The Fenske Lake area on the Echo Trail north of Ely, MN has three mountain biking routes. The first one follows Forest Road 459 and leads 4.3 miles to Forest Road 457. It continues north beyond Picket Creek where the road is rougher and there is far less traffic and continues to the edge of the wilderness area. Along the way there are many spur roads to explore.
The second route begins 1/4 mile south of the Fenske Lake campground, follows an old forest road from the Echo Trail to Hanson Lake and beyond. You're not as likely to encounter motor traffic here, as you negotiate the small rolling hills that characterize this area.
The third route affords an opportunity to explore a small network of old and new logging roads just north of County Road 644. Timber harvesting in this area produced back country roads that are ideally suited for mountain biking. Trails cross over rolling hills covered with second growth jackpine and apen and pass through flat black spruce forests. cross over rolling hills covered with second growth Jack pine and aspen and pass through flat black spruce forests. Keep your eye open for deer and moose, as openings in the forest created from logging operations enhanced wildlife habitat, providing more desirable sources of food for both of them.
Mountain biking is a wonderful way to see the beauty of the Fenske Lake area if you do it properly. Here are a few tips to help you negotiate the terrain, protect yourself, and protect the environment:
- Let someone know your route and expected return time. Most trails tour isolated areas that offer no cell phone service, so having people who know where you are and when you'll be back is good insurance.
- Be prepared. Carry water, high-energy snacks and raingear, and bring appropriate tools and a patch kit in case of a breakdown.
- Watch your terrain. In sand, it's best to keep your weight on the back of your bike, letting your front wheel float. Soft or loose sand may requirewalking your bike. On gravel avoid sudden movements, steer gradually, and keep your weight on the back of the bike. Leaves and pine duff can hide potential hazards. Use caution and pay attention. When climbing, shift to a gear that provides comfortable forward momentum and maintains traction, and ride the tip of the saddle withy our nose over the axle. When going downhill, ride back in the saddle keeping your weight over the back wheel, apply enough brake to maintain control using the front brake sparingly and relying mainly on the rear brake. Ride switchbacks and corners as slow aspossible, keep your balance and stand out of the saddle, and keep your pedals parallel to the ground while maintaining good pedal contact.
- Avoid trails when they are obviously wet and muddy. Riding these trails causes them to rut, which can lead to more damage as users try to avoid them by moving to the side, widening the trail or causeing multiple trail tracks. If riding on an otherwise dry trail, carefully go directly down the center of the mud or puddle, or consider turning around and going back the way you came.
- Only cross streams less than a foot deep to avoid damaging your bike. Approach streams in low gear at a 90-degree angle in standing position and keep your momentum. Remember, stream bottoms are often slippery. Consider walking through moving water - this minimizes the risk of dumping your bike and possibly injuring yourself. Cross streams only at designating fording points.
- And most important, use common sense!