Tag Archives: Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails

Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout, Day 1

DSC07760 DNR manager Steve Weber & Whiteout volunteers DSC07761 Aaron Hautala and Dave Orrick
I rolled into Crosby-Ironton yesterday afternoon for the Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout and noticed the new billboard on Hwy 210 just west of Ironton. I have a photo like that from last summer’s  Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival Grand Opening. DNR manager Steve Weber and a gang of registration table volunteers greeted me at the Ironton American Legion. And I then had the pleasure of meeting Aaron Hautala, Creative Director at RedhouseMedia in Brainerd and newly elected president of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew (CLMTBC).  He was spinning lies to St. Paul Pioneer Press outdoors reporter Dave Orrick, who’s evidently planning on having a feature in tomorrow’s Sunday PiPress.

DSC07767 DSC07769 Nick Statz and daughter
The plan was to pre-ride the race course at the Sagamore Unit at about 6 pm but the high daytime temps and sunny skies had softened up the packed snow so much that Cuyuna dirt boss and race director Nick Statz was worried we’d create deep ruts and ruin the course for Saturday’s XC race. He suggested we all ride the Yawkey Unit instead and we agreed.

DSC07783 DSC07775 DSC07782 DSC07781
We first headed back to the Yeti spaghetti feed at the Legion where Nick Statz’s daughter introduced me to her personal Cuyuna Yeti.

Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout 2012 night ride in the Yawkey Unit; photo by Aaron Hautala
I didn’t get photos from the amazing Yawkey Unit night ride and our close encounter with the Cuyuna Whiteout Yeti but Aaron Hautala has a blog post up titled Night Riders where he has a photo slideshow.

I’m going and I’m racing: the Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout, March 2-3

whiteoutstickerlogosmall

I got hooked on mountain biking after attending the grand opening of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails last June.  So it’s only fitting that my first race be at another Cuyuna festival and a winter one to boot: the Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout on March 2-3.

The Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout is a winter festival to celebrate the new Sagamore Winter Trails and to benefit the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew (CLMTBC), a division of MORC/IMBA. (Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists / International Mountain Bicycle Association). All event profits will fund continued expansion and maintenance of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails in Crosby-Ironton.

The organizers have a terrific Tumblr blog site for the event that they’re updating regularly. I signed up for the Cuyuna Lakes Avalanche Pass ($40) which covers all events and includes some swag. The online registration via the NGIN platform is fast and easy. I’ve put myself in the beginner class for both the Sagamore SnowXross Country Race in the morning and the Serpent Lake Ice Bike 500 Race in the afternoon.

Looking at the schedule, my dilemma will be whether or not to skip the afternoon Ice Bike 500 Race in order to have more time to play in the Yawkey Unit as it’s only open for riding on Saturday, sunrise to sunset.  I only had a little time to ride in the Yawkey last year during the Squirrel Fest when the dewpoint was 80 degrees.

Here’s a teaser video created by Aaron Hautala, Creative Director at RedhouseMedia in Brainerd and newly elected president of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew (CLMTBC). The video features CLMTBC Director of Trail Maintenance Nick Statz. (See Aaron’s blog post on how the video was created: Worst winter ever. Best winter riding ever?):

 

QBP
I’m not surprised that QBP is the Presenting Sponsor for the event, given how much Gary Sjoquist, QBP’s Director of Advocacy, has been involved in getting Cuyuna off the ground.

Cuyuna: Minnesota’s Gift to Mountain Bikers (article in Dec. 2011 Mountain Bike Action magazine)

IMBA Midwest Director Hansi Johnson published a post to his blog in late October titled December 2011 Mountain Bike Action Magazine feature on the IMBA Cuyuna Lakes Ride Center. He wrote:

Earlier this summer I did photo shoot for Mountain Bike Action at Cuyuna.  Pro rider Eric Carter flew in from CA and along with some great local riders ( Peter Gustafson, Rori Stumvoll, Nick Statz, Peter L.)  we rode and shot the full system of trails. The results are in a 7 page, 16 photo feature in this months MBA issue. So check it out!

As an advocate for off road cycling I find myself constantly telling stories.  For me, using the visual medium of photography seems to be an effective method of telling those stories.  This feature is a direct result of that.  I would like to thank all of the folks that helped me on this shoot, especially Mike Van Abel and the folks at IMBA!

I subscribed to the digital version of the magazine (a great deal, only $15/yr to be up to date on all the cool gadgets). I patched together screenshots into this 4-page PDF (FYI, jpg screenshots converted to a PDF does not make for a crisp PDF.  The document text is readable but gets increasingly blurry as you zoom out past 100%):

MBA cuyuna1

Tim Wegner’s contributions to mountain biking profiled in Minnesota Trails magazine

Parks and Trails Council of MinnesotaMinnesota Trails magazineMy wife and I became members of the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota earlier this year when we decided to make bicycling a regular recreational activity… and were thrilled at the number and quality of paved bike trails around the state.

As members, we get a free subscription to the terrific quarterly print magazine, Minnesota Trails. It’s not available online, although the publishers do have a companion website, also called Minnesota Trails.

The Winter 2011 issue of Minnesota Trails has a profile of mountain biker and trail builder Tim Wegner. I’ve never met Tim but I’ve fallen in love with the sport mainly because of the spectacular mountain biking at two parks where he’s had a major influence: Lebanon Hills and the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trail System (DNR link).

I typed up the text of the article (below) so that more of my fellow Minnesota mountain bikers might A) know what Tim Wegner has done for our sport and thank him for it; and B) become members of the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota, both in appreciation for what they did to help the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trail System become a reality (details in the article) as well as to support the organization and their work.

Trail Builder

Tim Wegner: Mountain biking as a way of life

by Linda Picone

Minnesota Trails magazine, Winter 2011 - Tim Wegner: Mountain biking as a way of lifeTim WegnerFor Tim Wegner, a hobby turned into a business. But mountain biking not only changed his life, it helped create a new outdoor resource in Minnesota, the Cuyuna Mountain Bike Trail System, a world-class 25-mile bike trail network with areas for riders at all levels.

Wegner, the former southern Minnesota representative of the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), is credited by many as being the single most effective mover of the the mountain bike trails at the Cuyuna Lakes Recreation Area, which opened for use in June.

In the early 1980s, while Wegner lived Bismarck, ND, he did a lot of road biking and was a regular a local bike shop. “I walked in there one day and there was this funky looking bike,” he says. “The guys said, ‘You’ve got to ride it; it’s the best ride you’ll ever have.'”

They were right, and all of a sudden he was a mountain biker. When he moved to Minnesota about 10 years later, he assumed he was coming to a mountain bike mecca, but was disappointed with the number and quality of trails available. Appointed to a users’ group to represent cross-country skiers for Lebanon Hills Park in Dakota County, he ended up becoming friendly with the man representing mountain bikers and was encouraged to become the local representative of IMBA, becoming an advocate and activist for the sport.

Lebanon Hills turned out to be a good training ground for Wegner. “We learned that it really took a lot of time to build a trail by hand,” he says. Although there were machines that could make it go faster, they cost $25,000 to $40,000–more than Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists, which was doing the work, could afford. “That put the kibosh on plans to expand the trail at Lebanon Hills. You burn your volunteers out pretty fast when they work all weekend to finish 50 feet of trail.”

That frustration led to Wegner’s next move on the mountain bike trail: He and his buddy from the Lebanon Hills user group became partners in a new business venture, Trail Source. They bought one of those expensive machines and went into the business of building sustainable, natural surface trails in Minnesota and Wisconsin (he still has a day job, as a pharmaceutical representative).

A new trail opportunity

About five years ago, Wegner was in search of areas outside the Metro where mountain bike trails could be established. He met with Courtland Nelson, DNR state parks director, to see what might be accomplished. “I said, ‘Minnesota doesn’t have any true mountain bike trails in its state parks; I think you’re missing the mark,” he old Nelson. “He said, ‘You’re right, we don’t.'”

Nelson urged him to look at Cuyuna. “I thought, ‘Who wants to look at an old iron ore mine?'”

That was before he saw it. Wegner took a trip north to explore the Cuyuna Lakes area. “I looked at it and thought it was incredible. The potential was so awesome and the place was so beautiful.” Steve Weber, manager of the Cuyuna Lakes Recreation Area, was with Wegner as he visualized the possibility of 25 to 40 miles of trails through the area, but he didn’t see the same possibilities.

Wegner not only saw what could be built at Cuyuna Lakes, he set out to do what was needed to create it, from convincing then Congressman James Oberstar to get federal funding to getting a bill written at the Minnesota Legislature for matching funds.

“It was incredible the way it came together,” Wegner says. “It could have stumbled at any step.”

The Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota was a key player at several points, Wegner said. When he needed someone to carry–and write–a bill to get matching state funds for the trail, the Parks and Trails legislative liaison Judy Erickson showed him into an office at the State Capitol, got a bill written, found a legislative sponsor and pushed her contacts for approval (it was approved, but then vetoed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, but it passed the next year). “Parks and Trails gave continuous support for us,” Wegner says. “I could always go to Brett (Feldman, now executive director) when I got beat up by someone.” At one point, the Parks & Trails Council provided a $50,000 loan in order to help get matching funds.

The finished trail

Construction of the trails had its challenges, Wegner says. “There were a lot of bidders on it, but not many truly qualified mountain bike trail builders.” That meant he, representing IMBA, was closely involved in advising the contractor. “We bumped heads a few times, but he was always willing to understand our point of view.”

Mountain bike enthusiasts see the finished trails as the best trails for accomplished riders in the Midwest. But Wegner is also pleased that there are trails for all levels of bikers, so it’s a place for families as well as for “aggressive” riders who want a serious challenge. “We put stuff up in Cuyuna Lakes that there’s no way I would ever ride,” he says.

He sees an economic boon for the local community–something he wasn’t even thinking about when he first envisioned a trail. “I was only looking for a place to ride mountain bikes, but I looked at the town and saw a lot of empty storefronts,” he says. “I thought maybe we could have an economic impact on this town.” During the grand opening of the trails in June, both restaurants in town ran out of food, he says. “That says to me, yeah, mountain bikers can make a difference.”

The next challenges

Wegner is still hoping to make progress on a trail system in Camden State Park and there are trail possibilities at Pillsbury State Forest and Cut Lake Trail in Foothills State Forest. But, other than his business, he’s taking a quieter role. “I think at certain times you need to step away a little bit and let others come in.”

He looks back at his activities as IMBA representative and at the push for the Cuyuna Mountain Bike Trail System and he’s satisfied: “I think we’ve improved the status of mountain bikers in Minnesota and I don’t think you could ask for more out of your life than to make it better for a sport you have a passion for.”

Cuyuna confusion on the web

DNR Cuyuna header

There are two web-based problems with the mountain bike trail system in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area that have become apparent the more I’ve blogged about it.

Problem #1: The variety of names for it.

Online and offline among the mountain bike crowd, the shorthand ‘Cuyuna’ is widely used, eg. "Hey, when are you heading to Cuyuna again? I didn’t get to ride Yawkey last time I was up there."  I see no problem with this in casual conversation, comment threads, forum posts, tweets, Facebook Wall posts, etc.

But when it comes to web sites, there’s a wide variety of phrases in use:

DNR

Chamber/City

MORC/IMBA

  • MORC refers to it in the forums as simply the Cuyuna Trail with the tag line "Discussions relating to the new Cuyuna trail system." Same with the MORC Wiki listing for Cuyuna Trail.
  • IMBA uses Cuyuna Lakes Ride Center
  • IMBA’s Midwest Regional Director Hansi Johnson also uses Cuyuna Lakes Ride Center in his blog posts here and here but sometimes drops ‘lakes’ from the phrase or refers to it as the Cuyuna Mountain Bike Trail system.

Other

My preference: Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails (CLMBT).  Including the word ‘lakes’ is preferable because lakes are part of the area’s identity.  ‘Country’ is a lesser used word that’s more marketing oriented. ‘Trails’ is better than ‘trail’ because there are many trails, not just one. ‘Trails’ also implies ‘system’ which is more of technical/engineering term and not really needed.

Problem #2: The lack of a website dedicated to it.

The variety of names and phrases for the trail system wouldn’t be a problem if there was one major website dedicated to it that everyone linked to and that the search engines (primarily Google and Bing) would list first in a search. 

But right now, there’s no such site and therefore, it’s difficult for the average person to easily get information about the trail system that’s complete and up-to-date. Some important web pages are out-of-date (Chamber here) or incomplete (MORC’s trail guide and Wiki).

If someone asked you, "Where do I go on the web to get all the info about Cuyuna?," what would you say?

Squirrel Fest Mountain Bike Festival at Cuyuna

Don MacNaughton at Squirrel Fest Squirrel Fest 2011 poster Squirrel Fest 2011 Nick Statz at Squirrel Fest 2011
I had so much fun at the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival Grand Opening that I had to go to the 2011 Squirrel Fest Mountain Bike Festival, held last weekend in Crosby, MN, primarily organized by MORC member Don MacNaughton (left photo above).

On Saturday, local dirt boss and MORC member Nick Statz (right photo above) led the morning ‘fast’ ride group, mainly through the Yawkey Unit. (See this Silent Sports article featuring Nick: Cuyuna Lakes Reclaimed.) I’d not ridden Yawkey before so I was thrilled when we rode through its fabulous technical area.

Yawkey Unit technical area, Cuyuna Mountain Bike Trail System Troy Lawrence, Yawkey Unit technical area, Cuyuna Mountain Bike Trail System Troy Lawrence, Yawkey Unit technical area, Cuyuna Mountain Bike Trail System Troy Lawrence, Yawkey Unit technical area, Cuyuna Mountain Bike Trail System
I went back later in the afternoon to further explore the technical area of Yawkey and met MORC member Troy Lawrence who showed me how to do it without crashing. Some day when I get a little older…

DSC07101 Joyce Hoggarth, Louie Hoggarth DSC07097 DSC07104
For dinner, my wife Robbie and I paid a visit to Louie’s Bucket of Bones in the adjacent town of Ironton. We met owner Joyce Hoggarth and her son Louie and of course, feasted on BBQ ribs, as Louie’s is among the top ten BBQ joints in Minnesota according to this article in the July, 2010 issue of Minnesota Monthly.

sled competition at the Squirrel Fest sled competition at the Squirrel Fest sled competition at the Squirrel Fest
In the evening, Don MacNaughton organized squirrel sled competition. Here’s his promo for it:

Have more in the tank? Did you drop your nuts? Let’s take it up a notch! Here are some details. Miniature bike, a sled, and the desire to pedal until you puke! Do you have what it takes? Can you pedal longer than your fellow squirrels? Game on!

With the dewpoint nearing 80, I declined but most everyone else punished themselves to the delight of the crowd.

Dave LaChapelle has an album of Squirrel Fest 2011 photos on his Green Body Facebook page.