Sunday, October 5, 2014

Overnight Bikepacking to Big Mud Lake

"Pics or it didn't happen" is a popular catchphrase these days. Well, that may or may not be the case, simply because I didn't make any new images after shooting much of the same route two years earlier.

Leaving U.S. Bicycle Route 20 (USBR 20) northward, I traveled about five miles over gravel roads to the Mud Lake rustic campground as a destination for an overnight bikepacking trip

Located on the wooded shore of Big Mud Lake in Clare County, the campground overlooks the 230 acre lake featuring eight camping sites, potable water from a hand-pumped well, vault toilets, and fire rings.

With roughly equal hours of day and night this time of the year, I forgot to plan on coping with a solid 12 hours of looong tent time. Don't get me wrong, I was plenty tired after carrying all of my gear 75-miles from home, but I wasn't 12 hours of sleeping tired if you get my drift. After arriving all I wanted to do was to hop off the saddle, eat and drink something, and walk around a bit to try and soothe the monkey butt before setting up camp.

Looking back, Mud Lake isn't a "destination" for a solo bikepacker in my opinion.  If I'd brought along some fishing gear I'd definitely try my luck for the bass, bluegill, crappie or northern pike. A boat would be a nice thing to have here. For other recreation there is the Green Pine Lake Pathway to consider, but after seven hours in the saddle, a nine-mile hike to Pike Lake probably ain't gonna happen. For these reasons I found little to do.

For a cyclist traveling USBR 20 from A to B, I think a better option may be to find a spot alongside the route and "wild camp." My visit took place after the summer's school vacation ended and before the deer hunting season began and I had the entire place to myself, so I can't comment on the campground's atmosphere during peak times. The water well is definitely a plus for the campground since the nearby towns are small and water and food not always available.

Highlights of the trip include near peak fall foliage, plentiful wildlife including deer, turkey, and howling coyotes at night. After straying from USBR 20 west of Clare (that's code for making a wrong turn after attempting a shortcut) I rode past a family of Amish girls playing a game of baseball in their front yard with a tennis racket instead of a bat while their parents watched from chairs behind "home plate" - it was a Sunday after all, so no work was to be done.

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