It is now taking me a little over an hour to drive from home to reach where I left off walking and then I drove to where I hoped to end up. I found where the North Country Trail intersected the train tracks. There was a little side road with a lot of brush. First mistake. I locked the bike to a tree and drove back the way I arrived on F Drive North instead of driving a little further up the road and checking where I would be coming out by Dickenson Creek and Kimball Pines. Second mistake. Then I drove back to my starting location, just South of the M-37 and M-89 intersection.  I walked a total distance of 12 miles.  It was a fascinating day, clear and cool.

I spent the first seven miles walking the Linear Trail along the Kalamazoo River, through downtown Battle Creek.  The city was so named because of a small skirmish between surveyors and two Potawatomi Native Americans on March 14, 1821. This city is primarily known for three things: 1) Breakfast and cereal capital of the world, 2) The cradle of the Seventh-Day Adventist denomination, and, 3) a major stop on the Underground Railroad.  There is a wonderful sculpture commemorating this called the Battle Creek Underground Railroad monument in the Linear Park.  Harriet Tubman, who will soon replace Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20.00 bill, as well as other prominent abolitionists and Quaker activists, are portrayed.

I was surprised to find a man living alone, in a tent behind an abandoned home.  Not even out of town, I found two additional locations where I saw tents and fire pits where one man resting on a mattress under a tree was guarded by a growling pit bull trying to lunge at me. It was explained to me that in the evening there would be anywhere from 2-15 individuals staying there.  This gentleman said he lives outside throughout the summer.  Next time, I am going to sit and learn more about this lifestyle.

“Delena” was the first serious hiker I met on the trail.  She was working on her second long distance trek on the North Country Trail.  There was a couple who did not look “normal.”  A number of day hikers, a young couple making out on a lonely section of the trail, and a well-dressed volunteer who gave me some directions.  All in all, a pretty good cross section of our society.

The Dogwood and a few other trees and flowers were just starting to blossom.  The place is full of squirrels, at least six, most of them the East Coast Grey, most of them looking black and the common red. I ended the day wandering around Bridge Park, a renovated Kalamazoo River picnic site paid for by EPA mandated clean-up costs of the Enbridge oil spill in July, 2010.  This has been the largest and most costly of any USA inland spill in U.S. history, costing $765 million dollars.  If I had not missed the turn off on the trail and found the bicycle immediately, I would have missed this park and that bit of history altogether.  Funny, how each hike somehow relates to access to clean and safe water both here and around the world. Will you join me next time on the trail? Come alongside to see the beauty of the trail, meet interesting folks and learn about how water is an essential natural resource in every corner of the world!

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