Tuesday, May 27, 2014

MTB: Hanson Hills

As mentioned in my previous post, I had the opportunity to ride two trails this past weekend. I gave you my thoughts on Ogemaw, so next up:

Hanson Hills

Hanson is a gem hidden in the city of Grayling, Mi. The city is most known for its impressive military base (Camp Grayling is the largest National Guard training facility in the U.S), but turns out it is also home to some impressive MTB trails!

There are about 24 miles of trails total consisting of two large 10+ mile loops with some advanced/expert alternates sprinkled in, as well as a 3-mile Easy Rider Loop. We rode the main loop, meaning we followed the yellow bike signs. This brings me to my first point: this trail is very well marked. There is nothing more frustrating then trying to ride a trail that isn't. It's a lot more fun to ride when you have the peace-of-mind that you're on the right trail and won't have to stop at every sign to try to figure out where you are. 

The first mile or so is flat, allowing you to get your legs spinning briefly before the climbs begin. It is a ski-hill, afterall! Thankfully, though, there are not a lot of roots. The hills give way to flowy downhill and rolling terrain. "There are enough technical sections to keep you honest." as one review says - I have to agree. 

Unlike Ogemaw, the 'scenic overlook' actually provided a view!

Being a beginner, it was a challenge, but not insurmountable. I saw a fair amount of 'real' riders out there and it looks like it's a fun trail that they can really hammer through. I hope to be there one day!

Ogemaw – Nay
Hanson – Yay

Ride it? Let me know what you think!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

MTB: Ogemaw Hills Pathway

I know you're seeing a theme with the past few entries, but I promise that not all of my posts will be about mountain biking. If you're from the Midwest you'll understand why I can't keep away from the outdoors at the moment...Michigan summers are gone before you know it!

I had the chance to check out a couple new trails this past weekend. While there are several resources to find trails and reviews, you just never really know what you’re in for until you see it in person. Home base was Houghton Lake, so we were trying to find trails in the area. We settled on Ogemaw Pathway and Hanson Hills. 

Ogemaw Hills Pathway

Ogemaw Pathway is located in the hills north of West Branch at the comer of Fairview and Clear Lake Roads. The trails wind through approximately 15 miles of the AuSable State Forest providing groomed cross country trails for all skill levels.

I should preface this by mentioning that I only rode the southern portion of the trail. 

Ogemaw looked promising, but ended up being a bust. The track itself was a little overgrown and had more leaf-cover then I would have liked. A couple miles in we ran into swampy area and had to carry our bikes while picking our way through stinky puddles and slimy trees…meanwhile, proving to be a tasty treat for the local mosquito population.

In my opinion, the downhills were not worth the climbs and the ‘overlook’ might have been nice…but I couldn’t see over the 6-foot brush that surrounded the lookout area. So, all-in-all, it was an ‘ok’ trail that I probably will not be returning to. However, I am a firm believer that the beauty of a trail is in the eye of the rider, so please don’t take my word for it!

Location: West Branch, Mi
Total Miles of Trails: 13.6

In other news, West Branch might be a good destination for you morel-hunters! We spotted this guy right in the middle of the trail:

Happy riding! Next up will be a brief review of Hanson Hills. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

MTB: Mud Sweat & Beers 2014

I participated in my first mountain bike race yesterday! Almost a year ago, I heard about a race that's "a ton of fun and great for beginners" so I decided I was going to go for it..

It's called Mud Sweat and Beers and it's an annual race held in picturesque Traverse City, Michigan. There are two adult races: the Stout is 22 miles long, and the Pale Ale tops out at 12 miles. Seeing a theme? Bikers love their beer! There are even two races for the little ones: a two-miler called the Ginger Ale and the Root Beer, a quarter-mile loop for tiny ones. If you ever need a dose of adorable, go watch the Root Beer race - it will make your heart melt into puddles.

When I first signed up, I thought it was an actual possibility that I might do the Stout. Man, am I glad my past-self came to her senses! I competed in the Pale Ale instead.12 miles may not seem like much, but MSB lived up to her name...it was EXTREMELY muddy. I'm talking about trying to ride through six inches of pure monsoon muck in some places. It was brutal.

This was the view while we were waiting for our group to go. Beginners start last, so I had plenty of time to stand around and let my anxiety build. Thankfully, you only have one first race, right?!

Despite the cold and rainy weather, everyone was in good spirits. I might be biased, but I have found bikers to be one of the most welcoming communities. I've never met a rider that's stingy with a smile or a helping hand. 

And we're off! I'm the fifth (or sixth?) helmet from the left. My group consisted of beginner female individual and team riders ranging from 14 to 45+. The route begins on Mt. Holiday and winds around single-track trails, paved connectors through nearby neighborhoods and on to the Vasa Pathway before returning to Mt. Holiday.

The MSB finish line is immediately preceded by the impressive Fitbit Mud Pit. I was relieved to make it through on two wheels. Not everyone was so lucky.

I completed the race in a little under two hours and immediately celebrated with a cold brew from Right Brain Brewery....and a shower!