It wasn’t until we were lost in the woods — surrounded by red “Danger Do Not Enter” tape — that we realized nobody had brought the trail map.
Let me set the stage.
The outing started out with the idea of a simple Sunday bike ride on the Willard Munger State Trail — a trail we had never before explored. It is a multi-use, mostly paved trail that spans 72 miles from Hinkley to Duluth.
Using a small Duluth trails map we’ve had for years, we arrived at a designated parking area off of Beck’s Road (from Highway 23) to find that it was closed. (Un)fortunately, signs directed us to an alternative parking area just down the road.
Once there, we thought this sign with “Munger Trail” and “Access” would lead us to our leisurely ride.
A couple of mountain bikers were just coming off the narrow wooden pathway so we asked them if it led to the Munger. Yes, but they cautioned us that we would have to go up steps.
I was thinking it would be just a few steps and carrying our bikes would be easy.
Not so. The staircase was steep and long.
A kind hiker helped Tim carry his bike up as it had Finley’s tag-along attached.
At the top, we asked a set of hikers the same question, “Where’s the Munger?” They directed us down a smooth dirt path, which turned out to be the DWP railway trail.
They said to take the path to the right just before the old train tunnel (worth a visit!) and it would take us “down” to the Munger.
It all sounded so easy.
Yet it wasn’t.
The path was clearly a hiking trail with a steep, rocky narrow terrain that went on FOREVER. While walking our bikes down it, Daley fell a few times and I kept banging my bike peddle against my leg.
Finally, it dumped us on the paved, flat Munger Trail. Here’s what we found going in the direction we planned to bike to get back to our car…
…meaning that our vehicle was parked somewhere on the other side of the prohibited area.
No problem. Tim says, “Let’s look at the trail map. We’ll take the open trail until we find a crossroads and then just double back on the streets to the parking area.”
Seemed like a good idea until I realized I hadn’t put the trail map back in the backpack.
Not knowing where we were or how far away the nearest road was — and thus how far we would have to back track to our car — we had a family meeting to make a plan…and eat snack.
We had two options:
1. Lug our bikes back up the hill on the steep, rocky, uneven path that never ended.
2. Leave Tim to figure out how to get to our car while the kids and I bike on the open area of the Munger towards Duluth and meet him at the first obvious road crossing.
The kids and I enjoyed a lovely fall bike ride.
2. Always double-check that you have a map (very important if you do not have an iPhone).
3. Know that when other people say that a trail is 50 feet long and passable, it might mean 500 feet…or 500 miles if you have young kids in tow and it is steep and rocky.
4. Always pack a snack as it helps turn a mishap into an adventure.
What’s your favorite outdoor mishap? Share your experiences in the comment box below. Thanks!