With Brennan off on a camping trip with his school as of this morning and Wifey out-of-town on business again until late Thursday night, I pretty much had nothing to do today. So, after I got B off to school/camping, ate breakfast, drank 62.3 ounces of coffee, dumped out two to eight times and came to mental grips with the fact that I indeed had nothing to do, I decided to head down to ride some of the North Country Trail.
It was sweet to be able to get out on my mountain bike and do some putzing and exploring today, especially after my last mountain bike ride shit the bed like Spud from Trainspotting. The thing I miss most about living in Pennsylvania is riding in the mountains. Every weekend there were so many choices: singletrack, double track, snow mobile trails, forest roads, pavement, take your pick. There is plenty of that in these parts of Michigan too, but somehow I got in the dull routine of dirt road rides from my house or multiple laps of singletrack at parks or recreational areas. Today however; the North Country Trail beckoned!
I’ve ridden and hiked the NCT before, but somehow it eludes me most of the time. I could blame the hour drive to the trailhead, or the fact that in most cases I’m forced to ride it as a dreaded out and back, but for the most part it’s because I am a slack creature of habit and even though I KNOW I love riding and exploring around the woods, my slack usually wins out.
Today however I forced myself to break routine and head down to White Cloud for some much-needed NCT time. This time I even went the extra mile [foreshadowing/no pun intended] to work in some dirt roads that would make it feel more like a loop, instead of a 30 mile out and back. This was a good move on my part; this was a stupid move on my part.
I rode 16ish miles of singletrack from M20 to just shy of Nichols Lake before heading off on dirt roads that I THOUGHT would loop me back to the trail eventually. Well, the roads DID loop me back, but I would have had to have been smart enough to actually SEE the trail crossing instead of blowing through and finding myself in Anal Fornication, Michigan.
After missing my turn I backtracked to see that I couldn’t find where the trail crossed over. Then I took an unmarked road to a dead end; shit! Finally, after a few stops to consult my tiny little map and my phone’s compass to make sure I was heading in the right direction I found a road to lead me to another trail crossover.
It’s sort of funny [sad], that I got lost on a well-marked trail system and signed roads (for the most part), while carrying a map and a phone with GPS mapping system and compass. THIS is why I don’t do/never did unsupported races! You can put any imbecile on a bike, but making sure that imbecile goes the right direction is a whole other story.
All kidding aside, the ride was pretty awesome. The varying terrain and forests of the NCT is so fun to ride: sandy singletrack, sections carpeted with pine needles dropped from tall, sweet-smelling pines, root filled descents and climbs, open meadows, tight singletrack through ferns, brush and trees, and fast sections of packed dirt. And that is just within 16 or 17 miles!
When it was all said in done I ended up with 38 miles of mostly singletrack riding. Opting to explore the dirt roads in hopes of making a lollipop loop is something that I should have mapped out a little better before attempting, but it was still fun and a great way to spend the first day of fall. I’ve had a lot of good rides over the spring and summer, but sadly I can’t say any were done on my mountain bike; it was nice to spend the day in the saddle of my mountain bike and remember why I love it.