As we approached the parking lot, Jason saw that there was no one there so he chose to keep right on rolling to the "drop in" to the river trails. As we did, the rain lessened and by the time we found ourselves rolling on some flat double track, it had stopped completely. We could see signs of morning light shrouded by gray, hurrying cloud cover. It was about here that Jason came to a sudden halt and said, "Owl!" as he pointed upwards just in front and above his head. There was a large Owl that was staring at us in the gloom. It took flight and disappeared into the trees further into the woods. Cool!
<==Tough to see, but these are river otters poking their heads out of the water.
Then we rolled onwards, the darkness gave way to grayish morning light and we traveled down some more double track towards the Cedar Street bridge. Not long after we saw the owl, Jason stopped again as he noticed a commotion along the river bank. Four river otters were playing, splashing, and diving in the water. We stopped and watched a minute or two until they noticed us and stopped to watch us as well. I managed a shot with my camera and then we were off again.
<===Jason takes us on a side trip to explore old Cedar Highway and to show us a bridge that will be turned to pedestrian uses. Jason expects that this will become a highly trafficked route once it is completed in 2012 or so.
As we approached the Cedar Street bridge and crossed the river, Jason showed us the old highway and gave us a bit of history and future planning all in one concerning this abandoned stretch of roadway. We also saw a Bald Eagle in a tree as we crossed here. Then we backtracked to the causeway up to the highway bridge. Most everything underneath the bridge that is concrete is peppered with graffiti. Much of it really cool. There are some pretty talented urban artists in the Twin Cities area, that's for sure!
<=== Captain Bob getting introduced to Mike Riemer and Joe Meiser as "Miker" tells us about the coyote he saw on his way over to meet us.
As we backtracked to the bridge, Jason saw the group we were to meet up with rolling down the ramp off the approach to the bridge on our side. Captain Bob gave an excellent whistle to alert them to our presence and we all hooked up and headed eastwards down the double track to an undisclosed location in the woods where Jason, Joe Meiser, Mike Reimer and about six other guys were going to have "breakfast" in the woods.
Before we got to that point; however, the double track gave way to true single track and we found ourselves weaving and bobbing through tall weeds that were so green it seemed unreal. Someone from behind me said, "This is the "Wind Chime" part of the trail." I didn't quite understand what that meant until I got into the shoulder high thick dark green shoots of what looked to be a thickly stalked grass and heard all the spokes "tinkle-tunk" as we sped on our way through. Wind chimes indeed!
<===The group stands around and chats while Jason and Joe get coffee on the boil for us all.
After a bit more twisty single track, we pulled off to the side, dismounted and parked our rigs, while Jason and Joe pulled out their cooking gear. Others made a quick ground fire to ward off the chill of the morning, although the temperature was still in the mid-sixties. Soon coffee was being doled out, espresso, oatmeal, chocolate covered raisins, trail mix, and yes.....even Miker's hard boiled eggs with hot sauce! It was an odd breakfast, but it was really fun. Some of the group were actually riding into work at QBP. I was thinking, "Man! There is no way I'm working after a ride like this!" The thing was, we weren't even halfway done yet!
<===The ferry across Nine Mile Creek.
We eventually got everything packed up and everyone back on their bikes for more single track goodness. The trails were dry, hard, and fast with a few exceptions were the moisture was coming out of the ground and the trail was wet or greasy. There were parts where it was sandy, but for the most part, the sand was packed down really well by the volume of cyclists that traverse these trails.
I saw what appeared to me was a berm and set my front wheel in the midst of the "berm" getting ready to rail it when whumpf! I went off the bike and crashed heavily on my right side. Note to self: Sand doesn't make a great berm to rail a corner on, especially the fine river bottom sand found here!
Eventually we came to a get off where we had to hike over a small creek. Then not long after that, we crossed the ferry on Nine Mile Creek. The "ferry" is nothing more than an old floating "diving platform", not unlike what you might find in any upper Mid-West woodsy resort lake area. It is tied to some pull ropes and sits between two guide ropes, so that it doesn't float off down stream. We took turns getting across to continue our way in to Quality Bicycle Products.
Next installment: We finish the ride in, see the Salsa HQ, and begin our ride back to where we came from.