Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Man Trip 2015

This trip was almost called 'Wince and Repeat' as I deal with some trick knee pain; although it didn't get in the way but for a few times I may have squealed a little. This is the 3rd Man Trip for me. Last year didn't happen and this year it was down to just me and trip designer, Deathrider. A late entry made 3 of us for the weekend.

I have a lot of photos to post so be sure to click on the small ones to make them larger but then return to the story as the commentary will enhance the photos alleged 1000 words.
Above and below: Beach riding is the first stop when the big lake is gripped in ice. Large waves far out in the lake drive swells under the near shore ice and bust it up and drive it inland to refreeze. It's very clear ice but with the layering (upper right) it's hard to tell how much ice you are standing on and makes the guys uneasy. I'm ok with it but I also moved slow at times to cross ridges. We eventually have enough of the ice and get on the beach.
Several miles later and we are at the end of the line. Any industrial town worth it's iron ore has an abandoned building so we pop in for a look around and find the graffiti at the top of this post. 
The wind was nasty sharp, cold, about 20 knots. Windchill had to be -10 or more. We turn around at this point and ride the 7 or so miles back to the truck. We need to eat and square away some lodging before a night ride with Coggs of Duluth.
Later that night we meet a group of riders for a multi-hour ride. There are probably 40 riders and we head out and quickly break up into smaller bands as the fast people pull away and others miss turns and loop around or short cut. Overall it's harmless. The long string of riders naturally sorted itself as the fast moved up and the slow fell off. By the time we broke up I was with 8 or 10 guys and we were mostly the same speed. 2 or 3 knew the trails and helped route us so that we could eventually cross paths with the leading group and end as one large group. Then it was off to the pub to talk because you can't really meet people winter riding. Their face is covered or you only see their backside.
Early the next morning we head north but get distracted by the waves. Like I said earlier off shore waves break up the ice. The day before this was 2 inches of ice and now it's an 8 foot berm of ice and open water. We have to go look.

Off of the lake we scout a new route to ski next year. If its too dangerous on snowshoes and we can't find a way to pass the deep pothole/plunge pools, skiing is out but as fortune and skill has it we pass everything with a short ridge hike.
Below:A river Otter track from open water to open water. How they swim in river currents from hole to hole in low visibility is so impressive I wouldn't do it with my entire ice diving crew looking after me and all the safety gear we own. Terrifying doesn't even begin to describe how scary that 100ft swim would be but an otter, it's play time and belly skidding from hole to hole and the take the time to eat fish along the way. Ok, they have to, to survive but I'm still in awe. 

 After lunch and a successful exploration we move up the shore some more and get on our bikes.
 Creek ride to burn up some time before we set up the hot tent tonight.
Below: Hot tenting: We are hole up in a park for the night. This is too much gear to haul and we want to do some comfort camping. The Man Trip is more about using a ton of gear than getting beat down by nature. It's teens outside and 80 inside. DeathRider has a tent that will fit three men with just enough room to bake dinner rolls. 
 Sorry for the lousy photo but it's hot and the snow is steaming as well as our breakfast rolls.
 Just before we break down the Hot Tent I get a quick photo and then it's off to the river for skiing.
 It's not long and we are on skis and have to go several miles down river to exit.

Below: I color shifted this so you can see it better otherwise it's white on snow. This is a bird hunting critters under the snow. He missed the first time, tried again and got it, left foot, top hole I think. I saw three of these hunts. I don't think the other two gave him the small bag of meat he wanted. They were larger and looked like a long search.
The conditions this year are ideal. Good ice and heavy snow help but the best is, we are not the first to ski/snowshoe it so we have a packed trail even if it's under 6 inches of new snow.
 Lunch stop.

 That night we lose Best in Show, He needs to work Monday so Death and I head up a creek for the last night to try out ski polks (harnessed sleds) and my DIY Hot Tent with a custom DR stove.
We pile on the gear, tie it down and walk up the river until we find a place to camp. With sleds holding the weight and them being 6 feet long we have a ton of space. Even our heaviest tenting gear is no effort at all to pull. We are both fully packed but with so much extra space we both wonder what we forgot. The full moon is up so we don't even need head lamps. I take the long exposure below on moonlight alone.
All set up for the night and we are about a 90 minute hike up the river to Superior Hiking Trail camp. The stove is roaring. The idea is we'll cook out the snow while having dinner so that by the time we set up for sleeping the ground is bare. I wasn't sure how well this tent was going to work because I made the tent from two queen sheets on clearance from Target. I have about 6 hours total sewing it together and adding all the tie outs, zippers, stove jack.... It worked well and at $24 it's $1000 cheaper (but I don't expect mine to hold up for years like a proper tent). I've converted since the Winter Expo.

Above and below: Upper left is roasting dinner. Right is water for breakfast and coffee. Below is just hanging out in the tent waiting for the sun to come up enough to take the bite out of the air. We have lots of personal space and a center pole to dry socks. The tent worked great.

The actual stove pipe is much longer but we already took it down so this is a short piece just for show and to make the photo complete.
That morning we hike out and head back home. The sleds worked better then we could have imagined. We will be using them and the hot tents a lot more in the next few winters but for now we need to head home.

Rode a beach, rode a river, rode at night, snowshoed ,skied, hot tented, and polk camped all in 3 days. With a few more guys maybe we could have done something more but for now that is the end.

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