Traverse City is a Mountain Biker’s Paradise

Every November, thousands of cyclists converge on Traverse City to compete in the 29-mile Iceman Cometh Challenge, the largest one-day point-to-point mountain bike race in the country. Mountain biking is a big draw in the hills and valleys around Traverse City in almost every season of the year, as cyclist Cody Sovis demonstrates.

Of the million-and-one reasons to visit the Grand Traverse Area, mountain biking is quickly becoming a more popular excuse to head up north and get a little dirty. The region attracts cyclists from all over the country — including those who prefer paved trails or the scenic roads of the Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas – but it’s also home to some of the best trails in the state, and some of the biggest events around.

We’ve never taken our forests for granted around here. Traverse City is a special place where all the charms of a thriving downtown are just minutes from pristine woods, beaches, and miles and miles of trails to weave it all together. For me, it’s a real treat to have the ability to ride the Traverse Area Recreational Trail from downtown and be at the trailhead in just a few minutes.

One of the most popular trails in the area is the Vasa Pathway. In winter it’s home to the world-class North American Vasa ski race and gets the professional grooming treatment for ski and fat bike use as long as the snow sticks around. During the rest of the year, it’s usually peppered with riders out hitting famous landmarks like Anita’s Hill, the Wall and the Power Section. The terrain is open and rolling, with pockets of sand adding to the challenge of steep hills, fast descents and fast sections that test the legs and lungs. The Vasa Pathway also serves as the final kilometers of the Iceman Cometh Challenge, the largest single-day mountain bike race in North America.

Around here, the Iceman is king. People plan for it for months, registering in the spring and riding most of the summer with one eye on the first weekend in November. One of the biggest local rides is the Speed of Light, which takes in the last few miles of the Iceman. Over 5,000 people are registered for the race, including some of the best professional riders from around the world. We always welcome the big names, but we are rooting for the local guys to take the win.

I’ve always raced in the pro class, though it’s not about trying to win. It’s the chance to race the best riders in the world, and I won’t let the chance go by. It’s like getting to play a pickup game against Michael Jordan. You know you’re getting beat, but you get to tell everyone the story.

Cody Sovis with his bike just before the 2013 X100 50-Mile Gravel Road Race through Traverse City’s Boardman Valley (He took 4th place).

Intersecting the Pathways is another trail: the Vasa Singletrack. Though it has its own separate trailhead off Supply Road, this twisty, tight course winds and crosses with the Pathway, or the “25 K”, as it is popularly known. The Singletrack is a testing little loop, a bit over 12 miles long, offering up some great technical practice and a break from the wide-open speed of the Pathways. The Singletrack is tough. If you’re looking for a great ride that combines both, hop off the Singletrack at Marker 7, do the 25 K, then hop back onto the Singletrack when you cross at Marker 13. It’s the perfect blend of speed and technical riding.

If the Vasa is the most popular and oldest trail system, the Glacial Hills Pathways is certainly the newest and the hippest. Located in Bellaire, this brand-new system of professionally maintained trails has gotten rave reviews from beginners and experts alike. It’s a terrific blend of hills, flat and fast sections and beautiful views – and it certainly doesn’t hurt that it’s located just a mile or two from one of Michigan’s finest breweries, Short’s Brewery.

But you don’t even have to leave town to enjoy a great mountain biking loop. Traverse City’s former mental hospital, now The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, is home to a great network of trails. Riders have been climbing to the top of the hill for years, but the recent rise in mountain biking enthusiasm means there’s seldom a time you’ll go on the trails and not see a few other cyclists. It’s a short loop punctuated by steep, testing ascents with rewarding views of West Bay and screaming-fast descents back to the Village, where a host of coffee shops, bakeries, and other shops serve as a great place to refuel after the ride. The Commons is also home to the Conquer the Village Mountain Bike race, a new event that draws hundreds of racers each spring.

The arrival of a race like Conquer the Village was well overdue. So many riders were able to just roll through Traverse City to race on trails that they’ve ridden for years. I remember riding back there when I was five or six years old, my dad diligently riding behind me as I slowly made my way up to the top of the ridge and yelling all the way down the other side.

There are miles and miles of trail in the area, and nearly everyone has their own favorite loop. It’s a great place be a cyclist.

Have you been mountain biking in Traverse City? Tell us about your experience!

Cycling connoisseur Cody Sovis works at Einstein Cycles in Traverse City and maintains a cycling blog year round. 

Cool and Colorful: Golfing Manistee County in Autumn

Fall is a great time to golf in Michigan! Guest blogger Maralee Cook shares her experience golfing during the fall season at Manistee National Golf and Resort in Manistee, MI.

Autumn in Manistee County in northwestern Lower Michigan is all about cool and colorful. Lake Michigan tempers our weather well into October, and crisp, clear mornings give way to warm afternoons and evenings perfect for outdoor sports and viewing unforgettable sunsets.

ManisteeNational

A one-hour hop from Midway Airport in Chicago brings you to Manistee Blacker Airport for a cool, colorful, fall Fly, Stay and Play golf special.

If you’re a golfer, you know that there’s no better time to play and Manistee County has the perfect Fly, Stay and Play Golf Package. You’ll fly from Chicago’s Midway Airport to Manistee Blacker Airport for a quick one-hour hop across the Great Lake Michigan to stay and play unlimited golf at Manistee National Golf and Resort’s two spectacular 18-hole golf courses, Canthooke Valley and Cutter’s Ridge.

The package includes roundtrip airfare, luggage and clubs, shuttle service to and from Manistee Blacker Airport to Manistee National, and a $30 food voucher at Manistee National’s Osprey Grille.  And when you’re not golfing, you’ll want to unwind at the hotel lounge or the indoor/outdoor pool and whirlpool.

Manistee National Golf Course

Manistee National Golf and Resort includes at indoor/outdoor swimming pool and whirlpool.

Canthooke Valley, a traditional course, with stately oak trees crowned in umbers and siennas, offers gently rolling fairways planted in Kentucky bluegrass that set your ball up high for easy contact. Cutter’s Ridge, designed by Jerry Matthews, is set amid marshes and wetlands with bentgrass fairways and greens. In autumn the birches and maples on Cutter’s Ridge are aflame in brilliant reds, oranges and yellows.

Pure Michigan Golf

Manistee National Golf and Resort in Manistee, Michigan has two top-notch 18-hole golf courses.

If you’re looking for a little more nightlife while you’re here we’ll get you a shuttle to Manistee County’s  Little River Casino Resort with one of Michigan’s largest gaming floors, excellent restaurants and a wide variety of entertainment including concerts and comedy acts. Would you like to play Manistee County’s world class Arcadia Bluffs while you’re here? We can make that happen too. Greens fees are not included in the package price for non-Manistee National courses, but we’ll be happy to shuttle you to the Bluffs.

The package is only $399 per person for 3 nights midweek, or 2 nights weekend at $499 per person. And if you choose our weekend package, you’ll be winging your way to Chicago’s Midway on our 5 p.m. flight – plenty of time to be in your favorite chair at home for Sunday Night Football.

Check out Flymanistee.com or manisteenational.com  or visitmanisteecounty.com for more information or to make reservations.  And go to visitmanisteecounty.com for more information on visiting the City of Manistee on the shores of Lake Michigan and or our County’s other charming small towns.  You won’t want to miss golfing, shopping, dining, fishing, hiking or biking during our colorful fall.

Maralee Cook Maralee Cook is a freelance writer living in Manistee, Michigan.

Where is your favorite place for fall golf in Michigan?

 

 

Sugarloaf Mountain: A Short Hike to an Amazing View

Michigan is home to hundreds of great hiking trails to explore – many of which offer spectacular views to enjoy along the way. Today, native “Yooper” Jesse Land takes us on a journey through Sugarloaf Mountain in Marquette, which he thinks rewards hikers with one of the best views in Michigan.

Marquette is full of excellent hikes and beautiful views. One shining example is Sugarloaf Mountain. The trailhead for Sugarloaf is just a few miles from downtown Marquette, the turnoff from county road 550 is well marked, and it’s a relatively quick hike to the top where you’re rewarded with one of the best views in the Upper Peninsula.

The Hike to the Top

On a recent hike, my first time to Sugarloaf Mountain, two friends and I took the “difficult” route and made it up in about fifteen minutes. There’s an optional “easy” route with a tamer grade that takes a little longer, but both paths up the mountain do require a extra care as rocks and roots stick out of the ground along much of the path.

Most people come to Sugarloaf for the view, but the forest canopy that envelops the trails is worth mentioning. With century old trees and ancient rock outcroppings, this trail reminds me of a few of the better hikes I’ve done in the rainforests of Australia. It really is a gorgeous area.

As we approached the top, the dirt trail switched to a series of wooden stairs that brought us up to the viewing area. At the top we were rewarded with a stunning view of Lake Superior, Marquette, Presque Isle Park and Little Presque Isle as well as Hogsback Mountain and the large swath of forest between Marquette and Big Bay.

Photo courtesy of Crag Grabhorn @ Chalet Press

The Stone Monument

Also at the summit is a stone obelisk erected long ago by Boy Scout Troop 1 to commemorate their assistant scoutmaster Bartlett King. King had helped to establish the local troop, which is one of the claimants of first Boy Scout Troop in the U.S. He later fought and died in World War I and his troop members wanted to construct a memorial that his mother could see from her home on Marquette’s arch street.

Three Observation Decks

As we stood there, about 1,000 feet above sea level, I was impressed with how much work has been put into this viewing area. Three viewing platforms situated atop Sugarloaf Mountain offer three slightly different vantage points. The first observation deck faces southward toward Marquette and offers a view of the Superior Dome, the Upper Ore Dock and Presque Isle Park. The second deck faces northward toward Wetmore Landing and Little Presque Isle island. And the third platform faces westward and offers a great view of Hogsback Mountain.

After the Hike

After our hike we opted for a late lunch in downtown Marquette, but deciding where to eat was no easy task as Marquette County is filled with excellent dining options, not to mention being home to four of the thirteen Upper Peninsula Breweries.

Getting There

Sugarloaf Mountain is located about six miles north of downtown Marquette on CR 550. Get there by taking Washington Street to Fourth Avenue. Turn north onto Fourth Ave., which becomes Presque Isle Ave and drive .4 miles to Hawley Street. At Hawley Street, turn west (left). Hawley becomes CR 550. Drive about 4.0 miles on Hawley Street/CR-550 to the parking area. A sign that reads “Sugarloaf Mountain” marks the parking area and is easily visible from CR 550.

Have you been to Sugarloaf Mountain? What did you think?

This blog post was written by Jesse Land on behalf of Travel Marquette Michigan. Marquette County is home to some of the best hiking, biking, motorcycling, beaches, breweries and restaurants in the Upper Peninsula. Learn more about beautiful Marquette County at www.travelmarquettemichigan.com.