The Ultimate Downhill

Day 4 – Ely to Beaver Bay MN, 71 miles

By definition, today’s route was one big downhill run. Starting in Ely and ending up at Lake Superior means dropping over 800 feet in elevation over 62 miles. What more could a cyclist ask for? Well, good weather, a tailwind, and beautiful scenery for starters. And we got all those too!

But I have to be honest. It wasn’t all downhill. In fact, getting out of Ely involved numerous uphill climbs and plenty of rolling hills. It wasn’t until we reached the continental divide, about 42 miles into our trip, that the road finally attained an overall downward tilt. And even then, there were undulations. But by then my momentum went a long way in carrying me up those hills, which just felt like little blips. For the most part, we whizzed down at great speed. Yes, those final 20 miles to the lake were quite the trip.

Our reward at the foot of the hill was a picnic lunch at the newly completed Tettagouche State Park Visitor Center. The new building certainly makes a statement, with its native rock and log exterior and it’s vast size. We set up shop in a nearby pavilion, where Lake Superior’s cooling breezes were in evidence. It was a delightful spot, and fun to explore the new building after watching it in the building process for the last two years.

It was nice to know we had just eight more miles to reach Beaver Bay, rounding out our longest day at 70 miles. Rich and I took the opportunity to visit Palisade Head on the way, despite the incredibly steep road to reach it. There was a bit of haze in the air but the view was still stunning. And Rich was thrilled to find that the local nesting Peregrine Falcons were active and in view. So of course a photo session ensued.

Today’s top sights, apart from the beautiful scenery, evolved into a common category – tall wood carvings. The first was a chainsaw statue in Finland. It is a unique rendering of St. Urho, a legendary and entirely fictional Finnish saint, which apparently has become part of Minnesota lore. The second was a signpost for our motel, Camp 61, complete with lumberjack, eagles, fish and a raven.

I also enjoyed this peaceful scene, crossing the South Kiwishiwi River early in the morning with a bit of fog still hanging over the water.

We may now be at the low point on this cycling tour, but everyone agreed that getting here was quite a highlight.


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