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Expanding my mental map of the area by exploring a little bit of two-track in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. (Contributed photo by Joel Austin)

I’ve been riding the gravel/sand roads of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest for about a decade now. When I first started riding them I, of course, had pretty much no clue where I was at any given point in the ride and was checking the map at every intersection. All roads were (and still are) gravel/sand and in the woods (barring FR 236) and to top it off the road names are soulless numbers and as such, all but impossible to remember. Even though I still have no clue about the road names/numbers, I rarely look at the map, knowing curves, terrain and the shapes of intersections. You know that sixth sense everyone gets about things with which you are intimately familiar? I have it now with my home roads and trails.

Sunday I was out for a ride on a familiar route and passed an unmarked two-track wandering off into the trees. I was about to ride on by but it looked as if it might just wander in the direction I wanted to go. The road I was on was a known quantity — if I stayed on it I knew exactly where I was — but if I took the two-track I would expand my mental map of the CNNF and maybe find a shortcut. I turned off the main road and into the trees. Turned out to be logging roads ending in unrideable skidder trails. I expanded my mental map — I now know that this particular road does not provide a shortcut but is a pleasant ride through the woods.

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