Monday, February 04, 2013

Gearing up for the "Big Push": Fat Biking the Northwest Trail 2013

Deep snow slugging

River Otter tracks
There was a time when the world traveled by water.  When commerce was achieved only on the backs of men and the mobility of canoes and feet.  It is with those ghosts that we hope to travel at the end of this week.

As always, conditions mean everything.  In riding a bicycle in the snow however, conditions mean even more.  Too much snow (and it does not take very much) and your pushing, cursing and suffering. I am not interested in riding on roads on this trip, I am not interested in riding on snowmobile trails on this trip, I am interested in natural trails, in waterways, in ice and in recreating what people traveled on since time memorial.

I am not giving up the route secrets yet.  But the stats are impressive.  The route is classic and it is extremely interesting.  I have spent a lot of time over the past two years dreaming and learning about it and now this week, we are geared up, trained up and ready to roll.

However conditions are the key.  As of last week, in my recon on the route, things were rideable, but on the "deep" side.  We are talking 4 miles an hour "deep side" and that means some long days in the saddle.

I am watching the weather with trepidation.  If we could leave right now, today, we would be stoked.  However tonight the first of several Alberta Clippers comes rolling in and the possibility of significant snow comes with it.  4 inches of snow and we are talking about a much different trip, one that uses roads and snowmobile trails, purely out of snow and we are looking at something unique.


Looks inviting huh.....scary stuff really.

Ditchbank mine fields

Frozen wheels add a lot of weight
I have throughly enjoyed planning the details of this trip.  The research, the rides, the recon, the gear list.  What started out as a good conversation piece has been placed in the "put your money where your mouth is" category and I feel the pressure now.  A little fear, a little self doubt and a bit of worry has edged in now and I realize now how much I missed that.  How much I miss thinking about a wild assed trip that has every potential for a lot of suffering, a lot of misery and a lot of fun.

The whole endeavor came clear this weekend when I did the final recon rides, to check out conditions. In some spots, I had to push much more than I would have liked.  In other spots I was grinning ear to ear as I glided smoothly over backcountry terrain that I never thought I would pedal a bicycle and most certainly where a bicycle has NEVER been before.  Then I also found the dangerous spots.  Places where going through the ice is a huge possibility and where reliance on my buddies will be the key piece of the puzzle. But even in those places I saw a beauty that I am already blessed to have seen.
Heres to hoping the weather forecast is wrong.....

Thanks to Kent K for the ice fishing this weekend!  Great to put my mind on something else for a bit!


Jim said...

If you haven't already read this, please do. The summertime canoe trek of Eric Simula over the Northwest Trail and beyond.
If you have, then good luck and safe travel.

Loki said...

Hey Jim!
I have. I actually tried to hook up with Eric as he came past our home on the St.Louis. I have always been interested in the portage and have read nearly everything I can get my hands on about it. Another dude did it in a kayak last summer too. After hearing how hard it is to do it in the summer I realized winter is the way to go!!!

Lee Johnson said...

So, as a fellow history buff, I have to say, I'm impressed. Those familiar with the Northwest passage, recognize that there were three water routes from Lake Superior into the pay's den haute ca. 1680-1830. My guess is that you're thinking about doing the first winter bike of the southern route. If I'm correct, that's pretty awesome. Wondering if your thinking about pushing the whole way from FDL to Crane, or taking Sav. portage into the Mississippi watershed? You should check out Larry Luukkonen's book, "Between the Waters". Published in 2010...really good read.
-Lee Johnson