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Shore to Shore Ride in Michigan
An adventurous journey that takes you through the beautiful state of Michigan
Written By Beth Braznell

Across the state of Michigan for 256 miles, from Lake Michigan in the west to Lake Huron in the east, runs the Michigan Riding and Hiking Trail. 

 

Developed and maintained by the Michigan Trail Riders Association (MTRA) and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the trail crosses state and national forests.

 

You will ride through groves of birch and aspen, pine, oak and other hardwoods; through towns where residents set out troughs of water for your horses; through lumbered clear-cuts; through areas being restored as habitat for the Kirkland warbler; across rivers and creeks; over an old corduroy road; through a swamp and through land that is otherwise closed to horses.

In June, I rode the trail from west to east with the MTRA on their ‘Shore to Shore’ ride.  It was a goal that I set for myself when I turned 65.  I love traveling and camping with Sam my Missouri Foxtrotter, mostly traveling alone. 

 

This seemed like a good challenge of my abilities and Sam’s training and conditioning.

 

You must be a member of the MTRA for 30 days prior to the ride.  There are several rides each year, but only one with layover days.  The cross-state ride takes 11 days of riding but there are camps along the way. 

 

Camps have no hookups but the MTRA has a generator to power the well in each camp.  Horses are picketed overnight.

So, how does this all work?  

 

I got up early in the morning, fed Sam and myself, left all my tack in a pile and drove my rig to the next camp.  I jumped on the MTRA bus that took me back to my horse where I tacked up, put the picket line, halter, and water bucket on the bus, and rode Sam to the next camp. 

 

The first day, we rode 9.5 miles from the camp at Garey Lake to Lake Michigan in the scenic town of Empire which was a very pretty ride.  We rode through town to the beach at Lake Michigan. 

 

Horses are not routinely permitted on the beach, so it was a great privilege to ride our horses through the beachside park and coax them into the lake. 

 

Sam was concerned about the waves, but he summoned up his courage and went into the lake for a photo.

 

The second day was more taxing for me.  It was the first move to a new camp and I was nervous about how it was going to go.  I left Sam on the picket line with a bucket of water, got in my rig and followed ‘Barb the Bus Driver’ to the camp at Lake Dubonnet.  After parking my rig, I got onto the bus and Barb drove us back to Garey Lake. 

As I was tacking up, the skies opened up.  I threw on my raincoat and struggled to get the highline down... 

 

In the crashing rain while trying to hold onto my horse, and with the bus needing to leave, I totally forgot how to take down my highline.

 

I wound up taking it completely apart rather than just unhooking it…and I got drenched in the process.

 

 

In the rain, I started down the well-marked trail.  The rain let up after about a half hour, I managed to dry out, and the rest of the ride was lovely.

 

And so, it went.  Ride two days and then a layover day. 

 

The forest changed from birch and aspen to maple and oak to pine, wild blueberries were thick, and loons called on the lakes. 

As we moved from the Lake Michigan watershed to the Lake Huron watershed, we saw more pines—tall, graceful, perfumed.  We rode through Mayhem Swamp over an old corduroy road, traversed wooden bridges over bogs and through towns.

 

We ate pizza and ice cream at a store that had hitching rails, and had set out water buckets for the horses and snacks for the riders

 

On the MTRA rides, you ride at your own pace with no set departure or arrival time.  You ride by yourself or with others.  People are gracious, warm, friendly and helpful.  You will always have companions, even if you arrive alone.

 

I used my layover days for laundry, replenishing groceries, and a bit of sightseeing.  I strongly recommend visiting the Amish town of Mio (the bakery!!) and enjoying the Stromboli at Ma Deeter’s restaurant in Kalkaska.  If you are a fisherman, the Boardman, Manistee, and legendary AuSable rivers offer great sport.

 

I found it glorious to ride all the way, but you do not have to ride the entire trail.  Come for part of the ride if you like. 

 

When you join the MTRA, they send you wonderful maps and loads of information to make your ride successful.  Visit their website at mtra.org to learn more.  It was a fabulous experience!  I cannot wait to do it again! 



Beth lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, Jay Rosloff. Her horse, Sam, is a Missouri Foxtrotter. Beth is retired; Sam is not. They enjoy traveling and distance trail riding. Well, Beth probably enjoys it more than Sam, but he's a good sport about it. 

*Photo of Beth & Sam reaching Lake Michigan!

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