You can’t get any further north in Wisconsin than Bayfield County (without a boat). A bit further north, the Apostle Islands are offshore out in Lake Superior and probably worth a whole ‘nuther adventure but today’s story got started with an event called the Superior Vistas Bike Tour held in Washburn, WI. Washburn is on the east side of Bayfied County.
I had Bayfield County on my radar because it’s on a long list of rides that I’ve started to check off from a guidebook written by the living legend, Phil Van Valkenberg. And from a purely fat biker’s perspective, I’m always looking for good beaches to ride and this portion of the third coast looked as though it could be promising.
The Superior Vistas Bike Tour offered two fat bike-specific options as part of their event so I made that my excuse to take a trip up to the Northernmost tip of America’s Dairyland. My plan was to go and ride the Long Lake trails on Friday so I could ride the Valhalla Trail option on Saturday morning which was the official day of the event. After that, I would be free to check out some beach riding and the local mountain bike trails.
I got to the Forest Service campground about two o’clock in the afternoon on Friday and registered for two nights at yet another place called Twin Lakes. There’s a Twin Lakes just south of here near Drummond where I camped at a site that came with its very own live badger! And I used to live in a Town with that name down near the southern border. So ‘Twin Lakes’ always feels a little like home to me. I was able to set up at a fabuloso lakefront site with a gorgeous view of the sunset…and loons. The call of the loon and a panoramic view of the ever-changing sky. It doesn’t get much more ‘NorthwoodsAF’ than that! And only $15 bucks a night! The campground was a ghost town all weekend. Ant that’s just the way that I like it.
It was a beautiful hot sunny summer afternoon, so I jumped on the bike and rode from camp to Long Lake, which was the rally point for the easier Superior Vistas fat bike loop (the next day). Sandy forest service roads are a perfect warm-up for any trip. After a few miles of sandy minimum maintenance road, I got to Long Lake and rode the trail past secluded swimming spots and beaver lodges. I stopped and swam at a nice sand beach. On the way back to camp, I got turned around and took a detour that extended the ride a bit. Some might say that I got lost but in my experience, that’s really when things start to get interesting. It wasn’t long before the cool lake swim had completely worn off. It was nice to know that I could cool off at the lake when I got back to camp.
Saturday morning the weather had turned rather rainy which kept things nice and cool. I met up with John Murphy at the Valhalla trailhead and a small group of us chased around a nice flowy (wet) 20K loop that he had marked. Another good thing about the rain was that it kept the mosquitos from swarming (kinda). I finished my loop in a pretty steady pouring rain. The last bit of the trail crossed the road where the Superior Vistas road cyclists were riding up a long grinder. They were quite a sight in the pouring rain. It didn’t look like they were having as much fun as I had just experienced, but what do I know?
Well…I like to think that I know that I’m probably more amphibious or perhaps precipitation tolerant than the average gnome. And I also know that the weather can turn on a dime in the Northwoods. Besides…The best beach rides usually involve stormy skies. I knew that If I was patient, the rain would pass. So after a little tailgate brunch, I started to visit spots on the coast that looked good for a beach ride.
I managed to find a rather spectacular beach, right where it should be. Ya know…next to the big lake. I had a great ride and I found a perfect heart-shaped rock to bring home to my wife. However, it wasn’t all peaches and herb. I spent the entire ride getting pursued and sporadically bitten by deer flies. I found it a real motivator to try to keep the pace faster than the swarm. But as you can see, the visual splendor was relatively intense.
On Sunday the winds picked up and were forecast to stay at around twenty miles per hour for the bulk of the day. That took beach riding off of the ride agenda for the day and that only left one thing left to do amigos. A little thing that I like to call #dirtchurch! The long arm of the Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association comes this far north, as does the National Forest of the same name(s). The CAMBA Mt. Ashwabay Cluster promised beautiful views of Lake Superior and singletrack!
The folks that built these trails did a spectacular job and I love some of the trail names, signage, and mascots! Bayfield County delivered one hell of a great weekend field trip on the bike. I wish that I would have brought a kayak along since I ended up with a launch right out the back door of my campsite. In the end, the weekend was a great chance to put this Fezzari Kings Peak fat bike to the test. I’m starting to get this thing dirty! ¡TROGDOR!
For more information about visiting Washburn and Bayfield County go to –