Spring bikepacking in the Driftless Area in photos

A late-May roll, touching the ancient landscape through southeast Minnesota, northeast Iowa and southwest Wisconsin delivers challenges and hundreds of miles. But there was sublime beauty, too, for five cyclists hitting gravel and pavement and looking for adventure. Read the related story at startribune.com/outdoors. 


Riders climb the bluffs towering above the Mississippi River near Winona, Minn.
Tom McDowell, center, and company made their way down a waterlogged gravel farm road, typical of what they would face on their second day, May 24.
Mud and vegetation stuck to bike wheels even before riders embarked on their second day.
Riders carry the their tents, clothing and other supplies in water resistant pannier bags slung over their wheels.
Doug Shidell, center, laughed during a conversation with Pablo Armas as Shidell recorded notes on the day's ride outside of a bar in Houston, Minn. To cut down on the weight they must carry, riders plan to restock on food and other essentials in towns along the route.
Kristen Paulsen waved at Outback Ranch's primary clientele, families with horses who take advantage of miles of adjacent trails.
Day one on May 23 covered 49 miles including many hills and gravel roads.
The pack ran into a group of Houston, Minn., elementary students on their "bike day" field trip at the Houston Nature Center.
Pablo Armas prepped his ultra-lightweight backpacking tent for a night of rain May 23.
From left, Tom McDowell, Kristen Paulsen, Nina Clark and Pablo Armas toasted their 49-mile journey after setting up camp at Outback Ranch, near Houston, Minn.
Nina Clark took advantage of a break in the wind and rain for a morning coffee before breaking camp.
Outback Ranch is nestled in a winding valley typical of Driftless topography.
Riders had full-time view of the Driftless Area and its undulating countryside.
The Driftless is home to many dairy farms and crop fields, as seen on this bluff near Winona on the first day of the group's bikepacking trip.
Kristen Paulsen, left, and Nina Clark climbed the gravel road our of Outback Ranch. Their next camp would be a remote wilderness area in Iowa.
Doug Shidell enjoyed the warmth of the campfire before retreating to his tent.