Saturday, December 29, 2012

Rest Day

Back in New Hampshire, I'm beginning to feel a rested feeling return to my body. As I plop down to type, my heart rate is 35bpm. I haven't felt this relaxed in weeks. Cathy and I have just returned from an enjoyable week in Michigan, although a bit hectic at times.  Having lived in New England for 15 years now, new friendships have been forged, and old ones have faded away. Time and distance will do that. Both our families are from west Michigan. Going back to Michigan once or twice a year is mainly about maintaining family ties now and less about seeing old friends. This gives me a bit more liberty with "play time."

I have virtually zero will power when it comes to treats, eating healthy and eating reasonable portions. Over the holidays, I'm an epic failure in all three areas. Treats abound at every family event. Just one turns into two turns into five. Just can't help myself. Then factor in typical Dutch fare. Maybe only a little healthier than southern cuisine.  Potatoes of all kinds are loaded, my mom makes a sausage strudel that people would kill for, everything is better with real butter or gravy on it, etc. With food this yummy, there's no way to eat reasonable portions, especially if you based portions on caloric or saturated fat content. The way I exercise restraint at home is to not bring this food into the house in the first place. I have the will to do that, but not to leave it alone if it's readily accessible.

So I started running a  caloric calculus. Was my energy expenditure commensurate with my caloric intake? No freaking way! Even though I was averaging about 2hrs of rigorous aerobic exercise per day, I suspected I was burning only half the increase in my normal daily intake. And I pretty much drove myself right into the ground with two runs, two skate skis and four rides. My spirit was willing, but my body became weak.

I did manage to ride two brand new riding destinations in west Michigan. One is very close to my home town Holland, called the Upper Macatawa Trails. MMBA just got permission this fall to begin building MTB specific trails on the 600+ acre conservation parcel. I suspect this nested loop system will be wildly popular when complete, as there is nothing like it nearby. I did not get to ride all of what had been completed so far, as the soil is clay based and the day warmed enough for the ground to thaw, rendering the trails unrideable. I did the right thing and bailed.

The other new area are the Merrell Trails near Grand Rapids. These trails wrap around a closed landfill on land that has quite a bit of elevation change (for west Michigan). I was blown away by the 10+ kilometers of trails built there so far. The whole system is essentially a pump track. Two runs drop the maximum possible elevation on the parcel, 150 feet or so, and are non-stop jumps and berms. Air can be had every few seconds with solid compressions around berms. A short network, but easily the funnest trail I've ridden in Michigan. Fort Custer Rec Area still remains my favorite place due to variety and total miles of trails, but the Merrell Trails pack a much more potent fun-factor punch.

I was fortunate to get in a little of all three of my athletic passions while in Michigan, running, biking and skiing. Local snow was minor enough to impact trail riding negligibly. No studs were needed. I had to work a little to ski though, as in drive to where the snow was. The snow was good. The body, well, rusty on snow. First snow this season felt pretty awkward, despite several sessions on rollerskis.

Saturday was a planned rest day, first in a while, driving back from Michigan. A sucky way to get rest, especially driving in a snow storm. Returning to abundant snow in northern New Hampshire, it was time to prep my new Salomon race skis. Hope this pair works for me, as the last pair of top-end Atomic's never felt right to me and were slow. I think they were too stiff. I'll leave you with a few random photos from over the past week.

Lake Michigan shoreline. Just enough ice right at edge might have
been rideable with studs. Sand further up was unfrozen and soft.

Run out to Big Red lighthouse along the Holland channel.

Some of the family clan. Mom in foreground with back to me, just
did cycling tour in the Netherlands at 70 years old. Her sister is
facing camera on left. My sister in center with three of her kids on right.

Mint corduroy conditions at Crystal Mountain.

Buff jumps and berms at Merrell Trails.

Perma-gloom skies typical of most of the winter in west Michigan 
from top of Crystal Mountain.

Riding the trenches at Fort Custer.

Prep'ing the new Salomon skis.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Yankee Springs

Back in 1996, I rode singletrack for the first time, barring times I rode my bicycle off-road as a child. It was this ride at Yankee Springs Rec Area where the cycling bug truly bit me. I utterly sucked, weighing well north of 200 pounds back then and having the cardio capacity of somebody that smoked for 80 years.  I actually did smoke cigarettes when I was a redneck punk.

It's always special when I have a chance to come back to Yankee Springs. The character of the trail hasn't changed at all in the last 16 years. It has evolved some, a little longer today, and some of the less sustainable parts have been re-routed. It was designed for mountain biking in the 90's and still serves the MTB community well for recreational riding and racing.

Most areas in southwest Michigan have no snow. Random bits have a trace to 2". There was just a tad of snow in the Yankee Springs area, but zero on the trail tread. The area is very sandy, and with no frost in the ground, the trail was in mint conditions despite the massive storm that just went through the Midwest. There were only a few nuisance blow-downs along the 13+ mile loop.

No studs or fat bike needed

To make the drive worth-while, I planned to do two laps. I went pretty easy the first lap, my legs reeling a bit from running the last two days in a row and running three of the last five days, a 200% increase from recent weeks. I did hit the second lap a little harder, not stopping to take photos. It's going to be a while before I can cross country ski, so I figured I might as well punch a few of the climbs a bit.

There are several sections of the trail that ride just like Tody's Tour or Tap and Die at the Northeast Kingdom trails. Buff, fast and fun.

Just like NEK...

I hope to hit two or three new trail systems while here. Just like in Kansas City and in the northeast, the Michigan mountain biking community is gaining trust with land managers to develop new trail systems. This seems to be a national trend. It is a good time to be a mountain biker.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Two Days of BCT

Another great weekend for off-road riding. It's been a great year for trail riding in the northeast, really. I've logged the most off-road hours in 10 years this year, more hours than road cycling, running and skiing combined.

On Saturday, Rich B and I did a loop I've been honing over the last year or so. Sections of the Bay Circuit Trail (BCT) help stitch George Rowley State Forest, Willowdale State Forest and Bradley Palmer State Park together in northeast Mass. I call it my GWB loop. The loop hits much of the purpose-built singletrack in Willowdale and Georgetown No overly technical terrain. You can stay aerobically engaged pretty much 100% of the time on this ride. It is superb endurance training material for endorphin junkies. Some of the route I stole from Tim Johnson on Strava. I suspect he rides CX on those portions.

Conditions were nicely frozen starting out, not that there was much mud along the route anyway. Temperatures didn't change much during the day, making it easy to dress for the ride. What we wore starting is what we finished with. For such a flawless December day, I was surprised by how few people were out on the trails, especially with a very wintry week looming in the forecast. Trails were in hero condition.

Open section in Bradley Palmer State Park

Rich rides Georgetown regularly. He pointed out more trails I was not aware of. They will definitely be incorporated into the loop, maybe bringing the loop to over 50 miles. There are some road bits in there I haven't figured out how to eliminate yet. Distance-wise, at least 85% of the route is on dirt. We finished the 46.5 mile route in about 4.6 hours, with a surprisingly large 4000ft of climbing.

Ambushing Rich with camera in Georgetown Rowley. Stupid glove
got in the way.

On Sunday, I got out for a solo afternoon ride a little closer to home. Terrain I used to hit on lunch breaks linked together the Wood and Rafton Reservations with the Deer Jump Reservation along the Merrimack River in Andover and Tewksbury. Interestingly, the BCT links these conservation parcels together too.

The riding on this loop seems innocuous enough, but it has claimed it's share of victims over the years. The loop around Wood Hill entails four significant climbs and some descents that entice you with speed, but perils lurk everywhere, especially with deep oak leaf cover. The bridges along the river can also be unforgiving. Riders have botched the big step-ups, breaking noses, slipped off them and submersing in freezing water, and endo'd launching off them.

Snowing along Merrimack River

I had hoped to beat the snow, but by the time I got to the river section, it started snowing earnestly  The bridges slicked up quickly. I opted to take some road back to Rafton Reservation rather mostly doubling back along the river to save time. I finished the 20 mile loop in under 2hrs just before things got too slippery. The roads driving back were a different matter...

This oak in Rafton Reservation probably dates back to
colonial days

Rich commented how fortunate we are to have so many riding options so close by. We both moved to New England in 1997. When we came here, riding options were quite limited. There were virtually no purpose-built trails in New England. Most riding was on trails that predated the advent of mountain biking. These were hiking or moto trails, either not sustainable or badly rutted out. NEMBA has transformed the state of mountain biking in New England to something that is remarkable. In fact, there has been an increase in the rate of new trails being built for mountain biking recently. Land managers have learned that mountain bikers can be good stewards of the land. We design, build and maintain sustainable trails for all users to enjoy. Our presence also drives out illegal use of land, such as trash dumping or motorized use where prohibited. And the best thing about most riding opportunities in New England? It's free! I've been a member of NEMBA for as long as I've lived in New England and will continue to support NEMBA financially and with sweat-equity.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Swope Park & BuRP Trails

Had a great trail ride today without even leaving town. I hit Swope Park and the Blue River Parkway (BuRP) trails. This growing, purpose built trail system lies in the greater Kansas City urban area. When fully built out, it will entail over 50 miles of singletrack.

You would never think of the heartland being a mecca for mountain biking, but people are beginning to use these terms to describe the area. Volunteer groups, such as ERTA, have gained the trust of land managers and contributed thousands of hours to building and maintaining multi-purpose trails. A local news source said KC could be without peer when this urban trail system is completed. Those are big claims.

My primary reason for visiting the heartland over and extended weekend was to put tires to dirt in a few more states I haven't biked in yet. Having ridden in three new states this trip, I have only three to go before completing all 50. These are Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida. Maybe a trip next fall can finish the job.

I was pleasantly surprised by both the quantity and quality of trails in the greater KC area. It does not suck to be a mountain biker here. Far from it. Hill Junkie might be a bit lost without mountains though. Denver is about 600 miles over on I-70. The Ozarks are closer.

A cold front moved in overnight, leaving a misty film on the ground by morning. The pavement was wet, but it didn't really rain. I knew the trails would not be muddy, but I didn't like the prospects of riding challenging terrain with the added risk factor of slimy roots and rocks. I had no idea...

A steady stream of mountain bikers were pulling into the Swope Park trailhead when I arrived. Lots of guys on rigid 29er singlespeeds. Not much elevation change here, about 200ft max. I selected a GPX track to follow (I had three variants for this area) and headed into the woods.

I didn't make it 200 meters before nearly hitting the deck. Flat rock armoring was wet, and combined with clay dust, was slicker than wet pond ice. I couldn't even stand up on the stuff. New England brownie mix has nothing on this slickness. It must be just the right combination of smooth rock and type of clay, so even the slightest bit of moisture turns it into Slick 50 surface treatment. That put a major damper on my ride, as I planned to hit all the "black" trails at Swope first. Needless to say, I played extra cautious and didn't even attempt many of the tricky sections that I wouldn't normally hesitate on. The only good thing was the weather was supposed to clear up, become windy with plummeting temps. This would dry things out quickly.

On Woodchuck Trail @ Swope

The Swope Park trail designers did a fabulous job of integrating natural features into the trails. They were well armored for heavy use the trails no doubt see. There was a perfect balance of challenging features and high speed flow. The trail Rancho-D-Lux was more fun than a 50 year old should be allowed to have. I sure had to hit this again at the end of my ride after the rocks and roots dried off a bit (the hardpack tread was dry, presumably because it absorbed the overnight mist).

Switchback on Woodchuck

Several places had overhanging rocks

Meandering through chunks cleaved from bluff

Too much fun on Rancho-D-Lux

About 5-6 miles of Blue River Parkway pavement took me to the other cluster of trails I planned to hit, affectionately called the BuRP trails. I hit Bo-Ho-Ca and Basement trails on the way out (intermediate) and Highline (expert) on the way back. No, I didn't clean Highline. It contoured high on the bluff, working many rocky features in.

Beyond Bo-Ho-Ca and Highline were the Serengeti (easy) and Wagon (expert) trails. Serengeti was high-speed river bottom bombing while Wagon trail sought higher places with interesting rock features. Not as challenging as the harder parts of Harold Parker or MIT/Haystack trails back home, but I failed to clean a couple bits nonetheless.

Speedfest along the Blue River

I also crossed over the river via road to check out a couple easy trails on the other side. Material there was less inspiring, pretty much ride filler that brought the mileage up. I was having so much fun riding here I stopped to get more food before heading back to Swope. Riding at a planned second location today was not going to happen. There was enough here to keep me entertained for a day.

Slickrock ledge along Blue River

When I got back to Swope Park, the sun was out and things were dusty dry, as the rest of my riding over the three previous days was. This time I rode the Rancho-D-Lux loop in reverse. The downhill was insanely fun. There are several kickers along the way. I might have gotten a couple feet of daylight between my tires and terra firma on one of them. Uncharacteristic of Hill Junkie.

First sun in four days on Rancho-D-Lux

I could have ridden for hours longer. My energy level was not waning at all. Alas, all good things must come to an end. I finished with 45mi in 4.3hrs on the Garmin. This was easily my most satisfying ride of the trip.

Overnight, the temperature is supposed to free-fall. Windchills are expected to be in single digits when I get up. My flight doesn't leave until the afternoon, so I may try to squeeze one more ride in at nearby Shawnee Mission Park at crack-o-dawn. I did not bring AmFib tights or wind briefs. May have to improvise protective measures...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Nebraska: Reprieve from gnar

Saturday I drove two hours north to put tires to dirt in Nebraska. The closest place to Kansas City I could dig up was Indian Cave State Park, on the Missouri River. Indian Cave doesn't show up on the MTB radar as a destination riding location. The trails are primarily used by equestrians but are multi-use and open to bikes. Generally, I don't like riding on horse trails, as they tend to be very badly rutted and chopped up. There were MTB destination venues in the Omaha/Lincoln areas, but that was much too far to drive.

Having been beat down the last two days riding technical terrain, I was looking for a lighter day of riding, perhaps just a "token" ride in Nebraska so I could check that state as ridden. My expectations were low.

The weather was going to be the same again, overcast, dry, a bit cooler, but still warmer than average. A cold front moves though in the evening, potentially bringing a few flurries on Sunday, when I have a long urban ride planned.

Arriving at the park, I got the feeling I was the only visitor. The place was deserted. The only GPS track I could dig up was from an equestrian that did a simple, short loop. I planned to ride that, but explore the rest of the park too. The map and signage were pretty good.

I picked up the first trail after bombing down a paved road to the Missouri River. I froze with frost still on the ground. The trail went straight up, something like 20% grade. Lead legs and no warmup. Total shock. I was surprised how good of shape the trails were in for being used primarily by horses. They were generally ATV width and well maintained. Oak leaves were a bit of a problem on steep descents, as sometimes horses cut a deep rut down the middle and you couldn't see it buried under the leaves. And there was nary a rock to be found in the place. This was just want I needed after two days of boneyard picking.

What goes up goes back down. Again and Again. There was no flat terrain in this park. Similar to some of the central Vermont riding I've done. I guess horses have no trouble going up and down 15-20% grades. Many of the climbs lasted several minutes. This was the kind of terrain you could get a serious workout in. It definitely got the Hill Junkie seal of approval.

At one point, I popped out on a knoll with a beautiful view of the Missouri River. The trail began to plummet. I thought about riding it, but reconsidered with patches of oak leaves part way down. I would have been royally screw had I attempted it. It started at around 30% grade and steepened to probably greater than 100% grade. I would not have been able to stop and would have gone into a free-fall. The lower portion was exceeding difficult to scale down with a bike. You've heard the term HAB (hike-a-bike) before. This was a SOB descent (slide on butt). I held the rear wheel with one hand and slid down with bike. This was definitely not a horse trail! The drop at mile 8 in the GPS track is not where I forgot to restart the Garmin. It really did drop like that.  A sign up top would have been nice.

This popped me out at the river close to the Indian Cave. A little bit of road took me back into the trail system. A big climb brought me up to some open meadows. Honest singletrack followed the perimeter of several large open spaces. It was nice to cruise effortlessly for a few minutes.

Having ridden about 80% of the trails in the park, I decided that I had a good day and best to wrap it up on that note. I came to some horses on the loose on my way back to the car. Most were still in the split-rail fence area. They were all curious to check me out despite my strange mechanical contraption and garish clothing. I stopped by the park office to report loose horses but nobody was there.

Indian Cave State Park turned out to be a surprisingly good place to ride. I suspect few other mountain bikers would see it in my light. There are no technical features, just extremely steep climbs and descents with occasional HAB's. I never saw another person on the trails. Great scenery and well worth the drive up. Here are a few photos from the ride.

Cruising the meadows up top

Indian Cave. Supposedly petroglyphs here, but all I could see
was punk graffiti carved into the sandstone.

Missouri River from observation deck.

Beginning the plummet. Pretty much a cliff over the edge.

Starting the ride out along a ridgeline

Another view of the Missouri

Paved climb back up from river. It's cut 10ft deep the whole way
up. Why?

Typical trail terrain

Friday, December 7, 2012

As a Matter of Fact, We Are in Kansas

Clinton Lake State Park
I had high hopes of hitting the Switchgrass Trail in Wilson, Kansas on Friday. Checking the radar when I got up suggested a little mixed precip was in that area. I didn't want to risk 6+ hours round-trip drive only to find the trails greased up. I wasn't motivated to spend that much time in the car to begin with, no matter how cool of a riding destination. So I heeded the advice of a Hill Junkie reader who used to live in Kansas and picked a much closer destination.

There are two trail systems not far from each other less than an hour west of Kansas City. One is at Clinton Lake, close to Lawrence, the other a bit north on Perry Lake. These are huge man-made lakes. The trails are on Army Corps of Engineers land and purpose built for mountain biking. Perhaps I'll get a breather from the rough terrain on Thursday? Yeah, right...

It was another seasonably mild day but heavy, dark overcast. Very gloomy, but very dry. The water reservoirs around here are crazy low from the severe drought this summer. Water levels look like they are about 20ft low. Bad for agriculture, but it makes for clean riding.

The Clinton Lake trail system is a folded loop. I went out on the white trail, the up-slope trail from the lake. I returned on the blue trail, which was sandwiched between the white trail and the shoreline. I could often see the blue trail below me while riding the white trail. If you didn't like the terrain heading out, you probably weren't going to like the return trip either. Or so I thought.

Not 60 seconds into the ride, I had a WTF realization. I was in for another rough ride. No buff singletrack here. I thought the heartland of the country was flat grasslands? The white trail "contoured" just below the rim, or the height of land. That meant it was always rocky, as there was often a rocky outcropping just to my right from which chunks over the millenia must have broken off from.

After a while, I didn't bother shifting to my middle ring. I just left it in the granny. You could never let your speed run out for more than five seconds anyway, then you be right back to 2.5mph, chest to bar, barely grinding up another boneyard. Another estimated riding time blown way out of the water.

I was so glad I replaced the Racing Ralph tires with sturdier Panaracer Fire XC's. The RR's wouldn't have lasted five minutes on this terrain. A 29er would have been nice on this terrain, but I'm glad I didn't bring my 29er hardtail. I was taking a beating on my dualie the way it was. I would have taken my hardtail had it fit better in the shipping box.

After about two hours, I reached the far end of the loop, covering all of about 14 miles. For those familiar with the Long Trail at FOMBA, this was just like that, except rockier and with much bigger, steeper climbs.

All my pre-conceptions about riding in the heartland were being destroyed. Is this good or bad? I tend to enjoy more flow, steady aerobic output and speed. I must say, riders from around here would do just fine on the burliest trails in New England.

My legs were torched at the return point. A hundred 1000W bursts trying to clean steep rises will do that, especially not doing much interval work right now. Fortunately, the blue trail heading back had much nicer flow to it. It was further down from the rim most of the time with lengthy stretches you could haul-ass on. I met two solo riders heading out on the blue trail on my return. Otherwise I had the place to myself.

I finished with 23+ miles in nearly 3hrs moving time, a testament to how technical this terrain is. I quickly packed the bike to head to my afternoon riding destination, Perry Lake.

Clinton Lake photos, in no particular order:

White trail heading out, just below rim

Blue trail coming back

More blue trail. Clinton Lake reservoir crazy low.

Baked dry, hard as concrete.

Massive terrain park with dozens of big features

End to end see-saws.

"Steeper than it looks." Almost cleaned it.

My WTF realization seconds from parking lot.

Perry Lake State Park
I thought surely Perry Lake will offer up some buff singletrack. I couldn't handle another couple hours of pounding. Plan was to ride the full perimeter, then see if I wanted to add an inner loop.  Heading out, I thought this is more like it, finally being able to carry a little speed. But initial elation was crushed when I encountered more choppy terrain. Perry lake was looser. The thin slabs of rock would sing like rock chimes as the flipped up.

The half box of wheat thins I inhaled between rides didn't serve me well. I should've eaten more during the morning ride. I bonked hard, one of those hallucinogenic, detached body kind of bonks. I started seeing trail gnomes even though the place was deserted. Not a good situation, riding 1400 miles from home, extreme terrain and spotty cell phone coverage at best.

Eventually the wheat thins kicked in and I came out of my bonk. I cleaned some pretty hairy stuff. The terrain wasn't fear of permanent loss of bodily control like at Landahl the day before, but certainly fear of great bodily harm.

I worked my way north on the Copperhead trail. This trail was chocked full of gratuitous dive bombs into gullies, with saddle to sternum, only grind 2.5mph back out of them with saddle to tailbone. Copperhead was the lower trail, and I feared returning on the upper Twin Peaks trail would be even more challenging. I lucked out. Twin Peaks tended to stay up top more and flowed nicely in places.

I finished with nearly 16 miles in just over 2hrs on the Garmin. Another very hard, slow ride. There certainly seems to be a recurring theme in the riding around here.  7.7hrs of rough terrain riding in two days has beat me up more than a full week of riding in Durango with much more climbing. It's what I came out here for. I want to experience trail riding in all parts of the country.  I'm planning to ride in Nebraska on Saturday. A mellow "gravel grinder" is sounding pretty good right about now.

Self portrait on rare buff section

Perry Lake is probably the biggest man-made lake I've seen.

Lots of switchbacks

Typical climbing terrain

Typical descending terrain

The trails are litterally "stacked" here.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Show Me the Singletrack

Southwest Airlines brought me to Kansas City smoothly this morning. Had my luggage, rental car and bike before noon. What to do? It was too early to check in to the hotel. I thought about running today, as I didn't think there be enough time to get a worth while ride in. On a whim, I decided to head over to Landahl Reserve just east of KC in the show-me state of Missouri.

There was heavy overcast.  The temp was quite mild, not quite short sleeves mild, but mild enough for shorts. Judging by the dustiness of the parking lot, it hadn't rained in weeks here. The clay trails were hard as concrete.

I hadn't researched Landahl, but I did print out a trail map and pulled a promising GPX track off Strava to get me started. I figured maybe there was 90 minutes of riding. Being smack dab in the middle of the country, there couldn't be any technical features, right?

Not even two minutes into my ride, I hesitated over a big rock drop and had to dismount. Hmm, maybe I won't be flying through here so quickly. I methodically began hitting everything the Strava track hit, which was pretty much everything there. With trail names like Rim Job, Tasty, Gunbarrel, Long Tech, I should have known I'd be in for a little work.

The trails are rated just like alpine ski trails, green circle = easy, blue square = intermediate, and black diamond = expert. I'd say less than 10% of the trails were green. More than a third were black. There was even a double black downhill run, with numerous big launches, berms, doubles, table tops, etc. The black trails generally followed the rocky rim outcroppings that are everywhere out here. Screwing up in many sections would come with severe consequences. The section called 10&11 was wicked gnarly, even by east coast standards. Repeated steep ups and downs on nothing but jagged rocks. I could ride it a hundred times and still not clean it. Not exactly what I was expecting on my first day out here riding solo. But it was wicked fun.

The ride went past three hours elapsed time and I started to worry about daylight. Then I realized this is on the western side of the central time zone, so it gets dark about an hour later here than back east. There were a few cars in the parking lot when I started. When I finished, there were numerous cars.

I met a young guy on the trail who rides there almost every day when he's back home from school in Georgia. He dreams of visiting Highland Mountain Park in New Hampshire and couldn't believe I hadn't been there yet. I like to keep my tires on the gound. Anyway, my 90 minute planned ride turned into 2:40hrs and covered 21.6mi with a couple thousand feet of climbing. Some mighty fine purpose built singletrack.  I'll leave you with photos from the ride.

Top of ISH, the downhill run. I avoided the big jumps and
maybe acheived a tiny crack of light under my tires in a couple places
further down.

Lots of craggy stuff to hop up or drop off.

Point on Long Tech trail. Almost a view of horizon here.
Lot's of 26" wide gaps between slabs to stuff my little wheels into.

An Osage orange. Inedible except for seeds. Had these
in Michigan too. Seen an osage orange tree only once in the NE.
Filled with sticky latex.


There's a limitless supply of rocky features to incorporate into
trails here. The designers made good use of it.