Awesome singletrack at Owassipe
Chris's first time across the narrow bridge
Making the most of the daylight
My first work week blitz was back in 2012. I got a hold of my buddy Chris and proposed just such a plan; meet up after work at a campsite, head to Owasippe and MTB until dark, return to camp and enjoy a fire/dinner/brews, bivy for the night, wake up early enough to get to work on time. Yeah, i was a little extra tired the next day, but the thrill of adventure during the week kept me going. I feel like the best use of a work week blitz is during a period of time where vacations and far apart, work may be more demanding than usual, and it's just plain hard to get away be it a busy schedule or other priorities. After indulging in this work week extravagance i filed the idea away for another time when it would become necessary. Flash forward to 2015...
Peaceful summers eve at the scout reservation
Ideal end to a work week blitz
It's 2015, the fall is quickly coming to an end after a busy season of MTB and cyclocross racing, and i realize i haven't been out to camp in far too long. Whether we admit it or not, we always tend to categorize our friends into groups; party people, training friends, school friends, and of course, adventure friends! I've had the good fortune over the past year of adding to my group of adventure friends including a one Tyler Keuning. Ideally a work week blitz requires less than an hour of driving to get to the rendezvous destination to maximize adventure time. We elected to meet up at the Diamond Point national forest campground (2 sites) which lies about an hour northwest of Grand Rapids on the White river. I spent some time pouring over the strava route builder, and using the heatmap and strava segments, laid out a route that covered many of the highlights in the area. To add to the adventure i routed us through some forest roads that may or may not be passable.
The route as it was completed
Nice sunset on the drive up
With hunting season in full swing, Owasippe trails were not an option so a gravel adventure it would have to be. I try to setup routes to favor the wind for the day (face the headwinds early and allow yourself a tailwind for the return), and it would be very important the day of our adventure with gale force winds reported on the lakeshore. We elected to run the route counter-clockwise to give ourselves a nice push on the way back to the cars in the late evening. The route started on some seriously sandy two track terrain, but thanks to recent precipitation it was manageable. We tried our best to stay on forest roads, but none of them wanted to pan out so we opted for paved/maintained gravel north towards the town of Ferry. Thankfully we were both on our Salsa Warbirds with nice 40c rubber mounted to handle the loose stuff. After M20 the roads began to become more desolate and primitive, and we enjoyed a nice grinding climb up high into the hills after which we enjoyed a bombing downhill. There were several false starts as a few of the roads i had chosen dead-ended into private property, so we went rogue and weaved our way west and south back to the next known section on the route. This is where the adventure part of the ride comes from; riding uncharted terrain, roads that may or may not exist anymore in conditions that may or may not allow it.
Pausing for a snack and to collect ourselves
Salsa Warbird, the adventurers weapon of choice!
As we slowly plowed our way west directly into the headwind, the nerd in me could only wish that i had my power meter mounted. Between the water logged roads and the brutal gusts there were times when 10 mph seemed a stretch, but nonetheless we grinned and kept our heads down and fought onward. The closer we got to the big lake, the worse the conditions got, but the idea of having a tailwind of 20+ mph kept us grinding away until we crossed the last stretch of road before the lake. I had chosen Whiskey Creek park as a landing zone on the lake to enjoy the wild weather and waves. The sign at the end of the road assured us we had arrived and we eagerly snapped photos and scampered down to the beach to observe nature in one of it's more extreme forms.
Our version of Plymouth rock
The path to the lake
The scene at the beach was surreal, with water levels well above normal, the end of the path was as far as we could get. Our stay was short lived as the 30 degree standing temps and howling winds made it unbearable after a time. As we saddled up for the return trip we reveled in the tailwind we had worked so hard to earn. After a short while of heading east we turned south to tackle an ominous section of two track which would have been better handled on a fatbike, but nonetheless we persevered. I was pleased that at least one of the mystery sections had panned out and it would go into the catalog of wicked routes. From there we plodded further south then east onto a seasonal road. If the terrain hadn't begun to freeze we would have been in for a long night as the terrain was reminiscent of the battle fields at DK200 this spring. Surely the tailwind made life better and we approached the next questionable section rapidly; an unsanctioned crossing of US 31. I spent quite a bit of time looking at satellite images to scope a path through the fencing and across the motorway, but nonetheless i was nervous as we approached. It wuld be quite a bummer to have to reroute 3 extra miles to the nearest overpass. On the nearside we had success and quickly bounded into the median where a turnaround simplified things. After awaiting some high velocity traffic to pass we made a run at the farside where only a couple hundred meter separated us from our journey home. Lucky us, some scofflaws had already done away with the fencing that surely would have stopped our progress and with a few quick turns we were back on gravel! We powered our way more rapidly now eastward with an exhilarating crossing behind us and one more good story to tell. The road turned to seasonal status but left two nice tracks for us each to follow until suddenly it didn't...
Tyler fording the creek
Only a headlight shines
The road we had entrusted our salvation with had suddenly turned a blind eye to our progress and then Tyler remarked "hey, this looks familiar, i think i rode this last year on my way home from Silver lake...". I turned inquisitively to him with a do-tell look on my face, and his reply "yeah, there's a creek down there, i waded across it, it was nice in the summer...". What's nice and refreshing in the summer typically doesn't translate to have the same meaning when it's nearly midnight in November. We carefully negotiated the descent to the creek and assessed the situation; not so deep as to be above the waist, not so fast as to get swept away, and obvious entry and exit points. Being my route i took the plunge first and was relieved to only have gotten wet up to my thighs. Tyler followed suit and once again we blazed a path east, now with a bit more moisture. Thankfully that was the last of the adventure for the evening, and as we rolled up to camp the stoke level was high to see we had arrived right at midnight. Tyler had obligations back home so he was unable to camp out, and with the time and weather conditions i elected to try out my first night camping inside the van. The Transit did not disappoint with all of the seats folded i had a nice area to change into wool long johns and socks. I had the radio on low and imbibed in a beverage from Brewery Vivant as i lay there reliving the nights events. As they say, it was a good day.
Right on time
King of the castle!
A hoppy beverage and a happy soul