Spring cuts like a double-bit axe when it arrives in CAMBA Country. On the one hand, it brings the promise of warmth, ephemeral wild flowers and verdant forests. But it also signals the demise of groomed fat bike trails more than a month before we can ride the dirt mountain bike trails because they are still too wet. So it is with mixed emotions that I make the call to officially close all CAMBA trails until at least May 15th.
That date comes from a Sawyer County ordinance that requires all trails to be closed between April 1st and May 15th:
760 ROAD AND TRAIL CLOSURES
760.1 Seasonal Closure
Forest roads and trails will be closed to all vehicles (motorized and nonmotorized) from April 1st to May 15th each year. The Forest Administrator has the authority to open or close trails and to extend or shorten the closure period. (A common goal of surrounding counties and state ownership is to develop a uniform closure period for the area for the benefit of tourism and trail users. Every attempt will be made to enact closures that are consistent and acceptable to municipalities in the surrounding areas).
CAMBA is working on getting new blue “Trail Closed” signs made to put up at major trailheads. But with 130 + miles of trails and dozens of intersections, we won’t be able to get them everywhere.
On March 11th, the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest closed all their trails used by motorized vehicles, bicycles and horses to protect the ground during the spring thaw. Hiking trails in the national forest will remain open, and the closed national forest trails might reopen to all users as early as May 1st if things dry out enough.
“Melting snow coupled with spring rain makes for wet ground that’s vulnerable to damage,” said Susan Jenkins, acting wilderness and lands program manager for the forest. “We need to keep heavier traffic off the trails until they’re dry and ready for summer recreation.”
That is very true on CAMBA’s mountain bike trails. The freeze/thaw cycle keeps the top dirt wet and muddy. Riding on those trails will cause ruts that our volunteer trail stewards do not want to have to fix and would be very expensive and time-consuming for our paid LTE trail crew to repair. Please respect the closure until we announce the trails are open again.
The good side of the labrys of spring is that the hundreds of miles of gravel forest roads remain open. Recently entirely covered with snow and ice, everything is melting quickly. There are still some roads that are fully shaded and remain very icy, and some are super wet and soft, so I am still riding my fat bike with studded tires. I expect to get back on my Milwaukee Bicycle Company 29er soon, but I plan to run studded tires on that for a bit yet as well.
The snow and ice on the wider forest roads that run north and south tend to melt the fastest because they get more sun. Narrower tree-covered roads and those that run east and west will hold snow and ice longer. Some are very icy right now, so as I mentioned, I am running fat studded tires on my gravel rides.
If you are coming to visit and want to ride the gravel roads, CAMBA has maps of some suggested routes available. You can purchase that map at area bike shops or on our online store, or download the PDF on the Gravel Information page of our website here.
The video below includes a clip a minute or so in of my dog Cowboy and me riding some gravel roads in Seeley, so you can see how the north-south firelane we are on is mostly clear, but as soon as we turn west onto a narrower road it is all snow and ice.
One last tip, I have a removable fender on the back of my fatbike to keep mud and water from spraying on my back. The gravel is very wet, there are lots of puddles, and without a fender, your but will definitely get soaked.
Keep an eye on our website for updates on gravel road conditions. I’ll be publishing some more photos of specific routes, points of interest along the routes worth hopping off your bike to check out, and some information on what equipment I’m riding. I will also have some more information about the Tour de Chequamegon and bikepacking in CAMBA Country. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comment section below.
Thanks for respecting our trails, and I hope you get to enjoy riding some of our endless gravel through the big woods this shoulder season.