Spring! The Perfect Training Ground
Spring. Spring is here. Spring into action! Maybe those of us who are gluttons for self-induced physical punishment are a rare breed, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all go on vacation together! Some of us feel best when we’ve had a chance to tackle an ambitious workout to burn off the craziness, the overbooked, the overworked, the constantly spinning minds and lives so many of us lead. When it’s over, we can finally kick back and enjoy relaxing for the remainder of our day. A week-long family vacation need not derail one’s event training schedule since many routes start right from your lodging back door. Grab a few friends for a midweek day of hooky and check out the ever-growing systems of single track trail or an hours-long mud and gravel grind that ends with the winner enjoying a friendly wagered beer from the other finishers! Or surprise your honey with a weekend getaway for hiking or cruising the gentle paved path on the Gitchi Gami State bike trail along Lake Superior. Or race that sweetheart on a Superior Hiking Trail run!
Cook County offers so much varied training terrain that planning your outdoor workout becomes akin to ordering off of a large and diverse restaurant menu. Should I go in the early morning when the roads are quiet and catch the sunrise in the crisp and cold Lake Superior air? Or maybe in the afternoon would be the ideal time to run some rugged trail miles in the warmer hours of the day. Or what about a backroads gravel bike adventure that tours you around tens of miles of the county from mid-morning to mid-afternoon? Complete it with a picnic lunch in your hydration pack and still have plenty of time to shower up or brave a frigid dip in an inland lake before a hard earned burger and fries and local microbrew? So many options, so many decisions, so many routes to explore and play on foot or tire!
In order to plan out your ideal fitness excursion in the midst of so much breathtaking scenery and steeps and climbs that will leave you absolutely breathless because of the sheer grit it takes to summit them, you can treat Cook County as your training ground menu as you custom build your order of the day.
First, what’s the main dish of your order, your priority? Is it logging miles for your event training schedule or just getting in a hearty outdoor gym session while on holiday? Then choose your desired time or distance in your chosen sport, from a few miles on a trail run or a 40 mile mountain bike grind. Then the fun parts: where to start, what to see, where to end, and where to eat! Would you like to pedal past wetlands with hopes of spotting a feeding moose? Or check out the brutal climb up the Caribou Trail that has become the legendary beginning of the Lutsen 99er? Or are you hoping to find a trail running route with spectacular vistas of Lake Superior to pause for a stretch break?
Maybe you can routes based on our upcoming local and regional events which range from the casual 5k fun run all the way to endurance qualifiers. There’s no rule that says all party members must follow the same route, so hard-core training athletes and those seeking more leisurely outdoor recreation will all find routes to suit them.
The Superior Hiking Trail provides the tread for a full body workout that also requires full attention from your mind, unless you’re fond of tripping on roots or granite outcroppings. A true exercise in agility, you can choose 2-3 mile shorties with vistas at Carlton Peak, Oberg Mountain, or White Sky Rock, runs along rivers at Temperance River, Cascade River, Brule River to the mysterious Devil’s Kettle waterfall, or shake it up with a trip up Kadunce River where you can actually hike up the river, in the water!
If you’re looking for a longer endurance trail run, there are great routes for point-to-points for 7-9 miles that involve a drop off at the start and a car parked at your finish. Your crew or lodging shuttle (if available) can leave you at the Trailhead at Caribou Lake and you could head west for 6.5 miles of overlooks of Caribou Lake, the Poplar River, and Lake Superior and end at Lutsen Mountains for refreshments on the deck at Papa Charlie’s or the patio at Mogul’s Grill. Or head East from one of two Caribou Trailheads for 9 or 11 mile routes ending in a descent along the beautiful Cascade River and replenish yourself at Cascade Restaurant. There are trail segments to suit any length workout with beautiful scenery guaranteed on the Superior Hiking Trail. You’ll witness the same terrain as the uber-endurance trail runners that complete 15, 30, 50, or 100 miles!
Upcoming trail running events:
- Ham Run Half Marathon and 5K on the Gunflint Trail - May 6th
- Superior Spring Trail Race 25KM & 50KM - May 20th
Wanna get dirty? Ride Cook County! Newly opened single track at Britton Peak in Tofte or Pincushion Mountain high above the Grand Marais Harbor are waiting for you to test out the banks, berms, and bridges constructed in the past few years to provide you with fun, fun, fun!
If you’d rather opt for a longer ride with sustained climbs or double track traverses winding through red pine and maple forests and rolling gravel hills along the BWCAW border, there are many loops for easy, intermediate and advanced difficulty levels. Choose a route as short as 7 or 9 miles that can be completed in an hour or two, or push your event based training rides to the extreme with several 16-26 mile loops that can be connected to provide upwards of 60 miles of gradual grinds, chain breaking short climbs, technical descents and plenty of scenic gravel miles. Kick your wheeled workout up a few gears and bring it up north!
Upcoming biking events:
- Le Grand du Nord: Gravel Cycling Classic - May 27th
- Lutsen99er Mountain Bike Race - June 24th