Monday, July 21, 2014

Sneak peak at the new Spirit trails with the bro's of Flowline..................

"Can I play in the mud dad?"  
Last run for the day at Spirit
Things are really ripping at Spirit Mountain.  It sure feels like it has come a long way since Candyland! I was lucky enough to spend the evening with the Flowline guys last Friday and get a sneak preview of the new jump lines and also take a ride on the new line built off of Happy Camper.

The new trail off of Happy Camper is a combo DH/Freeride dream. It has it all for intermediate to advanced riders.  Fast berms, big rocks, drops, hips and booters!
Flowline Boys
New Jump Line
To say it has been a challenging build season is a major understatement.  This spring certainly seperated the men from the boys as far as trail building.  We certainly found our men, and we certainly found our "boys" as well.

Flowline threw down however and despite the wet conditions created well detailed, well built magic.  I had the chance to shoot some images last season of these folks, but having another evening was great.
I cant say enough how fun it is to have the option to ride lift served gravity in your town.  I hit XC most of the week and spend at least one evening at Spirit per week.  My skills have increased and I am riding many lines I never thought I would ride.

We are lucky right now, lucky to have this opportunity and I am so stoked that we had a crew like Flowline that recognizes that fact as builders the past two seasons!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Crazy Winona weekend: Summer 2014

It was a bitter sweet return home a couple of weekends before.  I have reached that age where traveling home usually means family trauma.  

Sad but true.

Currently my father is the one we are supporting.  He is on the mend but its a particularly slow and painful mend for him and because of that I decided to swing down and spend some time with him and mother.

Amazingly, all things seemed to be going down in Winona that weekend.  My father and his health, the Shakespeare Festival, one of my best buds back in town from OR, IMBA Trail Care Crew, a cousin from out of state visiting.....
"CC Rules 88"  It actually did............
As I rolled into town and started crossing over the bridge I felt my hands and head starting to steer towards my grandmothers home.  For a decade I always went to her house first.  The solid pang of sadness thumped my heart as I reminded myself she is no longer there.  Then of course my thoughts swung towards my father and his challenge and I had one conclusion.

Get after it.  None of its for sure.  Nothing is promised and nothing is certain.  Life is a construct, its a thinly woven veil that we all assume is solid, that its for ever that things dont change....until they do.

Another fat SE MN Brown

Old tree Stream side
I got up early every morning and fished my brains out.  The fish were hungry and the action was fun. As I was fishing I was watching the bright purple Thistle blooms as hundreds of Yellow Finches fed on the seed.  

My evening with Sather was really fun as well.  We had a great dinner out on the patio of the Boat House and then went to Ed's. The talk was mainly about survival, the fact that we survived this long at all, really.  Everybody talks about how crazy highschool was, but suffice to say we may have been a bit crazier than most.  Something I am always reminded of when an old friend comes around.  We ended the night at Four on the Floor at Ed's.  It was like Duluth hauled ass down to support me.  While we were taking in the scene four of my friends from Duluth walked and our trio became a full blown party.

Always wondered Exactly where that was between MN and WI 
While my heart was heavy thinking of my grandmother and my father, my night out with Sather pulled me back up and got me rolling again.  I left the city with a quick stop at Fortunata's and listened to some music on the back porch, thinking about how much I love the region I grew up in, then I headed for my new home and my family.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Spending time with the Family, thinking of the future

Summer in the Northland!

Nothing beats it.

Swimming in the warm rain.


Ice Cream.  Kids, boats, docks and all that go with it.

Live it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Coming home: A major life change as I depart IMBA and accept a new Advocacy job in Duluth.

Good times with Aaron Rogers and Gary Fisher 
By now the rumors are out there and I figure I had better stop the mill and get the truth out about my new opportunity.

The answer is YES, I have been offered an amazing chance to create change in my community and I have taken it.

These types of situations come very rarely in an Advocates life, if ever.

Literally all my life I have been involved in the business of Advocating for Outdoor Recreation and its amazing power at building a healthy and positive lifestyle.

In my early life it started in the sales realm.  I started working with Wenonah Canoe at age 13 when I would help Mike Cichanowski sell race canoes from his trailer at the various Marathon events we spent our summers participating in.

From that point on, I worked at retail stores like Rutabaga, in Madison and Canoe Imports in Vermont.  I eventually made the leap from retail to working for Garmont as a shipping guy and then I went to sales and marketing and eventually I became a regional sales rep.

IMBA HQ ride in Boulder
I had a wonderful 9 year stand as a sales rep.  Selling everything from nordic skis and telemark gear to climbing shoes and Patagonia clothing, Lotus and Astral PFD's, and then back to my roots with canoes and kayaks for Wenonah and Current Designs.

In that career I had the great fortune to listen and learn from some of the biggest visionary's in the Outdoor industry.

People like Yvon Chouinard, John Schweizer who co-founded Merrell Boots, Paul Parker and Mike Hattrup of Tua and K2 Skis, Phillip Curry of Astral, Kim Miller of Scarpa, and Peter Metcalf of BD, Brian Cousins and Steve Sullivan of Cloudveil, Doug Barbour of Karhu skis and of course Mike Cichanowski of Wenonah Canoe and Current Designs and Andy Zimmerman of Wilderness Systems and many, many more.

A lot of how I view the world came from these experiences and these people.

Eventually I realized that the selling of "products" was only the result of what I was truly selling and that was the idea of the Outdoor lifestyle, or the importance of Outdoor Recreation and how it improved peoples lives.
Checking out Dupont State Forest with A-Rog
I always dreamed of what it would be like to only sell that concept and not the gear that came along with it.

I think that personal history and timeline are important in understanding my current transition.

A lot people only know me as the "Mountain Bike" guy and my most recent job with IMBA as its Upper Midwest Regional Director.

Typical To Do list over the past five years in working with IMBA
Well the truth is that I have been deeply involved in a huge array of Outdoor sports and I have always prided myself in participating in those activities at as passionate a level as I could.

I was a top 200 Birkie skier, yet I also tele skied some of the hardest lines around in La Grave France with Doug Coombs in 1999, well before the current boot and ski technologies were around.

I used to hammer out long distance paddles and multi sport events like Minnesota's Border to Border.  I did New Hampshires Sea to Summit race solo and unsupported ( I would pull over at Mcdonald's for food stops).  I also did  our very own Adventure Duluth, a 10 hour, six sport event solo in its last edition.  I have spent a ton of time "fast packing" on the Long Trail in Vermont as well as many great hikes in the Alps,  Rockies, Gallatin's, Bear Tooths, and White Mountains.

In 2001 Guy Evans and I decided to see how fast and light we could paddle the entire Border Route in the BWCA cranking out Crane Lake to Lake Superior via the Grand Portage in 72 hours.  I can surf and roll a sea kayak, paddle moderate whitewater in both a canoe and kayak and have spent seasons learning to ice climb, kite ski and I am a rabid fly fisherman.  Of course all along with those activities I was riding my mountain bike including a summer in Iceland traversing its many mountains, volcanoes and glacial rivers.
Hood River riding
Girls and GU (Jason Wells and Jill Van Winkle)
Mike Van Abel of IMBA came to me and asked me to Advocate for off road cycling in the Upper Midwest five and a half years ago.  It was a dream come true and I will forever be in debt to him for both giving me the chance to become an Advocate and for the knowledge and wisdom he has imparted to me while I worked and struggled to become just that.

Success is always hard to quantify as an Advocate.  If your doing your job correctly you are partnering with a multitude of stakeholders, who are all working as hard as you are, so claiming specific results is hard to do I will never have the hubris to take personal credit for anything.

National Bike Summit. I love this shot as there are so many great folks in that room
That said, there are some indisputable things that have happened in the last five years in the Upper Midwest that I have been a large part of.

When I started 5 and a half years ago IMBA had a very small presence in this region.  

Now we have 21 Chapters, 2 Ride Centers (with two more applying) The Duluth Traverse Project as well as a myriad others and we have had 4 Regional Summits and 2 Advanced Trail Schools that have brought people from across the country to both learn and influence our local advocates and trail builders.  

Membership has also increased by impressive numbers.  Because of those numbers we have two part time staff members working for both IMBA and MORC and The Copper Harbor Trails Club.  Lori Hauswirth and Matt Andrews, both rising Advocates in the region.  We have seen clubs that got on board with IMBA become national powerhouses, both in the cutting edge trails they provide and also in how the clubs are managed, funded and the access they are being given.

Most importantly we have erased the silly idea that Destination Quality Off Road cycling CANT take place in the Midwest and that is culturally significant to our region our community and our sport. 

Policy talk in DC with Hans Rey 
The SRAM boys, doing what they do best....
A year or so ago I had the chance to engage in a lengthy conversation with Don Ness the Mayor of Duluth about the potential to use the lessons I have learned with IMBA to positively impact some of the other major Outdoor Recreational activities in Duluth.  

Of course I was interested.  It fit my background and my multi sport experience and most importantly it also fit my desire to directly impact the place that I live.  That all said there was no real funding and no real mechanism to make that happen, so I just kept my head down working in the four states my region composes.

That all changed several months ago when the funding and the mechanism were put in place for a position, and then last week (ironically in the middle of the Outside Magazine best towns contest) I was actually offered a true chance to take on this challenge when the City of Duluth entered into a partnership with the Minnesota Land Trust focused on the nexus between Outdoor Recreation, Conservation and the quality of life both bring to Duluth.

I will detail the job itself in another post.  Suffice to say it is a personal dream job for me. 

My wife Margaret Harstad has always been there for me, through travel, stress and success
This new job is a chance to expand my Advocacy across the full spectrum of human powered Outdoor Recreation with my arena being focused specifically in Duluth, and to have the support of the City leadership in doing so. 

Working with IMBA has been truly life changing for me.  I mean that sincerely.  The people that work there are the most passionate people I have ever worked with in Mountain Biking.  My relationship with them is intact and I will be forever singing their praises and also pulling them in as a partner here in Duluth whenever possible.  I will miss all of them and their many fun and interesting personalities dearly, but I do not intend to leave the family.

I post his now because I can
Anna Banana.  Keep up the good fight girl!

A- Rogers, teaching Tae how to build flow trail 
Lastly, I need to put a shout out of extreme thanks to the hundreds of volunteers, board members, IMBA Chapter leaders and IMBA supporters and land managers who have helped me out the past five and half years.  

There are too many to name, but you know who you are.

The results I have mentioned in my region were because of you.  You took the tools, the lessons, the consultation and the input that I offered you and you have made the Upper Midwest one of the best places to ride a mountain bike in the world.  

I will miss all of you and your trails and while I will be in a new position, please feel free to contact me for anything you might need now and in the future. I do intend to stay involved in mountain biking through COGGS as a volunteer and as time passes will most certainly give my experience to the person who follows in my footsteps as a resource and if they are interested in it.

Plenty of this in the last five years
Braap!  Sallie from HQ ripping it in Santa Fe
In going through the photographs I have taken on this job in the last five years it is stunning the amount of travel I have done and the amount of cool people I have gotten to know and work with.  Everyone from the famous, to the infamous to the easy to work with to the NOT so easy to work with.

I should also take the time at this juncture to thank all the Industry folks that have supported me in this career.  From Steve Flagg, Gary Sjoquist and QBP, Jason Boucher, Mike Riemer, Bobby Dahlberg, Justin Julian, John Gaddo and the Salsa Crew,  to Mike Mercuri and the team at SRAM, to John Burke, Joe V, Geoff Snudden, Ken Derrico and Karl Erbach of Trek.  Without this industry support I would not have been paid, I would not have had a bike to ride and most certainly would not have been able to create change without the resources they provided to me, IMBA and my Chapters.

The lifestyle of being an RD has been both challenging and amazing and I think I have enough compelling images and stories to write a pretty sweet book if I ever have the time.  I would also like to reach out to the remaining RD's and ARD's at IMBA.  You folks are the future of Mountain Biking and while the job can be tough and thankless, the change your creating is critical to keeping off road cycling vibrant.  I especially want to thank Anna and Tom, the last two remaining original RD's from the SRAM funding 5 years ago.

For me however, I do feel that IMBA and this important experience in my life will be very big Chapter in a personal story of my life in Advocacy and that the rest of that story has yet to be written.

GF Tweeting about something 

Mckenzie River Trail 
So for now, the travels have ended and I am coming home.

Home to work, home to my family and home to play.  I dont sit around for long, but for now the focus is on Duluth and its many, many outdoor opportunities.

Please come to visit, I will be in the same spot.................

Monday, June 23, 2014

Warn the town, the beast is back..... A 2012 St. Louis River Flood Retrospective...

Thomson, MN- June 20th 2012 6.10am
 I wish I could have posted this up on Friday, the exact anniversary of this event but alas life is, how do you say a bit hectic right now.

That said, two years ago this week this is the calamity that my small town of Thomson, MN was dealing with.

It all started for Margaret, Tae and I at 4am with a knock on the front door and an emergency evac.  I would love to say that it has ended, but the reality is that even after two years it has not.

The cruel irony of a natural disaster is that not only is the initial impact of the event destructive, the recovery is as well.

Two years on, the Thomson Res. is still not working and has yet to be filled.
The Forbay Canal, while finished by Minnesota Power has yet to be generating power.

 Many of the trails we have lost in Jay Cooke State Park are still in ruins as well as many bridges that connected them.  Highway 210 is still closed with no clear communication as to if it will be re-opened.  Things that have been fixed, have been changed dramatically to fit new criteria and standards, many of those being more impactful than the flood itself.

Vermillion Ave, Thomson MN 6/21/12
The reality is that there is no happy ending to an event like the one we experienced in Thomson and in Duluth in June 2012.  The impacts resound for years and years afterwards.

I will say it is uncanny how similar this seasons rain events have been to 2012.  Amazingly in our small region the water levels are starting to drop, but I watch with bated breath as communities to our south and our north struggle with a near perfect copy of our 2012 experience.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Vote Duluth, MN! America's Outdoor City! Outside Magazine Contest 2014

Spirit Mountain Flow Trails
The fact of the matter is that Duluth has won the Outside Magazine Best Places to Live Contest already.

I have lived in this town on and off since 1989.

I have left.

I have returned.

Duluth's other body of water, the St.Louis River

I have resided in Birmingham, England, Madison, WI, Bozeman, MT and Burlington,VT and returned to Duluth every time.

I have seen a remarkable snapshot in this Cities history and I have to say that the mere fact that we are finalists in this contest is a stunning achievement in its self.

This is a true rag to riches story and in some ways its a narrative to my own life and career (minus the riches).

 To locals Duluth has always been an outdoor mecca.
Metro Lip Rippin
Lunker Smallies
 When I first came up here in 1989 it was because the Nordic Ski Team was working on becoming a Varsity sport.  There was some funding from the University to kick start this process and several local personalities, namely Rod Raymond, Tim Nelson and Rich Narum, were in on the ground floor of this venture.

They convinced me on my initial visit as a high school senior to come up here to nordic ski race.  What sold me on the place was the vast training opportunities.  Those were the days of long hard distance, and long slow distance..... and what you needed most was space, at least I did because I was easily bored with "Gerbil wheel workouts" and trail systems.

On that first visit we hit Hartely, Lester, Magney Parks and all sorts of spots in between.  I was sold.

It was obvious I could roam here.  It felt forgotten, untapped and endless.

Unlimited possibilities
A five hour run is point to point.  A 50 mile roller ski  done without traffic, a paddle workout could be done on flat water, open water or whitewater....

I spent much of my first year lost as hell.  Fun, but frustrating.  

Over the years I have also watched helplessly as that vast, connected, green space that I considered recreational use, was sold and developed.  

Access has gone from being a free for all to limited, to not in my back yard (NIMBY).

If you are fairly new to the area (like the last 10 years) you may still feel that sense of wild abandon that Duluth has to offer, but if you have seen it over the past 25 years (oh my frickin gawd...) you realize that it is a shadow of what it once was and that while we as athletes have always touted Duluth as an outdoor mecca, that definition was not remotely on the lips of City officials or our communities leaders.

In the early 1990's Duluth was given a page in the Outside Magazine Dream Towns issue.

A copy still hangs in Fitgers Brewhouse.  As locals we used to poke fun at the Magazine cover.

It was an inside joke.  Hey come to our dream town, you can get your ass lost and have a real adventure!

A Duluthian in DC
The disconnect was palpable.  But the reality was that disconnect it was ultimately hurting the future of our children having the same outdoor experiences we had in the City. 

That has all changed however and I am happy to say that it was Duluth's Outdoor Community and its user groups that stepped up and made that happen.

The Superior Hiking Trail has to be credited with initiating the sea change.  Wether they know it or not, when they laid down 40 miles of sanctioned, signed and mapped single track hiking trail in the City they created some tectonic upheaval within Duluth's outdoor community.

Most certainly it sparked the minds of people like me to the fact that advocacy, planning and club capacity building could create world class experiences within the city.

COGGS and its initiative to interlink the City with Single Track Mountain Bike Trails was born in this shift.  In turn the success of COGGS and its model of how its working with the City of Duluth has also inspired the Nordic Skiers, the Snowmobilers, the Equestrians and on down the line.

This organic growth of planning, constructing and maintaining these Outdoor experiences has also simultaneously inspired the City of Duluth and St. Louis County to get on board.

A task force was set up and a land inventory performed by the Minnesota Land Trust to try and see where our green space correlated with our current recreational use and also our possible future recreational use.  This has been invaluable in elevating the conversation around what these undeveloped lands should be used for.

Some are perfect for new houses and should be developed, others should be protected and still others can be integrated, with recreational use and development and indeed it is becoming obvious that the most robust housing markets are the ones nearest our recreational amenities.

So, when I say that Duluth has already won the Outside Contest its true.

Andy K, checkout out the conditions (Close up)
Its true because unlike all of the towns in this contest Duluth is actually acknowledging the facts that Adventure Sport is valuable to the quality of life of a community and also that we have the terrain and open space to facilitate the infrastructure for Adventure sport.

What that means is that this is not just a marketing band aid slapped on the town for the Outside Magazine contest, Duluth is literally investing in making this place a hot bed for getting outdoors.

In reality this is a social movement that is celebrating Duluth at its very core and is also building a complete case for why people should come and live here, because the real contest is not for the Outside Magazine title, but for the health and vibrancy of our community, our economy and our children.

Lastly, I think it is smart for people to keep in mind that the race is not about winning the Outside Magazine contest, its about winning the argument of getting people to live in our community, to buy homes, to build businesses, Outside is only a stepping stone in the route towards building a better Duluth for our future.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Thanks to Meteek for my first Photo Showing and COGGS Party: Spring 2014

Good times and good people
Here is another reason to Vote Duluth if there ever was one.

Things never go like you think they will.

I have been shooting stills hard and intentionally for about six years now.

When I say that I mean that.  Hard and intentional.

That does not mean I have only been shooting for five years, far from it, its just that the last five years I have actually been extremely focused on my results.

All that said, I have a goal sheet and on it there are a few things I want to achieve.  One of them was to actually print and display a bunch of my photographs.  Well, every time I thought I would do it, I would come up with a good excuse to not do it.

 Thanks to Cynthia and Randy at Meteek I can take that one off the list.

Last year they put on a great appreciation party for COGGS at their business.  That party was awesome. Rolf Hagberg a fine art photographer here in Duluth displayed some of his cycling work at the party and it was amazing.

This year, Randy and Cynthia asked me if I would be the art on the wall.

I was flattered but I was also overwhelmed.  I was flattered to know that somebody was even paying attention, there are a ton of great photographers in town these days.  I was overwhelmed just wrapping my head around the printing and that was enough to get me rolling out the excuses.

Luckily, in Cynthia's past she was also a pro photographer and she was able to streamline the process of getting 50 or so prints made for me of all shapes and sizes.  Then to save time and costs, she came up with a way to display them at Meteek.

Bang.  Done.  No way out of it.

Tae in the middle of it all
The wall of shame
It all happened so fast that I did not even have time to get nervous.  Not until that is, I walked up the driveway (late as usual) to the party.

The cars stretched down the road, it was a full house.  Wow, I thought, all these people are either laughing at my pictures or buying them.

It was great to see other photographers on the scene, the Mayor also took time out of his insane schedule to swing in with his kids as well.

Since it was a COGGS party there was an awesome representation of friends and fellow riders and that was super cool too.  It was great to see all the folks that have made the Duluth Traverse a reality and to see that many of them were in the pictures hanging on the wall. I heard a lot of people talking about the spots where the shots were taken, the people in them and the stories of getting them.

All said and done we sold 27 prints, a portion of the proceeds over the cost of printing, will be donated to COGGS.

Mayor Ness and Rolf Hagberg
Thanks Randy and Cynthia!
There is Margaret, concerned for me as usual 
It was also super cool to have my family there.

Tae was ripping around on his bike with his buddies.  They were literally riding through the middle of the building, dodging people, upsetting garbage cans etc. Perfect.

At one point in the party I had a second to breathe deep, look around and take it all in.


There was a DJ (Randy's son) ripping good tunes, there were children careening on bikes, a bonfire, a barrel of local craft beer in a garbage can full of ice.

A crowd of fit, passionate mountain bikers, dogs barking and of course our fearless Mayor right in the middle of it.

 Its because of these people that Duluth is doing it right.

Margaret was able to meet a lot of my buddies who have given so much time to model and be subjects for me.

Pirates, all of them.

This is a good as any time to say thanks to her.  If you know me, and you have been paying attention you know these past five years have been busy ones.

To add shooting at a semi pro level to that mix, is nothing but crazy, stressful and irresponsible, but Margaret has been supportive every step of the way.

Thanks Marg!

This is also a great time to say thanks to all the folks that have gotten up at 4am, stood in the rain, or the sub zero temps, gotten muddy, gotten frozen, gotten bitten by a thousand flies, but always were able to take "just one more" run through as I fidget for another, always better shot.

Once again thanks to Meteek!  Here is their Blog Post of the event as well.

Also thanks to Cynthia Lapp for the Photos on this post!

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

And in the Next Round! Duluth, MN versus Asheville, NC for the Outside Magazine Best Outdoor places to live!

Winter sucks (tell him that!)
Well here we are.  Vote Duluth!

Somehow Duluth made it past Minneapolis to take the Midwest Title for the Outside Magazine Best Places to live contest.

Personally I am pretty surprised.

Minneapolis is a sweet place.  Its got a LOT of people who could have pushed the vote much, much higher, it truly was a David versus Goliath situation.

That said however I am much more excited to see Duluth pitted against Asheville and since I am three whiskey's into a four shot night I might as well expound on why.

You see there are people out there that define themselves as "Dirtbags" and "Fun Hogs."
These folks are constantly looking for the next big day on the bike, or the skis or the boat.  So much so that they actually look to live in places that allow them easy access, easy living, work and cheap rent.

I represent this statement very, very well and so do most of my friends.

Its these folks that I want to have this Outside Contest conversation with......

Exhibit A:  Fun Hog
Fun hogs and Dirtbags are a bit similar to artists. They seek out the spots that are on the fringes.  They are not always looking for the cozy, shee shee resort town, or the polished, lacquered Bohemian village.

Fun Hogs are looking for places that allow them maximum fun time at minimum cost.

Asheville and Duluth are those types of places.

I have spent a ton of time in Asheville.  As a paddler, mountain biker and as a sales rep in the Outdoor industry I have had numerous occasions to visit "Ashevegas" and have to admit I loved every minute of going there.

That said there are numerous reasons, I have chosen to live in Duluth over Asheville.

First, I hate driving.  I drive for a living and always have.  As a Rep, and now as an advocate, I put huge miles on my car.

So when I am home I want it out my door, and I mean out my door.

Check out this Map of Duluth and you will see what I mean.

Duluth "out your door" Adventure Map
Looking at the towns in the Outside Contest this year very few of them, if any, can speak to the fact that the majority of the activities that they promote as Outdoor access, are actually IN their towns.

They are in fact gateway towns.

That is cool.  Duluth is a gateway town too.

A gateway to the premier paddle accessed wilderness in the US, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.  A gateway to the North Shore of Lake Superior, a gateway to the lakes and rivers of Northern Minnesota etc. A gateway to two IMBA Ride Centers and other MTB hot spots.

However gateway towns mean driving and while Duluth is a gateway town, it is also an adventure city as well and that is rare, and thank god because I like to park the coffin and get after it.

Look at the map.

100 miles of purpose built single track in town?  Steep creeking in town?  A ski hill with a rad terrain park and high speed quad in town?  Kite Surfing, Fat Biking, world class fishing, sea kayaking, SUP, hiking, trail running, birding, XC skiing, gravel grinding, ice climbing and many more......all in the city limits!!??


Second off, I just freaking love winter.

Some folks will make this contest between Duluth and Asheville about warm versus cold, but the truth of the matter is that I am so A.D.D that I need four seasons.  By the time one ends I am bored and I am looking for the next.  Winter has its own Fun Hog opportunities and I am lost without it, and cant imagine being locked into a three season sports cycle.

Fun Hog in training
"Fun hog larvae"- skating for first time

At some point in this quest for the "right" place to live some of us realize that we want to raise a family.

That we want to pass on this affliction to some other poor sucker, I mean heck after you learn a good smear turn on your skis, or a Boof, or a solid wheely drop you figure your life will be meaningless unless you pass that on.

That just exacerbates the need for affordability, flexibility and a job that keeps you from going postal and lets you get outdoors everyday....all while training the spawn to bunny hop.

Easy access becomes even more important.  You only have so much time to get your buns out the door and get the goods, with the kid or without.

Putting the bike, or the boat in the roof sucks up too much time.

Its out your door or its Nintendo, and we dont own a TV......

Evening commute 
Lester Park Dreamland
Green Street
Duluth certainly has its edge.  Duluth has had its ups and downs.  Its a City.  To me however that is endearing.

Its very real.

Its the friend in the lift line with the duct taped, and patched ski pants and the hand me down wool hat and scratched goggles.  Experienced, passionate and does not take itself too serious......

Duluth at one point thought it was going to be Chicago.

Its trade and its commerce was so robust that the city leaders set the city limits 45 miles point to point.

Their dreams were big, but it never happened.  However their mistake is our gain as many of those 45 miles are fallow green space, rife with rock, populated by very few and perfect for oh so many year round fun hog activities.

Over the past five or so years the city of Duluth has had an administration that understands the value of those fallow lands.  Instead of seeing vacant acres, they see trails, they see climbing zones and they see resources that the city can be proud of, can market as a destination and can improve the lives of the people that live here.

In fact, the Fun Hogs and the Dirtbags turn out to be hard workers, creative and also entrepreneurial (as long as you let them outside everyday).

Because of that, the City of Duluth is realizing that if they give the Fun Hogs a high quality place to play, they might stay, start up a business, buy a house and benefit our community.

Your next Flow Trail 
Yup, he is upside down
Fever Dream
You can be a part of this place.

You can get involved, make it your own.

You can go downtown and swing a pint with Mayor Ness (he is a craft beer drinker and music lover) and engage in a constructive conversation with him.

The recreational user groups in Duluth have a partner in the City and as long as they can own up to the responsibility of creating sustainable, well planned experiences, the City most likely is going to support them in some way.

In the case of paddling its supporting a full own Class V downriver race.  In the case of mountain biking its supporting the club effort with staff time and over $100,000 per year to leverage grants and get the Duluth Traverse trail on the ground.

The cool thing however is that the City also supports the Arts as well.  Music has never been so diverse and deep as it is now here.  One minute your watching Trampled By Turtles, the next your seeing Low and then its ten other bands you cant even keep up with anymore.....all in bars and brewhouses serving craft beers.

Get some!
Duluth is a unique place.  Well worth living in, well worth recreating in, full of killer people and fun things to do.

So if your a fun hog, load em up, bring all the gear you can stuff in the rig and check out what Duluth as to offer, you wont regret it.

That all said, for sure Vote Duluth in the Outside Magazine Contest!

Lester River