In my younger days I did a lot of backpacking and canoe trips to remote places in search of adventure, but lately with three kids, a full-time job, and a million other things pulling at my time, those adventures have been more of the 'get away on the trail for a few hours variety'.
Sure we do the trips with the family but its just not the same as the kind of minimalist, out there, "roughing it" that my heart and soul crave. For those out there like me that have the heart but maybe not the hours, here is my encouragement to set aside and schedule a night to get away. It might not be riding the divide, or the crazy epic tale that you read about in the magazines, but it will be your own slice of crazy I assure you.
My trip would be an overnighter with my good friend and fellow Salsa comrade Eric Fredrickson. We would also meet up with Salsa marketing guy Mike Riemer at the trailhead. The destination was northern Wisconsin and the Chequamegon national forest. The generic plan was to head out from the Rock Lake trail head and rip singletrack and doubletrack out to Wilson Lake where we would settle in for the night, throw back a few brews, and enjoy the call of the wild.
One problem that I quickly realized is that unlike a lot of my Salsa brethren I didn't have a lot of the gear required to pull off such a thing. Although its only one night, when you get right down to it there is a lot of random stuff that you need to bring. I would need a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, food and a way to cook it, fresh water, warm clothes etc.
Now most of this gear I have, but I've never carried it all on a bike before. First thing to figure out would be bags. Ultimately I decided to ask around and borrow some of the swanky Revelate bags that the other guys around the office are using. I scored a seat bag from Tornado Tim and a frame bag from Jason. After talking with them briefly about my gear I decided that I would also use a small backpack and a compression sack strapped to my handlebars.
Although I really wanted to ride my El Mariachi Ti, Jason's frame bag was built for the new Fargo geo so I figured I would go the Fargo route to keep it easy...plus I figured it would give me a chance to check out the new geo a bit on the trail. I borrowed a few more pieces of gear from friends and between what I had come up with and what Eric was bringing I felt comfortable that it was going to be a good trip. Here is a quick run down of the major stuff I brought with me.
Bike - Salsa 2011 Fargo (stock complete spec)
Tent - Go Lite Eden 1
Sleeping bag - La Fuma 45deg (a little warmer bag would have been better but it's what I had)
Sleeping pad - Pacific Outdoor Peak Oyl Lite
Water filter - Katadyn Vario (borrowed this and it was way cool...I was used to using tablets)
Clothing - Change of warm stuff including a vest for at night, several wool layers, general riding gear
Emergency kit - Two tubes, pump, multi tool, two power links, brave soldier crash kit
Food - Two dehydrated meals (one for me, one for Eric), oatmeal, and some fig newtons
Stove - Optimus Crux with the Terra Weekend pot set (Eric actually brought the stove but I thought I would include it here)
I was able to get my tent, bag, and pad in the seat bag. Frame bag had my emergency kit, water filter, tent poles, camera and a few other small bits. Clothing was in the compression sack on the bar and food in the backpack.
And with that we were ready to go. I met Eric at his house about 9:30. We mowed down an amazing egg and sausage biscuit that Eric had prepared and hit the road. One thing that just must be done when driving up to Chequamy is a stop at Louie's Meats in Cumberland, Wisconsin. If you like jerky (and I definitely like jerky) and good cheese it is truly a must-stop.
Louie's Meats is a classic must-stop on your way up north
With a pound of good jerky and some disgusting Horseradish cheese (all Eric) in tow, we once again hit the road. After a quick stop for barley pop in Cable, we made it to the trailhead. It was time to ride and we were itchin' to hit the trail. As we pulled in to park we found Miker asleep on a picnic table waiting for us. He had spent the past two nights under the stars and was going to ride out to the lake with us for his final night.
Eric, Miker and I at the Rock Lake trailhead
Fall is my favorite time to ride. You don't sweat to death and you don't freeze to death...its just perfect. The trail that you are used to takes on a totally new style as the leaves fall and the brush thins out. Sometimes the leaves make the little off camber babyheads a bit slick and I have to admit that I hit the dirt more than once. What's a good ride without a little blood though right?
The new Fargo was awesome. The higher bottom bracket was excellent in the singletrack and the Woodchipper bars ripped on the doubletrack. The bag setup worked exceptionally well and I would highly recommend the frame bag/seat bag route for this type of bikepacking. My compression sack on the bars kept coming loose from all the movement of the bars on the singletrack, but after a few stops and adjustments I got that figured out too.
All in all it was truely a great ride. It was actually pretty amazing to me that I was carrying all that gear that was on my living room floor the night before and I really didn't even notice it. I've said it before but I'll say it again here: My favorite feature of the Fargo is the fork mounted bottle bosses. It's a great location for water bottles and with the frame bag on the bike, allowed me to skip the hydration bladder and have minimal weight on my back and shoulders. Here a few more shots from the days ride.
2011 Fargo takin' a chill break
mmm...Rippin' (photo by Eric Fredrickson)
mmm...not so Rippin' :)
Miker and Eric showing me how its done. You ever try to ride singletrack on a drop bar while holding up a camera?
Fargo loaded up and ready to finish strong at Wilson Lake
We reached the campsite on Wilson Lake about 6:00pm and the sun was just starting to dip behind the trees. Not wanting to get set up in the dark I quickly changed into some warm dry clothes and began to get camp in order. Once shelter and firewood were taken care of it was time to sit back and enjoy the night by the fire. We fired up the stoves, made dinner, threw back a few beverages and enjoyed the peace and tranquility of our surroundings. Anyone who knows Mike knows that he is good for a story or two around the fire and this night was definitely no exception. As we talked and laughed late into the night I was reminded yet again of how much I loved all this.
Here is the Eden 1 all set up and ready to roll. I love this tent. Lightweight and plenty of room for me and my gear. Bobby don't do tarps.
Who needs an HD TV when you've got this? Well I suppose it comes in handy to view the pics after the trip!
Just like Bear Grylls always says...there's just nothing quite as uplifting as a fire. (photo by Eric Fredrickson)
It got down to the mid 30's at night and I have to admit I wished my bag was just a bit warmer. I'm usually a hot-blooded sorta dude so with several layers of clothing and such I figured I would be okay and ultimately I was but if I did it over again I would have a warmer bag...note to self. As the sun started to peak up over the trees I was awakened by the call of a loon and the slapping of wings on the water. What better alarm is there...seriously! I crawled out of my tent to find Eric and Mike already enjoying the day. We started the fire back up to toast ourselves before breakfast. As Eric was getting the oatmeal ready I headed to the lake to try out the water filter I had borrowed. Now this thing was cool. I know for most folks reading this you'll be like...'Dude...those have been around for decades'. While that may be true this was my first experience not using tablets to purify the water. In a matter of minutes I had filled my water bottles and was ready to hit the trail again.
Welcome to the future, Dahlberg.....took you long enough....
With a newborn and several things waiting for me on the "to do" list, it was time to hit the trail and get started for home. The sun warmed things up pretty quickly and we were all shedding layers in only a matter of minutes. As we wound through the woods leaving the campsite behind I couldn't help but think I was leaving a little piece of me back there by the lake. I'll be back for you I thought. We rode back down to the Rock Lake trailhead and as good as the trip had been...it was good to be on the way home too. When we got to the car I brewed up one last hit of java before taking to the open road and then we were off.
One last cup o' joe before the drive home
It was an awesome overnighter and although short, a great adventure. So whether you're an experienced pro longing to get back out there, or its your first time ever...do an overnighter. The wild is calling.
Eric, Mike, and I at Wilson Lake campsite
- Bobby Dahlberg, Salsa Sales and Resident Ogre