TBT: Appalachian Trail Thru-hike 2001

Susan and I on Mount Katahdin, September 6, 2001.

My biggest adventure did not involve a bicycle. On March 6, 2001 Susan and I shouldered our backpacks and walked to the peak of Springer Mountain, Georgia. On Springer we took in the view, took a few pictures, took a few deep breathes, and took our first steps north. For the next six months we continued north until we reached the summit of Mount Katahdin. Six months of hard days, incredible experiences, and the time of our lives. By breaking out of my comfort zone I found how to feel completely free and have experiences I thought I’d never have.

This mountain biking thing…..

Duluth’s Piedmont/Brewer trails.

As I’ve said before I never took up mountain biking for various reasons. Now those reasons are less of a concern. Plus they keep building these wonderful trails through my neighborhood. Today I worked a half day. Came home and decided I needed to get out for a bike ride.  I didn’t have much time to get out for a road ride. BUT, a quick loop on the Brewer Park trail was do-able. It’s 1.25 miles to the trail head from my front door. How can I not take advantage of these trails?

I’m getting slightly less frustrated with my lack of off-road skills. But my pace is frighteningly slow at this time. Today my avg pace was 6.8 mph. Granted it was stinking hot. I took many short stops to wipe the sweat off my forehead and face. That’s a slower pace then I ride when I’ve got the Pugsley out in most snow conditions. But you know what? It was fun. And I had the trails completely to myself.


I still get stopped by rocky features like this. Since I’ve never ridden trails like this with experienced riders, I haven’t been able to learn from other riders how to ride rocks like this. So as soon as my foot goes down, I dismount and push. I also realize my Pugsley isn’t the best tool for this job. The thought crossed my mind today I should think about buying a proper mountain bike. It surprised me. I’ve never been interested in mountain bikes with squishy suspensions. But with all these nice trails, maybe I should. Well, if I decide to do that, it won’t happen for another year or so.

A rare smooth, flowy section.

Personally, I wish all the trails looked like the one above. I’d be perfectly happy just riding along through the woods without all the challenging obstacles. Of course, ever since I fell off my bike in 2008 and blew apart my right humerus bone into 13 pieces, I’ve been a bit scared of falling off my bike again.

One thing that was very odd about riding through the woods today was the fact there weren’t any trees down or any sign of the horrendous storms that blew through parts of Duluth last Thursday. The storm uprooted and destroyed hundreds of trees in the city. The Hartley Park Mountain Bike Trails, part of the same system as the trails I rode today are closed. It’s only about 10 miles east of where I was today. Here’s the last two posts for the conditions at Hartley Park Trails:

Another 4 miles east of Hartley Park is the Lester River Trails, also part of the same system of trails. Here’s the last two conditions post for those trails:

I keep telling myself how fortunate we were to have this storm narrowly miss the part of town we live in. Correction, we did get the storm. We just didn’t get the 70-100 mph straight line winds that caused so much damage. I was in the damaged areas Friday morning. I thought about taking some pictures of the downed trees and power lines to show people. But I decided a picture of a couple of downed trees wouldn’t capture the breadth of the destruction. It was so widespread over such a large area. A picture couldn’t capture that.


A full weekend.

Saturday’s quick ride.

We had two 90F+ degree days on Thursday and Friday. At 3:00 am Friday morning a devastating thunderstorm came through and caused much damage in other parts of town. Parts other then where we live. Straight line winds clocking upwards of 100 mph, that’s hurricane level winds, blew through the area. It left 1/3 of the city without power and knocked down 100’s of trees. Power is still out for more then 20,000 people as of Sunday night. Some people may have to wait until late in the week to have power restored. We were fortunate our neighborhood didn’t see any damage.

All that to say, it cooled down on the weekend. Ninety degree weather is very rare in these parts. Some years we never see a 90 degree day. Yesterday (Saturday) when I finally got out for a short afternoon ride it was 68F degrees. That’s what life by the world’s biggest fresh water lake is like. (Biggest by surface area, not volume.)

My weekend was very busy. Still working on the kitchen renovation. I manged to make progress on that and still get in a bike ride each day. Saturday’s was a quick ride. I tried to get in a ride before another round of thunderstorms hit. They ended up missing us and going east.

Sunday’s ride was way more enjoyable. I got out for a 20 mile spin with some climbing, some urban gravel, and lots of views. The route I took is here.I’ll make the rest of this post a picture post. Enjoy.

Gravel, woods, and solitude.
I came across more new mountain bike trails.

This trail was only a few days old. They are building new mountain bike trails faster than I can keep track of it. This particular stretch starts on the south end of the old Mission Creek Parkway bridge. The bridge that crosses the Munger Trail. It’s mind boggling to me how fast the mountain bike trail system is growing. There’s not going to be anywhere in the United States that has anything like this once it’s done. An interconnected 100 mile system of trails all within the city limits.

In other news. My raspberries are doing fantastic this year. I love berry season.

This is bike related. How can a patch of raspberries be bike related you ask?

That’s me in 2007 with my newly built Xtracycle carrying a bucket of raspberry bushes.

One of the first errands I did when I built my Blue Truck/Xtracycle back in the summer of 2007 was carry a load of raspberry bushes 10 miles across town. A co-worker of mine offered me the bushes. All I had to do was pick them up. So I did. And I did it on a bicycle. Her yard was being taken over by them. That bucket of bushes has turned into quite a nice patch that produces a lot of berries. Love those berries.

Mountain bike skills I don’t have.

My 2006 Surly Pugsley.

My Pugsley is my only mountain bike, if you don’t count the 1988 Specialized Rockhopper Comp that I use as my Xtracycle. Just as the mountain bike craze was taking off in the early 90’s I suffered a repetitive motion injury in my elbows. It was so bad there was a time when I thought I’d never be able to ride a bike again. When I did get back on a bike I didn’t have the hand strength needed for off road riding. I still suffer flare-ups and have to take it easy on the arms at times.  Now that I know how to handle the injury I can do some off road riding, as long as it’s in moderation.

There is a drive to make our city a mountain biking destination with plans for over 100 miles of single track trails within the city. I’ve been trying to take advantage of these trails. Two years ago the system reached my neighborhood. I’ve been riding the trails in the winter. And this summer I’ve been out a few times. For now it’s a nice alternative to the other types of riding I do. A way to ride without having to worry about other road users.


The biggest eye opener for me getting out on these trails in the summer is how bad my mountain biking skills are. The geography of the area makes building trails a challenge. The trails end up rock and root filled. When riding I have to put a foot down all the time. I often have to dismount and push my bike up the smallest obstacles once I’ve failed to clean it. It can be down right embarrassing if other riders are around. I totally avoid busy times. Yesterday I didn’t have to work. A Tuesday at midday is a great time to have the trails to myself and avoid any embarrassing situations. I rode for a couple of hours and only saw three other riders. My pace would be agonizingly slow for experienced mountain bikers. You can see my route and slow times here. At one point I had to detour down the ridge to Skyline Parkway in the middle of one loop. This was due to new trail construction. The rate of new trail construction is staggering. I took a part of a new section not open yet to get down the ridge. There must have been 30 banked switchbacks on this section alone. Impressive trail construction to say the least.

The best part is this is right out my back door and in the next year or two a connector trail will be built down to my neighborhood about 200 yards from my house. This will take me through a new city park tentatively called Quarry Park. This will eliminate the 1.25 mile road ride to the nearest trail head.

Great views combined with…..
…..a north woods trail experience all in an…..
…..urban setting on a Great Lake.


I plan to do much more of this. How can I not take advantage of these riding opportunities?

Braving the crowds.

The A-train down by the lake.

We are now into week three on the kitchen renovation. Working on painting the cabinet doors. With limited work space I can only do one set of doors at a time. I put on a coat of paint and wait for it to dry. Repeat. Working outside hasn’t been an option with the frequent rain showers we are having lately. It’d be great if I could line up all the doors and paint them all at the same time. I’d be done by now if I could have done that.

I’ve been able to get in a few bike rides in between coats of paint. Yesterday I got out for a short ride late in the day. I haven’t been down to the lake front in awhile. I decided to head in that direction. I know Duluth is a tourist destination and the lake front can be swamped with tourists. I thought to myself how bad can it be? Turns out it was much worse then I expected. On the way to the lake front I rode past the Reggae Fest at Bayfront Park. The dog show at the convention center and the regular hordes of people around Canal Park and the lake front. An outdoor wedding had just finished as I rode through Leif Erickson Park. It was all a bit much for me. I retreated to city streets and made my way back home away from the hustle and bustle of the the lake front. Here was my route.

Lake Superior.

Despite the crowds, the views of Lake Superior were nothing short of breath taking. This is what draws me to the lake. It is a constantly evolving canvas. It never looks the same twice. Today it featured mud colored water. The result of all the rain run off from the recent heavy rains flowing into the big lake. This view alone was worth braving the crowds.

Ride to see the high water on the St. Louis River.

This 1 mile stretch of the Munger Trail is getting new surface.

After several weeks of kitchen renovation work, I finally got out for a ride. I’m still working on painting cabinet doors. I managed to get out between coats of paint. I chose to do an out and back on the local rail trail. As you can see above it is tree lined. With sustained winds above 20 mph and gusts well over 30 mph, the tree lined route makes for a nice wind buffer. My other destination was to check out the high water on the St. Louis River. The trail intersects it 16 miles from my house in Thomson, Minnesota. We had a large rain event on Monday. Many local communities are dealing with flooding and washed out roadways.

Large volumes of water coming over the Thomson Dam spillways.

It’s not the highest I’ve ever seen the water. That was during Spring melt. But it was flowing high for this time of the year.

All that water made a lot of noise.

It was great to be out on the bike. I didn’t even mind the wind. Anytime I can ride in wind like this and not be experiencing a windchill, I’m happy. In fact the wind helped me forget about the warmth and humidity.


Old train trestle over the river gorge.
Snack break at Hemlock Ravine.

According to a sign near this bench, this ravine contains Eastern Hemlocks. This spot is known as the furthest west in the United States that you can find Eastern Hemlocks. Other than this ravine they aren’t common in these parts.

I have a hard time resisting taking photos of the dramatic cuts through the rock on this trail. Specially when the sun is shining on both walls. That only happens for a short time each day.

We interrupt this cycling blog for a kitchen renovation.

New windows sashes look great. New paint on the walls and window.

We’ve been in this house for 13 years this month. It’s a 1925 house with a “modern” 1950’s kitchen. Well, it must have seemed modern in the 1950’s. I tend to spend my time and money on things other than home improvements. Mostly bicycles. BUT, painting the kitchen has been on the list for 13 years. Susan finally got the ball rolling on this project by taking a week of vacation for the week leading up to the July 4th holiday weekend. She’s done most of the work including cleaning the walls and cabinets, repairing cracks in the walls and ceiling, painting the walls and most of the inside and outside of the cabinets. We’re still working on the project whenever we have time in our day. I’ve been concentrating on the drawers, cabinet doors, shelves, repainting some of the hardware, filling holes and replacing other hardware.

It feels never ending. My bike riding has been non-existent since the beginning of this project. This will be one of those projects that will feel good when it is all done. We’ll wonder why we took so long to get it done. Well, my procrastination on projects like this is mostly to blame.

Moving it inside.

I’m off work today. The project continues. Our house is small with no garage. Up until today I’ve been doing the sanding and painting on the porch. I had to move it into the basement because we have 20-30 mph winds. Hard to keep contaminates out of the fresh paint in those winds.

While I wait for this round of painting to dry I’m sneaking out for a bike ride. I’ve been really craving a ride. Can’t wait to turn some pedals!