The following is a true story, only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

High Island Creek, Rush River


High Island Creek at 250th ave 
 Two days before running both of these creeks I had never heard of them. It was a Sunday morning and the boys and I were looking for something to do, but didn't want to do the same old same old. I began looking at a map of the outlaying towns, just past the burbs of the Minneapolis/St Paul area and noticed a county park I had never heard of....... High Island Creek County Park.
let the fun begin

dirt walls

Dangerous
  We loaded up and headed south, stopping for pop and snacks, obviously. The park was awesome, with a fast flowing creek in a very deep river valley. It seemed out of place in a landscape surrounded by farm fields. Instantly I knew I would have to come back and paddle it. Later that night, searching the internet I found almost nothing about the creek , other than it had a tendency to have a lot of snags and sweepers. Not being a well versed whitewater paddler I was nervous, but the anxiety of missing the high flow and trying something new pushed me to skip a day of work and run this creek solo on Tuesday.   There wasn't anything greater, or barely reaching, class II but it was a blast , and had me grinning ear to ear for nearly the entire six+ mile stretch I ran from 250th ave, to HWY 6.


  The snags were present and had me on edge, moving quickly around  blind corners into a couple of them had me out of the boat in flash. For this reason I chose to use my sit-on-top Ocean Kayak, Frenzy. It's sort of made for this anyway, I can exit and get back on it in snap, also it will not sink. Looking back at the water level gauge, I hit it at just the right time. The day I ran it, the creek was cresting just below 400 cubic feet hour/ 5.5 river gauge , not to say it wont get higher, I just happened to hit it at a good level. Had I waited till the weekend it would have been down to an un-runable state. Rush River was an added bonus to the day. It's less than ten miles away from High Island and runs in a similar type of surrounding, a high walled wooded valley.  Like the previous river, I knew virtually nothing. Somehow I stumbled upon a youtube video Monday night of Rush River that had been posted that day of a group that paddled it the day before. They were fully decked out in real white water kayaks and gear, but the rapids didn't look like they warranted any of it......I decided I would run it as well...my sit-on-top would be just fine.
Rush River....somewhere 

more dirt walls

transportation/ shuttle 
       Rush River was an excellent trip from 300th street to Rush River Park, it was a little wider, with less snags, but not as many rapids like the long chains experienced on High Island. I would recommend checking out either of these rivers,  I will definitely be back when the water is up....with more people. Better info can be found in the book Paddling Southern Minnesota, that I picked up at REI two days after I ran these creeks/rivers. A few things to note: the Carp Dam on High Island Creek is gone, If High Island Creek is up, most likely Rush will be up, as they share the same watershed.  For my pack raft friends...I would't use it unless you want a hole in it, A bike shuttle works awesome if you want a little bit of desolate gravel road riding, There is a car show in Henderson every Tuesday night in the summer.  In the meantime, I'll be paying attention to the rain and watching the river level gauge for another run down these little jems.

D Rider...................out

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Hungry Bear 100


The Legend was spotted at the Hungry Bear sign-in....can you see him 
 Just a little over a week ago I was in Cable, WI for my second consecutive weekend of gravel road riding/racing.The Hungry Bear 100 is a gravel road race with 100 mile and 100 kilometer options. It just wrapped up it's second year and is part of a collection of races put on by The Green Tunnel (Tim Kruger of Advocate Cycles and the Angry Catfish).


Mr Gibbs haming it up 
   I chose the 100 k option because I'm fat, wanted to have fun, and wanted to be able to drive home afterwards. Although I chose the shorter route I worked it as hard as I could ending up in 7th place. Typically I like to start fast and just hang with the lead group as long as possible and see where it goes from there. During this race, after a few breaks in the peloton, falling back into the second group, I was able to bridge back and stay with the top ten or so riders. With approx 12-13 miles to go the hills came on one after another. I stuck with Craig and Jill while the really fast guys rode away from us. I was happy to finish where I did, with Jill pulling away at the end and Craig  and I riding in together.
There wasn't much pavement on the route, but this was the only spot where I could get my camera out for a pic....at approx 25 miles per hour

custom cue card holder, I call it the D.R.U.N.K.  death riders ultimate note karrier 

Second best, or perhaps best.... part of the day............ wood fired pizza out back in the sun. 
  Luckily the Mayor and I carpooled since I fell asleep on the ride home anyway.  The Hungry Bear was a good race and well worth putting on your own calendar for next year. Ending it at the Rivers Eatery was pure genius as well.    P.S. there aren't any pictures of actual gravel road racing because I was riding way to hard to ever get my camera out...you'll have to see the route for yourself.

D Rider ..........................out

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Chequamegon Dead Horse


 The Dead Horse is a trail in northern Wisconsin, taking it's name from an unfortunate event that occurred  in 1900 when a team of horses met their demise. The Chequemegon Dead Horse is a bikepacking event that took place last weekend in the same area, in which no horses lost their lives.

Found a private junkyard along the route....that's a Bidgestone MB-1 in red. 

found this boat too
 The ride is set 116 years later on gravel roads, and a portion of the Dead Horse trail. The route and event was conceived by Mr Ross and made public via facebook, with the idea of getting a bunch of like minded folks together for some camping and riding. Unfortunately the turn-out was low, with only 9 riders showing up at the OO parking lot just east of Seeley WI. The 8am start time was brisk, under 40 F, but it wasn't raining, and we had all day to get to our campsite and just enjoy the ride.
the group left to right.  O'Neil, Superwoman, TJ Hooker, and Mr Ross

water's up 

The Dead Horse proper
  ArcFlash and I rode off the front, not because we were fast, but because we just pedaled a little harder than the rest. About 20ish miles in, an arrow pointing the wrong way on the que card had us off track and added an extra 7-8 miles. Turning back and following tracks, we rejoined the group that had now dwindled to four. We decided to hang with them, and just go with the flow. Around noon we found ourselves in Clam Lake dinning at one of the two establishments in town. There we met the self proclaimed "best pizza maker, in his apartment, in all of Chicago"....35 years ago. He was a friendly gentleman that gave us the low-down on just about everything that was going on in Clam Lake, as well as hinting very heavily that one of us should buy the restaurant so he and his wife could retire to their lake cabin nearby. No one had the money for more than the half pound burger we all consumed, so we were on our way.
Water's up here as well


Almost home for the night
  The rest of the day we just knocked off the miles, arriving at our camp around 5:30 pm. The site was awesome, a secret place in the woods that Mr Ross has been frequenting since he was a kid. Big thanks to him for letting us in on this amazing spot.....your secret is safe with me. Night time was typical, but still my favorite pass-time....sitting around a fire, cooking food and sharing stories. No one made it past 10pm before calling it a day. Sunday morning everyone slept in a bit, leisurely made breakfast, and then rolled out together. Approximately 12 miles into the return trip it was time for second breakfast at Wendy and Joe's Steakhouse. From there the group elected to shorten the return trip just a bit (less than 5 miles)....one of the benefits of just riding your bike for the fun of it. Around 3pm we arrived back in the OO parking lot and went our separate ways.
I dislike photos of food,,,,but here it is anyway


     If you're looking for a little adventure outside of the CAMBA trail system, this is it. Show up next year and give it a go, or plan your own adventure in the Chequamegon National Forest. The possibilities are endless, with options for combining, gravel roads, single track, two track and if you have a packraft...the rivers.

D Rider.................out

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Switchgrass


 When my boys have extended days off from school I like to take them adventuring. They recently had their spring break so we headed for some place I thought would be warmer than home.....Kansas, specifically the Switchgrass MTB trail at Wilson State Park.





 Maybe a blessing in disguise, Lynn (wife, mom) couldn't make the trip due to differing spring break schedules. She may have gotten the better end of the deal spending a weekend at Ray's indoor MTB park in Milwaukee.  The warm weather evaded us and the wind was not unlike that of a test cell for supersonic jet airplane. Temps weren't all that cold, but when coupled with non-stop winds 20-30 miles an hour and gusting to 40, it was chilly. To add to the less than ideal conditions G-man was sick, with the worst of it hitting him on the second day of the trip.





  Despite all this, we still had a pretty good time..........Highlights included. (1) Really good BBQ just outside of Kansas City. (2) The trails at the park carry the IMBA Epic designation and definitely live up to it. (3) For a brief period on the third night, just as the sun was starting to set, the wind stopped ! The four of us were able to actually sit by a campfire well into the evening under some of the brightest stars I've seen. (4) First trip to Kansas was way more awesome than I expected, with rolling hills, cliffs, and vegetation other than corn fields.



 Hopefully we'll make it back under better conditions and enjoy our stay just a little more.
 

D Rider...................out

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Voyageurs


The start line
I didn't know it at the time ,but 11 years ago when I threw my leg over the top tube and rolled out on my first Arrowhead 135,(I did 8, finished 6) I was getting ready for a loop around Voyageurs National Park. The Arrowhead comes very close to the park without actually entering it, but the maps included in our race packet showed the entire snowmobile trail loop we recently completed during the last few days of February.




Heading into the first portage from Kabetogema to Black Bay

We took a break here...it was nice 
 After finishing the race a few times I began looking at the map and imagining a ride out on the remote open lakes. The area can be so brutal in winter it became something I just pushed off, not wanting subject myself to the torture. Skipping a few years of that race has numbed my memory and I, along with my #1 adventure partner, ArcFlash, (AF, Arrowhead finisher 2013) began planning a return trip to explore more of the area. Without a definite route, the plan didn't materialize for over a year, until I started looking at some maps and made a call to the park. The ranger I spoke with was super cool and said the trails don't specifically prohibit bikes and he encouraged us to come up and enjoy the park. Within the period of my lunch break the plan was finalized, that night I purchased a permit for two nights of camping at a whopping ten dollars and began rounding up fellow riders.
Exploring...day one, while it was still  nice out

add your own caption


note the sideways flames

Morning of day two...bear locker I slept in 

ArcFlash still having fun in the blowing snow....EP fixing shoelace 
 What started as a possibility of eight riders, dwindled to three for the final tally. It would be ArcFlash, EP from Duluth, and myself riding where no fat-biker has ridden before (I'm pretty sure about that). The route was nothing huge or extremely hard, but it would be very remote, have the potential for extreme cold and may also be a difficult slog in deep snow. Distance was more of an estimate based on the snowmobile maps, but I thought 25-30 miles each day, the first two days and 12-15 the last would be doable no matter what. Two island campsites were chosen to correspond, one on Channel Island site R100 and Fish Camp Island R13. We set off at the Ash River Visitor Center in a clockwise direction. The planned route would have us cross Lake Kabetogema in a northwesterly direction, travel overland north to  Black Bay, head further northwest to Rainy Lake,crossing it in a southeasterly direction to Kettle Falls, more overland crossings south to Namakan Lake, and finally west to our start point. As a bonus we made use of the two ice roads totaling about 15 miles, the first one starting at our launch point and taking us all the way to the Kabetogema visitor center, approximately 11 miles.

Land/safety portages broke up the long stretches of open ice and kept tings interesting 


A proper lunch break with a camp fire on Kawawia Island

Day one was a dream, it was around 40 degrees, full sun and a very light breeze. None of us wore hats or gloves and rode with our jackets unzipped. The second ice road started at the Rainy Lake visitor,our site on Channel Island was only a couple miles away and a few hundred yards from the road.  We made very good time and arrived at camp so early we had time to explore, we utilized the road to head back to the visitor center,look around and drink some free hot chocolate. Heading back to camp,things changed......the wind shifted and the temps dropped. Our campsite faced directly into the wind with nothing for shelter. We built a fire, cooked and endured wind as long as we could. By 7pm we all retreated to our sleeping bags. Against my better judgement I brought a bivy sac..I hate bivy sacs. Instead, I slept half way into a bear locker that had it's opening flush with the ground. It gave me an awesome shelter from the wind as well as dampening the noise of it howling across the lake. When morning came the wind was still blowing, this put a little bit of a damper on the fun factor but there wasn't much we could do except get fed, packed, and rolling.


View from Fish Camp Island....second night camp spot

Camp second morning.    It snowed both nights 

As per Imperial Venture Corps bylaw #1   I had to carry my ultra light multi purpose eating tool 
Day two, crossing Rainy Lake was awesome, and was what I was looking forward to most on the trip. It's an impressive body of water with the look and feel of the boundary waters on a larger scale...as it should since the BWCA is just to the east and shares a boundary.  The ride started cold and cloudy with a bit of falling snow. The ice road ended soon and gave way to hard packed snowmobile trail, it's way marked by colored wooden stakes placed about every tenth mile. By mid-day the sun began to peak from the clouds, signaling us to pit stop on a nearby island and cook some lunch. We arrived at camp a little later this time, around 4pm. As luck would have it the wind shifted again, this time with a lot more bite, seemingly coming across 30 miles of open ice directly into our west facing campsite.  We oped to shelter on the east side of the island and stay out of the wind as much as possible. It was pretty comfortable, each one of us digging, and packing a body shaped hole in the snow to set up or sleeping gear. We stayed up a couple hours later that night, turning in around 9pm. I wore everything I had that night,preparing for a much colder evening than I had anticipated or planned for. I decided to forgo the bivy, because I hate them and they always make your bag wet. My bag was already holding moisture from the night before and made a nice crunching noise as I unpacked it from it's stuff sack.  I used the bivy as a tarp for my boots and other random stuff I had laying around....which turned out to be a wise choice since it snowed that night.  I slept well for the first few hours and woke about every hour after that until morning, typical for me.
AF...getting water.  all water for the trip was taken from the lake in areas where slush was present,which was everywhere and took little effort to find. Also, water was left untreated and drunken directly with no ill effects. I would not advise this but will most definitely do it again  

Last day...headed out into the nasty head wind.

EP and yours truly at Kettle Falls

Used my surly Moon Lander with 100 mm clown shoes and  Dillinger 5s ...worked awesome and as a package would be able to handle whatever conditions we may have encountered................. Canada is in the back ground   

Respite from the wind on another portage 
Still screened from the wind that was much stronger than the previous day, we leisurely cooked and ate breakfast, packing up and moving out around 11am. Upon riding out into the wind from our sheltered nest, it was apparent the forecast we were counting on was no where near that of which we were experiencing. On route, what started as crosswind would become a full blown, in your face, 28-30 below wind chill, head wind, the worst of which came in several bays on Namakan Lake. It wasn't all bad, the sun was shinning brightly and when we had the protection of the woods during the overland portages it was an enjoyable ride. We took a short detour to visit Kettle Falls, a remote outpost of sorts, complete with a hotel, and restaurant,as well as the dam known as Kettle falls,  too bad it's only open in the summer. From the falls we pushed on to our exit at Ash River visitor center battling the nasty head wind and warming up a bit where we could. We rode into the parking lot around 2:30 pm ,covering 80 miles of  lake ice and overland portages. Although not a massive undertaking, I had a fantastic time riding with two great companions on a new fat-bike route into the unknown...................next year it'll be bigger.
This was one of the hardest bays to cross...either Mica or Johnson Bay

It's good to know which way you're going out here 

The finish line

D Rider...................out