Archive for October, 2012

Scootering vs. Backpacking

Thursday, 25th October 2012; 4:59 pm

When I went on my first road trip in 2009, the main thing I needed to figure out was how to adapt my previous backpacking experience to traveling by scooter. I’d be traveling light, and staying at state park campgrounds, so a fair amount of the gear and preparation were the same: tent, sleeping bag, weather preparedness, etc. But there were some important differences.

A major consideration for backpacking is food. On my last expedition in 2006, when I spent over a week in the wilderness, about half of my pack weight (when I started) was food. But on a road trip, it’s almost a non-issue: you can stop almost anywhere and order a hot meal, or to buy some granola bars for breakfast. Equally important when backpacking was water, which I had to hand-pump and filter from lakes and streams. That’s easily replenished on the road. By comparison to wilderness backpacking, scooterpacking is a breeze.

But on this trip, I’m doing both. And that poses new challenges. For the two days I’ll be on Isle Royale, I’ll need to be in backpack mode. But I’ll be on the road for five days before I get there, and during that time, in addition to scooter mode, I need to carry gear and provisions for the other.

So, for backpacking, I’ll need a couple days’ food. I have a few freeze-dried meals left over (good thing those don’t go bad), so I can pack those for my dinners. But… how to prepare them? I have a small camp stove that I can bring, but… do I need it? Freeze-dried meals can be prepared with cold water, they just turn out better (and more quickly) if it’s hot. Same with oatmeal (my standard trail breakfast). Or I could just bring granola bars for breakfasts (which I could pick up in Copper Harbor). Because I’m only going for a couple days, I can bring simple semi-perishable stuff like fruit or bagels for lunch, and get those in Copper Harbor as well.

A similar calculus applies to water. If I were only going to the island for one day, I’d simply fill a couple bottles with tap water and be done it. But for two days… I probably need to bring the water filter/pump. Neither the pump nor the stove is particularly large, but my current scooter-packing system doesn’t have any open spaces left for them to go into. And I’m sure there will be other items that I’ll want for hiking, that I’ll need to find a place for. Something tells me I’m going to have to lash more stuff to the rear rack.

So, assuming I get everything I need up to Copper Harbor, what then? I don’t wear a backpack on the scooter, because it just isn’t a good way to carry gear on a motorbike. Instead everything goes under the seat, on the rear rack, or in the shoulder bag that sits on the seat behind me. So how do I carry the tent, sleeping bag, clothes, food, cooking gear, etc. on the trail? I can leave most of the clothes and the riding gear with the scooter on the mainland. I’ll probably have to bring a small daypack to carry the rest, and strap that to the rear rack the rest of the time.

I don’t think any of these are insurmountable challenges. But unlike the last few rides, where all I needed to do to prepare was to pull out the same packing list I’d used before and do the same thing again with minor changes, this one is going to take some re-thinking, and some test-packing ahead of time.

Planning 2013

Friday, 12th October 2012; 4:14 pm

Is it too early to start planning next summer’s ride? I hope not.

As you can see from the helpful map on the main page here, I am only 8 counties away from my neurotic goal of visiting every county in Michigan. The 8 farthest counties, at the west end up the Upper Peninsula. Also some of the least populated ones.

I’ve tentatively mapped out an itinerary:

  1. From Grand Rapids to Ludington State Park on Lake Michigan.
  2. Take the S.S. Badger to Manitowoc WI, then ride to J.W. Wells SP near the southernmost tip of the UP.
  3. Northwestward to Bewabic SP.
  4. Northwestwarder to Porcupine Mountains SP, near the western tip of the UP.
  5. Northeastward to Fort Wilkins SP (Copper Harbor) at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula sticking into Lake Superior.
  6. Leave the scooter(!), take the Isle Royale Queen to the island, and hike to a camp site.
  7. Hike on Isle Royale. Camp again.
  8. Hike back to port, then ferry back to Copper Harbor/Fort Wilkins.
  9. Ride to Van Riper State Park in Marquette County (mission accomplished).
  10. South to Manitowoc, and onto the ferry overnight.
  11. Ride home.

The riding days (except the next-to-last) are all about 100-140 miles, which is standard for these trips.

Days 6-8 are a “necessary” diversion from the scootering; I’m not going all the way to Copper Harbor but then skipping my favoritest national park. Isle Royale is wilderness, and I don’t plan to bring proper backpacking gear, but I think I can handle a couple days and nights by taking the tent and sleeping bag off the scooter rack and carrying them (somehow) along with a couple days’ food. Back in ’06 I spent a whole 10 days alone on the island; I think I’m qualified to “wing it” for 48 hours.

Even without the detour to Isle Royale, this would be my longest ride yet: 10 nights on the road. But just getting to the territory I haven’t been to yet (or back) is a 1.5-day journey by itself, so there’s no getting around that. And like I said: the side trip is something I’m just not going to skip. I could cut it short by a day, but… I don’t want to. My coworkers will just have to get by without me for 11 days.