Its Friday and I have no set plans for the weekend. Not sure how much help I’ll have at the store for the group ride.
Today as I drove to the park I just thought about the huge difference from last winter to this one. Last year the talk was all about the lake freezing over. At one point it was estimated ar 94% ice and was just one percent away from a record.
Today there’s no ice. I remember last year taking this pic showing the ice out as far as I could see. This morning a watched some winter surfers out on the waves. I looked at ski trail pics I took last year. All snow with a base of over a foot. Today its bare grass.
I sure hope that means a better spring. The warmer lake should help. The lack of snow should dry things out quicker.
Thats said, its only the beginning of Feb. We could get dumped on in March. When nobody wants it. I was considering getting a sale going for all remaining ski stuff but its just way too early for that. Its just been a terrible winter for snow sports. So far. But with the winter about 3\4th over it might already be too late. People move on very quickly as I do. Im already thinking bikes. I hope it snows and those thoughts go away for awhile. because thinking about bike stuff in Feb is like thinking of ski stuff with no snow. But its a bummer when you can’t do any of those things.
Thats one of the best things about the fat tires. Snow or no snow. Its like back in the day I got fed up with the lack of snow and traded my snowmobile for a 4 wheeler. That was one of the best decisions I ever made in that respect.
This mornings pic is not from the park but downtown beach. Just thought I would throw in the lighthouse this morn.
For the last post about the weekend I’ll quick share some thoughts about the North vs South trails in Marquette.
The north side was pretty much the go to when the south was closed. Last year it had just snowed a ton the nite before we got there so the groomers were scrambling to get the south side done. We did hit them on Sunday last year but was just not set up good enough for me to ride. I was breaking thru the groom.
This year was way better even tho Fridays temps soared to almost 40. So again with the south closed we hit the north and was pretty much expecting the same as last year. A good ride but not the groomed trails of the south. And we were way wrong. First off the north has expanded. Farther out past the dam the trails were even machine groomed. There’s a lot more winter mileage than last year. We parked at the Tourist trailhead just out of town. At first the trails were like last year, a hiking\snowshoeing\dog walking trail but farther out they resembled a bike only trail. But well worked in. In fact the north side was firmer than the south last weekend.
Mostly due to the high traffic those trails get. And the fact that they have not gotten a huge snowfall for a few days. Maybe we got lucky but those north trails were unbelievable. Very tight single track along the river. Very cool. The off camber stuff is amazing in the winter. And a bit un nerving on snow but thats what makes it so fun. Running along cliffs and bluffs with a 30 foot drop to water is a blast in winter. There even is a new flow section all burmed up. Next to a road where you can ride up and do several times.
I’ll just come out and say I liked the north trails better than the south. That said…
The south is still a blast. You don’t get all the tight off camber stuff that the north has as they run a snowmobile and a groomer thru it. It does not get near the traffic the north has with a bunch more user groups over there so you rely on the machine to set the trails. But its a faster trail with faster flow. Corners are not as tight and that lets you carry speed constantly. There’s the famous flow section that you have seen a million videos of. And there is some shoe’d in trail you can ride if you want to.
Being a guy with more skill than fitness I faired way better on the north trails. Speed was limited to terrain. On the south side you speed is limited to your fitness, or how fast you can pedal. Let alone the damn climb to start things off. That thing could ruin my entire day if I let it and in the past it has.
Weather the south or north side is better Im sure has to do with conditions. With no big snow for a week or so the north was firmer than the south. But had some snow come thru that might not have been the case. Last year I remember on the north it took us almost an hour to get to the steel bridge. This year it took maybe 30 min. Trails were that much better.
Marquette is one of the top fat bike communities in the country. Those things are everywhere. Another reason to live there (I tell myself). While they spend a ton of volunteer time grooming the bike trails it seems that a lot of the trail happens naturally, just being there and getting so much use. We have a little of that here but not to the extent as they do up there. A lot of people get outside in the winter up there. Walkers\joggers\riders are everywhere.
Again, my kind of town. Thus ends my Marquette rant. Until next time.
For the most part I come to Marquette to ride or race bikes. But there just is something about that town I like. Its got a vibe I can feel. On weekends when Im there I spend some time just driving around. I live on the Lake Michigan shoreline but for some reason the Superior shoreline is just a bit cooler. And Ive never seen the northern lights up there yet. And I hope to someday. Ive seen the pics and its amazing. Not sure how I would act if I saw that…..
The lake snow is crazy. I stood on the beach Saturday morn and watched a snow squall come in. You can see it for a long time. Far away at first. But then as it gets closer you can’t see far away things anymore. Like a fog coming in but its a wall of snow. Then it gets close and you see a few flakes and then its snowing so hard you cant see more than 50 feet in front of you.
As fast as it hits it stops and the sun comes out. I saw this at least 3 times when I was goofing around. And it snowed on and off every time we rode. Very cool.
Its a college town so there’s plenty to do at nite if you’re into that sort of thing. Local breweries and great restaurants and coffee shops pretty much feeding off the school. And when you get tired of the same old trails you don’t have far to go to hit other systems. Tons of them up there. Really no need to be in a house.
There was also a ski race going on last weekend. The Nokie also had a fat bike race to go with it. Only one of us raced as the others just wanted to ride. The pic above shows how they laid snow across the streets as the skiers raced right into town. They kinda sorta ski along the same area the the O2S bike race is on. As we rode the north trails on Saturday we watched many skiers finishing. Some looked more tired than others. I have not skied once this winter. Even on my best winters I could not ski the 50k that some were doing. Some of the faster skiers seemed to be doing 20mph as they skied into town. A guess about 1200 participate.
Even my big ship hobby gets a shot in the arm. These babies are coming into the ore dock there all summer long. There is none this time of year as the Soo Locks are closed. But anytime Im in town in summer has me watching the big boats come and go. Add all these things up and its for sure a place I could live.
All this extra stuff is on top of the great riding and skiing there. Im my mind Im planning another trip in a month. Its slow at the store this time of year so I guess I’ll see if I can afford it at the time. One thing is for sure, I need to come up here way more. Wheels are turning in that regard. This is only my second time in winter, all other visits have been spring or the O2S in August.
I was a bit worried arriving to 38 degrees and a bit of rain. Last year it snowed 8 inches just before we got there and the trails were not good. With the warm temps I was expecting more of the same this year but was pleasantly surprised. There are two trail systems there. Known as north and south. The south trails are the ones you see in the videos. Those trails are machine groomed. The north trails are all walked\hiked\rode in and are never closed. My plan was to unload at the hotel and get a ride in but that never happened. I assumed the high temps would not be the right time to ride so I just hung out in town. Stopped in by Phil and talked a bit. Then just bummed around. Got to bed pretty early thinking I was going to get a quick ride in before everyone else came in the morning. Turns out I should have rode….
Saturday morn woke up to 35 degrees at 7am. Still above freezing so once again I did not ride and just did more bumming around town. Im pretty good at that by now. At this point I was worried the weekend was going to be another bust like last year. However the temps were set to plummet in the afternoon. I knew Sunday morn was going to be in the teens so I was confident we would get in the best ride then. The others arrived one by one and by noon we got together and hit the north side trails. At that time it was 32 degrees and dropping like a rock.
And we could not have been more surprised to find them in almost perfect shape. Packed in and fast. Once we hit the trails nobody wanted to stop and that made taking pics pretty tough. I tried stopping to do so but was afraid of getting dropped like a sack of moldy diapers. We did manage to stop once in a while tho. Got some pics then. But for the most part you just rode with a big smile on you face. By 15 minutes in I already thought the four hour drive was worth it.
You could tell there were way more bikes on this trail than last year. The trail runs right along the river, up and down the ravines. These trails are pretty much the most scenic than I could remember.
Talking with the locals, they seem to prefer this to the machine groomed south it seems.
And there was more to it that last year also. It seems the bikes are just reaching farther out and making more trail accessible in the winter. To our surprise some of the trail is machined groomed both my snowmobile and a snomobike pulling a tire.
Lots of tight, twisty turny trails made this trail fun. They even built a flow section which we did three times. As you know Im not a big fan of climbing but when the return was a fast burmed run it was worth the pain. While we all could not wait to hit the south trails in the morn in the back of my mind I was thinking how could it beat this? After three hours we returned with smiles. While I was concerned the trails would be bad I had nothing to worry about. Even if we left now the trip would be considered a success. After cleaning up we headed downtown for pizza and beer. Thinking about the south trails in the morn.
With the temps in the teens as expected we all headed out for the famous south trails. These are the machine groomed trails you see all the videos of. These trails were pretty much the first of their kind. The volunteers here are pioneers in developing the groomed bike trail.
With the temps so warm, then dropping so fast the trails were lightning fast. However, this system starts with pretty much the biggest climb I have ever done. Bensons Grade starts right out of the lot and is pretty much impossible for me to do. Its the equivalent to a chair lift taking you to the top. Thats where the trails really start. I made it up but had to stop twice to let the heart rate drop. Its steep. Granny gear. Hard to get started once you stop. But I did get going both times and the others just waiting for me. One smart ass had a cowbell and was ringing it when I got close to the summit. I gatta say it might have helped motivate me a bit.
Anyway, eventually I made it and everyone waited until my HR dropped a bit and we were off. First thing you notice is that the trail is wider than the north side by a little bit. These trails are more wide open and faster. Not as tight as the north side due to using a snowmobile. But being so wide open no way could you just “ride” these in. If not for the groom you would not be there.
We did the entire outside loop with doing a smaller loop inside twice. But as in the north side we pretty much never knew exactly where we were. You just go.
With Marquette being the fatbike capital of the midwest (or more!) you see a lot of other riders. We came across two riders from West Bend, maybe 20 miles from my hometown. Lots of locals too.
Pretty much every time you come across a local riding you ask where the hell you are so we could keep some kind of idea. Just so we don’t end up in Canada or something.
Overall what a great weekend. Great bike riding with good friends. And I sure feel like I rode a bike a lot today. Still sore a bit but in a good way. And while I sure did struggle a bit on the climbs I did just good enough so that the others did not have to wait too long. I never rode alone (thanks guys).
Take all that riding and throw in the Marquette ambiance and it was near perfect. Good food and beer. Several times it snowed while we were out and that just made everything look perfect.
Ive said this before but I really want to move there. I’ll dig ditches or something for work as long as I had a lot of time to play. I like summer as much as the next person but Im really a winter guy too. Maybe Im feeling that so strongly due to the fact that I get home and what little snow we had when I left is gone. We have had no winter here whatsoever.
And the mild winters are tough cuz you dont ride as much in the cold and there is no snow for anything else so you do next to nothing. Up in Marquette I would not be inside very much. So much more to do in the winter up there. And the summers are not all that bad too. I guess its a dream I need to hold on to.