Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Coggs Ride Weekend

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.
Back on track: I was going to set my tent in this very flat cove but quickly find it's blueberry. I eat a few and then to protect the berries I setup on a sloping moss field.
7:30am the next day we pack up and paddle out. We need to be at the ride before 9am and still need to eat and kit up for a hard day.
While waiting for DeathRider I see these 'fish' and on a closer look they are mayfly larva skins. There are 100's of thousands for sure.

 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.
Below: That's steep. Some can ride it but the cost is so high it would hurt you for the remainder of the day and we still have 40+ miles. Almost everyone pushes.
Below: The worst of the hills and mud culminate right here. The hill is wet clay, think axle grease, and beyond the limits to hold it's place creating short cliffs as the clay slumps off and falls in to the river below.
 Attempts to rinse off the clay are futile and only make it wet.
One of many food stops. Without these fuel feeds, I probably would not have finished so everyone owes a great deal of thanks to the men of Coggs for the generosity and hospitality.

About half way we are tired, hot, muddy and need some playtime. Everyone jumps into the river for a refreshing summer soak.

 All things end and we still have 20+ miles to ride. It isn't long and we splash through a lot more mud so the river was awesome but the clean did not last.

Something like 7 hours later we finish, shuttle back to the van and head up the shore to camp so we can kayak Sunday. We can't find a site so we hobo camp in a ditch just off the road.
Early Sunday we launch and the lake is as cold as I've ever experienced, maybe 40 degrees. My hands go numb in less then 1 minute. More like 30 seconds but the full wetsuit keeps me warm enough that I can paddle safely and if I flip I'll have time to get back in.
 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.

I know of a shipwreck that is shallow and in a protected harbor so we move down the lake and get in. The water off shore is more like 60 degrees and it's a nice swim with our thermal protections and the waves are fun to play in.
 DeathRider takes the high risk skid launch and almost lost it!

 I launch the same way and nearly flip as well.

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.
 We leave the breakwall and go to shore to see whats left of an old wreck.

On the way back to shore we poke around the abandoned loading piers. The active pier is loading an ore boat so we stay a long way off.

 Not wanting to be done we play in the surf for a long 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.

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