Monday, May 31, 2010

North to Michigan!

On Saturday and Sunday, Alex and I met up with Alex's sister, Brooke, and her husband, Anders, to bike the 33 mile Kal-Haven Trail in Michigan. The trail is located on a former railroad bed that extends from Kalamazoo to South Haven, which is located on Lake Michigan. It is now its own state park - the Kal-Haven Trail State Park.

The weather was unseasonably hot - in the upper 80's both days. The skies were sunny, but the humidity was low. These dame's rockets along the trail approved of the weather.

Our goal was to ride to the half-way point on Saturday, then ride back to our motel in South Haven. Shortly after we left the trailhead at South Haven, we descended a gentle hill to ride along side the back end of the harbor at South Haven. This harbor was used to load grain on to small ships in the late 1800's and early 1900's, until rail expansion across the midwest improved. When locks and dams were built up and down the Mississippi, it became more economical to ship grain to terminals via rail to ports on the Mississippi, which then was loaded on to barges and headed toward New Orleans.

The demise of this rail line years ago is to the benefit of thousands of bikers, hikers, and snowmobilers today. The trail is mostly crushed lime, carefully graded and compacted. I saw several road bikes on the trail both days with skinny tires, which for the most part were having no problems. There is a section, about 3 miles long toward Kalamazoo, where the state park is widening the trail where there is some loose material on the sides of the trail. As long as we stayed in the middle 12' of the trail, the surface was fine.

Bill, Alex, Brooke, Anders at the half-way mark in Bloomindale.

Alex and Brooke on the trail.

Another view of Bloomingdale - yes, that is an oil derrick. I believe most of the oil has been pumped from this area. We saw only one pump running, and the lady in the depot museum said that pump is pumping salt water, which is applied to the trail surface to help settle and bind the crushed lime.

The state park folks did a very nice job respecting the railroad heritage.

On day two, we rode from Bloomingdale to Kalamazoo and back. This is a view of the widened trail surface. This area is very well compacted and graded. It made for a great riding surface. The only down side I see to riding on a lime surface such as this is that my fender-less bike kicked up fine gravel which pelted my legs and collected in my shoes. This was a small price to pay for riding on a smooth, car free trail. Probably 97% of the trail is covered with woods, which was a blessing on hot, sunny days.

The trail widening project is at least partly funded by Recovery Act funds.

This is the end of the state park trail in K-zoo. There is another trail that connects here and takes trail users into the heart of Kalamazoo.

Apparently people aren't the only trail users. This snapping turtle was moving down the trail also.

Only 4 miles from the end is the small town of Gobles, where we found Jan's Trailside Cafe only 1/2 block from the trail. The bikes out front told us there was something good inside. Although Jan no longer has her ice cream shop, she still serves ice cream in her cafe next door. So I had a sandwich and a chocolate malt. Plus plenty of ice water. Good stuff when the temp is 90 degrees!

A couple of sweet Rivies.

The Kal-Haven trail has no tunnels or high bridges, but is very well maintained and well used. I'd recommend this ride for anyone who wants a safe, rural ride. We had a great time!

Happy riding!


Rantwick said...

Hey, nice post. Vicarious trail riding is one of my favourite things.

Just North of Michigan you'll find my house! I need to look into some good trails to try because I know there are some... never seem to have any time.

Pondero said...

What a great looking ride! I'd love to try out the cycling up there...especially if ice cream is involved.

jeff said...

Thanks for sharing the info. on this trial. It reminds me of the Katy Trail in MO. Looks like you had a good time.

John Romeo Alpha said...

I need to check out more rails-to-trails type paths. That one looks like a beaut.

Jon said...

Good-looking group there! Looks like a pretty nice ride.

I rode rail trails a lot, back in when I lived in Ohio, but there aren't that many around Denver. Plenty of other trails, though, so that's okay.

Apertome said...

Looks like a lot of fun ... I love the Rivendells!

Lilliana Felicity said...

I always wanted to ride the Kal-Haven trail from Kalamazoo to South Haven! Looks like you guys had an adventure! Thanks for pictures of the greenery along the trail, did you get to see the s sunset on lake Michigan? It's breath taking at times!

rlove2bike said...

Nice post indeed. We too enjoy the rail trails. Looks like a good time was had.

Chandra said...

Hey Bill,
Looks like you had a blast. I love the photos of the trail. It looks much cooler than the high 90s we are having down here LOL!

Peace :)

PS. We are officially forecast to get up to 100 this weekend. This is only the 1st week of June!

Big Oak said...

Thanks for all the great comments.

Lilliana - no, we didn't see the sunset on Lake Michigan this time. We ate supper at the Thirsty Perch in South Haven, and the sun set while we were eating :(

Chandra - in my book, anything over 85 degrees is hot. You folks down there are the kings of heat! Keep cool!