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Finding Lost Twin Lakes
Summer is here and the hiking is easy. In this e-issue of Trail Mix we focus on a often overlooked state forest pathway that features old growth pines, sinkholes and an interesting topography not to mention a pair of “lost lakes.” What more do you want in a trail?
Still trying to decide on a summer backpacking adventure? Don’t forget the Manitou Islands of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the featured areas of the newest trail maps from MichiganTrailMaps.com. You can order either – or both – of the maps at our e-shop.
Lost Twin Lakes: Best Pathway You Never Heard Of
By Jim DuFresne
The first time I hiked Lost Twin Lakes Pathway was 2003 when I joined a timber cruiser from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. He was tall – at least 6-foot-2 – long-legged and had a stride almost twice that of most hikers.
As a forest technician, he inventoried state land, the first step in deciding whether a tract should be logged, selectively harvested or bypassed.
In short he was a woods walker and in his mind Lost Twin Lakes Pathway, a lightly used trail in the middle of Roscommon County, should never be a candidate for commercial logging.
I remember Glenn Taurence legging his way down the trail and suddenly stopping to study – admire? – a giant pine towering over the pathway. "This is an old white pine, I'd say at least 115 years old," he said, visibly measuring its diameter. "You can tell, they grow about two inches per decade."
"I call a tree like this an old soldier," Taurence added because this old soldier survived waves of loggers in the late 1800s. Then it somehow survived the devastating forest fires that followed the logging.
Why would you want to cut it down now?
"Trails like these are the gems of the state forest system," Taurence said. "Locals know about them, but most people have to seek them out.”
I’m also a woods walker and last month I returned to Lost Twin Lakes Pathway. It’s been a decade since I hiked that trail and Taurence is no longer with the DNR, the unusual covered trail bridge a Boy Scout troop built is gone and the Twin Lakes are harder to spot through foilage.
But those old soldiers are still there, making this pathway one of Michigan’s most interesting trails you never heard of.
Click on the map to the right to view a larger version or print.
Lost Twin Lakes is a 3.4-mile loop that was built in the mid-1980s. It remained a soggy hike until 1999 when members of Boy Scout Troop 944 turned the trail into an Eagle Scout project and constructed a series of bridges and boardwalks over the wettest parts.
Like all state forest pathways, Lost Twin Lakes is open to Nordic skiing and snowshoeing as well as mountain biking. But the trail isn’t groomed in the winter while off-road cyclists usually bypass it, choosing instead trails with more mileage that are easier to access from I-75 or US-131.
This pathway is primarily for people who like to walk in the woods.
Part of the Au Sable State Forest, the trailhead is 6.4 miles south of Houghton Lake along winding Reserve Road (County Road 400). Within a third of a mile of departing the trailhead parking lot, you arrive at the trail's only junction, where it is easy to envision the railroad grade that passed through here during the turn-of-the-century logging era.
Following the loop in a counter-clockwise direction, the first Boy Scout-built bridge is reached at Mile 0.5. Originally the Scouts built the structure with a roof, a covered bridge for hikers you might say, but in 2011 a tree fell on the center of it. The unusual roof was beyond salvageable and had to be removed but the rest of the bridge remains and still keeps your boots dry.
Beyond the bridge the pathway begins climbing and for most of the east half of the loop follows the crest of an ancient glacial moraine. This narrow, forested ridge is bordered on both sides by wetlands and from its crest you’re rewarded with glimpse here and there of marshland and patches of open water. On its slope are a scattering of old soldiers. The first are seen in less than a mile from the trailhead, a more impressive set are seen at Mile 1.3 after the trail reaches a high point of 1,180 feet.
At the north end of the ridge, just before the loop swings sharply south for it's return, are a series of sinkholes, conical depressions that are the result of underground streams dissolving the limestone bedrock. The sinkholes aren't visible from the pathway but by leaving the trail to the west you can quickly spot them. They're not as deep or as classic as the ones seen along Sinkholes Pathway in the Mackinaw State Forest, but there's little doubt what these steep-sided funnels are when you see them.
Also at the north end of the ridge is a short spur that leads to the East Branch of Wolf Creek, a scenic setting and a place to linger if the mosquitoes aren’t out in full force.
Heading south now, the pathway levels out but remains fairly dry. At Mile 2 giant white pines begin the appearing along the trail and after the trail swings sharply east you pass between two towering pines standing guard on both sides of the pathway. These are the largest trees along the trail and some could be 150 years old if not older.
The pathway arrives at a wavy bridge at Mile 2.7 and the creek that it crosses connects Lost Twin Lakes. They’re easy to miss if you’re staring up at the crowns of giant pines but look south as the main one is more easily viewed than its twin to the north. Both lakes are tiny, the largest one only two acres, and shallow, making them ideal havens for wildlife, a spot to quietly scan if you’re here at dawn or dusk. In less than a half mile you return to the junction and backtrack the first segment to return to the parking area at Mile 3.4.
There are no facilities at the trailhead other than parking and a posted trail map. Bring drinking water and from May through July pack bug repellent.
From I-75, depart at exit 227 and head west on M-55 for 11 miles. Turn south on Reserve Road (County Road 400) and follow it 6.4 miles.
Contact the Roscommon DNR Office at (989) 275-5151.