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

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Mineral Center
 Several weeks ago during the three day Gravel Conspiracy, Laurential Divide I decided to take a detour on day 2. The detour was part of a plan I cooked up days earlier when I realized my body may not quite be ready (back injury) for a 200++ mile race. I felt bad about not being able to ride the whole thing but not as bad as I would have felt had I not shown up at all. I was able to ride the first day of the journey without pain and kept a good pace on the Krampus. On day two I rode out of Grand Portage with the group for the first 10-12 miles, flated, and veered off course some miles later.

this was like a dock that just fit the boat
 It was a beautiful fall day, and I was having a great time riding by myself but with a few butterflies in my stomach.  As the narrow gravel roads turned to double track and then to barely visible ATV trail my nervousness stared to bump up a few notches. I was truly in the middle of nowhere, my friends and family had only a rough idea where I was going specifically, and I was about to air-up my pack-raft below a large and loud waterfall. As I approached the falls I was surprised at the amount of flow and the thunderous sound coming from it. 

the glance backward
 Amid the mist and the noise I began to look for a safe place to put in from the overlooking cliff above. The bottom of the falls and river is walled in by stone on either side but has relatively easy access down near the plunge pool and one perfect spot to launch. I inflated the boat, brought it to the water, and began taking "parts" down to it's parking spot, as there was no room for my pack and dis-assembly of the bike all in the same area. I was trying not to think about all the shit that could go wrong here as I became increasingly more on edge. I wasn't sure I should be here, if it was ok to paddle this river, if the decent sized rapids I could see just down stream got any bigger, or if my exit strategy on the bike was on the up and up. I was also thinking about the gash in my tire that was patched with a piece of duct tape, the fact that my one extra tube was used up and the slash in it's predecessor too big to fix, and the matter of not being able to find the repair kit for my boat should the need arise.  I put it all out of my mind and focused on what I had to do at the moment, sliding down the slippery slab of rock to my fully loaded raft and pushing off.

  I didn't even feel like snapping any picks just before and after I got on the water  but that would have been a huge mistake, as A.F. and I often put it "if you didn't get a picture of it, it didn't happen". As it turned out the rapids were pretty mellow accept for the several ledges I dropped off of initially. These weren't  even that bad and I would have gladly gone back and done them again if I didn't have a bike strapped on the front of my raft and if I had a companion. In all reality none of this is out of my skill or ability level but going into the unknown, especially solo, makes me uneasy. Once through the rapids the river was calm, peaceful and for the most part shallow. All I had to do now was keep an eye out for my exit. In just under an hour I was back on land and getting the bike back together. Somehow the chain got all twisted up and became sort of a Rubik's Cube of a puzzle to untangle. Not having a leatherman with a needle nose pliers was my down fall, as simply taking apart the chain would have fixed the problem in a few minutes. Instead I had to remove the rear derailer, and the cable. A frayed cable can be a total bitch to put back in the tiny hole for 20 minutes. I wasted about an hour here and had no extra time to check out the area more thoroughly.

damn fine sandwiches inside

     Relieved that my bike was  back in working order I calmed down and just pedaled. It would be several more hours of awesome gravel and scenery  before I was back in Grand Marais. I was feeling good and as I got closer to my destination I worried less about the slash in my tire. I stopped off at a little deli in Hovland to refuel before making the 19 mile slog in a headwind to finish out the day. I was the last one in on day two, I felt good and I was pretty sure I could have done the 85 miler that the others did for the actual race. I rode 68 miles on the Krampus and was out for a good 8 hours. I was happy with my decision but a little guilty too, hind sight is always 20-20. After the ride I cleaned up at the municipal pool and enjoyed an extended dip in the spa. Later I met the whole gang for dinner before a having a camp fire cut short by rain. I went to bed plotting and planning other adventures that would piggyback the one I had done this day, as well as one that I would attempt the following day from recon obtained on my ride into Hovland.

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