Sunday, June 13, 2010

Superior Times...

The past few weekends have been spent in Northern MN, which is the part of MN that keeps me from going nuts after leaving UT three years ago. I really do enjoy the Lake Superior Region. The first weekend marked Alison’s first loaded touring ride. We started in Willow River, MN, and road to Jay Cooke State Park on the Willard Munger state trail. I tried to pick an overnighter that wouldn’t be too difficult, and this trip worked out very well. The route was almost entirely on non-motorized trail, the weather was nice aside from a steady headwind the second day (but that’s touring; can’t pick your routes on wind each day), we had a great place to spend the night (with showers), and were able to relax quite a bit in between hours in the saddle. The mileage was a laid back 80 mile total over the two days. It was a good way to get a taste of touring without needing a lot of time. But as always it made me want to pitch all my responsibilities and take six months off for a mega-tour. Someday. Not sure when. I seem to have landed in a teaching position that does not have summers off. Hmm.

The second weekend (Memorial Day Weekend) was spent day hiking, lounging, and eating (a bit much) up on the North Shore of Lake Superior. We made Cascade River State Park our home base. That allowed us to get out and hike the river loop there that I’ve been meaning to see for a couple summers now, and it was well worth the walk. There’s not as many people up there on the trail, because the people here in the Metro, true to have-it-now urban fashion, will usually not venture much past the first couple state parks on the Shore, leaving the more distant parks emptier. Good. Bit of a selfish catch 22 actually. I think it would do most people more good than they realize to take a walk in the North Woods, but it is what it is precisely because there are very few people around and I appreciate their not being there.

After leaving the woods where the people aren’t, we headed to Grand Marais, where the people are. Namely where the people make food. The Angry Trout is one of our favorite places to eat in all of MN (and we live in a foodie neighborhood.) I really do recommend stopping in for a meal if you’re in the area.

The third weekend to discuss was a personal Headwaters 100 replacement ride. I will explain in a later post the reason it was replaced. I spent this weekend in the same general area of the North Shore, but this time camping at Temperance River State Park. The trip simply had the goal of riding one hundred miles in a beautiful area, and the goal was achieved. The conditions were much less than perfect, but it didn’t matter. I had a wedding reception to attend in downtown MPLS the night before, so I ended up on the Shore after sleeping on 4 hours, and driving 4 and a half. The weather was challenging, with highs in the upper 40’s/lower 50’s, and thick fog/mist to enjoy the entire route (good ol’ Lake Superior induced conditions- gotta respect a Lake so big it drastically affects the weather.) As many of you know, bad weather seems to energize the cyclist in me, and I actually found myself enjoying the ride more than fair weather long hauls.

The route lead from Temperance north, passing countless rivers, wooded valleys, and state parks, all while following the shore of the big lake (which could be seen much of the time, but not always due to said fog.) I also passed through Grand Marais twice- once northbound at mile 30, and southbound at mile 70. The turnaround point was a little over 20 miles shy of the Canadian border. Had I not started late in the day, I really felt the pull to make it a very big ride and see another country. Even so, the ride covered a descent chunk of the US portion of the North Shore. And if I’d gone further, I definitely would have ended up riding in the dark on sketchy shoulder-less stretches of HWY 61 to finish the ride- not ideal. I did have my NiteRider lamp with in case, but was content not to use it this time.

All in all a fantastic ride. With the weather being so crummy (or excellent depending on your point of view), north of Grand Marais it was pretty much just me, my old Lemond, and the Lake. A good trio.

This weekend has been a “catch-up” weekend around St. Paul. Broken down pickup, apartment chores, etc… The upcoming weekends/weeks should hold some fun- most likely some more big waterside fun- the North Shore again, and if we’re lucky with flight loads- Hawaii. Gonna try again.