Monday, December 29, 2008

You're Going To Do What???

Those were the words spoken by a friend when I told him what I was planning to do for the couple of days I would be home. One thing you have to understand is that I grew up in an area where people love the outdoors, but riding a mountain bike in the dead of winter is not included in their list of activities. Now if you were to mention snowmobiles, ATV's, ice fishing, hunting, and going to the local bar for drinks and tossing bean bags, well, these would all be considered normal. Show up in town with a bike on the roof of your car and you get some odd looks from people.
Fridays ride was great and it was the first real test for the new studded tires I put on my winter bike. The Nokians turned out to be a good asset. They gripped the road really well. However, I could feel the greater rolling resistance immediately, and with the warm temps (27 F w/ freezing drizzle and mist) conditions were soft and riding was much harder than I had anticipated. I would much rather ride in colder conditions because the road surface is much more firm. The areas that were freshly plowed were much easier to ride.
The ride lasted about three hours and I was able to cover approximately 28 miles of forest roads. Roadies would really struggle with the slow 9 mph average speed, but snow biking is not road biking. You find a nice easy pace on the single speed, settle into a good steady cadence and just push on through the snow. You really can't spend your time worrying about how fast you
re going. So, I just relaxed into my snail's pace and enjoyed the scenery and the music.
I did have an encounter with a county plow truck on one of the narrower sections of road that I chose to travel on. We were traveling in opposite directions and met on a corner that was located at the top of hill. Although I was on the other side of the road the driver seemed totally surprised to see a biker out riding the forest roads. We smiled, waved, and he let out a somewhat prolonged blast on his air horn before we continued on. That turned out to be the only vehicle I encountered the entire time I was out riding.

Makes me think of how self sufficient you have to be when riding in these isolated areas in the dead of winter. It's a far cry from your summer road ride or trip to the local mountain bike trails. Trouble or an accident out in some of these areas in the middle of winter could definitely put you in a survival situation. I guess that's is why it's a good thing to travel with a partner, but I still prefer to be alone on these kinds of experiences. Another note....I did have a cell phone, but unfortunately service is very difficult to come by in some areas of northern Minnesota.

Saturday I found myself venturing out on snowshoes. I can't think of a better way to enjoy the woods in the winter than on a pair of snowshoes. I love XC skiing, but I feel that I'm much more relaxed and aware of my surroundings when I am walking.

I ended up on the same trail system where a month ago I had somewhat of an adventure on my mountain bike. Of course, now the trails are under nearly two feet of snow and the only possible way of getting around is on skis or snowshoes.

Once again the skies were gray and temps hovered in the upper twenties most of the day, but they began to drop after about 2 PM. The trails were in good condition, but I wish I had been the first one to go out and break trail. It's always nice to be the that first person to venture out down a trail after a nice fresh snow has fallen. It just gives you certain sense of satisfaction, but non-the-less I was just happy to be out in the woods enjoying the beauty.

Signs of wildlife were everywhere, but I was never able to see anything other than chickadees, blue jays, gray jays, downy woodpeckers, and one very large bald eagle that was feeding on the remains of a deer carcass that someone had dumped behind a large snowbank at the trailhead.
Hopefully it was shot legally. It gave me a pretty good startle because it didn't fly off until after I had gotten out of my car. When it did it was only about five feet above my head. I think that's is definitely the closest I've ever been to an eagle in the wild. What an amazingly beautiful bird!

I'm home now and already looking forward to my next trip north. I do love Minnesota winters!

1 comment:

grasshopper said...

nice north face hat!