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Local Sports

February 17, 2012

Make room on bucket list for this horse trail

People often put things on a list that they would like to do in life. It's called a bucket list.

Me, I want to hunt Dall sheep in the mountains of Alaska and go helicopter skiing in the waist-deep powder of the British Columbia backcountry.

For Ann Hegler of Pittsfield, it's taking her horse and riding across the state of Michigan with the Michigan Trail Riders Association on the Michigan Shore-to-Shore Trail System.

In the early 1960s, a group of interested people _ along with the help of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources _ connected a series of trails, two-tracks and forest roads. That created a riding and hiking trail that starts in the town of Oscoda on Lake Huron, passes through the Huron Manistee National Forest and ends at Empire, a small town on the shores of Lake Michigan. Campgrounds overlooking the many beautiful lakes and rivers were built along the 250-mile route every 18-to-25 miles.

Ann and her riding companion, Emily Gregory of New Lisbon, took two Haflinger horses and left for their great adventure the day the hurricane roared through the area. When they arrived at the starting point, there were dozens of horse trailers and campers as well as nearly 200 horses ready for the annual ride.

The first morning meant moving your truck and trailer to the end-of-day campground and returning to your horses by several buses that were provided. Then, they were off.

Most of the other riders had tall, gaited horses and moved along quite quickly on the trails. The Haflingers soon fell behind with some slower riders but were able to get to their night's destination.

At the end of the second day, Ann and Emily were greeted by people who had already fetched water for their horses. Some folks even had dinner prepared for them. The other riders were happy to help and encouraged them to continue.

Being a little slow was a blessing one day. An 80-plus-year-old gentleman and his wife were doing the trip in a buggy. The horse panicked and ran off the trail, dumping the older fellow under the wagon. The two New Yorkers came right along and were able to help.

It took 11 days for them to complete their adventure through the hilly, forested country. The trail passed through one town, which made the horses a little nervous with all the cars and commotion, but they managed. Ann and Emily enjoyed the nightly campfires, the many stories and songs, and the friendship of other horse people. Although they were strangers in the group, they were welcomed as if they had been riding every year.

We have found that over the years as well. Get with other people with the same interests and they'll help you out any way they can. That's just how most people are.

Ann has been all over the world, even to Africa as a missionary. But she said this was one of the greatest adventures she'd ever had. I asked her what else she had on that list.

"There are a few things, but it just got longer," she said. "I've put that Michigan horse ride back on the list."

If you're interested in this trip, go on the web and check out the Michigan Trail Riders Association. There are maps, pictures and lots of great information.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at

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