Friday, June 30, 2006

Superior Hiking Trip Recap

Friday night, K and I stayed with Dan Bakken in Duluth. If you didn't already know, Emily is about 8 months pregnant. We left her at home and went out for a few beers.

As we left Duluth, we really didn't have a good idea where we were going to go. We had tentatively planned "lutsen area," but our planned dropoff point was by reservation only, so we checked the trail manual and made last minute plans for a different route. We would leave our truck at a parking lot and would have a shuttle bus drop us off farther north. We would get back by foot.

We got rained on when we got to the parking lot near Finland, MN. It stopped just as we were picked up by the shuttle. The driver was a very friendly retiree. We told him where we wanted to be dropped off, and he said "backpacking for 3 days, huh?"

"Uh, nope. We'll only be out for two. "


He dropped us off at Cook County road 1, and we began our trek. Early going, most of our walking was flat, spanning through different types of forest: birch, deciduous, mixed, pine, cedar, etc. Some places were dry, others muddy. Wild daisys were in bloom everywhere, and we also saw many wild orchids. At one point along the trail, we heard a ruckus in front of us, and a very pissed off bird with its feathers in display--which was either a small turkey or a really large grouse--stepped onto the trail and tried to charge us. Kris gallantly fended it off by tapping his trekking pole on a rock in between us. This was all very funny--I was a bit uneasy about running into a rampaging bull moose, since we had seen some large & fresh tracks, but instead we joked about the potential newspaper headlines about 2 hikers getting mauled by a bird in the north woods.

We ran into a few steep hills, and we handily ascended & descended them, stopping briefly to enjoy the views, of course. We ran into a couple of ladies camping along the way, and as much as this sounds like the beginning to a porno, we only gave them a smile & a nod as we passed. At lunch time, we came across Alfred's pond, an idyllic lake surrounded by a thick barricade of tall pines with a boardwalk that goes out to the edge of the water. The entire trip would've been worth it if this was the only thing I saw. The dragonflies seemed very hesitant to give up their place on the benches--they didn't budge for close up photos and as soon as I stood up, they were almost magnetically drawn back to their spots. A few otters swam over to inspect the visitors munching CLIF bars in their neighborhood. Otters make farting noises, if you've never heard an otter.

We made it to the caribou river by about 3pm, which was the end of 1 of 3 legs we planned to complete. It was amazing; water rushing, splashing, and falling off angular black boulders. The next leg was George something something Manitou state park. This section was mostly hills & gorges, and was quite challenging. My feet were bugging me a bit, and I stopped to take my boots off and clean out dirt from the inside. Too late--I had huge blisters on my heels which had already torn open above my heels along my achilles tendons on both feet. I applied some Dr. Scholls Moleskin around the wounds, and got back to the hiking. We took a 1/4 mile spur off the trail to check out the view from a summit. A fantastic view of a river valley, and even farther off, Lake superior. In a very Forrest Gump-like way: You couldn't tell where the world ended and the sky began.

We were running out of water a few miles from the end of the park, and ran across a small stream. We refilled our water bottles with the help of Mr. T's water purifier. I doubt it was necessary to purify the water at all.......but who knows if a big brown bear dropped a big brown bomb upstream?

Most of the time, there were horseflies & mosquitos circling my head, looking for an easy landing pad. Kris and I devised an eco-friendly alternative to gross, partially effective bug sprays: Train a squadron of dragonflies to escort you through the woods. This would be perfectly synergetic: dragonflies eat mosquitos, and humans are to mosquitos as minnows are to walleyes. (except for the size) Unfortunately, most of the dragonflies we saw were already well fed.

We ended up seeing a couple people at a few of the campsites within the park along another river, but we didn't have a permit to camp in the park, so we kept on going with our eyes set upon a site about a half mile outside the park. We got to the site at 7:40pm, only to find that it had already been occupied by a guy and his girlfriend......we made an impulsive decision to bolt another 2.3 miles to the next spot down the trail rather than bargain with the guy. It would be getting dark soon, and we wanted to setup camp while it was light. We'd been averaging about 2mph throughout the day. That may sound slow, but consider the effect of stopping here & there to marvel & take photos, steep hills, rocky descents, and you quickly realize it's a pretty aggressive pace.Throughout the day, we had passed through some of the densest forest I'd ever seen, and occaisionally we'd have to hop over a fallen tree here & there, but these last two miles easily had more fallen trees than entirety of the 17 miles we'd covered during the day. Leading the two of us and being a person who's always in a hurry, I set a very fast pace. We made it to our site in 40 minutes, and we were elated to see our site--we'd been walking for 10 hours, and it was suh-weet. The site was on a small triangular shaped piece of land flanked by a river and another stream, which intersected at the far end.

Kris set up the tent while I tried to gather wood from fallen trees for a fire. This isn't easy without a hatchet, and although there was a ton of it, wet rotting birch won't catch fire. Kris found some sticks along the river a bit farther off, and he got a fire going. Unfortunately, the larger pieces of wood were too wet. We ate tuna-gouda wraps and pad thai(kudos to Kris for his stove and picking up just-add-hot-water-meals) in front of a collection of sticks glowing orange.

The ground was hard, but I slept ok. It got pretty cold in the night, but I had a pretty warm blanket. (Thanks Gramma Frieda) Kris and I both heard *things* moving around nearby during the night.

In the morning, we had slightly burnt apple cobbler and oatmeal. We cleaned up our site, and took off. This hiking wasn't nearly as difficult as the state park, but I could tell I was getting very fatigued. I could tell I wasn't picking up my feet as high as I had the day before, and the floor of the forest/path here was an endless network of interlocking tree roots for the first half, and fairly rocky for the second half of the day. I was stumbling often.

We stopped at Lake Sonju, which has a boardwalk out to a small rocky island. It was yet another pristine lake surrounded by pines. This was probably my favorite destination within the trip. At various points along the trip, there are notebooks for people to jot notes. Just the day before, a guy said he ran into a friendly big white dog who tagged along with him. We took a load off on the island had a quick lunch. Trader Joe's wildberry trailmix was perfect for the occaision.

We then came upon Lake Egge, yet another *yawn* gorgeous pristine forest lake with water as smoothe as mirror glass. Not even the fish dared to break the surface on the largest inland lake we saw that weekend.

Along the trail, we ran into a couple small groups going the other direction, some backpackers and daytrippers. And we met a friendly white dog with beautiful blue eyes. She wouldn't stay still for me to take a photo, but she walked with us for the last few miles back to our truck, playfully zigzagging across the trail through the woods. We were considering taking the dog with us, but decided to leave it at the parking lot. As we were leaving, a pickup stopped, a guy whistled and the dog jumped into the truck.

Overall, it was a very pleasing experience. Even though I'm still covered in mosquito bites and my heels still have open sores. But they will all heal.

Miles covered: 29.5
Mosquito bodycount: ~3,000
Blood-gorged Mosquitos that left a huge blood spot when I slapped them: 3
CLIF bars consumed: 8
Woodticks: 3
Other hikers encountered: 11

Monday, June 26, 2006

Things I've learned

Picking wildflowers and transporting them over 220 miles to a girl scores big points.


Monday, June 19, 2006

More Bicycle Maintenance

Yesterday, Brian and I rode our aluminum horses out to stillwater to watch the last stage of the bike race. I watched these little teeny guys ride bikes faster than I've ever seen up a hill that make me grasp for something bolted into the ground.

Brian had engagements, and left before the race was over. As I left, I ran into my auntie, who talked me into having a beer with her and her boyfriend on the waterfront.

The rest of the day was a sufferfest. Stillwater, for all practical purposes, is a hole. Earlier in the day, Brian and I glided down to the waterfront at about 35mph without pedaling at all. I left at an agonizing 7mph, huffing away in my climbing gear. Once I got back to the bike trail, a good 4 miles north of Stillwater, I met a 10mph headwind. Then I realized that most of the ride back would be uphill. Then I got rained on. Then I realized that I had a rear flat tire.

It was a slow leak, and I decided that I would just air it up and keep going as best as I could--I'd never replaced a tube, and since it wasn't a blowout, I didn't want to chance fucking up my spare unless I really needed to. I had to refill about every 3 miles, but I was pedalling my ass off to cover as much ground as I could between refills. I estimate that I refilled about 6 times before getting back to Brian's house and my car in Roseville. 58 miles for the day on my bike.

I was kindof dreading having to take my rear tire off and change it out, but I really enjoyed myself this evening. It wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be, and I even got some other maintenance in for the fun of it; cleaned the chain & cassette, washed off my frame, etc.

I found my nemesis as well. A little piece of metal (looks like a staple) that jammed right through the tire, and lodged in the tube. I'm lucky it stayed there.

Now, even after thoroughly scrubbing my hands, I have little black grease stains all over them; that feels very natural to me, even though I rarely get my hands dirty. I feel like that kid that loved growing up on the farm. I feel very much like me.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


Much like the weather, my iTunes was getting a little stagnant. So to go along with last nights storm, I just downloaded Stereolab's entire catalog. Well, I didn't actually plan it that way, but it just seems hardly coincidental in retrospect.

If any music could ever be described as shiny, refreshing, clean, rejuvenating, sparkling, or any other adjective you might find on the back of an expensive bottle of shampoo, it would be that of Stereolab.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Double your pleasure, Double your triathlon distance

So I must admit after both biking and running the Liberty tri course this week for the first time, I began to think that my goal of 3 hours, 10 minutes was a bit unrealistic, and I decided that I should simply concentrate on finishing this new, longer distance.

I had a mediocre swim. The water was a bit choppy, and I ended up hitting some people early on, and I'm still a novice at openwater sighting, so I did get offtrack a couple times.

I had a phenomenal bike. The crowds yelling everywhere pumped me up bigtime. I wasn't wearing my 20lb backpack, so I felt very fast.....and was. I looked down at my speedometer to see 30 mph very often. One small hitch: I have an aerodrink, which is basically a waterbottle with a straw that fits between your handlebars. I hit a bump, and it catapulted the sponge that covers the bottle's refilling hole off my bike and sent a shower of sticky sports drink all over my body and bike.

The run was tough, especially at the beginning. It started with a trail run, then a monster hill on woodchips, which had me running barely above a walking pace. Once I got into my pace around mile 2, it felt pretty decent. I pushed hard & fast at the end.

And I finished in 2 hours, 35 minutes....according to my watch. I'm still trying to wipe this smirk off my face 7 hours after the fact. I feel really good.

And I think I deserve a big ass burrito from Baja Sol. Salsa bar, beware!

On a side note, one thing that added fuel to my fire(other than goo) during the bike was passing people with absurdly expensive bikes. I beat the guy next to me in the transition who had a pimped-out Madone by over half hour, and I passed numerous Cervelo P2's, and even a few titanium Litespeeds. Just goes to show that in the amateur world, talent is more important than the bike you ride.

Monday, June 5, 2006


I just scouted the bike route for my triathlon this weekend, and I must say, it is fearsome. I didn't know real hills exist in Minnesota. Given this fact, in addition to the fact that I'm doing my first Olympic distance race, makes me a bit uncomfortable in that I might not have trained as hard in recent weeks as I should've. (damn you, beerfests and summer holidays)

That being said, my goal will be 3 hours, 10 minutes.

Anyways, I just spent 2 hours giving my bike some much needed TLC. You wouldn't believe the amount & kind of shit that can build up on a bike after 300 miles. There is alot of it, it gets everywhere, and I'm probably going to throw my shirt away and try to bleach my hands. Think hairdye will work?

Friday, June 2, 2006

I met Ironman

No, I'm not talking about my two triathlon coaches who have finished Ironman Triathlons, I'm talking about the dude I rode with today. I was on a 40 mile ride, whipping through downtown on my way to the river. As I was just taking the bike ramp from Hennepin avenue to West River Parkway, a guy on a bike behind me yelled and asked where I was going and if he could ride with me.

"Sure, man! I'm headed to Minnehaha parkway" (then I would hit harriet on the way back home)

He told me to set the pace, and he'd follow. I'm whipping along at about 22mph, and he's a little back....whatever....he can't keep up with this shit, right? Well, there are a couple wild hills on this road, and and I don't skip them because this is where you need to work hard to strengthen your legs and increase endurance. I'm about 85% up the first monster hill, and this guy pulls up & passes me.

"nice job, man", I say with surprise.

Then comes a fast downhill. I slam into my fastest gearing and hunker down on my aerobars and pedal like hell. See ya later---I mean business.

I set an Andy + Bike speed record. 40.0mph. For anyone who's never ridden a fast bike......this is like re-entering the atmosphere in the space shuttle.

I'm crusing along keeping my momentum, and the franklin ave. bridge is up next. This is a wikked pissah tough climb. Before long I'm screaming along at a paltry 8mph, huffing and puffing, and crying to God for mercy.

And then that guy passes me. I stop to look at his bike, and I see he has a fixie. One speed, no coasting allowed.

I'm pretty sure guys like this eat nails for their daily iron intake.