Planning for an overnight youth group trip to the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trail System began way back in January when Melissa Bernhard, Recreation Coordinator with the Northfield Public Schools Community Services Division, contacted us via email:
I am specifically looking for your group to lead a mountain biking adventure…..anywhere for youth and their families. I received a grant for the Adventure Mania program and would like you to be involved in giving the youth in our community a great experience on a mountain bike. Any ideas? This past summer a group of ours went to Lebanon. Since I have grant money, I’d like to really use it by traveling somewhere special and then later on if there is no grant, I’d plan to be as local as possible.
When I forwarded her email to fellow CROCT Board members, Carl Arnold wrote:
Do you have a location in mind, since they are looking for an adventure trip that doesn’t have to be local? Cuyuna? Less than 3 hr drive. Great campgrounds! Could we get a bus?
Carl’s vision became reality.
On Thursday morning, Aug 13, kids and families met at the NCRC Building where we stuffed bikes, Gear Resource Outfitters camping equipment including lots of binoculars and a rangefinder to view nature, many bodies into an EcoTrans mini-bus and CROCT President Marty Larson’s trailer:
Melissa and some parents gave us a proper send-off:
Three hours later, we arrived at our group site in the DNR’s Portsmouth Campground in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. Marty’s wife Lisa Neitge had taken charge of the grocery shopping and meal preparation so we all got a terrific lunch after setting up camp:
Since the bikes were still in the mini-bus, we hauled them to the bike park/pump track in the little town of Cuyuna, about 3 miles from the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trail System which is adjacent to the twin towns of Crosby-Ironton. For most of the kids and parents, riding the rollers and berms and jumps was a new experience:
After a couple hours and a stop at the local DQ, we returned to the campground and headed out for some singletrack riding, taking the Dragline and Switchback trails over to the main trailhead in the Mahnomen Unit, overlooking Huntington Mine Lake (see the DNR’s Cuyuna Lakes MTB Trails PDF map here). Those two trails are rated blue (intermediate level in difficulty) and we were somewhat amazed that the kids were able to negotiate just about all the difficult sections:
With high temps and a sticky dewpoint, we took the paved Cuyuna Lakes State Trail back to Dragline and the campground and cooled off at the Portsmouth Lake swimming beach adjacent to the campground:
Then it was dinnertime and of course, s’mores over a campfire:
On Friday morning before breakfast, some of the parents and one youth took the Dragline trail over to the Yawkey Unit for a sunrise ride on the Haul Road and Bobsled trails:
After breakfast, we went for a long XC ride, taking Dragline and the paved Cuyuna Lakes State Trail all the way over to the green level Boot Camp trail at the far west end of the Mahnomen Unit. From there, it was Easy Street to Little Sidewinder and back to East Street, with stops for snacks and photos, briefly interrupted by some pesky bees:
The highlight of the ride was zooming down Easy Street on the descent back to the main trailhead. 30-second video:
We packed up and departed the campground around 2:30, arriving safe and sound back in Northfield shortly after 6 pm.
The consensus: we’d like to do it again next summer!
(Photos in this blog post by Marty, Christopher, and yours truly.)
For another account of the trip, see Christopher Tassava’s excellent blog post, Mountain Biking with the Girls: