COGGS out of Duluth hosted their summer ride last weekend. Last year we rode from Lester Park to Mont Du Lac at just less than 50 punishing miles of fat bike adventure. It broke everyone. I was shelled but finished. This year we rode the other direction and it put the hardest trails at the beginning and it made all the difference. I was tired and happy to be done but I was not shelled. 9 of 29 finished. The communication at the ride briefing was "British Expedition Rules Apply". That means, grim up, stay connected to the party or your on your own. This isn't mean but with 20+ guys all trying to stay connected if we stop for one and the message doesn't make it to the front we all get dropped so it's every man for themselves but we try and extend a hand whenever we can but lets get back to the start and pick up the story at 7PM Friday and our hunt for a place to stay for the night.
Friday night we arrive just south of Duluth and paddle out onto the river just before sundown to set up a backwoods camp. We spent over an hour hiking the shore of the Saint Louis Rivers whitewater just down from the dam. I can see an entire day of play in packrafts if the flow is about the same but we need to camp. We paddle out of the upper dam to find a site to pitch a tent. DeathRider scouted the site last year so we knew it was a good site and it was ideal.
We set up in a hurry because we expect the bugs to hit us hard at sundown. They didn't show so we hung out and had a small fire until 11pm talking about adventures and how the unknown was lost on most people. I assert that the proximity of big buildings and modern fluff have decoupled people from bonefide adventure. People pay $50 or more to run the mud or pretend to be Spartan for the day but in reality they want a short defined route, inside a terrain park with modern medical protections and a medal just for finishing the challenge so they and 50,000 other people can feel special.
First big climb right off the start and everyone needs a second for the cardio to catch up.
Into the powerline trail and hills so steep that pushing a bike is punishing but we are fresh so nobody complains. We drop people right out of the gate. Sad but then we are still close to the start and they can still have a good day at a pace they can enjoy.
It's blowing 15 knots and the waves are already stacking up. We paddle for an hour and then get off the lake before it gets nasty and our safety margin narrows to a thin line. The photos don't so the sea justice. I'm only able to take photos in the lulls. When the waves lump up I have to be captain and pilot the boat or I'll dump and that's a drama I want to reserve for the reality of life.
Below: This harbor wall does not connect to shore. You have to boat to it and the wreck is an easy swim away. We get our scuba masks and fins on and I'm in first. I swim out no more the 75 feet before my hand numbs and I'm getting an ice cream headache from the ice water in my ears. I have no choice. I have to swim back while I still can. I need a hood and gloves if I'm going to have my head in the water. We float around some but you just can't put your head in the water for more the 20 or 30 seconds at a time.
On that I'd like to thank everyone at Coggs for being the best group of guys I've ever had the pleasure of riding with.