Megan Serratore column: Loop the Lake a perfect Saturday
BEMIDJI -- It is almost always a good day to loop the lake, but Saturday was better than ever.
I took part in the first Loop the Lake Festival on Saturday around Lake Bemidji and had a great time. The bicycle ride started at the Sanford Center, with riders departing from 8 to 9 a.m.
As I prepared to take off down the trail with friend Jenna Truedson, Mark Walters stopped us and filled our tires with air. It's a good thing he did, too. My front tire had a leaking tube and needed a fix. The Northern Cycle bicycle shop had bike supplies available, and Mark was able to find a new tire tube and quickly fix my leaking tire.
It was 8:45 a.m. when we finally started off on our loop, and the trail was already busy with bikers. Cyclists of all ages and bicycle-riding experience took part. There was no need for a fancy racing bike to take part in the ride, either. I rode my mom's Bridgestone bicycle she had originally bought to do the Headwaters 100 bike ride through Itasca State Park about 25 years ago. It was a smooth ride thanks to Mark's last minute tune-up.
Stops along the way
The first stop around the lake was at Paul Bunyan and Babe. Jenna and I stopped and had our picture taken in front of the iconic statues. We also saw a large snapping turtle laying eggs by the lake shore.
We continued our ride, weaving through Diamond Point Park and and down Birchmont Drive. As we made our way, we talked to other bikers along the road. Some people were riding around the lake for the first time, others had biked the loop many times. A group of four women were doing the ride together and said they were having lots of fun and would like to start biking around the lake every Saturday.
We took our second break at Ruttger's Birchmont Lodge. Janice Haworth of Bemidji had 20 African drums from Guinea in a drumming circle for people to play. Jenna and I sat down and tried to play to add to the rhythm of the other drummers. It was fun to listen to some of the experienced drummers let loose and make up their own rhythms.
After about an hour of biking, we arrived at Lake Bemidji State Park. We were thankful to be done with the hilly portion of the ride and to move onto the Paul Bunyan Trail. We were about halfway around the lake.
At the State Park, we stopped for a snack and refreshments. Jenna and I tried thumbprint cookies from Harmony Co-op, ham sandwiches from Tutto Bene, tomato wraps from Cattails Bar and Grill, and scones and muffins from the Cabin Coffee House. As we ate at a picnic table, we relaxed and enjoyed listening to a local musician play his guitar and sing.
We continued down the trail through my favorite portion of the ride. The trail through the State Park was nicely shaded, but the trees allowed for some patches of sunlight to shine through on the path. The trail was pretty with lots of greenery and flowers blooming along the edges. Every so often a brave squirrel or chipmunk would dart across the path in front of us.
We reached the Paul Bunyan State Trail. It was now a straight shot to the Sanford Center from there. The trail was busy with bikers. Everyone we passed was enjoying the blue skies and having a good time.
Jenna and I made one last stop at the Lincoln Bridge and looked out across the lake at how far we had come.
We arrived at the Sanford Center at 11 a.m.. Our 17-mile loop was complete, and we were both in high spirits. Although I have biked around the lake many times, Saturday was my most enjoyable ride. It was fun to see so many different people out having a good time. The volunteers and organizers of the Loop the Lake Festival did a great job. Everything went smoothly, and I heard lots of compliments about the event.
For those who didn't go, I recommend signing up to ride in next year's Loop. You missed out. The sun was shining and the skies were blue. There was good music and food. I was surrounded by kind people and had my best friend to bike along my side. I couldn't have asked for a better Saturday morning.
Serratore is entering her senior year at Bemidji High School and is interning at the Pioneer through the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Pohlad Summer Internship Program.