Monthly Archives: February 2016


First, a brief trail update.  It looks like most clubs in Northeast Minnesota are going to Groom Thursday Night (the 25th) as temps are the best they are going to be all week.  The trails around Duluth are sketchy at best but the North Shore trail is reported to be in “good” condition.  Staying North of Two Harbors is a good plan as the snow depth is much better fro there north.


The March of Dimes Yeti Tour has been in existence since Nate and Kelly Alvar dreamed it up in the fall of 2010 and the first Yeti tour took place in January of 2011.  The first year was a huge success and Yeti tour 2012 was set to be an even bigger event, especially with the  addition of the presenting sponsor RJ Sport and Cycle in Duluth who graciously provided a 2012 Yamaha Vector to be raffled off for the fundraiser.  Since then RJ’s has been the presenting sponsor every year and every year there has been a new Yamaha snowmobile up for grabs for one lucky raffle ticket holder.  2012 also debuted what I am now calling “The Curse of the Yeti,” because to everyone’s dismay and disbelief the riding portion of the event had to be cancelled due to lack of snow- a rarity in Northern Minnesota for January 28th.  Not to be deterred by a freak fluke of nature, plans for Yeti Tour 2013 were put into motion and it promised to be another great event, unfortunately the curse of the Yeti struck again and again the riding portion of the event had to be cancelled due to lack of snow- on January 26th.  Something had to be done-so the organizers changed the event from a two day ride to a single day ride and changed the route to run a more northerly path to help ensure better snow conditions.  The plan worked, and the 2014 ride was blessed with plenty of snow- and sub zero temperatures.  Yeti Tour 2014 kicked off at 5 below zero and by the time the ride ended it was a balmy 15 below.  Again, in an effort to make the ride more likely to take place and more likely to not have bone chilling cold the ride date was moved to the third week of February. Ironically 2015 proved to be a record low snow year and the ride went on despite trails that were mostly dirt with an occasional snowflake and little to no grooming having taken place.  We hoped for better in 2016 and things looked promising.  The trails for the event looked to have plenty of snow and had been in beautiful condition the weekend before the event and everyone looked forward to what promised to be an incredible ride.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature had different ideas and a freak warm up hit Northern Minnesota three days before the ride and followed it up with rain on Friday, turning the beautiful snow on the trail to wet sloppy slush.  When the ride took place on Saturday morning the Curse of the Yeti showed up in full force..


I rolled out of bed the morning of the Yeti Tour 2016 and immediately thought of just going back to sleep.  I had been riding all week with my daughter because the trails had been pristine and the 300+ miles I had put on over the previous four days had started catching up to my 47 year old body.  My enthusiasm suffered more damage when I looked outside to see 40 degrees on the thermometer, but since I am the chronicler of the Yeti Tour I had to gather myself and ride up to the Sunset.   The turnout was great with about 30 riders preparing themselves for the 140 mile ride and there were another dozen riders scheduled to meet us at Fish Lake.  The ride was set to kick off at 9:00 but an initial group of ten sleds left a little early to get a jump on the day.  I stayed back with the big group including the Yeti himself. All in all there were nineteen of us ready to make our way down the trail, but right before we got underway and were lining up our sleds one of the riders went over the snowbank leaving the parking lot at an odd angle and rolled his sled damaging the hood and popping off the windshield.  Before we even got started our group was cut down to seventeen as the two sleds pulled back into the parking lot to fix the windshield.

The first leg of our journey took us from the Sunset to the Eagle’s Nest Resort on Fish Lake.  The warm weather immediately started wreaking havoc on the snowmobiles in our group as we began experiencing overheating issues.  We determined that we had to keep a steady nonstop pace to keep the heat exchangers cool.  That’s when the rain started in, it was a light mist but enough to keep you wiping your faceshield every two minutes and further deteriorate the already heat stressed trail.  By the time we made it to Fish Lake, the warm temps overwhelmed the Yeti’s sled and we had to tow him back to the Eagle’s Nest parking lot where he was picked up by Jake Alvar and the support crew.  This left myself and our friend Justin (who was riding two up with his 8 year old son Alex, the youngest Yeti Tour rider ever) to catch up with the rest of the group.  We found them further down the trail and saw that in an effort to keep the sleds cooler they had broken into two groups with eight of them going on ahead leaving us in the back in a group of now just nine sleds.

As we turned north on the CJ Ramstad North Shore State Trail the rain turned into snow, normally a welcome sight to any snowmobiler but this snow was of the heavy wet variety and as it hit your face shield it stuck like glue and obstructed your vision, causing an even more constant wiping of your shield. The combination of warm weather, rain and slushy snow and heavy snowmobile traffic had at this point all but obliterated the trail, turning it into miles of slushy muddy slop pockmarked with washouts and moguls and we were all looking forward to reach the Dixie for a chance to warm up, dry off and eat some good food.  As we pulled into the Dixie to eat lunch we were shocked to see a huge group of snowmobilers waiting there for us.  There were not only the Yeti tour but also a large group of riders that were doing a poker run that day and were ironically riding the same route we were for the Yeti Tour.  We wedged our way into the jam packed Dixie and enjoyed some burgers and fries and refueled the sleds to make the run to the Yukon trail.  I was excited to ride the Yukon as I had been there earlier in the week and I knew it was in phenomenal condition and I thought that even with the warm weather it would be in good shape due to the higher amounts of snow it had received, and I was right, well, sort of.
IMG_1085There was more snow on the Yukon, but that snow had turned into very deep slush that the sled shad to churn through, riding on it was just slightly firmer than water skipping.  We did make it up to the John A Brandt Memorial shelter for some fabulous photo ops and then we were off to the Brimson trail.  The Brimson also had good snow cover but it too was like a tight twisty turny river of slush.  We made a brief stop at Hugo’s to regroup and then were off to the Pequaywan Inn.  As we neared the Pequaywan, the snow stopped and the temperature started to fall making the trail a little bit firmer and a little bit better to ride.  We stopped for photo ops with the Yeti at the Pequaywan and for a few beverages before heading back out onto the trail for the home stretch.  It is at this point that I and 3 other riders broke away from the pack to hightail it back to Duluth. The temperature had continued to drop and the Pequayan trail had firmed up enough that it actually presented a pretty enjoyable ride. Those conditions again deteriorated as we rode south into warmer weather and more beat up terrain on the North Shore Trail including some monstrous hard to see moguls at the bottom of a hill that claimed several sleds and had people bouncing off of their handle bars.  We can’t stress enough how trail conditions can change throughout the day and how dug out moguls like this can form in a short period of time and how hard they can be to see in flat light conditions.

By the time we hit the Reservoir trail we were once again dealing with a slushy mogul filled nightmare and we were grateful to get back to the Sunset having conquered the day and the weather still in one piece, but a very painful and battered one piece. 

With a great banquet of Pizza and some well-deserved adult beverages at the Sunset we put a wrap on the 2016 Yeti tour by giving away a Yama Viper to one very lucky raffle ticket holder who for the first time ever was actually at the banquet.  We almost had to call the EMT’s when they read her name over the PA system.  It’s not every day that you go home with a brand new snowmobile.

Overall the 2016 Yeti Tour could be penned as another success as it achieved its goal of raising money for the March of Dimes and provided another memorable ride for its riders.  What will the 2017 Yeti Tour bring?  That answer is as elusive as the Yeti himself, but we will be there to find out.




We had a great day of riding today and took some time to take pictures with one of the ALS Blizzard Tour Groups on the CJ Ramstad North Shore State Trail and then later we rubbed elbows with a big group of snowmobilers with Paul Goff from the Voyageur Snowmobile Club out of Two Harbors at the beautiful John Allan Brandt Memorial Shelter on the Yukon trail, which, we might add, was in spectacular riding condition! Make sure to Check us out on Facebook!

Riders from the ALS Blizzard Tour

Riders from the ALS Blizzard Tour

Riders Hanging out with Paul Goff at the John A Brandt Memorial Shelter on the Yukon Trail

Riders Hanging out at the John A Brandt Memorial Shelter on the Yukon Trail


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First a brief trail update.  The trails actually held up really well with the warm weather this past weekend- that’s the good news, the bad news is that the spring like temps eroded much of the trail base, leaving very little snow for the groomers to work with during the week which may mean little if any grooming taking place if we don’t get more snow- stay tuned to see how this plays out.

This week’s trail in focus article is not just on a single trail but a whole miniseries of trails close to the Duluth area known as the Reservoir Riders Snowmobile Club Trails.  Just north of Duluth are three reservoir lakes, Fish Lake, Island Lake and Boulder Lake.  These lakes have been a favorite destination in both the winter and the summer for Duluth residents. In the summer they boast some pretty decent fishing for Walleye and Northern Pike and Island lake has even been known to produce a few illusive Musky.  In the winter the lakes boast great ice fishing and top notch snowmobile opportunities. 

            The Reservoir Riders trail system was the brainchild of Steve Adolphs and other residents of the three reservoir lakes who enjoyed snowmobiling and envisioned a trail system to link the three lakes together and to build a trail that would connect the lakes area with the recently completed North Shore State Trail.  The Reservoir Riders Snowmobile Club was formed to make this vision a reality.  The lakes were connected by a series of trails along with a bypass trail that would keep riders off of the water in fall and spring.  A trail was also built linking the area to the North Shore state trail.  Soon other nearby trails that were managed by the DNR were turned over to the Reservoir Riders to be maintained as official snowmobile trails. These additions are referred to by the club as “The Taft Area Trails.” All in all the club maintains 94 miles of trails that are groomed three times a week and have become some of the most widely used trails in the entire state. The Reservoir Riders trail system is varied and unique presenting a vast array of riding opportunities and conditions so a detailed breakdown of each trail in this system is warranted to maximize your riding experience. 


THE RESERVOIR LAKES TRAIL & FISH LAE TRAIL:  The reservoir Lakes Trail is the trail that is at the heart of the Reservoir Riders Trail System.  It intersects with the CJ Ramstad North Shore State Trail in the east and runs west below Island Lake and continues past Fish Lake all the way to the Alborn Canyon trail.  The first section of this trail from the North Shor State Trail to the Sporty’s Spur is your typical Point A to Point B trail.  It was a trail designed to get you from one location to another.  There aren’t any spectacular features for this section of trail aside from a few terrain changes as it goes through forest and swamp alike.  Shortly before you reach the Sporty’s Spur you also have an option to take the Island Lake Trail which runs the entire length of the lake over the ice.  It is a well-marked and well maintained lake trail but as with any lake trail you have to watch out for ice ridges and ice roads.  Island Lake is a big lake and I wouldn’t suggest traversing it in a storm because you can easily get disoriented and lost.  The trail section from the Sporty’s Spur to Fish Lake is referred to by the locals as “The Driveway Trail” as it crosses several driveways and roads on its way to Fish Lake. This section of trail is a true testament to the cooperation of landowners with local clubs to make the snowmobile trail system we enjoy a reality.  It is important that riders obey the rules and speed limits set up on this trail as they should with all GIA trails to ensure that we have access to them in the future. 

Fish Lake itself is a treasure trove of resorts and bars, with plenty of options to feed a hungry group. It is also an ice fisherman’s paradise which means ice roads galore so watch out!  Fish Lake is also where you can catch the Hermantown trail which Connects to Fish Lake at the Eagles Nest Resort and will bring you all the way down to the Willard Munger state trail.  This connection is the most direct route between the North Shore State Trail and all of Southern and Western Minnesota which is why the Reservoir Lakes trail from Fish Lake to The North Shore State Trail is one of the most widely ridden trails in the entire state.  “That section of trail is a constant battle for us,” says the Reservoir Riders’ Phillip Lockett.  “Everyone uses it and it gets beat up pretty quickly.”  This section of trail is why the Reservoir Riders are out grooming three days a week.

From Fish Lake your options really open up at the intersection of the Island Lake trail and the Reservoir Lakes Trail.  Here you will find a fantastic area map marked with all of the nearby gas and food locations including the nearby Minnoette, a great place to refuel for a day of riding as they have all grades of gas and oil of every type including manufacturer brands.  From here you travel west toward the Fish Lake trail and experience some fun and interesting terrain changes.  This section of trail has everything, hills, turns, and many areas flanked by huge white pines. This is a great ride. 

When you reach the Fish Lake trail intersection you can take the Fish Lake trail south to the lake and run the lake all the way back to the Hermantown Trail intersection.  The trail crossing the lake is unmarked and beset by numerous ice roads and ice ridges so be careful. Occasionally, however, it does provide some incredible views of island and wooded shore line and some really wonderful riding.  If you continue on the Fish lake trail you will cross some farm fields STAY ON THE TRAIL!  There are few places where this advice is wise to follow.  For one going into the field is trespassing, for two the field contains many obstacles hidden under the snow that can wreck a sled including rock piles and huge drop offs and treacherous drifts.  Believe me the temptation of fields full of powder is great but there have been a large number of sleds and bodies towed out of this area in pieces.  From this trail you can also reach Caribou Lake, another small lake littered with ice houses. Continuing south the Fish Lake trail terminates in the town of Twig at the Twig store which has fuel available.

Following the Reservoir Lakes Trail farther west from the Fish Lake trail intersection runs you through some fantastic Terrain: hills, swamps, ditch riding, fields, and majestic pine forests. This section of trail has it all. Once you Cross the Cloquet river you can go North on the Three Lakes Trail or continue on the Reservoir Lakes Trail.  This section of the reservoir lakes trail travels along the bottom of a ridge that is sometimes plagued by freezing runoff and some unforeseen dips in the trail.  Keep it slow and steady through this section so you can react to sudden terrain changes.  Once you make it through this section the Reservoir Lakes Trail turns north onto powerlines and this is powerline riding at its finest.  The terrain here consists of miles of rolling hills and is truly a blast to ride.  Remember that you are cresting multiple hills and you never know what is on the other side- including the possibility of a groomer, so be careful!  The trail also comes to an end rather abruptly where it connects to the Alborn Canyon trail.  This connection comes at the end of a long stretch of powerlines and suddenly there is a hairpin left turn.  Many a snowmobiler has been flying along at 50 MPH to suddenly come face to face with a fence.  Don’t let that be you!


THE THREELAKES TRAIL, CHICKEN CREEK TRAIL, HARRIS ROAD TRAIL AND MUDLAKE TRAIL:  I group these trails together because they are a whole different animal from what you are used to as a snowmobile trail.  While the Reservoir Lakes Trail and Fish Lake Trail fall into your typical Minnesota Snowmobile trail mode of wide trails with various manageable twists and turns catered to the modern snowmobile, the “Taft Area Trails” as the club refers to them were old trails managed by the DNR.  When the DNR turned the management of these trails over to the club, the club kept them essentially as they were- traditional trails cut through the woods by outdoorsmen years ago.  Most of us have seen trails like this in your past- the trails through the woods that you hiked on as a kid and rode your BMX and dirt bikes on in the summertime.  In the winter these narrow trails were converted to snowmobile trails with single lanes and hairpin turns.  That is what this group of trails are- good old fashioned snowmobile trails.  “We wanted a family atmosphere, a place where you could take your kids on a winter picnic without having to worry about other riders flying around corners at high speed.  The Taft area trails are our family trails and we wanted to keep them that way,” said Lockett.  Each of these trails has their own personality, however.

THE THREE LAKES TRAIL is one of my two favorites in this group.  When you ride on this trail you are transported back in time to an era where the only snowmobile trails were the ones cut through the woods by your neighbors.  When riding the section of this trail from the Cloquet River Crossing to the shelter, you find yourself dreaming of riding that old Ski-Doo through the woods to your friend’s cabin or the deer shack.  This trail has a real back woods wilderness feel to it and once you reach the shelter you have found a perfect place for a winter picnic.  From the shelter onward the trail cuts through a logging operation and is well marked- in some of the older logged areas you may be tempted to hit the powder but don’t, the ground is littered with hidden stumps and brush piles.  This trail will eventually get you to the Hawks trail that leads to the iron range but before you get to the Hawks trail intersection you come to the Chicken Creek Trail.

THE CHICKEN CREEK TRAIL:  Imagine a trail cut through the woods where all you did was cut just enough to get your sled through.  This is the Chicken Creek Trail.  If you want a riding challenge at 10 MPH this is the trail for you.  It is narrow with hairpin turn after hairpin turn and you wonder how they ever get a groomer through it.  This is a grooming feat of epic proportions.  This trail goes through woods, swamps, logged areas and about any type of crazy terrain you can imagine.  This is one challenging tiring and sometimes frustrating trail and it takes a special kind of snowmobiler to run it.  If you like wide open spaces and break neck speeds this is not the trail for you.  If you like to feel like you are riding on a trail in 1968 then this trail is what you are looking for.

THE HARRIS ROAD TRAIL:  This trail is as its name implies- a road.  A section of Harris Road is unmaintained in the winter and thus you have the Harris Road Trail.

THE MUD LAKE TRAIL:  This is another one of my favorites.  Once again this trail is old school narrow but it has a little more room than the other trails in this group.  It still, however, takes you back to the roots of snowmobiling and puts you back into the early seventies type riding.  The highlight of the Mud Lake trail is the shelter on Mud Lake.  This shelter is the kind of place you ride out to as a teenager to make out with your girlfriend.  This trail is accessed by the Three Lakes Trail in the East and the Reservoir Lakes Trail on the power lines in the West.  From either direction it is easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it.  This trail also hooks up to the South end of the Chicken Creek Trail.  The Mud Lake Trail is also frequented by bald eagles in the winter time and if you are lucky you might see one hovering above you. If the snow conditions are just right, both the Three Lakes Trail and the Mud Lake Trail bring you through sections of snow laden pine forests that are right out of a story book.  If you like a nice slow pace and are more into seeing the sights than riding like you are trying to win the I-500 then these trails are definitely for you.  If you are in a hurry to get somewhere, stick to the Reservoir Lakes Trail.


In closing I will say this, If you are in the Duluth area and are looking for a day of riding that will provide you with a little bit of everything, then the Reservoir Riders Trails are worth checking out.  You can literally spend the whole day riding them.  There are lots of places to eat and get gas and the trails are well marked and well maintained.  You are guaranteed to see a lot of sleds, however, because the Reservoir Lakes trail is a pipeline from Southern Minnesota to The CJ Ramstad North Shore State Trail and also a pipeline to the Iron Range and Western Minnesota.  From this group of trails you can get anywhere in the state so they see a lot of traffic.  The great thing about this trail system is that it offers a little bit of something for everyone all wrapped up into one trail system:  lake riding, trail riding, swampy terrain, hilly terrain, farm fields, hardwood forests, pine forests, old growth forest, new growth forest, logged areas, ditch banging, power lines, bridges, Od school trails, new modern trails, railroad grades- you name it and you have it here.  The Reservoir Riders have created an incredible and unique trail system for everyone to enjoy and I highly recommend it.  Until next time, ride safe!
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