Road Trip: Historic Bridge Park

Saturday was a wash. It literally rained and rained and rained. I finally got stir-crazy and packed up the car in the hopes of finding a drier landscape with a trail. But as soon as I got on the road, the freezing rain started. I was a little hesitant about taking a long drive to an unknown destination. Sunday I was determined to get out.

The North Country Trail was calling me, so I pulled up the online map and pinpointed a destination about an hour and 15 minutes from me. Battle Creek is the home of all things cereal, but it is also a trail town for the NCT. With a high of a balmy 29, cloudy skies and little likelihood of precipitation, I packed up the car for a hiking trip.

The Historic Bridge Park is on the NCT, and I thought it looked like a lovely place to park my car. With wistful visions of the Bridges of Madison County in my head, we arrived about 1 PM. There was one other guy with a dog in the park, and it was truly lovely. The Kalamazoo River flows straight through and other small streams spoke off the main river to create several opportunities for bridges.

The park is the first of its kind in the United States and is basically an open air museum for historic truss bridges that have been replaced for more modern bridges in their original location. They originated in either Michigan or Indiana but now rest in this beautiful little park where their rivets, vintage steel and primary colors meld naturally with the forest and several mesmerizing water flows.

Initially my romantic heart longed to walk a covered bridge from the Bridges of Madison County, but I found myself transfixed by the vintage bridges made entirely of steel. I imagined noisy, cantankerous, smoke-blowing automobiles crossing over in another time. Flappers with ornate dresses held on to their hats as they enjoyed the local scenery with their man. Honk, honk …. These bridges were born in time where life was slower but probably no less complicated for different reasons. I wondered who made the decision to take them down and what precipitated their journey here. Thank you to the person who envisioned this place.

We walked up a rock staircase and headed down the NCT for a couple of miles before turning back. The park is in close proximity to a couple of nature preserves. With just a bit of snow on the ground, we enjoyed a lovely walk through a forest and into a brushy, dry wetland area. We saw several runners and chatted with a couple on the trail. Just before dark, we packed up, said good-bye to the park and the weekend and headed home.

If you want to know more about Historic Bridges, click this link for a presentation.

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