I’ll count my Friday evening post-dinner, pre-sunset ride as part of the weekend. It was another one of those beautiful late summer evenings. We were sitting on our porch when I got the itch to go ride about 30 minutes before sun down. I grabbed the Brompton and went. It’s really become such a great bike for this kind of last minute grab-and-go kind of rides. This time I was on a bit of a mission to turn down any alley or neighborhood street I’d never been on. Above is the alley behind the local snowmobile/atv/motorcycle/small farm implement store. You can see the squiggly route I took here.
Saturday was 100% about getting our “canning share” of tomatoes processed. Along with our weekly summer share of veggies from our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm, we order up a bulk share of tomatoes for canning. We’ve done this for 4 or 5 years now. That’s about how long Susan has been learning to can. And now I’m learning as well. I spent nearly 7 hours standing in one spot skinning, de-seeding and chopping tomatoes. While I did that Susan used the tomatoes I had finished to make salsa and pasta sauce and then canned those. It’s only one day a year we have to work on tomatoes like this, yet we reap the benefits of that labor all winter long. It is some good stuff. In paste years we received more tomatoes. So we’d make tomato-basil jam and can some plain tomatoes for making soups and stews.
No bike rides or hikes on Saturday.
When we bought our house in West Duluth in 2003 there were no official recreational trails anywhere nearby. Since then the Superior Hiking Trail has been extended across the ridge above our house. It is now, as of this summer, a 300 mile trail that runs from the Wisconsin border with Minnesota all the way up to Canada. It follows the ridge of Lake Superior. It is a premiere long distance hiking trail modeled after the Appalachian Trail. As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, there is also miles and miles of mountain bike trails being built all over the hills above my house.
Last month a new section of hiking trail was opened on the ridge above us. This section created a loop trail when combined with the Superior Hiking Trail. It is now known as the Brewer Park Loop. I had planned to take a fairly long bike ride Sunday to take advantage of what could be the last shorts and t-shirt weather rides of the season. Turns out it also makes for great hiking weather. I asked Susan if she’d like to check out the new loop trail. Well, I didn’t need to twist her arm. The official trail is 3.4 miles in length when hiking it from a local parking lot/trail head. We chose to walk from our house and enter the loop from another direction. Thusly adding a few miles. Our hike ended up being 6 miles in length. The first and last mile were road walks. Here’s some pictures from this hike that lays completely in our neighborhood. Or at least above our neighborhood. The ridge line is too rocky and rugged to build on. It is mostly wooded open space:
It was a spectacular hike. It’s hard to believe this is a urban hike we can hike anytime right from our front door.
Today was farm share pick-up day. Lots of fresh goodies from the Food Farm. As always it’s the Blue Truck/Xtracycle that gets the call to carry the farm share home. This picture was taken behind our local coffee shop, Beaner’s Central. They allow the Food Farm to use some inside space for the share pick-up by farm members. This is an alley side seating area the coffee shop built. I like the bicycle wheels incorporated into the overall design.
holiday weekend here in the states. We spent Saturday volunteering on the Superior Hiking Trail. It’s our 15th season as Trail Section volunteers. As a Trail Section volunteer we are asked to walk our section of trail once in the Spring and once in the Fall. We then fill out a report for the Maintenance Supervisor and do any trail work we feel comfortable doing.
After more then 30 times walking our section we have the routine down. I drop Susan and our gear off at the starting trail head. I drive to the trail head we will finish our hike at, take the bike and ride back to where I left Susan. I lock the bike in the woods and pick it up later after the hike. An added plus is a nice, mostly gravel, and mostly downhill bike ride.
We carry saws, lopers and an axe. We clear the trail best we can. We leave the really huge trees that have fallen on the trail for the chainsaw crew. Above is a before and after shot of a couple small birches we cleared.
When we arrived at this campsite there was a young couple on a three day backpack trip. They were drinking wine out of stainless steel packable wine glasses. Turns out he had just proposed to her at the waterfall right below the campsite and they were celebrating. She said yes.
The trail along the Cross River. The river was running very low.
Fredenberg Campsite, break spot number 2.
Tower Overlook with a view of Lake Superior in the distance. On a really clear day you can see the Apostle Islands and the Bayfield Peninsula of Wisconsin across the lake.
It was great to be out in the woods hiking together. We have not done enough hiking this summer. Our section of trail, much like the rest of the trail, is very scenic. It follows the Cross River as it cascades down the ridge towards Lake Superior. There is only one place on this section that has a view of Lake Superior. It’s one of the pictures above and is called Tower Overlook.
On Monday, the Labor Day Holiday, I went for a 20 mile ride to the west of my house. One of my regular routes that I like to ride when I don’t want to be around cars or too many people. It is mostly gravel and rail trail with maybe 1/3 low traffic roads. If you’ve read my blogs in the past you’ll recognize some of the shots. I was feeling quite sad after the news of Danny Chew being paralyzed in a bicycle crash. I stopped for a long while and sat on the wall at Bardons Peak to think. Riding my bike helped. Here’s some of the pictures:
There’s a new City Park at the end of our block. The Duluth Climbers Coalition has worked with the city to turn an abandoned rock quarry into a winter destination for ice climbing. This happens to be at the top of the city block we live on and across the train tracks that carry ore trains in and out of the Duluth Harbor. Up until now it’s been used by locals for walks, dog walking, teenager parties and in the winter I have seen ice climbers on the walls of the old quarry. Personally I’ve used the quarry for hiking, walking and snowshoeing. I never knew who owned the property or if I was allowed on it. Turns out the city owned most of it and acquired another 10 acres to make it a park. The climbers club in cooperation with the city is developing it into a park for all. It will feature climbing. They plan to put in a water system to farm ice on the wall. There is naturally occurring ice, but framing ice will give them more stable and abundant ice climbing routes.
The part of the plan I am most excited about is the part that develops hiking trails and mountain biking trails to link with the trails higher up the ridge. This will give my neighborhood complete trail access to a system of hiking and biking trails that connect with the rest of the city. I will only need to ride or walk one block of roads to access the trails I am already using. When we bought this house in 2003 there was no hiking or biking trail systems. Now there will be access nearly from our front door.
Yesterday was the first Annual Duluth Ice and Mixed Fest put on by the climbing club. It was an extremely unusual weather day with temps in the low 50’s It was a pleasant day to stand around and watch the ice climbers. The Fest also offered fatbike demos, snowshoeing, Frisbee golf demos, and ice climbing clinics. I was very impressed with the enthusiasm of the climbing club. To put on an event like this when the “Park” has not even been developed yet was amazing. Plus they went out of their way to make it inviting to people in the neighborhood.
Back prior to 2006 I used to do quite a bit of Cross Country Skiing. I love being outdoors in the winter time. Since 2006 I’ve gone skiing an average of once a winter. What happened in 2006 to change this? I bought my Surly Pugsley fatbike. That changed everything. I have never had so much fun in the snow than when I’m on my Pugsley. I’ve ridden thousands of miles on snow. And I’m not referring to riding on snow on the roadways. I mean off road riding.
Now don’t get me wrong. I have always loved skiing. And every year I pledge to do more skiing. But the snowbiking is so incredibly fun. And since I have access to trails only one mile from my house I don’t need to drive in order to snowbike. I don’t have a car, and my wife’s car isn’t always available when I have time to go skiing.
Long mid-afternoon winter shadows.
Today I drove my wife to the weaving studio so she could work on a project. That left me with a car. The temperatures are crazy warm for early January. A couple of degrees above freezing. It should be 20 degrees below the freeze mark or colder. We have very little snow. However I heard there was just enough snow for the city crews to groom the city cross-country ski trails. So off I went to get in the first, and hopefully not the only, ski outing of the year.
As I was skiing and soaking up all that sunshine we had today, I couldn’t help thinking I need to do this more often. How can I live in this place with an abundance of winter, and many winter trails and not take advantage of it. As winter progresses I guess I’ll find out what activity I choose most often.
View of the Duluth Harbor and Wisconsin from the Cross Country Ski trails.