Giving Thanks for an Extended Mountain Bike Season - Biking the Piedmont

5:51 PM

The view from our rental on Thursday morning...

I know, Thanksgiving was a couple of days ago, but we just got home from a trip to the North Shore where we were blissfully disconnected from the internet for three whole days.  Plus, I’m still in the thankful mood from Thursday’s feasting on candied yams, sage and onion dressing, fresh cranberry sauce, buttery rolls, roasted root vegetables with apple cider reduction, and cranberry upside down cake (when you are a vegetarian, it is all about the sides)!

We headed up to the North Shore on Wednesday with two mountain bikes in tow – the weather looked like it would be good for a couple of rides before some snow moved in on Thursday evening.  Our first destination was a trail we knew – Lester Park – because time and daylight were running short by the time we rolled down the hill to Duluth.

...and the view on Friday morning!
Unfortunately, Mother Nature was not on our side.  It was nice and warm (the high on Wednesday was above 40), and there was enough moisture in the soil (and perhaps something to do with the freeze/thaw cycle) to make parts of the trail very muddy.  The Spouse and I know the rules – when it is wet around here you don’t ride – so we exited early, spun around on some side streets to clear the mud, and headed up the shore to our rental on the water.

Thanksgiving morning looked better – cold and crisp – and we headed back down to town to try the Piedmont trail up off of Skyline Drive.  If I knew more about geology I could explain why this trail was not muddy – better drainage? less iron ore in the soil? – who knows, but the end result was two hours of mountain biking fun!

The Piedmont trail encompasses about 9 miles of single-track that generally runs east/west between Hutchinson Road and Haines Road.  The basic circuit is the Stovetop Upper Burner and Lower Burner, but there are various off-shoots that you can take for added fun.  On our ride we hit both Burners, Foxx Rocks, Red Dress and Deer Slayer (maybe Scarface as well – some, but not all, of the trails are numbered, which led to some confusion). 

Piedmont is definitely a trail for rock and root lovers – at some points it seems like the designers go out of their way to interrupt the flow with more bumps.  Still, I appreciate the more technical nature of the trail – you have Lester Park for swooping around, and the Piedmont for body English and line work.  This is a trail for a more advanced rider than I am, but I didn’t have to spend a frustrating amount of time off my bike hoofing it over some of the more intimidating natural features.  Plus, your hard work is rewarded with excellent viewpoints overlooking the Saint Louis River and the Duluth Harbor…and when you know you’ve got a Thanksgiving feast waiting for you at the end, you are willing to put just a little bit more into the ride!

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