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Happy trails

The map of the East Gull Lake Trail will get a facelift with the future extensio1 / 3
International Mountain Bike Association reps were on hand in June, when media me2 / 3
In snowshoeing, the idea is to go off-trail. Any public area that is easily acce3 / 3

The Brainerd trails area.

It's got a good ring to it. In 2010, it certainly rang true in the lakes area. And, as we ring in a new year, expect the trail-blazing to continue.

In the Brainerd lakes area, the lakes again were a big part of the outdoors scene in 2010. But along with the lakes, trail news and trail activity were at the forefront of the Dispatch's outdoors coverage in '10. And it appears that will continue in '11.

Coming in the spring will be the world-class mountain bike trails in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. And, as was recently reported, the East Gull Lake Trail will be extended by about four miles, connecting with the existing multi-use trails in the highly regarded trail system.

And, on a side note recently, the Brainerd Nordic Ski Club was awarded a $25,000 grant for cross-country ski trail grooming equipment. The equipment is currently in use on ski trails in the Brainerd area and will aid in grooming these pristine tracks in 2011 and beyond.

Yes, in 2010, it was all about the trails, whether for mountain biking, walking or skiing, even snowshoeing and all-terrain vehicles.

Some trail highlights from 2010:

• In January, I explored Snoosebox Lake near Deerwood on snowshoes. But it wasn't necessarily meant just as a story on Snoosebox as a snowshoeing destination. Rather, it was a heads-up on any public area that is easily accessible and offers deep snow.

• The previous week, I was just down the road at the Larson Lake Forest Recreation Area, skiing the cross-country trails there for the first time. It's still the best cross-country skiing I've encountered in the area. Miles of trails - with a variety of terrain - that wind through and around woodlands and wetlands. Tough to beat.

• In June, Brainerd was a stop on the Parks and Trails Legacy Plan trail. A crowd of about 70, mostly from the Brainerd lakes area, attended the workshop at Central Lakes College. The statewide workshops provided residents with the opportunity to influence the Parks and Trails Legacy Plan, which will guide funding decisions for regional and state parks trails - as in the fund's 14 percent cut of the $290 million annual windfall created by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.

• Also in June, media members and the like got their first look at the mountain bike trails being constructed in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. The trails were far from completed at the time, but with impressive ascents and descents, high-banked curves and breathtaking cliffs cut naturally through the forest, this should be a legitimate mountain biking venue.

• In August, the big news was that the much-anticipated trail would open in the spring of 2011 rather than in the fall of 2010. At the time, according to a posting on the Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists' website, the opening was delayed so that "a winter frost-thaw cycle will help firm up many of the berms" and because emergency services and a mountain bike patrol were not yet in place. The posting went on to say there also would be a "true dedicated downhill area with various features. Not a XC trail that happens to go down a hill, but an 'out-west' style downhill run. That means that Cuyuna should have something for everyone - light XC, hard-core XC, as close to all-mountain as you will get in the Midwest."

• Also in August, I biked the Soo Line Trail from Onamia to Isle. It's one of the few trail segments anywhere in the state that offers separate, parallel trails for bicycle and foot traffic (paved) and all-terrain vehicles (gravel/dirt). At the time I wondered why the Brainerd area, which boasts miles and miles of paved rec trails but few options for ATV enthusiasts, couldn't somehow follow suit. Adding a gravel ATV trail along, say, the Paul Bunyan Trail wouldn't be feasible. But building two such trails together, like the Onamia-Isle stretch of the Soo Line Trail, especially in a rural setting, seems to work.

What Steve Weber, DNR manager of the CCSRA, called a "Mountain Bike Fall Preview" was held in September to give local legislators and almost 40 riders from the MORC and the International Mountain Bike Association a taste of what's to come when the trails finally open in spring 2011.

I'm looking forward to the opening - and for what promises to be a trail-happy 2011.

BRIAN S. PETERSON, outdoors editor, may be reached at brian. or 855-5864. To follow him on Twitter, go to speterson. For his blogs, go to