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!

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