Finally I have documented my 5 days in the saddle traversing the wilds of the UP, just me and my bike!
I did come back from the dead. Only significant issues were a bee sting to the tongue, bruised thigh from epipen, deer fly bite scars and swollen ankles the day after finishing up.
Warning, this is a long read!
Super Yooper Dirt Tour July 7 – 11, 2013 Copper Harbor to Williamsburg, Michigan
Bike and gear set up:
Quiring steel 29er size XXL
Rock Shox Reba RL 100mm of travel
Sram XX1 group with 34 tooth chainring, 10-42 11 speed cassette, XX1 twist shifter
Avid World Cup disc brakes, 160mm rotors front and rear
Truvativ World Cup stem and seatpost, T-30 carbon flat bar at 700mm wide, old school Selle Italia Flite saddle
ESI Chunky grips
Stans Crest 29er wheelset with Schwalbe Rocket Ron 2.25 Pace Star 33psi and Racing Ralph 2.25 Pace Star rear 36psi, tubeless using Calfee tubeless solution
Cateye Micro and Srada wireless computers
One large bottle on underside of downtube
Barking Bear Bagworks full frame bag
•SnowPeak ti cup with MSR Pocket Rocket stove, with mini Bic lighter and spork
•2 MSR 4oz cans of gas
•MSR camp towel
•2oz bottle of camp soap
•Travel size deodorant
•Bag Balm in small travel container
•DryPacks mini toothbrush and paste kit
•6days of meds including pain killers
•Package of travel WetOnes
•Tools-separate allen wrenches, Avid torx wrench, mini Park chainbreaker, extra chain links, small bottle of lube, cut down tooth brush, small rag, emergency derailleur hanger and cassette ring tool, speed patches, two thin 29er tubes, zip ties, electrical tape wrapped around torx wrench, tubeless valve assembly, DT spoke wrench, shifter cable cut to length with nip, Velcro strap
•Niterider Minewt 600 light
•Maps and cue sheets (All-Weather Spiral No. 393 notebook) with waterproof pen
•MSR Dromlite 200oz bladder
•Specialized dual pump-shock and tire
Revelate Designs Sweet Roll under the bar with Pocket
•Tyvek ground sheet/vapor barrier
•MSR AC bivy
•ThermaRest ProLight mattress pad
•In Pocket-Ipone, beat up little camera, Hammer Fizzies, chap stick, bug dope
Revelate Designs Gas Tank
Revelate Designs Mountain Standard seat bag with drybag liner
•Three bib shorts
•Three pairs thin wool socks
•Lafluma 40 degree bag
•Marmot Precip pants and jacket
•Brimmed Pace cycling cap
•Externally attached Spot Tracker device
Revelate Designs JerryCan
•Camp head light, Iphone lithium battery charger, 3 AAA, and 3 CR2082 batteries for computers
Osprey Talon 22 backpack
•1 Backpackers Delight beef tamale meal, 5 Ziplock bags of ½ cup rice, 5 Tuna sealed tuna pouches
•1 pound of trailmix divided up into small bags for Gas Tank
•Casual Oakley glasses with sunglass case
•10 packs of oatmeal
Day 1 – Copper Harbor to Baraga
Rainy/misty/foggy and 50 degrees
I woke up in Fort Wilkins State Park on Sunday July 8 to a soaked Keweenaw County! Great! A muddy ride for day one! Due to the rain I was not able to grand depart at my original 7am time. Instead I gathered up my two younger brothers and we made our way into town for some breakfast. Between the three of us, we downed two cream cheese danish plates at the local party store. At 8:30am the rain stopped and we were off to the campsite for me to suit up and begin my adventure.
I suited up in my Marmot Precip jacket and pants and did a final check of the bike, packs and food and I was off! During the route planning, I was not content on leaving south from Copper Harbor; I decided to loop around the tip of the peninsula along Mandan Road. Mandan was a dirt road affair with a few climbs into the fog and mist. Since it rained all night, the road was a red mud bath with large puddles everywhere. After about 10 miles of riding the fun started! The dirt road went from smooth to extremely rugged with rocks and ruts everywhere with small descents and ascents.
Mandan Road looped around the tip of the peninsula back to just south US41where I hooked up with an ATV trai#134 from Bohemia Ski Area. The ATV trail was a rough one with rocks, ruts, brake bumps and sand here and there. It was quite the test for me since I am not used to riding this terrain in the Traverse City area. Along the way I encountered a crank issue, or what I thought was a crank problem. The upper part of the route was so rough that my gear in my frame bag was out of position. My SnowPeak Ti cup was sideways in the frame bag causing the inside of my cranks to rub on the bag. That was a relief because how would I fix a crank/bottom bracket issue? A brief stop and reorganizing of my bag made for clearance of the cranks and bag. Off and running I was on my way to Calumet to hook up to the Houghton/Hancock to Calumet Rail Trail.
Overcast and 65 degrees
After a rough ride from Copper Harbor I made it to Calumet. Completely trashed and covered in a red mud base layer, I stopped at a BP Station (Own stock in BP) to pick up a Cherry Coke and Reeses PB cup! It tasted good, but at this point I started to feel crappy, not bonkish, but just run down. A bit of a sit down to protest how I was feeling and things were better. Off from M203 I headed south on the rail trail which was a different beast all together. Straight as an arrow and smooth, crushed limestone/gravel as far as the eye could see. This was a welcomed change even though I liked the challenge of earlier in the day. The rail trail was full of scenery and sites. Passing by many quarry lakes and abandoned mines. Many mine shafts could be seen along the way which was identifiable by large tubular cages sitting above them. Old buildings from the iron ore age littered the area from Calumet to Houghton. The trail surface did vary from crushed limestone to crushed asphalt to crushed lava rock.
I made it to Houghton/Hancock after clearing sailing along the rail trails. Not too much going on in the college town. The day before we drove through town and it was 85 degrees and sunny, but this day it was 65 and cloudy. I proceeded over the Portage River and continued south east on a paved rail trail out of town to Chassell. After the pavement ended it was the typical crushed stone trail, but not so typical was the trail passed through resident’s backyard. I mean right in the backyards of homes. Many times I found myself asking people it if was ok for me to pass through, everyone one would always say, “Ya, eh!” The only risky part of the ride to Chassell was an old rail bridge that time forgot. The only bed to the bridge was rail ties every 12 inches apart. It made for a bumpy ride of 150 feet. Once south of Chassell, it was on to US41 for a few miles. I hate riding the road, but it was not too bad because traffic was low and the shoulder was wide. I would ride the rail line, but after Chassell it was ties and rails with overgrowth to 10 miles outside of Baraga. Back onto the rail trail into Baraga was like riding at home, big sandbox! Not a problem just had to keep the speed and balance up until Baraga.
I arrived in Baraga worn out, muddy and hungry. I camped at the State Park so family members would not fret about me being taking away by bears, wolves or cougars. I do not like to be in organized camps, but considering it would be safer with less worry from family, I did it. I like the freedom to ride sun up to sun down and just roll out the bivy when the sun goes down. Once in the campground I set up my site, established a clothesline with my bear bag line, cleaned up my rain gear (hung it up) and took a shower. I made my meal of rice and tuna with some PowerAid I picked up at a BP station in the north part of Baraga. Dessert was trail mix. At this point I had no cell phone coverage; however, the park did have WIFI! It was spotty at best. I went to bed that night pretty happy that day one was done, but what I was most happy about was the next day’s ride through the Huron Mountains! As I was dosing off, I heard wolves howling to the Northwest! Awesome! I listened to them and went to sleep. At 3am I woke to the sound of sprinkles, so not having a tarp, I moved base camp down the road 200 feet to the covered picnic pavilion. Ah! No need to get wet. It did not rain much.
95 miles ridden
Day 2 – Baraga to Marquette
60 degrees and foggy/misty
Day 2 plan was to make it to Autrain Campground at the east side of Autrain Lake
At 5:30 I woke and started the prep for the day. Normal routine was up at 5:30, start the boiling the water for oatmeal, roll up Thermarest, bivy and ground sheet. Then brush teeth, apply deodorant, bug dope, put on remaining riding gear. Then I would prepare my oatmeal and eat. Wash out my dishes and stow away in the frame bag. I would also prepare my on the bike snacks of trailmix and jerky. My goal everyday was to be on the trail by 7am. I do not slouch when it comes to getting ready! As I was getting ready I heard a ripping, digging sound from the end of the picnic table. It turns out it was a red squirrel ripping through my Osprey pack trying to remove a bag of trailmix. The little red devil was able to wreck part of my main zipper on the pack. The zipper was still functional, but I had to be careful zipping down to the base of the pack.
All packed up and loaded up with oatmeal and Cliff Shots I headed off to L’Anse to start the day in the “mountains”. The day was going to be long one riding through the towns of L’Anse, Marquette and Autrain. The plan was to get to through the Huron Mountain range and make it to Autrain Campground. I had to ride the road from Baraga to L’Anse to get into the dirt. Once in L’Anse, I rode to the east into the Dynamite Hill area then onto Arvon Road. Arvon Road was a dirt road incline affair into to the mountains. It was foggy and misty as I climbed the road. The dirt road was in good shape with hints of sand here and there. The only life was the county worker grading the road. At the county line, the grader turned around and I was on my own. Not much life out in the wilds of the UP forests. The road started to become unimproved, rocky and rooty. The forest was thick with old growth pine and hardwoods. It was untouched and untamed. After mostly climbing with some small descents I came upon a bear cub on a side two track. I pulled out the camera and took a quick picture and moved on. I exited off Arvon Road or roads onto Ravine River Road. Having my cue sheets helped keep me on the right roads and trails. In the Huron Mountains multiple roads have the same name. Ravine River road was an established logging road. Most of the road was in good shape with occasional break out of roughness or no road at all. During the way I came across a logging operation. Having not seen any human life for a few hours I noticed a dude putting on chainsaw chaps and gear. I stopped to chat and he looked up at me and his face was caved in and deformed. I waved and took off. It was uneventful riding through Ravine Road; small bridges, big climbs, large rock formations, thick woods and motorcycle tracks.
When planning the route I decided no matter what, I was going to go to the highest point in Michigan, Mt. Arvon. Mt. Arvon stands at 1979.238 feet in height. Ravine River Road comes to a point where it splits to the north and south. Mt. Arvon would take me south on Ravine 2 miles. As I was approaching the split the fog and mist of the morning cleared out and the sun came out! A 4 mile round trip was well worth it to explore the highest point in Michigan. I made it to the base of the mountain and started to climb to the top. The unimproved road to the top was in good shape with a few washouts. It would take 20 minutes for me to climb to the top with my fully loaded 29er. Once at the top I took a few pictures, signed the log and came back down the mountain. It took me 6 minute to descend back down Once to the starting point.
Once back on route it was an uneventful ride making sure to hit my mileage cues. My main goal was to make it to Triple A road without any issues. There were two North Woods roads according to the map. One was a north/south direction. I had to hit the second one which is farthest east went north then south into Triple A road. North Woods road was a rough going. Lots of climbing with washouts and deep ruts from truck travel. How trucks even traverse these roads was amazing to me because they were barely passable by mountain bike! Once up North Woods I had to make the easterly turn on Triple A road. Triple A road is the main road to the Kennecott Minerals nickel mine. I wanted to see this facility in the heart of the Yellow Dog Plains. That was not going to happen. You see, in the da UP, snowmachine trails are dirt roads in the summer, so the roads are marked with the orange diamond trail markers and every few miles the trail number is identified. As I continued my ride on Triple A, I came to a directional challenge in the road. Triple A road continued to the east and the snowmachine markers went to the north on another road. Knowing where I was at on the map I had to make a decision about which direction to go. Follow the marked trail or follow the established road? I decided to play it safe and follow the marked trail #14. This would be an interesting adventure. For an hour I rolled through pines and a sandbox like dirt road winding in and out of the woods. Then the trail began its downward spiral. The route declined into a primitive ORV trail that dumped into a swamp! Keep in mind every morning I would apply to all exposed skin bug dope/sunscreen because the mosquitoes were large and terrible in the UP. Once I dropped into the swamp, the mosquitoes were held at bay, but the deer flies took me a part getting into my helmet, jersey and other areas. I was hacked up by deer flies! The first ½ mile of swamp was a wading experience. I could not ride the section because it was pure muck with no solid ground to walk. I ended up walking through knee to butt deep swamp with deer flies biting at me. After the ½ mile trek, relief was in sight. I walked up onto a ridge only to be defeated with more swamp. This time the swamp was covered in corduroy. Corduroy is the laying of logs across the swamp to make the trail easier to traverse; only it is easier when there is 5 feet of snow piled on top. So not able to ride my bike across the trail I ended up walking a mile. 1 mile on this stuff pushing a 35 pound bike with deer flies attacking me and balancing on haphazard logs made for 1 hour of fun. I was spent after this and welcomed the dirt road back. Back on the dirt road I came into a gas line clearing where the road turned to the northeast up a gravely road ascent. On this road I saw large piles of fresh bear scat. Really fresh piles with the smell of musty bear fur in the air. This bear was nearby and I observed fresh tracks in the road larger than my hand! My camera was ready, only no bear to be found. Dang!
Once up the ascent the trail took a turn to the north through a fresh cut woods with branches and stump littered along the way. I stopped at the turn and decided to not take the marked trail and stick to the dirt road going east by south east. I said to myself as long as I proceed to the east I should be ok. I continued for a while and came to a main dirt road. I stopped and wondered if I was back on Triple A road. I decided to wait for a passing car no matter how long it would be. 10 minutes later a Yooper in a Toyota Tundra pulling a trailer came by, I flagged him down and he nearly hit me coming to a stop. He could not believe a cyclist was out this far, he asked, “Whatsa yous doing out der?” I told him I was riding to Traverse City! I asked what road I was looking at to my east and he told me it was Triple A! Yes! The only problem, I totally bypassed the nickel mine. It turns out the snowmachine trail I took was a reroute around the nickel mine to prevent truck/snowmachine accidents in the winter. That’s is according to follow up phone call to Marquette County Road Commission after I was back at home days later.
I made it through the Huron Mountains and onto county road 510. My relief was short lived because 510 is a hilly affair into Marquette. According to some Yoopers 510 was downhill to Marquette, ya right! I had 25 miles of pristine dirt road but with climbing to add insult. To add insult to injury, a kid passed me on his 1990’s Mongoose mountain bike wearing shorts, tank top and running shoes. It did not bother me at all because I just spent most of the day traversing the Huron Mountain Range through large climbs, terrible roads, swamps, bugs and bear scat! We both took a glance and said hello. At this point I was assessing my plans to go beyond Marquette to Autrain. I was reconsidering my plans to make it to Autrain Campground that night. So I planned on spending the night at Tourist Park in Marquette. As I rounded the corner here was the kid waiting at the road side. I asked if everything was alright and he replied with a Yooper Ya! He asked if I needed some company and I sure did. I actually needed someone to pace me into Marquette because I was totally depleted of energy. Dillon was his name and he lived up 510 with his parents. We chatted all the way into Forestville Road off from the Noquemanon Trail. I was in familiar territory because of the many times I have competed in the Hard Rock Ore to Shore Mountain Bike Race. This kid was strong on his retro Mongoose. It turns out he was nursing an Achilles tendon injury from running cross country at the college he attending in Ohio. His doctor told him to ride a bike for a while until he was ready to run. Man, that kid picked the wrong sport. He is a natural cyclist! I told him that and wonder if he is doing it?
After some chatting about the finer aspects of bike packing, Dillon and parted ways. I headed to Tourist Park for a well deserved nights rest. On the road to the park I could not help but smile and chuckle at what I accomplished for the day. I rode through the Huron Mountains! To my disappointment Tourist Park was full and on a Monday! Turns out there was a dog show in town and some kind of RV rally. Great! Not one to be defeated, I checked for some areas to stealth camp, but I was too far in the city to have proper cover without being classified a transient or bum! I did the next best thing and booked a $52 night at the Super 8 on the south west part of town. On my way to hotel haven I noticed a place to eat. I battled with my internal self support voice about the hotel and eatery. Well I would not be cheating my ride because the same services are available to everyone bike packing, so I entered Border Grill and ordered chicken nachos supreme, chicken burrito and a plate of queso/salsa with chips. A large Coke washed everything down. The sight of me must have had the girl behind the counter wondering where I came from. I was covered with mud from ankle to butt with dead deer flies on me, dried blood with a coat of dust and grim. She asked and I told her where I started and where I was finishing. She yelled to the back and all the guys came to the front to stare at me in what I call amazement or really they were thinking I was freaking crazy! All the dudes there raced bikes and we chatted for a bit about my ride and experiences up to that point. They never heard of anyone riding across the Huron Range before, naturally I am not a glory hound, so I told them I am sure there were many before me. I ate and headed off to Super 8 and said goodbye to the staff and pedaled on with a full belly. The scene was like Lewis and Clark coming upon the natives! Who was that guy?
Once settled in at the Super 8 I cleaned up with a shower (Removed a tick from my shin), got my bike gear sorted out, drivetrain cleaned and lubed and food ready for the next day. Since the grocery store was across the parking lot I donned my rain gear (Only clothing making me look normal) and headed over to pick up some ice cream and Swedish fish candy. I was happy to stay in a hotel after a couple of grueling days. It sort of refreshed me for the rest of the trip, so I thought!
85 miles ridden
Day 3 – Marquette to Muskellunge Lake State Park
65 degrees and foggy/misty and humid
Refreshed and rested I was up and eating a continental breakfast at 6am in the hotel. I packed it down with waffles, pancakes, Froot Loops, yogurt and two cheese danishes. At 7am I was on the bike and headed out across my favorite Yooper town of Marquette. I took the paved rail trail through town and out to the Soo Line bridge over Highway 28. The rail trail turned to dirt and I was headed due east to Kawbawgan Road in the heart of casino land! Ha! Then from there it was non eventful ride to Magnum Road. I would like to say it was an awesome ride, but it was dirt road riding. I had to plans today for a route: 1. Check out the NCT at the end of Magnum Road 2. NCT was not rideable head north on Sand River Road to the dirt rail trail. I made it to the start of the NCT and it was not pretty. The trail was well marked, but impassable by mountain bike because of the ruts, low branches and total darkness! No problem, up Sand River Road. Once turned to the north on Sand River Road a small bear cub popped out of the east side of the road and scampered to the west side of the road. Exciting! No really, I was excited because I love wildlife. Moments later another cub popped out stopped and stood up on his back legs and wondered what I was. Not knowing where momma was, I waited for a while down the road for her to go to the other side. No momma anywhere so I rang my commuter bell and sped through the bear area!
Today was going to be a mix of rail trail, dirt road, two tracks and ORV trails. I noticed the temp was getting hot; it was going to be a warm one with storms coming from the west. So I know I had to stay on the gas and not miss any directional cues. The first part there was not much going on, just me clicking the miles off on rail trail from Marquette to Autrain. Nothing spectacular, just some heavy lava rock and sand sections of rail trail with swamps and lakes on each side. After Onada, the rail trail ran through some deep cut rock sections with water running down in a few areas.
20 miles outside of Munising I had some cue trouble. In Autrain I hooked up to Autrain Forest Lake Road to the south to start my Forest Service Road bombing. Back to the east on a tangle of dirt roads I would have to eventually hook up to the snowmachine trails to get to Munising. Simple enough? After the forest road sections I needed to hook up to a couple of mystery two tracks connecting to the snowmachine trails. Somehow I became directionally challenged and ended up adding another five miles looking for the two tracks. I eventually found them and had a few miscues again trying to make sense of the way the snowmachine trails were marked. I finally came to Munising, but bit outside by my cue sheet standards. See, sometimes the internet maps are wrong, but you have to make the best of it and stay calm and keep going in the direction your destination. Once in Munising I noticed on a bank thermometer it was 85 degrees! Time for Subway refueling and water fill up. Once fed and bottles and MSR Dromlite were filled, it was time to hit a long section of H-58. Agh, this was the road section I was not looking forward to for the day, it was hot and traffic was thick headed out to Pictured Rocks. Had to be careful and just get to the Van Meer ORV trail that headed to the northeast to Cusino. As I trekked along the pavement I took some pictures of some brown cranes walking through the fields. I always see these brown cranes in the UP. I made it to the ORV trail to head to Cusino and the Lakes as I refer to them. Many little lakes along Crooked Lake road which made for easy cruising. The ORV trail of course cut through wetland areas heavy with deer flies and other speedy bugs who tucked into my draft hoping for a piece of me! Nothing to bad just some sand and a few little climbs to a short road section of H-58 then onto a 12 mile limestone road section called Adams Truck Trail. Adams Truck trail cut through the Kingston Plains section of the UP. Desolate, scrubby fields with little tries made up the terrain. Nothing special, just a huge section of land that was logged completely in the late 1800’s and devastated with fires some years later. Kind of a baring land that we all have forgotten that does not fit the forested view of the UP. I made it through the Adams Truck Trail experience to Green Haven or Lavender Corners on M-77. This would begin some frustrating cue sheet riding and general tom-foolery on my part. Perhaps I was tired or too focused on getting to Muskellunge Lake State Park. I had to go south on 77 to Camp Newton Road which was 1.5 miles to the east. Well, I turned to soon into what I thought was Camp Newton Road only to find out after 3 miles I was in the wrong place. Back out to the road I went in anger because I cannot afford to add miles or waste time because I wanted to get to camp! During my mad dash to the road I went through a muck hole that sucked my wheel in and stopped me immediately. Pulled out and back to the road I proceeded south and finally found Camp Newton Road and it was marked with a nice county sign. Agh! While heading back east into the woods on my cued route I noticed my computers were not registering. What the heck! Forget it and told myself I did not need computers I am almost to Muskellunge Lake, after that I am home free because I know the route after Paradise. My progression came to a stop, big, game fence across the small trail. No trespassing sign read, so I am in compliance with that. I took the opportunity to head back out to the road, ride back to the muck hole to retrieve my computer sensor that was ripped off the leg of my fork. Out to the road I attached the sensor with 4 zip ties. All secure. I pulled out my map to look at options to get to Old Seeney Road that ran north/south in direction. I found snowmachine trail 88 that ran part of the way on Camp Newton Road then veered off to the southeast then back to the east to Old Seeney Road. Cool that would work. Headed 3 miles back into the woods only to be stopped by another fence. Agh! Having enough stop and go, I relented in my pursuit of Old Seeney Road and headed north on 77 to Grand Marias. I hated it, riding on the road when I was so close to my north/south connection. I decided to time trial the 16 miles to Grand Marias because I noticed the west sky was not looking good. The road section was boring, kept thinking to myself how do roadies do it? Ride the road for so many miles! Once in Grand Marias I stopped to fill up bottles and a bit of my Dromlite. I did notice Elmers Excavation in town doing some beach and streetscape work. Elmers is out of Traverse City, so it was nice to see some TC flare so far from my home region. I was off on H-58 pavement for a few short miles until it turned to dirt at the county line. The west sky was getting dark and it was getting breezy. Once on the dirt it was a battle. The dirt road was like riding in a sandbox. It was all I could do to keep my 2.25 tires digging in and straight. I found some relief once and a while on the left side of the road where it was a bit hard packed. Back in Grand Marias I noticed a bit of stomach discomfort, like a flu feeling. I was starting to feel worse with every pedal stroke and it did not help that it was cooling off and starting to sprinkle. I was not having a good time of it. I was asking God to hold off on the rain and make the sandbox road firm up. It seemed like forever to Muskellunge Lake! I pedaled and pedaled and reached the state park. I entered the office to get a site and the girl behind the desk told me I did not look very good. I requested a site in the trees for additional cover from the rain.
At my site it was thick with tree cover so I set up my sleep system and grabbed my toothbrush kit and shower stuff. Off to the shower to clean up and brush my teeth. In the mirror I looked like crap. I was white with a sunken face. I showered up and returned to camp and went right to bed. Only my night would not be quiet at all. It rained all night and every 1.5 hours or so I would have to unzip my bivy to vomit. Around 4am I stopped vomiting and managed to get some sleep. Up at 6am with the rain stopping, I packed up everything and headed to the bathroom to brush my teeth and add some Bag Balm to my nether region. Returning to camp I pulled out my trail mix and jerky to prep for my on the bike snacks and found that my jerky had white mold on it. I figured out why I was sick, I was poisoning myself with rotten meat! I discarded the jerky and tried to eat some oatmeal, but I could not keep it down so I saddled up and took off.
155 miles ridden
Day 4 – Muskellunge Lake State Park to Mackinaw City
55 degrees, foggy/misty and heavy wind
As I was leaving I noticed Lake Superior was ragging. Looking out at the big lake they call Gitchigoomee the waves looked to be around 8-10 feet! The wind was strong that morning coming from all directions and the air was misty. It was going to be along day in the saddle. Not feeling well, I planned on toughing it out 45 miles to Paradise. When I get to Paradise I planned on assessing my condition. If my condition had not improved, I would pull the plug and call in the cavalry. If I was feeling good, on with the journey! My route for the day was going to be a mix of county roads through the interior of the Tahquamenon Falls State Park. I started out on Rabbit Patch Road which was a total sandbox of a road. Deep, wet sand for a couple of miles really tested my metal since I was not feeling well. Once through Rabbit Patch Road it was a connection of CR 410, 414, 500, 506 and other roads. I was amazed at the differences in terrain over the last couple days of my trip. The terrain varied from thick woods to sandy scrub to wide open grass plains. At one point on CR 414 I noticed a huge amount of coyote tracks which indicated a small pack. What put me under tension was noticing the pack was dragging a carcass up the road I was traveling. This carcass traveling lasted for 1.5 miles before the tracks veered off into a primitive two track. These tracks were fresh from that morning. I traveled without incident up the roads until I needed to move onto 506. A logging employee would not allow me to ride on CR 506 because of logging operations. I tried to explain to him I needed to go down that road to get to Paradise. He told me there were too many trucks and skidsters to allow my safe passage. I did not argue any further because I noticed in his truck a holstered revolver. Back onto CR 500 to the southeast to highway 123 which I was not looking forward to. This was supposed to be a dirt tour, not a road ride! As I was riding along, a juvenile bear about 100 pounds jump out of the woods and turned around and went back into the woods. The bear encounter was awesome but resulted in a tire being blown off the rim of my bike and loss of sealant. I reacted by turning the front wheel sharply because the bear just ran out of the woods giving time to only turn the handlebar. I picked up the front of my bike and walked down the road 25 yards to fix my tire. Usually a case of a blown tubeless tire, a tube is used. However, I am stubborn and decided to use the high pressure setting on my hand pump to inflate the tire tubeless. I was able to seat the bead on the rim not having to use the tube. As I was inflating the tire I had 3 cars go by and ask if I was alright. It amazes me that in the middle of nowhere how many Yoopers popped out of the woodwork. I love it.
I made it highway 123 and proceeded to Paradise. Once on the road the sun came out and it was nice. I started to feel much better and was getting hungry. I downed some Swedish fish and trail mix, but I was starting to form my lunch ideas at the Falls Inn. It was 18 miles of road passing the Tahquamenon Falls Upper and Lower State Parks and a few gas stations. I arrived in Paradise and promptly headed to the south of Paradise to Falls Inn. I ordered a hot roast beef sandwich with coleslaw and French fries with a chocolate milk and water. I was done and out the door at 200pm but I needed one more thing so I headed to the IGA and picked up a cherry popsicle. I needed it!
Looking at my time, the Mackinaw Bridge was 70 miles away on a mix of dirt roads, two tracks and grades. I did this route 3 years ago in prep for this very ride, so I knew the way to the Straits area. My calculations at 10 mph average would put me at 9pm for arrival to the bridge. I needed to be at the bridge before 8pm because the shuttle service shuts down at 8pm and does not start until 8am in the morning. I did not want to spend another night in the UP; I needed to be in Mackinaw City for a 7am start in the morning, so that left me with no choice but to time trial the 70 miles to St. Ignace. My stomach issues gone and full belly I hammered it out! I kept the temp steady and kept the pedals turning. Not much was encountered during the ride to the Straits area. I came across two Forest Service pickups in the middle of nowhere and a black fox going mach 10 across *beep* Road. Just after Cheeseman Road before St. Ignace I passed a family driving their 4 seater off-road vehicle. As I said I was in a hurry to get to the bridge before 8pm. I arrived to the bridge at 7:24pm covering the 70miles in 5 hours, 24 minutes with an average speed of 21 mph. Not bad for a fully loaded bike with 400 miles in the legs! I looked like a dirt bum covered in dust and dirt. I paid my 5$ and loaded up my bike in the bed of the Bridge Authority pick up and was swept away. I looked behind me and chuckled. It was sweet knowing I just traversed the UP on some of the most primitive roads and trails!
I was dropped off at the usual point, the old donut shop on the west side of town. I was hungry for Burger King so I ordered two double bacon cheeseburgers and large DR. PEPPER. It hit the spot. Then I was off to my favorite place to camp, Mackinaw Mill Creek Campground. I asked for a site on Lake Huron because I wanted to hear the water lapping on the shore and have a nice breeze coming into the bivy sack. My site was grassy and on the water. Perfect. I took a shower and prepped my gear for the next day. It took a bit to adjust to civilization in the campground. I had not really participated in civilization for 4 days. Now I was interacting with people. The neighbors took an interest in my minimalist approach to camping. These guys were from way downstate Michigan and had no idea where Copper Harbor was. One of the boys from their group rushed over with a map and I showed them my starting point and where I was going. They were in disbelief and left. Some do not get it! I made some more dinner which was tuna and rice. It was good and with a full belly I went to bed listening to the waves of Lake Huron crashing on the shore.
115 miles ridden
Day 5 –Mackinaw City to Williamsburg
65 degrees and sunny
My last day consisted of the same routine for getting ready for the day. Start the water boiling, pack up the bivy, Thermarest and ground sheet. Boil the water and add it to my oatmeal and eat and eat. It’s now Thursday and I was on day 5. Today’s route consisted of the North Central Rail trail to Gaylord then from Gaylord it was a mix of dirt roads to Williamsburg. I was very happy and rode with vigor because I had not seen my wife and boys! And even Smokey the cat! The North Central Rail Trail is a crushed limestone surface from Mackinaw City to Cheboygan to Gaylord. It is not technical in nature just full of nature. I have done this route many times and I always have a hard time for the first 20 miles. I stopped in Cheboygan for a sausage Mcmuffin with egg, hash brown and OJ. I was satisfied with the meal and moved on. Today was going to be a long day requiring concentration and metal to get me through the 130 miles, especially after 350+ miles in the saddle through the roughest terrain Michigan has to offer.
I rolled through the country side enjoying the sights and sounds. I rolled through the Mullet Lake area looking at all the summer homes which are small mansions. Mullet Lake (Yes I said Mullet) is a great inland lake that I always have the itch to jump in and take a swim. Riding through Indian River is interesting because there is always some type of street event going on. Much of the remainder of the ride is through the woods passing by the Sturgeon River and going through Wolverine and Vanderbilt. Once through Vanderbilt, there are 6 miles remaining to Gaylord.
Outside Gaylord events took a turn for the worse. As I was scooting by the free ranging white goats, when I was stung on the tongue by a bee. What makes this bad is the fact I am allergic to bees. Instantly I stopped and pulled out one of my epipens and slammed it into my thigh. Then back on the bike to get the juices flowing to help push the epinephrine and venom through my body. My tongue swelled up but not as much as I thought it would. Talking to my wife was difficult, but manageable. I rolled into the Wal-Mart Plaza and walked into my favorite place to eat, China 1, all clad in spandex and swollen tongue. I hung out there a bit long just to make sure there was not a second reaction. All was good and I continued on my second 65 miles for the day.
Heading out of Gaylord to the south is not fun. You have to leave the comforts of dirt and ride 12 miles on Old 27 to Dodge Lake Road. After that it is an all dirt affair. My only encounter with wild domesticated animals was two fufu Pomeranians who decided to chase me up Dodge Lake dirt road. Not amused, I stopped and yelled at the dogs to go home! They turned and yipped home, they could tell I was not thrilled with their presence. I proceeded up the hill on the dirt road and onto the pavement to the gas well property. This entailed the navigation of barely visible two tracks though fields of grass and weeds. Once through that it was on to a bunch of dirt roads that would traverse the Deward Management Area and Au Sable River basin. Once through that I was passing through NCT land near Papoose Lake and Manistee lake areas. One of my favorite sections is the Deliverance section of the NCT. It consists of a dirt road called State Road that turns into a swampy ORV trail that passes a Deliverance type cabin then out to the main dirt road. At this point I am close to Kalkaska and that only means a measly 19 miles to home. The rest of the way home is mostly dirt road and two tracks along the Iceman route on Sand Lake road to Bunker Hill Road. The ride home was uneventful. I left Mackinaw City at 7am and arrived home at 8:15pm to my three sons greeting me in the driveway. Thank goodness for Spot Tracker because it was nice to see my boys in the driveway happy to greet me. My wife was not home because for some reason she thought I would be home on Friday, this was Thursday!
130 miles ridden
I ride QUIRING CYCLES!