The Mesabi Bike Trail website offers a rather hokey legend about how this part of northern Minnesota came to be named “Mesabi.” Basically, it describes how native peoples thought of the glacier(s) that covered the far north during the Ice Age. The story says the area was “guarded by this great white giant, so large that he could not be seen over. He could not be walked around.” The early people named him Mesabi, which means “a great and stout giant man.”
When the weather warmed and the giant grew weak, he retreated, uncovering a land of abundant forests, lakes, and farmland. The Mesabi Bike Trail traverses 135 miles (of a planned 155 miles) through this terrain.
Russ and I had the opportunity to bike several sections of the trail this summer. Thanks to unseasonably warm weather on a weekend earlier this month, we had the chance to pull on our biking shorts and explore more. We took the Giant’s Ridge Spur, which we reached from the parking lot of the Giant’s Ridge Recreation Area near Biwabik, Minnesota.
Our goal was to make it across an extensive floating bridge that crosses a bog near the end of the spur, a 16-mile round trip. This goal was no big deal to Russ, a retiree who routinely bikes 50 miles at a pop, but for me, a person whose life is still ruled by working for a living, it would be the longest trip of the season.
I’ll cut to the chase: we made it! The trail runs through remote country, passing regrown timber lands and beaver ponds, and crossing cabin driveways. A relatively new section climbs up a rather large ridge – high enough that it sports cell phone towers on top. The trail on other side of the ridge features at least a half-mile downhill stretch that you can just blast down. The metal floating bridge is at the bottom; it runs ¾ of a mile through a wetlands in the Darwin Myers State Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The trail turns to gravel at the end of the bridge for a short stretch through the rest of the WMA.
Of course, going downhill means you have to go uphill on the way back. I needed to walk my bike a couple of times, but the fun I had during the downhill runs on the way out were totally worth it.
Soon after our bike trip, Old Man Winter returned with snow, so we put our bike shorts away for the season. Unlike those who lived during the Ice Age, at least we can look forward to taking them out again on the other side of winter.