June 4, 2013
It's because of trails like this that I love mountain biking! Just plain fun!
My Daughter (15) and I (45) took the trip over to Shingle Mill Pathway today. The trail system was in practically "perfect" condition. Since we are used to Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain, we personally decided on the longest loop (11 mile) they offer, but noticed that there were shorter versions that could be visited and were well marked. As a matter of fact, the entire path was well marked. The only time we even thought we might be off track was when we had to go through one of the campgrounds, but even then there were BLUE arrows that begged us to follow them. The only obstacle we had to get off our bikes for was a 4ft diameter birch tree that had rotted and fallen over the trail (at about mile 7 or 8). In it's own unique and beautiful way this trail was AMAZING! It had a little bit of everything. Long winding single path dirt trails the whole way except one 1/4 mile downhill that was two track and of course the INCREDIBLE 1/3 mile bridge, which I will touch on more in a minute. The terrain changed often and had almost every type of terrain Michigan has to offer: Cross Country heavily wooded forest, swamp, lakeside, some sand (although so light I almost hate to even mention it), roots, pine trees, baby pines, leaved over, mud, wood boards, tall grass, bridges, and one small dot of pavement. All these terrain changes within 11 miles was by far the most terrain changes we have seen on one trail and we absolutely loved it!
Technical: There were some climbs but nothing even a rookie (which at my age that is always MY level... lol) could not do if they really tried. There were a couple of downhills that got my blood moving but nothing too steep to speak of. I have been on much steeper and much rougher terrain. This trail offers mostly smooth rolling terrain with good placement of the trails through the valleys and the forest and great turns. In one swampy area they created a very long bridge. It was made of two planks attached side by side. (so approximately 2 feet wide) Don't be fooled by the word bridge as this was not a typical straight bridge, rather it was wound masterfully through the area with many many turns. Some of the turns were quite tight which made the extensive bridge ride quite exhilarating! It was constantly twisting and turning. If I had to guess I would say 50 turns in that 1/3 mile. 5 of them SHARP. If you fall off in some areas you could definitely get hurt just by the height of the fall alone or the debris left over from cut down trees and chubby stumps. You might also get covered with muck in some spots... LOL. I just kept a slow pace with a medium-heavy pedal along with awareness of the brakes and made it through just fine.
All in all this was a GREAT RIDE. Other than the risk factor on the bridge, I would even invite people that rarely mountain bike to this trail to show them how great the sport is! (BTW- the only reason I did not give this trail an outstanding 5 is because I love Woopdy-doos, and unfortunately this trail does not offer them)
Vasa Single Track