I woke up to a snot crusted face, my nostrils loose and streaming mucus. My allergies had been building each day on the bike and now they had transformed into a head cold. I could feel every inch of the cotton sheet as my skin had sunburned and it felt very exposed. I had avoided sunscreen on my limbs, hoping to develop a thicker hide. That particular hillbilly ochre that combines the pink red sting of a fresh burn with the deep earth brown of a summer outdoors. It is a hue found on construction workers, landscapers, white water rafting guides and vagrants and felt that it offered it’s own protection, that I wouldn’t be burdened with slathering on lotion every ten miles and I could be freeeee. This was a wrong assumption. I’ve faced far worse burns (Recife carnival 2011) but I didn’t need the nuisance. I ramble downstairs and chug coffee with my lovely hosts and Sarah drives me out to pick up a new battery for my cell phone because she is a GEM. The clerk at the store flicked out the knife he kept on his hip to slice open the plastic shell of the new battery and I realized that yes Dorothy, I was not in Kansas anymore. When we got back I asked Sarah to take some AND I’M OFF portraits.
I left behind a well worn grey t-shirt that wasn’t drying quicky and my pair of black booty shorts which my tender creases couldn’t bare. Every article that isn’t in heavy use has to go, sentimental feelings are for those with four walls, heave ho! I would realize later that these iems were my Powderhorn 24 uniform. Ah well. My hosts gifted me an oatmeal colored wool sweater and a small jar of Nescafe and I left Duluth with a warm heart and every article of clothing covered in dog hair. A fantastic family 🙂
I set off along the Lakewalk, which is a mediocre trail (no pedestrian/bicycle separation, crumbly in parts) but it has absolutely stunning views. Duluth must have more benches per capita then any other city, because it seemed like every few hundred meters another vista with a bench that will allow you to soak in the view. It’s as if Duluth is just telling you “look, buddy, just sit down and take a minute and appreciate this.” As a woman who loves a good park bench sit, I deeply appreciate this total bench saturation.
At one point I come across a supermarket directly next to the trail, 20 yards from pavement to sliding doors. I grabbed some jerky and bananas and a plastic cased caramel apple and invented this ingenious fruit storage system
I can reach back and snatch one from the bunch and stuff it in my face while pedaling away and then slide the peel under the bungee holding my tent onto the handlebars. BOOM CHIC CHIC BOOM. I slid back on the trail and just kept cranking out the beautiful miles. At some point I meandered onto Highway 61, which had minimal traffic due to the off season.
The only real bone rattling bit was through this tunnel. Nothing will make you feel more like an ant on a cookie crumb like cruising on a bike through a gaping hole blasted into the side of a cliff. The acoustics inside the tunnel are absolutely overwhelming in a deeply thrilling way, like a subway station roar but echoing off solid concrete instead of worn tile and rat bodies. Sometimes it’s good to throttlr the senses, just so you can remember how very tiny and vulnerable.you are. At least for the length of a tunnel.
By the time I reached Gooseberry Falls I could finally get onto the Gitchi-Gami trail, which goes from around Two Harbors to Grand Marais but it isn’t a straight shot as you get plopped back onto the highway for sections. It is a nuance but holy crap who cares it’s gorgeous.
I took a breather on this bridge and did a set of sun salutations and other deep stretches, which I had been neglecting my first few days. The planks of the bridge were sunlit warm and it was tempting to stretch out for a nap but onward forward! I got off the trail at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and zipped down the hill to the campsites and for the first time I had a pannier jump.ship overboard when I hit a speed bump. I wrestled the damn thing back on (putting on panniers on a loaded bike on a downward slope is an exercise in patience) and finally started to roll again when a big black butterfly hit me square in the nose then tuck and rolled into one of my blond hair snarls and got his ing stuck so I’m trying to flick him off while navigating my dumb bike down the hill. I arrive to the campsites only to find that I need to register at the front office at the TOP of the hill. I pop the caramel apple out of its plastic shell and eat it next to the garbage bins, watching a park employee sanitize the bathrooms. Once the frustration is calorie satiated, I rumble slow back up the hill to the office. The clerk mumbles something about there might not be a site for the night but I do the entire I BIKE YOU LIKE? song and dance and she assigns me campsite #4. I also pick up a freeee map of Lake Superior and the circle tour route which is published by Lake Superior magazine. If I write in about my circle tour I can get a FREE sticker and Certificate of Completion. This map also unburdens me from the Google Maps overload, which will be useful in the Land Without Cell Service.
Back down the hill once more to my campsite, which is located close to the bathroom/showers per my request. I walk through the small clearing and this is what greets me:
The campsite is tidy and private, with plenty of tree cover which makes it hidden to neighbors and softens any noise. There is a sturdy metal bear box to lock food and scented things in so you don’t have to fumble around with stringing up your stuff and this one was stocked with a bundle of bone dry wood, ready for a roaring fire. Towards the back of the site there is a faint path and a few short steps open onto an incredible view.
CAMPSITE #4 IS THE HONEYMOON SUITE OF SITES. Seriously, this is the heart shaped hot tub and rotating bed of MN state park system. It is stupidly romantic and only $23 a night. Go online and book a long weekend for early next September and impress the pants off your camping buddy.
I filled up a fresh water bottle and grabbed the chunk of Northern Waters Smokehaus pepperoni and sat on the edge overlooking that big blue lake. The sausage was spicy but it had a hint of clove and another warming spice I couldn’t quite pin down and I kept nibbling on chunks and chugging water and raised a toast to the good life. I honestly don’t know if it gets much sweeter than this.
MILES RIDDEN: 46
SONG OF THE DAY: Kiss Me as sung to the open road through the ripe cocktail of teriyaki jerky and stale trail mix breath.
ROADKILL REPORT: none! which is weird.