Snowshoers roam through Cuyuna Country
“I recently tramped a near-idyllic web of single-track trail on an evening snowshoe excursion. It was one of those nights that had a million stars dancing in the sky like little diamonds. The uphill climbs and the twisting, rolling downhill grades on windswept, ice-glazed snow were no challenge for the crampons on my trusty snowshoes that bit into the crust with every sure step. That night, miles of untrodden trails awaited my friends and me.”
— Meredith Novak, Snow Zombie
CROSBY — From biking to snowshoeing, the world-class trail system that lies in and around Crosby seems to have something for the outdoor adventurer in all of us.
For Meredith Novak, stomping through the snow-covered trails in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area is an escape from everyday life; a place she goes to exercise and enjoy the crisp winter air with friends. If a cardio workout is on the day’s agenda, those trails are readily available. However, in the same area, is a trail that rolls much more gently and offers a less aggressive wander through the snow-covered woods.
“In an area where good snowshoe trails are hard to find, these are a gift,” Novak said. “The added benefit is that they are right in my back yard.”
Novak is also a member of the Snow Zombies, a group of snowshoe enthusiasts who get together weekly (depending on the weather) to not only enjoy the trails but also to maintain select trails for winter cyclists when it’s needed.
Snowshoers pat down the fresh snow in a way that perfectly grooms the trails for those on fat bikes — specialty bikes that are made for riding in the snow and have “fat” tires that are 3.7 inches wide or larger.
“This team effort keeps the trails in top-notch shape,” said Aaron Hautala, avid fat bike rider and new member of the Snow Zombies. “For grooming single track fat bike trails, snowshoes are king.”
Steve Weber, the DNR’s land manager for the CCSRA, said these packed trails are what makes for premiere fat biking and he credits the Snow Zombies for maintaining them.
“It’s not too often you see two activities work together like that, especially with activities as different as snowshoeing and fat biking,” he said.
While snowshoeing is allowed anywhere in the CCSRA, the DNR prohibits hiking, jogging, motorized vehicles and dogs on the groomed trails in the Sagamore and Yawkey Units.
“Riding or cycling over frozen footprints in the snow is miserable for snowshoeing and fat bike riding,” Weber said. “The snowshoers are doing a great job of maintaining these trails and we’re trying to protect them.”
With 5,000 acres of land in the CCSRA, which surrounds Crosby, there’s plenty of room for outdoors enthusiasts to roam.
Novak said the Snow Zombies are always looking for more snowshoers to join them on their adventures. To join the Snow Zombies on their next outing, e-mail Novak at email@example.com.
■ Snowshoeing trails to try—
(Snow Zombie recommended!)
• For those looking for something relatively untouched, try the Mahnomen Unit that lies west of County Road 30.
• Those with a heart for snowshoe racing should try the Drag Line and Man High trails in the Portsmouth Unit west of Highway 6. There is plowed parking on the east side of Highway 6 in the Croft parking lot.
• The Yawkey Unit, east of Highway 6, is also snowshoe groomed and maintained for fat bikes. Visit www.CuyunaLakesMTB.com for winter trail maps.
• Other recommended snowshoeing trails include Northland Arboretum in Brainerd, Crow Wing State Park and Pillsbury State Forest.
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