Trails I've Ridden

Mountain Bike Trails I've Ridden:

Ohio: Medina Reagan, Royalview, Bedford, West Branch, Mohican, *Vulture’s Knob, Lake Hope, the shit in Columbus, Dillon, The Wilds, AEP Lands, Wayne National Forest/Marietta, Findley Michigan Island Lake, Highland, Proud Lake, Hickory Glen, Novi Tree Farm, Addison Oaks, Pontiac Lake, ***Potowatomi, Brighton, Yankee Springs, Fort Custer, **Big M, North Country Trail segments, *Copper Harbor, Boyne Highlands, High Country Pathway, Bass River, Stoney Creek, Hungerford West Virginia **Cooper’s Rock, **Davis, Slatyfork, Watters Smith, Big Bear, Mountwood, Kanawha, North Bend, Spruce Knob Pennsylvania Moraine, Brady’s Run, Laurel Mountain, Tomlinson Run, Quebec Run, *Apollo/Roaring Run, Northpark, Bavington, Allegrippis, Blue Knob, Rothrock/Cooper's Gap Virginia **Carvin’s Cove, Massanutten, Harrisonburg/Reddish Knob New York Ellicottville Maryland *Gambrill/Frederick Watershed North Carolina Dupont, Pisgah, Rocky Knob, *Dark Mountain, that trail with all the berms in Wilksboro Arizona Sedona California *Sequel Demo South Dakota *Storm Mountain, Tinton Trail

* My favorites

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Hickory Glen trailwork

Met some cool people today. We tried an interesting technique: adding cement to a sandy climb. It was new to me but Tim the TC said they've made extensive use of cement augmentation at Novi Lakeshore. That place is awesome so I'm betting it will work well at Hickory Glens, a place that everybody ought to ride if they hit SE Michigan trails.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Suburban Epic

Yes, suburban epic. I've made a couple of trips down to DC and they have some cool county/northern Virginia suburban "Epic" rides, and I think my ride today qualifies as an Oakland County (Michigan) Epic. And yes, I know about the Milford Challenge, where you can ride pretty much 100 miles and hit mostly singletrack, so this ride was really nothing new. But it kicked ass. And it started from my front door. And it didn't cost me a cent. And I didn't kill myself doing it. And it included some rip-ass singletrack.

So it was epic.

  (In my book, at least)

Rode the Lakelands Trail to Hickory Glen, which is what all suburban trails ought to be: tight, with some features if you're heads up, and marked well-enough that if you're paying attention, you can get 7-10 miles and be disappointed when it ends. The mark of a good trail, in my book. But nothing that is going to burn you up if want to keep riding.

And I did. So it was on to Proud Lake. I found a new connector segment (that always charges me up) which enabled me to keep the pavement riding to around a mile or so, then it was on to singletrack that is as raw as you'll find in Michigan. Of course, I got lost again. That's the best thing about Proud Lake: you can get lost. I came out of the bush looking like an homage to Charles Darwin. I had more snaggy seed pods attached to my clothes than dingleberries on a puppy dog.

Stopped at Holdens where apparently you can buy beer and drink it outside on the picnic tables (Yeah, Holdens!!!)

Did the road ride through Kensington and hit the horse trails and saw this:

Not sure if this is a cool thing or not.

Uncool because they were setting up obstacles near the tree where my lovely wife and I got married. But hell, if people are getting out and torturing themselves and calling it fun, who am I to criticize? I try to do that everyday. Both torture myself and criticize.

News Flash: the orginial "Flow" trails are in Michigan.

News Flash: Island Lake is a high speed bombfest. It rules.

Stopped by on the way home to say hi to the horses. How's that for an awesome route!!!???

60 miles. Two twisted teas. Only 1700 feet of climbing but it felt like more. 
A good day.  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Weekend in D.C

So I took a little spin to scout out the yellow loop at Gambrill State Park in Frederick MD on my way to spend the weekend with my son in D.C.

Rocky as shit!!!! I think this trail is why they started making 29 inch wheels.

Took the C&O Canal towpath out to the Great Falls of the Potomac. Didn't see any kayakers but saw their training grounds further downstream.

I actually had more fun riding around in downtown D.C. than I did riding the towpath. I used the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building as landmarks and flowed with the traffic. Found the Folger Shakespeare Library, which I'd like to visit sometime.

Had a great weekend with Chris. He lives in the Capitol Hill section of town, right across from the Washington Nationals Park. A lot happening there, and plenty of people out and about, enjoying the resurrection of what was once one of the "worst" parts of town. Rode the Metro to the Howard University neighborhood and had a fine steak dinner.

On the way home, I stopped at Gambrill and parked in the Frederick Watershed area. I had just cleaned this rather brutal rock garden and a dude comes the other way and rides it like it was buff suburban singletrack.
Horsehead-size rocks but a clear line with momentum.

Tried my best to bomb down the blue trail but there were more than a few dabs. Crazy shit. The white rocks were some sort of quartz. I remember seeing that kind of rock at Roanoke.

This ledge was undoable without body armor or big brass balls.

The 'Shed is legendary in the region and I can see why. Tons of unmarked trails. You could spend a few days here exploring.

This was the beginniung of one of the nastiest climbs I've ever attempted. Reminded me of Wolf Run near Harrisonburg. I walked plenty. Beautiful area.

This is good advice.

Cut out to the road and ended up here, a Buddhist Temple I believe.

Gambrill and the Watershed are the rockiest. most bootlegged trails I've ever ridden. Not remote like Pisgah or Slatyfork, but probably more technically challenging. Some of the descents were ass-behind-the-seat-don't-make-a-wrong-move bombfests and the climbs are rocky and cleanable by people in way better shape than me. I can't wait to get back and explore.

Monday, August 4, 2014

All That For That? Part 2

After hearing a lot of good things about Addison Oaks mt. bike trail (it's a gem!" "it's my favorite trail in Michigan!!"), I decided to make the hour-long drive and check the place out. I had a strava track that included a gravel road climb and a route through the north unit of Bald Mountain, and i had finally learned how to save a route and follow it in Strava. Kinda cool and one of two good things to happen on this day.

Unfortunately, Addision Oaks was not one of those good things. I had made the drive to nearby Stoney Creek a couple of times so I knew it was kind of a pain. Last time at Stoney, I tried to do a road route add-on with some climbs and got turned around and lost and frustrated in a subdivisioin maze after riding a paved rail-to-trail. Granted, there are some nice climbs in the area but none on singletrack, so I went home a little disappointed, vowing never to waste my time driving so far for so little. Don't get me wrong: there are some fun sections at Stoney Creek but they don't warrant spending an hour in the car when I could be at Brighton or Poto in half the time.

So at the Addison parking lot, I got talking to a racer guy and he told me there was some nice elevation gain and tricky descents, which got me a little excited. Unfortunately, this feeling didn't last. I quickly realized that Addison Oaks is about the buffest, most manicured piece of single track I've ever ridden. Many segments were lined with the little rocks they had removed from the trailhead. Part of the trail began following some double track and I started to get pissed,  honestly. Things got worse when I hit some pavement and there were no trail signs. I counted a total of one well-designed berm, despite the dozen or so that were apparently built to add flow to the trail. One extensive berm came right after a horse trail crossing. Not sure how much speed a dude ought to be carrying at a point in the trail like that, but then I saw the two young guys who are in charge of trail maintenance. They reminded me of the young guy at Boyne Highlands who is doing everything but creating a place I would ever return to.

Sorry I'm being so grumpy. But it's the truth. Addison Oaks is a beginner trail. It's easier than Island Lake, where at least the natural berms allow for high speed bombing. It's definitely not the best trail in Michigan and it's a gem only if you're idea of a mountain bike trail means something one step up from a sidewalk.

So I hit the gravel road segment of the route and had to stop to fix a flat and got even more pissed (that's it: after a long time of resisting, I'm going tubeless)  The road descended a nice hill but the route took me back up a gentle stair-steppy climb that was frankly boring. If I ever go back, which I won't, I'll do the gravel segment in reverse and stick to the gravel roads which are probably a good winter workout.

Afterward, I stopped and talked to some people who were ready to ride the Bald Mountain segment. When I told them it was a choice between Bald Mountain and Pontiac Lake, the guy smiled and said Pontiac Lake was the obvious choice. Goodbye northern suburban trails. I'll stick to Poto, Highland, Proud Lake and Brighton.

Then there's Pontiac Lake. I won't say much because not much needs to be said. It had been a while since I rode there and it was fun, fun, fun. Just too short at 10 miles. And again, at probably a good half an hour drive, probably a place I won't return to again anytime soon, unless I need a change of pace. I really like how they've allowed Pontiac to remain natural but rideable. Some of the rooty rocky descents and climbs are a blast. I was cruising and it only took me 50 minutes to complete a lap, tho. No offense to anybody, but I hope they never "Addison Oaks" Pontiac.

Oh well. You never know until you go!

Ok, so now for the source of this rant: I've been gathering some info on a trail near Frederick, Maryland that I want to ride, Gambrill State Park. I hiked a portion of it a while ago and it seemed like an intermediate trail, but if you get on MTBR everybody describes it as advanced to expert. Who's right? So then I'm reading a thread about a couple from Canada who want to stop in WV on their way to Pisgah. People on the forum are all like, "yeah, what you want is Davis or even better, Slatyfork." Let me tell you something: I've ridden quite a bit in WV and I know that some of Davis and all of Slatyfork are high-commitment backcountry rides, much more rugged and nasty and unbuff than anything I've ever ridden anywhere (it's awesome). Telling people to stop in Slatyfork for some nice singletrack is like telling a beginning whitewater boater that they ought to check out the New or the Gauley on their way through. On the other hand, those people were headed to Pisgah (over-rated), so I guess they're kinda asking for it.

So this guy at Addison tells me that there's some elevation change and a nasty downhill near the end. Turns out it's a beginner trail and I drove an hour through Detroit traffic to get there. I don't know if there is a good way to rate trails or mitigate the relativity of some people's advice considering their comfort level on a bike.

But I also know I lived and learned at Addison.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Up North

This is Whippoorwill Hill, a dispersed campsite in the Huron Manistee National Forest. It's easy enough to find, so I won't give any directions. We've spent some awesome nights here listening to the coyotes and whippoorwills. This time, we brought Hazzard, our adopted rescue german shepherd, and Supai, our Aussie, and they kept careful watch.
The mosquitoes weren't godawful, but certainly present, so we took the precautions of wearing long pants and light long sleeve shirts during the morning and evening since we're really not into bug spray.
The weather was on the cool side for July: 70s during the day and into the lower 50s at night, which made for good sleeping but not ideal beach weather.

Karen and I quickly got into the groove. My first ride was what I call the Manistee Loop but which I later found the locals to call the Federal Park loop. While I was exploring some forest service roads that led to Hamlin Lake, I had a startling experience: standing next to a pine tree, I heard something thump onto the ground. It was a squirrel that I thought had fallen, but then I noticed that its head was missing! Probably an owl or hawk, hopefully a bald eagle, tho I doubt it.
I suspected that Scott Quiring, the owner of Quiring Bikes,  had some secret trails near his property on Hamlin Lake, but I couldn't find them. I had to settle for one of my favorite scenes of anywhere I've ever mountain biked ^

Karen took the dogs running while I biked, and of course, just before the above pic was taken, we crossed paths in the woods like we've done so many times. I take it for granted now although I don't know how to explain it it.

We met a strange soul that night at sunset, a man we called "Boogerman" partly after Rodriguez's "Sugarman", partly because he haunted our forest service road in the middle of the night with outbursts of his awful attempts at singing "Sweet Caroline" and Metallica, startling us and the dogs, but mostly because of the booger hanging from his nose which probably explains why his wife left him to go to Traverse City without a car for the entire week. It got kinda bad as the week went on, but we've dealt with similar assholes in the past when we've camped and we had a 110 lb German Shepherd so we never really felt threatened, even when he walked into our campsite around 10 o'clock one night unannounced to thank us for getting him a bag of ice. The dogs naturally went apeshit; he didn't seem to understand the impending threat to his scrotum; I told him he'd better leave because the dogs were cranked up; and fortuitously he did. A mixture of dumbassedness, loneliness, and probably a little craziness - par for the course sometimes when you camp dispersedly.

Big M is one of my all time favorite places to ride: loops, stacked loops, flat, flowy track through peaceful stands of pine trees, grindy climbs that end just soon enough, rambunctious downhills that make me laugh out loud every time, and trail maps at every intersection. It's a banquet.
And for all the times I've ridden there, I never found this overlook at the top of Capper's Corner. Reminded me of Rattlesnake Hill on the High Country Pathway.

One day, Karen took the dogs on a walk in the fern meadow behind Whip Hill. I was engrossed in "Buffalo for the Broken Heart", a memoir about an attempt to bring buffalo back to the Black Hills. Karen and i had just returned from a vacation the the Black Hills and Badlands and fell in love with the southern Black Hills. A good book, and I devoured it. She had a present for me when she returned: a handful of blueberries and huckleberries. It was clearly time to go huckleberry picking. We spent the afternoon sitting among huckleberry bushes and having the time of our lives.

Supai is becoming an old veteran of Whip Hill. We missed our Z Boy, tho, and we spent many moments pausing in silence and remembering.

Hazzy and Supai helped with our grieving.

Hazzy has a wild spirit and we love him for who he is.
One of the most beautiful paces in the world.

An average, awesome, spectacular sunset.

A view of the impending "supermoon" from our campsite.

Fresh Michigan strawberries that we were lucky enough to find in a farmer's market in Manistee.

We strapped Ertie and Artie, our rubber duck mascots, to the kayaks and made our second voyage of the week. Our first, a trip down the Big Sauble River to Hamlin Lake, has become a favorite. Last year, we did the "advanced" section of the Little Manistee from 9 mile bridge to 6 mile bridge and it was just too narrow and fast moving to enjoy it, so we put in at the weir/fish hatchery this time and were immediately blessed with a siting of a bald eagle whose nest is just down river
It turned out to be one of the best river experiences we've ever had. We were floating time out of mind on a clear "up north" trout river without a care in the world. Later, the biggest friggin' wild bird I've ever seen flew across the river in front of us. He must have been the granddaddy bald eagle and we spotted him perched high above the river in a pine tree.

Karen jumped into rescue mode when she saw a couple of seedling white pines eeking out an existence on an abandoned dock.
Life might have somehow gotten better, but I'm not sure how.

So after another ride at Big M and an out an back on the NCT from Freesoil Road to Timber Creek, some time at the beach, and a lot of battery-charging general hanging out and relaxing, it was time to think about heading home.

Karen had to get back, but I had always wondered what Boyne Highlands and the Kipp Road section of the NCT were all about. I decided to make the drive to Petosky and check it out.

After driving through one of those all-day downpours that happen when a storm decides to swirl around the lower pennisula, I arrived at Kipp Road not really into the thought of getting drenched on an unfamiliar trail as the temperature dropped to around 55 degrees. But I went anyway.

The first climb is a good one but after that things got a little two-tracky and flat, and since it was the NCT, I didn't want to mess things up and I wasn't really having any fun, so I rode five miles out and turned around.

The next day, I found the bootleg trails behind Boyne and started exploring. Eventually, I found the Boyne XC trails and headed for the Blue Loop. Nice trails, well-marked, esp-ecially the Orange trail descent, which followed a ridge and eventually turned into a fun, swoopy ravine hootenany that made me laugh out loud. Good stuff, but I'm not sure it was worth the three hour drive north from Manistee.

That afternoon, I did my first ever lift-assisted ride at the ski resort. Not quite as awesome as I thought it was gonna be. Five minute ride up the hill, one minute ride back down, or so it seemed. Probably a little more of each. The trails were mostly tight and through the woods with a couple of features here and there. I guess I was hoping for something a little more open and bomby. Apparently the best trail (Fun Trail??) was stilled closed from a winter storm, and the dude in charge seemed to think it was a better use of his time to build a few very advanced features at the top of one of the easier trails instead of cleaning things up. I can't say I had a great time. But I had to find out for myself. I'm hoping that Seven Springs in PA or maybe even Snowshoe in WV will be a better experience, if I ever make there. On the upside, I got to ride a sweet Cannondale Claymore!!

Still, I really enjoy Michigan trails. They're so much different from Ohio, PA and WV., and I couldn't bring myself to wash the sand off my tires.

A camel.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Lake Michigan Rec

One of my all time favorite places to ride^

Whip-poor-will Hill, our home for a few days.