Wanna help me hike?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Kal-Haven Trail

Just got back from a week of hiking in the woods of western Michigan. As much as I love doing it, this kind of hiking is not for the meek or faint-of-heart: it's cold out there. Real cold. So cold that whatever was not in your sleeping bag with you the night before is now frozen solid. Water? Toothpaste? Tent poles? All frozen solid.
But it's worth it. Western Michigan has its own special kind of beauty this time of year. The water in the rivers and creeks looks thick and black. The skies are dramatic. The crows are pissed off that a huge red-tailed hawk is in their territory.
The people on this trail are few and far between. Lots of snowmobile riders. A few cross-country skiers. Some very kind store owners like this guy:
Eighty seven year-old Walter Garrett. Runs the Kendall Store in tiny Kendall, Michigan. All he wanted was to share a cup of coffee and to hear my stories. When I told him about some of my hikes, he said that he admired me. I was deeply flattered that someone from the 'greatest generation' would say that. Another kind soul was the guy who runs Pyle's Porthole in South Haven, Michigan.
This is the kind of place where locals gather to hear the latest hunting and fishing news. They like to get a look at a guy who would hike more than a hundred miles in the dead of winter and ask him a few questions.

If anyone reading this wants to do this hike with me, I'd do it again in a second. This is the third time I've hiked this trail and I know all the best places to camp. We can leave from downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan and take the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail west out of town to the 10th Street trail head of the Kal-Haven Trail. We can hike 33.5 miles west to South Haven, Michigan and then go south through town to pick up the 14 mile Van Buren Trail. Yo-yo that and head back to KZoo. Takes about a week of 13 to 15 mile days. Better be ready to put your head down and stomp through blowing snow. Check it out:
Ideally, you end up back in KZoo and you celebrate your accomplishment at Larry Bell's Eccentric Cafe with a craft-brewed beer and a burger.

As always, huge thanks to Camp Champaign founding members Martha Rogers and Sandy Lowe for making crazy adventures like this possible. Love!


  1. Snow, wind, pitbulls, 15 degree nights. You are brave, tenacious, maybe a bif crazy and dedicated!
    The fleece of heavenly warmth must be your best friend.
    Love you! And welcome home.

  2. Great to read Wolverine! Keep it up. - Typo

  3. I like the burger and craft beer part.

  4. What about the hiking 13 to 15 miles a day in the snow part?

    1. hey i want to join with your hiking trail, i m from michigan.love doing trails is there any that i could be part of your journey..

    2. Raja - Sure you can hike with me. Have you done any long distance hiking before? Email me at cbhillier2@gmail.com

  5. you have to admire a man that hikes in a Michigan winter! i'll definitely be bugging you for some winter hiking tips.