April 28, 2013: The Ruuummble in the Zuuummbro!
Announcer: Laaadies and Gennntlemen! This fight will be 6 rounds. In this corner, the challenger! Hailing from Esko, Minnesota and weighing in at one hundred and sixty eight pounds... Suuugar... Rooonnn... Hennnnnndricksonnn!
Frank: I gotta tell ya', Howard... Sugar Ron looks ready to go today. He's been putting in the time - and for good reason, the champ doesn't give up his belt buckle easily. Look, here he comes!
Announcer: And in this corner, weighing in at a solid 100 miles... The reigning champion! A local boy from Theilman, Minnesota! Zuuummmbro Biiiiiig Bottommmmms!
Howard: The champ does look poised and confident, Frank. Solid as some kind of geological formation. Bottoms is a bit of an unorthodox fighter. He'll throw anything at you. Hendrickson is certainly going to have his work cut out for him.
Frank: That he will, Howard, that he will. Look at them stare each other down at center ring. Neither one giving an inch. This is going to be a brawl. Well, here we go...
Round 1 (Ding! Ding!)
Frank: Impressive! Right out of the gate, the champ is sticking and moving. Appears to want to set the tone early. So slippery he is... He's going to be hard to get a bead on.
The Zumbro 100 Mile course is 6 laps over a 16.7 mile loop of non-stop activity. The running joke is, "Don't worry... All the hills at Zumbro are in the first 17 miles." He he. Funny stuff, that is. Five aid stations dot the landscape, four out on the loop, with the start / finish area making the fifth. While there's room for dropping into a reasonable rhythm in places, the trail's ADHD sets in at regular intervals to keep runners honest - solid climbs and quad-crunching descents, some of which are muddy slip-and-slides only an otter would love. Leading up to the race it had been cold and wet, leaving slush and snow in the mix. And just for good measure, Mother Nature dropped a little extra snow the night before the race began. It was like someone had forgotten to send her a card on her birthday (I'm looking at you, Race Director John Storkamp), and nobody was going to hear the end of it.
Howard: I'm seeing good footwork early by Sugar Ron, Frank. Seems to be able to stick and move, not getting caught on the ropes. Both fighters look to be measuring each other carefully in the early going.
Everyone feels great on the first go-around, of course - a natural reaction akin to the gates opening at the Kentucky Derby. The trick is to not let irrational enthusiasm take over. Working my way through the snow, mud, slush goulash, I could tell there was going to be a lot of extra energy expended on finding stable track with each footfall. So, I set into my pace - and decided not to chase anyone, nor worry about anyone that wished to go on by. I had one opponent today, and we were already staring each other straight in the eye.
Round 2 (Ding! Ding!)
Frank: Well, Howard, it looks like the challenger faired pretty well in round one, I'll give it to him on points, and... Whoa! It looks like Sugar Ron let his guard down for a moment early here in Round 2, and the champ stuck him with a punishing body blow!
After a couple dozen pretty smooth miles I headed out of the Aid Station 2 buffet and... lost my lunch. Which was a damn shame, that was pretty good soup. It was a bit concerning that my stomach was being flaky this early, but I needed to keep getting calories in there. At the next aid station I crammed more food in, and... created a Jackson Pollock painting in the snow once again. OK, so that's how you're going to play it, stomach? Well, calories are going in, like it or not. I stuffed my pockets with sandwiches and quesadillas, and worked them in a bit at a time as I climbed up over the venerable Ant Hill.
Howard: After being rocked early, it seems the challenger has pulled himself together for the moment. But, wait a minute, Bottoms has switched to boxing southpaw! Man, he's hard to predict.
The trail conditions seemed to change with each lap. Some places had packed down nicely under the myriad feet of runners, but other stretches were less predictable - as temperatures varied, so did the trail. I don't know that the track's fickle nature was yet daunting at this point. It more so kept my head busy, studying the trail ahead for the most logical path. But it was definitely work.
Round 3 (Ding! Ding!)
Frank: I'll give that last one to the champ, but both of these fighters look pretty tired, Howard. I think all of those body blows are adding up.
Howard: They've been going toe-to-toe for quite a while now. I think both of them realize this one may go to a decision, and this is where we find out just who has the mental and physical fortitude to go the distance.
Well into lap 3 night has fallen, and darkness fences you into a radius defined by the power of your headlamp. The warmth of running alternates with cold and damp on slower sections. After nearly 50 laborious miles, the legs are feeling every snow-encrusted toe-hold used to climb each ascent - and it dawns on you that you aren't even half way home. Doubts float like specters around the periphery, and you look for motivation to keep you pressing forward.
I drifted back to a couple nights previous, when a good collection of running colleagues had come out for the weekly group run to wish me, and good friend Sam Carlson, the best of luck. (Sam was heading off to run Boston.) I've always said that a train wreck of a finishing story beats a DNF story any day, unless of course the DNF was caused by either the Swedish Bikini Team, or a fight with a bear - in which case go ahead and spin the yarn. But no such wildness had arisen as of yet, so I wanted to bring back a finishing tale that would make those folks smile.
And as I looked for light moments on a dark hillside high above the Zumbro River, I also thought about the late Eugene Curnow, who passed away in late March. Northland running legend, finisher of 200 races of marathon length or longer, including 10 Superior / Sawtooth 100 milers, race director, tireless volunteer, and friend. Irrepressible is the word that I use to describe him. If he were there, he would have cheerily dropped his trademark phrase in that slight rasp of his, "You look fantastic!" Thanks, Gene. No complaints here. Let's get on to the end of lap 3, so I can start counting down...
Round 4 (Ding! Ding!)
Frank: I gotta say, Sugar Ron has shown some resilience, but he's certainly been through the wringer.
Howard: Yeah, but he's got one of the best corner men in the business in Lisa "Wild Knits" Messerer. Definitely a no nonsense type, she'll keep him upright.
Lisa dropped in to pace me at mile 50. Having someone to talk to was certainly a nice change of pace, and I was able to hand the timing duties for eating intervals off to her. My stomach and I had reached a level of détente back on lap 2. But on lap 4 it started pounding its shoe on the podium like Khrushchev. I'm certain the folks at Aid Station 2 were getting a little tired of me fertilizing the ground around them. It was frustrating, but on the plus side, the stomach issues were more irritating than debilitating. They didn't seem to affect pace much.
When the soup failed me - or rather, I failed the soup, ‘cuz again, that was pretty good soup - Wild Knits pointed me toward ginger wafers and Jello. I guess one of the advantages of cold weather 100 milers is that Jello Jigglers will maintain their beautiful cubic consistency indefinitely, even when sitting out on a table all day. Though it did dawn on me that I may need to evaluate my stomach management options for the late June heat out at the Black Hills 100, as puddles of Jello are far less practical, and likely not on the menu.
Round 5 (Ding! Ding!)
Frank: Hendrickson appears to be in good shape here. Doesn't seem intimidated by Bottoms. I think he feels this one is in reach.
Howard: You bet, Frank. He's trading punch-for-punch with the champ, who's lookin' a bit like Apollo Creed out there, wondering who this paluka thinks he is.
The course changed once again on lap 5 as the late night / early morning cold froze the ground on many downhills, making them a bit more treacherous than previous. Here, some of the deeper snow became useful as it allowed one to step out of the compacted, ice glaze of the more well-traveled path and stay upright.
After a steady diet of Jello, fruit, ginger and other assorted items, things had come back around and I was having an easier time with food once again, even looking forward to it. I was encountering 50 milers at this point, most passing me, but a few that I actually passed here (and later on) - though I resisted the urge to say, "Don't worry, it'll get better the fourth or fifth time around." I would have deserved any pop upside the head I received had I done so. It struck me that everyone was just out there battlin', no matter the distance, no matter the speed. It reminded me of the saying, "Run what you can, hike what you can't, crawl if you have to..."
Round 6 (Ding! Ding!)
Howard: Well, Frank, I'd say the challenger is ahead on points here. He's well on his way to... Wait a minute! Sugar Ron is down! He's on the canvas!
Frank: Hold it, Howard. That looked like a slip to me. Yup, he's getting back up quickly.
Feeling confident, I headed out of the start area for lap 6, and started on a farewell tour of the course. Less than a mile in I hit a patch of ice and did a classic cartoon, man steps on a banana peel, both feet in the air, flop on my back. Fortunately, my fall was cushioned by my hydropack. Unfortunately, hydropacks aren't meant to absorb 160-odd pounds of force coming in for a landing, and the clip that keeps the bladder closed broke, pouring water down my back. @#$%! On the plus side, the kind folks at Aid Station 1 had the most versatile tool known to man... duct tape. After going MacGyver on my pack for a few minutes, I had it reasonably repaired and holding water once again.
I felt like I was moving reasonably well. Everything was in relative order, any aches and pains were pretty standard, "Hey, whaddya want? You've been going at this for 25 hours..." type of stuff, and that final trip around the course went by remarkably quickly. As I headed down the road from Aid Station 4 toward the finish line, a sense of elation began to seep in. I could taste it...
Frank: Look at that, Howard! Sugar Ron has something left! Where is it coming from? The crowd is on its feet. Look at that footwork! He has Bottoms on the ropes!
Howard: Down goes Zumbro! Down goes Zumbro! Down goes Zumbro!
Sprinting across that finish line (hey, it felt like sprinting to me) was fantastic. That Zumbro 100 Mile finisher belt buckle was a precious one, hard earned - and its heft felt good in my hand. As an added bonus, I managed to capture 1st place Masters, which was a bit of a surprise; and more a product of stubborness than speed. But in a game of attrition such as Zumbro 2013 - the course and weather had beaten the field down to a 31% finishing rate - you have to leverage all the tools you have in the box... and be able to take a punch or two.
December 1, 2012: How You Like Them Apples?
So there we stood, my son Colter and I, at a crossroads. And by that I mean quite literally, the trail branching off in two different directions. To the right, the race course for the NMTC Hartley run – the pink ribbons begging one further into the woods and across a marsh area before taking a sweeping loop to the finish line. To the left, a trail that led directly back to the nature center from which the race started.
I could tell he was good and tired, having already covered over 3 miles of trail that bent up and down and twisted around like it had been laid out by a drunken sailor. His 11-year-old legs were feeling it. It was his call, I told him – and either answer was perfectly acceptable - right or left? Then I stood silently as he pondered his options...
Frankly, this dilemma was not part of the original plan. Clear skies and coolish temperatures that morning promised a beautiful day to be out and about, and the final NMTC trail race of the year was on the calendar, with a pot-luck dinner to follow. A quick glance at the race web site earlier in the week had indicated 5K was on the docket. 5K? Pretty short... perhaps a nice day to take my son, and have him join me for a jaunt through the woods.
When I broached the subject with Colter, his ears perked up at the mention of those golden words, “pot luck dinner”. Even at his young age, he's caught on to the fact that such dinners are comprised of approximately 60% desserts. He had to earn his eats though, I told him, which entailed running the trail race. His quick bit of mental math determined 5K for copious brownies was a fair trade – and he was in.
So, it was a bit of a surprise when we arrived at Hartley Nature Center and learned the race had been upped to a 10K. Colter's face registered instant trepidation. The comfort zone had been breached... Now, Colter is not a runner in a sense that includes training, running regular races, and the like. It's just not a big blip on his radar at the moment. That being said, he's not a couch potato either. He plays basketball, baseball, downhill ski races – we get out and about. We figured he could work his way through 5K, but 6+ miles of trail work? Hmmm. Not wanting this to come off like the ol' bait-and-switch, I told him simply, let's just go run – get about 5K in as we previously agreed and make a call at that point. That seemed reasonable to him. So when the crowd burst from the starting line, off we went.
Obviously I'm not entirely objective, but I was impressed with the fashion in which he knocked out the trail, at times I even had to tell him to relax a bit and save some gas in the tank. He was steady, relentless. But trail running is what it is, and as he ticked past 3 rolling, twisting miles on untrained legs the whole “over the river and through the woods” thing was taking its toll. Until, finally, we arrived at the crossroads. He was tired, and said as much. But there was something else there...
Colter stood for some moments, and I could see the gears turning. Left, pain over. Right, more hills, rocks and roots, dog-tiring - but an official finish. Then... I saw The Look. That look I've seen on ultra-running colleagues deep in races. It's the “Let's just finish this [bleeping] thing!” look. (No, he didn't say it – but if he had I wouldn't have made him put a quarter in the swear jar. Though I might have asked him not to tell his mom.) He turned and headed off following the pink ribbons. A few grind-it-out miles later as we neared the finish, I asked him if he had anything left – and he answered by sprinting in, finishing his first 10K like an Olympic medal was to be had. I'm not sure which of us was beaming more broadly as we crossed the line.
It was a Proud Papa moment for certain. But though it was golden, I still have no idea if running will become a beloved pastime to my son as it has for me. They say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. True in some cases, I suppose. But for all I know this apple may hit the ground, roll down an embankment and end up in the field next door. That's OK, he's young – and as we mature we're all entitled to map our own paths. I figure my job at this point is to keep filling his toolbox with experiences, lead by example and give him opportunities to accomplish things that initially seem out of reach. I won't dictate his map, but that doesn't preclude me from lending him a compass.
And who knows? Maybe someday he'll be looking for an outlet, he'll reach into that toolbox - and it will ultimately lead him to crossing the finish line of his first ultramarathon. Perhaps he'll catch his breath, pause and quietly say, “Thanks, Dad.” With any luck the gentleman that finishes right behind him will respond, “No thanks necessary, son. We're even.” When it comes to inspiration, we always have been.
September 27, 2012: Ode to a Timepiece
Sure, she was looking a little rough around the edges, but that was part of her allure. And despite my habit of constantly pushing her buttons, she took everything in stride, without complaint. So it was a bit of a surprise to have the relationship end suddenly after nearly 20 years.
We had so many adventures, running over road and trail - at every race distance from 1 mile to 100. She'd also kept track of the legs as I rode my bike across Minnesota from border to border, and timed passage to each trailhead as I hiked and ran virtually every mile of the Superior Hiking Trail. Her unassuming digits would silently increment as we wiled away the hours logging thousands upon thousands of training miles.
I knew the end would come eventually, but somehow I thought it would be more compelling. (Caution, dream sequence ahead...) Out on a rocky, mountainous trail I am hammering some single-track when, as I take a hard turn, my feet slip and I go careening over a precipice. I plunge to my certain demise, but my fall is suddenly halted – when the Velcro band of my faithful watch catches on a branch sticking out from the cliff face.
As I dangle helplessly, I hear the whump, whump, whump of a helicopter overhead and soon a man in an orange jumpsuit is lowered down on a cable. My rescuer grabs hold of me and pulls me upward, but progress is stopped... the Velcro holds fast. “I can save you, but we're going to have to cut it loose,” he yells over the roar of the chopper. Before I can object he pulls out a knife, slicing cleanly through the black nylon weave that had saved my life. The winch whisks us upward. “You're safe now,” he says. But I'm in a daze. My eyes are cast downward, following the slowly tumbling shape of a longtime friend. She turns over and over as she falls, as if in slow motion. Her face appears one last time, and I see her Indiglo night light flash on and off, as if to say, “So long, my friend, it's been real.” Then, she disappears into the abyss...
Well, that's the way it should have gone. But, alas, the real story is she disappeared somewhere in a large hotel in Wisconsin Dells – falling out of a bag she was stashed in. Perhaps at the pool, or somewhere along a hallway – hard to say. Despite my dogged search efforts, she never turned up. An inauspicious ending to a beautiful friendship.
But maybe, just maybe, she had just decided her job was done here - she had taken me as far as we could go together, and there were others out there. I imagine someone, perhaps a young boy, picking her up off the floor and wrapping her around his wrist. Suddenly all the joy, pain and wisdom of countless miles flows out of her casing and into his body – and he suddenly feels an insatiable need to put on a pair of shoes and head outside to find a trail. Like a digital yogi, she begins to teach... Relax, young one, let the trail come to you - and the pace will follow...
So, now I look at the new timepiece that hugs my wrist. She's younger, sexy in her black band and graceful LED numerals. She knows a few more tricks than the old gal, that's for sure. Likely, it will take a few miles, and some bits of reddish-brown mud from the Powerlines stuck between her buttons, before we start to become inseparable. I imagine that time will come.
But then, perhaps this is all just plain silly. After all, I'm a grown man - and maybe I should just stop all this hand-wringing over a long outdated chronograph that's gone wayward. I mean, in the end, it was just a watch...
August 29, 2012: Marquette 50 Mile – Roots, Rain and Spiderman
Heading over to the Marquette 50 Mile over in the U.P. was a trip back to the old country. You see, my mother had grown up in the little railroad town of Champion just down MI Hwy 28 to the west, and my father had graduated from the since-retired Park High School in Marquette. So, I am one generation removed from Yoopers on both sides of my family, which perhaps explains a lot. Most all of the relatives I visited in my youth have long since passed on, and its been awhile since I made my way through the area - but even decades removed, certain sights still seemed to pull memories off the dusty shelves in the back.
Even so, the ghosts would have to wait, as there was a task at hand. This was my first go at this race, and I was looking forward to running a new course. This is part of the reason I enjoy running these events; to see new places (or perhaps revisit old), albeit at a decent rate of speed – call it accelerated trail spelunking. Of course, another part of the motivation equation kicks in on race morning and I find myself trying to pick out my competition at the starting line - all the 40-ish looking gentlemen wearing race numbers. (Let's see. Him. Him. Maybe that guy. That one's bald, so probably him. No wait, looks like he shaved his head. Never mind...) I'm certainly not in danger of pulling many muscles hauling hardware home from races on most days, but, hey... dare to dream.
Launch. We left the Marquette Tourist Park, took a short loop around the neighborhood, then hit the dirt. After a mile or so on a forest road the route dropped onto the single-track of the North Country Trail, which in this area offers up some rocky, rooty goodness akin to the Superior Hiking Trail. In short, it felt like home. I felt loose and relaxed (who doesn't at mile 3?), but it was early – so I settled in to a comfortable pace and put it on cruise control.
After rocking and rolling up and down for 10 miles we hit the first major climb, Sugarloaf Mountain. It dawned on me that “Sugarloaf” seemed to be a very popular name for mountains, as I believe every state in the union has one. (Yup, even Florida.) Perhaps it was a requirement for statehood. But, I digress. When I hit the base of the climb, I was greeted by a set of steps that led from bottom to top. I thought, “Why, this is darn well civilized.” But to be fair, it was a @#$%-load of steps. So, up we go – nice and steady, no need to be a hero here, as there will be bigger fish to fry. The descent down other side was much more thrilling; a thin single-track wound along a nice, steep downhill grade between granite boulders with a solid pitch. This seemed to go on for a good while before it ejected out onto the dirt, sand and pine needle trail that hugs the Lake Superior shoreline.
Now, this (~4 mi.) section was very runnable and quite beautiful. Though it skirted the sandy beach, it was hard packed and made for a fantastic running surface. Just to the right, the waves of the Lake rolled in rhythmically – and I fought the urge to take one of the access trails and run head-long into the surf. Which would have been invigorating, to say the least. The trail eventually turned inland, passed through an aid station and worked it's way up and over a significant hunk of granite known locally as Bareback, which provided a warm-up for what was to come.
At about the 20 mile mark, one gets to tackle a topographic double play. The first piece, Top of the World, is a steady, challenging climb, starting as packed trail, but eventually scrambling up sheets of rock to a summit providing a fantastic view. But that's just the opening act. In my estimation the next climb, Hogback Mountain, is the gem of the course. The wonderfully steep rise starts with a solid stock of head-sized boulders, with a dash of twisted roots thrown in for flavor. It then ratchets up the grade and starts scaling large granite boulders. I recall arriving at a trail junction of sorts - to my right led a rocky but manageable trail that I assume made its way to the peak. To my left was, well, not so much a trail – more of a suggestion of a trail, that only Sir Edmund Hillary would love. I'll give you one guess which one had the fluorescent trail markers. I suppose it's a mark of a course well laid when you can be smiling and swearing at the bastard who set the damn thing up at the same time.
After the steep descent from Hogback I rolled into Aid Station 1 (2nd time through). Here is where the 50 milers part ways with the 50K runners. The latter head straight, hopping and skipping their way back to the start / finish, where they'll have a beer in hand in short order. I, on the other hand, turned around and headed back out for the second loop. Midway between AS1 and AS2, I had one of those “Oh, @#$%!” moments. “Hmmm, Ron? When was the last time you saw a trail marker?” “Uh, not sure.” “Does this trail look familiar?” “Not really.” “Perhaps time to turn around?” “Maybe I'll just go a little further, to be sure. Who the Hell is talking to me anyway?” “The voice of reason, dumbass, go back and find a trail marker.” OK, lost some time there, and apparently a bit of my sanity. (Shut up, ya' rubes.) But I was soon back on the proper trail and heading toward Sugarloaf for a second time.
The second lap seemed to pass quickly, which was a sign that things were going well. I had been eating and drinking consistently and maintaining what felt like a steady, solid pace. Sugarloaf and its stairway to heaven was a workout, and the legs ran nicely along the beach stretch. Bareback was slippery due to some recent rain (more on that in a bit). At one of the aid stations, a volunteer let me know I was running 6th. Not bad, I thought. There was no pass over Top of the World or Hogback on the second loop, the omission of which was bittersweet. Though, admittedly, 42 miles in, the sweet tends to trump the bitter.
The rain had started spitting here and there back along the beach. Nice. A quick spritz to cool off would be great, I had thought. About 7 miles from the finish it got more insistent. Thunder clapped, lightning flashed not too distant, and steady drops started falling. Alright, a little shower never hurt either. Then the rain got downright pushy, and started coming down in buckets. I swear the woodland critters were starting to pair up and Google Map driving directions to Mt. Ararat. The trail soon became a series of large, deep puddles connected by patches of mud and rock.
And... I felt fantastic! My legs were cool and invigorated. I passed through Aid Station 1 (again) on a tear – looking like a big, wet dog, I'm sure, but splashing my way along the homestretch and loving every minute of it. In the end, 10 hours, 33 minutes - I held in 6th place overall – but 1st in my age group, which garnered me a nice jar of U.P.-made Poor Rock Abbey Black Berry Jam. Mmmm.
A little while later, I was headed back west toward Duluth - but I stopped for a moment alongside Hwy 28 just outside Champion, MI. The little house still stood, looking sturdy – just as it did when my grandfather built it. A vision flashed of my grandfather pulling out the stack of comic books he had squirreled away for us kids to read during our visits. On the one hand, I imagine it kept us quiet, but I suspect he also got some satisfaction in our unabashed delight in getting a solid dose of Archie and Spiderman.
I wondered what it would be like to go and take a look inside. But it was someone else's home now, and had been for quite some time. So, I passed – choosing instead to just take on a few delightful memories at one of life's aid stations. And with that, I put the car in gear and pointed it toward home.
August 3, 2012: Mowing the Seeds of my Discontent
It starts when you are young, of course. Those moments of foolishness when you really should have known better.
"Are you suuure you can make it over that?"
"Oh, yeah. I just need a higher ramp and a good bit of speed..."
"Oh, yeah. I just need a higher ramp and a good bit of speed..."
As we grow older we’re supposed to mature, but the foolhardiness seems to linger like redneck relatives over for Christmas. Eventually, the daredevil nature of things may start to wane; which is good, because I'd rather not have my legacy be my own chapter in the next edition of the Darwin Awards. But the stupid gene, which I'm pretty sure is Y-linked - it's a pesky bugger, and needs to be stoked every now and then.
I guess that's how I found myself standing alone half-way up the first hill of the Powerlines on the Voyageur course, smelling of sweat and bug spray under the 90+ degree late afternoon sun, wondering what in the Hell I was doing...
July 5th, and the day had started innocently enough. With a day off and the 1/2 Voyageur and Voyageur 50 Mile fast approaching, I had decided to get a jump start on mowing the Powerlines. So, I set off - looking to park at the Mission Creek trailhead on Beck's Rd., a short ways from the Powerlines access trail.
From the experience that followed, I learned the following:
- Construction work on Beck’s road did, in fact, occur on weekdays. (Who knew?) Large trucks and bulldozers make the Mission Creek trailhead difficult to get to. Damn. Off to park at the Buffalo House, an eating establishment up the Munger trail in the other direction.
- It’s a long walk in on the Munger trail from the Buffalo House to the access trail that leads to the Powerlines. (Let's call that access trail the AH, which may or may not be the initials of its creator – depending on whether you are asking me while I'm under oath.)
- My 4-cycle string trimmer is a piece of @#$%. It fails about 20 minutes into some simple trimming along the AH trail. The Mowing Gods have a peculiar sense of humor. (Yes, there are Mowing Gods. I think they're Greek. They had a god for everything.)
- It’s a long walk back to the Buffalo House when you’re in a bad mood.
- It apparently doesn’t take much for me to switch from casual mowing mode to “I'm on a Mission.”
- There’s a fine line between badass and dumbass. You make the call. While pondering my fate over a Dairy Queen hot dog, I decide to go get my push mower and bring it in to the Powerlines.
- It's not unreasonable getting a push mower in to the Powerlines from Hwy 210 in Jay Cooke State Park. But... Hwy 210 looks like the Grand Canyon after being decimated by the Great Flood of 2012. My only access is the rocky, rooty, single track of the AH trail. But I’m game. So, back to the Buffalo House, and off down the Munger...
- The long walk from the Buffalo House to the AH trail is decidedly shorter when two DNR guys on ATVs come along and let you know you can’t be on the (closed) Munger Trail and have to turn around. (Oh? This trail is closed? You don't say...)
- It’s a long walk back to the Buffalo House when you’re in a bad mood.
- I am bound and determined to cut some damn thing today. Poking around back by Beck's Rd., lawn mower sticking out of the trunk of my car, I realize folks are using the abandoned DWP railroad grade to drive around the construction area and get down near the Mission Creek trailhead. Bingo.
- One probably looks kind of foolish taking his mower out for a walk through a construction zone on Beck’s Rd. and down the Mission Creek trail.
- One has boundless energy when he thinks he has scored a strategic victory – making bringing a mower down the hilly goat path that is the AH trail almost tolerable. (But, would it kill 'em to put bigger wheels on these things?)
- Hmm. Didn't know mountain goats were native to northern Minnesota.
- @#$% it's hot out here.
- Mental Note #1: Streams are rocky.
- Mental Note #2: Mowers are heavy.
- Mental Note #3: That stream crossing before the big hill on the Powerlines sure is wide.
- @#$% it's hot out here.
- I note that a mower is vastly more productive than a string trimmer, under a certain set of conditions which tend to be pretty well defined. Those conditions are somewhat intermittent on the Powerlines.
- I note that a mower is decidedly more difficult to get up that first big hill after the river crossing than a string trimmer. Gravity is a harsh mistress.
- Boots make an interesting sucking sound when pulled from near knee deep mud. (Holy s--t! How can the base this hill still be such a friggin' mess?! It's like a damn kiln out here!)
- Common sense will finally prevail half-way up a ridiculously steep, mud covered hill on a @#$%ing hot day, while largely carrying a piece of power equipment that is designed to be pushed...
- Common sense will not carry a mower back up the AH trail for you.
- One has much less energy on the return trip dragging a mower and a gas can back up the AH trail.
- Stubbornness and sanity are inversely proportional.
So, mission accomplished. And, I'm certain there will be no more moments of foolhardiness in my future. Absolutely certain...
"Are you suuure you want to run 100 miles?"
"Oh, yeah. I just need a bit of water and a couple of gels..."
"Oh, yeah. I just need a bit of water and a couple of gels..."