DrylandTrainingWorking On The Railroad

FasterSkierAugust 24, 2004

“Casey Jones you better watch your speed.” — Grateful Dead

It’s the season for long rollerskiing trips. Duluth, MN rocks for that since we’re at the northern terminus of the Willard Munger Trail. 72 miles of paved trail on an old railroad bed. I like to start from the trailhead parking lot that’s behind the Munger Inn, west side of town. Appropriately, the first thing you do out of the lot is sidestep across some railroad tracks. The other day I took a deep breath, hacked the old HR monitor/watch, started the GPS (for grins), smiled at the “14 miles to Carlton” sign and put the coals to her.

At the Bardon Peak wayside, there’s a nice view over the St. Louis River Valley and down to the working docks of Duluth. You can make out the hazy blue horizon of Lake Superior past the grain elevators. Throughout the uphill stretch there are several cuts into the hillside so the railroad could keep a constant grade.

After that, there is a 20 yard stretch that is strangely my favorite. There is a place where the sides of the trail get narrower and you are bracketed by two really cool stone walls. Beautiful old masonry from back in the day. Looks like it might even be local Minnesota brownstone. Hey, you gotta get your thrills when you can on long, slow (okay, really slow) rolls.

I stop at an old stone structure at something that used to be a town called Brownell. I’ve always rolled by it and been curious. Where the mail got stored for the trains to pick up? Storage closet? Who knows? I do know that I went into hunter/gatherer mode and picked a boatload of raspberries next to it.

Downhill and V2 Alt and free skating my heart out. Payback time. All downhill to town. Really. All the way. Not a figure of speech. And just fast enough to not get scared or want speed reducers. Back by Mission Creek, where the voyageurs used to come trudging by with their 80 pound packs, there was a brilliant patch of fireweed.

A sure sign that summer is ending. Some say that when the fireweed is fully bloomed from the bottom to the top, there’s six weeks until the snow hits. I need to get the hay in the barn for this winter. Let’s skate to town. Stoke the boiler. Let’s get a head of steam. All aboard the V2 Express!

(For the record, GPS says I got going a max speed of 20.8 mph.)

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