Thursday, May 20, 2010

NCT Bikepacking trip 2 - Williamsburg to Mackinaw City

My second bikepacking trip took place this past weekend. This time I rode with my teammate Chad. The plan was to ride the dirt roads from his house in Williamsburg over to Kalkaska, then catch the North Country Trail. We would ride up to Mackinaw City over the course of 2 days, then ride the Gaylord to Mackinaw Rail-Trail and some roads back to Williamsburg on day 3.

Starting at Chad's house in Williamsburg. I believe we were rolling by a quarter to six.

Ahh snake ahh snake! Snaaake ahh snaaaake, oooh its a snake! Seen somewhere north of Starvation Lake.

We had lots 'o singletrack between Pickeral Lake and Alba. In Alba we stopped at a gas station to "refuel" on soda pop and sugary treats. Then we had a lengthy road section through the Jordan River valley, to bypass a section which was closed to bikes. Just north of the Jordan River valley, the singletrack picked up again.

A nice overlook in the quite hilly section south of Boyne Falls.

A road crossing, a stretch of rolling forest road, and finally a brief road section took us to the Slashing Road trailhead, and some sweet singletrack. Here we played a little leap-frog with the camera to get some action shots.

Which took us to "Chandler Hill". One of the benefits of being the guy with the camera: it's your riding partner that is photographed walking up the hills. Rest assured that I was walking also.
The downhill that followed was oh-so-sweet though!

We rolled some more nice singletrack, including this nice section along a field. Emerging from the trail, we had a road-ride into Petoskey...

where after a pizza supper, we set up camp at the Petoskey State Park.

After an oatmeal (followed by Burger King) breakfast, we rode a railroad grade up through Conway to the Kipp Road trailhead. Many miles of nice singletrack, and a couple of big climbs followed. I actually rode the entire rooted climb from the Kipp Road trailhead.

The landscape gradually changed to sandy "dune" type topography, including some impossibly steep hills. Nice overlooks though!

A short 1/8 mile jaunt over to Lake Michigan for a photo-op, then it was into Wilderness State Park. Short grunt climbs, and technical riding greeted us here. My confidence was shaken, but Chad handled the situation with aplomb. He was nice enough to wait for me to catch up after my backwards tumble on a hill though.

In the park, we came to the "Red Pine Trail", which the NCT was routed along. This trail was closed to bikes, but not knowing the trail system in the park presented a challenge to routing around this. We elected to walk the one mile trail section pushing our bikes. This also gave us a nice change of pace from the pedaling.

After leaving the state park, we had some nice trail along the shore of French Farm Lake. I particularly loved this section, with it's moderate rolling hills and flowing singletrack.

Towards the end of this section, there was the biggest dam tree I've ever seen a beaver have a go at. It looked like he got halfway done, gave up, and eventually the tree succumbed to wind. I have no clue how the dam beaver thought he was going to drag the tree away!

As we took the snowmobile trail into Mackinaw City, I wanted to get a closer look at the windmills. My riding partner Sanch Panza wouldn't let me though.

We rode through town for an obligatory photo-op in front of the bridge. Then it was fish-n-chips and Oberon at the Dixie Saloon to celebrate our accomplishment. Camp for day 2 was a few miles out of town at the Mill Creek Campground, were we also got to take much deserved showers.

We rolled out in the morning down the Midland to Mackinaw rail-trail, stopping for Burger King in Cheboygan.

Until Gaylord, where some "Random" Road took us on our way to a Chinese food buffet.

Full from lunch, we headed down the eastern shore of Otsego Lake. I had to stop and get a photo of this place, with it's earthen roof and wind turbine.

Paved roads, a big hill on the southern end of Otsego Lake, many smaller hills, an ice cream stop in Mancelona, more road, through Kalkaska, and onto the dirt roads between Kalkaska and Williamsburg...

Until we reached Chad's house.

A very successful trip. Some big days on the bike: day 1 was just over 110 miles and day 3 was 128 miles. We totalled just under 30 hours of saddle time. Needless to say that my butt was glad to be off the bike.

Until the next adventure...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

NCT Bikepacking Trip 1 - White Cloud to Kalkaska

Late March, I got together with my High Country Pathway riding pals Dan and Jeff. The plan was to ride the North Country Trail from the M-20 trailhead near White Cloud up to Mackinaw City, over the course of 5 days.

Ready to roll from the trailhead near White Cloud.

At Nichols Lake.

I broke my rack shortly before climbing up into Udell Hills. The rack finished the day flipped upside down and facing forward. The trunk bag finished the day strapped to my backpack.

Day 1 ended in Wellston. Dan bailed out at this point, as he had started the ride with a cold, and had a nasty crash coming down out of Udell Hills.
Due to sub-freezing temperatures, Jeff and I elected to spend the night at the Black Bear Inn. This allowed us the luxury of a shower and the chance to dry our gear.
With Dan bailing out, I was able to borrow his rack (he had the same one as me), so I could continue my ride.

After a bit of a road ride to bypass a section which is closed to bikes, we hit Dilling Road and "Section A". This section is marked with big ravines, and miles of bench cut trail along the hillside.
Jeff had me backtrack a bit to get this action shot.

Overlooking the Manistee River - Section A.

A large ravine in Section A - I believe this may be Sweets Ravine.

Because the "new" reroute north of Beers Road is closed to bikes, we took the old trail. Here we found what we believe to be Noah's Ark, awaiting restoration.

We took a "couple mile", according to Jeff, detour into Buckley to top off our water supply. Coca Cola and a Snickers bar were also consumed... better than any 4-Star gourmet restaurant!
After the detour, we rode a few miles of trail East of M-37, which took us to the Manistee River again.

The trail rolled down to river level, and then back up, then back down to river level, then back up...

'till we reached Highbanks Rollaway. During the heyday of the logging industry, it was high atop this bluff is where many logs were rolled down to the river.

After a brief stop at Highbanks, we rolled (walked) the big hills until we reached Baxter (Bastard) Bridge. A short road ride followed, then it was back into the woods where we set up camp along a small creek.

Day 3 had us stumbling upon some railroad cars that someone was nice enough to park across the trail...

which led to an impromptu "rail-trail" ride/hike.

We had long stretches of bumpy trail, punctuated with long stretches of sandy snowmobile trails, and a few hills. It was on one of these downhills near Fife Lake where it happened. I was coming around a loose corner, the bike got a little squirrely, I put my right foot out to "tripod" the corner, and felt a bit of a twinge in my knee.
Riding didn't feel too horrible to start, but as the day went on my knee gradually felt worse. We rolled through Schlecks campground, up (walking) some hills, through the fast Muncie Lakes Pathway, until we came to Supply Road. Here I decided that my knee had enough, and I got road directions from Jeff.
Painfully I rode the roads, until I got to Jeff's place in Kalkaska. Here I decided to cut my trip short after 3 days.

NCT, you have beaten me... but I'll be back!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Different Side of Stony

Today I traded my bike and helmet for boots and a camera, and headed out to an area of Stony I don't normally frequent.