Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bike-Camping at Birch Lakes State Forest II

- Birch Lakes State Forest to Sauk Centre.
- 11mi

I have to give my unconscious imagination credit for the dream I had, of waking up to a summer day. Fishermen launched their boats below, kids played in the lake, and an eager swarm of hungry mosquitoes waited in the shade outside my tent. Then I woke up to reality - 30 degrees, a dusting of snow, and thick clouds ahead. The wind had kept up all night, in incredibly loud gusts punctuated by cracking wood and the crash of falling limbs. I'd made sure my campsite was surrounded by sound, healthy trees, but it was still and unnerving night.

I packed up during the brief dawn stilling of the wind. No breakfast, since I had some crazy idea of getting all the way to Sauk Centre before the wind came back. I barely got back onto the pavement before it nearly bowled me over. I never found out what the sustained wind measured up as, but it wasn't much gentler then the 45mph gusts. It started to snow again.

Had I more time, I would have just stayed put. Eleven short miles turned out to be the most brutal ride in my life. I'm all kinds of confident about my gear, now, since it actually kept me fairly warm where possible. My hands where frozen, my feet alternating burning and numb. I don't think I was ever able to move faster then 8mph, and at some points I had to get off my bike and was unable to get back on for the wind and stiff legs. The nasty, biting, wind-driven snow never let up for long, and was halfways sleet at some points. The cold did mostly stay in my extremities, however, and it wasn't nearly as miserable as it could have been.

It wasn't until I walked into my Grandpa's house that the cold really reached me. My blood and skin and bones felt frozen though, and my clothes where just insulation to hold all the cold in. The water heater gave up before I could pour enough hot water into a tub to do any good. It was like dropping an ice cube into lukewarm coffee. Going back outside, unloading my bike, loading my bike into the van might have warmed me up a bit, but rolling up in a mound of blankets and taking a nap seemed a great deal more reasonable at the time :)

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