To Hell and Back. A bit of a double entendre there.
For a die hard Ohio State fan (as I am) the Potawatomi Trail presents a challenge. First of all, it’s in Michigan. And it’s a great, no, a fantastic trail. So how do you reconcile giving a glowing review to something on the soveriegn soil of your arch enemy? You can’t, and it hurts. That’s the first part of the double entendre.
The second part is that the Potawatomi (nicknamed the “Poto”) is actually near Hell, and no I’m not talking about Ann Arbor. Hell, Michigan, sits just off the Poto, literally (just check out this trail map and see for yourself). Hell sits just down Patterson Lake Road, just past a trail junction.
The Poto sits in the Pinckney State Recreation Area just north of Ann Arbor in Washtenaw County. So while it can be said that Ann Arbor is not, in fact, Hell, you can see it from there.
The Poto is a great trail, and garners Strackacobra’s top honor, The Shit-Ton-of-Fun Award. It’s a 19-mile roller coaster of dirt where you can gain lots of speed on the descents, carry lots of momentum into the ups, and where you never have to worry too much about having too much speed for the corners.
Like Racoon Mountain in Chattanooga, the Poto almost seems built for racing. Once you’ve been on it for a few miles and learn what to expect you can really let loose. But where Racoon Mountain has expert-level technical sections, the Poto is a fairly non-technical trail that even an intermediate rider can bomb on. There are some off-camber drops and some rooty, lung-buster climbs, but nothing that is unmanageable. Experts will find joy by finding out just how much speed you can carry into the corners.
The Poto does have a few negatives. There are sand pits at the bottom of the drops, especially in the last 8 miles. On the day I rode in late September trail conditions were nearly perfect, so the pits were manageable, but on rides in previous years when it was really hot and dry (and the sand loose and soft), getting through the sand was a real chore. Also, on some of the climbs there are some very tricky root step-ups. But after you’ve been caught out of position once or twice, you begin to anticipate them and look for the lines early.
The other negative is that while the trail is very well marked on the map, it isn’t very well marked on the ground. For example, you will get to marker five and it will direct you to marker four, but not to marker six (which is the way you want to go for a longer ride). So I had to stop a few times at trail junctions just to make sure I was going in the right direction. There’s an especially tricky one where you pop out onto a fire road near Gosling Lake (just keep following the fire road because there’s no markers).
To get to the Poto you take U.S. 23 a few miles north of Ann Arbor, Michigan, exit at North Territorial Road and head west for a few miles. Then turn north at Dexter Townhall Road, and then turn left at the sign for beach parking. A day pass costs $8 per car. The trailhead is just off the beach parking lot.
Eats in Ann Arbor.
Krazy Jims Blimpy Burger (551 S. Division St., just north of Packard) in Ann Arbor has a reputation as one of the best burgers in America.
It was a very good burger and not too expensive either. They are sold as doubles on up, but the doubles are actually pretty small so if you’ve got an appetite, order the triple. The onion rings came highly recommended but they weren’t anything special.
The restaurant is a tiny place in a residential block just off the UM campus, and it can be difficult to spot.
If you like the Krazy Jim burger I would recommend two other places in the region. Wilson’s, at 600 Main Street in downtown Findlay, Ohio (just off I-75), and Kewpee at 1350 Bellfontaine in Lima, Ohio (also just off I-75). Kewpee is the best by far.