Tuesday, May 10, 2011


This past weekend Trish and I went on our first bike camping trip together. We had a site reserved for Saturday night at Jay Cooke State Park, which is about a thirty mile ride from our house. Thirty miles seems to be about the perfect distance for an overnight trip. I guess the only real drawback with going a shorter distance is finding a way to kill time before leaving. I think we actually got more tired from futzing around while we waited to leave than we did from the ride.

Packing for the trip wasn't that difficult. We pretty much just packed the same things we would take on a backpacking trip. We are by no means ultra light campers. Including the weight of the panniers, I ended up with just under 40 pounds of gear, distributed evenly front and rear. Trish carried about 25 pounds on the rear. We would love to be able to get the weight down a bit, but we do want to be comfortable. Replacing our 8 pound, 4 person tent would probably be  a good start. I'm sure we'll get more ideas on how to save weight as we do this more.

On the Road
We left a few minutes before noon Saturday. The temperature when we left was in the low 50s, and we had about a 10mph tail wind to help us along. It didn't take very long to get used to riding with the extra weight, although I did have a little bit of heel strike on the rear panniers.

American Bittern
Our first bit of excitement on the trip was getting to see this American Bittern just off the side of the road. We've seen and heard one before from a distance, but have never seen one up close. They blend in very well with their environment, and will stick their neck up and sway back and forth just like the reeds they spend much of their time in. 

About to Butt Heads
We passed a couple of houses with some very cool art in their yards. These two guys along with three others nearby were in a field along the road.

Thompson Reservoir
Once we got to Thomson, we stopped at house having an outdoor gear sale. The owner let us ride up an access road that went across his property to the east side of the reservoir. If only we had our kayaks with us.

Red Squirrel
One of the locals.

We arrived at our campsite around four. It turns out we didn't have to reserve a site as the campground was mostly deserted. Better safe than sorry.

Swinging Bridge

St Louis RiverAfter setting up camp, we went down to the park office to get some firewood. But before picking it up, we had to stop and take the requisite swinging bridge and raging river photos.

This is where I planned on putting the picture of me carrying the bundle of firewood on my bike had we done that. We had done enough riding already and just decided to walk and carry it.

One of two fires that evening. It started to rain around dinner time, so we took refuge in the tent until it passed.
We turned in about nine and slept relatively well. The temp got down to about 40 degrees, which is what my sleeping bag is rated to. Trish was warm in her bag, but despite my being head to toe in wool and wearing a jacket, I was a bit chilled. You'd think living in northern Minnesota I would have a warmer sleeping bag. I was going for light weight when I bought it. I may have to rethink that.
We woke up before 6:00 and after having a quick breakfast and coffee, packed up and headed for home. 

The Way Home
This is the trail that connects the Munger Trail to the campground. It's about a mile long and is pretty much all uphill on the way out. It was the only section of trail we rode on the whole trip.

Other than a little shortcut we found, we rode the same route home as we took to the park. The scenery was still just as good.


  1. All right, looks like a fun overnighter. I've been waiting for your trip report. You've motivated me to try and get out on one before the summer crowds start arriving.

    Is that one of the walk-in sites? It's looks like the site I had on an S24O last year. I was at the first walk-in site as you leave the car parking area.

  2. That's the one. Other than being too close to the cabins, or at least to the cabin with the loud talking people, it was a very nice site. It has the biggest, most level tent pad we've experienced so far. It's nice to not roll off your sleep pad.
    Next time we're going to try for walk in site #68. I took a walk over to it and it seems to be a bit more secluded. Lots of nice cedars.

  3. Nice job! S240s before summer are fun, especially when you don't have to deal with crowds and the temp isn't that cold.

    I just did two. The first one 4/30-5/1 was in the Columbia River Gorge with a bunch (20+) people. The weather was beautiful. Last weekend was with 10 people to Battle Ground Lake. The weather was soggy.

    Two questions for ya:
    1)What kind of rack do you have on the LHT? I have a Jandd Expedition which is quite long, so you can move bags far enough back to avoid heel strike.
    2)Do you know if Minnesota State Parks has any policy regarding bicyclists? I know that in Oregon the camp ranger is supposed to find space for a bike tourist/camper even if the campground is technically full.

  4. I've got a Tubus Logo. I actually still have room to move the hooks on the panniers almost 2 inches. I moved them a little before the ride home, but still need to move them a bit more.

    Minnesota has the same rule. I can't find it officially, but I have read about it on several bog posts and message boards.

  5. @adventure! I attended the Bike Expo at the State Fair Grounds in St Paul two weeks ago. There was a Minnesota DNR booth with a DNR represenative there handing out brochures on the State Parks and State managed trails, etc. I asked him if there was any policy at State Parks specific to bicycle travelers. At first he seemed to have no clue what I was asking. Then he offered a rather vague answer that seemed intended to try to satisfy me enough to get me to move along.

    He indidcated he knew of no policy. So if there is a policy like this, it's a hit or miss situation when you pull into a state park. In other words you can't count on equal treatment at every state park.

  6. I too find bicycle camping enjoyable. It sounds as if you had a very nice time...and a tailwind. Thanks for the write up and giving me the push get out and do one of my own.

  7. Darin/Doug: That's what I don't like, the ambiguity and dependence on whether the park ranger is "cool". It's hard when planning a tour to know where you'll overnight beforehand. I don't like making reservations since plans can change, things come up (mechanical failures) and you can't get to the park you were planning on camping at, etc.

    And it's not like a bike camper is the same as an RV or even car camper. We don't need a lot of space. If the regular spots are full, you can put us in the picnic area or something.

    I wish more states would be like Oregon in regards to the "We'll make space for a bicycle tourist" policy. If a state wants to encourage bicycle tourism, that would be a good start.

    When I planned a tour through New England a few years back, I asked one state's parks department if they had an "Oregon" policy. They basically laughed at me.