As a friend and I have been discussing the possibility of doing a bikepacking trip, it brought back memories of my first bikepacking trip.
In June of 2007 I had already owned my fat tired Pugsley for one year. I had attempted my first Arrowhead 135 earlier in the year. I had my first DNF ever. (I would return in 2008 and finish in 12th place). At this time, in the history of bikes, these crazy fat tire bikes were just being introduced as commercially available bikes. Prior to 2015 the only way to get a bike similar to this was to buy one from the few custom builders that offered them. As early adopters started to discover the possibilities of what these bikes could do, stories of adventures taking place off the beaten track were starting to appear. The term bikepacking was not yet widely used, or used at all. The availability of framepacks and giant seatbags that we use today was minimal. There were only a few custom bag makers making these new kind of bags. Often there was a waiting list to get one custom made to fit your bike.
I had caught the bug. I bought my fat tired bike for use on winter trails. I wasn’t a summer mountain biker and didn’t plan to use the fat bike at all when there wasn’t snow on the ground. Reading other peoples adventures of loading up their fat tire bikes for off-road adventures intrigued me. I was aware of a dirt recreational trail that ran for 60 miles across Northwestern Wisconsin from Superior to Ashland. It’s called the Tri-County Corridor Trail. It is a multi-use trail which allow hikers, bikers, horses, and motorized users like ATV’s. It is mainly used by ATVer’s. Before it gets to Ashland, Wisconsin it passes through the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.
My plan was to pack up my fat bike, ride across the bridge to Superior, connect up with the Tri-County trail, follow that to the National Forest. Once in the National Forest I would find a place camp. Dispersed camping without a permit is allowed.
It turned out to be one of the best overnight camping trips I’ve ever done. Not only was I in tip top condition since I had essentially been training for the previous Arrowhead 135, and the next Arrowhead 135, non-stop for 18 months. This trip was a 120 mile round trip on a loaded fatbike. I didn’t see a single other bike on the entire trip. The only traffic I shared the route with was a couple of dozen ATV riders. I didn’t see another soul the 16 hours I spent in the National Forest. It was trip where it was just me and my bike, and the world I was passing through.
It was a great way to do my first ever bikepacking trip….even though I didn’t know that’s what it was called.