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Guest Commentary: One-way ride, right at home

The Pine Valley singletrack bike trail opened Wednesday, July 18. For those of us who've been eagerly watching the progress of construction, the day to ride has finally arrived.

No longer do we have to haul our bikes to Duluth or ride the 5 miles to Carlton and the 5 miles up the Munger Trail to find a decent trail. There's one here in our town, finally.

To some, it may seem that having such a single-purpose trail is a waste. After all, there are already ski, flat-track and ATV trails all over that mountain bikers have used for years. However, if you've ever had the chance to ride a well-built singletrack, you know there is no comparison.

Most other trails are too wide and don't provide the same intimacy as a singletrack. They also tend to slog straight up and dive straight down every hill they encounter.

A singletrack trail is designed to keep you moving on a bike, even when you're head-up. It meanders along the hillside with sharp switchbacks that keep you engaged. It rises and falls like a roller coaster. It's honestly one of the best biking experiences you'll ever have.

I saw the trail was open on social media, but it was late when I got the message and I had already biked along Chester Bowl and a decent section of the Duluth Traverse on Wednesday afternoon. So, I set my alarm for early Thursday morning to make it to the trail before any rain could fall.

It was a bit chilly when I started, but warmed as the sun poked its way through the clouds. When I arrived, I had the place to myself. The trailhead is just up the hill from the parking lot. The construction barriers that once blocked access were moved and adorned with signs announcing the trail is open. I felt a giddiness as I rolled down the trail to the first bend.

The trail markers are green indicating that it's a novice trail. I will say it's accurate, but tons of fun, nonetheless. The vegetation has yet to encroach, making it feel more open than most this time of year.

I took a mental note of a few places with rocks on the right edge as I headed up the hill. It's a 279-foot climb. Nothing too rigorous.

The trail bobs up and down, weaving its way to the top of the ridge over a half-mile or so. The trail pauses for a moment at the top and sends its riders hurtling down the other side. I only tapped my brakes a few times as I sped back and forth.

About halfway down, there are two optional ramps that gave me a little air. The tops of the switchbacks are still a little loose and my back tire gave way near the bottom. I apologize if I left a mess.

Before I knew it, I was back at the parking lot. I was half-tempted to turn around and try it the other way. After all, going the back way down, a trail feels like a new track. But alas, this loop is marked as a one-way.

I'd go again, but this will be my daily ride for some weeks to come. No need to spoil it on the first day. I turned toward the ski hill and headed off to my old haunting grounds at The Pumping Station and Quin Hill.

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