__________ August 30, 2016 ___________

Hiking: Grand Ravines

IMG_6314 (333x444)I first saw the Grand Ravines when I was trying to find an alternate route from Allendale to Byron Center (other than US131, which is perpetually under construction, anymore).  My dad lives in Allendale, and a decade ago – when he was still interested in seeing us – we used to go there to visit, and I knew there was a back route from Grand Valley State University to Jenison/M-6.  It was just a matter of remembering it, now, right?  And I did – mostly based on ‘we used to turn at that church!’ kinds of stuff.  Hey, I’m a girl, we use visual memories to navigate.

Photo courtesy adamsk-9.com

Anyhow, I saw a sign for ‘Grand Ravines’ park, and thought, “Wow!  I wonder if they’re a good place to hike!”  Then we got the Ottawa county map, and the ravines were on there.  During our camping trip a week (or so) ago, we had to make a trek to Allendale library, and I drove down in… and Grand Ravines looked really good, from the north side, anyhow.  But the north side drives you in.  The south side hikes you in – and naturally that’s what I was interested in doing!

Grand Ravines was NOT a good hike for us.  We didn’t know what we were doing, and had some severe issues.  If you’re going to hike the Grand Ravines, I seriously suggest you take everything I put in this post to heart… or you’ll have a pretty miserable time.  The reason being that Grand Ravines is directly south of Grand Valley State University, so it’s a yuppified place for health nuts.  And anything yuppified health nuts have a hand in will inevitably be convoluted and badly planned.  It’s sad, but a given.

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First thing to know:  the south side of Grand Ravines used to be a farm, but was bought and incorporated into the ravines part of the county park.  Farm means flat with no shade.  Don’t go on an 87-degree day, you will melt.  There’s no shade.

But the more important thing to know is that the south side of Grand Ravines is now a swanky premier dog park.   So you get there, you look at the old barn, you look at the big sign with a map (TAKE A PICTURE OF THIS ON YOUR CELLPHONE!!!!), and you see yards and yards of fences with double gates and yuppies standing around in yoga pants and pert little pony tails, texting while their dogs run pell-mell.

And the trails appear to start somewhere THROUGH the middle of the dog park.  So if you have a child that is afraid of dogs?  This looks like a horror scene.  I don’t have kids who are afraid of dogs, but Owen is only six, and he’s still a very short little guy.  When a Irish Wolf-a-doodle (everything is mixed with standard poodles to make them curly and cuddly, nowadays, have you noticed this?!)… came running full speed at my shorter-than-the-big-gray-monster of a curly dog?  Owen FR-eaked out.  And I don’t blame him.  It’d be like a horse charging at me – I would be scared, too!  The dogs aren’t meaning harm: they see kids and think, “Play with me!!!”  My kids were not as enthusiastic about the idea as the dogs.

NoTe:  I should tell you at this point that there is ONE trail to the west that does not go thru the dog park.  The signs on the trail say, “Do not enter: Under Construction” and “Trail Ends” and “Unfinished Trail”.  This is why we didn’t go that way.  IT’S A LIE.  That trail is finished.  It’s actually the trail we wanted to get to the ravines.  If you go to Grand Ravines?  Stay to the left, take the trail that DOES NOT GO INTO the dog park.

We didn’t do that.  We dodged dogs and cellphone yuppies while wandering thru a giant unshaded field… and the trail directions recommended to us by the one person we asked for help from?  Led in a big circle around the dog park, and landed us back at our car, only hot and unhappy (and I saw a snake).  There was one sort-of trail off the path that went into the woods, but it was labeled on the map as ‘future trail’.  We thought we’d try it, anyhow, so we walked half the circumference of the field (dodging dogs, whining, hot) to the trail… which led straight down a ravine.  STEEP… too much for even us, and we’ve done some extreme hiking.  I said no.  Too dangerous.  So back thru the dog hell again… and finally we figured out that the trail the yuppie said led to free-range dog area was actually free-rang dog area to the trail.

NOTHING is marked in this place.
Take a picture on your phone, or you’ll have serious issues.
(.pdf map found here)

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Once we got to the free-range, there was at least a *little* shade.

Once out the gate of the free-range dog area, there are four paths… and no signs.  Just in case you wanted to know.   After two wrong tries (that looped back to free range areas), we finally found the trail that went into the woods, and blessed, blessed relief of shade and forest reprieve!  Homigoodness!!  All of that (about two miles of BS to get there!)… and I was in *full* cheerleader motivation mode, trying to perk up my seriously NOT happy crew.  They were done, and we’d only just found the actual ravine trails!

It was not supposed to have gone this way.

IMG_6328 (444x333)The ravine trail.  The earth slopes steeply down on either side.
SO beautiful… once we actually found our hike!

IMG_6329 (333x444)The stairs descend into kind of another mess.  Half of this is private property.
There are private and public trails, intertwined.  None of them are marked.
We tried to follow arrows as they did appear, here and there.

IMG_6334 (444x333)It was beautiful down in the ravines.  So much vegetation and life!

IMG_6347 (444x333)It pops out down by the Grand River,
where there’s a picturesque covered footbridge.

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This is just below the rental pavilion and north parking lot.
No hiking is necessary to see the bridge, river, and beauty, by the way.

IMG_6345 (345x444)Grand Ravines rental pavilion, overlooking the river

What not to do, #5243:  Don’t miss this lookout.  We did… because it’s halfway along the parking lot, without a trail actually going to it.  We couldn’t get there, via our hike.  I’m going to have to drive back and see it, another time.  Did I mention this place is seriously not user friendly?  But if you drive in, be sure to stop and check it out – it’s lovely and peaceful… judging from the photos.  :/

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On the way out, we took the ‘unfinished’ west trail.  Which was finished, and avoided the fields, dog park, and even offered patches of shade.  It was a lot faster, too!  Anyhow, if you like to hike, take this west trail.  If you want just a walk, drive in the north side, check out the overlook, go down the stairs and wander as far as you like along the riverfront and back into the ravines (but it’s not a loop – you’ll have to backtrack out).

I do recommend the Grand Ravines.
Just… be sure to do it better than we did.   LoL!!

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