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 This ghost town, Damon, abandoned after the lumber boom went bust, stands in the Ogenaw State Forest.

This ghost town, Damon, abandoned after the lumber boom went bust, stands in the Ogenaw State Forest.

Photo provided by Peter Manos

Troy man hikes through 300 miles of Pure Michigan to Mackinaw City

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published November 12, 2019

 Manos made it to Mackinaw City, his final destination, Oct. 4.

Manos made it to Mackinaw City, his final destination, Oct. 4.

Photo provided by Peter Manos


TROY — Troy resident Peter Manos, 62, and his wife, Lori, dropped off their son, Dylan, at Loyola University Chicago Aug. 21, and the house seemed empty — so empty that Peter decided to take a walk.

Manos, who worked in technical automotive sales and is two years retired, said he would usually walk 5 to 6 miles a day, four or five times a week.

“I often walk the Paint Creek Trail,” he said.

The next day, he walked 18 miles from his Troy home, up the Paint Creek Trail to Lake Orion — then decided to trek to Mackinaw City.

He didn’t walk the approximately 300 miles continually. His brother-in-law, Brendan Kowalski, picked him up in Lake Orion and took him back home, then back to Lake Orion to resume his walk. Manos walked from there to Lapeer, and from there to Otter Lake along the Southern Links Trailway.

“He was my chief spotter and lead cheerleader,” Manos said of Kowalski. “Brendan encouraged me to continue when my wife was questioning my sanity.”

“Everyone in the family thought he was crazy,” Kowalski said. “He was determined to do it alone. He planned to carry a tent and sleeping bag where there was no hotel. I said I would drive up, get to a hotel and drop you off.”

Kowalski said he is a big fan of casinos, and spent time in Saganing Eagles Landing Casino near Standish as Manos walked that leg of his journey.

He said he was actively involved in Manos’ 19-day journey for seven or eight days. “I would have done it every day, if needed,” Kowalski said. “I love talking to people about it.”

Manos took a break in his walk after the segment to Otter Lake to attend a wedding in Atlanta.

He resumed his walk from Otter Lake and walked to Frankenmuth, then walked from Frankenmuth to Bay City, and from there to Kawkawlin Township in Bay County, where he got a haircut, mostly so he could sit for a bit in a comfortable chair.

He walked with a backpack, a phone charger, maps and chocolate-covered almonds, and only planned for two to three days in advance. He listened to music sometimes.

“I wore shorts until the last day. My first backpack was over 15 pounds, so I nixed the extra shoes and clothes and kept to one water bottle.”

He said he averaged 15-16 miles a day and sometimes as many as 23 miles.

From Kawkawlin he walked to Pinconning, where lightning and high winds delayed him. Kowalski met him there.

When the weather cleared, on Sept. 17, Manos walked along a dirt road to north of Sterling in Arenac County, and from there mostly along railroad tracks — to avoid the highway — to Cabin Lake Roadside Park.

From there he pressed on to Rose City, ending his day at the Trapper’s Sports Bar. There he met Carl, originally from Warren, who showed him a dirt road to walk north to Luzerne.

At this point, he took another break, with help from Kowalski, and went to Loyola University Chicago for parents weekend.


The abandoned lumber town
Manos resumed his walk through a rolling pine forest from Rose City to Luzerne, in the Huron National Forest, on Sept. 26, and discovered a ghost town, Damon, along Fairview Road, which he said was one of the highlights of his trip. Manos learned that Damon had been a thriving lumber town in the 1800s. He had dinner at MaDeeters, where a local legend named Spike bought his dinner.

“I couldn’t find a hotel near Luzerne,” Manos said. So he called a campground and slept in a camper.

Manos walked from Luzerne to Garland in “significant rain,” where he stayed at the golf resort. He walked from there to Lewiston, where he stopped at the Lewiston Hotel Bar & Grill for a perch dinner, something he had been hearing about for years.

“So I had to stay,” he said.

He listened to the Country Poorboys entertain the crowd.

From Lewiston, he walked to Johannesburg on Sept. 29, with help from spotters Doug and Nancy Liske Kussrow.

From there he walked to Gaylord, in Grayling State Forest, and from there to Wolverine, in Cheboygan County, for the “most outstanding hiking” along the North Central State Trail. He trekked from Wolverine to Topinabee, along the Sturgeon River, where the temperature had dropped to the high 40s on Oct. 2.

He had lunch in Indian River and dinner at the Breakers Bar in Topinabee, where he met “Blue,” who he learned had gone to school at Pershing High School in Detroit, and had Manos’ father as his math teacher in the late 1950s.

“The people were the fun part of this journey,” Manos said.

For the second-from-the-last leg of the trip, he walked from Topinabee to Cheboygan in steady rain, along the west shore of Mullett Lake much of the day, breaking for lunch at the Spare Time Bowling Alley.

“Chicken strips never tasted so good,” he said.

He and Kowalski enjoyed a steak dinner in Mackinaw City Oct. 4 in celebration of the end of the trip.

“My favorite part was meeting people and talking to people I wouldn’t normally meet — Blue, Spike, Carl and Debra, who drove a road construction roller truck in Pinconning on a stormy day,” Manos said.

He had good weather for the last day.

“It was an outstanding day to be on a beautiful trail, a sunny 44-degree day. I sat in my chair at the Michigan Department of Transportation park along the trail for a couple of hours,” Manos said. “I was steps away from finishing. I didn’t want it to end. It’s about the journey, not the destination. I sat in the chair for two hours. My brother-in-law was already in Mackinaw City.”