By Carlo Ferrari
DIARY OF A JOURNEY ON THE PEDALS IN THE STATE OF THE 10,000 LAKES AND OF THE STRONG FORESTS
North America is a continent wonderful, almost all of his territory to be discovered. Without a doubt, the areas that have always attracted tourism from the massed and have good reason to take precedence on the rest, but for those who love the journey of discovery of research, especially in an outdoor key, exist territories never touched by tour operator nor proposed by the media that, in addition to immersing the traveler in intact, boundless natural environments and original, present an America that still knows of ancient in customs, manners and fashions. Not the cars had changed from the bodies intrusive, emphatic and chromed, it would seem of being in a movie all the time. Americans, especially the Americans of the "countryside", are they never changed.
A JOURNEY DIFFERENT FROM THE USUAL
Minnesota, thirty-second dated state 1858, it is certainly worthy of a trip totally "outside", especially dedicated to who loves to move and discover on the bicycle, riding a lot in the boundless green of the campaign, as much on urban cycle paths as much small towns like the "Twin Cities", le famous "twin cities", Minneapolis and the adjoining one capital, Saint Paul. Lack of continuity urban or, if we prefer, the great distances that they separate the places of interest from each other to hire a car on which to load two wheels, to draw up an itinerary and limit yourself to daily cycle-excursions, which are then limited will have very little in such a large America a state that has almost 5,000 km of cycle paths, and with a time that is always too short, to constantly put so many stages in table to leave so much to see.
THE "TWIN CITIES"
The mandatory and absolutely categorical passage through Minneapolis and Saint Paul, with one escaped to the Commercial Park and entertainment of the Mall of America, gigantic and well equipped of exciting entertainment and galleries for each need. The Twin Cities have now reached Portland as the most pedalable city in the US, and indeed sustainable mobility has it here reached levels unthinkable on an Italian scale. IS compulsory to obtain the Minnesota State maps
Bicycle Map and Twin Cities Bike Map and free the wheels. favorite is the "Chain of Lakes", which links between they Brownie Lake, Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles and Lake Harriet, and that makes a great tour with departure and arrival at Minnehaha Park, which incorporates the most beautiful section of the West River Parkway Trail to Downtown Minneapolis, from where you take it in the area of the lakes; on the return you return with the Minnehaha Parkway. 45 km flat and fun.
The Minnehaha Park can be reached by metrorail, which remains an excellent means of integration with the bike to jump to more points in Minneapolis and Saint Paul and so start touring at will. Or go to the Fort Snelling stop, get on the
Shepard Road Bike Trail in the direction Saint Paul, cross the Mississippi to the Lilydale Park Trail, go up the opposite bank to the Wabasha Bridge, enter the Downtown, explore well the capital and therefore return to Minneapolis with the metrorail to the East Bank stop, from where climb back into the saddle and return along the river for the
West River Road after brushing properly the downtown cycle paths to the US Bank Stadium and finish the day with a flat and slow Midtown
Greenway, the two-lane super-cycle along the which to sip a drink in one of the many bars that liven up the banks. The total touches 60 km, but non-existent distractions and height differences do not they weigh on the legs.
East of Minneapolis is the tourist resort of Wayzata deserves a note and an excursion for the 63 km Dakota Rail Regional Trail that surrounds the Lake Minnetonka. Even here the green dominates the environment, but to make cycling on the Minnesota cycle paths special is the total layout of the routes, their state, their tracks, the camaraderie of Americans always in the mood to play.
Just outside of Saint Paul, the Gateway State Trail, combined with the Brown's Creek Trail of about 10 km, leads to the historic Stillwater, considered the birthplace of Minnesota, a thriving timber trade center of which it retains the opulence of time visible in historic buildings, like the iron Lift Bridge that crosses the St Croix River to be part of the Crossing Loop Bike Trail, an 8 km loop. You can choose the day trip from the capital, or stay overnight in Stillwater and maybe enjoy a small trip on the old boat.
Another destination not to be missed outside the city, or with the option of staying overnight at the historic Red Wing (St James Hotel), is the Cannon Valley Trail, from Cannon Falls to Red Wing following the bed of the Chicago Western Railroad, a 66 km round trip between meadows and forest with equipped stops and a cheap restaurant where you can have a snack mid-way. Carina Cannon Falls, with the homonymous small waterfalls and buildings of the early 1900s.
Exploring the south, another photogenic and very hospitable town is Historic Lanesboro, in Bluff Country, where it is well worth stopping. At one time it was an area where timber was processed and moved by rail. Today the river that fed the sawmills is a source of fun for canoeists, and the railway has become the Root River Trail, which from Houston to Fountain measures 70 km immersed in greenery. The prettiest section, from Lanesboro to Rushford, allows as many with the formula a / r, with views of pretty villages like Whalan and snack in "Happy days" style clubs and the Rushford station that looks like a movie studio.
Then an hour's drive will take you to Rochester, with an interesting female Franciscan monastery and the highly prestigious Mayo Clinic. The city is known for its MTB trails along the Zumbo River and the Douglas State Trail, 20 km paved up to Pine Island, in a mix of forests, fields, pastures. The roads of the area are so little frequented as to allow a return ring to the base.
TOWARDS THE GREAT NORTH
At this point it is natural curiosity to move towards the boundless and uncontaminated environments of the forests of the North, and the first stop is Bemidiji, the first city on the Mississippi, which welcomes visitors with Loop Lake, a tour of the lake, and a nice town cycle path, the Sculpture Walk, a circuit that for twenty years has housed sculptures of young talents continually renewed and the giant Babe “The blue Ox” and Paul Bunyan, the woodcutter myth, legend and image of Minnesota that gives its name to the homonymous Bike Trail that from here starts to finish after almost 200 km in Brainerd.
A good stop to enjoy the Paul Bunyan Trail can be Walker, less than an hour's drive south, in the Heartland Lake Area, Itasca State Park, on Lech Lake, a setting for long sunsets. A must for the outdoors, with canoeing, fishing, hiking, biking and more. There is a ring of about 40 km, called The Walker Loop, which brings together in the heart of the Chippewa National Forest the Heartland Trail, the Paul Bunyan Trail and the Shingobee Connection Trail, with sure encounters with foxes and deer. The following day it is time to stretch on the Heartland Trail up to Park Rapids, 50 km, from where a Uber taxi can take you to the nearby springs of the Mississippi, a crowded and motorized place, but a milestone for a traveler in the land of America.
After days pushing on the pedals, Crosby is a relaxing stop at the Cuyuna State Recreation Area, where you let the MTB wheels spin on the lake trails of Haul Road and Drag Line and then, with the bdc, spend a slow afternoon stinging miles but full of photo stops and meetings between the quiet city streets and on the Cuyuna Lakes Paved Trail, a country lane with blue and crystal clear views. 13 km to Riverton passing 6 spring lakes and 15 originated from abandoned mining wells.
On the road that, due to force of things and duty of reverence, leads to the shores of Lake Superior, one cannot be exempt from the Mesabi Trail, 70 km from Grand Rapids to Hibbing, with the day starting with an educational visit to the Forest History Center to immerse yourself in the daily life of a late nineteenth-century woodcutter, and end with the small but interesting "Greyhound Museum", the history of the most famous bus in the world, an active part of the whole movie "America on the road" novel and literary. Over 220 km long, the Mesabi Trail crosses mining vestiges, historic buildings, visions of American life over time, lakes born of abandoned mining wells, small centers of this strip of Minnesota increasingly isolated towards the north. A shuttle service is available to start and end the trail at will and then return at the start.
Finally, as good Italians, a land of navigators, cyclists and bathers, here we are in Duluth, the southern shores of Lake Superior, for many the largest in the world, for the locals the home sea. Considered one of the most "outdoor" cities in the United States, similar to a seaside resort on the infinity of the lake, Duluth is a reproduction on a smaller scale in San Francisco, with the hill behind it, the steep streets, the Aerial Lift iron bridge Bridge of 1905 on the Park Point tombolo, the recreational areas on the bay. It has pristine forests, miles of trails for MTB and hikers, museums, clubs and shows. The lakeside path called Lake Walk East is a 25 km round trip from Canal Park to Lester Park, while on the opposite side is the arrival of the Willard Munger State Trail, which is 120 km further south. For off-road lovers there are 70 km of single tracks that cross the entire city line, such as the Duluth Epic Traverse Trail, which fills a day in the sections of Antenna Farm Trail, Keene Creek Trail and Western Waterfront Trail only. Going up the bank towards the Canadian border, the Gitchi Gami State Trail starts at the photogenic Gooseberry Falls, often parallel to Hwy 61, sometimes inside the forest. Along 140 km up to Beaver Bay and at the end, already in the Lutsen-Schroeder a / r section of 44 km reserve a nice ride and an almost alpine environment, with the Temperance River waterfalls enriching the photo book.
Minnesota, once the state of the 10,000 lakes to which today adds 5,000 km of cycle paths. The forests looted over a century ago have grown back protected, it is no longer the land of miners and woodsmen, but of lovers of the great outdoors and the most genuine "bike friendly" that exists!