A Winter Getaway Weekend at True North Basecamp

January meant it was once again time for my yearly trip to True North Basecamp for a weekend outdoors on the lakes and trails of the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area.  Reports were that the trail conditions were stellar and this time around I would be trying my luck at ice fishing on a mine pit lake.

The Accommodations

Our accommodations were at the Artcrank Cabin located on the shore of Armour #2 Mine Lake at True North Basecamp in Crosby, MN.  This would be our "basecamp" for a weekend full of outdoor activity.

The Trails
Day 1-Portsmouth & Yawkey

Once we got unpacked with all of our gear settled into the cabin and had a little lunch it was time to hit Cuyuna's groomed singletrack.  One of the perks of staying at True North Basecamp is being able to jump right onto the trails from the cabin.

It was 1° F when we were ready to roll and the high would be around 7° F so Alex and I layered up in our subzero gear since we would be out until sundown.  This meant choosing apparel that would provide the proper balance to keep warm without overheating.  Sweat can be your enemy and cut a ride short when the temperatures are this cold.

We headed down the trail connector from the Basecamp and then jumped on Drag Line (South), the Cuyuna Lakes State Trail and back onto Drag Line (North) for a ride that would take us all the way around Portsmouth Mine Lake.

A little ways past the Portsmouth Campground is the public water access where we could get out onto the lake.

The snow wasn't too deep so we ventured out for a roll in the virgin powder that was covering the ice.

After riding the Portsmouth Unit we took the New Haul Road back into the trails of the Yawkey Unit.  Here we would ride Man Cage, Manuel Drive, Trout, Tugger and Bobsled until the sun began to set where we headed back towards the basecamp on Haul Road.

Day one trail conditions were perfect.  The groomed singletrack was hard-packed and very fast.  We had to make sure to keep our eyes on the trail because if we veered off just slightly the snow was very deep and a crash was inevitable.

Day 1-Portsmouth & Yawkey

Day 2-Portsmouth/Mahnomen Unit

Day 2 would take us through the Portsmouth Unit on our way to the Mahnomen Unit where there would be a bit of climbing and some fast downhill sections.  We followed the connector trail, Switchback from the west end of Portsmouth Mine Lake until we got on Galloping Goose which would take us along the south shore of Huntington Mine Lake.  We left Galloping Goose for the Sidewinder connection to Sand Hog Mountain.

After a scenic climb we made it to the overlook on Sand Hog Mountain and stopped for a photo op.  Now it was time for the fast ride down the mountain and back onto Galloping Goose.

We got off the trail on Miner's Mountain Road and rode past Miner's Mountain Rally Center on our way to the Cuyuna Lakes State Trail.  The freshly groomed state trail was our fast track back to our cabin at True North Basecamp.

Day 2-Portsmouth/Mahnomen Unit

Day 2-Ice fishing

After our morning ride we relaxed a bit and had lunch.  Our cabin was right on Armour #2 Mine Lake so I wanted to try my luck at ice fishing while Alex would get some outdoor photos and video.  The trout season opener was the following weekend so I was unable to fish many of the lakes in the CCSRA because they are designated trout lakes that cannot be fished out of season.  After a stop at Oars-N-Mine in Crosby for some bait and "intel" on the lake, I would get started.  The lake our cabin was on was open for fishing so I drilled a few holes to check depths and structure near the inlet of Serpent Creek being careful to stay far enough away from the open water.  I was pretty close to shore and the water was 28' deep with 6" of ice.

Once I found a spot near the creek inlet that had fish both suspended and near the bottom I decided to set up and fish until dark.  It was nice being so close to our cabin in case I needed anything.  I graphed a lot of fish and presented a variety of different baits, both live and artificial, but they just weren't biting that afternoon.  I decided to try a Swedish Pimple spoon tipped with a minnow head to see if I could get the attention of some larger panfish.  That didn't work either except for this hungry little northern pike.  He was a "hammer handle" so I let him go so he could grow.  There must be some big northerns in this lake because he had half of his tail bitten off.

After catching the little pike the bite was dead.  Around sunset the fish must have moved out to deeper water because I was no longer graphing them on my fishfinder.  I packed things up after dark and hauled my gear the short walk back to the cabin.  We planned on doing a night ride on the trails but after being outside all day long we were wiped out and hungry so we skipped it to relax and eat dinner in the cabin.  We still had one more morning to ride.

Day 3-Back to the Mahnomen Unit

Checkout was at noon but we wanted to get in another ride so we headed out early and took the fastest way back to the main trailhead at the Mahnomen Unit via the Cuyuna Lakes State Trail.  Here we would get a chance to ride some of our favorite trails one more time.  The scenery throughout the Mahnomen Unit is spectacular with the stands of pines, birch trees and overlooks of the mine pit lakes and land surrounding them.

We took our time to enjoy the ride and scenery on a light dusting of snow from the previous night before jumping back onto the Cuyuna Lakes State trail for the ride back to the basecamp.

Day 3-Back to the Mahnomen Unit

Short Video Recap of the Weekend

It was a great weekend at Cuyuna.  There's so much to do here and only so many hours in the day.  We packed in as much as we had the energy to do spending much of our time outside despite the cold temperatures that weekend.  True North Basecamp is the perfect place to stay and play while visiting Cuyuna.  Because of its prime location, everything we wanted to do was accessible by foot, bike or 5 minute car ride.  The cabin served as our basecamp for sleeping, taking breaks, getting something to eat or just warming up so we could get back outside and ride our bikes.  If you enjoy fatbiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or ice fishing, make True North Basecamp your "basecamp" on your next winter adventure.


Things You Can Do To Bike More In 2020

Do you want to make 2020 a great cycling year?  I have compiled a list of things you can do to to put on your biggest annual mileage yet.  Some of these ideas may be familiar and others new to you.  Either way, they will get you to #bikemorein2020.

Join a Facebook group rides group

One of the best ways to ride more in 2020 is to ride with others.  There are several Facebook groups that you can join to find group rides or post up your own ride to get others interested in.  For fatbikers looking to connect with others of the well-endowed tire crowd there is the MN Fatbike Group Rides.  Other disciplines like road, gravel or mountain biking group rides can be found on MN Group Bike Rides.  The south metro area of the Twin Cities in Dakota, Goodhue, and Rice counties has a lot of great riding opportunities to be had.  Join the private group South Metro Group Rides to ride with others that know this area well.  These Facebook groups make it easy to get in plenty of miles with others that share your style of riding.

Join a weekly group ride

Get in some consistent mileage by joining a weekly group ride.  These rides happen throughout the year giving you a chance to establish a riding routine on specific days of the week that will work with your schedule.  Right now there are winter fatbike rides being held just about every day of the week throughout the state.  For a complete list of them visit my post Winter '19-'20 Weekly Fatbike Group Rides.  As the weather warms this spring get ready for weekly road, gravel and mountain bike rides to start popping up.  MN Bike Trail Navigator and Facebook are great places to find these bike shop, club and cyclist organized rides to get you on a weekly ride schedule.

Make the 30 Days of Biking pledge

A great way to kick off the spring riding season is to make the 30 Days of Biking pledge to ride your bike every day in April.  Whether it's a ride around the block or a century ride, it all counts as long as you got on your bike and went for a ride.  Biking in April in Minnesota can present some challenges but these can be overcome.  To quote 30 Days of Biking, "Weather’s bad? Biking indoors counts, too, but give riding in that rainstorm or blizzard a shot. You never know how much you’ll love it! Missed a day? Just keep going! We're all in this together."  The first year I made the pledge I learned a lot about myself, my gear and my bike.  This made me a better cyclist, not to mention I got a big jump on getting in some base miles for the year.  Join people worldwide that make the pledge and share your ride experiences on social media with the hashtag #30daysofbiking.

Try a new discipline

Are you tired of the same old rides? Trying a different ride discipline will open up a whole new experience for you on two wheels.  Are you a roadie or paved trail rider that is looking for some new scenery?  Give gravel a try, the sites and sounds of the country and low traffic roads have made gravel very popular over the last few years.  For gravel discussion, Q&A, group rides and routes, join the MN Gravel Enthusiasts Facebook group to help get you started.   Take up mountain biking if you've never tried it before.  You may find you really enjoy being out in the woods and taking on the challenge of riding singletrack.  MN Mountain Bike Enthusiasts is the place to go for all things mtb.  Extend your ride season into the winter months on a fatbike.  Fatbikes can take you places you can't go with traditional bikes opening up new ride opportunities you would have never thought of.  Facebook groups with fatbike discussion include MN Fatbike Enthusiasts, MN Fatbike Bushwhackers, Fat Bikes and Fatbike Republic.

Take up bike commuting

I took up commuting to work by bike about three years ago and immediately fell in love with it.  It became my morning workout and one of the best ways I know to unwind after a stressful day at work.  I would look forward to finishing my shift just so I could ride my bike home.  2019 was the first time I surpassed the 4,000 mile mark for the year and commuting to work was more than half of those miles.  With my hectic work schedule in the foodservice industry I found bike commuting to be the best way to fit in ride time and it sure beats being stuck in traffic in an automobile.  Give bike commuting a try and if you're not sure where to start there are a lot of experienced commuters on Facebook that can answer your questions and give advice.  Visit Twin Cities/MN Bicycle Advice & Discussion or Twin Cities Bike Commuters to strike up an informative conversation.

Buy a new bike

That's what I did and I loved my new bike so much I was riding way more than usual.  I upgraded from my old road bike and got my dream bike, a Trek Checkpoint SL 6 with full Ultegra and what an amazing difference.  I would make excuses to just get out and ride.  My new bike not only inspired confidence in my riding but also was lighter, faster and an all-together better ride than I was used to on my old bike.  "You can’t buy happiness but you can buy a bike and that’s pretty close!" -Unknown.

Get apparel for all types of weather

There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing choices.  Over the years I have ridden my bikes in every type of weather including blizzards, sub-zero temperatures, thunderstorms and the blazing heat of summer.  Riding year round presents weather challenges but they can be overcome with the right riding apparel.  I have built up my cycling wardrobe to include everything I need to ride my bikes in ANY weather and I no longer have an excuse to skip because conditions aren't ideal.  Through trial and error I have learned what clothing selections work best for the weather I will be riding in and that makes for a much more enjoyable experience in the saddle.

Join Strava
Image Credit: Strava

I joined Strava years ago because it's a great tool to track my progress and weekly/yearly mileage.  I also use it to find new places to ride by following my friends and other cyclists.  This helps me create new routes that I can load onto my gps bike computer for easy navigation.  If you don't have a gps enabled bike computer linked to Strava, use the Strava app on your phone (available for both Android and IOS) to track rides, create and follow routes and tally your mileage.  Strava is a free app with basic features and more advanced function can be unlocked by joining Strava Summit.  With Strava Summit you can pick the features you need for training, analysis and safety to reach your goals and help you bike more in 2020.

Plan out your ride calendar

Bookmark my 2020 Minnesota Bike Tours, Rides, Races & Events Schedule on MN Bike Trail Navigator for the best listing of cycling events in Minnesota on the web.  I update this post almost daily as new events are popping up all the time.  Start planning out your ride calendar now and don't miss out on events that may have rider caps, registration deadlines or were announced close to the event date.  Each listing has links to more information so you can decide if the event is right for you.  The more events you participate in the more miles you'll rack up for 2020.

Take up bikecamping/bikepacking

One thing I've always wanted to do on the bike was to go camping and bikepacking.  Last year I invested in the necessary equipment to get me started and went on my first bikecamping trip.  I really enjoyed it and plan on doing several outings in 2020.  I have multiple destinations in mind that I can travel to from my home eliminating the need for a car on these trips.  Through some trial and error test rides last summer I found out what works for me and how to fit everything on the bike that is needed for an outing.

Bikepacking/bikecamping opens up a whole new avenue of bike adventures that I wouldn't have even thought about before.  If this is something that sounds of interest to you but you're not sure where to start, visit your local bike shop and they can help you with any questions you may have and point you in the right direction for the bags and gear needed for a successful outing.  Farmstead Bike Shop in Minneapolis hosts several group bikecamping outings during the late spring and early summer that are a good place to start if you are a beginner.

Find new places to ride

Get away from the same old boring rides by riding some place new.  By doing this I have discovered some of my favorite new areas to explore.  I'm a mountain biker at heart and I wanted to seek out new challenges other than singletrack to ride my fatbike.  I enjoy bushwhacking ventures off the beaten path to explore nature where there are no trails.  Some of these spots include beaches, woods and frozen lakes/swamps.  Besides bushwhacking, new places to ride may also include gravel roads out in the country, that mountain bike trail you've never been to or a tour on one of Minnesota's many scenic rail trails.  With so many riding opportunities in our state there are limitless places to take you on your next bike adventure.  Visit my pages Twin Cities Area Map LinksSouthern MN Map LinksCentral MN Map Links and Northern MN Map Links to discover new places near you to ride.
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