On Saturday we finished our longest trip to date: a 6 day, 1,350 mile journey to the Canadian border and back. Our last blog post described the first 2 days of our trip, but we found it difficult to blog from the road, so here is the rest of the story:
On day 3, we rode from Duluth to the Canadian border and then returned to Grand Portage for the night. Our wildlife count on this leg may have been way down, but the incredible natural beauty more than made up for it. We stopped to hike and explore 3 waterfalls (Gooseberry Falls, Caribou Falls, and Pigeon River High Falls); we saw 2 neat lighthouses (Two Harbors, and Split Rock), we rode through 2 tunnels and we stopped at Silver Bay Marina, but no ships were docking at the time. We also rode up to the top of the Palisades…twice, because the first time we forgot to turn on the GoPro. Even though this was a short mileage day (175 miles), the frequent stops resulted in a long day of riding, and by the end the temperature was a bit warm and we were ready to get the gear off and relax.
Day 4 saw us returning to Duluth, but by a slightly different and much longer route. We doubled back to Grand Marais and took an out and back side trip on the Gunflint Trail. This is a 57 mile paved road that runs northwest through the boundary waters almost to the Canadian border. Our hope was to see some wildlife on this side trip, but sadly, we didn’t see anything! On the return to Grand Marais, we took a short detour on the “Old Gunflint Trail”, a gravel side road that actually had a sign saying, “Travel at Your Own Risk.” We also stopped at a ‘Moose Overlook Area’, but we didn’t see any moose. We did, however, see a cool old car on the trail that had been abandoned many years ago. According to a posting on Reddit, it is a 1955 DeSoto Fireflite Coronado, now almost buried by rocks, dirt, and pine needles…very odd.
Gunflint Trail, MN
Other sights and activities on this 270 mile ride were Cross Creek Falls, Temperance Falls, and Father Baraga’s Cross.
The 5th day of our trip, was the day our sunny weather ran out. We started this day by heading west on I-35 in order to ride back east through Jay Cooke State Park. Although this was not a planned stop on this trip, we decided to stop and look at one more waterfall. The rock formations, waterfalls, and hiking trails made the stop in Jay Cooke State Park well worth the time. This state park also contains one of the best roads on this trip, Minnesota Highway 210. After the park, we made a quick stop for a photo at the Lake Superior College Emergency Response Training Center, and crossed the double-deck Oliver Bridge. We made a stop in Webb Lake for a drink and stretch and that’s where the rain caught us. The shower was short lived so we put on our raincoats and headed out again. We were able to knock off 2 more rustic roads and saw 3 more deer, some turkeys with their babies and more Sandhill cranes. Unfortunately, after that the skies opened up and we got fully drenched. We seemed to be riding into and out of the rain over and over as we made our way to Rice Lake, and with a cool high of only 60 degrees that day, we were chilled. Eventually, we decided to cut this day short (to 170 miles) and just head to the hotel. We realized this was a great decision as we watched it rain from the warmth of the hotel’s hot tub, a glass of wine in our hands.
The 6th and final day of our ride was bittersweet. On one hand, we were getting tired and missed our puppy. On the other hand, we were having a great time riding so many fun roads. We woke to sunny blue skies so we headed out and found 4 more rustic roads (some of which were very remote), and finally located the wildlife we had been missing. We saw 9 deer in all (7 within a 1/2 mile stretch), more turkeys, cranes, and a hen pheasant with her brood. Our planned crossing of the Chippewa River was detoured because the bridge we had mapped out was actually closed (and had been for a long time, thanks a lot Garmin!!). We finally made our way across the river and continued south until we made it back to Sparta, our truck and our trailer.
This last day was a 215 mile day, bringing our 6 day total to just over 1,350 miles. We were tired and a bit sore, but happy to have completed our furthest ride to date. We treated ourselves to our favorite pizza. If you are ever in Sparta, you have to check out Slice of Chicago.
Although this trip began in the Driftless Area, the majority of it was outside of it. We are always looking for new areas for future routes, and we also like to share our riding adventures, both inside and outside the Driftless Area, with our followers and friends. We will be making this custom route available to our Patrons, so please consider becoming a Patron for this and other great perks. It should be noted that there is gravel, sand and dirt on this route…some of it is pretty slow going, but so fun!
We are still working on plans for a contest or giveaway to celebrate the completion of all of our Driftless area routes, but we hit a snag that has delayed us…watch for it coming soon! Also, dual sport routes will be coming in the near future. We are now looking for sponsors so if you know of anyone who might like to form a partnership with us, please encourage them to get in touch with us and we can provide them with an informational packet. Watch for more pictures and video to be posted from our trip on this page.
As always, thanks for coming along for the ride!
Dale and Renee
North Shore Waterfall