I still use a desktop computer for some of my computing needs. The computer shows me pictures “From This Day”. I like to click on it and see what I was doing on this day in past years. I specially enjoy pictures from the winter months. The computer has several thousand pictures that I’ve taken over the years. Mostly pictures of my bikes in beautiful surroundings. Here is a sample of what popped up yesterday for the date of January 21st.
Susan and I tend to spend many of our weekends at home. I do my bike rides from home and she splits her time doing fiber projects and sewing inside, or gardening outside when we have nice weather. This weekend we did road trips both days.
First up was our Spring maintenance check of our section of the Superior Hiking Trail. It’s an adopt a trail section volunteer thing. I say “our section” because we are starting our 16th year with the same section. The trail itself has only been around for 31 years. To get to the trail we drive about 90 miles up the North Shore of Lake Superior from Duluth to Schroeder, MN.
The title of this post mentions three seasons. The first two seasons we experienced on Saturday. Too our surprise there was more then the usual snow still hanging around on the trail this year. Strange considering the mild winter we had only 90 miles away in Duluth. It’s the most Spring snow we’ve seen in all the years we’ve been doing this.
The second season we experienced was Spring. The forest flower was sporting many wildflowers. The trees had yet to leave out here. Ninety miles away in Duluth the leaves were 3/4’s of the way out.
The section we maintain starts at the Cross River and follows it for nearly two miles. It feels remote and the only access is by foot. It has many drops in elevation as its waters race towards Lake Superior. It’s always a beautiful walk along this wild river.
Along with 7 miles of hiking I also got in a bike ride. I drop Susan and our maintenance gear off at the trailhead we will start from. I then drive to the trailhead we will end at. Drop off the car and ride the bike back to where Susan is. I hide the bike in the woods. We pick it up after we’re all done hiking. It works quite well.
The weather was about as good as we could ask for. Light winds, sunny, and a temp in the mid-50’s. Perfect for hiking and trail work.
Susan likes to attend the Shepard’s Harvest Festival when she can. It’s an annual sheep and wool festival held down near the Twin Cities in Lake Elmo, Minnesota at the Washington County Fairgrounds. It happens to be near a St Paul suburb I lived in for 8 years in the 90’s and also a couple of years in the 80’s. I spent many years bicycling around the area. I decided to accompany Susan for the ride down. I brought along my Brompton so I could get a ride in while she spent time at the festival.
The Brompton fits nicely in the “boot” of our car.
The weather forecast was for 82F degrees, low humidty and light winds. Much like summer conditions for those of us from Duluth. Warmer than I prefer but tolerable. I hadn’t ridden in anything warmer than upper 50’s so far this year. I dropped Susan off at the Fairgrounds and drove 3 or 4 miles to a trailhead along the Gateway Trail. It’s an 18 mile long rail trail that starts in St Paul near the State Capital building and travels easterly and then north through St Paul suburbs and then into the country. It ends at a regional park.
I used to live a few blocks from the trail. In the early 90’s it was still an abandoned rail right-of-way. The rails, ties and ballast had all been removed. The surface was dirt and grass in most places. The only users were dog walkers and local horse owners. Back in 1991 I was given a 1988 Specialized Rock Hopper Comp. I had never ridden a mountain bike. I started taking it our for rides on the future Gateway Trail. I think it was in 1993 or 1994 when they paved it and made it into an official trail. I was thrilled. I put hundreds of miles of riding in on that trail. I know every inch of it. I also spent two years doing it on rollerblades when I developed tendonitis in my arms and was told to stop riding my bike.
Today was a bit of a return to my old stompin’ grounds. It’s changed some. I didn’t see any one on rollerblades. Back in the 90’s about 50% of the users were on rollerblades. Today I saw more bicyclists in a couple of hours than I would see in a month back then. It’s really caught on. And there’s been a few improvements like two bridges and one underpass where there used to be surface level crossings of major road crossings.
A new connector trail, Brown’s Creek State Trail that joins the Gateway Trail to Stillwater, MN and the St Croix River. It’s a 5.9 mile rail trail that was not here when I last rode the Gateway. These rail lines used to connect St Paul to Duluth. That’s why there’s a “Duluth Junction” 140 miles away from Duluth.
After the ride I picked up Susan and we made the drive back to Duluth. When we arrived in the Lake Superior Basin the temperature of 50F. 32 degrees cooler than what we had left behind in the Twin Cities. The wind was blowing off the cold lake with 20-30 mph gusts.
I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting my old “neighborhood” as well as a trip up the shore of Lake Superior. What a wonderful weekend Susan and I had together.
Turns out the last two rides of 2016 were on snow with the Pugsley. My favorite kind of riding I do all year. I had been feeling a bit under the weather all week. Other people around me have been sick. Susan had a cold virus and several co-workers were sick, but were at work. I never had full-blown symptoms, but I wasn’t feeling quite right and needing a lot of sleep.
Over Christmas we had a storm that brought lots of rain in our neighborhood, sleet and some wet snow. I thought for sure the good snow conditions we had on the local mtb trails would have been gone. Replaced with a layer of slick ice. As the week went on I was hearing reports of prime riding conditions. A layer of crust had formed from the mixed precipitation. It was supposed to be excellent riding, no studs needed. Here’s one report in particular. This report says: “the conditions are freakaliciously sweet!” To top it off the three amazing pictures in the report were taken on the trails less than 1 mile from my house.
With the weather forecast calling for a chance of significant snow in a few days, I knew I had to get out and enjoy the current conditions. It just so happens I worked a half day on Friday, the 30th. As I left the house on the Pugsley it started to snow pretty steady. The reports were true. The riding was amazing and the snow coming down was an extra wintery bonus. I rode The Duluth Traverse through Brewers Park and the Piedmont Trails and back. And then down Keene Creek, where the pictures in the above link were taken.
Today, the 31st, the sun was out with temps around 20F. Yesterday’s snow amounted to about 1 inch. I headed in a different direction to see if the new trails between the Zoo and Spirit Mountain Ski Area were in good riding condition or not. They too were in excellent shape. Only a handful of tracks in the fresh snow. I only saw one other person on this section. One and half miles of this section I have never ridden. It was built just this Fall. It was an incredibly nice stretch of trail. Here’s today’s photos:
Well, being an introvert, and learning to accept that, I’ve learned I’m happier when I don’t seek out large gatherings of people. I’ve become comfortable with going it alone or with a few other people. Throw in the fact I have Celiac Disease and can’t partake in the eating of most common foods and the consumption of beer, there’s not a lot to draw me to groups. So I don’t take much notice to events that are designed to be large social gatherings. Hence my lack of interest in the Global Fat Bike Day. Sure I like fat bikes. I’ve been riding a fat bike longer then 99.9999999% of the current owners of fatbikes. I bought my first fatbike, seen above, in June 2006. Sure I’d love to celebrate these amazing bicycles with others. But then all the above mentioned issues put up all kind of road blocks for me. Not looking for sympathy. Like I said, I’ve become very comfortable going it alone most of the time. It’s so much easier and so much less mentally taxing.
Saturday was the appointed day for the celebration of fatbikes. I’m sure there were several local gatherings. But I conveniently had a home project I was working on. Staining our new patio door and trim.
I don’t have much experience at staining. So I needed to take my time. Sand, stain, let dry, sand, stain, let dry, sand, clear coat, let dry, sand, clear coat. It’s a time intensive project. No time for bike rides this weekend. Besides, we’re used to having snow and ice this time of year…you know, fatbike weather. Not only do we not have snow, (enough to ride on) the lakes aren’t even frozen, the ground isn’t frozen yet, and the mountain bikes trails are closed because of muddy conditions. So, what’s the point.
By two o’clock I had made good progress on the door and was feeling the need to get outside away from the fumes for awhile. So I figured a quick solo ride on the fatbike and my own little fatbike celebration ride would be suitable.
I pieced together a few different trails and paths and abandoned railroads and ended up having a great ride. I knew it’d be dark before I made it home so I brought along lights. It was a wonderful ride. Here’s the route.
I decided to ride up the hill to the abandoned DWP rail line and try to reach the tunnel before it got dark. The tunnel is creepy enough in the day time. The above picture is where I picked up the DWP.
The DWP used to be a pretty good secret. You’d never see people up here. Only the locals out walking their dogs. But more and more people are finding out about it. In the next year or two it will be improved and added to the local trail network. But for now it still has that abandoned feel to it.
The tunnel is eery. Dark and creepy. It’s about 500 feet in length and goes under Ely’s Peak. It curves slightly so you can’t see the other side until you are about halfway through. A big chunk of the ceiling has fallen and is partially blocking the path through the tunnel.
As I was taking a photo of the tunnel another fatbiker arrived. He didn’t even slow down and mumbled something about not being the only one out here. He entered the tunnel and quickly disappeared, as if the darkness of the tunnel swallowed him up. You can see the light of his head lamp lighting up the tunnel in the above picture.
It should be very cool when they open this trail to the public. They have some work ahead. Some wash outs and a major chunk of the hillside has slid down onto the trail above. Almost completely blocking the trail.
In the end I think my Global Fat Bike Day 2016 solo ride was a smashing success.
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.
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:
All of Hartley park is closed. There are lots of unsafe trees in the park.3 days ago
Closed… Rain and very high winds last night.. Haven’t looked yet but very likely that there are many trees down across the trails.. Ugh!5 days ago
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:
All of Lester trails are closed. There are lots of unsafe trees in the park.3 days ago
Well over 100 trail obstructions. Large down trees mostly. A ride of any sort really isn’t possible at this time.4 days ago
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.
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.
I plan to do much more of this. How can I not take advantage of these riding opportunities?
Yesterday I started work at 5 am. An unusually early start time for me. The good news was I able to get in an 8 hour work day and be home before 2 o’clock. Hmmm, what to do? Bike ride of course. I had enjoyed my trail ride on my Pugsley earlier in the week so much, I decided to try that again. I lack any serious mountain bike skills. I can count on my two hands how many times I’ve ridden summer trails on my Pugsley. My only “mountain bike”. Well, I do have the 80’s Specialized Rock Hopper Comp. I don’t normally think of that bike as my mountain bike because I’ve used it for just about everything but mountain biking over the years.
I decided midday and mid-week biking on the trails would allow for the least amount of run ins with other bikers. I ride really slow and they always catch me. Then I get self-conscious about my lack of mountain biking skills and do something really embarrassing like riding off the trail or not making it up a tiny little rock without putting a foot down.
Turns out I didn’t see any other bikers, or hikers for that matter, at all. I really enjoyed the trails yesterday. I think I might try riding them more often. The trail you see above is a mile and half from my house. It was built in late 2014. In the next few years an access trail from neighborhood is supposed to be built through a new park at the end of my block. So I will be able to ride these trails practically from my front door. I don’t think the Pugs is the best tool for this job. But for now I’m having a great time learning to ride some of this fantastic local single track on it.
Today I was able to get out again in the late afternoon. This time is was a quick out and back on the local rail trail. All but the first and last mile was on a paved trail.
It wasn’t a perfect day because it was slightly on the hot side for me. But it was nearly a perfect day for being out on a ride. It wasn’t energy sapping hot and not humid at all. In fact I felt surprisingly energetic. I felt like I could have ridden a few more hours if time wasn’t an issue.
I’m glad I got out and enjoyed the beautiful summer days the past two days. Once we’re in the middle of the warm season, it’s easy to forget it doesn’t last long in this part of the country. Most of the year it is a rare thing to be able to get out and be able to stop during a ride and not get cold. Looking forward to more days like these over the next two months.
In June of 2006 I asked my LBS to order me a strange new frame from Surly, some fat rims, and some strange fat tires. In 2007 Surly was the only company offering a fatbike. And you could only get it as a frame. Surly made the only fatbike rims, the 65mm wide Large Marge rims. And Surly made the only tire for fat bikes. The 3.7 Endomorph. If you wanted a fatbike the Pugsley was the only option from any bike manufacturer. I remember my biggest concern about spending money on one of these new fatbikes was if I was going to be able to get replacement tires and parts down the line if they didn’t catch on. I guess the opposite has happened.
Here’s pictures from the day it arrived at my LBS back in 2006:
Most bike shops in the summer of 2006 had never heard of a fatbike. If they had heard of it, they had never seen one in person. This was the first one my local bike shop owner had seen. Word around town was mine was the second one sold in Duluth. An employee at another bike shop had the first one.
Why did I get one? I first saw pictures of a Pugsley on the Surly website sometime in early 2006. They had first started selling Pugsley frames in 2005. From the moment I laid my eyes on a picture of one, I got it. I understood the possibilities of a bike with fat tires. Mainly I was thinking about snow. I love bikes and I love snow. A bike that you could ride in snow was the best idea I had come across in a long time. I wanted one. I had to have one. At the time I had never spent more then $1200 on a bicycle. The ballpark figure to build up a Pugsley at the time was $2000. For awhile that was a deal breaker for me. In order to rationalize the purchase I decided I would attempt riding the Arrowhead 135. The best commercially available bike for that event at the time was a Surly Pugsley. I entered the race in 2007 and 2008. I DNF’d in 2007. I came back in 2008 and finished in 12th place.
I was satisfied with my 2008 race. I haven’t gone back. I’m not one to repeat the same events over and over. What I did do is ride my Pugsley all winter every winter. I estimate I’ve ridden over 7,500 miles on snow in the first ten years of owning my Pugsley. It’s the funnest riding I do all year. I absolutely love it. I also commute on it some days. I use it for days when there is an active snow event happening and for extreme cold rides. My coldest commute to date was on the Pugsley at -32F degrees (-60F with the windchill).
A few winter pictures:
More than 90% of the miles on my Pugsley are winter miles, off-road, on snow. I rarely ride it in seasons other than winter. One memorable ride that wasn’t a winter ride was my first bikepacking trip in June of 2007. Of course, it wasn’t called bikepacking back in 2007. It was just camping. But this particular trip was an overnight trip mostly off-road. It was a 132 mile round trip to the Chequamegon National Forest in Wisconsin and back. It was a really fun trip I thought I’d repeat, but it hasn’t happened yet. Here’s pics from that trip:
I had mostly forgotten about the 10 year milestone of owning this bike. I remembered it this past weekend. I thought it’d be a good idea to get the winter salt finally washed off. The last ride on it was in the snow. Today I cleaned it up and took it out on some local single track.
For the past few years I’ve been itching to upgrade to a newer fatbike. But today I had a blast riding my Pugsley…..just like every other time I’ve ridden it. We’ve been through so many good times and adventures, I’m not sure I can let it go and replace it. It’s a damn fun bike, and always has been. Happy Birthday Pugsley.
I know I keep saying every ride is the last snowbike ride before winter ends. I thought my ride on Tuesday was going to be the last. We had a few warm days with lots of melting. Then yesterday we had a fast moving snow storm drop a quick 2 inches of snow on us. Overnight temps dropped below freezing. And apparently there was some freezing rain overnight. The fresh snow, and everything else, had a quarter inch of ice covering it this morning.
I’m not normally a get-up-and-get-out-to-ride kind of person. Today I realized if I could get out early before the temps rose too far above freezing the snow biking might be pretty decent. Decent despite the lack of base and a packed trail. But decent considering the warm weather we’ve been having.
Turns out it was a perfect morning to be out on the trails. I chose the snowmobile trails because it would have been too soft on the mountain bike trails. I didn’t expect to see any snowmobiles in these conditions. Although I did see one.
And I was passed by two other fatbikers who seemed to have the same idea. While up on Spirit Mountain I could see some dog sled races on a parallel trail. They all had teams of four dogs and were flying. I tried to snap a few photos through the trees, but they were going so fast it was hard to capture.
You have to look really hard to see them in this picture. Four blackish colored dogs and the front end of a sled just behind them. You know winter isn’t over yet when you run across dog sleds.
The forecast for the next ten days calls for 40’s and 50’s. Not normal for us. So this may really be the end of our ride-able snow. Although, if I get out really early tomorrw I might still get in one more ride.
After a sunny 50degF/10degC day last Saturday I didn’t expect our snow cover to survive. We lost a good amount of snow, but not all of it. The warm spell only lasted a day. Winter came back Sunday. We had temps in the 30’s with a burst of snowfall during the day. It only amounted to an inch or two. It was just enough to cover up the icy spots from all the melting on Saturday.
Then last night we had a low around 2degF/-17degC. The snow that was still left really set up nice in the overnight cold. With a warming trend coming I thought I’d better get out today to see if there was still snow to ride. To my surprise, it was in great condition. The Brewer Park Trails on the ridge above my house were freshly groomed. Again when I least expected it, I find fantastic riding conditions. When I got home from work around 4:00 the temperature had risen only to 22degF/-6degC.
I got in a short ride. Enjoyed the solitude of the trail all to myself. Great views of the Aerial Lift Bridge and Lake Superior beyond. And some wonderful, late in the day sunlight on the trails.
It was just what I needed. To all those local fatbikers who weren’t out there, man did you miss out on some fast trails today.