Trail Report

2TrakR

Mi. Trail Riders
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#1
Trails Report

Well, I'm sure this won't even begin to touch the level of quality that Woodsy has set for trail reports, but allow me to bore you a bit.

Part of my project is to GPS the ORV trail systems. I'd have more done, but I spend my riding time putting Dual Sport routes together. Ok, so it's not _my_ project, but the CCC's <http://www.cycleconservationclub.org> and maybe I'll talk more about this later. Let's just say that we are working on a new CCC Map Book.

The wife decided early this year that we'd take some vacation at the end of October, which was weird, but hey - you don't argue with the SO (Significant Other). I think she was aiming for the Indian Summer warm weather we get in mid-October, but I digress. Two days before we were to leave, her Dad calls and we decide to head to the UP which was fine as there were no concrete plans on where to camp anyhow. I figured on taking the bikes and hoped to sneak in a trail or two while we were gone for 5 days, but now that the In-Laws were going I had somebody to ride with (FIL is a primary riding partner). The original excuse was to deliver a couple cases of plastic bags to the sister-in-law who lives near Newberry <http://visitnewberry.org/> (sells major amounts of deer feed this time of year) so we planned to camp somewhere up there. She ended up driving down before hand and picking the bags up, but once you have an excuse to go somewhere...

We set up camp on Friday at Trout Lake Campground <http://www.exploringthenorth.com/troutlake/>, right on Carp (or is it Trout) Lake. Take 123 North in the UP, Trout Lake is a mandatory turn to keep on that road. About 1/2 mile to the West is the campground. Small place, on the lake with electric and a nice playground for the kids. My daughter (Giannah <http://www.homepage.mac.com/jvalley/Giannah>) is only 3 months, so she didn't utilize the playground all that much. A neat feature of this campground is the railroad tracks that runs dang near through it. Think of this -> lake, then campground along shore, then railroad tracks, then the paved road. To get to the road, you must cross the RR tracks. The RR is about 700 feet from the lake, so you are closer than that to the RR. They only run a couple times a day and Trout Lake is a major RR point (timber, I think). Four engine jobbies with a mile or two of cars attached. They don't blow the horn at 4AM, but it still rattles your teeth when they go through ;-). The campground is a county park; $10/night or $15 with electricity. Being able to plug the motorhome in during the cold weather is a bonus (auxiliary electric heater saves on the propane usage).

Oh, you can drive your unlicensed bike from camp to the trails too. All of our bikes have plates, so the bonus of the UP's road riding doesn't affect us. Well, you do need to watch out for more quads on the roads, but that just makes life more interesting.

Our plan was to ride the Brevort <http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/1,1607,7-153-10365_15070_15080-38330--,00.html> (trail maps) loop on Saturday as the weather should cooperate. This was 10/25/03, I think. Yeah - I had no idea I'd be riding bike in the UP so late in the year. Sled maybe, but bike? No.
The weather did cooperate, we did ride the loop. Both of us overdressed, which was good for the 2 miles of road to get to the trail. We started on the North end, at the "parking lot" so designated on the CCC's trail map. Funny, the DNR trail map shows neither the lot nor the connecting trail. The trail is there, but I'm not sure I'd try to park anything in the parking lot. It's a big sand pit - literally. If you ain't got four wheel drive on the tow vehicle, I'd look for somewhere else to park. Unless you need a target practice/skeet shooting area, then this may just be the place for you (the locals seem to think it's a good area for such things).

We jumped on the "connector" trail, probably 2 miles of trail that connects the main loop to this parking lot. Rarely used, no whoops, tight, twisty, hilly and just fun. Wow, I'm thinking this loop is going to be great. I've not ridden this loop, at all, before so didn't know what to expect. The map shows "The Rock Pile" in the NorthWest corner of the loop, which we planned to hit last (running clockwise). I had ridden the Moon Rocks over by Gwynn during 2002 Six Days of Michigan and they were killer (bigger than your house sized rocks) and if this "Rock Pile" were similar I'd want things to be as dry and sunny as possible.

It didn't take long for us to hit the main loop and find the whoops. Wow, you can tell this loop has had a few events run through it. If it was sandy, the whoops were pretty deep. This loop has almost zero quad traffic on it; most of the loop was nice and narrow. A mile or two of trail made for a decent workout and also a good cue to shed some clothing. My new Mule Camelback made for a nice place to store my coat, Larry opted to just unzip his a bit (later it was fully unzipped and flopping behind him like a cape).

The GPS was making a good track. Being late fall in Michigan there are no leaves left to block the satellite signal. The only spots that screw the signal are the thick pines. Going real slow helps in those areas - I had to stop and let the GPS reacquire a couple times in the really thick stuff (where you can't see the sky). Larry runs a similar GPS, but doesn't have the extra antennae that I have on my fender bag. It was interesting to see how his lost lock more often; I'd say the antennae made a 30% improvement.

Since we are GPS'in the trail, we have to run every bit of it, including the connectors and so on. Brevort is an interesting loop in that the South (primary) parking lot has a connector trail to the main "loop". What's weird is this trail is 17 miles long. Seventeen miles of trail to get you to a 27 mile loop, then the same 17 miles back to the parking lot. Riding the roads back is legal up there, so you can run 2 Track and such to get back. The trail gets little use near the parking lot (unusual) and was actually hard to see in spots. I had waypointed where the trail split, so once we reached the parking lot, we just ran fireroads back to the connector.

Oh yeah, Larry was leading on the P-Lot connector and saw a wolf. Dang thing was running parallel with him for a hundred yards or so (just checking him out) and then it ducked into some thicker scrub. He stopped and watched it for a minute or so - by the time I caught up to them, the wolf was out of sight. Interestingly enough, the trail snakes right back through that area after a couple miles and we both slowed down to watch for the canine. No joy though, just the usual critters such as deer & squirrels.

We picked the main loop up on the West side and were still having fun. Probably in the mid 50s and mostly sunny - hard to ask for better riding weather. I have to admit that my opinion of the loop thus far was so-so. It was fun in places, really whooped in others, I wouldn't be in a hurry to run it again. It's nice in the fall as all of the ground cover is gone so you can run your own trail along side the actual trail, but out of the whoops. Not that I condone deviating from the designated trail or trying to widen existing stuff. Staying out of the whoops is even more challenging in the thick white pine stands, where you are just about brushing the trees hopping from side to side of the trail. Fun.

Oh, back to the West side trail. This is nice stuff. I'd definitely opt to run this again. Harder pack with hardwood forests. Rocks too. Lots of them, not little round ones either. Big rocks that just stick out of the ground, with cracks in them and roots running across them. Add in 3+ inches of wet leaves on top of the trail and you have a challenging ride. They also logged some areas the trail runs through, mostly thinning & not clear cut, but it made it tricky to find the trail. I'm sure we were quite a sight to see in this section. Both feet out frequently, bikes sliding every which way. No crashes that I know of, but lots of pucker factor. I wasn't sure if it was better to lead or to follow through that sort of stuff. If you lead, then you get to find the hidden logs and roots, tossing you about. If you follow than you get to see the logs and roots, which you then try to avoid and you hit more unseen stuff; or you see the stuff you're about to hit and pucker harder than normal. What a blast.

We got back to camp a bit before dark with, I think, about 60 miles on. The girls were still gone on a road trip. Now there's an interesting tidbit - the 4 ladies with us make up 4 generations - Great Granny, her daughter (my mother in law), her daughter's daughter (aka the Wife) and her daughter's daughter's daughter (my daughter). Great Granny wins the prize at 97 years.

It was kinda rainy the next day, so we packed camp and headed North(!). Hit both the lower and upper Tahquamenon Falls <http://www.exploringthenorth.com/tahqua/tahqua.html>, ate at the brewery <http://www.superiorsights.com/tahqfallsbrew/> at the upper falls. Tried the Porcupine Pale Ale again and it was, uh, not that good. I had it one time previously when we were up snowmobiling and burped it up for a few hours on a really rough trail. Needless to say it left a bad impression, but I wasn't sure if it was the beer or the ride. It was the beer.

The state campground at the lower falls was open, but there's no close ORV trails, so we moved on to Newberry only to find all the the campgrounds there closed for the season. We ended up at a State Forest campground on the Tahquamenon river. Basically out in the middle of a swamp. No electricity here, so we both fired up our generators for the night. I won with that since my generator is one of those 98db units and can run with the best of those YZFs - Larry has the big buck Honda that puts out a measly 70db. Good thing we were the only one's out there, else I wouldn't have been able to run my generator.

We woke to an inch of snow on the ground. Woo Hoo - riding in the snow! Not. It melted by mid-morning and the rain looked like it may hold off. We loaded up and headed to the Silver Creek ORV trail (see trail map link for Brevort for map), only a couple miles to the North of us. The girls were going to take Larry's rig and head back to Trout Lake, we left my rig at the parking lot. Actually it was the old parking lot, both of us forgot about the brand spanking new fancy parking lot 1/4 mile to the West of us. They need better signage up there. The old parking lot is just a turn around and the trail still comes up to it; the new one is barrier free with a potty and everything.

Since we were right on the trail, I opted to leave the coat off which was good and bad. With the snow and rain from previous days, it was wet. Lots of pine hanging into the trail - full of water waiting to soak you. Leading in some of the sections was not the best option. Our pace was quick enough that the extra water didn't make me cold (Larry had enough gear on to keep the water out).

This trail gets much less use and has less sand to begin with. That means fewer whoops and nicer trail. Tight trail. Almost zero quad use here as well. I like this loop; I've ridden parts of it before and had wanted to ride the whole thing. Last time I rode parts of it, a couple of the guys riding with us were not keen on singletrack so we had to hit the snowmobile trail and two tracks after only a small bit of trail.

Several miles into the loop and we came across moose tracks. Fresh too, as in the water was knocked off some of the brush that the beast went through. I thought for sure we'd catch up to him (the moose was leading). So sure in fact, that I had Larry take point for a while ;-). I had no interest in sliding around a corner only to surprise a big ole moose. Especially with how tight the trail was in this area - very few places to make a quick turn around. That moose walked along over 2 miles of the trail. We never did see him/her. That would've been cool, I think.

The Northern portion of the trail loop has more hardwoods and cedar swamps. That means riding on uneven ice with the wet leaves, water, roots and rocks. What a blast. I let Larry lead in that tight slippery stuff as he's much faster than me with his new TTR. My XR gets through there, but between me, my gear, the 4 gallon tank and so on, she isn't light on the hoof - something important when you try and float over wet roots. Anyhow, it was fun. Especially in the swampy areas where the bottom of the small whoops would be hiding a few inches of water underneath the leaves. Slip, sploosh, slide, gack, sploosh, slide, breath, throttle, spin, slide, sploosh. Fun.

I caught up to Larry in a tight cedar section, he was wrapped around a tree with the bike laying on his legs (still running). I got the bike off of him and shut it off (yup, never stalled) and could tell he wasn't injury free. Bike landed on his ankle; thought it was broke. The First Aid training I did in the spring flashed through my mind, but I didn't have any stroke of genius. He was able to put weight on it after a few minutes, so I was pretty sure nothing was broke (he couldn't stand on it a couple years ago when he broke the same foot). I was glad nothing was broke. Plus I was thinking about just how far I would have to carry him to reach civilization (how many miles?). He was able to ride out. GPS showed we only had 500 feet to a road too. Actually, Larry was able to ride the rest of the loop, just a little slower. Which was fine (speed) for me, I get to lollygag and see the sights. His foot/ankle is still sore a week later, but we think it's just a bad sprain or some such.

Silver Creek is a fun trail, I'll ride it again some day. We made it back to the rig and I made Larry use a lawn chair while I loaded the bikes (he's one of those guys who'll try to help even if he can't stand on his own - too nice of a guy). It was just getting dark by the time we rolled into Trout Lake Campground (like an hour drive or something to get there). Would have been 50 minutes to get there, but we had to wait for the train at the campground entrance. Seriously.

End camping trip.

Part 1
 

2TrakR

Mi. Trail Riders
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Jan 1, 2002
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#2
Part 2:

Back to the trail GPSin project. This is my excuse to ride ORV trail loops. Oh the agony of having to "work". Good thing this is volunteer work. ;-) Honestly it's great to have a reason to ride, something with a useful purpose.

Saturday I opted to run the Geels (same link for trail map, see here for area <http://www.mapquest.com/maps/map.adp?country=US&addtohistory=&address=&city=Geels&state=MI&zipcode=&homesubmit=Get+Map>)system. It's a 45 minute drive to the parking lot from home, so it's relatively close. There were a couple vehicles at the staging area. I chatted with a 2 older gents who were suiting up and prepping their 300exc pumpkins. Told them about the GPS project and ended up showing one of them how to use his GPS (well, just one particular feature, he had a general clue on how to use it). They mentioned a group of 6 that were already out on the loop and which direction they were going. That helped me to figure out which way I was going to run. They were the only tracks in front of me, so relatively quiet riding.

I've ridden the North loop before, but I was arrowing it for an event and trying to keep up with a couple speed demons. Needless to say, there was a lot of the loop that I didn't remember. It's a nice trail, I'll ride it again some time. Couple long hill climbs, nothing WidowMaker like, but enough sand and rocks to make it fun. There are a couple pine sections that I had to pretty much stop and wait for the GPS, but otherwise it was zip zip fun. The weather was holding nicely, mostly cloudy and low 50s. The ground was wet so even the deep sandy stuff was nice and firm.

I made a loop through the parking lot and noticed another 7 or 8 vehicles had joined the collection. Off to the South loop. Funny how the trail always sucks near the parking lots. All those posers screaming off from the truck for a mile, then screaming back. There, done for the day. Trails are always whooped at the beginnings due to this activity. That's what makes those long loops so nice - nobody rides 'em. It didn't take far to get away from the whoops and into nice trail. The trail wound through the usual fair of pine, hardwoods and thick aspen. A few old railroad grades snake through the area and the trail uses spots of them. RR grades are a mixed bag. They are cool, to me just from the history perspective, but tend to whoop out very badly. Some of this trail was no exception. Lots of logs and branches to watch for in the aspen sections, with all those little yellow leaves trying to hide 'em. Keeps you on your toes.

I came upon a herd of quads, but they were nice and even knew the trail signals for how many were coming (3 fingers up for 3 more riders, closed fist for last one, etc). About 3/4 the way through this loop I came up on the guys I was chatting with in the morning. I gave 'em both a hard time about the distance they already covered compared to me. Their excuse was one of them smoked like a trailer park granny at Bingo, so they had to stop frequently for his nicotine fix.

Right after them, I came upon the group of bikes whose tracks I had been following on the North loop. Bunch of CRs. One of them needed a real tire on the back. Think it was an older CR 500, that thing just trenched the trail where ever it went. I mean like a 3 inch deep trench, enough to make your bike dart around. Was thinking that this dude would be pretty fast if the bike actually hooked up, but maybe that was by design.

I finished the loop much quicker than I expected, the top part of the South loop was quite nice and lead to a nice smooth rhythm. The map made that last part look much larger than it was. Felt like it only took 10 minutes to ride. I'm sure it was more than that, hmm, let me check... Yup, GPS says it was 22 minutes to make that 6 mile section of the loop.

It was only 3PM now, so I decided to pick up the MCCCT from Geels down to St. Helen. Quite sure I've ridden it before and it didn't seem like it was that long. I had at least 2 hours before dark (pretty cloudy out) so no problem; and it wasn't. There's a bit of road/ORV Route to get back to the parking lot from the South loop and I was a bit chilly, so I opted to re-run part of the North loop to connect up with the Michigan Cross Country Cycle Trail. On the way I pass a group of ATV riders, one on a newer Honda sport quad and two, er, large gents on old Honda 3 Wheelers, one of them was an old 110 ATC with NO suspension. Ah, the good ole days... I waved and putted past them.

The MCCCT from Geels to St. Helen <http://www.sthelenchamber.com/> is rarely used, although it must have been an ORV loop at one point in time 'cause it's pretty whooped in sections. Some is fairly new trail and some also shares sections with SMTR. It's fun and worth riding just for the fact that nobody uses it. This is part of the cross state connector for the MCCCT, for those keeping score.

I made it down to the St Helen Motorsports area parking lot about 40 minutes later. There were a half dozen vehicles parked there and I took a pit stop and to get my jacket out for the return trip. A brand new Hummer came tooling by, apparently out trying their new vehicles ability to traverse deep sand. Chatted with a couple 2 smokers for a bit, they were adjusting air pressure and what not on their CR/YZ beasts.

I had 3 choices to get back to the parking lot: a; 5 miles of pavement (brrr), b; return on the same trail (not bad, but would be getting darker), or c; run the snowmobile trail that takes you right back to where I started. I opted for the SMTR and put my jacket on since the higher speed meant it would be a bit colder. The trail wound through the woods nicely with plenty of directional changes to keep you up on the tank. I kept the speed down a bit since it was getting time for the hunters to be moving about, usually taking up the whole trail in their pickup while putting along looking off into the woods. Good for making hood ornaments if you aren't paying attention. I only caught a couple and they got out of the way quickly (I always beep and wave while putting by).

When I arrived back to the parking lot it was down to my rig and the 2 gents I spoke with this morning. They had gotten back not too long ago and were still changing out of their gear. I changed too and shot the bull with them for quite a while. Always fun to chat with other riders. They had just rode the Denton loop, the day before I think, and said it was in great shape. Guess I know where to go next weekend, weather allowing. Then it's time to get the sled ready as the rifle hunters hit the woods for the next few weeks which means no ORV traffic for most of the day. Oh, it was 84 miles for the day.
 

woodsy

Mi. Trail Riders
Joined
Jan 16, 2002
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#3
Hey 2trackr - OUTSTANDING!!!
I REALLY enjoyed your thorough - EXPERT - topnotch example of a "trail report". YOU, MY FRIEND, MADE MY NIGHT!!
That ""Trout Lake" camping area has been a favorite of my family's for a long time. When we lived in Cadillac we would "meandor" up to that area and spend HOURS with our kids playing, camping and exploring. Funny, but I NEVER did take the time to ride the "system" (it was a different time of life - little kids required ALL my attention :) ) Still, that really brought back great mems for me!! And I quote "Slip, sploosh, slide, gack, sploosh, slide, breath, throttle, spin, slide, sploosh. Fun." :) :) I could not have said it better!! REALLY COOL about the Moose and the Wolf!!
Thanks for taking the time to share your experience with us..
Woodsy
 

70 marlin

Mi. Trail Riders
Joined
Aug 15, 2000
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#4
2TrakR: You fellows are Iron men! Great write up. You should send it into the "Greatlake Trailrider" I rode the Geels @ the CCC event. Nice trail they put togather for us! I'd like to hear more about your GPS mapping? Putting togather a trail safari?
 

Smit-Dog

Mi. Trail Riders
Joined
Oct 28, 2001
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#5
Just read the hardcopy version in the latest issue of the CCC TrailRider.

Great write-up!!! :thumb: