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Blog 13: Shewahmegon ’81

Leaning back against the old lodge siding in the screened-in, the boy looked out at the bay of the Northern end of the Lake. It was his third day of being away from his family for the first time. The scene was grey as the rain steadily came down in mid-June, but the boy knew there was something special about Lake Owen. Couldn’t help it, but the tears ran down his face, no sobbing, just silent tears.

One of the older boys noticed, threw his right arm around the boy’s shoulders, looked him in the face w/ a smile, and asked: “what’s wrong little dude?” The boy thought, nothing much to say: “oh, it’s been raining for 3 days.” “Don’t worry bud, this will be the best Summer of your life.” The boy took comfort, opened himself up to making new friends, learned how to drop a water ski, paddled, camped, and became one of the boys. Nothing quite like Lake Owen: clear water, islands, and very little change. Nothing quite like Shewahmegon either.

Shewahmegon is now long gone, but the Chequamegon and the County Forests of my youth are pretty much the same. Sparse human population, enormous natural biodiversity, they contribute a headwater to the Mississippi, and they still have boasting rights to the clearest Lake in the State. One of the last remnants of the Wild Northern Midwest.

For a day excursion with a guide who has been exploring the woods of the Cable Area, WI since ’81, contact us by phone, text, and email as stated on our website www.upnorthguidedtours.com for questions, discussion, and to book your reservations. Thank you for reading, here’s to all our health. -Josh 4/28/20

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Blog #12: Harkenings of the BMX Days

Got a message from the guy who was my best friend during our 4th and 5th grade years about a week ago. He looks back fondly at our time together throwing the football around and listening to Rock ‘n Roll. I on the other hand remember the beginning of our BMX days.

Some kids are just cooler than others. This guy had older siblings and a Dad who knew that style mattered. So he had a chrome Haro w/ black components and black mag wheels. I did not, but my Dad did get me a bike to tool around on, and that was good enough for sure. Yes we did find some primitive dirt trail others started building, yes we did enhance existing jumps and added some of our own, and yes we did have our “backwoods fun,” but that was just a bit of it.

It was really about getting out. Out of the house, out of my neighborhood, and out on bike. My buddy had a print shop in his neighborhood that had an old cooler, you know, top sliding door, reach in, grab a pop in a glass bottle, remove that cap with the imbedded bottle cap remover, and there you go, instant old school refreshment. I can just imagine how it was for the shop staff: two sweaty, smelly boys walk into the place of business, hoot’n and hollering, just to grab two $.35 sodas… Reaching in I could never see much with the sweat in my eyes and all, sometimes a Grape Fanta, sometimes a Dr. Pepper, but sometimes a frigg’n Tab! “Ty, do you have another $.35?” Knew the answer was NO by the snickering. That’s what I look fondly back at, it was the beginning of my “doing it for the good Xs” riding attitude.

Lot of years have gone by, still ride for fun, and I do Up North Guided Tours when I can to get you out for an off-road, off-the-beaten-path experience that will remind you of how it felt when it was new. Accepting Reservations for this Summer now. Thank you for reading. -Josh 4/26/2020

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Blog # 11: The Up North Guided Premonition

It's all just a dream.
Premonition Realized!

It’s dark and cold out with good snow coverage, not dark like night, but dark like the last bit of daylight has just left the sky. Standing in the parking lot looking at the dark cottage I notice a line of skiers on both sides and behind the building. There are no mountains, only a good-sized hill behind the cottage, off in the distance. The other two noticeable features of the cottage are that all the windows are illuminated by interior lights and there is a large, analogue, Roman numeral clock on the outside of the structure.

Every time I woke from that dream I felt good, in that I liked the dream, and I was always surprised about how vidid the dream was. Vivid, not in color, but vivid in how well I remembered the dream. Must have dreamt that scene 20 times from when I was about 16 to about 22 years old. And I always wondered, how the hell was there skiing without mountains???

I was lucky in that my parents took us on several downhill ski trips when I was young. Never really liked downhill skiing but loved being in the mountains, and I was intrigued by small town, mountain life. Towards the end of the time period when I had that recurring dream, I got hooked on snowboarding and moved out West to chase snow and pursue mountain biking. Have not had that dream since those days but I remember it like I had it last night.

Fast forward 23 years and I’m standing in front of the cottage that would become the Up North Guided Tours shop with the real estate broker, and I smack my head with my right hand and say: “it’s the fucking dream!”

I did the deal and started the company. Like waking up from the dream I felt good, real good, working the business. In the same token, it’s been a dark time. I’ve been away from my wife and kids, a lot; there has been no demand for our Fatbike services; and then there’s the enormous money loss. The money is just the money, it’s not what drives me. The fire in me is the comprehensive skill set that allowed me to set the company up and operate it coupled with the lifestyle. The legal background played a hand, especially regarding land use. My real estate work played a hand, not only in buying and improving real estate, but also in operating the cabin as a vacation rental. My Tahoe snowmobiling experience played a huge role both in knowing how to guide day trips as well as knowing how to snowmobile the steep powder. Then there’s all the business experience that got me to this point. But of equal importance is my extensive Fatbike experience. What can I say, I was in the right place at the right time back in the Fall of ’09. All that experience, all that talent, could not prevent me from the huge failure called Up North Guided. MOTHERFUCKER! What a mess.

The dream laid it all out. I feel good about the Up North Guided work to this day, but it has been a very dark time. I’m sure timing played a role in this too. After all I am almost 48. A guided tour business is something to start when you are young, not when you have real responsibility. Further, Cable is a Nordic ski town, not a Fatbike town. I’m not a Nordic ski guy. Next time I promise to pay attention…

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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

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Blog #8: Zen and the Art of Snow Bike

Snow Bike Zen

You know by stepping outside early on any Winter’s day just what kind of Snowbike day it will be.  It’s in the falling snow; it’s in the air you breath; and it’s in the firmness of the ground you stand on.  What is the temperature, are the air and snow moist, is there new snow, how’s the ice factor, how’s the wind, and how direct is that sun?  Your mind and senses already scanned thru the questions, you already know what to do, when to do it, and what is to come.

You know what tires you are going to use; you know how much pressure to start with; and you know if it’s a plowed gravel, singletrack, frozen lake, or old school slog kind of day.  You know conditions change.  You know taking a bit out is easier than putting some in.  You don’t need a gauge to tell you PSI, you do it by feel.  You already know that it’s a 2 pairs of wool sox or a ditch the outer shell day.  You know that brining a rain shell just may save you from hypothermia on this glorious day!  You know a Contigo filled with warm lemon tea and honey is good for your soul, spirit, and bod.  

But most fittingly, you know that when you close your eyes as you approach the berm head on, when you lift on your front end midway up the berm,  and then when you pivot on your rear tire 180 degrees at the top of the berm, you will open your eyes and the berm will be safely behind you.  Sensei!  You know that tapping into The Way is the way.

Remember all you Zen Masters, make sure to have fun and be safe!  You can always practice your art with us.  Thanks for reading!  For more see www.UpNorthGuidedTours.com, email josh@upnorthguidedtours.com, and call 715/413-2076. 

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Blog #7: Fat Bike, Falling w/o Getting Hurt

Fat Bike Enduro Feature

Fat Bike Enduro Feature
Rode it all the time, then one slippery day, I lost momentum and fell backwards down it!

Ok, the title is a bit of a misnomer, but calling a blog Minimizing your Chances of Getting Hurt When U Fall Off Your Fatbike is lame.  Now in a serious tone, any seasoned mountain biker knows there are some falls you take where you simply have no time to react.  We, as off-road cyclists, know those falls have to be taken as they come, even though we take pre-cautions and ride under control (a relative, case-by-case term that is based on our individual abilities).  After all, we love the challenges of our sport, but we all know it comes with known dangers.  I have a chipped tooth I never had fixed as my example.

All that said and forgetting bad arial landings and Red Bull stuff, there are 3 ways to fall when riding Fat/MTB/BMX Bike: over the handlebars, to either side, and the worst, straight backwards.  The purpose of this Blog is to discuss techniques to minimize the likelihood of getting hurt under each scenario.  Under all three, the most important take away is to keep your body loose and flexible w/ some bend to your knees, ankles, elbows, and wrists.  Think about the difference b/w landing on a foot with a rigid vs. a bent knee.  There are a lot more ways medically for things to go wrong when our joints are locked.  Also, please note that our human reaction when falling is to get back to the ground as quickly as possible, which makes us want to stretch out our leg, effectively locking the joint, just to make contact one second sooner.  Further, we have to scan the ground we are falling on so we are prepared for the surface we are landing on.  That quick, in real-time, scan can be the difference b/w twisting an ankle and riding away.

Over the Bars.  Very simply: head back, torso upright, let go of the handlebars, and step over the bars off the bike with the foot that is in the 12:00 to 3:00 position.  Keep that knee bent into making contact with the ground, your other leg and foot will follow leaving your bike behind you.

To Either Side.  Bend the leg on the side you are falling to and keep that ankle loose but ready for contact with the ground.  At the same time you need to visually scan the terrain you are landing in so you are prepared for your first foot to make contact with the ground and you are aware of rocks and other natural features below.  Remember, you, with a change of your own body weight distribution as you are falling, can redirect where your feet and hands actually land.  It all happens quick, but the idea is to land on the most solid piece of ground as possible.  Keep that knee bent, wait for your first foot to get to the ground.

The Dreaded Backwards.  Very steep, close to vertical, but short inclines taken at speed with momentum are great gravity features, but misjudging same and not having enough momentum, can be disastrous.  Nose of the seat in your spine or up your ass when that rear tire gets to level ground…  Nasty stuff.  Point here is that you have to re-direct your body weight as you are rolling backwards to either side of the bike or to the side you are naturally falling to as dictated by the terrain you are riding.  Then follow the To Either Side routine.

It’s nice to be able to write this stuff down and have you folks read it, but the reality is that the foregoing has to be thought about and actually practiced while falling to be truly effective.  It can become like 2nd Nature.  Not saying we want to take you out on a Fatbike Falling Adventure, but we can help you hone your Fatbike skills by practicing advanced techniques, while having fun.  Contact josh@upnorthguidedtours.com or 715/413-2076 and see www.upnorthguidedtours.com for more.  Thanks for reading!

#fatbike #fattirebikes #upnorthguidedtours #fatbikesafety

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Blog #6: Fat Bike’s Effect on the Mind

Primitive Fat Bike Trail in Northbrook

Blog 6:

Primitive Fatbike Trail in Northbrook, IL
Primitive Fatbike Trail in Northbrook, IL

If we for the most part forget the physical side of Fatbiking for purposes of this Blog and focus on the positive effects riding Fat Tire Bikes have on us mentally, it’s impossible not to notice at some point during a ride that our attention is diverted from whatever issue we are wrestling with in our minds to our riding, pure and simple.  Taking our minds off issues that can absorb us help us give our minds a break so we can revisit same later and make decisions with a clear head.  I have found that all forms of off-road bike riding have this desirable mental effect.  What makes the Fatbike experience different is the shortened length of time it takes for minds to unwind.  It’s the wide tires, they smooth out your route more than other non-road bikes allowing you to “get into the zone” more quickly.

It’s usually business on my mind.  Yesterday it was AdWords: to use AdWords or not to use AdWords, again…  This campaign will be better, is fat bike a good search term(?), I’ll tailor searches to a smaller group of surrounding zip codes, how much am I going to spend(?), etc.  By the time I’m reviewing a mini-issue for the 5th time I start putting on my bike clothes, filling a water bottle, running through a bike and the gear I’m bringing, and I’m out the door to take a little Fatbike spin.

It was a few blocks to the woods from my office, and when I got in, the sun was just beaming thru the canopy to the forest floor.  Righteous majesty, impossible not to smile.  The forest is lush this early September due to late Summer storms.  The latter season wild flowers cover the floor to both sides of the trail with yellows, whites, and pinks.  My mind was lightening up but open market per click pricing reared its head.  How is it pricing is determined???  Then a root that was noticeably more pronounced than earlier in the season grabbed my attention, and once my composure was regained I focused on gaining riding efficiencies back by limiting the bobbing effect, shifting up by 2 gears, allowing my legs to carry the burden by relieving my lower back of strain with a change of riding position, and of course by keeping my breathing as relaxed as possible.  I love it when efficiencies are paying off, efforts are rewarded by that feeling that you are flowing thru the forest, it’s an “at one with all” sense.  That sun kept breaking thru lighting up leaves and the forest floor, and I couldn’t help but notice how high the first Savannah remnant’s grasses I rode by were.  Leaves were army green, nothing was hinting at Fall yet.  Man was I moving thru the woods!

Sometimes that’s all it takes.  Put the issue down for even a couple moments to take in some nature, get some exercise, do what you enjoy doing, and voila, you are refreshed, ah clarity, the answer presents itself.  Nothing I can do about per click pricing, start with $100/mo. in clicks, limit ad appearances to those searches being made from 5 surrounding zip codes, etc.  Those fat tires do smooth a lot out.

If unwinding and refreshing your mind sound right to you, contact us for a quick fix: josh@upnorthguidedtours.com and 715/413-2076.

#bikes #fatbikes #fattire #upnorthguidedtours #getaway #takeabreak #biketours

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Blog #5: The Importance of Spending Time Together (on Fatbike!)

Fat Bike w/ Our Kids!

Blog 5:

Fat Bike with Kids
O on Fat Bike

A great way to strengthen the bond between us and our kids is to do the activities we enjoy doing, with them.  For our family, it’s Fatbiking.  It’s not just in passing a skill down, and it’s not just in time spent together, it’s really about the quality of time spent together.

Never pushed O to ride bike, pushed in other areas, but there certainly was no pushing of Fat Tire Bike riding.  He got interested about a year ago when his cousin started riding fat and when he saw his buds cruising the neighborhood on bike.  O’s not shy and quickly asked about our XS Pugsley, and just as quickly, was off on bike!  Exposure, availability, interest, and motivation = your kids are doing what you love doing, WILLINGLY.  The door is open.

Took O for his first Snow Bike ride on MLK Day 2018.  Chicagoland just got a good 4 inches, and the roped-off parking lot to our local forest preserve served as a perfect testing ground granted the untracked snow over a firm, predictable base.  O’s smile, priceless.  It was a short testing session, since breaking him in slow, without exhausting him, was key in maintaining his interest.

O’s First Look at Snowbike

But O’s first trail ride on a fatty, a ride that lasted no longer than 33 minutes on mostly flat and wide gravel, was the high point of the first half of the year!  Riding thru in bloom prairie and forest was not lost on O, but every time I turned around, it wasn’t a smile, it was game-face time, a face of determination. I know that face, it’s working on riding faster for longer, and it’s about picking more efficient, direct lines.  No teaching needed, it’s naturally in him.  It’s not that O’s pushing himself doing what I enjoy most, it’s seeing what he is made of.  Quality time together, noticing our similarities, seeing who he is.

O is using Fatbike to push himself and to express a side of what he is.  Perfect, but of equal importance is the bond that strengthens between us when we spend time riding Fat Tire Bike together.  Ride on!

If you are reading this, you like bike.  Contact us for a quick connection to your kids: www.upnorthguidedtours.com; josh@upnorthguidedtours.com; and 715/413-2076.  Thanks for reading!  #fattire; #fatbike; #passitdown; #upnorthguidedtours

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Blog #4: Low-Key Fat Biking is the Way to Start!

Fat Bike by Water to mix riding w/ swimming

Blog 4:

Fatbike Sandy Trail
Fatbike Sandy Trail

People often tell us that Fatbiking is too hardcore.  Our response is that it certainly does not have to be!  Not all of us were born to race, charge the uphills, push the limits on the downhills, and get close to our personal breaking points without breaking.  In fact, most people who are interested in trying off-road cycling simply want to get into the backwoods, get some exercise, and have safe fun.  We agree and can help you get started.

We suggest finding flatter, less technical off-road cycling routes that offer a second activity such as swimming, hiking, or snowshoeing that can be done in the same outing.  That way you can ease into off-road cycling, you re-connect with nature, you get a sweat going without overheating, and your experience is multi-dimensional.  We have those kinds of routes in both the Chicago Area and in the Northwest Woods of Wisconsin, and we can show you the way!

The Chicago Area pictured here is a great example of such a route.  The riding features little to no elevation change, but since there are no notable downhill sections, you are constantly pedaling and getting the exercise you crave.  The only technical aspect of the route is some sand on the trail in a few areas, which is handled easily by you on a fat tire bike.  Accordingly, you will not get discouraged.  That particular route has amazing views of Lake Michigan, it takes you along the last remaining beach ridge shoreline in Illinois, and you ride through constantly changing ecosystems: dunes, to marshland Swales, to prairies, to Black Oak forestland.  Hundreds of plant and animal species can be found along this route, including, believe it or not, the Prickly Pear Cactus.  The trail changes from dirt to crushed limestone to grass, which provides a diverse riding experience.  And of course beach time and playing in the Lake is just a stones throw away from the riding.  It’s the perfect family Summertime afternoon getaway!  Join us this Summer for 1.5 or 3 hours to experience this tour route for yourself.  See www.upnorthguidedtours.com, and contact josh@upnorthguidedtours.com or 715/413-2076.