S24O - Sub 24-hour Overnighter

Apparently that's a trend now: camping trips that take less than a day.

Anyway, inspired by a co-worker who biked to Duluth this week, I decided I needed to bike somewhere too. It was time to load up my bike with tent and sleeping bag and head back to the Carver Park Reserve and find the bike camping site.

I left on Wednesday night at about 7 P.M. Although I made very good time, sunset was around 8:30 P.M. and soon I found myself riding in the dark, under a canopy of trees, with just a sliver of a moon. I have lights on my bike, but they are really intended to help other people see me, not to help me see the trail.

And I had my sunglasses with me but not my regular glasses, so I got lots of gnats in my eyes. What a weird way for a gnat to die. You're just flying along, and then splat: a giant eye hits you.

In the darkness, I saw a large shadow cross the trail. A dog? A deer? A wolf? An axe-murderer? A mountain lion? Bigfoot?

I finally got to the turn off the main Minnetonka LRT trail to the Carver Park Reserve. It had an eerie feel in the dark, like I was the only person on this slightly strange planet. And then, around a blind curve, 2 other cyclists riding 2-abreast come careening at me. "Sorry!" one of them said.

Signs that in broad daylight would be hard to miss were suddenly inconspicuous, and I had to stop at every fork and see which way I needed to go.

Eventually I found the campground. It's basically for car camping, but there is an unnumbered space — I think it was between 45 and 46, or 46 and 47 — that is slightly more secluded and reserved for cyclists. I missed it on my first circuit through. My second time around someone said, "You looking for the bike site?"

Another cyclist was there and had a good fire going in the fire pit. There were 2 tents set up already, more than I expected on a Wednesday night. 2 picnic tables, and benches around a fire pit. Nearby were drinking fountains and toilets. Using my bike light as a flashlight, I got my tent set up and joined Steve by the fire and tore into the sandwich and other snacks I'd brought. But since I figured I had to be up at 5 A.M. to decamp and head back, I turned in pretty early.

Oh, I forgot — I guess it has been a few years — camping sucks! The ground is hard, there's no air conditioning, and mosquitoes are everywhere. Enough of those evil inspects snuck into my text while I was getting it set up that they tortured me all night. I tossed and turned until nearly 4, when I somehow drifted off. Then I woke up, it was 6, and I was already running late. I'd brought a swimsuit so I could jump into Lake Auburn, but I decided to scrap that. I had everything packed by 6:30 A.M. and was back on the road.

It's funny how the same flat stretch of path from the day before now felt like it was uphill all the way. As I got closer to Minneapolis there were more and more bike commuters flying past me. Yeah yeah, I muttered, but I'm on mile 52 here. I got back home at about 8:45, took a quick shower, changed clothes, and biked to work. I rolled in a little later than expected, but not too far off my mark.

Success, right? Well, kind of: I was exhausted. I think the S24O might be best attempted on a weekend, with a built-in day of recovery.

About 28 miles each way. Next time, leave earlier, and take a regular pair of glasses. Maybe a small air mattress or something for under the sleeping bag. And maybe not in August? Some cooler time of year when the mosquitoes have started to die off? And matches: without Steve's fire, that most-essential campground element would have been missing.

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