I had previously taken the trail from Dequindre Rd. to the Rochester Municipal Park, as my destination on a ride that included the entire length of the Macomb Orchard Trail. The crushed limestone surface of this trail is actually quite nice, considering it is not paved. The Paint Creek Trail, which I traveled on a separate trip, has a similar surface, and I had no issues whatsoever. In fact, that trail is one of the most scenic I have ridden in the area.
So on this ride, starting at the Letica Rd. trailhead, I headed west. I was on the familiar unpaved portion, but little did I know what was ahead. Once I hit asphalt, it was in dicey but usable condition. It is somewhat rough, with a loose top surface that appears to be the asphalt slightly deteriorating into a very fine gravel. While it wasn't the best surface, it was still usable and not all that distracting. This is fine for walking and cycling, but anyone with a longboard would find this too risky.
At the end of the Rochester section of the trail, there is a loose gravel section, appearing as though someone had broken up the asphalt with the intention to repair or replace it. It is very deceptive since the gravel section is exactly the same color as the asphalt, and while you first notice something is "off" about the way it looks, it's when your tires hit this soft section that you realize what type of surface you are dealing with. I did fine with my "crosstrail" bike, but anyone on a thin-tired road bike should be advised to bypass this section.
There are some scenic parts to this trail, including an overlook for the Clinton River. There are other places where trail users can go down to the river. Yet one thing spoiling the Rochester section is the constant noise and industrial smells. In places, it feels more like you are traveling an abandoned alley behind an industrial area. (And in fact, a former railway very well could pass through industrial areas, as many active lines still do today.)
But, we are not to Opdyke Road yet. Once you cross into Auburn Hills, the asphalt trail is in deplorable condition. The surface is very rough, which masks the very uneven surface. I rarely unlock my front fork on trails these days, but this is one section where it was essential.
I headed west, thinking it was one bad section of trail, but nearly the entire length through Auburn Hills is in this dilapidated condition. I would much rather have the crushed limestone trail over this mess. The only smooth sections are at road crossings, and through part of the village of Auburn.
I was so disgusted that I nearly turned around but no, I decided to forge onward. Finally at the far end, I reached Opdyke. Signage indicated that this was the end of the "improved" section of the trail (someone needs to look up that definition of "improved" in Webster's). And a map gave a very vague indication of a route through Pontiac (no thank you) to continue onward. The only interesting thing I saw was a pair of gravel ruts beyond Opdyke, the unimproved portion of the trail. Seeing no signs forbidding entry, I nearly crossed over to explore this section, but decided against it.
The only redeeming feature of this section of trail I rode was the scenery along the river. The overall mediocre to flat out poor asphalt conditions on the trail, however, pretty much ensure I will never ride it again until it is resurfaced. I would love to see some sort of active donation drive to have these sections truly improved, as it is an important section of trail. Whatever trickles in today I'm sure will come nowhere near covering the cost of restoring this trail to where it needs to be.