Ramhammer Bikepacking Overnighter

My friend Brian has been wanting to try a short bikepacking trip for a long time, so earlier this summer we set a date of August 4-6 to make it happen. As the dates drew nearer, I learned that this was going to butt straight up against my Saddledrive return travel itinerary. The timing would work out perfectly. 

The plan was to ride the Heck of the North short course backwards so we could end in Two Harbors. Prior to leaving for the trip, I didn't look closely at the course details and learned the night before that the course had us on the CJ Ramstad trail. When I tried riding this trail in June it was a swamp. This was going to be an extra special route for Brian's first bikepacking experience, 

As soon as the route turned from gravel to the snowmobile trail there were obstacles. A major culvert construction project meant pushing bikes straight up an embankment and then navigating a narrow ridge 15 feet off the ground. Good times. 

Next up: a swamp with knee-deep water and grass taller than us. We pushed the bikes several hundred meters through the first portion, then another section, and another. The swamp did not end when we hit high ground. The horse flies were drawing blood from our arms and necks as the sharp grass and nettles shredded our shins. It was such a ridiculous situation. We laughed it off and kept pushing on. 

Oh hey! A rideable section. Nope. As soon as Frank got to the bottom of this hill his front wheel sunk up past his hub and we were pushing through a knee-deep swamp again. A quick check on the map revealed a road ahead, so we knew there was relief in sight. 

After the swamp section our bikes were adorned with weeds and other local flora. Brian rocked this sweet piece of grass for more than 20 miles until we reached camp in Two Harbors. Amazingly, none of us had wood ticks. 

After all that pushing through swamps and sweating from the heat of the day, a jump in Lake Superior was in store. The municipal campground in Two Harbors had no vacancy, so we found a sweet renegade camp spot on top of a cliff overlooking the water. It didn't make sense to set up camp before grabbing some beers, so we headed straight to Castle Danger Brewery after jumping in the lake. 

The India Pale Lager was the star of their seasonal line-up, so we made a solid dent in their supply before grabbing a few growlers and heading down to the lighthouse pier for the sunset. 

After the pier we headed back to the campsite to get set up and set at the edge of the cliff to tell jokes and watch the moon casting light over Lake Superior. If you ever visit the lake try to synchronize it with a full moon. There's really nothing like it. 

I didn't get any photos of the moon over the water, but the morning sunrise was really amazing. The above photo was the view out of my tent. After making camp coffee and grabbing breakfast, we were on our bikes headed back to Duluth. 

In the end, the ride became quite the hammerfest with all the pushing through swamps and riding as fast as we could on the gravel sections. So we dubbed the ride "Ramhammer" for its use of the Ramstad trail and all the challenges it threw at us.  On the way back to Duluth we stopped for water at a gas station and saw this sign offering a dozen eggs for 49 cents. It made us all wonder how safe it actually would be to eat eggs that only cost 49 cents per dozen. Really? Were they real eggs? Who was a great weekend pushing bikes, riding bikes, drinking bikes and laughing with great friends. Brian's first bikepacking trip was legit, and he left stoked to do another.