Thursday, August 25, 2011

August Mini-Vacation

Took a few days off and headed north to the Gunflint Trail. The original plan was to take the motorbikes on their first camping trip. Thursday night, while performing a pre-trip fluid check on the R65 we discovered:
- the oil in the gear box was pretty nasty looking, requiring a change (which we accomplished, as well as changing the oil in the final drive) and
- the final drive filler bolt had stripped threads.
This meant the bikes would stay at home and I would spend much of Thursday night doing research of fixing stripped threads in a BMW final drive.

Plan B involved loading the Fit (my trusty blue car) with our mountain bikes and way too much stuff and heading north after taking care of some business in town Friday morning. We had left the motorbikes behind due to mechanical issues but ended up dealing with a tire issue on the Fit. While stopped at a scenic overlook midway along the Gunflint Trail we noticed that the left front tire seemed a bit low and would need to be pumped up. Luckily Mr. Wildknits had tossed the full-sized bike pump (as well as the frame pump) into the car. We (well really Mr. Wildknits) spent a lot of time filling that tire in the next two days! We finally arrived at the Trails End Campground and set up camp in the site we had reserved alongside Seagull Falls.

We explored the campground via bike, then headed back for dinner and beverages while we watched the sun set over Gull Lake. The next morning we pedaled over to the boat landing and hiked the nature trail along Seagull Lake. This campground is in the area affected by the Ham Lake forest fire and, while devoid of large trees in many places, the fire was good for the blueberry crop! We snacked our way along the trail which ended at the lake shore where I spotted this tiny little plant. Since my wildflower field guide was back at camp I took photos:
Common Pipewort

and later looked the plant up in my favorite field guide - Newcomb's :

We headed back to camp and after packing up drove down the Gunflint trail with a plan to run the Magnetic Rock Trail.

Mr. Wildknits heading up the trail to the main attraction.

I climbed up on a bit of the rock that had fallen off to lend scale to this photo. I am 5'2" on a tall day.

After our run and a picnic lunch at the trailhead we drove to the Flour Lake Campground. We checked out sites before settling on this one:

It was a bit of a hike in but the reward was a small, private sitting area right on the lake. After setting up the tent we brought the chairs down to the shore and just sat - enjoying the sun, the view, our reading materials and a little bit of knitting:

A White Admiral butterfly (Limenitis arthemis arthemis) took a liking to our gear and hung out with us much of the afternoon.

After this nice break we set out on the mountain bikes to explore the surrounding area. We headed out on some ski trails that link area resorts, but after about a mile turned back as the ground was getting steadily damper (aka boggy). We ended up back on the gravel road, though I kept turning off on side trails until Mr. Wildknits requested fewer detours and more riding ;->

Sunday we packed up and set off for town. But first another run! Our original plan was to explore the Daniel's Lake Trail - a spur to the Border Route Trail. Once we tracked down the trail (the guide was less then explicit on how far the parking area was from the trailhead) and got a look at it we opted instead for the Lima Mountain Trail. This is Minnesota's fourth highest peak at 2,238 feet. It is a relatively short, but steep trail. The run had the added challenge of being overgrown with several downed trees. The best view actually occurred mid-way up on a exposed shelf we traversed. Once we reached the summit we were a bit underwhelmed by the view:

There was an extended family that was also hiking the trail and Mr. Wildknits and one of the guys set off through the underbrush to find the remnants of the fire tower. Mr. Wildknits came back with this little guy (or gal) to share with the kids:
Sphinx Moth species caterpillar

Remnants of the fire tower

USFS electrical "closet". There was evidence of old batteries and electrical hook ups inside.

We finished up the run with a playful sprint down the road back to the parking area. After a bit of exploring in the area, playing with the seedpods of Jewelweed, and a picnic lunch it was time to pump up the tire for the drive into Grand Marais. We stopped briefly to enjoy the view from the Pincushion Mountain parking area, then made the final drop into town and found a gas station with a working air hose for a final filling of the tire prior to the drive home.

One of the highlights of a north shore vacation is a stop in a restaurant for a meal of locally caught fish and chips. We bypassed the Dockside as it was busy and instead headed to Beaver Bay and The Crossings at Cove Point. We had an excellent meal of fresh caught Lake Superior Herring (aka Ciscoes).

The next two day's of our vacation were spent at home taking care of chores, having a new set of tires installed on the Fit, picking up some new to us canoes, and getting in a nice run on the Knife River section of the SHT with some bonus miles for me into the village of Knife River and down Hwy 61 to the wayside rest near Stoney Point.

I headed into work Wednesday very relaxed, caught up on my sleep and, I hoped, ready to dive back in.

Edit: Not sure what is up with Blogger but this last bit was invisible for awhile(sorry - looked okay when writing and missed when posting). I can't explain the font changes. Get what you pay for I guess!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Seen on a Long Run... Part 2


131 (million) steps. Hard to capture how steep these truly are.
Yes, this is on the Wild Duluth race course.

Field Garlic (Allium vineale) - alien. "Serious pest of lawns,
pastures and meadows" according to Newcomb's Wildflower Guide.

Common Dodder or Love Vine (Cuscuta gronovii). "Parasitic plant with yellow or orange stems and dense clusters
of small, white flowers... Tightly twines around the stems of other plants and absorbs their
sap through tiny suckers." Newcomb's Wildflower Guide.

Sam enjoying a post-run Coffee Creek ice bath.

Small waterfall on Coffee Creek below the trail crossing. This also makes a
great sledding run in the winter when the creek overflows the ice and refreezes.

Hanging out with the water striders, other aquatic insects and, as it turns out, leeches (shudder!)

Downstream view.

Todays run was a bit shorter than planned at 13.1 (or so) miles but did include The Big W and the Piedmont hills. Rather than continue on to Lake Superior for an ice bath (15+ miles), Sam and I decided to play it safe (my schedule called for 14 miles, she ran her first 50 mile two weeks ago) and ran back to Coffee Creek to soak the legs. The temperature was perfect! Cold enough to make you hesitate, but not so cold your toes went numb immediately.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Seen on a long run...

Last Saturday I left my house, hiked up the hill a few hundred feet and headed west on the SHT. This route involves hills; lots of them! I ran an out and back course with the turn around at Highland & Getchell which is just at the start/end of "The Big W" as the next section (to Magney-Snively) of the SHT is fondly referred to. Along the way I saw:

This rock formation which is large enough for me to crawl into;

Monotropa uniflora
aka: Corpse Plant or Indian Pipe.

Also found raspberries and blueberries which meant I had to take a few snack breaks. It was a glorious morning for a run and I had the most fun I have had in a long time. I ran with a friend and this was his longest trail run ever. Fun to bring someone else into the fold!

Later that day I joined my youngest daughter in her move across the state to Grand Forks, North Dakota. It was a long day of driving but offered us a great opportunity to chat and, once we arrived, to explore her new home together. Sunday, while waiting for the rest of the family to join us, we headed to the Greenway and I ran while she biked. I have never been to Grand Forks so this was a wonderful way to see a bit more of the area and check out the Red River (which was still over it's banks). Finished out the day with a bit of cross-training (aka the moving truck arrived and we unloaded it) and then drove back home that same night. By Monday morning I had logged 22 hours of sleep in 5 days. Not ideal for functioning at work!

Based on a week of consistent running I sent my application in for the Wild Duluth 50K. I decided I should finally commit and hope that this will help keep me on task as far as training goes. I tend to be more motivated when there is a goal ahead of me (and money on the line).

It seems to be working so far as I have logged runs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (which are for running to - and from - work after all). Tomorrow I will hit the trails again, this time tackling The Big W and many more hills on my way home on a point to point run. Sunday I am scheduled to run again and have yet to sort out where that will occur. I do know my legs are much happier on trails than pavement so suspect I will opt for another section of the SHT.