The following is a true story, only the names have been changed, to protect the guilty.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


When I checked the creek the day before it was much lower than it is here.
 A Hellbender is a giant salamander that lives in creeks and rivers of the eastern part of North America. I have always wanted to see one, for this adventure Steve and I were going to be one. I have had the "Hellbender Route" in my head for a long time and even thought of a cool name for it. I could not find anyone willing to do it, or the timing sucked until last night. I also have never fully explained it to anyone including Steve. I simply told him to bring a Fat-Bike, life jacket, canyoneering boots,bug spray, and a headlamp, and swimming fins if he felt like it.

I let my bike drift downstream in some spots.

One of several bridge culvert thingys

Plug for 
 The pics can explain most of it, but the idea was to travel down a creek and ride as much of it as possible, and walk or swim the rest. The crux of the adventure was the crossing of the Minnesota River. If you don't know the river, it's big, dirty, deep and potentially dangerous to swim in. I have lived and played around this river my entire life and have never swam in it before, mostly because it's looks nasty. 
One of these bridge underpasses had so many spiders I had to clear the passage with a stick.

Log Jam

There is a dead animal hanging in the water just over his right shoulder, keep your mouth closed !

 We spent a little over an hour navigating the creek. We had lots of fun trying to keep from falling over in the many rapids and hidden boulders. When we got to the Minnesota, I was first in, the water was nice and warm, and had very little current. I swam out to the middle and then waited for Steve so I could get some pics of him. I was also really enjoying the whole experience and wanted to swim a little longer.

This was a peaceful spot I could have spent more time at, but the swim was next.
I walked out another thirty feet before it dropped off

Nothin' like swimin' with the Pug.
 Once back on land, we rode the river bottoms trail to our second river crossing at 35W and Lynndale so we could complete the loop and ride back to our vehicles. This crossing was not as cool as the first. The water was full of small bits of trash and looked nasty. On the other side of the river, where we exited, was a man fishing. I don't know what he was thinking, but he sure gave us a strange look when we climbed out of the thick, knee deep muck on the shoreline. From there we took roads back to the vans and headed home. In all, we covered about ten miles and spent less than three hours, perfect for a weeknight adventure in our own backyard.
The river trail was in great shape, thanks trail workers.

Read the sign!

Boat launch at 35W

I'm about midway across when Steve exits near the fisherman.

The fun is over, time to ride back to the van.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Soo Line

 On Sunday morning of the Agate Days weekend in Moose Lake, I was able to get out for a couple hours on the Fargo. About a month ago, when Big "D" and I were four-wheeling on a spur of the Soo Line Trail we came to a bottomless mud hole which I was not going to risk getting stuck in. I knew the trail went down to the Kettle River, but I wanted to see it for my self on the bike. From where we were camped it figured it would be about a 30 mile out and back ride.

Kettle River

Is this bad for my bike?
 I was glad to be a little off on the mileage, it was only twelve miles to the spur trail and starting to get really hot. The spur was only about a half mile long and had more mud holes than dry ground. The cool mud and water felt good on my feet and legs, but was not something I was going to swim in, unless I fell in. I thought about getting in the Kettle River when I reached it, the water looked black and very deep. I jammed a stick in it to test the depth, it only went in about a foot. I stepped in and my feet and calves disappeared like it was paint, at that point decided not to go swimming until I got back to camp.  

Check out the dragon fly, or is it a mini UFO?
 The Soo Line Trail was in great shape for the Fargo. I have ridden this trail for hundreds of miles on an ATV from Birch Creek to Superior and in the other direction to Leech Lake, it is usually soft and chunky and not something I would want to ride on any bike. The gravel is very large and could pinch-flat a cyclo-cross tire easily. On this day it was obvious a grader had not been by in a long time, leaving a perfect, well worn two-track, that was fast and smooth for all but the last mile. I have thought about doing a long ride on this trail before, since it's an old railroad grade, it's dead flat, and has horizon-less straightaways, it would be kind of boring but an adventure none the less.

Note the large, tire popping gravel

I felt obligated to collect agates along the way.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Moose Lake, Agate Days

Moments after the trucks dropped their loads , the anticipation builds!
 Just north of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St Paul) is the self-proclaimed, undisputed, Lake Superior Agate Capital of the World ! The city of Moose Lake celebrates this with the annual "Agate Days". The main event during the festival is the Agate Stampede. The idea is simple, take two dump trucks filled with gravel and mix in four hundred pounds of agates and $400.00  of quarters and spread it along two blocks of the town's main street. At precisely 2pm a cannon is shot off and the stampede begins, everyone rushes to the street keeps what they find. This was the first time I have witnessed the rampage myself, it was awesome! The boys and I each got our hands on several of the stone beauties in the midst of the frenzy. Within minutes the crowd started to disperse as the gravel was nearly picked clean of the multi-lined gemstones. The scene was like watching a pack of hyenas, savagely devouring a carcass and leaving nothing but scraps for the remaining scavengers. After the stampede we headed over to the Gem Show at the high school, there were lots agates on display, and for sale. Alongside of massive 4-5 pounders', I have only dreamed of finding, were hideous abominations, hand crafted to highlight the true beauty of the Lake Superior Agate. These were items such as... clear glass ash trays and bowls with agates epoxied to the inside surface. Judging by the yellowing of the epoxy in which the stones are entombed, and the thick layer of dust encrusting the surface, these items have traveled the Gem Show circuit for a long time and will remain unsold until just the right tasteless buyer comes along with money to burn. Other items included horrible, tacky, renditions of wildlife or flowers, in which agates and bits of wire are glued to colored cardboard in meticulous detail and placed in a frame so one can marvel at the beauty.They were something only a slum lord could appreciate. The boys however, managed to get their hands on some nice polished stones at a fair price to add to their collections.  
We need more boats.

Like father, like son.

It's good see kids wearing their helmets while riding.

Don't ask

Randy is swimming in this........ yuck
Before the stampede, on Friday night, Lynn, the boys, and myself, pulled into Wicklunds Campground, a mile down the road from Moose Lake State Park, which is nearly impossible to get a site at, due to it's small size and popularity. Wicklunds is a private campground owned and operated by a really cool guy named Duane. The camp ground is located on a secluded lake perfect for swimming, fishing, and kayaking.   Later in the evening my mom and her boyfriend Randy showed up. The next day the rest of the clan arrived, this included, Aunt/Uncle.. Becky/Craig, daughter Ruby  Diana/Ken, great grandson Pierce. Cousin Renee and Dean, kids Sidney, Mitchel,Luke. and none other than the Chuker and his three boys. Game On !
Ready for action!

All these people trying to find a pretty rock

Super "Y" got a big one

Look who I found in the gravel.

 Before and after the stampede, everyone had fun fishing, swimming, kayaking, eating, frog catching, snacking, napping, agate hunting, and relaxing. Randy and Chuk removed no less then forty fish form the hooks of the young fishermen's poles. Their hands will continue to smell of fish into next week. All but a couple people enjoyed the four kayaks that Lynn and I brought along, the neighboring kids in the camp also had their turn in the boats. Super "Y",and "G" man, occupied much of their time frog hunting. Fortunately for "Y" the frogs don't bite and he has recovered well from his run-in with a squirrel a couple weeks ago. Big "D" could not be removed from his life jacket most of the weekend and is becoming part frog as he spent hours in the water swimming, kayaking and instigating splash-fights.

This weekend was set up as an effort to get out camping with my extended family, it's been three years now, and has been a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to next year, and at the same time thinking we should do it again this coming fall.  

Mitchel........Yo, Babe Winkelman, who you callin' a punk ?

Someone get this thing off of here !

Uncle Craig,   cookin' old skool

The Chuker, finally sitting down after the kids stop fishing........................ for a second

Randy tries desperately to keep all the lines from tangling, as Chuk and Lynn look on.

Giant Frog

This is the first Bull Frog "G" man has ever caught. I didn't know we grew them that big here in Minnesota. That was a very impressive frog.

Ending Saturday night with a campfire and s'mores