Monday, May 24, 2010

Don Quixote???

Last weekend Patti and I found ourselves venturing north to the shores of Lake Superior for some hiking, biking (a selfish endeavor), photography, good food, and just some general R & R sleep until 8 a.m. kind of nonsense.

Our day Friday was spent hiking along the Brule River which runs through Judge C.R. Magney State Park. One of these days I am going to pull out the fly rod and do some fishing along these rivers. The trails along the Brule are part of the SHT that runs from Duluth all the way up the North Shore to the Canadian Border. The day was fun and I came away with some wonderful photos.Of course, for Patti and I, no trip up "The Shore" is complete without a stop in Grand Marais for some food and eats at the "Gunflint Tavern." They have a great selection of beer and some very good organic food. Not to mention a great view of the harbor and Lake Superior.Saturday was mine and I had schemed up a bit of mountain bike ride while sitting up Friday evening looking at the maps. I started at the resort and rode the paved trail to Temperance River State Park. From there I picked up the Temperance River Road and headed straight north and uphill for five miles. It was a great way to warm up the legs and boost my confidence on the single speed. Especially given the fact that I haven't done hardly any road rides and my riding during the week has been limited. Seems I spend most of my time grading papers and other school work or yard work.It always amazes me that there can be such a temperature swing in such a short distance here on the North Shore. Near the lake shore the early morning temps were in the upper 40's near 50 F. As the morning progressed the temps on the ridge and beyond were into the lower 70's while the lakeside temperature remained a cool 52 F. I've heard people refer to the lake as "nature's air conditioner." There was a chance of rain in the forecast, but that never came to be.
After making the climb up from Lake Superior the Temperance River Road intersects forest road 166 or what they call the 600 Road. Heading west southwest would take me off the map and into the next county. While going east northeast would take me up the "Heartbreak Hill" climb then back down towards the Temperance River and The Sawbill Trail. My legs were feeling good and I really wanted to do the Heartbreak Hill climb so right in was even though the mileage sign gave the impression that by going right I was going nowhere. Maybe that was the objective of my thinking.However, I also knew that after Heartbreak Hill there was a minimum maintenance forest road that headed in a northerly direction into what appeared to be nowhere. That is exactly where I wanted to go, but first came the hill...At first the climb seems insignificant, but it doesn't take long for you to start feeling it in your legs. This becomes very apparent if you are riding a single geared bike. So, After making a long downhill descent from the Temperance River Road the climbing began in earnest.

Last year I remember being about 100m from the top of the climb and having to get off the bike and walk the rest of the way to the top. I was not about to let the same thing happen this year. At one point before the top I was waiting for something to snap. Either the chain or a tooth from my chainring or rear cog, but nothing happened. Next thing I knew was the road suddenly leveled out and I saw the sign in the woods off to the left side of the road. It broke my heart last year, but that would not be case this year. Although the heaving of my chest and pounding inside of it told me that it had come very close to breaking me once again.
The road would now descend and wind its way towards the Sawbill Trail and I was keeping an eye out for a road that would head north off the 600 Road. I didn't have to go very far before coming across the road that I was looking for and my first impression was that it did give the appearance that it possibly would lead me nowhere. However that is not what the map indicated so off I went in a northerly direction and deeper into the forest.
There are times when riding a rigid single-speed mountain bike that both your brain and your body at some point, begin to question your sanity. Why is it that you can't be more like "normal" people and ride something that has gears and suspension. After all, wouldn't it be easier and much more comfortable?

It was along this stretch in the photo above that these thoughts were being whispered in my head. It was rocky and rough and I did have that feeling that the fillings were going to be rattled loose from my teeth. But despite all of this my rigid single-speed is and will continue to be my favorite bike to ride. Who knows...maybe someday I'll be more like normal people. However, I hope not.
It was at this point that my sanity really had to be questioned. Water! Hmmmmm, I wonder how deep it really is? I wonder how many rocks and other hazards are hidden there below the surface? Maybe I'll just disappear. Should I get off and just walk? Either way my feet are more than likely going to get wet and walking would be safer. Will I fall off and drown?

Well, I did not get off and walk. Yes, there were some hidden hazards. Yes, it was up to the hubs deep, and yes, my feet did get wet. However, I did not fall and drown. Sorry for those who would prefer that I just disappear, but the fact of the matter is...I'm here to stay. At least for a while longer. Smiling and maybe just giggling a little bit to my self, I continued on and the forest got thicker and darker.
It was here, after about two hours of riding and exploring, that I took a bit of a break. I laid my bike on the ground, sat on a rock and just listened...nothing, not a sound. I could feel my heart beating and I could hear a faint ringing in my ears, but aside from that nothing. I really was quite alone and isolated. There were signs of wolves and moose everywhere, but unfortunately for me there were no visual sightings. Suddenly, a tiny chickadee came into view and then another and another. I was no longer alone. I enjoyed a Cliff Bar and an energy gel and decided to continue on.
I headed further on and eventually came to a trail that headed south again towards the 600 road. Once there I followed the road in an easterly direction until it met up with the Sawbill Trail. There were a few more hills to climb, but once on the Sawbill it was an easy seven mile ride back to Tofte. I was wishing now that I had ridden further because I really didn't want this to end. The day had turned out perfect. Some new territory had been discovered and I realized that to the west, had I gone in that direction off the map, I could have picked up "The Grade" or forest road 170. This is the same road I took last summer that skirts the BWCA and eventually leads one to Grand Marais. Also to the west is a myriad of other gravel forest roads just waiting to be ridden.
For now however, I needed to be content. I stopped to listen to the river flow by on its way to Lake Superior. Dreamed a bit about rides to come and what kind adventure they would hold in store for me. I also thought about an old blog posting by Grizzly Adam that made and interesting comparison between the madness that drives mountain bikers and that of Don Quixote. If you are a mountain biker you can certainly relate. It is a rather well written piece. "Don Quixote was delusional. Idealistic. Insane. He lived in a fantasy world. A place where he was the hero of the story, a noble knight, capable lover, and eccentric adventurer.

Just like a mountain biker.

In each of us is a little, or perhaps a lot, of Don Quixote. We fool ourselves into believing that the world is full of giants, ogres, and evil magicians who plague the helpless, the poor, the masses. It is our sacred duty to intervene. To make things right..."


Petit Chèvre said...

Very nice report... and phenomenal pictures!

Kenny said...

Nice ride, kinda like in CO. All by myself. But, I really miss my amigos!

FTMN said...

Great post, and great pics!

Grizzly Adam said...

I love the photos. Very nice.