I've known Josh Peterson (Death Rider) for several years from hanging out before events like the Arrowhead 135. This past fall after the Gravel Conspiracy ride, we talked about doing a winter bikepack trip on the North Shore of Lake Superior. After years of talking about it, we finally set a date and made it happen last weekend.
The start of the trip at Pincushion Mountain
We had ambitious plans to start in Grand Marais on Friday and finish in Duluth sometime Sunday night, but also knew that if the weather forecast of a snow/rain mix and temps near 40 degrees held true we would have to have a flexible schedule. This was intended to be more of a bikepack trip than a mission. We started at Pincushion Mountain about a mile from downtown Grand Marais. It wasn't looking good as we pushed our bikes up an ungroomed trail that headed straight up away from The Lake and into the forest.
Josh pushing up and away.
Luckily, the untouched, unridable trail turned into a ridable trail with little or no sno-mo traffic. The temperature was about 34 degrees and the trail was getting softer as the day wore on. As long as you stayed on a ribbon of trail about a foot or so wide, the riding wasn't too bad.
We had the trail mostly all to ourselves. We only saw four snowmobilers the whole weekend and lots of wolf tracks.
After about 32 miles we came to an awesome spot near a lake with a shelter nearby. Since it would be dark in an hour or so, we decided to make camp for the night.
Josh wasted no time in getting a blazing fire going.
We punched a hole in the lake with a rock to save on snow melting fuel.
After having some breakfast and packing up, we hit the trail hopeful that it would be better this day.
This section of the North Shore trail consisted of never-ending rolling hills and great views. On this day, however, the vistas were obscured by fog.
Shortly after crossing this bridge over the Temperance River it started to snow, and then rain.
We rode until about an hour before dark, which is around 4:30 pm this time of year, and stopped at a shelter to cook some food and start a fire to warm up and dry out.
After eating and getting a raging fire going, we made the decision to stay at the shelter for the night and dry out rather than ride into the night with freezing rain falling and a deteriorating trail.
Both the main trail and this spur trail down to The Lake were in rough shape.
The next morning after breakfast we decided to take a spur trail down to Schroeder and then ride up Hwy #61 northbound to Tofte for some lunch while awaiting my wife's arrival to drive us to Duluth.
Coho Cafe in Tofte.
Two large pizza's please!
Two large pizza's please!
Although we didn't even get close to the mileage we had hoped for, we had an awesome time out there. I'm looking forward to riding more of the trail when (hopefully) winter arrives with more snow and cold.