The midwest (upper midwest, thank goodness) was a part of our trip that I was both looking forward to and rather ambivalent about. I knew my parents were joining us for this section of our trip (yay!), but also that there would be no REAL mountains for mountain biking. Fortunately, we found plenty of good mountain biking, and more importantly, we had the trip of a lifetime with grandma and grandpa.
North Dakota: The Maah Daah Hey Trail and Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Our campground near Medora, North Dakota was lovely, desolate, and on the edge of a vast grassland. This is where my parents met up with us, and we had connecting sites with an open grassy area in between.
Little P was thrilled to have grandma and grandpa show up, and promptly moved in with them. Fortunately, they have a spare bunk for him and were happy to host him for a few nights before he decided to return back “home.”
Our reason for coming to North Dakota was to ride the 100-mile Maah Daah Hey trail. Despite being hailed as being hailed as world-class mountain biking, we discovered that the Maah Daah Hey trail was mostly REALLY boring. It was flat, muddy, and full of cow poop. After a couple days of riding we were done.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, on the other hand, was a bright spot in our stay in North Dakota. P wanted to get his junior ranger badge, and as part of it, we had to sit thru a tour of Teddy Roosevelt’s cabin. This was surprisingly fun, and made me want to learn more about his life. We were also required to go on a hike, which was a good excuse to explore the park and search for rocks on the bank of the Little Missouri.
Even then, we chose to leave a day ahead of schedule and move on. We spent one final night in North Dakota at a reservoir near Jamestown.
Minnesota: Cuyuna Lakes and Duluth
When we were first planning our trip, my dad mentioned that we should stop at Crosby-Ironton. I had never heard of the area, but upon further research learned that the area was home to an IMBA silver-level ride center. Blair quickly added it to our itinerary.
We weren’t sure where to camp in Crosby-Ironton until, about 20 minutes out of town, Blair discovered a “bike park and campground” in Cuyuna. There wasn’t much information about it online, but heard it had a pump track, so we were sold. As it turned out, the pump track was AMAZING. It was the biggest track I have ever seen, and we’ve been to a bunch of pump tracks. Once P had seen it, there was no way we were camping anywhere else.
The campground was a short distance from the trails, which we explored over the next few days. Had Blair and I been alone, the trails may have been a little TOO tame, but with a young child, they were AMAZING. Swoopy and non-technical, the kiddo couldn’t get in enough riding.
We also loved the town of Crosby, where we swam and played at the playground. I also did laundry here one day, and we ended our in-town errands at the Red Raven, a coffee shop slash bike shop slash bar. Speaking of bars, we also had fun at the Deer Tick Inn in Cuyuna, a local, laid back place with pool and popcorn.
From here, it was time to move onto Spirit Mountain, a ski resort on the edge of Duluth. From our campground, we were able to ride lift-assist trails and spent one entire day there doing downhill runs as a family–kiddo, grandma, grandpa, and all. P had never done a lift-assist day before, and spent the better part of the day cruising down the mountain. He would have kept going, but I got afraid he was going to get too tired and have a crash.
We also got the chance to ride a couple sections of the Duluth Traverse and the connected trail systems. Blair will write a more detailed article on the riding here, so I won’t talk about it too much–but the people of Duluth are pretty lucky to have such good mountain biking right in town.
Michigan: Porkies and the UP
From Minnesota, we drove across Wisconsin – briefly. Our one big stop in Wisconsin was at Culver’s for lunch.
Entering Michigan, we stopped at the Stormy Kromer factory where my dad and P got matching caps. Now in Michigan camoflauge, we were able to head to the Porcupine Mountains– and into the swamp. It had been raining for the better part of two weeks and everything was wet and muddy. Really muddy.
The misery of the campground was offset by the beauty of Lake Superior. I’ll forever remember sitting on the rocky shore with my husband and son, the waves breaking around us, breathing in the fresh air. On this trip so far, we’ve had the opportunity to cliff jump off the red rocks of Flaming Gorge, bike in the great pine forests of the Black Hills, hike in the grasslands of North Dakota, and laugh on the rocky shoreline of Lake Superior. What amazing places there are on this continent of ours!
From the “Porkies” we headed to the penultimate leg of our trip with my mom and dad: Copper Harbor. Copper Harbor is a lovely little village at the tip of a peninsula way out in Lake Superior. It is the kind of place that I always wanted to go to summer camp.
We camped at Ft. Wilkins State Park, a campground surrounding the old military fort there. The fort itself was a highlight of our stay, as was the mountain biking. We also enjoyed the Brickside Brewery, paddle boarding in lake Fanny Hooe, and watching the sunset over Lake Superior. We all agreed this was our favorite stop of the trip so far.
It was sad to say goodbye to my parents–I’m not sure exactly when we will see them again. Maybe not until we reconvene in Arizona in February. The sadness is tempered, however, by the fact that I’m about to head into the great unknown — Canada — with my two favorite guys.