This past Sunday was a cool, dreary fall day - light off-and-on drizzle, occasional sun, temps in the low 50's. The Vikings were also playing the Packers here in town, so the critters were the only things out and about in the metro area. I took the opportunity to head out to a section of the Mississippi river I had been scoping as potentially rideable on the Mukluk to "un-plug" from the suburban jungle and get lost in the woods.
The wooded flood plains adjacent to the river offer prime riding in the fall. These forests transform into giant empty rooms with sand dune floors covered in a carpet of freshly fallen leaves. Dead trees and timber are strewn about. A yellow and orange leafy ceiling covers the entire space, held up by massive oak and cottonwood trunks. Moving through these enormous trail-less spaces on a fat bike is quite a unique experience. The freedom of not having to follow a road, trail, or path is something not usually experienced on a bicycle. Riding fat bikes on snow in the winter is awesome, but it's this overland fall riding that I really enjoy doing the most on the Mukluk.
We've had a really dry fall here in Minnesota, so the rivers are very low. There are miles of exposed banks and beaches to ride along. The water is so low that I was able to ford through ankle-to-knee deep channels and hop between several islands that are usually not this easily accessible.
The water was about the same temp as the air. I took my shoes and socks off at each crossing and was able to stay pleny dry and warm in between.
The islands were full of deer. I'm not sure what spooked this deer, but I was taking a picture of two other deer when the three of us heard it bounding towards us through the woods. The other two deer took off, and I snapped a picture as the incoming one passed by.
I also saw one owl, a few eagles passing by, and there was a lot of old and new sign of beaver. It's amazing how many dead trees I've seen still standing along the river on these type of rides, the bases half chewed out. I wonder if the beavers get preyed upon before they can finish, or if they just forget? Perhaps the water levels change and push them to different areas? Fortunately for this large cottonwood, it was able to keep growing.
I highlight of my ride was when I happend across a large rub on a four-inch diameter tree. Only big whitetail bucks rub on trees this size.
About three pedal strokes after I took the above picture I awoke the apparent source.
Being that I was downwind when I stirred the buck, he didn't go far. With me not moving, and him not being able to smell me, he was reluctant to leave. We hung out about 40 feet apart for five minutes. Eventually he cautiously (and knowingly) slid around to put me upwind where he could smell me. At that point, he had the upper hand, so I left him on his own and went on my way.
The only thing I didn't unplug from was the GPS app on my phone (and my camera I suppose). I turned on the airplane mode to kill the phone, but the GPS app can still record position. Later that night I downloaded the track and it indicated my ride lasted a little over three hours, and I covered only eight miles. My average moving speed was only about 5 mph, and moving time was only 95 minutes. The other hour and half of my ride was spent not riding...
...it was one of my favorite rides of the year so far.