It was a chilly morning, temperatures dropping to the lower 50's as I entered the lowland wetlands a few miles north of town and the gravel roads that cut through the national forest.
One of these gravel roads dead-ended in a gate, beyond it a double-track trail with a sign that read something to the effect of "no vehicles allowed, hikers and hunters only" There is a debate as to weather a cyclist and his/her bike are a pedestrian or a vehicle, and at this particular moment I decided I was not a vehicle, and I was hunting adventure afterall, so I proceeded on the route. This lead me to the Kimberly-Clark State Wildlife Area:
Because wildlife love it when you cut down their forest and turn it into toilet paper.
I almost made a major navigational error right off the bat, and who knows where that would have taken me, my paranoia about getting off-route in the wilds saved me this time. The trail was clear overall, but completely overgrown with grasses, sedges and rushes. Ridable, but challenging.
It didn't help that there were two dozen deer flies flying around me at any given time.
because the trail was so overgrown, I really couldn't see what I was riding through. A lot of the trail was rutted, and the semi-slick MTB tire on front was finally starting to pay off since the side-knobs could grab on the edges of the ruts and pull me out of them, where as I would probably have just fallen over with touring tires. But I also couln't see hazards in the trail, and one time I was fiddling with my GPS trying to see how far it was out of these crazy trails, when I hit a huge pothole where a culvert had blown out. I managed to get my left hand back on the bars to stabilize the bike and ride through the hole, but in doing so I pinched my thumb under my palm, and hurt it pretty bad. I'm not sure what I did exactly, maybe a sprain, but the lowest joint (where it meets the palm) began to swell and is still a little sore 48 hours later.
There were almost 5 miles of these overgrown trail, which got kind-of frustrating since I was so tired. But finally I was back out on a gravel road. After "borrowing" an outhouse at a cabin where I had an interesting wildlife encounter, I stopped for a snack break at a boat launch, where I enjoyed the lake view and watched duckweed get sucked into the culvert under the road.
Before long I was on State Highway 70 heading west. I was feeling pretty exhausted, so I just put my head down and ground through it.
Self Portrait, shadow on gravel, 2011.
This didn't stop me from enjoying the view when I crossed the Flambeau River:
I may or may not have canoed along this stretch of river when I was a kid.
A few miles later, I turned north onto gravel, put the earbud on and started grinding out the gravel miles. I still had miles and miles to go, I was only about half way, and feeling as tired as I was the gravel started to feel frustratingly slow. But the music helped alot, and over time I finally started to "warm-up" and feel more energetic.
Then I realized I had lost my wallet.
I did a quick search of my gear, but couldn't find it. I had see it the night before, but it could have been anywhere over a 55 mile stretch of my route. I still had 40 miles to go, and there was no guarantee that I would find it, so I decided it would be a bad idea to try to go back and find it. Fortunately it wasn't my real wallet, just a small zip-lock bag with my ID, insurance card, credit card and about $50 in cash. Still it left me with no money, no way to pay for anything at all, which wasn't good since I was almost out of food and needed a place to stay. I had no cell phone signal to contact Carol, so there was really nothing I could do, so I just kept going.
Still I couldn't be upset for too long because the scenery was interesting such as this beautiful creek that I crossed full of water lilies and pickerel weed:
I stopped for lunch at Black Lake, a beautiful secluded camp ground. If I ever get the chance I'd love to go back there and camp for a weekend, it was just lovely.
With all the trees around, its easy to forget that the entire area had been clear-cut, probably multiple times over the years. Occasionally, you get a glimpse of some trees that somehow avoided the saw, at least recently. There white pines at the entrance to the Black Lake Campground I suspect date back to the CCC era when a lot of reforestation was done here:
These are only about 24" DBH, legend has it that the pines were feet in diameter back in the day, and that a grove or two still stands out there somewhere, untouched. If you look carefully at the rest of the woods, most trees are less than 12" in diameter, and most of the deciduous trees are multi-trunked, a sure sign that they are resprouting from a cut stump.
Shortly after this lunch break the road turned to pavement, which I was pleased to see since It had been such a long haul. This first stretch of Moose Lake Road was a class A awesome road ride, which I had my road bike (photo does not illustrate how nice and twisty and rolling this stretch was, but I was having too much fun riding to stop earlier):
And too my surprise the road stayed paved all the way into Hayward. As I got closer to town I started getting a cell signal, so I called Carol, and she being the wonderful supportive wife that she is booked me a hotel room and started making arrangements to get money wired to me.
On the last climb into town my cyclocomputer crapped out on me for the second time in two days. By this time I was exhausted. For the first time in the trip my legs were feeling it, the "heavy" lead-like feeling you get after a long hard ride. I really needed to know how much further I had to go! Fortunately I was getting cell reception, so I pasted in the address of the hotel Carol had booked for me into my Maps app. 3.7 miles. I could do that, just like riding downtown to the capitol.
All in all, I traveled about 95 miles on Tuesday. With the long stretches of gravel coming after 5 straight days of riding, it was my hardest day yet.