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

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Heck Epic

Note; Stony River Forest rd was freakin' awesome
 The term "epic" gets thrown around a lot these days, few things come close to deserving that title. Few things, like the ride I completed on gravel roads and ATV trails in the Superior National Forest of northern Minnesota.

Mr Farrow of the (now defunct ?)   DBD  adventure society 

Two of the Three Amigos 
  The Heck Epic is a two day, 200++ mile brain child of Mr  J Kershaw, also known for the shorter, one day, 100 mile event call the Heck of the North. The Epic differs in a couple ways, first, the rider is required to carry all gear necessary for an overnight stay at the end of the initial 100+ miles, and also carry it back to the start. Second, the route,compared to the one day event, allows the rider to visit even more of the beautiful remote back roads, double track and logging roads in the S.N.F.

Don't go here if you don't arrive on something that runs on dinosaur bones

On track
   Although it's basically an out and back, from Two Harbors to Ely, both routes are different and deserve a hat's off to the organizers for laying out over 200 miles and not doing the same thing twice.
While some folks were out to truly race the Epic, I was there just to have a good time riding my bike for a long time. I was apprehensive about the event, I had not been riding much and knew it would eventually turn into a death march when my lack of fitness would catch up to my legs. The death march never really happened, my only real issue was  painful Achilles tendinitis that shows up specifically when I have not trained well enough.
Babbitt.....the town , not the bearing 

Beautiful ...ehmmmm   ELY 

   Riding long distances over many hours has it's ups and downs usually on a mental level. I was happy to ride with my bestie ArcFlash and  SalsaJon from mile 50 all the way to the finish the next day, which made the downs bearable and the ups a lot more exciting. The three of us stuck together as an informal gang, having each others back through the difficult stretches,  cue card navigation, bonking, and generally keeping boredom to a minimum through story telling.
the line up

dream car 

very cool section of the route ...familiar to me from the Gravel Conspiracy
     The first day was easy compared to the second. In hind-site, it was leisurely, and a beautiful day to ride 100 miles. The second day was that of one a cyclist dreads......windy and wet, add in some mud and not exactly warm temps and it was tough. We kept our pace roughly the same as the day before,or at least our perceived effort. Looking back we were much 1 took  6:17  ride time for 100 miles, compared to the 9:09 we spent in the saddle for 106 miles on day 2. It was truly a great experience and a well planned and executed event....Thanks: J Kershaw and all HECK crew members and volunteers.  Thanks: A.F. and SalsaJon for the companionship as well as everyone else I had the pleasure to hang out with over the weekend. pretty much was 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Up North

ArcFlash and myself, recently pointed the van north for a weekend of camping , fat-bike riding and sea kayaking. The camping portion of the weekend was in stealth mode. This time of year the chance of getting a camping spot at a state park is pretty much zero, especially on a Friday evening. Last year I found a spot while I was out with my boys that I thought would be perfect. Even more perfect was the need for a boat to gain access......enter pack-raft. The camp was excellent and reminded me of the boundary waters. Saturday morning we got going early and quickly, the annual COGGS summer fat-bike tour was starting at 9 am and was the main reason for our trip north. We met at the trail-head for of Mission Creek and began the arduous ride towards Lester River which would not be seen for many hours. The ride linked together the fine single track  of Duluth, as well as some of the lesser traveled segments of ATV and deer trails that, for the most part, kept us off of the roads. Although in our 8++ hour extravaganza, we only covered 42 miles, it was exhausting and a true fat-bike adventure type ride. After the ride we met up with a few of our fellow riders for some chow and then we were off to find another place to camp, further north past Two Harbors. As mentioned before, finding a spot to camp is really tough, especially on the north shore. After driving around a while we ended up sleeping in a ditch , in the cover of some very tall grass along HWY 61. The next morning the wind was starting to blow. This isn't a really big deal for most of activities that AF and I do, except for kayaking on Lake Superior. Our plan was to push off at the Little Two Harbors Bay and travel northeast under the Split Rock Lighthouse and see if we could locate a shipwreck that AF has jumped before. Admittedly, I'm not at the top of my game when it comes to paddling on the big lake. It's been quite a while since I've been out on Superior and getting my "sea legs" in chop big enough to come over the top of the deck was a little unsettling. As we left the minimal shelter of the bay the rollers seemed to double in size just as we got into the full force of the wind that was now 15-20 knots. Neither one of us wanting to back down or show any sign of weakness, simultaneously agreed to turn back and give the lake another try in a what we hoped would be a more sheltered setting. We packed up and went south to Agate Bay out of Two Harbors. There was ship wreck here as well that we were hoping to view via snorkel. The water was so cold at the far end of the bay above the wreck, it ended with both of us only being able to handle swimming for 60 seconds tops, even in full wet suits. Although no planned goal was met, we had a successful day. Any moment spent on, near, or next to, Lake Superior is fantastic.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Blue Earth River

The canoe is getting a bit crowded.
 The inspiration for a family trip down the Blue Earth River came from the cover photo of a free publication touting adventure in southeast Minnesota. In the photo, a group of life-jacket clad individuals were standing in a deep green, moss and fern covered slot canyon. I little digging revealed the name Devils Gulch or Devils Den,  a little bit of planning gave way to a van loaded with gear and a boat, pointed south.

rain forest ?

Dry falls at the end of the Devil's Gulch
  My wife and kids were in on this one as well as long time friend Fancy Ray. My wife and two kids rode in the canoe while the boys alternated turns flying solo in the pack-raft. Fancy was going solo in his own kayak as well. Since it's a river trip, the standard shuttle requirements were in effect...leaving one vehicle in Mankato and then driving to the put-in at Rapidan Park. The river started out fun and pretty much stayed that way the whole time, with lots of class 1 rapids spaced out enough that no one got bored in the flat water between.

We had to kick one of them out to make space...lucky for them I brought the  Alpacka, Scout
 The "gem", and inspiration of the trip came quickly after setting off and if not for a several kayaks beached in the sand we may have missed it altogether. The grainy photo I had originally seen didn't do the gulch justice, first hand, it looked like something straight out of the rain forest. We spent about a half hour in the short slot before moving on. Upon pushing off we met a father/son duo that informed us of another interesting must-see, not much further down steam named Triple Falls. They paddled with us, acting as tour guides, explaining other features as well as the whereabouts of the falls.
Triple Falls 

From the top of the bottom tier 

Big D gives perspective to how big the dry falls are 

summer time....the livin's easy

Super Y
  After another short hike to visit the falls we were back in the boat looking for a picnic spot. We chose a nice sand bar and busted out the grill, snacks, and drinks. Once back in the boats we were a little pressed for time and had to resist the urge to check out any of the dozens of sand spits marking other possible vertical features carved into the steep bluffs on either side of the river. Return trips will definitely be in order for further exploration of this beautiful river and valley.
Near the put-in at Rapidan Dam