Sometimes it’s worth conceding to Mother Nature. Life is a lot more pleasant if you work with her, rather than trying to bend her will to suit a preconceived plan. Fortunately, I figured that out this week.
That plan was to cycle the Paul Bunyon Trail and do some hiking in the Walker area with my friend Myra. But two solid days of rain in the forecast were enough to put us off. We cancelled our motel reservation and instead took advantage of sunny days later in the week for some superb local cycling.
Our first outing took us across Duluth from end to end, traveling the full length of Skyline Parkway. There was a definite chill in the air as we stretched our route by cycling inland to Pike Lake before heading to the far western end of the parkway. We soon lost our fingers and toes to the frigid conditions, pressing into a brutal headwind. But it still beat rain. A warm-up with hot drinks at the Red Goose Coffee Shop restored feeling to our extremities and a change in direction eased the curse of the wind, boosting our spirits.
From our perch high above the city, we had full view of the harbor below. Despite the deep blue sky, the water was a distinct brown – no doubt the result of the runoff from the previous two days of heavy rain. The nascent fall colors were far from peak, but isolated trees of brilliant hues punctuated the landscape.
At Skyline’s opposite end, we traveled along Hawk Ridge. Flanked by birders peering through their binoculars, we took in the limitless view. There Lake Superior shone in its full blue glory. From our elevated perch it was a fast descent home down Seven Bridges Road, hardly requiring a single push on our pedals to complete our 50 mile ride.
Pausing for a gloomy day, we mounted our bikes again two days later. This time we chose the Gitchi-Gami State Trail along the North Shore from Gooseberry Falls to Silver Bay. Taking advantage of the longest stretch of completed trail, we cycled out and back to double the enjoyment of its pleasures.
It was quite a surprise to see water spouting out from the spring waterfall in the cliffs north of Gooseberry Falls. Its unseasonal appearance was yet more evidence of the recent wet conditions.
I remembered the trail’s hilly dalliance through Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, as it wound down toward the water and back up again through the woods. But I was surprised at just how much it undulated throughout the distance of our ride. We actually preferred that to the flat sameness of the rails-to-trails cycle routes.
At Beaver Bay, we pioneered a brand new section of the Gitchi-Gumi trail. Spying pristine new blacktop adjacent to road construction still in progress, we took our inaugural ride on a half mile of trail that veered up and inland away from the lake. A half mile later we joined an existing portion of the trail which took us to Silver Bay. We found that orphan bit of older trail rather mystifying, as it has been there for several years but apparently started in the middle of nowhere. Now it serves as a useful connector, completing the three mile stretch between Beaver Bay and Silver Bay.
Since this day’s ride was a mere 32 miles, we chose to top it off with a hike to Gooseberry’s upper falls. Once again the recent rains were in evidence, filling the river with turbulent rapids and rendering the trail muddy and slippery. Progress was slow but enjoyable, even if we brought home much of the mud on our hiking shoes.If I wasn’t convinced before, our pleasant sunny bike rides contained ample evidence of the rainfall we avoided. For once, this ultra-planner is glad that she chose to abandon her plans and go with the flow. Cycling after the rain.