Friday, June 11, 2010

Bikepackin' in da U.P., eh!

After reading about the concept of S24O earlier this past winter I already had a particular location in mind. My bikepacking trip would take place in a remote spot of Michigan's Upper Peninsula featuring stark alvar landscapes and limestone outcroppings festooned with fossils.

With a bike loaded down with the bare essentials for an overnight jaunt into the wilds, I'm off to a rugged place where the only sounds to be heard are the wind, the waves, or a raven's call.

Rolling along I can't not notice the numerous large boulders - glacial erratics - deposited by retreating glaciers some 20 thousand years ago.

My path carries me over fractured limestone bedrock scraped free of soil during the last ice age.

And sometimes through puddles...

After pedaling 26 miles I unload the bike and make camp near the shore of Lake Huron.

And grab a bite to eat...

Gorp. It's what's for dinner. Breakfast too.

I prepare to settle in for the night as sunset mounts and hang my "food" from a tree branch with a 40-foot rope away from the tent in case any bears catch scent of the Gorp. I wonder, "Would bears even eat peanuts, raisins and M & M's?"

The day was a cool one as early June days go, with temps barely reaching the 70-degree mark, and I felt remarkably fresh after riding nearly three hours. That was a good thing because it's too cold for a dip in Lake Huron this early in the season.

After bunking down in the sleeping bag I catch a whiff of myself wafting from within. "That's not B.O.," I think. "That's B.R.," for "bear repellant." Mental note to myself: Might want to air out the sleeping bag, or maybe even get it dry cleaned after getting home...

Dawn comes early in these north woods, or at least it seems to get light earlier with no other competing light sources. The night was also a cool one, and that three dollar space blanket turned out to be a pretty good investment. Emerging from the tent, vapor rises from my breath into the early morning predawn light. The temperature on my cycling computer reads 47˚. At least the cold air keeps the mosquitos at bay. Wearing a knit cap, arm and leg warmers, and a light cycling jacket, I start a fire with wood gathered the evening before.

Warmth from the sun can't come too soon now, and eventually it paints an orange glow over the shoreline. Finally, it's bright enough to walk without using a flashlight.

Walking the beach, limestone strata reveals ancient marine fossil invertebrates laid down 440 million-years-ago when warm, shallow seas covered this region.

Since this was my first s24o, mistakes were made, items forgotten. I'm still kicking myself for not carrying a spare battery after my camera died.

I hike the shoreline a bit, relishing the view, and wish I never had to leave. With all this wilderness about me, and no operable camera, I reluctantly realize it's time to go. So I load up the bike once more and say goodbye to this lovely place. At least for today...

I will return another day.

Even if mistakes are made, and most probably they will be made, there is (almost) nothing that you cannot live without for at least one day.

It's all about the adventure.

All images ©2010, Daniel Staudacher

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