While the primary purpose of a school is to educate the children, Michigan’s public schools are also owners/adminstrators of large blocks of public land. So they should not be overlooked as potential sources of interesting hiking trail. This is most especially true during the fall when school cross country teams draw white lines and clear trail through hundreds of Michigan forests.
The Addison Community Schools in northwest Lenawee County are a perfect example. Immediately north of the Panther Elementary and Addison Jr./Sr. High are dozens of acres of pine plantation, deciduous woodlot and open meadow.
The Addison cross country teams worked very hard during the past year to turn the woods into a prime cross country competition course. In addition to regular school meets, Addison held a community 5K on the course earlier this year. Coach Chris Christensen and all team members should be very proud of their accomplishments. [Full Disclosure: I am biased. I teach at Addison.]
While the entire trail system totals 3.1 miles in length, some of that involves routes in and around athletic fields. I will not include that in this report.
There are two basic ways to access this trail system. One is at the back of the Addison athletic complex. The trail peeks out of the woods in two spots just beyond the outfield fence of the baseball field. More practical, however, is an old railroad right-of-way that intersects with Comstock St. just to the south of the Addison Millpond. At this location, fishermen have carved out several perfect spots to park a car to access this trail.
A hiker should follow the right-of-way east until a mowed path with yellow “trail” signs comes into view. The entire route runs in a generally clockwise fashion from this point onward.
The first section of the trail is sandy and passes through a disturbed meadow habitat. Views of the millpond and town cemetery come into view.
Soon, a visitor enters a mature pine plantation. Pine plantations are a guilty pleasure of mine. Once mature, these kinds of woods can often become biologically dead zones, but I have always enjoyed the pleasant pine fragrance, dark coolness and soft needle pathways of a pine forest. Addison’s version is very pleasing as it slaloms between the trees and speeds quickly through the plantation straightaways.
The visual highlight of the entire trail soon comes into view as the easternmost portions of the Addison Millpond reveal themselves to the north. Sure, this isn’t an ocean or Great Lakes view, but it is a mildly dramatic vista and the frogs, ducks and lily pads are certainly worth the effort.
The trail reaches its easternmost point and then u-turns back onto the old rail corridor. From here it’s a straight and open mowed-grass path west between the pines on the right and more leafy woods on the left. The path turns south and up a small hill into the woods.
Inside the woods, the trail weaves back and forth. These are well-loved paths and there can be come confusion as to the proper route. I recommend looking for remnants of the white cross country route marker as is speeds along. Most interesting are the large numbers of rocks and small boulders that mark the remnants of past glaciation in this region.
As the trail finds the edge of the woods near the athletic complex, it is possible to follow the full Addison cross country route. Just head out of the woods and use the white line and map as a guide.
Those who remain in the woods will walk another half mile before moving back out of the woods and onto the old railbed. At this point, a short walk to the west returns a hiker to his or her car with a few new miles underfoot and memories of a nice natural experience close at hand.
Note: The Addison Community Schools are currently working on a major addition and renovation project. The sounds of the project can be heard from the trail. And it is possible that trail access might be limited at times. Also, this is a school campus, so it is best hiked on the weekends and after school hours.