Adventure Goals for 2013

As 2012 is left behind and a new year begins, I have some goals (lofty in some respects, realistic in others) to have a more adventure filled year than 2012.  The biggest adventure I’ll be having, is that my wife and I are expecting our second son in March.  Nothing on this list will give me more joy than the joy I’ll be experiencing on March 19th (assuming baby #2 is punctual).  With all of these things I aim to accomplish in the new year, they will only happen if I can successfully balance adventure and family.  It’s very important for me to spend quality time with the fam, and adventuring out in the wild while my wife is at home with two kids both under the age of 4 would put me in the running for worst husband of 2013.  So, there needs to be a balance.  As part of that balance, I’m looking to try to have more local adventures.  Things I can do close to the Twin Cities or the rare northern Minnesota trip.  Obviously I’d love to take my wife and sons on all of these excursions, but the boys aren’t old enough for most of them yet.
With that in mind, here are the things I hope to try to do in 2013.

Run a 50 mile Trail Ultramarathon
Last summer I ran my first ultra, the Afton Trail Ultramarathon.  It was a great experience, albeit a very tough and challenging one.  This biggest commitment of this isn’t the race itself, but the time investment the training necessitates.  By my estimation, if I can run 30 miles, what’s another 20?  Right?  Right?  I’ve got my eye on you Superior Trail Race.

Climb at Barn Bluff in Red Wing and Blue Mounds State Park
Taylor’s Falls is great for a Twin Citian such as myself, and there’s still a lot of routes I haven’t done there, but a trip to either Barn Bluff in Red Wing or Blue Mounds our in Luverne would be a lot of fun  I believe Barn Bluff is mostly lead climbing, so…
***Bonus Goal ***
Learn how to lead climb..

Mountain bike Cuyuna Trails
Two falls ago I biked Cuyuna and loved it.  I hope to be able to take another crack at it.
***Bonus Goal ***
Mountain bike way more often than I did in 2012.  After getting a new bike towards the end of 2011, I found it tough find time to hit the trails.  Shame on me.

Paddle the Minnehaha Creek Watershed point to point
This is basically in my backyard so I have no reason not to do it, other than low waters because of a drought and the need for an aluminum canoe.  But other than that I don’t have a good excuse.  It’s pretty meandering and easy from what I understand.  Bonus points if I take my (then) 3-year-old son on his first canoe ride.


Hike section of the Superior Hiking Trail
I love hiking in northern Minnesota, but haven’t been able to hike the SHT for a few years.  Even if I can only get up there for one or two days, it’d be worth it.  I’ve never been up there for the fall foliage….

Run a marathon; either Grandma’s or Twin Cities
I’ve ran a lot of half-marathons and an ultra-marathon  but I haven’t run a regular road marathon since I ran Twin Cities in 2008.  I’d like to run Grandma’s since I’ve never done it – new experience – but Twin Cities is a lot more convenient.

Sleep outside in the backyard with my son
On the eve of his 2nd birthday I set up the tent and we camped outside in our backyard.  Awesome and memorable.  

Birthday camping is the best!
Birthday camping is the best!

Rock climb Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin with my uncle
My uncle who lives in the Northern suburbs of Chicago takes a trip north with a group of guys to climb at Devil’s Lake in Wisconsin.  He has invited my brothers and I on the trip numerous times but the timing has never worked out.  Crossing my fingers for 2013.

Participate in the Hoigaard’s challenge
This is a prime candidate to be the first thing on my list I don’t accomplish.  A friend of mine recently asked me if I was interested in trying to accomplish the Hoigaard’s Challenge.  This includes participating in all three of the following events: The City of Lakes Loppet (XC skiing, Feb. 2-3), The Tri-Loppet (paddle, MTB, trail run, June 23), and the Surly Trail Loppet (trail half-marathon, Sept. 21).  Complete all three and you get a pin.  Neato.  I’ve done the Surly Trail Loppet before and really enjoyed it.  The Tri-Loppet is particularly appealing to me because I’ve thought of doing tris before but I don’t swim a lot (not those distances anyway) and I don’t have a road bike.  I do however enjoy mountain biking quite a bit, so this is right up my alley.  The City of Lakes Loppet however…although it’s something I want  to get into more, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve XC skied in my life.  That’s why if we ever get around to actually signing up, we’d just be participating.  Not competing.  But hey, gotta start somewhere right?

What are your goals for more adventure in 2013?  Leave a comment below.

MTB Trail Review: Cuyuna

I’ve only had my new ride since August so most of my riding has been around the Twin Cities with an exception just over the border in Wisconsin.  A couple of weekends ago I had the privilege of presenting at Super Hero Tech Camp and thought it’d be a perfect opportunity to haul my bike up north to ride in the iron range at Cuyuna.  Word on the trail was that this spot was not to be missed, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

The middle of a Thursday isn’t usually when you’ll see a lot of traffic on a trail (especially up north) so I had the trail mostly to myself.  Only two cars were in the parking lot as I pulled in around noon.  The day was cool and crisp and the chilliest ride I had done to date this year, though as it warmed up it worked out perfectly, accentuating the fall colors of the trees which lent itself to a very distinct Minnesotan autumn.

Though I only had a vague notion of where the trails were I was fortunate enough to snag the sole remaining trail map available at the trailhead.  Had I not been so fortunate, it’s very possible I would have ridden the same trails over and over, lost in repeating fashion.  Which I suppose can be both a good and bad thing, depending on how you look at it.

Time was of the essence (I did have a conference to get to, remember?) so I was focused on getting the most bang for my buck.  The Mahnomen Unit (inset B) seemed to offer exactly that.  I started with “Crusher”.  True to its name, it was a nice climb for someone who hadn’t been able to get out and ride.  For some reason I still can’t figure out, I ended up looping around and climbed Crusher at least three times, dominating (not) “Rocky Flats” and finally getting to “Miner’s MTN.”.  There were at least three times that made me stop and reflect on how awesome Cuyuna is, and Miner’s was one of those times.  After climbing up, you get to a point where there is a lookout (cars can get there too, but it’s better by pedal) and you can see no less than three lakes around you.  Although I had a lot of riding left to do and the clock was ticking, I did have to stop to take it in for a while and appreciate what the trail designers had intended.

One of the most beautiful parts of the trail

“Screamer” was a section that was just a blast to ride.  Steep with big banks and turns, it’s the kind of trail that forces you to pay attention.  Instead of wondering where the other trails are at or how to navigate to them, Screamer had my full and undivided attention from the start.  I appreciate that nuance of mountain biking.  There are times when you can coast, and there are times where on of the shortest sections of a trail demands that you listen to it or you’re not going to like the result.  It may exist, but I’m not sure that I’ve ridden a section in Minnesota that holds that much natural exhilaration and doesn’t need debris or perfectly placed obstacles.

Good advice

To round out my favorites, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include “Sidewinder” and “Roly Poly”.  Neither of these are particularly difficult or challenging, but they did bring a great smile to my face in a fun and exuberant way Screamer or Miner’s MTN did not.

I was running out of time but did manage to squeeze in the Portsmouth Unit (inset C) and basically just rode “Drag Line” around Portsmouth Mine Lake until I got to the state trail that would take me back to Mahnomen.  Even though it wasn’t as awesome, Portsmouth was still fun.  In fact, I don’t think my tires ever touched dirt that wasn’t fun for me, including all of the “easy” trails.

If you go, ride fast. But when you stop, take it all in.

Cuyuna is a different place.  It’s easily the most beautiful place I’ve ridden in Minnesota and has some of the more unique types of riding.  There weren’t any skills areas around that I knew of, but I’m totally fine with that.  It doesn’t need it.

What it needs to be is a place, a destination.  Judging by the “Mountain Bikers Welcome!” signs on some of the store fronts and bars I spotted while driving through Crosby and Ironton, it looks like that’s what it wants.  What’s more, it seems to have a vision.  On my ride back to my car on the state trail, I stopped briefly and chatted with Nick who maintains a lot of the trails.  He was putting stickers on some signs (all of the trails are very well-marked, by the way).  He spoke of Cuyuna with a tone that implied both a playful and reverential tone.  I congratulated him on the good work that was done on the trails and vowed that I’d be coming back next summer.  I missed not being able to stop by GPS 27 and take a dip in the Alstead Mine Lake then get back on the bike and ride some more.

He thanked me and seemed to be genuinely proud of what they’ve carved out of those iron hills.

Good.  They should be.