Provin Park, Grand Rapids

My annual kick-off 5k, the Spectrum Health Irish Jig in East Grand Rapids, had concluded with a sub-eight minute mile, which is what I was going for. My morning workout concluded, the next item on my agenda was a walk at Provin Trails near East Beltline and 4-Mile. It was a trail I had visited several years ago when I spent more on the west side of the state. That visit involved much warmer, more pleasant weather, but beggars can't be choosie.

Pulling into the parking lot, my spirits sank just a touch to see eight to ten cars there already. I'm really more of a loner walker, and I find it hard to share in general. But about all those cars seemed to be for one group of serious walkers. I knew they were serious because several had walking sticks. That, or they expected trouble in them there woods. But through some careful planning, I managed to avoid the pack for my entire walk, which wasn't simple - Provin isn't that big of a park.

You can see the helpful map to give you a trail overview, along with helpful instructions, such as "Pick up garbage", and apparently, you can just keeping adding on your own tips for keeping the trail clean. And if you have extra clothes, hang them up and hopefully someone will find them useful. The trails are color-coded, and the occasional marker lets you know if you're on the right track. It's difficult to get on the right one because of the well-traveled trails.

The longest trail is the perimeter trail that runs along the edges of the park, thus the name. There are some fairly steep elevation changes, and on a cool, icy day, footing can be tricky. But I'm happy to report there were no mishaps. The trail ran through stands of red and white pines, along with some deciduous trees as well. The park is boxed in by houses, so though you won't get the impression you're in the deep woods, it was a nice little park.

In the middle of the trail, several smaller trails connected to the longer perimeter trail. Dominating the center of the park is a large sand dune. My theory is that it is a smilodon kitty litter box, but as I left my shovel and pail at home, I cannot confirm this assessment. A sand dune in the middle of a trail is an unusual site unless you on the coastal Michigan state parks like those in Holland or Warren Dunes. In any case, it's nice setting, with the golden sand surrounded by pines.

You won't get that isolated feeling at Provin, but it's a nice trail system close to Grand Rapids, especially if you don't have long to hike and want to get away from the TV for a while. It certainly beats watching the news.