Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Grand Island

I was able to talk Matt into taking a little adventure with me over the weekend. I picked him up Sunday morning, and we drove up to Munising to catch the noon ferry over to Grand Island to ride around and camp out for the night. The island, and really the whole trip, far exceeded both our expectations. The campsite we stayed at on the north end of the island was hands down one of the most spectacular campsites I've ever stayed at. The riding was way better than we thought it would be too. Lots of elevation changes, great views of surrounding islands/cliffs/pictured rocks, and just enough roots and rocks on the trail to keep it interesting. The best part was that we pretty much had the whole island to ourselves. We rode just over 30 miles on the first day and another 11 yesterday. That pretty much covered most of the terrain on the island; and that whole time, I think we saw less than ten other people. I told Matt yesterday on the ride back to the ferry that "you know someplace is truly awesome when you are already figuring out how to get back before you've even left."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

BIkepacking 101

Throughout the summer I've spent a half dozen nights or so in the woods working the kinks out of my "bikepacking" setup. I think Sarge posted up a link to this site before, but here it is again for everything and anything you ever wanted to know about the emerging cycling subculture of bikepacking. Anyway, I've had this route in mind for a while. This weekend was my first attempt of it. Basically my plan was to ride the NCT up to Mackinaw City and then head south on the old rail trail past Indian River. From there I was planning on hooking back into the NCT via Thumb Lake Rd. and continuing north to complete the loop. The first half went very well. I made it to a suitable campsite along the river south of Indian River after 85 miles and about 8.5 hours in the saddle. I had stopped at the Keyhole for lunch at about 2:30, so I wasn't super hungry when I made my final resupply for the night. Therefore, I walked out of the gas station with a bag of cashews, a large bag of cheese it's, a big bottle of water, and a tallboy of Blue. What a dinner indeed. So during the night it began to rain very hard. Fortunately my hammock tent setup kept me dry and cozy once again. In the morning it was still raining hard so I waited around and had a breakfast of a Clif Bar with the leftover cheese it's. By 10:30 it was pretty clear that it was not going to clear up, so I packed up. From my GPS it appeared that home was about 35 miles due east, and that seemed plenty far to ride in the downpour. So that's what I did. The highway between Indian River and Alanson was interesting in a scary kind of way. The traffic was intense, but I did have on a bright ass yellow coat, a rear red blinker, and I even turned my headlight onto flash mode just to be on the safe side. So my shortened loop ended up being 118.6 miles. I'm thinking the whole deal will run over 150 miles for sure. A couple of lessons learned on this trip: One, I need to pay a little better attention to my nutrition. I was tending towards thinking I didn't need to worry about eating so much because I was riding at a more relaxed pace, but it turns out you still burn calories even if you're not operating at full on race pace. Just south of I. RIver I started to bonk pretty bad, but a kind bar and some cashews set me straight. Two, while I stayed nice and dry in my hammock some of my gear did not. I'll need to take a little better care of getting gear stored under protection of the rain fly. Other than that, the trip went pretty well. The legs felt pretty good both days, and the discomfort from carrying the extra weight on my back was minimal. One last note, you may think the flat rail trail from Mackinaw City south would be a piece of cake. I sure did. I'm here to tell you it's a bear. It's flat so there is no coasting.....for over 40 miles. To add insult to injury, there was a stiff wind out of the southeast making a 11 mph pace barely sustainable. So that's that. Hope to see everyone on Wednesday. Enjoy the crappy phone pictures and ride data below. Over and out.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Making The Best Of It

Spending the first weekend after Labor Day in the greater Metro Detroit area is far from ideal. But there was a cousin's wedding and Sarah needed to get her foot fixed, so here we are. I did get a good ride in on some new to me trails at he Highland Park Recreation Area. They were quite typical of downstate trails, very twisty, rooty, and rocky. Hills were short and steep. On the way to Sarah's aunts house after the ride, I got to experience a good traffic jam on the freeway. It took about an hour to go less than a mile before I could get off the freeway. I made the rest of the journey without too much hassle, but all told it turned what should have been a 38 minute trip into something closer to 2 hours. But I did get to see a lot of suburbia that was totally new to me. The wedding reception was exactly what one would expect if you tried to picture the quintessential generic downstate wedding. Sunday was a bonus day. The hotel had an Aubrey's pizza place next door, and the Lion's pulled off the big W on the road in Tampa Bay. So we head over the doctor's office in a few minutes for Sarah's surgery and with any luck we'll be safely back above the 45th sometime this evening. I hope not to venture south of it again for many moons. All the people, cars, and pavement are enough to drive you insane.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Coconino 250, Stage 1, Part A

During a conversation with WPG the other day, he expressed his interest in flying out to the southwest for the Coconino 250, a 250-mile grassroots mountain bike stage race here in northern Arizona.  I've taken it upon myself to help him out by doing some reconnaissance by riding the route myself in smaller stages over the course of the next 8 months.  So, here's the first in a series of posts regarding the route:

Stage 1, Part A: New Frontiers to Marshall Lake

I began at New Frontiers (a local health food store here in Flag) and headed out for the first 10.4 miles of the ride from the start, near Lonetree and Butler Ave., to Marshall Lake.  Once off the pavement of Lonetree Road, the route follows about a mile of the Flagstaff Urban Trail before it veers off on the Arizona Trail (AZT).  It immediately brought back some fond memories for me.  I did my first group ride since moving to Arizona on this trail, and I also had my first Arizona OTB wipeout here.  Since I generally stick to the trails near Mt. Elden and Fort Valley, it's been years since I've ridden this section of the AZT, and I forgot how absolutely beautiful it is this time of year - lush and green.  The single track winds through the forest on an old double track and drops into singletrack that rolls through some open meadows below Fisher Point.  At about mile 4.9, the trail splits for a route to Fisher Point or a route towards Marshall Lake.  At this point, and although I'm familiar with the area, I realized how important it will be to carry the cue sheets, especially in areas that I am unfamiliar with.  The mileage seems very accurate and will be a necessary and handy thing to guide you/me through the course.
AZT Shortly Before the Junction to Fisher Point and Marshall Lake
Heading along the AZT towards Marshall Lake, the trail crosses a drainage before it heads up to the top of the Mesa.  Here begins the first of several hilly challenges.  A series of switchbacks lead you up the mesa and eventually to a loose, rocky straight up climb.  It's a challenging climb by itself.  I would imagine that with the required bikepacking gear, it's certainly a hike-a-bike.  I walked several portions of it carrying only my CamelBak. Once on top of the mesa, the singletrack trail undulates across a series of valleys through ponderosa pine forest.  I had two bull elk cross the trail in front of me, as I dropped down into one of the valleys.  A beautiful sight. The wildlife only got better.  As I cruised along, I approached a full tank on the right.  To my surprise, I saw what, at first I thought was a large black dog running away from the tank, but it turned out to be the first black bear I've ever seen in the wild in Arizona.  So cool!!!  And after some further map reading, I'm pretty sure that the tank is called Bear Tank...  kind of fitting.
AZT Singletrack Before It Heads Up to the Top of the Mesa Towards Marshall Lake
The trail emerges from the forest into an open meadow.  The nearly level singletrack is fairly smooth going, but with an occasional cluster of rocks, just often enough to keep you honest and on top of your game.  Around mile 9.8, the trail starts to descend towards Marshall Lake.  Now, as you'll see in the picture below, keep in mind that Marshall Lake is a seasonal lake.  Generally a small marshy body of water during the spring and wet times of the year.  Right now, it's dried up to almost a nonexistent body of water.  And at this point, the end of the first leg of my reconnaissance. Time to turn around and head home (please see this post about the return trip).
Marshall Lake, Almost Completely Dried Up
Next - Stage 1, Part B:  Marshall Lake to Mormon Lake Road, approx. 20.6 miles.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

WNR Report

WNR # ?

We met up at he end of Valley Road to ride a little bit of the NCT and a little bit of the new and improved course for the race at Nub's on October 1st. The course for the first running of the Cry Baby Classic last fall consisted of mostly very wide and sometimes sandy cross country ski trails. There were a few tiny bits of singletrack, but mostly it was just hilly. Our very own Secret Steve took it upon himself to contact the promoter and the head honcho at the ski resort to get permission to build some new singletrack for the race and tie it in to the NCT. Last night was the unveiling, and we were all super impressed. We're going to have to ride it in some more for sure, but Steve's hard work is going to turn a so so race quite suited to roadies into a brutal test of technical skills and endurance. I'm pretty sure Steve said his new section was about 3/4 of a mile, and that tied into the section of NCT brings the lap total to 9.3 miles with just over 1,300 ft. of climbing. Three laps are going to hurt, especially on the singlespeed. So we rode that, did the roller coaster trail down into Trout Creek and then climbed back up. Lots of riders. Probably ten or so in Sarah's group and close to 20 in ours. Good ride, good trails, and good beer. Best of luck to all the teammates heading up to Copper Harbor this weekend for the Fat Tire. I so wish I could be there, so think of me right when you make that turn up onto Brockway Mt. Drive right after the gun goes off Sunday morning. If you've ridden up there before, you know what I'm talking about. If not, you'll see soon enough. Enjoy and have a good weekend. Over and out.