Basically you can session the free ride trails on the NIMBY cluster but all the XC stuff still has draining water going through it.
I knew it was time to head to Duluth, as I’d never ridden Piedmont’s DM, Medropolis, Dr. Diablo, Rickety Cricket, BOB (Bones of the Beast) or the Skyline Trail. I was at the end of my first-ever 30 Days of Biking, my sweetie was out of town, and the weather forecast was stunning for Duluth in late April: warm and sunny.
Among the people I rode with or met on the Piedmont trails over the course of three days: Wyatt Gruben, Rudy O’Brien, Justin Martin, Mason Bacso, Mitch Larson, Conner Nick, David Cizmas, Max Skarman, Karl Erbach, Kelly Erbach, and Cory Salmela.
The day after my solo stint at Spirit, I met up with IMBA Midwest Regional Director Hansi Johnson for a ride on the COGGS Piedmont trail over to the new Brewer Park trail under construction. On way, we encountered MNDOT’s reconstruction of Haines Road which was wiped out by last year’s flood. For some reason, MNDOT has take down a huge chunk of the hill/cliff overlooking a section of the road and with it, a large section of the Piedmont trail. If you look closely at the photo of Hansi on the right, you can see how he feels about this.
After making our way around the, um, destruction, we came upon a COGGS trail building crew working on the new Brewer Park trail, led by Adam Harju and Brad Miller, with assistance from Larry Sampson, Duluth Maintenance Supervisor for the Superior Hiking Trail Association. Here’s some background from a COGGS blog post:
Along with the work funded by the Legacy grant, COGGS also has it’s own mechanized trail building crew. Thanks to a $10,000 grant from Specialized Bicycles, COGGS was able to purchase a Bobcat 418 mini-excavator and a CanyCom mechanized wheel barrow. To operate this equipment we hired Adam Harju, Brad Miller and Pete Leutgeb.
Their first project was building two reroutes of the existing singletrack on the east side of Amity Creek and have since turned their efforts towards building a portion of the Duluth Traverse Trail through Brewer Park. This section of land is immediately across Haines Rd west of Piedmont and has perfect terrain for mountain bike trails. This section of the DT will connect Piedmont to the State Trail and DWP, which are both off-road, multi-use trails that a rider can take all the way to Beck’s Rd in West Duluth.
Members of the College of Saint Scholastica track team were volunteering, hauling many wheelbarrow loads of dirt to the Brewer Park MTB trail construction site a couple blocks away. Jeesh.
“Thanks to a $10,000 grant from Specialized Bicycles, COGGS was able to purchase a Bobcat 418 mini-excavator and a CanyCom mechanized wheel barrow.”
After attending the PedalMN Bicycle Summit a month ago (blogged here), I took a detour to Duluth before heading back home, as I’d not ridden any of the new downhill mtb trails at Spirit Mountain. I knew the chair lift wouldn’t be running (it was a Tuesday) and I’d only have a couple hours to ride before dark. But the likelihood was high that I’d not be able to get back to Duluth before winter so I was determined to get a taste of Spirit.
I’d not seen the new Grand Avenue Chalet at the base of Spirit Mountain before, with its Riverside Bar & Grill. Pretty impressive on its own but sort of amazing to have this type of amenity only a few steps from a new downhill mountain biking mecca.
The DH mtb trailhead sign is gigantic, informative, and hits you over the head with warnings. My favorite (comma added for clarity):
All dirt features are different sizes, and shapes and lengths may change daily. It is strongly recommended that you roll everything the first time through.
Happy Camper is an easier downhill trail with features including small jumps, berms, and rollers. This trail is perfect for beginners who are just learning downhill skills, but is also a fun trip for an expert rider.
“Happy Camper” is a directional trail, which means that when the chairlift is running, it is signed as a DOWNHILL ONLY trail. When the chairlift is not running, it is used as an UPHILL ONLY climbing trail. By offering this uphill climbing option, you now have access to our awesome trails all the time! When the chairlift isn’t running, you just have to work a little harder for it.
It probably took me a half hour of riding and pushing to get to the top of Happy Camper. Not for the faint of heart. The view of the St. Louis River and Lake Superior from the top, of course, is stunning.
I really wanted to ride down Happy Camper, given that I’m a DH newbie and there was no one else out there riding that I could see. But rules are rules and with daylight running out, I decided to ride Blaster and Smorgasbord.
Blaster is a more difficult downhill single-track trail with features including lots of rocks, roots, and very little dirt. This trail gets very steep in areas and is a true test of your downhill riding abilities. Experienced riders only!
Blaster is gnarly indeed and with a 29’er hardtail out there by myself (“Please note that we do not have Bike Patrol on duty when the chairlift isn’t running so please use extra caution and be careful on the trails.”) I wasn’t about to go blasting down it. Slow and trials-like was my modus operandi, and will continue to be until I’m able to afford full squish.
Candyland is a 1.5 mile beginner/ intermediate level downhill flow trail featuring large berms, medium and small sized table tops, and hip jumps. All features on Candyland are roll-able, making it an ideal trail to learn on, and perfect for gravity-based mountain biking skills.
and that the Smorgasbord trail would be over my head. But I wanted to see how much over my head and figured I could walk what I couldn’t roll or ride:
Smorgasbord is a 1 mile intermediate level freeride/ downhill mountain bike trail featuring large berms, medium size jumps, a drop, and rock gardens. Several features on Smorgasbord are mandatory, including small 3-4 foot gaps, and a 5-foot drop.
I was able to roll (very pokey) some of those mandatory features but the berms and rollers (photos and screengrabs of video above) at the bottom were more my speed. Here’s a 10-second video clip of me riding those:
When I go back next spring, I’ll concentrate on Candyland and Happy Camper. When I’m able to afford a full-suspension bike and learn the skills to go with it, then I’ll tackle Smorgasbord.
I’m glad I got a taste of Spirit. It’ll motivate me this winter.