Hayward to Porcupine Mountains via CAMBA's IMBA Epic singletrack and Gravel

10:40 pm Thursday-  Free from work and literally running down the steps to my bike.  Can't wait to get home and start my mini vacation.

11:00 pm-  Still Downtown, This is happening...

12:00 midnight-  Other random stuff, but soon on the road.

1:30 am Friday-  Two Arnold Palmer's, Jalapeno Jerky, 2 bags of sour gummy worms, large bag of nutter butters and 12 gallons of gas purchased at only gas station on all of hwy 63 that is open.

4:40 am-  Push bike and gear out of the way, recline front seat of Mini Cooper and fall asleep in back corner of Hayward Walmart.

7:00 am-  Brush teeth in Walmart and change into almanzo kit.  Also, purchase two freeze dried meals, 1500 calories of Easy Mac, 1800 calories of peanut butter Snicker singles, two gallons water.

8:00 am-  with the man himself (Skogen) at a downtown Hayward coffee shop.

9:00 am-  Finally pedal off down 77 toward the first of many miles of epic singletrack.

 This was the beginning trailhead for me.  Bike is 2010 Flash Carbon with 9 speed build.  Ben Witt built wheelset, mostly X0 level parts.  I bought the frame with cracked stays and repaired them myself.

 I initially took the lead back in the cheq 62 right around this lake!
In this area it's not ALL singletrack, but this is a good road.

11:30 am- Break for snickers, pace to this point is right around 7 mph.  I have roughly 180 miles left to go in order to complete my planned ride.  I do not do the math.  I am having way too much fun to do the math.  CAMBA is simply incredible.  The trails lend themselves perfectly to this type of riding...  I've gotten used to the extra weight on the bike and things are just flowing.  I notice the stiffness of the Lefty and how little it cares about the extra weight and torque.  It's nice to remember the cheq 62 and to see some of the parts of the 100 course that I had missed.  There is more trailwork taking place-  even more, even better, singletrack for the next time I'm out here.  It blows my mind the quality of the trails here and that you can ride for hours without seeing anyone.  Then I do see someone and they act like I'm in their way and should get completely off the 2-way trail with one foot on the ground for them and their girlfriend to ride by...  it sticks with me longer than it should but washes away on the next singletrack.  In retrospect, I assume they are from Chicago.

1:45 pm-  Lakewoods.  It's hot out but I've got all my warm stuff on that I've brought- wool jersey, softshell cx warmup pants etc. etc. just to deal with the AC in the bar.  Mushroom and swiss burger with waffle fries, nice conversation with bartender, things are good.

2:45 pm-  Back on the road and headed northerly.

 Lake Namekagon
 The road started looking LONG
 This is just one of about 50 similar lakes I passed
 This is a typical site at the Beaver Lake USDA campground...  a potentially perfect stop for a two day ride out of Wolverine

4:00 pm-  Walking, tired, sore, this is bad.  Eat and drink, adjust backpack straps.  Consider my error in not  properly adjusting the aero bars for the mountain bike.  They are set for the reach needed on my gravel racing CX bike and therefore with flat bars are about 4" too far away from me to be good for anything but a place to hang my tent.  Can't believe the road keeps going up and up and into the wind etc. etc., things are rough.  I wonder about the thought process that led me sleep so little, ride so much singletrack...  how far will I make it tonight, where will I sleep anyways?  I know there is camping anywhere in the Chequamegon National Forest, at Beaver Lake and at Lake 3 (but I'm already past 2/3 and quickly leaving the National Forest)...  if I stop now getting to the Porcupines tomorrow will be daunting.  The campground in Copper Falls is full, or so they told me yesterday...  perhaps I should still go there, maybe they have hike-in sites or cancellations.  Maybe I should pushall the way to Ironwood...  It's only about 50 miles past Mellen and Copper Falls but my route notes make no mention of the topology and I've got a song about how much climbing sucks, on repeat, blaring inside my head.

leaving National Forest-  also a possible campsite... in a pinch

6:00 pm-  Blast into Mellen at a respectable pace.  In error do not stop and buy food, water etc..  Have the idea that getting to Copper Falls ASAP will get me best odds for a proper campsite and that is priority one.  I can cook what I have or ride back into town or whatever when the time comes.


6:30 pm-  In Copper Falls, no camping...  "Why don't you head back to the Chequamegon"?  Tempted to head the 9 miles back to the "Entering Chequamegon sign", lean bike on it and put up my tent.  Girl at park gate watches me ride into the park instead of toward Chequamegon.  Figure I may as well go check out the Falls and the park...  Also see that they have a concession stand that serves all sorts of real food and I could use a coke.

6:35 pm-  Concession stand closed 5 minutes ago, but I spy a xc ski trail just far enough off the beaten path.  It's close enough to the lower campsite and good water but far enough to be by itself....  head up the trail, bushwack in a couple hundred paces and setup camp.  Ditch all the bike clothes and walk out as nonchalantly as possible.  Realize that the clothes I've changed into are a bright blue pearl izumi wool cycling jersey and black softshell pants and that I still have my   Team USA Nike's on.  Oh, well...  I figure I shouldn't really be bothering anyone by camping and I'll be as discrete as someone can in those shoes.

see the campsite?
 river right through the park
 disappointing falls but I like the picture

8:00 pm-  Finishing reconstituted teriyaki chicken mixed with ramen at a picnic table in the main part of the park.  The waterfalls were disappointing and the 20 flights of steps to an observation area were a total waste.  I am a near total waste.  I slip into the woods and retire with plenty of twilight left.  I wish I had a pillow but forget about it when I start listening to the sound of the falls in the distance.

6:40 am Saturday-  Awake and cold.  Why did I lay tomorrows kit out where it's now dew covered and freezing?  Bring the kit into my 45 degree sleeping back with me and try to warm it with body heat before putting it on. Note to self-  might be a good idea to bring tomorrows clothes into tent each night.

7:00 am-  Chamois cream sucks when it's cold, should have brought the fricking warming embro...  no room though, but then again why did I bring bug spray, suntan lotion and a full sized toothpaste-  as if those things are getting used.  Hop on bike wearing everything I have with, temperature is approximately 45 degrees.

leaving the park

7:02 am-  Why is my rear tire almost flat.  I must have a very slow leak.  I add a co2 but botch it somehow, wasting one of the two I brought.  I then decide I had better fully swap the tube to be safe.  Can't find anything wrong with the tube or rim that would cause the slow leak, swap tubes and inflate with hand pump to 20 psi or so then use the co2 to put it up to the desired 40ish.


8:00 am-  Leave Mellen with a belly full of 1 litre of diet coke and one giant hoagie shaped breakfast sandwich from the one open gas station.  Looks like "climb city" once again.  My knee doesn't hurt, this is really good.

10:00 am-  The rollers relent slightly and I am down to normal Almanzo kit with just the wool jersey over the top.  I am starting to feel better on the bike and the pace is increasing.  Again, I notice how happy I am with the bike and particularly the Lefty.  I can't imagine running my old Reba "open" on a gravel road under any circumstance.  The Lefty manages to soak up the little stuff without feeling like it's soaking up my efforts unless I stand.  I have the time and decide to always have the fork locked out when it's smooth etc., just because I can easily adjust it.  It becomes a game.  I take a lot of pictures.   The road has gotten "big" or "epic"...  the proportions are somehow bigger than back home.  Longer vistas.  There are no people of a very long stretch starting here.  The world feels as remote and spacious as at dirty kanza.  I want to bring others here to experience it, maybe hold a race but at the same time I wonder if others would break the spell.  Pictures can't capture the feel.

11:00 am-  Whoa, resorty lake area..  sort of lame.  Wait, what's this?  Great place to have some snickers and think things through...  too bad it isn't actually open.

12:00 noon-  Familiar territory! and beautiful...  if there is a race this road will be on it, this road will be the finish.  It is wonderful and finishes with a healthy climb into Montreal where there is a great park.  I am happy, but thinking of Subway.  I think of Charlie (click that one please, the man is inspiration) and figure I've made it through the "crux" of the trip...  I'm feeling better than I had since early Friday, I know it's downhill from here to The Lake and things are good!  What do I know though?

2:00 pm-  Throw all my bike clothes in the laundry, air out sleeping bag, relax on couch at Wolverine.  Map out the distance to the Porcupines and decide that I have enough time to make a short singletrack loop on my way over Powderhorn provided I get going at 3:30.  That should give me roughly 1.5-2 hours buffer time upon arriving at the park to find suitable campsite, water, cook and then crash soon after sunset.  Once again, I know that the main campground is full... but this time I know that they allow camping throughout the park for BACKpacking, provided it is done 1/4 mile from any established trailhead or campground.    The route from here to the park involves a pretty deep water crossing of the Black River and a lot of totally unmarked ATV trail/road/whatever navigation through quasi-private land (well, very private if you care about no trespassing signs over what some piece of paper in your hand says...).  It seems prudent to leave some extra time in case something goes weird out there.

4:20 pm-  Blast out the bottom of the singletrack and down the gravel past Powderhorn's Chalet.  Legs feel great.  The shower, clean kit etc. has done wonders.

 CAMBA WAS epic, but Wolverine I love

4:45 pm-  Across the water crossing and into who knows what.  The definition of "road" certainly changes once there has been a 'crux' like waist deep water in order to access it.  I still get a kick out of this bridge a few miles down the road/trail and it's sign...

5:15 pm-  I duck under no trespassing sign/rope/gate etc. number 40?  I start riding faster.  Want to get out of there before someone gets pissed at me.  I pass 3 ATVers who look happy to see me and I pedal on.  I'm still a bit rattled by all the signage and I pedal fast.  I feel my tire going flat, another slow leak in the rear.  How can this be, it's a new tube?  I try to follow the path but it isn't showing up on my GPS.  The Atlas page I've ripped out and brought with though is very accurate and I basically navigate by trying to match the bumps and curves to what I'm seeing on the GPS tracks.  I am nervous enough about the no trespassing that it becomes a battle between adding air or pushing on.  I just want out of the private area ASAP.  I am sure I can feign being lost and probably won't get shot at or anything, but it's going to be obvious that I ducked under a very heavy steel gate. Finally, I break down and add air to the rear.  Soon thereafter I hit the paved "519", turn left and can see the lake.  It is freaking awesome.  I coast for what seems like half an hour, thinking about how sucky it will be to climb the other way early Sunday morning.  I know I want to be back to Wolverine by 11 am.

see the lake down there?

6:10 pm-  I make the mistake of asking the park ranger if there is any regular camping available.  I have no idea why I do this, I have no intention of paying for a site.  They ranger tells me that there is not and just as I hop on the bike sticks his head out the window of the shack... I stop, he says, "that bike can't leave pavement".  We discuss this.  I can't camp without breaking the rules, I don't want to break rules which make cyclists look like assholes, I decide to I must leave.  I am very tired, I do not want to climb the hill, I am 850' of vertical below Wolverine Village and likely will have to climb that twice over to get there.  No clue what the mileage will be unless I backtrack.  Zero desire to backtrack and potentially be in that area after dark, riding after dark or camping out there would scare the shit out of me.  I might have time to drill it back through before dark, but any issue and I would be hearing Banjos.  It is 33 miles to the other end of the park where there are more campgrounds which are also full.  Perhaps if I rode there I could plausibly backpack camp without bothering anyone (I get the sense that trying it here will result in the guy yelling at me kicking me out, but I can't really figure out how he would really do so anyways and consider just telling him where he can put my bike).  The third route option is pavement up to Wakefield and then over to Wolverine...  I do not know the mileage, only that it will be extremely climby.  I have a hard time deciding if I should start riding out immediately or if I should make easy mac.

6:20 pm-  I consume two gu shots and a bottle of water and start climbing.  It was the best thing I could have done.  On the way up and out to Wakefield and eventually Wolverine I found strength that I didn't think I had.  I could feel some of the demons from the Royal slipping away.  If I could do this what did I have to fear?  I realize that this was the reason I was out there at all.

Day Lake at sunset...  making it home to Wolverine!

8:00 pm-  Wakefield Holiday station, top off fluids and eat some.

Home in time

8:50 pm-  Back at Wolverine and it's dark, but not so dark I needed my headlamp.  Excited about what I had found out on that last leg.  Watch the Olympics.

Sunday's timeline wasn't so crunched... I woke up feeling rested after a solid ten hours of sleep and took my time getting up and going.  My ride back to Hayward didn't show up until late morning and it basically took all day to get me there...  It seems like every time I'm up this way there is some sort of festival or fair or something going on, always fun!

 Piggies at the fair
 too lazy to crop that lady out
 those do look like amazing onions
 moto more
 this was a great place- walkway to the falls
 shot from above
 rock lake at the special camp spot
hildebrand lake

The original Famous Daves!


  1. Nice write up Drew. Looks like it was a great trip.

  2. Great adventure and write up Drew! I've had thoughts of doing a similar tour of the Keweenaw. My in-laws are in Ontonagon so it would make a good start point.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Thanks guys- next year I'll try/hope to do the whole/real thing that I've been planning... at least sometime take a week off, probably in June. This was a great preparatory trip, but it was only really 2 days riding of course.

    Here is the beginnings of the 'real' thing for those that don't read everything I ever put down...