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From shore to shore


Couple shares cross state horseback trek



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Nick & Tere Onica on the banks of the Au Sable River. (click for larger version)
September 22, 2010 - In a vehicle, driving from Oscoda near Lake Huron to Empire near Lake Michigan would take about five hours—with a couple of stops along the way.

However, for Atlas Township residents Tere and Nick Onica the trek across the northern section of the state was accomplished at a little slower pace this past summer—one foot at a time.

Tere and Nick completed the Shore to Shore Riding and Hiking Trail on horseback, covering about 240 miles of trails from Oscoda west through Mio, Grayling, and Kalakaska, ending on the Lake Michigan shore south of Traverse City. The township couple, along with 165 other riders from the Michigan Trail Riders Association, began their journey on Sept. 9.

"Your horse needs to be conditioned before you leave," said Tere, Atlas Township clerk. "The trail is very sandy in places and requires a lot of the horse."

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The Shore-To-Shore trail was completed in the early 1960s with the assistance of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources by combining and marking a series of trails, two tracks and forest roads. The trail follows the Au Sable River and runs along much of M-72 across the northern section of the state.

Tere said along with their two horses, they packed 16 bales of hay and 100 gallons of fresh water into a trailer for the trip. Each morning Nick would drive the horse trailer up ahead to that night's camp and a bus would bring him and others to where Tere would be waiting with the horses. They averaged about 25 miles per day.

"My horse Levi walked along at about 4 miles per hour," she said. "Other horses and riders raced along at a much faster pace, but we preferred the more relaxed slower pace. There was always that element of danger along the way—you were in some very remote areas of the state few people ever see. Some of the trails also goes very near M-72, which is very busy with traffic."

"From horseback you get a real different perspective of the wilderness area—you have a lot more time to see just how lucky we are to live in Michigan and the natural resources we have here. On the other hand, we did see plenty of garbage and junk out in the woods. There's a lot of hunting blinds way out in the middle of nothing."

Tere estimated that about 80 riders completed the ride, which ended in the water on a Lake Michigan beach.

"We had others who cleaned up after the horses when we came through towns," she said. "That many horses can make a big mess—people are more likely to let you come back if you shovel up after you arrive."

"It was a very rewarding trip—I'm not sure I want to do it again right away, but it was something we always wanted to do."

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