Thursday, September 27, 2012

Out of the frying pan and into the fire: Spirit Mountain Flow Trail 2012

The green, yellow, orange and red room

Morning coffee...berm flavor

Barry's berm

Pretty crazy.  The trail is not even done yet and is not officially open.  However the buzz is off the hook.  We have had shares and posts by Pinkbike, Richie Schley, Vital MTB and of course almost all the local MTB blogs and rags.  So even though the last thing we most likely need to do is put more pics up and drive more G crazed regional riders to a closed trail, I figured what the hell, people want to know, we have the shots, why not deliver....

Why all the fuss?  What is the big deal about a trail like this in Duluth, MN?  The big deal is that people all over the country realize that if Duluth can do it, then maybe they can do it.  I saw a few comments on the pic on Pinkbike and there was the inevitable laugh that Minnesota has the vert to do something like this.  Little do most folks know that even with the highest vert, many highly contrived flow trails are not all that long, and not much longer than what we are producing.  Certainly not many out there have the high concentration of features, foot for foot, mainly because it is so damn expensive (every berm in this post is different). There are 700 usable vertical feet at Spirit Mountain.  When you run the top half of what is so far completed and really, really hit it hard your huffing and puffing and your only 1/4 of the full run.  So could you have a really fun flow trail with 200 vert?  Yeah and that is what gets people pumped.  They can have a viable experience like this too and that is something to celebrate.

 I chuckle to hear the MTB in Minnesota?? comments.  While people who make those comments languish in the typical midwest stereotypes, people in communities in Minnesota like Minneapolis, Duluth, and Crosby, and in Michigan, Marquette MI, Copper Harbor and Houghton, as well as Cable, WI all are having world class trail experiences and then return home to affordable homes and high quality living and many most likely leave their keys in their cars at night and their doors unlocked....

Friends are family

Shauna leads the way
Aaron and Elias tell the stories
I am one busy person.  I admit that I struggle to balance family, friends and work and a lot of people could tell you about my success or failings at that.

This week has been so great, such a breath of fresh air.  The world has seemed to land in Duluth these past days and we have had a plethora of amazing people crossing our doorstep and hanging out with Tae.  What a blessing to be involved with such interesting people and to have them interact, educate and influence my kids life experience.

Thanks to Shauna for swinging by as she moves to Ghana and to Aaron and Elias, perhaps two of the best trail builders in the country right now hanging out and roasting marshmallows with Tae.  These are people that lead their lives from the sharp end and if Tae can learn one thing from this chaos laden father of his, it is live, learn and play with people like these....

Monday, September 24, 2012

Images: IMBA Spirit Mountain Flow Trail School 2012

Elias demonstrating berm riding to the trail builders

Tim Wegner listens in

Rudy, dreams big

Tacky stuff, good dirt a mix of clay and sand

Raking and more raking

Heading to the Thirsty Pagan for a celebration

Elias and the media.  We had MPR, two TV stations and two papers come to the session.

Aaron, laying down the knowledge

Good days for riding and for the school

A satisfied customer

Loads of great questions for IMBA Staff
A trail built with care

Man what a weekend.  Not sure where to start this post, it seems like I have endured the tempest and it has just spit me out on the beach.

Last week we broke ground on the first lift served Flow Trail in the upper midwest at Spirit Mountain in Duluth.  Aaron Rogers of Trail Solutions and Copper Harbor, came up designed this trail and has been building it with his partner Elias Featherly and it is sick.

As a guy that has spent a decade in the mountains, I can honestly say that I have been seeking an experience like we have just created, back here in MN.  The Flow Trail at Spirit has just done that.  To ride it, is to fly.  It is so inviting and yet challenging and all engaging.  I miss that aspect of gravity.  To be so focused and so pin point fixed on the next feature and to lose all sense of distraction.  I am not thinking about work when I ride this trail, or taxes or chores or my smart phone, I am thinking about shredding the next roller, or hitting off the next hip (yeah even I am airing out these features).

So to have that jaw dropping and game changing experience topped with bringing in 30 highly experienced trail builders from across the country to study it during the IMBA Spirit Mountain Flow Trail School made it a major weekend.

We had folks from Angle Fire NM, South Dakota, IA, MN and WI and MI all at the school to learn from IMBA and from Aaron.  Dan Hudson flew in for IMBA from Maryland to help teach, we had Dewayne Burratti from Trek taking the course and of course we had many COGGS, MORC and CAMBA members as well.  People were stoked, inspired and challenged to go home and create trails of the quality and progression as the trail that we studied at Spirit.  It is my hope that these thirty people, take the experience and the knowledge and go home to their respective trails communities and spread the word about how progressive and fun this type of riding is and also how it can be done in a way that is sustainable and friendly to the environment is interacts with.

Now the very real challenge is to keep people off the trail!  We had a huge amount of media doing stories on the school and the trail itself.  Because of that we had myriads of people trying to ride the trail.  However it is closed until it is completed and signed so that Spirit can practice proper risk management.  Also, it should be noted that the dry weather has made it nearly impossible to pack the berms and harden the trail surface, so people riding it now, are impacting it negatively.

Lastly, I have to say how proud this trail made me of my community and my town.  It was amazing to have people from across the region and the country, come ride, study and go out in Duluth and just be blown away was very rewarding.  We even had Bob Allen, Mountain Bike Hall of Famer (First Bike Mag photographer and incredible shooter) along taking photographs and he was really impressed with our city and our scene.  That says a lot as Bob is from Bozeman and has traveled all over the world on assignments including trips with Hans Rey to South America.

So now we are started on our dream of turning Duluth into a trails mecca.  It is a small start, but in my mind it is the start we have been waiting for and it will be interesting to see where it takes us from here. Thanks to Aaron and Elias, to Dan Hudson and Bob Allen and Gabe for coming out and making this happen and of course thanks to COGGS and Spirit Mountain (Glen and Renee) as well.  Lastly, thanks to all the people that attended the trail school.  Admission was not cheap ($300 per) but so far the feedback is that it was worth every penny.

On a final note, if you live in Dtown and have some time to help the builders out this week.  Do it.  Go grab a rake and get cracking.  Or swing up and drop a tribute to them, cookies, beer, you name it, keep them going as they have been at it for 8 days straight and will be going until Sat to see if they can finish it up!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Hello from Spirit Mountain! Wish you were here.

Dangerous Dave Markman having a morning roll
Well.  Today is the day that all our students roll into town.  We have 31 folks signed up for a trail school taught by Aaron Rogers and IMBA at Spirit Mountain.  I would normally say that 30 folks is an alright showing, but knowing that the price of registration was $300 make this all the more impressive.  Especially when you realize that we have people from New Mexico, Iowa, South Dakota and of course all over Wisconsin and Minnesota attending.

I took my first ride today and was almost overcome with emotion at the end of my run.  It has been so many years, so many folks and so many hours to get to this point in Duluth.  Of course this is just a toe hold, maybe even a toe nail hold, but it is, in my opinion, the fuse that is going to light the TNT.  Just how big that TNT blows is anybodies guess, but all signs point to sky high.....

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Feed your trail builders: Spirit Mountain 2012

A well fed trail us more trails!
This post applies to all Duluthians that read this blog and mountain bike!  We have a world class trail going in at Spirit Mountain right now and it is basically a race against the clock as to how far we reach down the hill.  So if you come by to lend a hand on the build (and please do---other than Sat and Sunday this week as that is when we are having a class) then bring gifts for the trail builders.  Food, beer, knit name it.  Hook these guys up.
Also feel free on Sat night to visit the Thirsty Pagan and hook them up there as well.  They deserve it and besides, the more we hook them up, the more trail we get once they hit the road!

Spirit Flow Trail Teasers 2012

This is full of bike tracks now

Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel


Monday, September 17, 2012

Spirit Mountain Flow Trail first riders

Rudy rocking and rolling

Dave M dancing the dance...
I promised some shots of riders....not the best light, but something for you to chew on...

The real deal: Spirit Mountain Flow Trail 2012

Rain dance

Now we are talking

Ok.  Not my best photography by any means but I wanted to get this up sooner than later.  I will post better shots in the next few days...maybe even with riders in them!

In any case here are the numbers....13/4-2miles long.  Close to 700 vertical feet of drop.  40 plus berms.  Those are the stats on the new beginner flow trail that we are building at Spirit Mountain this week.  The build is a collaboration between IMBA, COGGS, IMBA Trail Solutions and Spirit Mountain.  It is also the stage for our IMBA Flow Trail School we are putting on this coming weekend!

To me this is the start of the off road paradise that COGGS and myself have been trying to launch for the past five years plus.  This trail will be lift served (you can climb back up if you want) and will be accessible to the masses.  The views and terrain are world class and the builder (Aaron Rogers) is too.  This Tuesday night there will be a showing of Strength in Numbers at Spirit, 7pm.  How cool is that?  To see one of the best trails in the region being built and then seeing one of the best films out there on the subject!

Cuyuna Klunker Ride 2012

Aaron H.Killing it on the 1950's Green Hornet!

NORBA!  Wow,  I think I remember that....

Aaron's first prize trophy for the Hornet

Some great reading here!
It was a two event weekend for me.  Cheq 40 on Friday.  Great to see old friends and many, many clubs in attendance for the premier mountain biking event in our world!

Then Saturday I headed off to Cuyuna for the first annual Klunker Ride.  What a gas to get on these old school and original bikes and shred Bob Sled and Yawkey.  The turnout was great.  It was fun to see first hand some original 1970's and 1980's era restored bikes.  It was also cool to meet all the people who brought them and hear their stories.  It was like a car show, only bike and then you got to ride em!
Congrats to Bruce for putting this on, I think it will only grow bigger and bigger....

Friday, September 14, 2012

Duluth versus Bozeman: Bozeman Outside Magazine

Evening commute: Duluth, MN

Last night at the end of the COGGS Town Hall meeting about the Duluth Traverse I was approached by Casey Krueger and asked if I had seen this story, written by Ryan Krueger.  Ryan is a former midwesterner and brothers with Casey and Tim Krueger.  The story pits Duluth versus Bozeman, and as I usually toss articles to the side as it is like comparing apples to oranges I decided to check it out.

I decided to check it out because our great Mayor is bent on turning Duluth into the trails capitol of the nation and he mentioned that last night in his speech.

That said, Ryan compares Bzone trails to Duluth Trails and gives Duluth the win....and that is before we have even started on the Spirit project and the Duluth Traverse.  Of course the article also goes on to compare rivers, mountains and the rest, however I will say that while Montana will win out on mountains and trout, the Bzone is not the mountains or trout.  After having lived in both and having seen the explosion of people within the Bzone (and taking out anything over a 20 mn drive as Montana), you realize what an amazing place that Duluth is becoming.  Especially if you are raising a family, into mountain biking, paddling and fishing....not to mention the arts and music.  Now if we could just get more snow and a few more pubs and cafe's....wait, those are already coming too!

Monday, September 10, 2012

COGGS: Gitchi Gumi Gallivant 2012!


Well Supported by the Thirsty Pagan!


Berms of Piedmont

Butta smooth Lester

Techy rocks of Piedmont

Fun hawg

Colors are already here and already going...

Finishing group in Lester
Man what a day.  In and out rain the full day.  Sun to gutter runners.  It was so fun to ride the length and breadth of what is the city of Duluth off road trails.  It was such a pick up for me, it has been a huge summer of hard work on many different trail systems that I have often not had time to really get on the trails in Duluth and remember why I live here in the first place.  The GGG, was a great reminder.  At one point there were nearly 50 people on the ride.  It was so fun to ride with really fast and serious single track schralpers and then later go to the back of the ride and hang with total newbies, just struggling to survive.  All had the same dazed smile on their faces.  Thirsty Steve, may have had a bit to do with that in that fact that all along the way there were strategically placed growlers of Thirsty Pagan beer!  COGGS needs to be more than commended for a great event.  They need to be recognized because their club is growing and it is growing with young members and people who are wanting to get involved with that future of the club.  On top of that the trails around here are getting better and better and we have yet to even start on the projects we are envisioning in the future.  So great work COGGS, you folks are killing it and thanks from not only an IMBA guy, but from a local who's community is better because of it....

A weekend at home in Duluth!! Wow. What a great place to live

Sunset at Movie in the Park, Duluth MN

Ahh Duluth Lake Walk, what a great place
Due to the fury of Lake Superior my original weekend plans were scrapped.  I had a really cool trip in the works, but I have to say, having a weekend in the town I love, was also pretty amazing.  It all started out with Movies in the Park with Tae and Margaret.  What a cool event.  The sunset was killer, the movie really fun and the setting just amazing.  That night set the tone for the rest of the weekend which delivered high on the scale of fun.  First there was the COGGS Gitchee Gumi Gallivant (50 miles of killer trails) and then there was also the Harvest Fest and the Lake Walk Festival as well.  The weekend reminded me why we live here in the first place!

Friday, September 07, 2012

Enduro: Copper Harbor Fat Tire Fest 2012

Ryan L of Bike ripping it up

Chance, taking chances...

Half on half off

Big wave killing it


The Beach: Copper Harbor Fat Tire Fest 2012

UP Beaches....better than any others
I almost never spend time on beaches.  Marg loves them however and after the sweet times we spent on the beaches of the Keweenaw, I am turning over a new leaf.  Warm water, people no boats, no sharks says Tae!