This wasn’t the bike tour that I was planning on riding this summer, so a few days before I left on this tour I started to map out a possible route. Although, I’ve been to many of these areas before this time I would take a different route to get to them. I changed up the route a couple times before the planned route was finalized, but it”s always subject to change. More of a guideline.
The route was initially planned as a 13 day tour leaving from my home in Champlin, MN. The actual tour took me 16 days with a weather delay and one other unplanned stop that caused me do shorten one longer day into two shorter days. I’ve never rode the Luce Line trail all the way to Hutchinson before so I decided that would be my destination for Day 1. On Day 2 I would head north to Lake Koronis County Park near Paynesville. Another place I’ve never been before. On Day 3 I would continue north to Charles Lindbergh State Park. Last year I did another Minnesota Bike Tour and stayed at the park, but this year I would be taking a different route to get there.
I made reservations at the first three campgrounds because when I called around before the tour I found that most of the places where I would possibly stay at while on the tour were full for the days I might camp. I was pretty confident that I would be able to make the first three campsites , but after that there are too many variables to make any other reservations that far out.
The next planned campsites were in Pine River, Grand Rapids, Biwabik, Ely, Silver Island Rustic Campground (Superior National Forest), Sullivan Lake (Finland State Forest), Jay Cooke State Park, Banning State Park, Wild River State Park, then back home.
This tour was going to be a combination of both paved and gravel roads. Not all the campgrounds in the Superior National Forest were open and many of the possible potable water sources were not available. This trip I took my my water filter that I used on my wilderness canoe trips. It’s fairly large and weighs around a pound, but it filters water quickly. I wouldn’t be bringing my bike lock which weights about the same. I knew I would need to use the filter at least once at the Silver Island Rustic Campground and depending on the conditions of the gravel roads in the Superior National Forest and any bad weather I might run into might have to use it again if I couldn’t make my next planned destination.
Day One (Tuesday, 08-11-20) : Home to Masonic West River Campground, Hutchinson, MN
Total miles: 68
I started at 0730 hrs from my home and arrived sometime around 1630 hrs. It took me longer than I thought because my bike was loaded pretty heavy. It weighed about 105 pounds without any water in my bottles. I carried extra food so I didn’t have to stop and shop as often.
I found the Luce Line to be pretty boring overall as I find most trails. The good part is that I didn’t need to worry about any vehicle traffic and the noise from those vehicles.
When I got to Hutchinson I called up the Co-op where I thought I might stop at to get some fresh fruit for the evening. They told me they would stay open until I got there, but then I learned they only sold dry goods. No need to stop so I continued on to the campsite.
When I got to the campsite #31 there was a woman sitting at the picnic table. She gave me directions to the nearest gas stations/stores where I might find a banana for my oatmeal in the morning. I ended up going to a couple gas stations to get my banana and some other fruit. She was gone when I got back to the campsite.
Campsite #31 is on a little point and is a very nice place to pitch a tent.
There is a trail system around the campground that was very popular with walkers, runners and other cyclist.
The campground wasn’t busy, so it was pretty quiet.
When I left home the weather looked very nice with no rain in the forecast, but after I checked the weather at the campsite it showed rain early in the morning on day 2.
Day 2 (Wednesday, 08-12-20) Hutchinson to Lake Koronis, Paynesville. MN
Total miles: 46
My alarm was set for 0530 hrs, but I was awake at 0430.
It was supposed to be raining this morning, but I’m glad it wasn’t. I turned on my phone and checked the weather radar. It showed that it was going to rain at 1130 hrs. While I was packing up and cooking breakfast I checked the radar some more. Each time I checked the rain was going to be happening earlier each time. By the time I left the campsite around 0800 hrs the radar showed it was going to be raining in an hour. At least I didn’t have to be packing my gear in the rain.
About 0830 hrs I stopped to put on my rain gear as some drops of rain began to fall from the very dark skies. The rain drops stopped shortly only to come down in what seemed to be buckets. There was lots of lightening and thunder that accompanied the storm. The gravel trail was beginning to get standing water in places in a very short period of time. I maneuvered my bike around some of the deeper ruts that appeared to be small creeks.
There wasn’t any shelter so I just rode on. My Garmin 1030 was going crazy…jumping screen to screen from the falling rain. I eventually stopped and put a small baggie over it.
The rain soaked trail was causing me to go much slower than anticipated. I had many more miles of gravel planned for today. Once I got to Cedar Mills I stopped to assess the situation and checked on the next gravel road. It appeared soft so I decided to change course. I actually had google maps suggest a route to Litchfield. I had to backtrack a couple miles to the east before heading north to Litchfield. The road that I rode up to Litchfield on didn’t have much of a shoulder in most places, but the road was flat and lightly travelled so all the big trucks had a good line of sight and moved far enough from me well in advance. Well, except a couple.
When I got to the south end of Litchfield there was still a light rain. I saw the Legion Memorial Park just off to my left, so I decided to stop there and have some food. I didn’t want to stay too long and cool off to prevent getting too chilled. Although I started to get uncomfortable so it was time to move on. Once I was back on the road there was a detour, so I got out google maps to route me to Lake Koronis Campground. The route was different than the one I planned so I would have to get my bananas elsewhere, since I would’t be going through town. I ended up stopping at the Cenex in Grove City. I got three bananas which two of them were for the next two breakfasts. The route was very enjoyable with only a handful of vehicles.
I don’t exactly remember when I got to Lake Koronis but it was maybe around 1400 to 1430 hrs. The weather was still messing with me. While I was unpacking and setting up my tent it began to sprinkle. I covered and moved items so they wouldn’t get wet. The sprinkles would stop and I would get out those same items out again only to have it sprinkle some more. This went on back and forth 3 or 4 times.
Once the tent was up and I was all unpacked I sat down to enjoy a couple cups of coffee .
Today I had favorable winds from the SSE 15 to 20 miles per hour.
Day 3: Thursday, 08-13-20 Lake Koronis to Charles Lindbergh State Park, Little Falls
Total Mileage: 56
My alarm was set for 0530 hrs, but like usual I was awake earlier at 0430 hrs. If I have internet I turn on my phone to check the weather radar to see if I can pack at a leisurely pace or I have to adjust because of impending bad weather.
Traffic was relatively light on my way to Albany, but it started to pick up with larger trucks the closer I got to Albany. Previously I routed my route to go past Subway in Albany. It was time to grab a Chicken breast sandwich and 3 cookies where I ate on the sidewalk after moving a chair from inside to the outside.
After eating it was a short distance before I picked up the Wobegon trail which was paved. I’ve never ridden on the actual trail, but I enjoyed it more that the Luce Line probably because it was all new to me and I didn’t know what to expect.
The trail goes past a city park in Bowlus. Technically the trail in Bowlus is the Soo Line ATV Trail that is paved and has been “adpoted” by the Wobegon Trail Association. There’s a very bike friendly cafe, Jordies Trailside Cafe, in town that I’ve been to in the past while riding longer road bike rides around the area. I stopped to get a picture of the cafe. There was a woman sitting outside the cafe and asked me if I needed to place to stay. I told her I was headed to Charles Lindbergh State Park and it was too early to stop for the day. She told me bikers can camp in the park for $10 and the restrooms are available. All I had to do is contact the owner of the cafe.
I continued north on the trail until I turned left/north onto the Great River Rd that would lead me to the Charles Lindbergh State Park. The park office was closed, but I already had reservations at campsite #22.What I didn’t realize at the time it has been closed because of the pandemic. Tomorrow I would finsd out how difficult it would be to talk to someone at the park. I actually camped last year at this same campsite back in July while on another bike tour of Minnesota although I took a different route to get to the park.
I rode to the campsite and set up my tent and unpacked before setting up the stove to make coffee. I set up my tent in the same spot underneath some trees that gave me some protection from last years golf ball size hail. Last year there were tornado warnings with severe storms. I had a light weight tent that didn’t suffer any damage from the hail, but after I got back from that tent I decided to get the Hilleberg Rogen. I had two instances where my other lighter tent was basically flattened by high winds although the tent rebounded, so it was time for something a little more sturdy. One of the poles was damaged in one of the other earlier storms.
Day 4: Friday, 08-14-20 Charles Lindbergh State Park (No travel)
Woke up at 0315 hrs to very strong winds. Fifteen minutes later the sky opened up and the rain began to fall. The lightening and thunder seemed to be right over my tent.
My alarm was set for 0530 hrs but I just laid in the tent. Although the real heavy rain seemed to have eased up it was still very loud outside from the wind and thunder. I certainly didn’t feel like packing up and riding through more storms after riding through the thunderstorm a couple days ago.
I could see the flash of bright light from the lightening followed by the loud cracks of thunder, while I laid on my sleeping pad with my eyes closed thinking about my options.
When I checked the weather radar again at 0700 hrs the forecast showed the storms looked like they may end around 1030 hrs. Although the situation was constantly changing minute by minute. A few minutes later the forecast showed storms all day long with heavy rain amounts still to come. Flood warning were also posted for the area. There were puddles of water around my sandy campsite.
Eventually, I got out of the tent after the rain stopped and had breakfast. I’ve already decided I wasn’t going to attempt to ride to Pine River today, but I needed to figure out where to move my tent. I checked the on-line reservation service and it showed my campsite taken for that day. In fact the campground was completely full. Who knows with the severe weather if the people who reserved the site would show up or not, but if they did it wouldn’t be the time to break down camp and move elsewhere.
When I called the park office after 0800 hrs I got a recorded message saying the office was closed, but to call the DNR in Little Falls. I called the DNR office and spoke to someone who listened to me, but said he couldn’t help me and there wasn’t anyone from Parks in the office. I told me that I would be moving my tent to somewhere in the park.
I called the Reservation Center when I couldn’t talk with any one at the park office. I explained to the young woman that I called the office several times but no one is working. She told me someone would be there at 1100hrs and she could give me the number to the office. Well, it was the same number as the number I’ve been calling and leaving messages.
Before riding my bike up to the office I made one more call shortly after 1100 hrs. No answer..
Got on my bike and rode up to the office and found it still closed with no one around. The sign said if the office was closed to call Crow Wing State Park which I did. The person said someone would be coming in to do maintenance at noon. If not, he suggested putting my tent in the picnic area.
I rode over to the picnic area and found the rest rooms unlocked and water nearby. I rode my bike back to my campsite wth the intention of packing up and moving to the picnic area, when I got a phone call. It was the park employee who showed up earlier than noon. He checked the computer and said that campsite # 14 was open and to take it. This basically backed up to the site I was on now, so all I had to do was pick up the whole tent and walk it over to the new site. It took me a few trips back and forth to move my other gear, but I got everything moved. The new site had electric so I got all my electronics and external batteries charged.
The afternoon thunderstorms were getting pushed back, but they certainly seemed they were going to come. I decided to start dinner earlier than I would have if it wasn’t going to storm just so I wouldn’t have to do it in the rain.
The park employee who I spoke to earlier came by and told everyone that there were tornado warnings for the area. So at 1725 hrs I went back up to the shower building with my little camp chair and sat under the eve. While sitting by the men’s shower door a Yellow Jacket went inside the back of my shirt and rain jacket and stung me twice. While I was hopping around tugging at the back of my shirt and jacket either to free it or kill it another one stung me on my foot. The pending storm appeared to have made them very active and aggressive. I was sitting in the same spot earlier and saw no sign of them. Now there were many of them flying back and forth in a crack below the men’s shower door. I grabbed my chair and went back to the campsite.
Shortly after getting back to the campsite the rain started pouring really hard. I jumped into my tent on one side when at the same time the weather alert came across my phone saying to seek shelter. I got out of the tent on the lee side to prevent the rain from getting everything wet when I opened the vestibule. I grabbed my chair and headed to the other side of the shower building staying clear away from where I know the Yellow Jackets were waiting for me.
The hard rain slowed after a half hour or so. I walked back to my site and sat in my chair with all my rain gear on while a light rain fell. No one else was moving about. When the rain stopped some other campers started walking around the campground. One woman just before dark walked by and asked if my stuff got wet and if I needed any blankets. I told het everything was fine and thanked her.
***work in progress... ***