Tuesday, January 22, 2013


I am fortunate enough to have MLK day off so after I considered world peace and abandon the idea, I grabbed the studded bike and went out on the river where I would find some peace or at least no people which is the same as far as I can tell. The weather guessers told me it was suppose to be cold and get colder so I was happy to test some gear configurations but they got it wrong and it warmed up to about -1. I was hoping for the reported -14. Anyway, I overheated some and had to walk and cool down at times.

When its really cold out the rivers are almost safe to ride but you need to use every bit of spider sense to assess the ice. With it so warm I had to turn and run twice. Well maybe not run but I wasn't wasting any time getting the hell away for the scary stuff. I'm a real tough guy in my fancy drysuit but put me in civilian cloths and I could pinch a hole in my pants running away from it. I retreat twice withing 15 minute of getting on the ice but get my sea legs and start cutting in and out of the weakest of ice.

The temps are low but I can't tell in all my gear. I'm dressing in thin windproof layers that I roast in if I  really start railing on it for speed. I unzip to cool down or stop and lay down on the ice. That works well but scares the hell out of people on shore. I have no idea how long these rides go but 4 hours is the low end. I just ride and plan things to do in summer. If you want to find places to kayak, winter is the ticket.

Below: The thin ice is maybe 3 inches so it's fine but can't be trusted at anything but slow speeds. I figure I can hug shore and if I do break through it will be so shallow I can carry it to shore or better ice and only get a wet foot.

Not true. Shore is getting ground water flow. I think these are springs or breaks in the ground water that release into the river. It makes sense and when I did some cave diving in Florida the ground water would find all kinds of cracks and Minnesota has the same sandstone/limestone (aka Karst)

This is wild. It made me skid to a stop. It's the foot print of an oak tree. 

I had to climb a hill of dirt and sticks and ride about a mile of road to get past a lot of scary ice. The cliff or palisade of the lower river means shore is also deep water with the springs. I have to head out to mid channel and that's faster moving water and thinner ice. When I return it's awesome.

I find a Tiki!
Compared to the graffiti I've found in drains this sucks but it will do.

In summer this strainer would be a portage but now I thread the needle and pass with only a few sticks in the face.

I have to get off the backwater and find this road. It's a dead end on both ends.

The road leads me to a large fence with a strong odor and signs telling me I'm being watched so I go to the otherway and get dumped out on this sandbar.

I leave the bike and walk out to get a better photo of the 34 degree steam.

To get off the sandbar and back to mainland and the security of the shelf ice of shore I have to cross a channel and it's popping and cracking. Part of it is from the cold. When I scuba on very cold days the ice cracks and pops all day, some very loudly so I know not to worry about the powerful cracking I hear. The minor cracks make me watch every move. I take this photo mid crossing. You can see the ice is over 4 inches so I know that's plenty (when I'm in my drysuit)

This is the distance I need to close. I'm mid channel and the ice gets thinner. I walk the bike so I can feel the cracking if I need to retreat.

The crossing complete I find the hobo camp from last springs, Songlines but this time I get up close. Back then I think it was occupied. The trash is ugly. I see too much trash these days. Every place I go is covered in trash. Scuba... trash, Hike... trash... Ride...trash....trash,trash,trash.

I wanted to find a date to tell me how active this camp is.

I'll probably go back and pick this crap up so I don't find it when I packraft this summer. The spring floods will move it and I'll find it later on. I'll leave a sign about how their mom doesn't work here and they need to pick up after themselves but if their mother cared, they would not be hobo's.

Leaving hobo camp the shore gets steep and the ice follows. 

Is there water under that shelf or more ice? 
The shore usually continues under water so we could be in deep water if I get it wrong.

I just cut my way out to better ice and find some speed. 

I've been on a lot of ice but this is the best surface hoar frost. 

Hoar frost is radiation frost when ice forms spicules. When air get very cold and molecular water is forced out of the air and it grows on other ice forming these ferns.

Getting close to the end my ride the ice is getting reliable and the trash on shore is every few feet.

The water in the background is the end of my shore without a dry land portage but this tree was interesting. It's entombed in hoar frost.

I didn't make it to the source of the warm water but I did inch out onto the ice until it cracked and started to sink before taking this photo. The wind is blowing hard to the south making the scalloped rim of ice you see. I look over the edge and guess it's maybe 3 feet deep.

This is the end of the line for me. I turn it and return home via ice but jump off to road to avoid the crossing at hobo camp and the bad shore line a few miles south.

In total I'm out about 4 hours, cover about 20 miles and my digital thermometer reports -6.

The weatherman got it wrong but I still cheered for the colder temps. Winter is only as bad as your gear and a little bit about believing you can be comfortable in the cold. Like chores, once you start it's not so bad and you can get lots of stuff done.The bark of cold is worse then the bite or should I say bike.

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