Tettegouche Weekend

This weekend Alex and I drove north to Tettegouche State Park for a stay at one of their ski-in cabins. Neither Alex or I actually ski (via being a Texan and a narrow minded cyclist, respectively), but the cabin provided us with an awesome base of operations from which we did some hiking along the Superior Hiking Trail. The cabin is billed as ‘rustic,’ but has an electric stove, heater, and refrigerator – pretty posh, especially in comparison to Curtis’s wall tent!

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The hike into the cabin is 1.7 miles along a wide, well groomed xc trail. My half-assed pulk worked fine, but any more food or beverages would have required a second sled. Unlike my trip last month, the weather was just about perfect during our stay. Temperatures in the mid teens and plenty of sun made our longer hike along the SHT incredibly pleasant. We made our way along the trail as far north as the Baptism River – its waterfalls made a pretty obvious photo stop and hang out spot before turning around.

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Please send me as many free Smartwool products as possible

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Sunday morning involved plenty of relaxing, a shorter walk near our cabin, and then an obligatory Thirsty Pagan stop on the way home – a perfect conclusion to any weekend spent on the North Shore.

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Beer AND a pop: living the dream.

 

I’m grateful to have gotten to spend a few weekends this winter exploring Minnesota on non-bike related trips – it’s always good to mix things up. That’ll change in the coming weeks as things start to heat up with races and rides with friends. I’m looking forward to CIRREM, Drew’s Untitled weekend down in Rochester, as well as some very necessary long solo days in preparation for Trans Iowa. 2014 is shaping up to be a very full, exciting year, and this weekend was a great piece of it!

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Dorks in the woods.

 

 

North Shore Exploring

Shortly before the snow got really heavy

This weekend Curtis and I headed north with a station wagon full of gear and a loose itinerary – the plan was to test out his canvas hot tent in some real winter conditions and basically have as much fun as possible exploring the north shore with a combination of fatbikes, skis, and snowshoes. Acting on a tip from DeathRider, we pulled our sleds along the _____ River until reaching the campsite pictured above. We set up camp in increasingly heavy snow, stoked a fire, ate dinner and fell asleep. It was cool to be in a comfortably warm tent in 0 degree weather, even though the smoke from the woodstove kind of turned my stomach.

Luxury Digs
Luxury Digs

The next morning we woke up to 6+ inches of fresh snow, which effectively killed our plans to ride our bikes along the river. Before too long Deathrider and Mark arrived at our camp to make fun of us for sleeping outside. I talked Curtis into breaking camp and meeting them in Grand Marais for some exploring elsewhere along the shore. Curtis humored me, though I’m pretty sure he would have stayed out there permanently if he had the option.

Curtis in his natural habitat

Curtis in his natural habitat

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Cool ice formation slightly downriver from our camp

Cool ice formation slightly downriver from our camp

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After hauling our gear back to the car we met DR and Mark for a hike along the Devil’s Track river. We began by hiking through deep snow along the Superior Hiking Trail. This was the first time I’d been on the SHT this far North, and it really does seem to just get better and better the further you go – I definitely need to get back here soon.

The views were ok.

The views were ok.

After a few miles on the trail we hopped onto the river itself, and begun hiking downstream towards the shore. The river carves through a canyon that gets deeper and more awesome the further you go. DR led the way for the most part, picking the numerous lines we needed to cross the river to avoid thin ice and patches of open water. He seemed to know what he was doing and has survived enough of these trips to make me at least relatively confident that we weren’t going to die.

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Eventually we reached a waterfall that we had to rappel from in order to continue downriver. Curtis and DR gave me a crash course in how to affix a harness and not kill myself, and I made it down in one piece. I’m scared of heights to the point where I just didn’t look down to see how far the rappel was. Our group finished the rappel just as it got completely dark.

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Once we were down past the waterfall we had a nice packed snowhoe track to follow and made great time along the river towards Highway 61. It was awesome hiking through the deep canyon in full dark on a clear night, with a sliver of moon just barely peeking through trees on the ridge above us. Then DR led us on a dubious shortcut back to our car that consisted of turning off the river onto a small creek, postholing through snow upstream until we finally regained the SHT and followed it back to our cars.

We headed back to Grand Marais for some mandatory Sven and Oles, then crashed out in DR and Mark’s hotel room. I was super grateful to get to crash out inside, as it gave us enough time to get up on Sunday morning and fit in one more hike, this time along the Kadunce river. This one only took about an hour, but was every bit as awesome as the Devil’s track. We scrambled up some small waterfalls to reach the top, then took a SHT spur trail back to our car. Unfortunately it was too cold for my camera lens to open, so I only managed to get one picture of Curtis looking badass.

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We talked about trying to fit in some more snowshoeing during the drive home, but the warm car and the draw of the Thirsty Pagan proved to be too much for us, so we loaded up on pizza in Superior and went home. Even though we ended up not getting to ride bikes at all, this was a great kickoff to 2014 and I still can’t believe how much awesome outdoors stuff there is to explore just a few hours from where I live. I’ll be going back soon.

 

Amateur Hour at the Colorado Trail Race

I’m back home after an early DNF at the Colorado Trail Race. Needless to say I’m pretty upset about it, but am trying to remain positive about the experience and learn from it what I can. This was only my second foray into multi-day endurance racing, and while failing at an event that I put so much energy into preparing for is frustrating, I know that there will be opportunities for redemption in the future.

My decision to drop out came mostly as a result of poor judgment and rattled nerves. Despite feeling the thin air and walking more than I would have liked, my first day went fairly well and I crested Georgia Pass around 10pm. This put me roughly 80 miles into the race, and was basically where I wanted to be given my aspirations of a midpack finish. I began my descent, and then for whatever reason made the purely idiotic decision to bivy midway down the pass to hopefully avoid rapidly approaching thunderstorm. This would have been forgivable if my sleep system included a tent or tarp, which it didn’t. I was thinking like a tourist but had packed like a racer, and I got soaked. Pounding rain, hail, and a soaked down bag had me shivering uncontrollably and seriously worried about my safety. Scared and unable to make myself do the right thing (pack my shit and move on in the rain), I instead pulled on every piece of clothing I could find and huddled in my wet bivy. I turned off the 4am alarm on my phone and mentally quit the race at that exact moment.

The following morning I waited for the sun to rise, then dried out a little bit on the way down the pass. Despite feeling that my race was over, I had a blast riding the remainder of segment 6. The final descent to highway 9 was such a blast that I considered detouring to Breckenridge, plopping down a few hundred bucks on a tent, and pressing on. This scheme lasted about as long as the adrenaline from the descent, and instead I called my Mom, turned off my Spot, and pedaled to a motel in Frisco.

I expect to return to the Colorado Trail someday in the future, though not necessarily in the context of this race. If I do line up for it again it will be with the assumption that I can race it at my full potential, something that may be difficult to achieve while living at 1000 feet above see level. Maybe I’ll just have to move to Colorado in order to prepare for it effectively! In the meantime I’m happy to turn my energy towards some events closer to home. I’m keeping an eye out for sleeping bags rated to -20F, and I hope to be seeing to some unfinished business in Grinnell next April. Plus, there seems to be more and more multiday events sprouting up all over the country, so who knows what opportunities I may have in the near future. If you’re a cyclist with an appetite for long distance, self-supported adventures, there’s never been a better time to be alive and riding than right now, so take advantage of it! Here’s a few pictures I’ll be looking at for reminders of that in the coming months.

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Quasi-bikepacking in the Chequamegon National Forest

With the Colorado Trail Race rapidly approaching, I’ve been seeking out some longer mountain bike rides and overnight destinations (I’ve also gotten back into the embarrassing habit of dragging a bunch of bags and gear on my bike at all times, and basically look like an idiot). This past weekend I made it up to the CAMBA trails in northern Wisconsin for two days of awesome camping and riding. Initially I planned on making the trip solo and doing a proper pre-CTR shakedown using all of the gear that I’ll be taking with me for the race. When my friend Curtis expressed an interest in joining me, I threw that plan out the window instead opted for tent camping, beer drinking, and riding awesome singletrack with friends.

The CAMBA trails are located within National Forest land, so any patch of grass is a viable campground so long as you follow USFS rules. We parked at a trailhead, pedaled to a service road, and then hiked back into the forest to set up camp for the night. This meant we didn’t get to use the waterslide at the $35 a night KOA campground, but the weekend wasn’t a total loss. Next time I’ll load up a backpack with my camping stuff, ride to one of the lakes situated just off the trail, and set up there.

The trails completely exceeded my expectations. Each segment we rode had its own character and something unique to offer (Including newborn deer obstacles that we chose to hike around). After nearly ten hours of riding we still hadn’t seen everything that had been recommended to us. During the drive home we expressed our amazement that people even bother driving to Cuyuna when a few more minutes in the car gets you to somewhere with so much more to offer. I’ll be heading back to Cable in a few weeks to take part in the Chequamegon 100, and I can’t wait to see the rest of  what’s up there. 

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Superior Hiking Trail

I closed out the summer by spending three days backpacking along the Superior Hiking Trail with my good friend Curtis. We struck out Northbound from Gooseberry Falls State Park and covered thirty some odd miles of the trail, ending up in Tettegouche State Park from where we hitched back to Curtis’s car.   This was my first multi-day hiking trip, and it left me yearning for more. It was humbling to feel sore and exhausted after the relatively short days that we put in, but that was more than offset by the exhiliration brought on by trying something new and seeing the world from a new perspective. We saw some amazing country, and I ended the trip with a renewed appreciation for how lucky I am to be from Minnesota. Looking at my few pictures from the trip, it seems surreal that there is this much awesome wilderness such a short distance from my home.