After the annual Michigan Cup Committee meeting on Higgins Lake, members of the Cross Country Ski Headquarters team invited me to a rollerski outing starting at the Grayling, Michigan High School. We skied 3.9 miles out the Grayling Bicycle Turnpike to Hartwick Pines State Park, then a subgroup said, "Let's go into the park". We had a great little ski, and I went back a couple days later to take pictures and do some classic rollerski intervals.
I drove all the roads in the park. The only decent road for rollerksiing is the main road through the park, State Park Drive. It's the road you enter on: simply keep on going straight once you pass the ranger shack. The other roads either had lots of gravel on the road surface or had a long downhill ending at a stop sign.
The map below shows the route. You enter the park at the bottom left of the map. I drove straight through the park, following the red line, and parked in the lot to the right on the map (the white oval). "Top" indicates the highest point on the route. The red line indicates the best surface for rollerskiing, and the section on which I did intervals. (The parking lot also has great pavement, and you can add some distance by looping through it).
From the beginning of the red line on the left to the top of the hill is roughly 0.8 miles. From the top down to the entrance of the parking lot, about 0.6 miles.
The vertical profile below follows the route from the left of the map, up over the hill, and down to the parking area on the right. The profile is rough - my Polar RS800 heart rate monitor is not known for accurate altitudes. The climbs could actually be a little higher...or a little lower. But the overall profile is correct. For example, notice the climb out of the parking lot (from the right, going left on the profile) peaks at one point, drops a little, the climbs a little bit more - this is correct:
It took me a little less than 5 minutes to climb from the left to the top while doing classic intervals; and about 4 minutes to climb from the parking lot on the right to the top.
The group of use skied mid-afternoon on a Sunday, and I skied alone around lunch time on a Tuesday. There were occasional cars on the road, but they were courteous and driving slowly. A park ranger gave a friendly wave from his truck. The road surface is quite good, but watch for the occasional rock.
Here's detailed pictures of the route...
From the park entrance to the back parking lot
As I said earlier, you can rollerski all the way out from Grayling on a bike path if you want extra distance. The path ends at the park entrance. The pavement leading into the park is rough and not enjoyable for rollerskiing. This section of pavement is not indicative of the quality of the pavement once you're within. You need to pass the ranger shack before the pavement gets better (ou can just see a car at the ranger shack in the photo below):
Once pass the ranger shack (you do need to pay a state park entrance fee if you're driving in), the pavement is still rough until you pass the first intersection. After the intersection, the pavement gets nice and smooth:
As you can tell from the profile, the road climbs almost imperceptibly. It looks flat, but it's not:
Around a couple curves, and the road flattens just for a moment, but then kicks up again at a wooden fences that parallels both sides of the road:
We're definitely starting to climb a bit:
And as we go around a corner, the road steepens substantially. I had been kick-doublepoling through most of the previous section during my intervals. I changed to diagonal stride to climb this steep section:
Over the top...
...and we start down the other side. We actually go down, then up a little, then continue on down:
Down, down, down...
Still down, down, down....
Finally we hit the parking lot:
The return trip: Parking lot to the guard shack
We'll have fewer pictures for the return trip. Right out of the parking lot, the road is flat for a short section before it curves to the left and starts climbing:
The climb is fairly shallow. I kick-doublepoled all of it. Around the corner below and the road steepens a bit. I still kick-doublepoled:
Now we've reached the first "peak". The road drops a short distance then climbs to the high point:
Once over the top, the road drops quickly. This was the section where I diagonal strided going in the other direction. Don't worry, the road is not that steep, and you can easily ski down it.
By the time you reach the wooden fence, the pitch has lessened. It's a very shallow drop all the way to the intersection, and you'll need to actually double pole, kick-doublepole, or skate to get there:
Overall, a very nice, if short, road to ski. If doing a distance ski, use the Grayling Bicycle Turnpike to Hartwick Pines State Park to add miles. If doing intervals, park at the far parking lot in Hartwick Pines, do an easy ski back to the intersection to warm up, then start your intervals as you head back toward the parking lot.