Tag Archives: snow

Low to high point fat bike fun in Minnesota

Ice beard less than halfway through the ride.
Fun adventure in the north woods of Northern Minnesota today. I rode from the lowest point in Minnesota (Lake Superior, 603′) to the highest point in Minnesota (Eagle Mountain, 2301′). It was a tough ride with lots of uncertainty. I had attempted this same ride in 2016, but failed. In 2017, I was hit by a car a month before our Christmas trip and was still on crutches while the rest of the family went skiing. This year, I had set aside a day to forgo skiing and try this same ride again, but this time a bad winter storm was bearing down supposed to hit about the time I made it back to the cabin. Lots of uncertainty – the only thing in my favor this year was warm temps in the teens, but that was actually a problem as I sweated a ton and had one water bottle for an 8 hour ride.

Highs and Lows
I have been on some fun adventures on the bike over the years. Here’s all the state high points I have climbed on my bike in reverse order of when I climbed them.

  • Minnesota – 2018
  • Virginia (second highest point, haven’t climbed highest yet) – 2017
  • Mississippi – 2016
  • Florida – 2014
  • Arkansas – 2012
  • Tennessee – 2009
  • Georgia – 1997
  • North Carolina – 1995
  • South Carolina – 1995
  • Alabama – 1994

Minnesota and Florida are special, though, in that I have now ridden in both of them from the lowest point to the highest point of the state in a single ride. South Carolina is interesting, too, in that I rode from the highest point to the lowest point in the state in a single ride, but not the other direction. Ok, let’s get back to this Minnesota adventure.

2016 failed attempt
In 2016, I was thwarted by lots of snow and a late start after skiing half a day. I made it to the start of the trail at sunset (without a light) only to find the trail covered in half a foot of new snow from the day before plus who knows how many feet of snow under that. I tried to ride the first few feet and slid out and decided it just wasn’t going to happen. I made it home well after dark (almost 7pm). I vowed to come back the next year and start earlier in the day and take a light. Here’s a timelapse video of the first 9 miles of the ride before my battery died in the cold.

2017 crutches
In 2017, I was recovering from surgery on my foot after being hit by a car traveling 45-50+mph on a county road south of Birmingham. I was going 13mph up a hill at the time of impact. Very, very thankful that my worst injury was a torn-up foot. I impacted the car’s windshield which acted like a cushion and saved my life. The damage to my foot came afterwards sliding alongside the road after the driver slammed on his brakes. I have no memory of the collision or aftermath. My memory from before is spotty, too, the only thing I specifically remember is stopping at the gas station in Sterrett to buy gatorade about 10 miles before impact. I was on crutches while the family went skiing.

2018, success!!!
Our plan for this year included three days of skiing, but we only bought a two-day pass for me so I could try this ride again. The weather forecast for Lutsen down on the lake was for a temp in the low teens rising to the 20s by the afternoon with a big winter storm coming. 12-18inches of snow predicted with wind gusts blowing to 35mph starting by about 4:30PM. My worst case scenario would have me back to the cabin by about 4PM, so I thought I was safe.

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Mountains and valleys in the Alabama snow

Snow showers visible from the top of Blount Mountain near Straight Mountain, Alabama.Snow showers visible from the top of Blount Mountain near the community of Straight Mountain, Alabama. For those that have done the Tour de Blue, this is the overlook that is used as a rest stop just past Walker Gap.

During my Sleeping Giants adventure last week, I rode in shorts and a short sleeve jersey unzipped because the temp got up into the 70s even with the rain. Yesterday, exactly one week later, the temperature stayed in the upper 20s all day except towards the end when the sun came out and I experienced some of the heat island effect of Birmingham. During the ride, I was also able to experience something that doesn’t happen very often here in Alabama – intermittent convective snow showers. These are basically the same thing as summer rain showers, except with snow instead. In between the showers were very brief periods of blue sky and sun as well as gray overcast skies. The pic above is from the top of Blount Mountain after climbing up US Hwy 231 in a snow shower (video below). Note how you can see two distinct snow showers obscuring different parts of the valley and ridges below.

My goal for this ride was to head northeast of Birmingham because that is where the most snow was going to be. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to make it all the way up to Lookout Mountain, so I settled for Chandler Mountain, which at 1500′ would have the highest chance of accumulating snowfall. There wasn’t a lot of snow in any one of the showers, and I don’t think it had snowed at all when I climbed up the 1 mile Cat 3 Chandler Mountain wall used as the finish of the Sumataunga Training race series. I turned around at the top and decided to head back all the way across Pine Mountain / Straight Mountain / Blount Mountain to get back to Birmingham.

This really long mountain has a lake in the middle of the mountain called “Inland Lake”, and I noticed the turn for the east side boat ramp, which I plan to explore on another ride another day. In the meantime, check out the maps and pics from the ride.

Annotated Garmin 1000 elevation profile - interesting to compare the relative size of climbs (particularly Vestavia Dr, Karl Daly, Walker Gap, Chandler Mountain, and US 231). Click to enlarge.Annotated Garmin 1000 elevation profile – interesting to compare the relative size of climbs (particularly Vestavia Dr, Karl Daly, Walker Gap, Chandler Mountain, and US 231). Click to enlarge.

Tri-county annotated topocreator map of the ridges and valleys on this ride. Click to enlarge and see detail.Tri-county annotated topocreator map of the ridges and valleys on this ride. Click to enlarge and see detail.

Earth slides.

A photo posted by Brian Toone (@kartoone76) on

Icicles, waterfall, and snow.

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Abandoned water tower climb across the valley from the cell tower climb.

A photo posted by Brian Toone (@kartoone76) on

Downtown Birmingham in the distance, January 2012 tornado damage path in the foreground.

A photo posted by Brian Toone (@kartoone76) on