January 22, 2017
As we rolled into Thunder Bay, our excitement grew. We had two main goals. Find a Sero Story and have an epic adventure with an old friend from Ottawa who is now in Thunder Bay.
It took us a few days to find our story, but with it completed, it meant we had a few days for an adventure with Travis.
He suggested making the 3.5 hour drive South to Duluth, Minnesota. None of us had been there before, but a quick Google search provided us all the info we needed to pack the van up and go.
“The top up and coming mountain bike destination” proclaimed the web. “One of the best adventure towns in North America” said another website.
That was all we needed to hear. We loaded up the van with 3 bikes and started our detour South of the border.
On the way, we stopped in Grand Marais. The small town has been working on a network of trails. We couldn’t resist giving them a spin. We drove up a long hill to what locals call “Pincushion”.
The network did not disappoint. Long climbs through open fields, tight technical single track and amazing views of Lake Superior layed in front of us.
Just when things couldn’t seem to get any better the trail turned downwards and opened up into an amazing flowy section with berms, rollers, and fast sections that would allow you to take the air.
With smiles on our faces and a great start to our 4 day trip we loaded back in the van to see if we could make it to Duluth in time to ride there before the sunset and close out the day.
But during the 2 hour drive, the sunny skies darkened and heavy rain mixed with hail started falling. A second ride didn’t seem promising.
We continued with our plan and arrived at Lester Park, the most northern network of trails in Duluth. To our surprise, the rain had only lightly fallen in Duluth and we would get our first taste of the trails made by COGGS.
We checked out the map and made a plan. It was pretty simple. Ride to the top of Lester Park and take any trail back to the bottom where we parked.
The climb flowed nicely to the top where we caught our breath before shifting into high gear. The decent became a sweet rhythmic ride of berms, bridges and rollers all the way back to the van, getting us there just as the darkness of night set in.
Day 2 would take us to the next network to the south, Hartley Park. We began our early morning ride by crossing several downed trees. It would soon become apparent that a big storm had hit the park. The network still provided some goods, but will need some work to clean up. We thank trail crew for all their hard work there.
After our morning spin we headed to the local bike shop for some supplies and beta. Where to ride next? Duluth has so many miles of trail it would be impossible to ride it all. The folks at the shop directed us to Twin Ponds next. A parking lot that would put us on the Duluth Traverse and allow us to put in a big day connecting 2 of the best parks.
I personally wasn’t looking forward to the Duluth Traverse. The Traverse connects all the parks in Duluth. A pretty amazing concept, but I imagined the Traverse to be a long straight section of dual track, more of a bike path than anything.
We went with the shops recommendation anyways and jumped on the Traverse. It was nothing of what we expected. Amazing single track built on a ridge over looking the city. The view was stunning but as you flew through the big berms at 30km/h, it was hard to see. We all had to stop to take in the view. Stunning.
We continued into Brewer Park where some of the most technically challenging trails would be waiting for us. Root free flow trails made way for rock drops and steps. A big change from the fast smooth trails of the Traverse. Travis dropped into “Kissing Booth” first, noticing a little extra roughness as he road half of it with his suspension locked out.
We would link up with Piedmont on the way back to the van. Piedmont would throw more flow trails at us with a few technical sections.
We ended the day by back tracking back down the Traverse and to the van. It made for an amazing 40km day and allowed us to check 3 more parks off our list.
With day 2 in the books, we continued to move South in the city, and would find a sweet creek side campsite, named after the next park we would ride.
Excitement grew as we woke up for day 3. Not only was it Tracy’s 33rd birthday, but it was time to ride the crown jewell of Duluth; Mission Creek.
We had heard about about this network. It was the newest. The fastest. The flowiest. So new in fact that as we lubed our chains a trail crew toting plaid shirts, racks and shovels came out of the woods proclaiming that one more section of trail was now complete.
We took the opportunity to thank them for their hard work and ask what we should ride. They told us the new trail of course!
Mission Creek is similar to Lester Park. Ride to the top. Take any option to the bottom and you can’t go wrong.
With the long climb out of the way we dropped in. Mission Creek is fast, averaging over 30km/h on the way down. We even hit 40km/h in a section. Trees blurred by so quick that you forgot where you were. Mission Creek is a must hit.
The last day would be partially a driving day as would depart Duluth with smiles on our faces and sore legs from 3 days of 30+ kilometres of riding. We would take our time getting back to Thunder Bay though stopping at Tofte for one last ride.
Tofte offered up some good old fashion single track, a big difference from Duluth’s new school builds. It was a great way end a epic 4 days of riding.
If Duluth wasn’t on your map, and you are a mountain biker, you need to get there. The trails are worth the drive of flight.