Firearm deer hunting season begins today in Michigan. On average, around 50,000 hunters will descend upon Michigan looking to bag a deer. A few of the hunters may be on the twitchy side – Not an ideal time to go mountain bike riding.
A few years ago, my buddy, The Joe Holmes (Yes…”The”) and I, decided that we should ride the Potawatomi trail despite being deer season. Probably a bad idea but certainly not our first. We also miscalculated our timing and found ourselves finishing the trail after dark, without lights. Luckily, we had some moonlight to guide us. Still, the Potawatomi is a challenging single track with roots, rocks, sugar sand, and mud. Fun stuff, even more fun after dark.
We set off in the late afternoon, not really thinking about sunset. As we rode the trail, we noticed several hunters. They noticed us too and we didn’t exactly feel welcome. Maybe we should have been wearing blaze orange? Maybe we shouldn’t have had them funny looking handlebars with bar ends that a twitchy buck fever infected hunter might mistake for antlers? Well it was a bit late for fixing that.
Hunting deer after dark is illegal so we found comfort riding after dark. That is until a few rifle shots rang out nearby. Poachers – SHIT! Well that stirred up the adrenaline and our pace quickened as much as our heart rate. To make things worse, Joe’s night vision isn’t one of his strengths and he resorted to riding close to my wheel and following the blur in the dark that was me. For the record, Joe is a strong rider and drafting me isn’t the norm. Of course, Joe was challenged to see the trail obstacles so every so often you could hear a few expletives.
Overall, we rode about 6 or 7 miles in darkness. When we arrived back at the trailhead, we were relieved as much as we were laughing at our stupidity and ourselves. I recall mentioning to Joe that my very first ride at the Pottawatomi had also finished after dark and without lights. Some things never change.