This past weekend found me traveling north once again to visit my mother. I generally try to help her around the house and run errands. At the same time I generally will always bring a bike or two along. Just north of my hometown there is a wealth of forest roads, four-wheeler trails, fire trails, and CC ski trails for any intrepid explorer to venture forth on.
After spending the morning running errands, taking Mom shopping, and going to the cemetery, I had the rest of the day to myself. With this in mind I headed in a northerly direction out of town. I had a ride in mind, but half way to the Side Lake area I had a change of heart. I decided that I would forgo the usual routes and just make something up as I went. Four hours later I was hungry, satisfied, and thoroughly convinced that what I had just done was by far my best ride of the year.
I am now regretting not taking my DSLR. The following images were taken from iPhone and Canon S95. It turned out to be an absolutely phenomenal ride through some pretty damn nice country.
This area has such great potential for adventure riding and I have a mind full of ideas...
I started off riding some familiar territory, the cross country skiing and hiking trails just north of Side Lake. When I lived up north many years ago I skied these trails on a daily basis during the winter months. After riding the Red Top and Big Hole loops I ended up on a portion of the Taconite Trail that I had never ridden before.
The Taconite Trail is a snowmobile trail that stretches 165 miles from Grand Rapids to Ely and intersects with the Arrowhead State Trail just west of Lake Vermillion. I had a pretty good idea where this stretch of trail would take me, but with no map or GPS (my iPhone has no service in this area which essentially turns into my second compact camera) there some degree of uncertainty. After the trail turned west I was quite certain where I would end up and I could figure out the rest of my ride from that point on.
The transition from snowmobile trail to gravel forest road took me past Beatrice Lake where it would once again intersect the Taconite Trail.
"Quiet Reflection on Beatrice Lake"
After enjoying some time relaxing on the shore of Beatrice Lake I hopped back on the saddle for more miles. Back on the Taconite Trail and heading west I was able to pick up a small but well used
four wheeler trail. It is now part of the Stony Brook Horse Camp's trail system. These trails provide some awesome riding this time of year as there are not many people out on horses.
Heading back towards Big Sturgeon, Side Lake, and my starting point near the Side Lake Forest Service Station.
After traveling past a portion of Big Sturgeon Lake I took another forest road and hopped on the Pickerel Lake hiking/cross country ski trail. I used to do a lot of fly fishing on this lake which used to contain some very nice rainbow and brown trout. I'm not sure if the DNR is currently stocking the lake or not.
"Pickerel Lake Trail"
"End of the Road"
When I lived up north, before moving to the Twin Cities, this area was always considered our backyard. Now, it's a three and a four drive from the concrete jungle. The weekends are just not long enough, but it is worth every dollar spent on gas to come up here and ride these roads and trails. I spent four hours riding on this beautiful afternoon and never once did I encounter another soul. Quite blissful. To top it off...I arrived home to a nice home cooked pasta dinner. Thank you mom for taking care of your boy :)
"...true adventure starts with a curiosity and a bit of creativity. Armed with both, you don't have to look much farther than your own backyard for the next great escape."
~ Words to live by. -Kid