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Blog #10: Can You Ride Fatbike on Trail that is Groomed for Nordic Ski Purposes?

Backside Trail for Fat Bike and Nordic Skiing: Cable, WI
Backside Trail for Fatbike and Nordic Skiing: Cable, WI

-Words by Josh Washlow, Managing Member, Up North Guided Tours, 1/31/2019

It was brought to our attention earlier this week that Fatbikers were spotted riding trail that is groomed for Nordic skiing in the Cable/Hayward area of Northwest Wisconsin. The immediate response from the community was “Don’t ride on the ski trails!” The purpose of this article is to explore the validity of such statements and to propose a course of action.

Our focus here is on trail that is groomed for Nordic skiing on land owned by Bayfield County that is managed by the Bayfield County Forest and Parks Department (referred to as the “Department” or the “Authority” below). Our conclusion is that the Bayfield County ski and bike recreational use Permitees in Cable have a duty under their respective Permits to work together in using and maintaining the trails for both Fatbike and Nordic ski purposes.

The Permit Holders have long-term Permitted Use Agreements for Recreational Purposes or the like that were issued by the Department to formalize permission of the recreational use each Permit Holder promotes on County land. Said Permits are issued at the discretion of the Authority.

Applicable Permit language follows. “Permittee agrees that all trails…. are open to the public and that only the Department has the authority to restrict their use.” “The Permittee will be required to work with other groups who also have formal permissions, from the Department, to utilize and maintain trails as part of this Agreement.”

The Department has not restricted use of trails that are groomed for Nordic skiing on County land by giving an exclusive use privilege to Nordic skiers, nor has it restricted Fatbike use on those trails in anyway whatsoever.

Could the problem be one of compatibility between Fatbike and Nordic skiing? We do not believe so. The American Birkebeiner Foundation has been running a Fatbike race annually since 2013; also the Birkie earlier this Winter put on a Fatbike skills clinic; the picture captioned above depicts a section of the Backside Trail in Cable that contains both Nordic ski and Fatbike lanes; and the trail our shop maintains on County land that is not a shared Fatbike and Snowmobile route is open to skiing, biking and snowshoeing.

All that said, is it ok that Fatbike is being ridden on ski trail? No, it is certainly not illegal, but it is disorderly, disrespectful, and rogue in nature. However, although not condoned here, bike being ridden on trail that has been groomed for Nordic skiing does show that there is demand for more Fatbike routes.

Effectively we are not advocating for new trail, but we are advocating for more shared bike/ski trail, especially more shared trail that promotes safety on Bayfield County land. We think a Fatbike route in Cable from where Westside and Backside meet that heads West to the North End Cabin via the Tony Wise and a portion of the North End Ski Trail is a good place to start granted that it provides Fatbikers direct access through the woods to warming and bathroom installations.

Accordingly, we believe rogue Fatbike activity is an indicator that this a good time for the Permit Holders to work together on expanding Bayfield County trail maintenance and use.

Up North Guided Tours, LLC is a Fatbike and Snowshoe Guided Tour, Equipment Rental, and Apparel Sales company. See www.upnorthguidedtours.com for more information, and contact 715/413-2076 and josh@upnorthguidedtours.com for discussion. Thanks for reading.

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Blog #9: Wolves, Fat Bike, and Cable WI

Wolf Pup Caught on Camera During Night Fat Bike Guided Tour
Wolf Pup
Wolves and the Night Fatbike Guided Tour
Wolves and the Night Fatbike Guided Tour

In mid-September of 2016 our shop offered a free night Fatbike guided tour to the local off-road cycling community of Cable, WI. I ran van support and shot four pictures in rapid succession of the tour as it headed my way. Two of the four, the Wolf pictures, are shown above.

It was around 10:30 at night, and I could see the riders’ lights coming towards me, so I climbed down from the van with camera in hand, and started walking towards the riders. When the riders were about a football field’s length from me, I stopped and started shooting pictures. The first and the second shots were the “Wolf Pup” and then the “Wolves” pictures, in that order. The 3rd and 4th shots simply showed headlamps getting closer to me, no animals were depicted.

The guides and tour participants stopped when they got to where I was standing, we conversed, they hydrated, and they completed the tour while I headed back to the shop to await their arrival. The tour was successfully completed by around 11:30 pm, I got up to our cabin in the hills a few miles North of where the pictures were taken by about 12:45, and then I proceeded to take my dogs for a 15 minute walk. Totally bushed, I grabbed a sleeping bag and headed out to our rear screened-in deck to sleep on a recliner. That deck is suspended over our backyard by around 12 ft.

At approximately 1:45 AM I was awoken by a howl, and then for about 35 seconds I experienced all the audio imaginable of hovering over a stampede of wild animals. It was incredibly intense, totally exhilarating, and completely life affirming. My sincere feeling is that if I was at ground level during those 35 seconds, this 1st hand report would not have been possible.

Irrespective of all the exhilaration I fell back asleep easily and did not wake up until later the next morning. When I got up I took a cursory, gallery glance at the pictures I took, selected the one that had the clearest view of the on-coming bike lights, and posted it on social media. About a year later I was looking for some older content for posting purposes and finally took a real look at the four pictures, including the two Wolf pictures. Yes, I got lucky, but there is more at play here.

My understanding is that there are two packs in the hills of Cable, each of which has approximately 13 members. The rules of thumb during an encounter with a large predator are to make yourself look big, make noise, provide the animal with ways out, provide the animal with space, and to not turn your back. In practice we do not make a ton of noise, nor do we scare the animal, but we do make ourselves look bigger, and we do whisper things like “I’m just going to go around you, no harm intended,” etc.

But what to do when you encounter a stealth pack of wolves? First, DON’T GO HIKING IN THESE WOODS ALONE AT NIGHT. But second, know that a night bike rider has a couple real advantages over Wolves. Wolves do not like bikes and they do not like night illumination. Bike-wise, not sure if it’s the metal, shininess, moving parts, bike speed, bike noise, etc. In any case these Wolves got out of the way of our bike tour, which is the same experience I had with Mexican Wolves in the early morning light on the Goat Trails of Palm Springs, CA back in the Spring of 2010. They saw me on bike and hightailed it to from where they came. Illumination-wise, light at night is simply not natural, it freaks them out. Bike and illumination saved me during the first encounter of that evening in September of 2016.

I have not seen or heard the Wolves in the hills of Cable since then, although I have heard them at night down by the lakes. They are amazing animals and help to make Cable the wilderness that it is to this very day. Make no mistake, we take the lessons from our experiences very seriously, and those lessons are the foundation of Up North Guided Tours.

For a real wilderness experience, with the right guide, look no further. See more @ www.UpNorthGuidedTours.com; and call 715/413-2076.

#wilderness; #fatbike; #wolves; #cableWI; #upnorthguidedtours