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Jumpstarting Spring: An Early Season Bikepacking Adventure on The Driftless Loop

Katrina Hase and her friend Ashley recently jumped into an early spring bikepacking trip on The Nxrth's Driftless Loop by Nicolette Reker. Check out the ins and outs of this route along with a great video, photos, and a story.

Words by Katrina Hase. To learn more, visit her YouTube channel or follow along on Instagram.

Photos by Ashley Busack and Katrina Hase

Eager to get back to bikepacking after a long winter, I enlisted my friend Ashley to head to La Crosse, Wisconsin for an overnight bikepacking excursion. We hoped to find signs of spring—ephemeral wildflowers, migratory birds, budding trees and greening hillsides. We weren’t disappointed, but we did get a reminder of how fickle spring in Minnesota can be.

We chose to ride The Driftless Loop—a route created by Nicolette Reker and published on The Nxrth. The 168-miles route, intended to be toured over 3–4 days, includes over 9,000 feet of elevation, as it climbs and descends many of the driftless region’s bluffs. Limited by time, we’d condense the route into two long days of riding, then drive back to Minneapolis on the completion of the second day.

Our first day was chilly—we carried on in a pattern of warming up on manageable climbs, getting pelted with a headwind over the farmland and prairie bluff tops, then shivering through a descent into the safety of the softly rolling and scenic valleys. Deer, Barred Owl, Belted Kingfisher, and Bald Eagle sightings delighted us along the way. We regretted not stopping to photograph Virginia Bluebells and blood root that we spotted along our bluff climbs.

At the end of our first day, we enjoyed a warm meal at the Ivy Grove Café in Spring Grove, Minnesota.

Chilled to the bone, we decided to forgo our plans to camp at the Vinegar Ridge campground and managed to book a really nice AirBnB right in town for the night.

Faced with an unmanageable distance to ride our second day, I rerouted and shaved some miles off the original route, meeting up with the main route about 15 miles from Winona, Minnesota.

Our second day was markedly different: sunny, warmer and fewer climbs. We were in Winona by lunchtime (we ate at the Acoustic Café), and then it was back to the Wisconsin side of the loop.

Nicolette Reker, the route designer, clearly knows the area well, as she deftly routed us from one bike-friendly trail to another, offering up a variety of surfaces and views. We enjoyed river views, backwater bridges, railroad activity, a steep quarry climb, ripping two-track descents, a golf course trail, and singletrack before returning to the streets of La Crosse.

Ashley and I both thoroughly enjoyed the route, although at times we regretted pushing the season a bit! We discovered some great new trails and experienced the region’s warm hospitality. And while completing the route in a weekend is possible, you might enjoy taking your time to breathe in all that this beautiful area has to offer.

To learn more about this route, visit The Driftless Loop.




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