Riding the Hart-Montague Trail up to Country Dairy for Breakfast – July 9, 2016
It was the second Saturday in July, but the forecast called for a cool, partly cloudy day, with an increasing north wind. It didn’t look like good beach or boating weather, so we had to come up with another plan. We decided to get an early start and ride the Hart-Montague Bike Trail up to Country Dairy in New Era for breakfast. We stopped here for lunch a couple years prior on a biking camping trip up to Hart. On that visit, the place was packed so we hoped that going for a late breakfast would be a good way to avoid the crowds.
About the Hart-Montague Trail: Described on the Rails-to-Trails website as “one of Michigan’s great rural rail-trails.” The Hart-Montague Trail passes through the nice small towns of Rothbury, New Era, Shelby and Mears. In between the towns the trail passes through forests and orchards. There were only a few busy road crossings along the way. Most were quiet small town streets or country roads making this a good ride to do with kids.
The Hart-Montague Trail was completed in 1991 and was the first paved rail-trail project in the State of Michigan. The trail was recently renamed The William Field Memorial Hart-Montague Trail State Park. Mr. Field was a fruit farmer from Shelby Michigan and when he could not receive support from the county for the trail project, he purchased the old rail corridor himself and donated it to the state in 1983. Mr Field’s dream finally became reality in 1989 when the city of Hart built the first 11 miles of paved trail. For more on the interesting history of this trail see this “Trail of the Month”article by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.
The south trailhead in Montague is located at the end of Spring Street behind the Montage Foods grocery store . There is a big gravel parking lot and a nice bathroom building with drinking water.
Our crew rolling out…and a nice ear selfie.
The entire trail was resurfaced and widened in the summer of 2015 and is now in great shape.
Our first break under the US 31 overpass after about 4.5 miles. On our last trip we used the bridge to get out of the sun. This time we thought we were going to have to stop to wait out the rain, but it ended up being just few sprinkles.
The view from the saddle.
There are a few rare curves in the trail as you enter the small Village of Rothbury. There is also a nice traihead parking area here if you want to shorten the ride.
There were still some ongoing improvements being made to the bridges and the shoulder of the trail. Just past the orange barrel on the right there was about a 10 foot drop down to the creek with no railing. Regan rode up to the edge and said: “Well there is nice place to die…”
Riding into New Era.
New Era seems to be a little bigger than Rothbury. There is a Wesco service station near the trail and the Trailside Restaurant is a good option on Sundays when Country Dairy is closed.
There are relatively few road crossings on the Hart-Montague Trail and most are quiet country roads with little traffic. M20 above is the exception, but at least it has a 4-way stop.
After crossing M20 the white fences for Country Dairy soon come into view. We were riding into a north breeze and we could smell that we were getting close before we could see it.
Rolling into the Country Dairy Farm Store. It is just a little under 12 miles from Montague up to here.
We placed our order and did not have any trouble finding a place to sit this time. Other than a couple people placing to-go orders we had the whole place to ourselves.
While we waited for our food Reid checked out the playground.
There are also a couple options for outdoor dining behind the store.
Before too long our breakfast came out. They have a limited breakfast menu, but everything that we tried was pretty good. Every meal comes with homemade apple sauce and moochies (cheese curds). Coffee, or their famous bottomless white or chocolate milk, is also included.
While we were eating more people started showing up. When we went back outside we realized that everyone was boarding the wagon for the 10:30 am Farm Tour. We have not done the tour, but it seems to be pretty popular and reasonably priced. During the summer the tours run every half hour between 10:30 am and 3:00 pm. More information on the Country Dairy website.
After trying to get the mandatory picture of the kids by the cow statue it was time to saddle up for the ride back.
We seemed to move much faster on the way back. I think the path is slightly down hill in this direction and we were being pushed by a strengthening north wind. Soon we were back at our break spot under the bridge again. It was cloudy and cool, but we did “Have a Great Day,”
One mile from the finish. The path has mile marker posts that start in Hart and count up to mile 22 in Montague.
The Hart-Montague Trail map from the Michigan DNR.
For more on this trail and others in the area see: Rail-Trails Midwest Great Lakes: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin
After packing up the bikes we decided to take a drive along the south shore White Lake out to the White River Light Station. At the end of the road, take a left and there is a small parking area by the lighthouse with access to the path along the channel.
We walked out to the end of the pier to watch the sailboat race that was going on. We didn’t last too long because of the cool north breeze coming off the water.
Heading back towards the lighthouse. We thought it was a nice short walk that is worth checking out if you are in the area.
After this we took the scenic way home on Scenic Drive down to Muskegon. If the weather was warmer we probably would have spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach at Muskegon State Park. However, we continued on towards home so we could do some of the chores around the house that we had been putting off.
The Hart-Montague Trail is one of our favorite rides and now that has been repaved it is even more enjoyable. It is a flat and easy ride and I think almost anyone could handle the ride up to Country Dairy and back. Overall it was a great way to spend a cool morning.
For more on this ride see the post from our biking camping trip up to Hart.
We picked up Bern Bike Helmets for our girls last spring. Bern pioneered the “One Lid for All Seasons” design. We snap in the summer liner and they have full head protection for mountain biking and skateboarding. When the snow flies the winter linear with built in ear warmers keeps them safe and warm on the slopes all day. Getting basically 2 helmets for around $60 seems to be the best value.
We were a little concerned the small vents would be too warm in the summer, but so far we have not heard any complaints. Bern has also added some new models with better ventilation to this year’s line.
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