Saturday, December 24, 2011
Saturday, December 03, 2011
Sunday, November 27, 2011
As I've done in years past, I decided to make the trip from STP to Coon Rapids via bicycle. The route up is rather simple- ride Summit Ave to the Mississippi and then follow it to the in-laws place a few suburbs north.
Along the way, I passed by the hospital I had my original pectus surgery done. I stood there for a bit looking at the doors I left from after the procedure. I was being pushed in a wheelchair, and had been through and was heading for a lot of painful days. I remember as I was waiting for our car to pull up to take me home, seeing a cyclist roll past on a Surly on their way to wherever, and I was feeling so far from being able to hop on a bike again. It just plain sucked.
I hadn't really thought of that moment again until passing by the hospital on the way to Thanksgiving dinner, and it really did cause me to feel thankful, as I was now the person passing by on my bike enjoying the ability to ride. The small joys in life matter. Be thankful for the good days.
Sunday, November 06, 2011
I’ve been breaking in the Mukluk and enjoying it all. I’m predicting a lot of fun on this bike as the seasons change and we dive into another Northern winter. And even though I’m looking forward to the cold riding, I sure haven’t been minding the extended fall we’ve been having. It’s been a stellar season for riding here in MN, and I’m going to accept is as a pay back for the months of missed riding post doctor stuff. Not bad.
Last weekend I did something I’ve never done on a bike, thanks to the new fat machine- I headed up north of Grand Marais, and covered some Lake Superior beach miles. It’s amazing where the Mukluk can go- I sure couldn’t have comfortably ridden through the loose rocky shoreline on any of my other bikes. My Karate Monkey probably would have made it through, but with way more struggle. Now this doesn’t mean the fat bike is some sort of miracle machine and there was never any hike a bike- it’s still super loose rock, and much of it off camber, but I was riding the majority of the time over rocks, runoff water, driftwood, sand, and even a few bones of expired critters- all the while with a big dumb smile enjoying the new riding capabilities.
I would have had a great time just sitting on this stretch of scenery, so being able to combine it with one of my favorite pastimes was great- I’m glad I bought this bike. I’m going to have to do some research to see if a beach ride overnighter route can be figured out somewhere on Superior.
I also got out on a local Mukluk ride yesterday morning with my friend Nate who was riding a maiden voyage on his newly built up 9er. We headed from our neighborhood in STP down to the Sibley House on the MN River to see if we might meet up with a “river ramble” ride that Gnat from Salsa Cycles was putting on. We just missed them, as they left pretty early in the morning to get some sunrise shots in during the ride. We saw them a couple times but couldn’t manage to connect with them. Our ride was great however. There’s a great amount of river bottom trail to ride, and if you’re sporting big tires, there’s a ton of off trail wandering to do with much wildlife to see. It’s a floodplain, and you can pretty much ride wherever you’d like in it on 4” rubber. The Salsa ride was expecting to do anywhere from 30-50 miles of rambling. Including the pavement part of our 2-man ride, we covered 23 in the small amount of time we had before we had to duck for other commitments. I’m thinking of heading back down there today to explore some more before it gets buried in snow for the winter.
I’m loving the Mukluk so far and I can’t wait to see where it takes me in the future…
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Monday, October 03, 2011
After escaping the Cities after work on Friday, we made our way up to Eckbeck State Forest Campground. We set up camp and ate some late dinner. Not too much chatting; we were both pretty tired from a work of cubicle drama, so off to bed. It was the first wintery night I’ve felt from a tent this season- it got down to the mid to upper 20’s depending on what weather site we checked in the morning. Tucked into my winter bag, I didn’t mind. It was excellent to be outside.
The morning was somewhat lazy, with a fire and tea, and surprise visit from my buddy Joel, who had been up there for over a week working on an ongoing photography project. After breakfast, we stopped for a couple supplies Jonathan was in need of at Sawbill Outfitters in Tofte, where the owner turned us on to a good bunch of forest road loops and sold us a detailed county map to go with my GPS. We took off up the Sawbill Trail (a gravel road that heads inland from Tofte), and found our way to a parking lot at the intersection of FR166, where I had ridden a couple weeks ago. We started riding from there, and took off in the opposite direction of my previous ride, with the intention of hooking up with less traveled, more remote forest roads that were included in the advice we’d received earlier. We made a loop out of FR’s 344, 1220/350, and 350, taking us back to the Sawbill.
Some of the route was nice and remote for roaded areas. The only people we saw were hunters and ATV’ers, one of which commented to us that in 13 years of regularly hunting the area, had never seen a biker. I couldn’t believe it, as I’m sure good number of riders have to have figured out how fun it is to be out there. There are even crazy northern off road centuries based on these remote paths.
FR344 and 350 were definitely the highlight. Lots of pine mixed with hardwood colors, rocky and rooted double-track, and the occasional mud hole kept me happy on my Karate Monkey. I was impressed with Jonathan, who was rocking in all on a cross bike. Rough on the hubs, but certainly do-able. I have friends who have toured on this type of stuff on their Long Haul Truckers (you know who you are. J).
I’m not exactly sure if this riding would be recommended for someone 2 and half months out of chest surgery, but everything held together and didn’t feel too bad. I’m tired of sitting on the couch, and can tell when something feels like too much. I wasn’t worried.
The next day we took a very lazy loop hike around Mt Oberg, along with everyone else in the world wanting to see some leaves. I’m happy to report that after 5 years of living in MN, I finally saw the North Shore at it’s peak. I wished I had another week, a stronger chest, and a full pack to live on the Superior Hiking Trail during this beautiful time of year. Next year perhaps.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Last weekend I wasn’t really planning on much, since I’ve got so many projects with bike maintenance and other things going on around home, but when Saturday morning came, I just couldn’t resist the good weather and time off, so I got organized in a hurry for a North Shore overnight. Since I’ve recently been able to get back to light riding, I brought along my Karate Monkey to check out some forest roads, and also planned on some hiking. Gotta work on loosing this post surgery, sitting around gut, right? May as well do it where there’s scenery and skip the treadmill. I arrived in the early afternoon, which is late, at Temperance River State Park, which had a campsite for me. I set up quick and hopped on my bike to ride the following loop: Hwy 61, right on FR343, right on FR166, right on Sawbill Tr, right on Hwy 61 back to camp. It was just short of 20 miles, the majority on gravel in the woods. It felt great to be out of town on bike again, especially in the North Woods. I’ve got some ideas for some gravel touring up there for the future, as there are some good National Forest Campgrounds around.
I started out climbing up from Lake Superior along FR343, otherwise known as Temperance River Rd, and quickly passed several people around event tents where the road intersected with the Superior Hiking Trail. I then realized it was the weekend when the Superior trail running ultras were occurring. There is a regular trail marathon, as well as 50 and 100 mile ultra marathons. I’d really like to run the “humble” regular trail marathon sometime when my body is strong enough again. Next year? We’ll see if I actually heal correctly this time. It would be fun to try the run. Anyhow, I continued climbing up the road until it leveled off, and I proceeded along side but above the Temperance River and Heartbreak Creek Valleys. Off to my right there were occasionally great views of the valleys, and Carlton Peak beyond. Then I hit the intersection with FR166, which I took to lead me over to Sawbill Tr as mentioned. FR166 had some good climbing, including a hill named after the creek (or creek after the hill, or something)- Heartbreak Hill. I guess the early loggers couldn’t get up it in the winter with their loads. I did better with my bail out granny gear (I don’t have a front shifter/derailleur right now on the KM, but I can move the chain manually for such an occasion- I know, dumb, I should just buy a derailleur, but I haven’t yet and the 1x9 setup has done the trick almost always in the Cities). After the hill, I dropped back down to cross the Temperance River. I spent a bit of time hanging out down there, as the River is always scenic to gawk at. I then connected with Sawbill Tr, which is a much bigger but still gravel road (until you get close to Lake Superior), that took me around the other side of Carlton Peak (with Britton on my left). Clouds, combined with smoke from the Pagami Creek Fire in the Boundary Waters, made for a surreal evening as I got closer to the big lake. I couldn’t really capture this on an iPhone camera, or I’d try to share it. I suggest just getting up North and riding for yourself. J Once back to Hwy 61, I had a very short stretch back to the campground. In the whole time on the forest roads, I saw 5 vehicles. This took 2 seconds on 61. If you’re riding the Shore, sample the gravel; it’s good. I’d share the GPS track of this ride with you, but I accidently deleted it. It’s a very simple route and you’ll see it on any worthwhile map of the area.
A Surly is always at home on woodsy gravel...
Dropping back down to the river after "Heartbreak Hill"...doesn't look very heartbreaking...just looks like good gravel riding...
Back at camp, I dined on daal from a can, cooked over an Esbit stove, and a fat apple from our latest CSA box. Forgot tea, which would have been nice. I caught a shower, which is a perk of the expensive state park campgounds, and then settled in around a good fire with my Nook for some reading from Jonathan Waterman’s Running Dry, which is a good adventure essay on the current state of the Colorado River.
I didn’t sleep very well. I was excited to try my new Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1, which I picked up on sale for solo ventures and hadn’t yet slept in. The tent was just fine, but I’m not quite comfortable on the ground again after all this surgery. I don’t sleep on my side well on hard surfaces. It should get better with time and I’ll be at home again during cold, confined tent nights.
The morning was relaxed with oatmeal and map reading, which was a bit unnecessary, as I ended up choosing to hike the quintessential Temperance hike- the river to Carlton Peak and back, but I like pouring over maps nonetheless, looking for new adventures.
I took off up the River and the weather was perfect. The leaves are also just starting to change. I really enjoyed the walk up to the peak, which I’d done before, but everything seems better if you’ve been in the office too much lately. I chilled out on top for a bit, and noticed smoke moving in again from the wildfire in the BWCA, and started down. By the time I reached the river again, the NW winds had brought in a ton of smoke and ash from the fire, and it was getting gross out. Ash flakes were falling like light snow flurries, and I was breathing more smoke than I cared to. I didn’t spend as much time in the gorge as I normally would on this hike soaking in scenery, as I wanted out of the bad air. When I got to my pickup, which is black, it was speckled in the little white ash flakes. As soon as I drove south probably ten miles, I was completely out of it. The winds were basically just right to have moved the stuff to exactly where I was hiking from so far away. It was still a great day.
Superior Hiking Trail heading to Carlton Peak...
I’m sure I’ll be back up to take in more of the Shore, be it hiking or biking, as the fall colors mature. Officials are saying it could be one of our best fall color years in quite a while. I hope they’re right.
That’s the weekend trip, I think I’ll post separately on the flight and bike projects…