Tag Archives: Copper Harbor Trails Club

2014 IMBA Midwest Fat Bike Access & Grooming Workshop

Last Thursday and Friday, I attended the IMBA Midwest Fat Bike Access & Grooming Workshop in Cable WI, a gathering of practitioners devoted to improving off-road cycling and fat biking in winter.

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The event was sponsored by QBP and hosted by Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists (MORC), International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), and the Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association (CAMBA).

John GaddoDSC06075  Cold Rolled

Following a late Thursday afternoon/evening fat bike ride by approximately 15- 20 riders on the newly groomed Esker trail in the CAMBA trail system’s Cable cluster, participants gathered for the opening reception at the Lakewoods Resort. QBP’s John Gaddo showed Cold Rolled, the  documentary by Clear & Cold Cinema featuring the 15-mile winter singletrack Snow Bike Route (SBR) that’s part of the Noquemanon Trails Network in Marquette, Michigan.

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Copper Harbor: one of the few places where you can watch the sun rise and the sun set over Lake Superior

It’s not difficult to find a good spot to watch the sun set over Lake Superior when visiting Copper Harbor, MI, the town at the northernmost tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula.

DSC00481DSC00456But it occurred to me during last week’s Ride the Keweenaw that I might be able to watch the sun rise over the lake, too. I got up early and drove east on US 41. It turned to a dirt road and I kept going till I saw a crude sign that said “Horseshoe harbor” and followed that road and eventually discovered a walking trail that led to the Mary Macdonald Preserve at Horseshoe Harbor, managed by the Nature Conservancy:

At the northernmost tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, stunted shrubs and trees cling to ancient bedrock directly in the path of Lake Superior’s fierce winds. The 1,261 acre Mary Macdonald Preserve at Horseshoe Harbor is the largest and highest quality mainland preserve for bedrock beach and bedrock glade communities in Michigan. The rock ridges that define the shoreline are wave-eroded edges of sedimentary conglomerate rock uplifted some 600 million years ago. They now create a barrier between the pounding wind and waves of Lake Superior and the woodlands behind them, protecting and allowing the emergence of slower growth plant species.

I took a few photos:

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but I didn’t get a decent one of the huge ‘conglomerate rock’ along the shore.  I found this photo online from a geocache page:

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Scheming about IMBA’s Upper Midwest region

Griff Wigley, Aaron Rogers, Karl Erbach, Hansi Johnson Lori Hauswirth, Hansi Johnson, Aaron Rogers, Mike Brunet, Lyle VanderSchaaf Jay and Claire
During last week’s Ride the Keweenaw, Copper Harbor’s restaurants provided opportunities to do some scheming about IMBA’s Upper Midwest region (Facebook page).

Left photo: Friday night dinner at the Harbor Haus with Aaron Rogers, Karl Erbach, and Hansi Johnson.

Center: Monday morning breakfast at the Pines Restaurant with (L to R) with Lori Hauswirth, Hansi Johnson, Aaron Rogers, Mike Brunet, and Lyle VanderSchaaf.

Right: The conversation at times turned to mountain bike tourism for the Upper Midwest region, as epitomized by Jay and Claire, two college students visiting Copper Harbor from Vermont. They were traveling to Montana, trying to visit as many mountain bike parks as possible on their way. For their next stops after Copper, I told them that the sequence (heading west) would be to ride CAMBA, Spirit Mountain, COGGS, and then Cuyuna. Alas, due to the wet and cold spring, only Cuyuna would work for this trip.

Copper Harbor Trail System: the bar has been set high for Upper Midwest mountain biking

With only a short amount of time to ride the trail system at Copper Harbor during this year’s Ride the Keweenaw, I didn’t want to spend much time taking trail photos or shooting any video. 

hansi_photo_T_w hansi_photo_curve Interactive trail map - Copper Harbor 
Plus, I knew that there were plenty of photos and videos of this IMBA Silver-level Ride Center online already. A good place to start for photos: the Keweenaw Adventure Company‘s Epic Rides page which has several photos by IMBA’s Midwest Regional Director Hansi Johnson.  For videos, start with the stunning interactive Copper Harbor Trail system map by the Trail Genius.

As this April 8 2013 reviewer wrote on MTBR about the trail system:

There’s a little for everyone, with technical rocky areas, long flow rides, extended downhill tabletop jump sections, climbs that make you whoop if you manage to scramble up, boardwalks, simple trails next to dropoffs… just spectacular.

Flying Squirrel trail at Copper Harbor Flying Squirrel trail at Copper Harbor Flying Squirrel trail at Copper Harbor On the Edge trail at Copper Harbor
Among my goals: I wanted to try some of the smaller table top jumps and advanced berms. Much of the big stuff on the double black diamond trails was over my head but even on runs like the Flying Squirrel and On the Edge there was still plenty of fun stuff that I could ride. 

dual suspension Kona Process - rental from the Keweenaw Adventure Company But it wasn’t till I rented a dual suspension Kona Process from the Keweenaw Adventure Company that I got a taste of what’s possible.

I was shocked how much easier it was for me to pump the rollers and go fast on the downhill gnarly stuff than with my hardtail 29’er.  Full squish has just moved ahead of a fat bike on my bike quiver priority list.

Hansi Johnson, recovering from his crash on Danimal 20130526_135439 Griff Wigley, photo by Hansi Johnson
I didn’t see it but Hansi crashed twice on one of jumps on the Danimal trail, taking a hard whack to his head and miscellaneous other body parts. I wore my POC Cortex DH MIPS full-face helmet for the first time and if I ever get better at the jumps, I can see a neck brace in my future. (Hansi’s photo of me above is included in his blog post titled A Copper Harbor fish story: Ride the Keweenaw 2013. His narrative and photos are riveting.)

Hansi Johnson, Aaron Rogers 
Copper Harbor Trails Club president Aaron Rogers has led the creation of this amazing trail system. That page says:

Aaron Rogers, MTB trail builderAaron came in search of epic snowboarding at Mt. Bohemia and stayed to build epic bike trails in Copper Harbor. A man with a vision for greatness, Aaron built upon a foundation of great trails on great terrain and turned them world class. Now a contracted professional trail builder with IMBA Trail Solutions, Aaron’s heart remains in Copper Harbor.

Fortunately for us (and his wife Amanda), he prefers to build trails in Copper Harbor but also dabbles farther south on the Peninsula. If you find Aaron, it will be at the end of a newly built trail at the controls of the mini-excavator or with Pulaski in hand. If you can’t find him, it is most likely because you can’t catch him. He’s as good a rider as he is a trail builder.

Like most everyone else who’s ridden Copper, I can’t wait to go back.  And I’m thrilled that some of the MTB parks here in Minnesota are learning from what’s been done there.

Ride the Keweenaw: When the mountain biking is done, the fun fundraising begins

BBQ fundraiser: Ride the Keweenaw BBQ fundraiser: Ride the Keweenaw BBQ fundraiser: Ride the Keweenaw
When the mountain biking was over on the Sunday of the Ride the Keweenaw weekend, the festivities in Copper Harbor park ramped up.  Many dozens lined up for the $25/person BBQ fundraiser while…

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an excellent rock band, a GoPro-equipped quadcopter, and a, um, enthusiastic dancer provided entertainment. (Just in case you’re looking for the top quadcopters under 100 bucks – check out more reviews here.)

Lianna Miller, Lori Hauswirth, Bill Marlor DSC00495 DSC00496
Lianna Miller, Lori Hauswirth and Bill Marlor from the Copper Harbor Trails Club began selling tickets for their big 2013 raffle (drawing is Sept 1).

Fellow mountain bike geezers from Ishpheming, MI Dave Markman, Tony Schwenn Griff Wigley, Oliver Cooper
Left: It’s always good to see some fellow graying geezers on the trails and at the party. These guys were from Ishpheming, MI
Center: Hollywood Dave Markman and CHTC Board Member Tony Schwenn provided security
Right: He doesn’t know it yet but MTU student and hot shot mountain biker Oliver Cooper is going to be my coach next time I’m back up there.

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As the sun went down, the dancing cranked up. A fitting end to a memorable event.

Of the three ways to get to the top of the Copper Harbor trails, Sam’s is best. Duh.

Sam Raymond and Hansi Johnson Keweenaw Adventure Company Keweenaw Adventure Company Jerry Smith, Jeff Squires, Sam Raymond - Keweenaw Adventure Company
Sam Raymond owns the Keweenaw Adventure Company in Copper Harbor. He offers a shuttle service to mountain bikers who come to ride the Copper Harbor Trails system. Why?

Because there is no ski area with a chairlift in Copper Harbor, the KAC shuttle is the next best way to get you and your mountain bike to the top of the mountain without having to pedal! An activity that is most commonly associated with ski resorts out west, mountain bikers enjoy bombing down Copper Harbor’s sustained vertical descents along the miles of sweet singletrack that connect the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, Brockway Mountain and the village, nearly 600′ vertical and up to 3 miles below.

mountain bike shuttle service, Keweenaw Adventure Company mountain bike shuttle service, Keweenaw Adventure Company Jeff Squires, Keweenaw Adventure Company
On the Sunday of the Ride the Keweenaw weekend, the shuttle was busy. They put up chains in front of the shop to provide some first-come, first-served structure to the riders waiting to get taken to the top. Once everyone piles inside the 14-passenger van, the driver (either Sam or one of his two trusty bike mechanics Jeff Squires or Jerry Smith) yells out “Where to?”

Keweenaw Mountain Lodge mountain bike shuttle service, Keweenaw Adventure Company Sam Raymond, Keweenaw Adventure Company
A consensus quickly emerges as the choice is simple: either the parking lot at Keweenaw Mountain Lodge or the top of Brockway Mountain, both about a mile from town.  If you miss the shuttle, it’s no biggie. It can make a round trip in 15-20 minutes.  And Sam’s getting another 14-passenger this summer to speed things up even further.

Hansi Johnson, top of Brockway Mountain Griff Wigley, top of Brockway Mountain Stairway to Heaven trail, Copper Harbor
The shuttle currently runs noon-5:00pm on weekends and 5:30-9:30pm on Tuesdays. If you want to ride the trails at other times, team up with someone else for a DIY shuttle service with two vehicles like I did with IMBA’s Midwest Regional Director Hansi Johnson and his snazzy Subaru Outback.  Of course, you can also pedal to the top.  Hansi said that riding up the Stairway to Heaven trail (that’s a link to a recent YouTube video) is the easiest route to the top.  Nearly all trails at Copper are two-way, and riders going up have priority over riders going down, although I mainly experienced the opposite.