Bicycle Camping on the Rock Island Trail

Last weekend, Derrick, Dave and myself finally got together for a guys-only winter camping trip. It was my first tent-camping trip in a couple of years and the first guy time I’d had in quite some time. In the days preceding the trip, we decided to do a sort-of double trip. We planned to camp from our bicycles on Friday night and head to Jubilee for Saturday.

On Friday night, we met up at the Alta trailhead for the Rock Island Trail. We got reacquainted, shuffled around some gear, and loaded up into my pickup to head to our starting point north of Princeville, leaving Derrick’s truck in Alta. When we got there we set up the bikes and loaded the trailers with our gear. We didn’t all have lightweight backpacking gear, so Derrick and I pulled toddler trailers full of gear. Dave strapped some firewood to his bike rack and carried a backpack.

We’d initially planned to get started on the trail around 4 or 5pm, but due to some unforeseen circumstances we didn’t set out until about 10:30pm. Oh well 🙂 The temperature was around 40 degrees and it was misting slightly for most of our journey. Unfortunately the hard pack trail was a little soft and made the going a little tough. We took our time (mostly because we weren’t all in stellar shape), stopped fairly frequently and headed through Princeville and Dunlap. About 8 miles in, we were making pretty slow progress. It was about 12:30am and I was having a hard time keeping up, being up way past my bedtime and in awful shape. I usually ride a recumbent, so I was also experiencing the joys that mountain bike seats provide! Derrick lashed my trailer up in tandem with his (each of which weighed probably 50-60 lbs). Obviously in better shape than us, Derrick easily pulled the 6 wheeled monstrosity and we made great time finishing the last three miles.

We pulled in to the Kickapoo Creek Recreation Area around 1:30am It’s a nice little campground accessible only from the Rock Island Trail, and since it was winter it was all ours. We rested for a while at the picnic shelter, set up the tent, sat by the campfire and had a snack. Around 4am we turned in for the night. The temperature was pleasant and I for one slept very well.

In the morning, we packed up camp and looked for a geocache in the campground. We finished the ride back to Alta, picking up another cache on the way. At the end, Dave waited with the bikes while Derrick and I took his truck back up to the top of the trail to retrieve my truck. We loaded up, grabbed some lunch, and headed out to Jubilee.

At Jubilee, there were a number of hunters at camp, but still plenty of room to breathe. We set up camp and started a hike. We picked up three geocaches and made our way back to camp as the sun started to set. After a mighty meal of bratwursts and chips, we settled in around the campfire to relax. As we turned in for the night, the temperature had dropped to around freezing and was rather humid, so we left the door flap partially open. Apparently Dave got cold in the night, so he shut the flap in the middle of the night, resulting a very crunchy tent in the morning. The condensation made the entire outside (and most of the inside) of the tent covered in frost.

On Sunday morning, we broke camp early and went our separate ways. Dave and I were home before 9:30am. I had to travel on business in the afternoon, so it was good to have some time at home before then. I was bummed it was over, though. It was nice to have a little time to be a “guy” again, at least as much of a guy as I ever was, anyway.

Oh yeah, a little epilogue: when I got home, I set out my stuff to dry. I put the tent up in the back yard and staked it down. When I returned from my business trip 4 days later, I thanked my wife for taking the tent down. When she didn’t know what I was talking about, I searched the neighborhood. Despite the stakes and my 6ft privacy fence, my tent traveled about a block and became firmly lodged in the thick woods at the edge of the neighborhood. One pole was broken and I’m assuming the tent itself is a little messed up from the thorns. Oh well, the tent served me well, but new gear is fun too!

For photos of the trip, see the photos page.

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