Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Bikepack to the UP Day 3

Waking up on day 3, it was nice to know that today's route would be 30 miles shorter than the previous day.  The morning was beautiful and I was looking forward to the quick 3 miles into Park Falls on the Tuscobia Trail.  Regardless of it's condition I had decided that 3 miles was perfectly doable and it was the most direct route to a gas station breakfast burrito and hot coffee.  

Fairly good condition on this section of the Tuscobia

I hit Park Falls and pulled into the first gas station available.  I came out with a muffin, a breakfast burrito, pint of choc milk, a banana and a cup of coffee.  Poured some milk into the coffee to cool it off for fast drinking and slammed down the muffin and banana.  The burrito was too hot and would be my treat 5 miles down the road.  After two full days of riding I was getting settled into the simplicity of ride, eat, drink ride, eat drink sleep.  I had a few miles of tar to get me out of town and then a nice section of gravel. 

The next 14 miles of gravel sounded good to me.

The roadside fresh fruit stand

Some of the only traffic on Blockhouse Lake rd.

A little gnome shrine along Hwy 182

I reached Manitowish Waters early in the afternoon and was ready for some lunch.  This being the last decent sized town before Henry Lake, where I was camping, I also picked up some rice and tuna for supper.
Asian sounded good for lunch at the Market in Manitowish Waters.  Also pictured, tonights dinner.

While planning the trip I made a point to find out where the WinMan trails were located.  Tim Wegner, the trail builder extraordinaire, had done some work on the new trail system and I knew I'd be riding through near the area so I planned to hit a little singletrack en route.  

Things couldn't have worked any better.  I rolled out of Manitowish Waters and hit the trailhead just in time to run into a local member of the trail crew.  I had a unique bike setup and he had quite a unique vehicle.  We immediately started up a conversation and soon after that I was being ferried to the newest section of trail and had a first hand guide of what to hit before I set out down the forest road for Presque Isle. 

The awesome trail work vehicle owned by crew member Rick Gehring.

About 7 miles of great doubletrack riding 

Forest road into Henry Lake Campground in Michigan

Fishing dock on Henry Lake

I rolled into camp with about 45 mins of daylight left and had the entire place to myself.  Quickly got my tent set up and some of my clothing organized for the next day.  The mosquitoes were pretty bad so I was now thankful that I had decided to pack a small tube of deet.  It worked like a charm.  I was also glad that I packed the water purifying tablets because once I finally found the campground water pump, what came out of it, looked like what usually comes out of me.

I was able to get a cell signal out on the dock so I made a call back to Kerry and checked in on a few websites and then had a late dinner before going to bed.  I tried not to think too much about the forecasted storm system that I had heard was moving in for the next day.  

Friday, October 10, 2014

Bikepack to UP day 2

Day 2 started off with breaking down camp and then heading into town for a big breakfast with Mom.  This was the first day of packing stuff back onto the bike and trying to do it in a timely fashion.  Not a quick process when everything has to fit together like an advanced tetris game.  I also purged a few things from my backpack, to lighten that load, and found room for them in my seatbag and framebag.

My planned route for the second day was the longest of the 4.  If all went well it would take me from Cameron, through the Blue Hills on forest roads to Couderay, where I would catch the Tuscobia Trail and be on it for about 40 miles and end up at Smith Lake Rec area just west of Park Falls.  This distance was around 96 miles.  This days route also had the greatest amount of climbing.  If I wasn't feeling up to the distance I knew of a backup campsite in Ojibwa, about 25 miles short of my goal. 

After a hearty meal of pancakes and eggs, I lathered up with sunscreen, put down another pint of water, said goodbye to mom and set off into the Blue Hills.  This was a gorgeous area and definitely lived up to it's name of being hilly.  I had plans to make a side trip to see the Rock Creek Felsenmeer (sea of rocks), but if I had any chance to make my destination for the day I'd have to skip the 2 mile hike.  This turned out to be a good decision because the ups and downs of the gravel road through the blue hills took up plenty of time.

Awesome road in the Blue Hills

When the gravel forest roads came to an end I was in the small village (crossroads) of Meteor.  I had ridden 41 miles in the last 4.25 hours and I was starting on my last bottle of water.  I knew the chances of getting water in Meteor were slim, but I still looked around the Town Hall building for a spigot.  No luck.  Oh well.  Couderay was 10 miles down the tar road and I had checked that town out on Google Streetview and it had a small market.  Off I went.

Completely indulgent way to eat a banana

About 4 miles before Couderay I made a right turn onto the Tuscobia Trail.  The plan was to take this all the way to Park Falls.  During my short jaunt on the trail into Couderay I quickly realized that I could not handle 45 miles of the loose, rocky and rutted trail that the tuscobia was dishing out. Turning on the spur trail into Couderay it became evident ghost towns are not just for the West. 

 I missed getting the sign, but just out of the picture was posted "Danger Trains crossing at 60 MPH"

 While google maps/streetview can show you there is a storefront there, they don't tell you that it is now completely closed and abandoned.  I needed water now and proceeded to search around "town" for plan B, a kind person with a garden hose.  Enhanced by thirst and hunger, the time of day and distance to go was now starting to concern me.  Within a few blocks of pedaling I found my new best friend, a man watering his flowers.  I rode right up to him and plead my case.  He happily filled all my bottles and assured me that there should be an open gas station up the road in Winter.  He also shared a road short cut into Park Falls, which I was grateful for, since I was not planning to take the Tuscobia Trail all the way into town.  Regarding my water situation, I should note that in the event of not being able to find any running water, I did have a supply of purification tablets in my pack that would make any stream, lake or pond, fair game.  

The school in Couderay, like the store, hasn't seen much action lately

Forest named in honor of a good ol' dog

With bottles now filled I was excited to get on the road and get to that gas station for some "real food".  15 miles down the road I hit Winter and it's corner gas station.  I scarfed down some pizza and my new found, favorite energy drink, chocolate milk with a Starbucks VIA packet added to it.  Revitalized with food and caffeine, I had renewed spirits to get to my planned campsite at Smith Lake.  I sped off, determined to cover the 30 miles in the little over 2 hours I had before darkness set in.

Stuffing my face in Winter
I rolled into camp with just enough light to pick out a decent campsite.  I was quite pleased to find out that this campground also had a shower. Score!  I ended the day with 99 miles on the odometer and was quite pleased with knowing the next two days would be a bit less mileage than the first two.  Stars were amazing from the campsite and the weather so far was absolutely perfect.  70 degrees, sunny and low humidity.  Tomorrow was looking to be more of the same.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bikepack to the UP Day 1

The thought of riding my bike to my in-laws in Michigans Upper Peninsula has been rattling around in the back of my mind for a couple of years now.  I finally decided this was the year do it and if I didn't put it on the calendar it would just keep getting pushed off.  The week before labor day would work great as I would have a ride back home when Kerry came up to her parent for the Labor day weekend.

The weeks before setting off were used to fine tune my route and make an ongoing list of things that I absolutely needed to bring.  The route I chose was a very good mix of tar roads, gravel trails, maintained forest roads, and doubletrack with a bonus bit of singletrack thrown in.  I chose to ride my full sus mt. bike because it's comfortable and rolls nearly as well as my commuter cross bike despite having tires that are more than double the volume.  Given the bike choice, and it's lack of bike racks I suited the bike up with a Revelate Viscacha seat pack and then sewed up a custom frame bag.  The handlebars would support a lashed on waterproof stuff sack.

The entire route, as planned, would be 315 miles.  I planned to ride that over the course of 4 days.  Day 1 would take me from home in White Bear Lake, to Cameron WI.  I would ride primarily tar roads up to Osceola where I would jump on the crushed limestone Stower Seven Lakes trail, which would take me to Amery.  There I would jump on the gravel Cattail multi-use trail which would bring me to Almena.  From there it was tar backroads to my campsite in Memorial Park in Cameron for the first night of camping.

Day one ended up being 86 miles and the Cattail Trail was much bumpier than I banked on and the extra weight in my backpack took a toll on my butt.  Some adjustments would have to be made for the rest of the trip.  Mom ended up coming over from Scandia and joined me for the first night.  It was a pleasant surprise.  Since she came into town, we were able to run back into town for a bite to eat in DT Cameron.

The route as a whole

The bike, fully laden just prior to take off.

On the road near Scandia where I met up with my parents as I passed by their house. 

Great cruising on the Stower Trail

Cattail trail

Loose and rough terrain on the cattail trail

Home for the first night

Friday, July 18, 2014

4th in Da Yoop

We spent the 4th of July in the UP this year at Kerry's parents.  Tim was anxious to get the boat out and do some fishing and Kerry and I were happy join in for a perfect day on the big lake.  Caught a couple of lake trout which became our dinner for Saturday night.  Yum!

I also made a trip up to Copper Harbor and had some fun on the stellar trails up there.