Saturday, August 6, 2011


Back in Michigan for a few days. My wife's step-father passed away this week. He was 98 years old and only a few weeks ago moved into a nursing home. He had a good run on life.

I had an open window to ride Saturday morning. My wife and mother graciously picked up a rental mountain bike for me the night before I flew in. One of the first places I rode off-road before moving to New Hampshire was the Cannonsburg Ski Area near Grand Rapids. This is a bunny-hill by New England standards. I used to think it was 250ft vertical, but my GPS confirms it isn't even quite 200ft. The grade is not steep at all, yet I could not ride to the top without walking for much of my first summer as a cyclist.

MMBA has built a lot of new trails in this area. I figured I could link together the ski area, the nearby state game area, and trails at a new riding area, Luton Park, into one super ride. In 1996, a ride at just one of these places would have been enough.

The weather was marginally cooperative. The humidity was nearly 100% in the morning. The air actually reeked of ammonia. I think it comes from many sources, including decaying organic matter on farmland, farm animal waste, and possibly nitrogen applied to corn crops. Cells of rain moving through made riding uncertain. Cannonsburg is less than a hour's drive from my mother's house, but clay content in the soil can quickly render trails unrideable, or at least to the point of where you ought not ride them.

There's a six mile one-way loop at the ski area. I'm pretty sure this trail did not exist when I last rode there in 1996. This land is higher and is mostly sandy. The intermittent sprinkles were not a problem, but it made the top moistened layer of sand stick to the tires and flung it into my face. The terrain looked like mix of sand dunes and glacial eskers. Lots of mini-ridges and deep gullies to fly around on. You had to look hard to find a rock or root. Flow was the name of the game. Much of it rides FAST.

To bring back memories, I finished by riding up the fall line of the ski slope. I can still remember when I first cleaned this 190ft hill at 15% grade. Today a climb like this wouldn't even register on the profile radar. The climb appears at mile 6 at the Garmin link below.

A couple miles of road took me to the state game area just south of the ski area. I can't ride either of these areas when I come home at Christmas. The ski area is closed to mountain bikes and game area is open only to hunters then. The 7.5mi loop in the game area was one of my favorites when I lived here. Crazy speed on a skinny ribbon of singletrack could be carried at most times.

After the game area, I headed north to Luton Park. This riding destination did not exist when I lived in Michigan. There's nine miles of purpose built singletrack there. The ride over was tougher than I thought, as the road rolled fiercely for four miles. My rapidly deteriorating legs rebelled.

The ride to Luton was worth it. The trails there define flow. The trail designers masterfully wove a ribbon through plentiful natural features. Gravity cavities and naturally bermed turns where everywhere.  With a little more clay content in the soil here, speed was not without peril. Some earlier rain left a thin film of frictionless grease in places. You couldn't tell it was there until realizing the big tree you did not want to hit was in your trajectory path. I managed to avoid any major mishaps.

Red loop at Luton. Nothing but flow.

I thought I heard a rumble of thunder in the distance. The sky was getting dark. It was even getting hard to see in the woods and I didn't have shades on. I was barely able to finish the six color coded loops before the deluge arrived.

Black loop at Luton.

The ride back was not bad at all. The heavy rain cleaned bike and body off nicely. I finished with about 38mi, 2900ft and 3.4hrs on the Garmin.  80 miles of trail riding with 9000ft of climbing in two days put me in that special place. I could probably deal with just about anything right now.


rick is! said...

Looks awesome!

Cary said...

What's on tap for your Colorado trip this labor day? I am thinking of something similar myself. Had a long weekend in CB tacked onto a business trip in 09 and it was eye-openingly awesome. NEED to go back. I thought you had a post on a crazy dirt ride you did into Telluride but I couldn't find it on your the site when I did a search for "Telluride." Love the site, one of the bes out there.

Hill Junkie said...

Cary - That trip report is here. Interesting you bring it up. I'm going to do an even bigger variant of that ride on my upcoming trip. I read Todd Wells just did a variant of this loop too, training for Leadville.

For my upcoming trip, I plan to ride up Black Bear, descend the crazy switchbacks into Telluride, climb up to Deep Creek singletrack north of town, down to Galloping Goose, then over Ophir Pass back to my car. Close to 50 miles with crazy amount of climbing.

Tentative plans are Pikes Peak on the 28th, Monarch Crest on the 29th, then Indian Ridge/Highline, Black Bear/Ophir, Lime Creek/Blackhawk rides during the week from Durango. You going to be there same time?

Cary said...

Haven't officially booked yet, but I'd like to go out that week. There is still stuff in the CB area you've done that I haven't ridden. That Telluride loop looks spectacular though. Looks like I'd need to put the little ring back on my bike though. I'll keep you posted as to my plans!

Mark VanTongeren said...

Hill Junkie,

I put on a trail race at Luton Park in the Grand Rapids area and came across your photos. I will be shooting some there this summer but wondered if I could use those photos to promote our 2014 trail race? Thanks for considering.

Mark VanTongeren
Michigan Adventure Racing

Hill Junkie said...

Mark - feel free to use anything you want. Thanks for asking.