Two days, three seasons, two bike rides, one hike.

IMG_2769
The Cross River at Hwy 61 in Schroeder, Minnesota. You don’t even need to get out of your car to see this waterfall.

SATURDAY

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.

IMG_2765
Using the Pugsley to shuttle the car.

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. Snow on or along the trail on May 13th.

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.

Wildflowers on the forest floor.

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.

Another one of the nearly 4,000 blue blazes we painted. Back in 2006-2007 we were hired to paint the blue blazes on 200 miles of trail.

 

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.

IMG_2794
The only view of Lake Superior on this section of trail. But it’s a pretty good one.

SUNDAY

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.

IMG_2801

The Brompton fits nicely in the “boot” of our car.

IMG_2813

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.

IMG_2805

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.

IMG_2808

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.

IMG_2809

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.

IMG_2810

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.

Photos from the week.

It’s been an unusual September when it comes to the weather. I generally look forward to September because the weather can be some of the best of the year. Dry, cool, windless days with brilliant blue skies. This year we’ve seen little of that. It’s been cloudy with chances of rain more days than not, and windy. I’ve been less motivated to get out. Sunday, after being inside all day I forced myself out the door for a bike ride around 4:30. That’s late in the day even for me to get going. It was well worth it. I did some exploring of the old industrial river front. It’s mostly abandoned, polluted super-fund sites nowadays. Duluth was established as a town to support the mining and logging industries. These and other heavy industries spent the next hundred years using the harbor and polluting it. It is slowly being cleaned up and areas, like Canal Park, are now tourist attractions. Here’s pictures I took during this ride:

img_1276
A picture of a bridge from a bridge.
img_1279
The Arthur M. Anderson off-loading a load of what I think is limestone.
img_1283
Another shot of the Arthur M. Anderson. This is about as far up the river these large freighters travel. It’s almost 5 miles up river.
img_1281
It’s a half mile to the river down this stripped piece of industrial land between two boat slips.
img_1287
This is on the corner where the boat slip meets the main shipping channel of the St. Louis River. Minnesota is on the right, Wisconsin on the left.

IMG_1290.JPG

IMG_1292.JPG

img_1293
The half mile long slip for a very large boat or two.
img_1300
An old mail car. I’m guessing one of the two historic railroads in town has plans to restore it.
img_1306
Signs that Fall is fast approaching.

Thursday I was motivated to get out for a late evening ride. After a week of clouds and rain it managed to clear off about 5 in the afternoon. Seeing that crisp blue sky is all I needed to get me outside. It’s also the night Susan is gone to St Paul for a night class. I was free to stay out as long as I wanted.  Here’s a few pictures from that ride:

img_1320
It’s almost too bright to photograph.

IMG_1323.JPG

img_1337
A father and son using the mountain bike trails. Trails with a view. This section of trail was built in the summer of 2015.
img_1343
Glorious late in the day sunshine.
img_1347
Last light of the day looking south over the Keene Creek ravine towards the St Louis River and Wisconsin.

Today, Friday, I was off from work. It was another cloudy, windy day. No rain though. It took me all day to get myself outside. When I finally went I decided to walk some of the trails near my house including some of the Superior Hiking Trail. According to today’s DNR report our Fall colors should be in the 50-75% range.

img_1376

Some places it appeared this was accurate, other places it didn’t.

img_1366
Keene Creek
img_1370
Keene Creek

As always, once I get myself out the door I rarely regret it. This is a lesson I learn again and again and again.

I was told today I’m not needed at work on Monday. My current job is a part-time position. I work when they need me. With the day off I made some camping reservations for Sunday night. I’ll be doing an overnight bike camping trip. Really looking forward to it. It’s will be only my second bike camping trip of the 2016.

 

 

 

A hiking shuttle by bike.

IMG_0233
A bicycle is a great way to shuttle ourselves when we go hiking.

Yesterday was our Annual Spring maintenance hike on the Superior Hiking Trail. This is our 15th year maintaining this section of the trail. We’re responsible for walking the section once in the Spring and once in the Fall. We report any maintenance issues and do any maintenance we feel comfortable doing. Mostly we do trail clearing. Winter snows bring down trees and branches. Heavy snow and ice weighs down smaller trees blocking or encroaching into the foot path. We carry saws, loppers, and a Gerber axe to clear the debris.

This section is along the North Shore of Lake Superior, 90 miles up the shore from our home in Duluth. It’s near Schroeder, Minnesota. We drive up and take one of my bikes along. I drop Susan and our gear off at the trail head where we will start our hike. Then I drive to the trail head we plan to finish at. I leave the car, take my bike and ride back to where I left Susan. It involves some gravel county roads. I hide the bike in the woods while we hike. Afterwards, once we have finished the hike, we then retrieve the bike. Works very slick. We’ve done this roughly thirty different times over the 15 years of maintaining this section.

IMG_0221
The trail crosses the Cross River on a bridge where the river narrows as it runs through a gorge. It roars through this spot. You have to yell to have a conversation here.

The Superior Hiking Trail is is a 310-mile footpath that largely follows the rocky ridgeline above Lake Superior. It is spectacularly beautiful. It crosses many rivers and waterfalls and has panoramic views of Lake Superior all along it’s length. The highlight of our section is the walk along Cross River.

IMG_0227
Lunch break at a campsite along the Cross River.

We had a cold May 14th for our trail project. It took all day for the temperature to claw it’s way to 40F/4C degrees. It was blustery with occasional snow flurries and sleet. I pride myself in always being able to dress appropriately for any weather condition. I somehow missed it for this hike. I was barely dressed warm enough while moving. When stopped I got cold quickly  with no extra clothing to layer. Very rare for me not to be prepared. I carried twice as much water as I needed. Another miscalculation. Somehow I wasn’t realistic about the conditions that were present. My mind must have been on warmer weather.

IMG_0223
Ice along the Cross River. Every year this spot has ice well into May. It’s in a narrow gorge on a wall that gets no direct sun light.
IMG_0229
Too big for our axe.

There was an unusually large amount of debris on the ground along the Cross River this year. I figure it was caused by a mixture of heavy snow combined with high winds. We found at least a dozen 5 foot sections of evergreen tree tops that had been snapped off. I’ve never seen that before. And of course many fallen trees like the one above. There were two at this spot. I had already removed the smaller one with my axe before taking this picture. This one would have taken a hour or more to cut out with our axe. We decided to write it up and let a chainsaw crew take care of this one. This is on Superior National Forest land. You have to be certified by the National Forest Service to use a chainsaw here.

It took us 7 hours to walk this 6.5 mile section of trail. So we did a fair amount of work. We look forward to volunteer work. It gets harder each year as we grow older. But it’s always a nice day when working in the north woods.

IMG_0231
The other tree we didn’t attempt to remove ourselves. Except for the small amount of green starting to appear, the cold wind and snow flurries reminded us more of November than mid-May.
IMG_0230
The bridge over Fredenberg Creek is aging. It’s deck is starting to warp.