After breakfast and a game of ping pong at the lodge from last night, we stopped at a nearby convenience store to buy our picnic sandwiches, and we were on our way at 8:45 a.m.
It was another great day! We actually rode 64 miles, the farthest I can remember us ever riding in one day. It would have been 44, but we added 20 miles to the trip by diverting to the Shin-go-bee connector trail (shortcut trail) on our way up to our Chase on the Lake lodging and dropping off our 20 lb. panniers before heading out to do the hilly and curving part of the Paul Bunyan Trail through the Chippewa National Forest. We had heard that it was really pretty, not to miss it, but it was very strenuous at times with up to 8% grades, so we had debated and debated whether or not to take it. Being purists for these trails, we truly wanted to ride it, but we also knew those panniers were adding strain to the pedaling on the uphill parts. When Martha came up with the idea of how to get rid of the pannier weight and still do the trail, we agreed to the new plan. So, in actuality we did the shortcut connector twice, up to Walker and back to where the trails diverted and then rode the hilly Paul Bunyan just the way we would have if we had not gone on to Walker first. We made a good choice because it was easier going back to the trail crossings than it was coming to Walker and because the hills through the forest seemed to be less uphill and more downhill in the southeast to northwest direction we were heading. And when we merged with the Heartland Trail going north to Walker, the trail was slightly more downhill than uphill, though it was mostly level. And it was a pleasant trail to ride also. It was just nice finishing the ride almost right back at the Chase lodging we had departed from 150 minutes prior.
What made this a good day, you ask? Well, perfect weather, the trail passing by several lakes on the way, less trail riding near the road side (especially north of Backus), more forested areas, getting to see the statues of Paul Bunyan’s girlfriend Lucetta and the son Paul, Jr., all the pretty red, white, and purple flowers along the way side (including the state flower—the lady slipper), watching the otter swim around in the little pond by the side of the trail—almost seeming to do so to entertain us, the little turtle on the trail, watching the may flies jump around off the trail and through the air as we approached them, our picnic lunch by a lake in Backus, the delicious ice cream cone from the Big Dipper store in Hackensack, good conversations with Martha as we rode along, and the friendly people we talked to in Hackensack and Pine River (the lady in the little railroad museum, the fellows riding the trail who we talked to when taking rest stops in these two towns, the woman outside the ice cream store who said we would really regret it if we didn’t ride the hilly part of the Paul Bunyan Trail, the older lady from somewhere around here who was riding 50 miles and with whom I rode along and talked to for a stretch, and the lady who gave us her copy of Minnesota Trails magazine when we talked about all the good biking trails in this state.
At the Chase lodging here in Walker—our room overlooking the huge Leech Lake (being a beautiful view out our window—we swam in the pool (Martha sat in the hot tub mostly) after returning from our extra bike ride, had a good burger at the lodging with their 7th anniversary price, sat out on the deck overlooking the lake and listened to a live musical performance, made s’mores at the small bonfire on the beach (compliments of the Chase), walked out on the pier, and then came back to the room to write this blog. We’re a bit sad that this is the last of the 30 Hall of Fame Trails (it is for Martha and was supposed to be for me also but since I missed Martha’s and Ed’s trip to South Dakota I will finish those two trails this summer). But it’s our last trail of this type—riding Amtrak and doing a multi-day ride with lodging along the way—so we’ve talked about our good times and how we’re not going to let reaching this goal prevent us from going on other biking excursions because we love “living in the moment” with them.