In the past, these trips would help me sort out things that were on my mind and give me clarity. This year I couldn't find anything to ponder heavily, which says a lot for the good space I'm at in my life. Instead, I used this time to step outside of my comfort zone and seek the beauty of immersion in nature. Well, with an iPhone to take pics :-)
A month or so ago, I picked an approximate destination and put in a PTO request at work. I like 1 night away. That's adequate for a mini-adventure. I put in for a backcountry camping permit in the Northern Highlands State Forest and started planning a route. To hopefully keep my legs from completely revolting, I figured 50-75 miles each day would be plenty. After all, the bike setup is heavy and camp gear adds a chunk of weight.
One thing about the fibromyalgia or whatever it is that pains my tendons is, if I push my body hard it will revolt and I may have several weeks where it hurts to walk. This has been going on since 2010 and although I've made a lot of improvement in the past year, it has forced me to slow down enough to enjoy the scenery. There have been several good lessons through this journey, actually. I can pretty much do what I want to, as long as I take it easy.
Welcome to the gravel shortcut from Cedar Falls Road to Camp 9 Road. It was freshly graded, which equals loose!! Oh man. Well, it is an adventure after all.
New gear for this year:
2014 Giant Invite - it's a gravel bike and I mostly use it for commuting to work. The disc brakes, wide tires, and rack mount are major differences over what I used to cobble together.
New shorts and helmet, always a plus.
Sawyer water filter which I'm not sold on, but it worked.
Garmin Edge 800. Definitely like the turn-by-turn navigation!
Took a break at mile 38 for lunch of beef jerky and an apple. I made my way to a nearby river to try to filter some water but found the squeeze bag system awkward and hard to fill.
The scenery between Cedar Falls Rd. and Highway 70 was wonderful. I don't recall the names of all the roads but there were some tough little climbs and swooping downhills. Very enjoyable. I crossed Highway 70 and continued on into Lac du Flambeau reservation territory.
Loose chip seal, the right bike for it, and beautiful scenery :-)
Sometimes the GPS and mapping software lead a person to a dead end. Like this! I always carry paper maps for such occasions. Sign says "Private Drive".
Roadside scenery approaching Highway 51
Thanks for the lovely roads!
Originally I had planned to take a shortcut road over to County M, which would put me close to camp. However, the weather was still holding out and I noticed I was missing a few items which would make my evening more pleasant. I was also low on water. I ducked into a State campground for water and a woman was walking by. She said hello, asked where I was headed, etc. She recommended the slightly longer but easier-on-the-legs County H. I filled my water bottle and decided, in the interest of my legs, to take her advice. Happily, the new paved trail was not far off and took me right into town.
Well, me too, and these trips are little reminders of the comforts I have every day. I choose to experience something else. I like the perspective. I sat down to check the weather but the Wifi was not working. Tried data and could not connect to the network. Tried texting Steve but he was working late. So, I enjoyed my coffee drink outside, used the bathroom, and headed to the corner store.
I set up the old Bibler tent with everything I would need for an evening of potential rain.
A loo with a view?? This was uphill from camp. Convenient place to dispose of TP. I'm fine with a squat in the woods otherwise. It looked kind of funny out there. I could not find it at 0430, though! The trail wasn't very obvious.
Zucchini, summer sausage and olives. Yum!
On fibromyalgia, or whatever is causing my tendons (and now knees) much pain. The Achilles' both complain on a regular basis. My calves are full of knots. So are my vastus lateralis and IT bands. I have trigger points by the dozens and they respond to nothing. The IT band stuff can shut me down. It's a very sharp pain to the knee when I go to turn a pedal. I have been riding a very fine line with it and it was tough carrying a heavy load into the wind. I have all the endurance and mental fortitude but I have the threat when I think of going a speed like I used to, of it all coming apart in a big hurry. Last year I struggled to walk a mile. I barely biked. This year I've pedaled over 2000 miles. Riding easy and taking guaifenesin seem to be working, but I have to be very, very careful. Using a heart rate monitor helps, but that started acting funky early in the ride. I went by feel. It's tough. I try to remain grateful for what I can do, since I can't feed my ego with "how fast" or "how many miles". Just enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds. Be grateful. There will be an answer and I will keep seeking.
Decided music frustrates me when I'm trying to learn a song. Picked a little, played some chords with different strum patterns, and called it a night at 1840. Couldn't keep my eyes open!
Turns out my tent leaks. A lot. Not just at the seams but everywhere. I woke at 2230 with a wet sleeping bag on the top, wet bike shoes, pretty much wet everything. It had been raining steady since 1800. I rearranged things and tried to sleep some more. My camp pad isn't great. I wake every 30-60 minutes to roll. My hips and shoulders hurt. I woke up a couple of times to take care of bathroom business.
This was the view at 0530:
Not bad. Still raining. Dozed off. And was startled awake by a squirrel at 0615! It stopped raining. 12 hours in the tent and I was ready to get out! Ready for coffee. I started the water heating and noticed some nasty little flying bugs were biting me - hard! I applied some repellent and noticed this:
Repellent makes me sneeze. I was checking out heron. Heron was checking out me. Then I sneezed. And it flew away.
I changed into my bike clothes and it resumed raining. I sopped up the puddles out of my panniers with my towel, packed up the wet gear and made sure I had picked up not only all of my stuff but a little garbage left by previous campers.
It's a pretty climb out of camp. I noticed hiking/biking trails as well but didn't feel singletrack was appropriate. Might have to come back for that reason as well...
Tough to take pics in the rain. This is about .3 miles and connects to Nebbish Road, which is about 3 miles out. The gravel was much different after all the rain and on tired legs. I worked hard up the hills, feeling the previous day's miles and the mud trying it's best to slow my wheels. Everything exposed got a thorough mud coating, myself included.
This is near Sayner. The trail between Sayner and St. Germain is a blast! Roller coaster hills galore!
I relaxed in a hot epsom salt bath with a glass of wine, and then we made dinner. Grass fed ribeye on the grill, roasted broccoli we picked last weekend, and butternut squash fries. My daughter bought the flowers just because.
So, in summary, sleeping in a tent in the wilderness doesn't scare me so much. I feel rather at home in the forest. I have pepper spray just in case, but I tend to feel calm and free. My legs didn't fare as well as my mind and I have a large amount of pain, mostly in my knees. I will need some extended recovery before I can bike again. I appreciate my dry and comfortable bed, my loving pets who are sitting next to me now, and especially Steve, who somehow understands my thirst for adventure and solo time. I am filled with gratitude on all levels.