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Home > Magazine > Mt-Bike > Epic Mt-Bike Weekend on the North Country Trail

Epic Mt-Bike Weekend on the North Country Trail
October 21, 2012

A couple weeks ago a posse of pals headed north for a weekend of trail action. The weather was totally sketchy. I keep forgetting just how dicey our autumn weather is. Really, one just shouldn't try to plan things in the fall. Ya just gotta Grab'n'Go. If it's pretty out, hit it! Tomorrow it's gonna be cold, dark, rainy and windy.

So the forecast was for mayhem but with a *slight chance* so we went for it.

7 of us met up at the Petoskey State Park campground on the lovely beach in town. What a great place! ...It was blowing a tornado. And raining.

Party-time in the pop-up helped soothe our fears. In the a.m. over breakfast it kept raining and blowing. Whitecaps in the Bay. Overcast. But bits of blue peeping through. Hmmm! and hmmm! Well, we drove on out 30 miles outta town to the Chandler Hills portion of the trail we were going to ride back to town on, near Jordan/Boyne country. Some sunlight! ...Some big black clouds.

We went for it! ...The only way to go.

A local told us a big system was just sitting off the coast and would be reaching in to us all day long.

...And that's what happened. But it all worked out great. We got hit with rain off'n'on all day. And wind.

But we were IN THE BIG HILLS. And that was where we wanted to be.

These are the biggest climbs in Michigan. A mile up up up. In 1st gear. Then pushing, shoving, marching up up up. Then rounding a bend in the valley and seeing more up up up.

These are huge open gladed slopes. ...Perfect for powder skiing! We'll be back!

We had a fine time chatting and joking the day away. A stern coach kept popping outta the woodwork and growling at us to keep moving whenever we lingered more than a moment at an overlook. Then there was Strava... But, really, "nice" was the shorthand of the day, the weekend, as the lovely sections of trail piled on.

This trail runs thru as wild of wilderness as the LP has -- darn wild. It's big undeveloped country. Rare Marten habitat. A conservation task force recommended that to the DNR that it be given a special Biodiversity Status, along with several other northwoods zones which were designed to connect a lot of wild miles together to keep an eco-flow going. Instead the DNR nuked the experts' recommendation and seems to be going for a chunked-up approach to give wilderness ecology as hard a time as possible. Conservation is the key to growth in the region. But they don't see it yet. Quick logging cash and sprawl condo blight still seem to catch the easy votes even while all real community growth is steadily happening in a sustainable way and shows the only path of potential. That is, First Worlders seem eager to move in and are providing the growth while 3rd Worlders somehow hold onto a few backroom pursestrings.

The region has an interesting growth pattern. Eastside up north is the snowmobile/ATV side, basically, of boarded up small towns, shuttered gas stations and trailer homes. The Westside is booming and is based around biking, microbreweries and CSA's. What we need to do is smush the sides together.

The colorful foliage was a mesmerizing carpet on the trail as we rolled away the hours at a moderate pace. We find that if you don't dig in that you can just keep going all day. That's the way! ...That, and pizza. It was a solid 3-slicer.

A highlight was miles of "bench cut" trail -- that's what mt-bikers call trail that's cut into the side of a slope. Our route both went right up long valleys and also for miles went along the side of slopes. In those cases it would switchback up and down. Man, there's a trick for ya! Our intrepid RadNord would pivot-bounce his front end around an uphill switchback, trying not to dab. On the way down he'd try to bounce his rear around while doing a bit of a nose-wheelie. Fun challenges!

I did OK in the skills department a few times. But I also tipped over about 6 times. I think I was the only one to biff. No speed crashes, really.

Lessee, we had my old MB1 then Rad's sweet new custom Nobilette 29er and a sweet ti/Lefty bike then a buncha carbon wonder bikes.

It was fun to ride right back into town. We got a beer at the new local microbrew near the park, Petoskey Brewing: It's a wonderful revival of an old brewery.

The next morning was a grayer kind of rainy as we rode back out to fetch our vehicles. Riding the same trail back was just as fun as the first time. A whole new trail. This way we got all full views of each section.

My brakes squawked all the time. Sorry, guys! I did dual-purpose braking, feathering them whenever possible in a non-vocalizing way. So it coulda been LOTS worse!

A peak moment was at the finale when the rain started in as we reached the vehicles and we saw that our cohort Barry had left an iced sixer of IPA on his way outta town. Thanks! Wow, that was tasty.

We hit the road home with Neil blaring loud in a steamy rig and a big high from 60 miles of trail in 2 days. Both days my biggest ever on mt-bikes!

Here's a link to a couple dozen of the best pics and a few vids, especially of Dreamland, the VAST ski glade.

Ridin' ridin' ridin'!

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