Monday, June 17, 2013

Bikepacking The North Shore State Trail - Grand Marais to Finland

Fully loaded Mukluk
 For the last couple of years, I've gone on a solo bikepacking trip over Fathers Day weekend. This year, I decided to ride the North Shore State Trail from Grand Marais to Finland and camp along the way.   I knew the trail conditions and bugs would be pretty bad this time of the year, so I prepared for the worst and hoped for the best. I got a little of both... 
The view from Caribou Shelter.
Cousin J was heading up north to do some backpacking Thursday night, so I was able to catch a ride to Grand Marais with him.  After splitting a pizza, we headed our separate ways. I didn't get started until about 6:30, but this close to the summer solstice, it didn't matter.  After some riding and mostly pushing up the hill from downtown Grand Marais,  I decided to stop at the Caribou Shelter for the night.  It was a great spot with an awesome little lake close to the shelter.  The sky was clear and the stargazing was exceptional.

Caribou Shelter and Mukluk
After a quick breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, I was packed and on the trail by 6:30 am.  The trail started to head into some swampy sections that included a mosquito escort.  As long as I kept moving they weren't too bad, but any time a stop was required it got pretty ugly and a headnet  and a fresh dose of 98% DEET was mandatory.  I was really hoping I wouldn’t have a mechanical or that anything else would go wrong that would requiring stopping.  The trail followed a steady pattern up and down and my attitude coincided with this.  Low lying, swampy areas had me feeling frustrated and wondering what the hell I was doing there, but after a couple of miles I would climb a ridgeline, hit some rolling hills, see an incredible view of The Big Lake or the forest and feel great about everything.  I didn't have a GPS or bike computer, but I think I averaged about 5 mph for most of the trip.
Plenty of water on this route. Filtering and filling up at Barker Lake.

Moose and wolf tracks appeared often in muddy, rutted sections like this.
At about mile 32 on the trail for the day I came to the Temperance River bridge next to the Sawbill Trail. At this point, I had enough for the day and needed to cook some food and think about camping for the night.  I remembered from a trip that December with Deathrider that the next shelter about 1 mile up the trail was not that great and had no water source close by.  I decided to head up the Sawbill Trail about 6 miles where I found the Temperance River Campground empty.  I picked the best site, scrounged some firewood and and took a much needed break from the trail. I would return tomorrow.
Temperance River Bridge - My tooth fell out here last December!
A great place to take a break from the trail.  Temperance River is in the background.

To be continued...

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