Kal-Haven Rail Trail Bike Overnight

80 mile 2 day Solo trip to Kal-Haven Rail Trail out to Lake Michigan and back. The Kal-Haven Trail  traverses wooded areas, farmland and small towns and is primarily used by bicyclists in the summer. The trail is fine gravel surfaced, and some parts are blacktopped.

When: July, 2015

Bicycle Adventurers: Solo trip

AccomodationsVan Buren State Park campground

Distance: 80 miles in 2 days

Bonus tip for this adventure: Careful at the road crossings along the trail. In this part of Michigan, even the dirt roads can have fast moving cars on them. Stop and look at all crossings!

Day One:

After completing two supported Adventure Cycling tours, I thought I would give a self-supported trip a try. I was west-bound for the Independence Day weekend to visit family, so I left a couple days early to bike the Kal-Haven rail trail from start to finish and back again. I parked at the state park trail head on the west side of Kalamazoo where the rail trail meets the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail. Since it's an unpaved, crushed limestone trail, I took my touring bike (trusty Trek 520) with 38 mm hybrid tires on it. Heading west from Kalamazoo, the trail is downhill for the first 5 miles then flattens out for most of the rest of the trip into South Haven. I stopped about 15 miles in to have lunch at a trail head in Bloomingdale. There weren't too many cities along the path, in fact, Bloomingdale is the only one you pass right through. Even so, there are picnic benches, water pumps, and outhouses along the way maintained for the trail. The scenery of the trail is mostly wooded (shade!) with some uncovered stretches through farmland areas. After the 33 miles of rail trail, I finally emerged at the trail head in South Haven, MI. I considered stopping for coffee or a snack, but decided to head straight to Van Buren State park, 6 miles south of town, where I had a camping reservation and beach access. After setting up camp, I took a quick trip to the beach where the unseasonably cold weather had me freezing after about an hour. I went back to camp, showered, and ate the dinner I had brought along (summer sausage, cheese, and red wine). I spent the rest of the evening polishing off the mini box of wine and reading in my MacGyver-ed up hammock (only one tree..) before calling it a night.

Day Two:

On the second day, I got up to stretch my legs and eat a small granola bar for breakfast. As appetizing as that was, my campsite neighbors stopped by with an extra plate of pancakes and sausage so I got to have a real breakfast thanks to the kindness of others (something I find is not lacking whilst touring). Soon after, I packed up, left camp and went into South Haven for a coffee. After enjoying my morning caffeine in the busy cafe, I rode back over to the South Haven trail head to get back on the rail trail. A little over halfway through, I stopped at a picnic table to eat "lunch" (cheez-its and chocolate covered blueberries) and quickly got back on the bike to avoid getting eaten alive by the mosquitoes that seem to be particularly bad this year. Soon enough I reached those last 5 uphill miles that would take me into Kalamzoo and back to the car. Fortunately the grade was only 1-2% and I was motivated to finish, so it wasn't bad at all. Before I knew it, I was back at the trail head! I packed the car, cleaned myself up, and headed off to Bell's Brewery for a celebratory beer in recognition of my first solo bike "tour".

Your favorite local bike shop?

While no where near this trail, I get my 520 serviced at my local Trek dealer, Wheels in Motion, in Ann Arbor. Service department is always great and they have an excellent selection of bikes and accessories. http://wheelsinmotion.us/

 

HOW ABOUT YOU? Inspire others by submitting your bike overnight adventure!

3 responses so far ↓

Shawn - Jul 27, 2015 at 5:28 PM

I want to get into some solo trips and this sounds like a great start. I have ridden Kal-Haven before on my regular touring bike. Had to be a bit careful and aware but wasn't a problem.

Brandon - Aug 24, 2015 at 4:31 PM

map? is there a reason there's no map?

Linda - Nov 11, 2015 at 6:44 PM

There is a little restaurant in Grand Junction, 10 miles east of South Haven. It is open from 7A to 2P and serves breakfast till it closes. A friend said the breakfast was good. Plan on stopping there next time I ride the trail.

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