Illinois Group Uses State Railts to Trails Network
Scouts and their leaders from Wood Dale, Illinois, ride 250 miles by bicycle to spend the day on Mackinac Island as part of their annual High Adventure Trip Friday, August 7. Boy Scouts from Troop 65 include (pictured in no order) Colton Brandon, Greg Wagner, Jonathan Mercado, Tommy Fischer, Matthew Welmers, Daniel Ortiz, Michael Hansen, Phil Espinoza, and Josh Baehr. Leaders include Dan Wagner, Mike Rohl, Marty Welmers, Jim Hansen, Rich Zollner, Rick Fischer, Joaquin Mercado, and Terry Fults.
Traveling 250 miles by bicycle, followed by a 20-minute ferry ride, nine Boy Scouts from Troop 65 out of Wood Dale, Illinois, reached Mackinac Island Friday, August 7. They were on their annual High Adventure Trip.
By car, the scouts traveled from Chicago to Grand Rapids, where bicycles and helmets were unloaded from a support vehicle. Their trip plan was to cycle north along old converted railroad beds until they reached Mackinaw City. They camped in tents along the way, enjoying campfires and choosing campgrounds that offered evening activities.
Eight adults accompanied the scouts.
Scout Matthew Welmers, 17, who had never been to Mackinac Island, had the responsibility to decide on this year’s journey for the troop’s annual High Adventure Trip. After he found information on the Rails to Trails program and talked with his father, who had lived in Michigan as a youngster, he knew Michigan and a visit to the Island would be the perfect adventure.
The troop was able to take advantage of the state’s trail program except for a stretch between Cadillac and Gaylord, where there is no pathway, so the troop found alternative roads to use.
“It was very rare stepping on the Island, seeing roads, no cars, just bicycles everywhere,” said Mr. Welmers. “It’s nice. I like the Island a lot.”
Rain made the beginning part of the trip difficult, agreed the scouts and leaders. Also parts of the trail grade were rocky and rough, and adding that to the wet weather made the early miles challenging.
Patrol Leader Colton Senior, 14, said in the first two days the troop traveled about 56 miles a day. The trail was challenging, but then became smoother as the weather became more favorable. He has been to the Island before and likes the scenery.
The difficult ride aside, the trip was not disappointing, said scout Jonathan Mercado, 13.
“It was worth riding here to Mackinac,” he said. “It was a lot of fun seeing the [Mackinac] Bridge and the sunset come over the bridge. The beach was also great.”
A few years ago, said Scout Master Dan Wagner, the troop bicycled from Chicago to St. Louis, Missouri, on Route 66. Next year, the troop will take a break from biking adventures, he said, and will hike the Grand Canyon from rim to rim.
For their return, the scouts will take a vehicle to Kalamazoo and take the train back to Chicago.