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Polly Ann Trail / One Mile Short

Today Erik, Kristi, and I set out with the intention of riding to Imlay City, MI. Starting at the Clarkston Road crossing of the Paint Creek Trail (Map) this would have been a 45-ish mile ride. Unfortunately, poor trail conditions, culminating in a washed out bridge one mile south of I-69 slowed our progress enough that we decided to turn back. It’s good that we did, as we arrived back at the cars just as darkness was setting in; a particularly dangerous time for us as we were all without lights.

Along the trail we saw a number of interesting things, including a deer, cows, horses (on trail and off), turkeys, cats, squirrels, chipmunks (live and squished), grain being harvested, numerous dogs, and a discarded helmet shell. The surface also ranged from crushed limestone to pavement, single track through grassy areas to railbed ballast, to simple dirt.

At one point we happened across a what appeared to be some in-progress construction to replace an old drainage line under the trail. At the bottom of this 6′ deep ditch was a recently dead deer, looking as if it’d fallen in one night, been too injured to get out, and died. Traversing the ditch involved Erik climbing up the far side first, me passing the bikes to Erik, then Kristi and I climbing up. Unfortunately, for the first go Kristi didn’t want to climb up near the deer, and ended up scraping her leg a bit. The return trip worked a bit more efficiently.

Once past the first major obstacle we had to walk an expansive section of washed out rail bed, as it had become uneven and with leaf cover finding a safe path to ride through it was nearly impossible. One couldn’t tell if a depression in the ground is just a low spot, or something really dangerous. A bit beyond this was much more washed out area, a whole bridge! This article from Google’s cache talks a bit about the storms which washed out the area at the end of August.

Being only about a mile from I-69 we were a bit disappointed that we didn’t reach our goal of Imlay City, but the bridge made a nice place to stop and eat. It looks like only a few thousand dollars and a weekend of trail building crew would be needed to make the bridge passable again, so hopefully that’ll happen soon. We were also able to see the trail surface and know what will be required to do this ride again. Taking Sutton Rd. to Summers Rd., as seen here should easily bypass the washed out bridge and connect us nicely to Imlay City.

Per my bike computer, today’s ride was 38.29 miles, with a moving time of 3:25:55, 11.1 MPH average, and 30.9 MPH maximum speed. We started around 12:30 PM and returned to the parking lot around 5:00 PM.

Here’s today’s photos. Unfortunately I didn’t get any of the actually washed out parts of the bridge, nor the unsafe bits that I climbed across:

· Dead deer in a culvert crossing the Polly Ann Trail.
· My attempt at climbing the ditch. I failed, as this was not the easiest point to climb.
· Erik found a much better way to climb the new ditch in the Polly Ann Trail.
· I then handed the bikes to Erik, who pulled them up.
· Erik helping Kristi climb up, as she didn’t want to climb near the dead deer.
· This helmet shell, with a blob of foam on it, was found on the Polly Ann Trail.
· One part of the trail, about 3 miles before I-69, was washed out and uneven enough (particularly with leaf cover) that we walked it.
· Home-made sign warning that a bridge is out somewhere down the Polly Ann Trail, just south of I-69.
· First sign of the washed out bridge, one mile south of I-69.
· I climbed out on to the bridge. While the approaches were damaged, the main part of the bridge was solid.
· Kristi and Erik disappointed at the washed out bridge.
· Erik and Kristi looking at the washed out bridge on the Polly Ann Trail, showing the loose / unsupported part that I walked across.
· The body of the bridge itself is solid, but the approaches are gone.
· The point where the Polly Ann Trail crosses from Oakland County into Lapeer County is where its surface becomes much less maintained.


  1. Sarah Vigneau
    Sarah Vigneau November 11, 2009

    Great pictures Steve, it was a beautiful day to ride Sunday! That “blob” on the top of the helmet is actually the egg sack of a praying mantis. If you put a pin through it next to a leaf in the spring, that will allow them to propagate! Just a little note.

  2. Ali
    Ali November 14, 2009

    hahah hilarious… does Kristi know about this climbing photo?

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