Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pleasantly Satisfied

Well, this post will prove to be very heavy in images and light on the narrative. I hate boring people with detail and like to just let the photos do the talking. In any case I will attempt to do my best describe my experience riding the forest roads which skirt the BWCA of Northeastern Minnesota.I spent a good deal of time the evening before just preparing gear and double checking to make sure that I would have everything I needed. I can tell right now that the Osprey Talon 11 backpack has instantly become my favorite along with the larger Talon 22. I was able to carry everything I needed for a day of riding. A second extra tube, hand pump, sandwiches, rain jacket, first aid kit, 100 oz. of water/cytomax mixture, mini tripod, multi-tool, iPod. In my handlebar bag I carried a simple road map, topo maps, nutrition, endurolyte tabs, camera, & other essentials like extra cash and a photo ID (should they need to identify the body). The fit of this little pack is the best I have ever experienced. Most of the time I felt like it was never even there.

I got up early to double check and pack up all the gear. Patti drove me to the intersection of Temperance River Rd. and county road 166 (600 Road). I had no idea what was in store for me in the first few miles of this ride.
I started off by heading east towards the Temperance River and the Sawbill Trail.
It turned out that after a brief downhill run the first two plus miles where completely uphill and I ended up walking the last several hundred feet of the climb only to find this sign at the top on a fairly easy flat section of the road.
It was the hardest four miles I've had on the single speed to date. When I hit the intersection of the 600 Road and Sawbill Trail I headed north towards the BWCA...
Until I reached the intersection where I would turn in an easterly direction and follow county road 170 all the way to Eagle Mountain. If I were to follow the Sawbill Trail for a couple of miles I would have ended up at Sawbill Lake on the southern edge of the BWCA.
County Rd. 170 follows the southern edge of the BWCA and I would ride this until reaching the Eagle Mountain trail head at the eastern end of the road.
Along the way I had several different views of the Temperance River.
Cresent lake was absolutely beautiful and it was here that I decided to take a well deserved break.
I was able to find a little spot off the main road and sat there for about a half an hour to eat lunch and just relax.

Along the north side of 170 there are several lakes that are entry points to the BWCA. Homer and Brule Lakes were just two of many.
They definitely need more rain here in the Northeastern part of the state. The dust on roads was terrible and each time a vehicle passed I would have to place a bandana up over my face.
At the Eagle Mountain Trailhead I decided to take another brief break to give my behind a bit of a rest. At 2,301 feet Eagle Mountain is the highest point in Minnesota. A local bike shop in Grand Marais is offering a challenge for anyone who would like to try. Hope on your bike at the Coast Guard station in Grand Marais (lowest point in MN). Ride your bike to the Eagle Mountain trailhead (approx. 20 miles or so) much of it uphill and run to the summit and back. It's about a 7 mile round trip on foot. Then...hop back on the bike and ride the 20 miles or so back to the Coast Guard station dipping your tire in Lake Superior. It's totally on the honor system. You keep your splits for the ride and run plus your overall time. I think last year they offered a water bottle.
After my break I headed back west for 4 miles until I hit the Caribou Trail which is one beautiful ribbon of gravel road with some very nice climbs.Holly Lake along the Caribou Trail offered another good place for a break. It was here that I tried a little trick that Grasshopper uses during races. I carried a small 8 oz. can of Pepsi in my pack and at this point I decided I needed a kick to cover the last thirty plus miles of the ride. That along with a couple of GU gels gave me the lift I needed. I went back and a portion of the county road 340 loop. Then headed back south towards the Honeymoon Trail. Continuing on the loop would have put me well over 100 miles for the day, but I had to take into consideration the fact that Patti was waiting for me and had no contact with me since I left her in the morning.
The Honeymoon Trail was my favorite portion of the ride. It provided a very narrow and shaded ride for the entire eleven miles back to the Sawbill Trail. This was also the first point at which I could contact Patti by cell phone to let her know how things were going. I sent a simple text..."All OK...two more hours...have a chilled beer waitin...luv u."
I stopped to check out the state forest campsite at the Poplar River. There are many of these campsites scattered throughout the area. They offer great primitive campsites and are located strategically in the Superior National Forest to allow campers relatively easy access to the many lakes in the area including the BWCA.
Unfortunately, there are still some large logging operations taking place in the area. This one was at the western end of the Honeymoon Trail.
The long stretch on the Sawbill Trail which leads back to Lake Superior and the town of Tofte.
Upon arriving back at the resort I had that chilled beer to wash the dust down and celebrate. Eventually a couple more cold ones would follow. After a long hot shower and some stretching, Patti and I enjoyed a great dinner at the Bluefin Grill.

With some adjustments in my route to avoid riding paved roads I ended up with 88.91 miles for the day. Short of the 100 I wanted, but I am still very pleased. My backside was quite sore with a couple of small saddle sores. The washboard sections of gravel were particularly torturous. My legs however felt remarkably fresh and I was recovered enough by the next morning to do a seven mile trail run in the pouring rain. That hurt more than the bike ride.


Apertome said...

Wow, that sounds like an incredibly awesome ride! Very inspiring. I love gravel roads but I've never been able to string together that many miles of them.

Vito said...

In northern Minnesota they are here for the taking. It's such a wonderfully different cycling experience. I'm looking forward to doing a repeat this fall.

Doug said...

I've been thinking of doing exactly this kind of ride. The thought was put in my head recently by a friend. Although he was suggesting making it a two or three day camping trip by bike into the same area.

Vito said...

With all of the state forest campgrounds up there you could definitely do that. I'm thinking the same thing for either next spring or fall.

I'm for sure planning on going again this fall for another long one day ride.

Can't think of a better place on Earth although I'm sure Jill would argue that point.