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.