It's a new year and time once again to give a new look to this blog. New graphics and colors. Same bike writer!

This blog is created not only to track my own progress on my biking journey but it is intended to also assist others who have either osteo or rheumatoid arthritis or both like I do. I hope as you read about the progress I have made that it gives you inspiration and hope that you can overcome the dibilitating effects of these conditions.

If your doctor agrees that you should be capable of expanding your limits read on and don't be afraid, just listen to your body and give it challenges. Biking is a great non-impact form of exercise and greatly enhances flexibility and range of motion.

It's not a substitute for Doctor visits, taking your meds or otherwise getting off your health plan but it auguments what your Doctor does for you and can give you a better quality of life. Go for it!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Polly Ann Trail - Lake Orion to Oxford Lake

On Saturday I explored yet another new trail the Polly Ann Trail in north eastern Oakland County.  This felt like a real adventure and getting lost is a requisite part of any exploring venture.  Getting there was a hike and took about an hour and a half drive.  My first stop was at a County Park Dog Park which was near the south western end of the trail.  When I found out there was a $5 parking fee I moved across the street to an Elementary school with a large vacant lot and parked free.  I couldn't help but notice two different signs posted in the County Park referencing the Massasauga Rattlers and being aware of them in the vicinity.  That got my attention!  I spent the day on the trail avoiding sticks and twigs lest they be snakes in disguise and I'm not normally afraid of snakes, but these sounded particularly nasty.

Finding the trail proved to be a bigger problem than I had anticipated, I thought that a trail that connected so many communities would be well marked.  Once on the trail the signage was great, particularly as I headed north east.  There were signs indicating mileage and at cross roads there were directional signage for restrooms, phones, food and snacks which is all helpful information to know if you are from out of town and unfamiliar with the community.  I found the trail and in a half mile was greeted with a welcome sign

and the trail turned from paved to a crushed aggregate material.  It was packed down pretty good, a bit softer and squishier than pavement, of course, but perfectly navigable for me and my bike.  The biggest thing I noticed right off was that it was not quiet as my tires made crunching noises compared to the silence of pavement.  That was not a problem but what was a problem was the second two way choice.  At the first dead end there was a little small sign that indicated turning to the right for the Polly Ann Trail and that was cool.  About another half mile up the path produced a choice to the left or right.  I choose right and it was wrong.  If there had been a sign, I missed it. I found myself on suburban sidewalks in a lakeside community, I kept it up for a bit over a mile and couldn't find a sign of the trail anywhere.  I saw another bicyclists coming toward me and asked about the trail.  Lucky me,  he was going that way and said "follow me."  It was a good thing or I'd never have found it.   I'd turned the map my ride app on my phone and while it's busy recording my route I can't access the GPS mapping functions on the phone without cancelling the ride.  The rider was a faster rider than I am but he stopped along the way for me to catch up a turning points.  We traveled along the lake and two different golf courses across the street from one another and then, voila!  The trail appeared again!  We chatted for a moment, he indicated that my hybrid mountain/cruiser bike would be fine for the trail conditions at least up till Boardman Road and he also said that from his home the ride was 30 miles round trip.  I  stopped to snap some photos and he took off on his ride.    From reading up about the trail, north of Boardman Road the trail becomes rougher and suitable for hiking, horses and rough mountain biking.

The trail passed through open fields, wetlands, lowlands, marshes, lakes, neighborhoods and wooded sections.  I passed many lakes and streams and at times water flowed alongside, in fact the trail was seldom without water in some form or another alongside it, hence the caution about rattlers.  The trail passed through many small communities, villages and burgs.  There didn't seem to be a stretch over 5 miles that you couldn't get something to eat or drink.  About 8 miles in I stopped at a curious thing I'd never seen on a trail before, a stepped platform next to some benches.  At first I thought it was a podium left over from some grand opening or dedication ceremony.

It was a moment before I realized what this was, I was on a trail that is open to equestrian users also and this was a mounting platform and the other strange wood structures were hitching posts.  Duh.  I only came across other bicyclists or walkers and in one place a county worker mowing.  The grass was cut in a 3-4 foot swath on each side of the trail which made it nice and easier to spot a snake if there was one!  I can say for certain that I did not venture off the trail like I normally would have.

One of the last features I came upon before turning and heading back was a gravel pit and lake across the street from it.  Even without the signage of the sand and gravel business I would have recognized it by the typical blue-green color of the water.  When the topsoil, marl layer is stripped away and the gravel is mined out what get's left behind is the layer of clay which many companies use for making cement, with a clay bottom and no marl the lake reflects back the blue-green color and the waters are typically very clear because there is no sediment to cloud it or get stirred up from rains.  The gravel pit was over a mile and a half long with the plant operations at the north eastern end.  The colors don't come through as good in these photos but the water was beautiful.

I'm not sure what these concrete blocks were or why they were left
except that they were probably too heavy to move without a good
reason. They were in one area only and there were about a dozen
of them.
 Right across the street from here was Oxford Lake and another small community where you could get food and drink.  Just north of here I made my turnabout and headed back.  I might have gone further but I had a late start to my day and getting lost killed time for me.  So, I'll have to return to explore the whole trail another day!

On my next trip I'd leave off the first 3-4 miles and start further up the trail and not deal with the broken up pieces in the south western section, just get on the trail proper and head out to the end of the navigable portions.  I noticed that signage leading to the trail was better further up too.  For information about the trail visit this link  and for a link to my route at map my ride click here.  One thing of importance to note for cyclists is that Oakland County is serious about walk and bike ability for their roadways.  Every major roadway I was on in the area had adjacent paved paths or sidewalks, which is is not typical in semi-rural or large sub-urban areas.  There were vast distances between neighborhoods with miles of paved trails.  Kudos to Oakland County!   

Happy Trails!

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