If our last trip has taught me anything, it’s that I need to explore and appreciate Michigan more. I started finding new local trails last year, it is beautifully humbling to see how many trail options are within a 20 to 30 minutes drive of our home. That’s Michigan. It doesn’t even matter where in Michigan home is.
I’m heading back to the Manistee area this weekend for a fishing trip that also has some hiking and camping. One thing I learned in our 131 mile hike is that bringing a fishing pole doesn’t make sense. We camped at many excellent looking fishing holes, I just never had the energy to do any fishing after the long day’s hike. I also realized that if I succeeded in catching a fish, hand sanitizer wouldn’t do much for the smell. Hiking long days makes me smell bad enough, I don’t need any help smelling worse.
My fishing pole may have gotten sent home on day 3, but my eye for fishing holes stayed with me for the entire hike. One area I found especially interesting was the 3-4 miles of NCT just north of Walkup Lake Campground. If you include Walkup & Nichols lake, there are 7 lakes in a 5 mile stretch of trail. 5 of the lakes are mostly secluded. I knew I had to go back.
The plan for this weekend is to head up Manistee way on Saturday morning with Mr. Green. I’m going to bring the tent and all of my hiking supplies in case we find a good place and want to stay the night.
Of all the lakes, I’m most interested in checking out Condon & Leaf lake. They both seemed to have decent options for shore fishing, both were peaceful. My minimal effort internet searches did not help me understand what kind of fish they might have or if the fishing is good. Adventures are less about the catching and more about the fishing. Yes, I want to do some catching!
Condon Lake, MI 06/27/2020
Future Tip: There are only 3 official camping sites at the ‘Condon Lakes West’ USDA campground. Hike a 1/4 mile around to the other side of the lake and you’ll find a couple of paths leading up to the NCT. There is a large dispersed camping area that many hikers have used.
My overly optimistic tendencies find me misremembering details, I often think of people and places better than they actually were. The locations we revisited on this adventure day (Walkup Lake, Condon Lake, and Bowman Lake) were even better than I had hoped for.
Coming in late on a Saturday morning meant that all of the camping spots were taken at every location we visited. Instead of parking at Walkup Lake and hiking over to the other lakes, we drove another quarter of a mile down the road and parked at Condon lake. Every Condon Lake area map I’ve come across shows a single line of trail that only stretches across the parking lot side of the lake. I was pleasantly surprised to find a fishing level trail that loops around the entire lake. We were able to slowly walk around the lake and cast from many different locations without much risk of falling in the water or getting fishing lines snagged on shrubbery. Josh caught a few 2-4 lb bass, I was able to snag a couple blue gill and a couple baby bass.
After a couple hours of hiking and fishing around the lake, we decided to move onto Bowman lake. Bowman lake is easily in Brianna & I’s top 5 favorite places we happened upon during our Manistee hiking trip. We are planning to go back to camp soon, so I was less interested in camping there last night, more interested in what the campground looks like post-covid lockup.
Bowman Lake has 4 official USDA campsites, 2 on the nearside of the lake and 2 on the far side. I clocked the hike in from the parking lot to be about .4 of a mile, probably another .25 if you’re going to the far side spots. The parking lot has 8-10 parking spots, depending on how much spacing people leave.
This Saturday afternoon was a busy time at Bowman lake, I snagged the last open parking spot. Josh and I hadn’t even put our backpacks on before several ladies walked over to warn us that all 4 camping spots had already been taken. We thanked them and relayed advice about where else they might be able to camp – Bowman Bridge campground was just down the road and sports 20-24 USDA camping spots. Probably 3 or 4 other people warned us about all of the sites having filled up before we even reached the lake.
Bowman Lake is a lot like Condon Lake in that Bowman also has a fishing trail looping the entirety of the lake. Unlike Condon, Bowman has a second trail that is up and away from the lakeshore, much more flat and easy for folks to walk on.
Josh and I each caught a couple small bass. We saw some larger bass swimming around in the shallows, they just weren’t biting.
Bowman Lake, MI 06/27/2020
Future Tip: There are two trails leading from the parking lot to/from Bowman lake. The NCT option has more bugs, no steep hill. The non-NCT option has less bugs but does have a steep decline/incline when walking to/from the lake.