A mid-week urban multi-terrain adventure.

Today it felt like I was waking to a Universe that drastically changed overnight. Yesterday was election day. Today people felt unsure about so many things in our country and the world. Regardless of who you voted for, this is a big gamble on our future together.

For me, I had the day off from my day job. When this happens I work on my eCommerce website I started. Today I was having a hard time focusing. I ended up just turning it all off. The media, I mean. After awhile I was able to calm my thoughts and get some work done.

We are in the middle of one of the warmest Novembers in recorded history. We’re seeing temps 20 and 30 degrees above average. We tied a record high temp last Friday and broke 100 year old records on Saturday and Sunday with 70F/21C degrees both days. Crazy warm for us. Today was all sunshine and 60F/16C degrees. So of course I took the afternoon to get in a bike ride. Today I chose to ride the Pugsley. I have been spotting some more new Duluth mtb trails along the Munger Trail at Mission Creek. My general idea was to head in that direction and check out the trails. The trails are located about 8 miles to the west of where I live. Leaving at 2:30 I thought for sure I’d be home before dark. So I didn’t take any lights. Later in the day I was having so much fun and enjoying the day I barely made it home before dark. Almost 3 hours later.


It wasn’t intentional, but I realized just before the end of the ride that the route I took only included two miles of paved roads. The first and last mile. I rode 24 miles, 100% within the city limits of Duluth. Twenty-two of those miles was mixed terrain. It included multi-purpose recreational trails, old ATV trails (ATV use is now banned in the city), gravel roads, mtb singletrack trails, an abandoned parkway, abandoned rail corridor, and even a short hike-a-bike through the woods. I estimate I rode 5 miles of new, and new to me, beautiful singletrack trails. I never get lost, but today I was momentarily not sure exactly where I was at one point. That was how remote it felt. Once I left the paved roads in my neighborhood I maybe saw a dozen people at most. This is all within the city of Duluth. I love this place. Here’s a link to the route I took.

Gravel on western Skyline Parkway.
The best part about the leaves being gone is the all-day views when riding a ridge.
Weird, green grass on November 9th.

This is a new section of mtb trails along the old Mission Creek Parkway. They must have put down some seeds for erosion control. It was growing like it was early Spring. This time of year the ground should be starting to freeze up and nothing should be alive. It was weird, weird, weird.

I loved the new Mission Creek trails. For several reasons. There’s lots of flowing “easy” trails. Not a lot of roots or rocks. The other reason is the remote feeling of the area. Mission Creek flows down through a deep ravine that is eroding away. But it’s heavily wooded. The new trails snake up and down through the ravine. It’s really masterful trail building. With the leaves off the trees you can see distant hillsides towering above the ravine. It almost feels like you’re in the mountains. Real mountain biking here in the Midwest.

All that’s left of the old Mission Creek Parkway in places is this old ATV trail.

I don’t know all the history of the old Parkway. But I believe it was a parkway that ran through the ravine connecting the western end of Skyline Parkway to the Fond du Lac neighborhood. There are still about a half dozen or so deteriorating stone arch bridges along the route. It was at this point when I came across the parkway that I was momentarily turned around in my direction finding. I also was concerned about getting back home without lights before dark. I knew the parkway would take me out. So I left the trails and rode up the old parkway. It required two creeks crossings, but it was warm enough I wasn’t too concerned with getting a foot wet or falling in.

A short hike-a-bike up to the DWP rail corridor.

After a few miles on the Munger State Trail I decided to bushwack my way up hill to the old abandoned DWP rail corridor. It runs parallel to the Munger and up the hill from it. It has a very cool tunnel cut through Ely’s Peak. I wouldn’t need to go through the tunnel today. I would be going in the opposite direction. Eventually this rail corridor will be improved and paved with crushed rock as part of the massive trail system being put in around Duluth. This is supposed to include the tunnel.

The DWP rail corridor.
The DWP rail corridor.
The DWP rail corridor.
Train trestle on the DWP rail corridor.

Crossing this train trestle always freaks me out. It crosses over a deep ravine. The cross beams are 3 or 4 inches apart and you can see down to the creek below. They are a bit rough to ride even on a fatbike. So I usually walk my bike over it. I get a bit of vertigo crossing it.

A view over the edge of the trestle looking down into the ravine.

Not long after you cross the trestle you reach the ski slopes of Spirit Mountain. The DWP crosses right through the ski hills. I had a nice surprise when I reached the east side of the ski resort. More new mountain bikes trails! About one mile of new trail between the ski resort and the zoo. It is absolutely crazy how many miles of beautiful new single track was built this summer alone. A month ago I was casually thinking for the first time in my life I might like to have a mountain bike. Now I think it will happen once I have the money.

New trails behind the zoo.

What started out as a little afternoon spin on my Pugsley turned into a mini-adventure right in my own backyard. It was exactly what I needed to get my mind off the political overload and stress I’ve been feeling from this election.

I never thought I’d say this…..

……my next bike could very well be a squishy mountain bike. As the local mountain bike club continues to add mile after mile of more trails to the local trail system, I can’t stop thinking about the possibility of owning a trail specific mountain bike. I’ve attempted to ride the trails on my 10 year old Pugsley. However, between my lack of single track riding skills and the rocky, root filled terrain, I’ve learned the Pugsley is not the best tool for the job.

Fat tire on one billion year old rock.

The local mountain bike trail club, COGGS, has an ambitious plan in place to build over 100 miles of trail within the city limits of Duluth. It is utilizing the open space on the hills above Duluth and parks to create this vision. The Duluth Traverse Trail will connect all the mountain bike areas and run the entire 26 mile length of the city. An entire network of trails with access for every Duluthian within a mile or two of where they live. It has already received an IMBA Gold Level Ride Center recognition. One of only five Gold Medal Ride Centers in the world.

Thursday evening, a father and son ride some of the trail below Enger Park. This section was built in 2015.

I’ve been amazed at the rate of trail building taking place. All summer long I would frequently encounter new sections of trail as I was riding around. This summer there has been an expansion of the system in my neighborhood. Seeing the trail being built so close to my house this summer has me thinking I need to take advantage of the trails. I’m increasingly looking for ways to avoid being on the roadways for some of my leisure riding. I see people everyday driving with their heads looking down. Riding some world class trails several days a week is now an option.

I discovered this section of trail yesterday. It must have been built in the last two weeks. It is only 0.8 mile from my front door.
The local club has raised enough cash to pay for professional trail builders to spend all summer building trail.

On my Thursday evening ride I came across new trail being built next to Keene Creek along Skyline Parkway. When this section is done I believe there will be continuous trail from Keene Creek, by my house, to the east side of Enger Park and Twin Ponds area. That’s 5 miles by road, maybe 7 – 10 miles by trail (??). It also passes through both the Piedmont and Brewers Park loops and trail systems. Here’s pictures of the newly constructed, and not yet finished trail along Keene Creek:

Here the trail is being cut into the side of the ravine.
New this week.
Only days old.
Not sure when they built this section. It can’t be more then two weeks old.

I never took up an interest in summer off-road mountain biking ( Winter, yes.) for many reasons. And I’ve never been a person to drive my bike somewhere to ride it. But now that the trails are coming to me, I can’t help but to take an interest in riding these trails. So maybe I’ll have a mountain bike by this time next year and be writing posts on trail riding. Who knows?

And…one more photo added to this post after the initial publishing. This is more new trail going west from Highland Street as seen from the Highland Street bridge over Keene Creek:

It appears there is a bridge that still needs to be built over a side stream where the trail enters the trees.


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.


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?