Outdoor report: Stopping by the woods on a snowy afternoon.

January 23, 2020

Outdoor report: Stopping by the woods on a snowy afternoon.

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

PENTWATER TOWNSHIP, Oceana Co. — When you embark upon the Pentwater Pathways, you feel as if you stepped into the famous Robert Frost poem, “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening.”

The pathways consist of 7.2 different trail miles that form four loops. If you ski each loop, which duplicate in some spots, you can ski over 15 miles.

I spent the good part of a sunny afternoon skiing the well-groomed trails located in the beautiful Pere Marquette State Forest. After finally getting our first signifcant snowfall for the 2019-2020 winter over the weekend, I have been yearning to hit the Pentwater Pathways on my Nordic skis.

The area is under the care of the Michigan Wildlife Division of the Department of Natural Resources and the Oceana Cross Country Ski Association, and the trails are groomed routinely. There is no fee for using the trails.

During the non-winter months, you can hike and mountain bike on the trail system.

Snowshoers must travel alongside the trails, so they don’t destroy the well-maintained grooves for the skiers.

There are signs of wildlife as you travel through the Narnia-like woods, and you just may get to see one of the many creatures who live there if you’re lucky. And unlike busy alpine ski resorts, there are no crowds of people. During my recent solo expedition, I encountered only one other person.

No motorized vehicles are allowed, although the paths cross some snowmobile trails in the area. The pathways are clearly marked to warn skiers when they are crossing a snowmobile trail.

Maps along the route guide you, and markers indicate the skill level for each path. It’s important to pay attention to where you’re going, so you don’t end up on a trail that is too difficult for your skill level.

I wiped out twice on a trail marked “more difficult,” but that was due to trying to navigate down a couple of hills. Snow-covered and slightly shaken, I got back up and carried on.

Cross country skiing is one of the best cardiovascular workouts you can do. According to Women’s Fitness, if you’re in good shape and well-versed in the sport, you can burn up to 20 calories per minute — which is over 1,000 calories an hour! It is best to dress in layers, so you can shed them as you become overheated. When it’s 20 degrees outside and you’re sweating, you know you’re getting a good workout.

It was a magical journey through the gorgeous woodland. I skied over five miles and would have kept on skiing if I had more time.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”

To find the Pentwater Pathways trailhead, take the Pentwater Monroe Road exit off US 31, turn west on Long Bridge Road and then south on Wayne Road. The entrance is about one mile south. There is also parking off Railroad Avenue near Jackson Road.

This story is copyrighted © 2020, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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