Da Yooper’s Weekend
By John Bunker, December 2005
As most stories start at the beginning, this one starts about 1969, when my brother and I got our first motorcycles. We were 14 years old and thought of nothing but them. Well, maybe a girl or two, but mostly bikes. Mine was a SL90 and bro’s was a CT90, and for those who are too young to know they were Hondas. The thrill of riding them through deep sand, down cow trails, or up and down the hills around home in mid Michigan was enough to keep a couple of young boys out of their parents’ hair and started us on an adventure to last a lifetime. We are now nearing 52 years old and still ride motorcycles, and the most fun still for me is just for the two of us to go out riding.
We both went to MTU back in the 70’s and brought our Huskys to school with us to ride the ski trails. We told our folks it will help us with our studies (Ha). We even tried a few events at the South Range MX track, but with only dirt bikes all of those back roads up there were off limits to us. We tried not to get into to much trouble with the law so far from home. But all of this fun only lasted a short time before they threw us out of their fine institution, go figure.
About two years ago my brother Jerry and I rode a CCC Adventure Trek near L’Anse in the western UP and had a very good and fun time. Then last year my wife and I rode another CCC Adventure Trek in the Keweenaw Peninsula and this about killed me because Jerry couldn’t make it, when no one was looking I did a small wheelie on top of Brockway Mountain Drive just for him. Anyway since then we both been planning a return trip to the UP but we didn’t really want to ride the CCC U.P. Safari, we wanted to add a little more adventure to it so we decided to try our hand at riding around the Marquette and Huron Mountains area with a compass, a GPS and our own home made routes. This is some of the most isolated land in the State of Michigan, with what seems like endless dirt roads and snowmobile trails, just a great place for dual sport riding. So what follows is a short journal of our weekend ride. For those who use Garmin’s “MapSource” (most do), the tracks that we laid down and the pictures might tell a better story. [File will work with most GPS programs – ED]
We arrived in Marquette about 6:00pm Wednesday night the 24th of August, and set up camp in the Tourist Park Campground. Thursday morning we rode up Forestville Rd. to Harlow Lake. This was near our old cross country ski trails, and a very nice road. (Note: this part is not on Thursday tracks, like a dummy I forgot to turn on tracking). From there we tried to ride north up to Big Bay staying just east of CR550 when possible on back roads but found a lot of private land with gated closed roads, I do not recommend you try this portion of the route. We did make it up to the Light House at Big Bay Point, beautiful weather, sunny and 80 degrees.
Then we rode down CR510 (a wide two lane dirt road) and found the old lookout tower near the hairpin corner. It was more like we stumbled upon it, we were looking for a tower but the only thing left is it’s foundation.
We then made a little loop around the Yellow Dog River and back to the 510. Got turned around (lost) a few times doing this, Jerry says, “My GPS says this is a road” and he kept riding forward, but they were more like an enduro trail at times. Finally after riding across the river, (DNR don’t read that), we found some dual sport roads and went back to the village of Big Bay for lunch and gas. After lunch we found the Northwestern Rd. a nice twisty, rocky, but fast road off of the Triple A and rode it west through Dodge City then to Big Erick’s Bridge to look at the falls on the Huron River. At the falls we met an older gentleman riding alone on a 1970 something BMW.
He was from Grand Rapids; his bike didn’t have a windshield or saddlebags, just a roll on the back of his seat, a true “Then Came Bronson”. He said he’s been coming to the U.P. doing this for years. After some pictures of the falls we left and looked for and found Bald Mountain and climbed it to the top, on foot of course.
At the top it has a very nice view of the western end of the Huron Mountains and Lake Superior.
From here we rode back to 510 by way of Triple A, then 510 back to Marquette. Our first day of riding and we’re like kids again, I think we rode the most miles of the weekend today.
From Marquette we again rode up Forestville Rd. to 550 and then to Wilson Creek Truck Trail (another nice road) then to 510. We rode the Triple A to its end then found some nice back roads around the Mt. Arvon area and to the Slate River. The road was posted Private to the falls so we rode around it to the Huron Trading Post for some gas and lunch.
Afterwards we rode up to the village of Skanee then to the mouth of the Huron River where we were attacked by biting flies. We stripped down to our riding shorts and jumped into Lake Superior, cold but at least no bugs.
After putting up with the flies while getting dressed we rode the Northwestern (this one is not to be missed!) at race speed back to Triple A, then snowmobile trails to Big Bay where we checked out another campground (Perkins) for a future stay. At this point we were getting tired so we rode all the way back down CR550, a paved road to Harlow Lake then Forestville Rd to Marquette. Another long but fun day in da UP.
It rained Friday night and was cooler on Saturday Morning. We rode up and met another rider near Big Bay and then rode with him around Silver Lake and the Dead River Basin to see the damage from the floods caused by a broken dam a few years ago.
Sure was scary to see all the power and destruction that water can do. We got turned around a little in this area but hey, that is part of the fun. We then jumped onto a snowmobile trail, which turned out to be loads of fun, and found ourselves back in Big Bay for grub and gas. We then rode upBlind 35 to its end, this is the road that Ford, (Henry) is said to have the state of Michigan stopped building so he could be accepted into the Huron Mountain Club. (A little bit of history)
Rain again on Saturday night with temps right around 50 on Sunday Morning. We starting the day by riding US41 west up to CR510 then north to Red Rd. then headed west again. We again got turned around by Aao and Aah Roads but found our way to Dishno Rd. which I really wanted to check out. Dishno Rd. runs east and west near the village of Champion and one of my favorite author Cully Gage, (Dr. Charles Van Riper) wrote a lot about this area in his many short stories in “The Northwoods Reader”. This is also another road that I highly recommend you don’t miss, as Jeramey would say, “Fun Fun Fun”.
Dishno Rd. ends at Peshekee Rd. which we rode north up to Celotex Rd. but found it was gated closed less with a mile from it’s intersection with Peshekee.
From here we rode Peshekee back south to a two track just south of Lake Arfelin in hopes of finding some back roads around Craig and Crooked Lakes. No such luck, one old logging road ended in the woods and another was gated closed, damn those rich people. Gas was getting low on Jerry’s bike so we headed back north to L’Anse by back roads.
After gas and grub in town, Jerry gets the bright idea of re-riding our path back to 510 and Marquette but leaving out all the u-turns and dead ends so we can have a clean track to keep, this worked out great following his GPS tracks, it was just like riding one of those GLDS events. Also on our way back to Marquette we followed two wolves running down a two track, I can’t think of a better way to top off our weekend vacation.
Jerry and I have wanted to do this trip for almost two years, and finally found the time to get away, but after 650 miles of back roads and two sore butts we had enough, so by 10:30 Monday morning we were leaving town and heading home. I’ll have to say this was the most fun I’ve ever had riding my dual sport bike. Doing GLDS events, when I can find time to ride them are loads of fun, but riding in the UP and doing it some what like blind fools that Bro and I did seems much more of an adventure. Though we rode for four days, from 9:00 to 7:30 every day, I know we only tapped into a small portion of the available two tracks and snowmobile trails in the area, all the more reason to come back. Marquette is also very special to us, our mother was bore and raised here, and we spent a lot of time in and around Marquette on vacations as kids so it was just like going home again.
In closing I have to give a lot of credit to Jeramey and crew for setting up all of the dual sport events they put on. I tried to map out this trip on my computer at home before we left, but it seemed like a lot of my routes could not be followed once we were up there, it’s not as easy as it looks. Thanks again Jeramey for all the hard work that you do.
See you on the trail,