This past Wednesday I went on a nice relaxing long ride west of town on the Luce Line. The Luce Line is a section of Rails to Trails that runs west from Plymouth, MN for 63 miles all the way to the small town of Cosmos. It makes for a nice day in the saddle with stops for food and beverages along the way. The farm country it bisects also makes it a very picturesque ride. The trail is crossed by several gravel farm roads, some of which provide an opportunity for a change of scene and some hills. Some of these gravel roads loop back around to the trail. Enjoy ride :)
"Morning in the Saddle"
The trail is dotted with a variety of wild flowers.
If you have followed this blog at all, you know that I am somewhat of a loner when it comes to my outdoor activities. I'm not anti-social by any means, but I am somewhat of a "lone wolf" as my friends refer to me. To some extent you could describe me as even being somewhat rogue.
So, when I travel north and get on my bike I don't always follow "the rules". My father taught me to be a good outdoorsman and I always keep the things he taught me in mind when I'm in the woods. I've never been big on this whole GPS craze, but I do have a Garmin 350 that I use from time to time. I don't do Map My Ride, or use any of the other fancy phone apps that are available. To be honest, I need the apps more when I'm navigating the Twin Cities urban trail system and service for my phone is sporadic up north. Broadcasting how far I rode, how many calories I burned, how much elevation gain I had, and then downloading it all on a computer so myself and others can see where I was goes against my grain. With the exception of taking photos I don't need to look at a map to see where I've been. I already know that :)
If you want to know where I was, use the photos (as the one above) for hints.
I've been asked by many other people, "Where do you ride?" My response is generally north of my hometown. All you have to do is head north, find a gravel road and get on your bike and explore. This is where the fun comes in and this is how to create a little adventure. One thing I do always carry is a compass. A good ole' fashion, simple compass. My father taught me how to use a compass and how to read a map and I still rely on this old fashion standard. Now that being said, when I'm riding north of my hometown I generally don't carry a map because I'm rather familiar with the lay of the land and if you know the primary forest roads and the general direction they travel it's hard to get lost.
Now, one big issue I do have is not letting people know where I am going and If I do let someone know, I generally do not stick to a prescribed route. I love to explore and any side road, secondary road, minimum maintenance road that sparks the slightest interest will lead me astray. So, I believe that "if" something were to happen, it may be awhile before anyone realizes it and exactly where to locate me or the body:)
This occurred to me while riding on this particular road. I came across this trail while out riding and decided to take it and see where it led me. After nearly forty-five minutes of riding I began to feel that I had know idea where this road was going to take me. It would have been easy to turn around and head back in the direction I came, however, my gut instinct told me that it would lead me someplace familiar. I knew the main road well enough and I knew the general direction I was traveling in.
So, if it didn't lead me into an impassible swamp (as some roads here do) or simply peter out to nothing but thick forest (as others will do) I should be just fine.
It would be more than an hour later that I began to feel somewhat familiar with the area and as luck would have it the trail took me right out to the main road where I was able to continue riding into the next county.
A very long winter along with a wet spring with record June rains left many roads in need of some filling in and grade work. Much of this is done by local loggers who repair the roads to get in and out with their equipment.
If you take Hwy 73 north the choices in this area are endless. You can head east and north towards Ely or go west towards the Sturgeon Lake chain and beyond. I've said this before and I'll repeat it again. Armed with a good map, some knowledge of the terrain there are dozens of rides that one could string together to form an epic adventure.
I will also say that I'm excited to see new cycling groups forming with a desire to get out and ride this amazing network of forest roads and trails. That being said, I will say that I've been riding extensively in this area for nearly six years and over the course of that time I have never encountered another cyclist in the backwoods. Very selfishly I'm hoping this will continue, but realize that the potential this area offers is just too enticing to any cyclist with a sense of adventure.
I've even had thoughts of organizing some type of guided tour rides, but unfortunately I now live in the Twin Cities. I think this idea really has some potential that some of the local bike shops should really look into.
The Mesabi Trail is found on the Iron Range of Northern Minnesota. The paved bike trail runs from the city of Grand Rapids on the west side of "The Range" some seventy-five miles to Virginia which lies on the east side of the "The Range". Some of us living in the area and those of us who no longer live there, but return often to visit, have our own version. It's off the regular paved trail and I often refer to it as Mesabi Red. Our own version of Cuyuna Red without the single track. We just like to ride and explore much as we did in our youth. Unfortunately you have to somewhat of a delinquent in order to ride in these areas.