Thursday, February 28, 2013

Spirit Mountain announces lift served MTB for 2013!

The goods

No more pushing!
So yesterday was a good day because it was the day that Sprit Mountain announced its schedule and pricing for its new gravity trails!  Even better news is that the frequency of the lifts running and the costs are both awesome!

This is so huge.  I can already see my summer riding routine lining up and both Mont Du Lac and Spirit will be core parts of that scene as now that they both have gravity and either shuttles or lifts it will be pure downhill fun.

I have always been a gravity nut, only on skis and last season my eyes were opened wide by the new Flow trail and also by my visit to Angel Fire Bike Park.  Having this type of riding in our community will be a huge benefit to our lifestyle that is for sure!

If I were you, I would write down May 23rd 2013 as one day you NEED to be in Duluth!!

The best dirt you can rip


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Quick fix beach ride: Park Point Winter 2013

Pick your line....heading to T-Bay!

Frozen waves
Coming home late Monday night I saw a great FB post from the COGGS Monday night ride.  They hit the beach a lot of the winter.  The posts made me realize it was time to get my butt down on the point and ride!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Crazy times: A small glimpse of my insane routine

Wow.  Its only been a week since my last post about the big Fat Bike tour.

Seems like a month!

Not a huge grand slam of a post here.  As the earth hurtles towards summer things are getting back to beyond busy.

It started out with a big meeting in Eau Claire, WI with CORBA.  Great crew and I am super stoked to have them on board with the IMBA Chapter Program.

Best friends

Tall tales, smiles and 70's decor!

 I rolled from there and went north.  Marg and Tae were staying with the Salmela's at the Telemark Lodge in Cable.  This has become a bit of a tradition.  Birkie week excitement at bargain prices.  Granted Telemark Lodge has been better days, but also then again we have a bunch of crazy kids that are good at destroying things! So it works out.

Nice to see a place that keeps their trails nice!

Wednesday I had a great meeting with Ron Bergin of CAMBA (and Cross Country Skier Mag) and then we headed out the door to ski the killer new single track Classic Trail at the North End.  Amazing trail, could have been one of the best skis I had of the season.  Cold, dry and fun.  That night we headed to the Ideal Market and had some GOOD pizza as usual and saw a bunch of old friends!


The kid eye view must be astounding!
Thursday morning I was able to spend with Tae and Margaret at the Barnebirkie.  What an awesome event.  900 kids and their parents!  What a spectacle, it was like March of the Penguins in neon!  Tae had a gas and then I bolted for the car.

I blasted home in time to catch the COGGS Reveal the Path event and say hi to the folks I miss the most, the people in my home town!  Both showings were packed and it was fun to see the good COGGS energy in force.  Then it was home to pack!

Darth Gaddo
Friday morning I got up early, took Tae to school then met Karl from Trek for a great meeting.  Pow, it was then off to Frostbike.  A great event filled with meetings with MORC folks, industry folks and just plain saying hi to old friends.  Luckily the Loppet and Wirth Trails were being groomed every morning so I also managed to get some really fun, fast skate skiing before standing in the trade show!

Whew, funny thing is that this week is even busier........

One on One 

Handsome Cycles

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Riding the Gauntlet Thrown: The Northwest Trail Route 2013

Planning the tour

To go, or not to go?

That was the question four days out before our tour.  For two years I had been planning and looking for a  window to ride my bicycle across the infamous Northwest Trail.  Now, one week out, after nearly a month of totally perfect snow biking conditions, we were getting snow and a LOT of it.  As a skier I should have been stoked.  My friends were, they were dancing around gushing about how sweet the new snow was.  The skiing they said, was PERFECT.  Damn. Perfect skiing is awesome, but not when your about to ride your bike 110 miles off trail!

The idea to ride the Northwest Trail stemmed from my geeky fascination with learning and experiencing history.  Its hard not to be inspired by history when you live in a place like Thomson, Minnesota.  The ghosts of the past, trip by your door on a daily basis, you almost have to kick them out of the way to get to your beer cooler.  Who knows, maybe it was one of those Banshees that whispered this trip in my ear?

Sieur Du Lut at the start of the Portage (Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society)

The Northwest Trail is one thread of a colorful local tapestry.  The trail was the main path of commerce both for the Ojibway and the Fur Trade between Lake Superior and the Mississippi River until the last recorded expedition in 1878.

Since man has had the need to trade and to travel in this region, they have toiled over this path.  Then later, the French came stumbling across it starting with Sieur Du Lut in 1679.  I have traveled on a few historical Fur Trade routes and I have always been in awe of the Voyageur.  But the Northwest Trail has been even more interesting to me because it has such a reputation for being an ass kicker.  In doing the research for the trip I read a lot of historical accounts and in every one of them there was reference to the cruelty this route exuded. There is and was, no hiding from suffering on the Northwest Trail.  Who knew a route with such a storied reputation existed just across the street from me and behind my neighbors house, where they parked the trusty Oldsmobile for the last time...

I have always been and always will be a passionate skier.  However the past two ski seasons have been challenging to say the least.  Challenging enough for me to huck the skis aside and throw a leg over a Fat Bike.  You see at some point as you stare out the window at a dirty, icy and windswept nordic trail, you start to ask yourself some questions about your motivations. I decided to be the jack of all trades, a fun hog, and because of that the past two years I have rocked the Fat Bike as it has been the best tool for our anemic winters.

Testing a theory
Snowmobile trails are fun to ride on the Fat Bike, groomed trails can be a gas as well, but fat ice with a skim of cold smoke and your talking total freedom. That is quintessential backcountry travel and that to me is where the imagination starts to wander and eventually mine wandered to the Northwest Trail.

You see the majority of the "Trail" is actually water.  Coming from the east, you cross Big Sandy Lake, hit the Prairie River, take it up to the West Savanna River, then up to the Savanna Portage.  Cross that on land, actually the Continental Divide,  then hit the East Savanna River and take that to Floodwood, MN which runs you into the St. Louis River and on south, 70 river miles, to Lake Superior.  Lots of ice, lots of snow and lots of awesome, fairly remote, backcountry miles on a Fat Bike.

Consider that.  Rivers as ice roads, now look at a map of where you live. Wow....

Loaded for Bear
This trip ticked off a lot of boxes for me.  It has a great historical and environmental story (Timber industry, growth of Duluth as a city etc).  It has physical adventure and even some risk and it is literally out my door.

A "StayVenture".  I wish I had the money and time to do similar trips in exotic locations, but I don't, so I am forced to look at what an exotic location I actually live in and truthfully it has been inspiring.

As person steeped in the Outdoor Industry, I have watched from afar as expedition after expedition has gone to the arctic or to the glacier to expose global warming.  However a trip like this, in my back yard, has perhaps illustrated this change in climate for me more than any adventurer in a far off place could.  I  mean lets face it, 10 years ago, there is no way I would be talking about riding a bicycle on this route, the snowpack would not have allowed it.

Just right for Fat Tires on Big Sandy Lake, Minnesota

The key however for a tour like this, is in the conditions. There is a fairly narrow window of opportunity that you need to hit to optimize this ride.  The components of that window being safe ice and low snow conditions and the colder the temps the better (dry snow rides better than wet snow).

Once I picked the Northwest Trail as a winter bike tour,  the planning of the trip became almost obsessive for me.  I did a lot of great rides on all the different sections of the route.  I kept running track of the weather and  snow conditions and finally plotted the time I could make the trip happen.

Of course as soon as I did that, the conditions flipped me the bird and spit in my face.

We went from being locked well below zero (-20F at night) and lacking snow to a warm-up and frequent Alberta Clippers.  One inch of snow here, two inches there, four inches......then unlimited Lake Effect.  Every inch meant that much more work on the bike and I started to fret about wether or not it was worth it.

Eric Peterson, fresh off the Arrowhead 135

Finally, after discussing the trip with my buddy and trip mate, Eric Peterson, I realized that F*ck it, we were going to have to give it a go regardless of conditions.

We had planned too much, talked too much and borrowed too much gear to turn back now.  Instead of worrying I started planning alternative routes in case we were not able to run the route "clean" meaning riding as much on the portage proper and not using roads.

Our original posse started out with 8 people on board.  One by one however they begged off as the weather changed.  Eventually it was down to me, Eric Peterson and Rudy (Shawn) O'Brien.

However the night before D-day, Rudy was gunned down by the flu and finally he had to bail as well.

That left a two piece chicken dinner..........

Monday, February 11, 2013

Northwest Trail Grudge match: One pedal stroke at a time, Mississippi to Lake Superior 2013

Miles of fun
So we did it.  Eric Peterson and I rode, pushed, carried and crawled the Northwest Trail from the Mississippi River to Lake Superior.  For the past several years I have been looking for a fun, challenging and story worthy trek to do in my backyard.  A "stayventure".  Out my door (literally), long enough to be multiple days and adventurous as to have a modicum of failure involved.

Many locals know about the Northwest Trail.  This was a series of routes that led from Lake Superior to the Mississippi, the BWCA and beyond.  The Savannah Portage is part of that and it still exists, native tribes crossed it for ever, Seur Duluth crossed it in 1679 and the fur trade crossed it until the late 1800's.  It is one of the more remote parts of our state (because it is a giant swamp!) and it is an amazing place.  Eric and I rode from Big Sandy Lake, across the Portage to Floodwood, then down the St.Louis all the way to the lake.  Much of the riding was on the ice itself although deep snow changed those plans as we rode into one of the bigger snow storms of 2013.

It was an epic three days and super inspirational.  I shot a ton of really great images and the story is a good one.

Thanks to Eric for joining me on the trip, it was not one for your average person, it was one for the person that enjoys getting kicked in the head (again literally).  Look for the full post later in the week as I dig out, and dig in.

Also, thanks to all those loaned me gear for this trip, without your help I would have been sitting at home only dreaming of this adventure.

Thanks to Mike Reimer of Salsa, Mick Dodds, Todd McFadden, Dave Cizmas, Continental Ski and Bike (Bryn) and Ski Hut as well (Geezer and Fraboni) and also Elmo of Black Diamond Equipment.

Lastly total thanks to Margaret who lets me get into trouble every once in a while so I can dance with my adventurous side.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

We Ride!!: Winter biking the Northwest Passage 2013

Well.  We are going.  Despite the nearly foot of new powder, we have decided to step out and give it a go.  Certainly not ideal conditions for the bikes, I will for sure miss my skis, but we planned it as a bike ride and that is what its going to be (with a lot of pushing).

Granted it will be a greatly altered route due to the snow depths, but at the very least we will learn more about the route for when conditions return later in the season and we can then ride it "clean".  Hopefully come Monday I will have some great pics to share!  At the very least, we will have an adventure and that is in itself worthy of the effort.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Gearing up for the "Big Push": Fat Biking the Northwest Trail 2013

Deep snow slugging

River Otter tracks
There was a time when the world traveled by water.  When commerce was achieved only on the backs of men and the mobility of canoes and feet.  It is with those ghosts that we hope to travel at the end of this week.

As always, conditions mean everything.  In riding a bicycle in the snow however, conditions mean even more.  Too much snow (and it does not take very much) and your pushing, cursing and suffering. I am not interested in riding on roads on this trip, I am not interested in riding on snowmobile trails on this trip, I am interested in natural trails, in waterways, in ice and in recreating what people traveled on since time memorial.

I am not giving up the route secrets yet.  But the stats are impressive.  The route is classic and it is extremely interesting.  I have spent a lot of time over the past two years dreaming and learning about it and now this week, we are geared up, trained up and ready to roll.

However conditions are the key.  As of last week, in my recon on the route, things were rideable, but on the "deep" side.  We are talking 4 miles an hour "deep side" and that means some long days in the saddle.

I am watching the weather with trepidation.  If we could leave right now, today, we would be stoked.  However tonight the first of several Alberta Clippers comes rolling in and the possibility of significant snow comes with it.  4 inches of snow and we are talking about a much different trip, one that uses roads and snowmobile trails, purely out of snow and we are looking at something unique.


Looks inviting huh.....scary stuff really.

Ditchbank mine fields

Frozen wheels add a lot of weight
I have throughly enjoyed planning the details of this trip.  The research, the rides, the recon, the gear list.  What started out as a good conversation piece has been placed in the "put your money where your mouth is" category and I feel the pressure now.  A little fear, a little self doubt and a bit of worry has edged in now and I realize now how much I missed that.  How much I miss thinking about a wild assed trip that has every potential for a lot of suffering, a lot of misery and a lot of fun.

The whole endeavor came clear this weekend when I did the final recon rides, to check out conditions. In some spots, I had to push much more than I would have liked.  In other spots I was grinning ear to ear as I glided smoothly over backcountry terrain that I never thought I would pedal a bicycle and most certainly where a bicycle has NEVER been before.  Then I also found the dangerous spots.  Places where going through the ice is a huge possibility and where reliance on my buddies will be the key piece of the puzzle. But even in those places I saw a beauty that I am already blessed to have seen.
Heres to hoping the weather forecast is wrong.....

Thanks to Kent K for the ice fishing this weekend!  Great to put my mind on something else for a bit!