellow and Cargo’s first meeting went so smoothly that anyone watching would have thought the dogs knew each other well. Cargo is a sweet, laid-back puppy who took everything new he did that day in stride, including meeting Mellow. Both dogs greeted each other politely and without barking. They hit it off immediately.
Bev and I started our hike at marker 15 and headed toward marker 16. There we had to make a decision whether to hike south or head north and commit to walking around Big Seven Lake. Interestingly, the trails did not have distances marked on them. Although I had hiked at Seven Lake State Park before, I don’t remember exactly which trails or how long it took. We decided that we would head north; we could always turn around and walk back if we felt like we were getting too cold or it was going to take too long.
The beginning part of our hike past markers 15, 16, and 17 was sheltered because it was in the woods. We only saw one couple on this part of the trail; we basically had the woods to ourselves.
Once we passed marker 5, we entered a clearing between Big Seven Lake and Little Seven Lake. This part of the trail also looked familiar to me. We stopped for a minute to get a picture of Bev with Cargo on his first big hike. Cargo did pretty well considering how young he is. Bev only carried him for short stretches to give him a break and keep him warm.
We continued our hike with no idea of how long it was going to take. Since we made it that far around the lake, we figured we should push ahead and finish walking the perimeter.
We stopped to check out a dam between markers 2 and 1 at the northernmost point of Big Seven Lake. It is difficult to see from this photograph, but there is a big drop from the top of the dam to the concrete channel below.
When I neared the railing to peer down at the rushing water, Mellow leapt onto the concrete retaining wall and sat down like it was the most natural place in the world to hang out. I ordered her down, and she jumped right back onto the wall again. My stomach did a flip flop as I imagined her falling over the edge. Even though it was a scary thought, it was also funny to see her persistently trying to sit on the ledge.
After the dam, we walked down a sidewalk along the beach area. This is the designated swimming area of Big Seven Lake. I imagine it gets busy in the summer; there are even real bathrooms and a concession stand. I’d like to check out it in the warmer months.
This part of the hike was where it began to get chilly. The wind whipped across the open water, and without trees we felt the full impact. We cut across the parking lot to shorten the hike a little and headed back into the woods.
It was around this time on the hike that I began to get concerned that we were going to run out of daylight. The hike took longer than we thought. We had no way to tell how far the hike was since none of the maps had mileage on them. We had no choice but to keep walking; turning around at this point would be at least the same distance anyway. I could feel the cold starting to seep through my insulated running tights.
While we were walking through the woods, Bev mentioned that she loves photographs shot upwards in stands of trees. We stopped so I could snap a photo of her in some pines on the last part of our hike. At this point, we joked that our hike was becoming a forced march and Cargo was probably wondering what he had gotten himself into.
After a little over two hours, we reached the parking lot at marker 14 with no time to spare. The sun had gone done, and it was beginning to get dark. Had I known the hike would take that long, I would have packed my headlamp. I could have used the flashlight feature on my cell phone, but a headlamp is way better.
Bev and I agreed that we would hike the perimeter of Big Seven Lake again, especially now that we know about how long it will take. I look forward to hiking this trail many more times in the future with Mellow, Bev, and Cargo.
I feel like we barely scratched the surface at Seven Lakes State Park. There are some foot trails between Dickinson, Sand, and Spring Lakes that I’d like to check out. I also want to explore the lakes in my kayak. I’m thinking that Seven Lakes State Park is going to become Bev’s “home” park, one that we will hopefully explore together with our pups in the future.