Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Throwing steel in Valley X: An early spring Brookie adventure

Fishing Machine

I was one of those folks who grew up in La La land.  Our town was a small SE Minnesota Village, lined up along the banks of a blue ribbon trout stream, a mill and mill pond... A simple easy place that I think now only truly exists in my mind than in reality.  Oh its still there but its changed, as all things have in this frenetic world we now exist in.  One of my favorite memories of that place was getting up early before my family, hopping on my mountain bike (a Schwinn High Sierra) and blasting down the bluff to the stream to toss a line in for a gorgeous brown trout or seven...

Before I came to fly fishing I was a die hard spin fisherman.  Something that I still contend takes every bit as much skill as fly fishing, only of a different ilk.  I would put thousands of hours into spin fishing in my childhood and many of my friends would too.  Even today, when I hear buddies who ONLY fly fish talk about "worm dunkers" I react much differently than they might expect.  I say that because there are worm fisherman, and there are WORM fisherman.  I had one buddy, Dan Draz who could drift a worm much more skillfully than any fly fisherman I have ever known.  The results of that skill were always miraculous.  Browns don't get huge in SE Minnesota and when you catch something over 18 inches that is something, Danny would routinely roll in 20 plus inch fish, and return every one to the stream.

I came to love spinners.  I liked the short cast, the placement the quick retrieve and of course the fish slamming into the bait after its feeding response was sent over the edge.  Don't get me wrong, I love tossing the fly these days much more, but there is no doubt that every once in a while I like to huck metal.

This weekend was no exception.  I generally like to get my spin day out in the spring.  Its a great way to plumb the depths and see what sort of population we have rolling in our streams which in a lot of cases can vary widely with the spring flood or lack there of.

Heavy Metal 
There are a bunch of trout streams near where I live and because of that I can generally ride to my fishing adventure, something that makes the time that much sweeter.  This season it was obvious that the lack of a ballistic spring run off and the warmer water temps were making for great fishing.  I pretty much caught a fish or had a strike in nearly every major hole.  A result I have not seen since the 2012 flood.

I was also seeing a ton of wolf sign.  Tracks, old kills, scat.... you name it.  What a day, I was truly enjoying it!

Big bad wolf.  Rear paw over front paw 

Old wolf kill.  Wolves eat pretty much everything as you can see
Little guy

Before release 
And gone
Big kitty 

At one point I was slinking under a fallen Cedar tree in the stream, trying not to snag my rod when I heard a distinct hiss and tussle in the grass up stream of me about 50 feet away.  I looked up quickly expecting to see a deer or a grouse or something.  What I saw was a brown blur and long tail instantly disappearing in the brush.  It took a second for my mind to wrap itself around what I saw but I was pretty sure I had just seen a really big cat.  I cautiously strolled up to the sand bank around the tall grass and saw several fresh tracks the size of my hand.  The sand was so wet and soft that I could not really get a true sense of the track.  However further up the bank I came upon some older tracks that I posted above.  These tracks were clearly NOT wolf tracks, they were much rounder and much wider. Who knows, but I am not afraid to say I think I saw my first Mountain Lion in Minnesota (not my first ever, but the first around here).

Life is crazy these days and while both my economic situation and my new job don't allow me to travel like I used to, it was amazing how just a good afternoon on my local river brought me back to my senses and gave me my smile back for another action packed week.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Happy Homegrown 2015

Pot Holes!  Pot Holes!!



Yes its here again folks!  If outdoor rec is one leg of Duluth's revitalization, the arts and culture are another giant one!


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Duluth Traverse a hot topic at the Bicycle Leadership Conference!

17 Mile Road 

Californication 
I have done hundreds if not thousands of presentations over the years.  Of all of those a few stick out in my memory.

The one that I tanked on in Lacrosse, WI.  The one that I survived at Trek World and now the one that I nailed at the Bicycle Leadership Conference.

The Trek World talk was merciful in the fact that it came unexpectedly.  I had an hour to stress about the fact that I was about to be on stage with John Burke in front of thousands to both speak to IMBA's success in 2013 and also accept a $700,000 check.

The BLC though was a good month of lead up and preparation.  It was not a big crowd, maybe 250 or so, but it was a very elite and prestigious crowd in the fact that pretty much every major bicycle and bicycle accessory brand was represented in the room.

On top of that I had 10 minutes to tell the Duluth story and how it has impacted getting more people on bikes, a very small amount of time to speak to over 6 years of blood sweat and tears poured out by hundreds of people.  In other words I had to really distill what was important, what moved the dial and why.

Monterey Aquarium 
I stumbled around for two weeks with several ideas and presentations.  Finally one day I ran into a friend of mine (Ian from Apex!) who asked if I wanted to give the presentation to him and practice.  I realized that indeed I needed to start making that happen so I accepted.

First round try.  20 minutes.  10 minutes over the limit and my message was all over the map.  Oh shit I thought, I have to give this many, many, many more times.

I made that a priority.  I made myself give the presentation 14 more times over four days, each time tweaking it every time.  By the time I hit California and the conference I was comfortably down to 9 minutes and was still seeing spots where I could trim it and tighten it up.

Of course practice and execution are two totally different deals.  For me, when I stand up in front of people I get scared as hell, I tend to rush to just get out of the way and get it done.

This time was different though.  I knew I was dialed.  I also felt that I was the right person to tell this story and to tell it passionately.  While the Duluth Traverse story is extremely powerful, its also very easy for people to just discount Duluth wholesale before they even hear the story.

I was so confident and so chill at the podium, it was an amazing feeling.  Especially when you realize that the person I followed up was Thomas Dimitroff, General Manager of the Atlanta Falcons who was speaking about cycling and what the NFL could do to promote it!

My take away from the presentation was about how powerful our story here in Duluth is and how much more we need to get out in the world and tell it.
Dinner Monterey Aquarium 
Desert Bar, Monterey Aquarium 
Jenn Dice Bicycle Advocate, People for Bikes.  Thanks to Jenn for inviting Duluth to come and present our story!
Early morning ride before the Conference 
Typical conference.  So close, yet so far away.........

The BLC is held in conjunction with the Sea Otter Classic.  On the last day of the BLC I was able to hit Sea Otter for both a nice long single track ride with my old co-worker Jeremy Fancher.  It was an awesome ride.  However much more than I bargained for!  I was still in spring conference mode, but I am grateful to Jeremy for getting me out for a "real" ride.

We rode across Fort Ord to the venue for Sea Otter and saw the general mayhem there.  Man what a massive event, you could just feel the power coming from the general area!  If any of our MTB ride centers here in the Midwest could harness even a 10th of that power we would be doing amazing things.

As usual I was extremely excited to return home to my city and my family, fully inspired, flush with new energy and ideas and I am super stoked to get back to action on all we have going here in D-town, which was confirmed by many people outside of our box as AWESOME.


Jeremy Fancher, killing it on his home trails at Fort Ord (he also almost killed me!) 

Sea Otter Bicycle Festival.  America's premier cycling event 
Coast of California 

Crazy looking dogs around Monterey....

Monday, April 20, 2015

A day with Nick Heil of Outside Magazine

Nick Heil 


The day before I left for California and the Bicycle Leadership Conference I was lucky enough to be be able to hang with Nick Heil of Outside Magazine.

I met Nick digitally a bunch of years ago when he listed Universal Klister as one of the years best outdoor Winter blogs.  I was impressed that my blog was even on his radar let alone picked for the list.  It says something about doing your research when you find a very obscure midwest blog and take the time to realize it has some interesting content.  There are a lot of blogs out there with a lot of good stuff that is for sure.

Nick has gone free lance since that time and has also written a book called Dark Summit about Mount Everest's most controversial season ever.

Nick was in the midwest for another interesting story, that I won't scoop him on, and it possibly involved Duluth.  Duluth was not the subject of the story but some aspects of it could lend some content for sure.

With the sloppy trails and the wet conditions we decided to do a ride on the DWP and old Skyline and it was a great way to hang out and get to know Nick a bit more.

I am sure we will see him here again when the grass is green and the trails tacky!




One year ago today on 4-20







What a difference a year makes!  As I look outside at the snow free landscape, the budding trees and the growing grass I can't help but think of of the fact that we were skiing powder on 4-20 the previous two seasons.

While the prospects of one of the earliest MTB riding seasons ever is on the horizon I can't help but think about how much fun Casey and I had last season on the skis.

It was a truly perfect ski day.  Champagne powder, bomber base for high speeds and cold temps.  In fact we actually kicked waxed for the full day, and were able to ski up any hill we needed and had super glide for the descents.

I am not sure where are winters are headed, but there is no doubt that I look back with nostalgia at last seasons fun that is for sure.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Image Dump: Perfect Duluth Weekend #567

Casey K eating one last helping of Corn
 April is the cruelest month when you live in Duluth.  One minutes its giving you all the loving signs of spring and summer, the next its tearing your heart out with cold and snow.  This weekend April was a good lover and bestowed upon us record high temps and beautiful skies.

I took full advantage of it!

We went skiing, mountain biking, bike touring all over the West end, hiking and I even took shots of my buddies paddling on the Louie.

Perhaps my favorite part of the weekend however was when we stumbled upon The Bjorn Baaken XC Invite at Spirit Mountain.

It was like something out of a Sci Fi movie.  It was like looking back in time and seeing me and my friends 20 years ago.  The same enthusiasm, the same end of the season insanity, costumes, inside jokes and jabs and general tension release. In other words youthful insanity.

The end of the season Nordic Party.  Its a lost art and I was so happy to see its tradition being carried on in Duluth.  If you were a past Nordic Ski Racer you know EXACTLY what I am talking about.  Your fit, your down with the season, you can let it all hang out, have a beer or six and just generally rip....

The course was slightly uphill...then ALL downhill aand of course there had to be jumps included.  Now as a former Nordy myself I have to admit.  XC racers typically have the engines, but in most cases don't have the handling down for big air and precision turning, especially since they are standing on two tiny foot rockets that are meant to go straight and fast.  All that said, XC racers don't take anything half assed and it was amazing to see these kids line up for an extremely lippy jump and come at FULL ON.  The results were both stunning and hilarious since many of them were in costume.  I submit one full sequence below.

I will let the rest of the images speak for themselves.

What a sick weekend.





Plotting

Cowboy Bob leading the pack 

Finish line mayhem 

Snow depth check 

Young kids and recovery 

Most interesting Nordic Ski Top Sheets I have ever seen

Coach Tesch bombs out 

Locals know where the April dryness is

Ice Cream Headache 

Morning paddle 



Sliding into the Octopus 
Jeremy doing his longest Smokehouse delivery ever

DWP Tunnel 

Checking out the rocks on the DWP