Stepping Outdoors With Craig Blog Stepping Outdoors With Craig

  • Updates for the Mesabi Trail!

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    Fans of the Mesabi Trail will be seeing some improvements in a couple of areas. The Department of Natural Resources has announced their new Parks and Trails Legecy Grants.

    The Parks and Trails Legacy Grant program helps local governments acquire, develop and restore parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.

    Mesabi Trail upgrades include:

    • St. Louis and Lake counties Regional Rail Authority (RRA), $512,000. Development of the Mesabi Trail at the eastern edge of Vermilion State Park.


    • Itasca County, $200,000. Improvement of more than six miles of the Mesabi Trail, parking and signage.

    Other Bike trails grant winners were:

    • City of Walker, $425,000. Construction of a tunnel/underpass under state Highway 200/371 to complete the Shingobee Connection Trail, which connects the Paul Bunyan and Heartland state trails to Walker.


    • Lyon County, $1,409,925. Construction of a new paved off-road bicycle and pedestrian trail that will connect Camden State Park to Marshall.


    • Freeborn County, $950,000. Acquisition of more than 12 miles of abandoned rail line for a new bicycle and pedestrian thoroughfare that will link to the Blazing Star State Trail in Albert Lea
  • A Pair of Bigs!

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    Two of our area cross country ski trails have similar names; Big Ridge and Big Aspen.

    Big Ridge is south of Pengilly just off Hwy. 65, and has 10k of classic skiing on three loops through a variety of forest.

    Big Aspen is just North of Virginia just off Hwy. 53 and offers 32k of classic trails. Both trails systems are a great place to get out anytime of year, but in the winter they cater to the cross country skier.

    With the low snow we have had so far this year, I recommend not using your good skis just yet. However, they are both very skiable. Both have been packed by groomers, but neither trail system has been tracked. Hopefully that will be coming with the next good snowfall.

    Big Ridge, note the logging in the area, is on the left and Big Aspen is on the right.

    For the latest cross country ski reports from across the area, check out Skinnyski.


  • Time to SKI!

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    Don't let your yard fool you into sitting on your couch! There's some great winter conditions out there and not far from home. Now I'm not suggesting you grab your new skis and head out the door, but there was a reason you kept those old skis and this is it. Most of the area trails have been skied on and are in pretty good condition.

    Picture on the left is from the Sturgeon River trails, and the right is McCarthy Beach State Park. Remember for the latest ski conditions around the region check out

  • Winter Wonderland

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    Make it part of your Christmas plans to get out and venture outdoors, it's a winter wonderland out there! While we just barely have enough snow to enjoy some winter recreation, it is beautiful out. This is a photo of the cross country ski trails at Carey Lake, Hibbing.

    The trails were packed by the city groomer this week, so until we get more snow classic skiing would be very difficult. However, skate skiing right now is very good. Please remember groomed ski trails shouldn't be walked on. However there are plenty of hiking trails around that are not groomed and with the low snow a walk in the woods is pretty easy thing to do. Or dust off those snowshoes and go for a hike!

  • Time to Ski

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    It's the most wonderful time of the year! The snow is starting to pile up and it's time to get out the rock skis. (Although I hear some parts of the area, like up on the Gunflint Trail they are already on their good skis!) I hit the Southern Lights Loop late yesterday afternoon and was treated to good coverage and a pretty good sunset.

    It looks like Highland and Lakeview Loop were packed by the groomer yesterday, as was part of Southern Lights but not all of it. The packed surface has some short grass poking through in some areas, but other than that it is in pretty good early season condidtion.


    I was classic skiing, but these early packed conditions might be better suited for skate skiing. I did notice the skate trail had been packed as well.

  • November Biking?

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    Yes this year it has been warm enough to get the bikes back out and hit the trail. Believe me I would rather be skiing, but the snow is not here so I need to keep active doing something. This adventure took us to the southern reaches of the Paul Bunyan State Bike Trail, where I found some interesting sights along the way.

    Of course it was not just biking that brought Chuck and I to meet up at the trail on a November Saturday morning. While others were chasing the above prey we were hunting geocaches. And there were plenty to be found, in fact in our 31 miles of bike riding we found 113 geocaches.

    Yes the Paul Bunyan trail has turned into a Powertrail, and is attracting geocaches from all over the area. We were not the only ones out on the trail on Saturday, but we appeared to be the only geocachers. Others were out biking, walking, and roller blading in the warm November weather. So until the snow flys I guess I'll keep the bike tires pumped up and fresh batteries in the GPS.  

  • 42 for 45

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    Sunday while it was snowing here I was making my way south to meet a friend in the Northwoods. Yes I understand it doesn't make sense to travel south to the Northwoods, but we were meeting at the Audubon Center of the Northwoods near Sandstone.

    The weather there was cool to start, but with periods of sun it was a pleasent day to be in the outdoors. We were there to hike the vast network of trails that wind through the property, and also to find the more than 40 geocaches along the trails. The trails are very well maintained and the entire area is very flat making for some easy hiking.

    Audubon Center Trail

    The red lines are the trails we hiked and the treasure chests are the geocaches located along the trail system. We failed to find 3 of the caches, and if you look close you can see those three closed chests on the map as well.

    Audubon Center Geocaches

    The Audubon Center of the Northwoods has been around since 1986 offering environmental learning opportunities to people of all ages. Check out their website for more information on all they offer or plan to stop by and check it out next time your traveling through. I can tell you the trails make for a great day of geocaching!

  • Skiing!

    Posted by Craig Holgate


    The first snow of the season came down on Thursday, and while I know many of your were groaning others were celebrating. Well at least I was out celebrating, as I didn't see anyone else out on the trails. But that was their loss because conditions were very skiable. I got out on the Southern Lights Loop at Carey Lake and found the trail to be well cleared, no trees or brush was on the trail. And the snow had covered up the trail with the exception of under some of the bigger pines.

    I would say about 3 inches of snow had fallen during the day and was all done falling by the time I got out there. Most of the snow was untouched, however there were several spots where the deer had ventured across the trail. About halfway through my loop two does jumped out onto the trail and after a couple of bounds exited into the brush on the otherside. I also had a low flying, honking, flock of geese go over head later in my ski.  

    Lets hope there will be plenty of snow to leave tracks in this winter!

  • SLEEPLESS Anniversary Night!

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    So this past weekend was our 5th wedding anniversary, and I surprised Jennifer with a new puppy. And that has made for some sleepless nights! Meet Maci Jo, a seven week old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

    Sure that 4 pound ball of fur is very cute, but how can she make so much noise at night? We are working on training her and yes it's like having a new born in the house. But I think we are making some progress, at least I hope. Here is a picture of her with her older, 10 month, biological brother Joey!

    And so far we are very pleased to find that Maci is a lover of the outdoors. Which is good considering we spend a lot of time out there! So on her first full day home we went out geocaching and she really loved romping through the woods, and finding her first geocache!

    Now sleep Maci, Sleep!

  • Fall Camping!

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    We realized again this weekend just how enjoyable Fall camping can be. Even though the drive up to Bear Head Lake State Park was through snow and sleet, it was a great place to be for the weekend. Researching campgrounds last month, I found the North Shore area to be extremely busy as it usually is this time of year. So instead we opted for the quiet of Bear Head. Of the 70 some campsites in the park, only 8 of them were in use, and that included us. Both the deer and grouse seemed to not be too concerned when I was out for early morning walks. In fact the wildlife made me wish I had a "real" camera, instead of just a cell phone. If you haven't winterized the camper yet, take one of the upcoming weekends and get out enjoy!

    Bear Head Lake State Park




  • Did you get a Wolf License?

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    Hunters and trappers who applied to participate in Minnesota’s first-ever wolf season can check lottery results online to see if they were successful in the drawing. They also can view a copy of the 2012 wolf season regulations handbook.

    The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) received more than 23,000 applications for the 6,000 available licenses.

    Lottery winners, who also will receive notification and wolf hunting regulations via postal mail, now may purchase their licenses from DNR license agent, online or by telephone at 888-665-4236.

    Participants in the early season hunt, which coincides with firearms deer season, must purchase their wolf licenses by Wednesday, Oct. 24. Participants in the late hunting and trapping season, which runs from Saturday, Nov. 24, to Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, must buy their licenses by Thursday, Nov. 15.

    Any licenses not sold by those dates will be available on a first-come, first-served basis to unsuccessful lottery applicants beginning at noon on Monday, Oct. 29, for the early season and at noon on Monday, Nov. 19, for the late hunting and trapping season.

    Any remaining licenses not purchased by unsuccessful applicants will be available for purchase by any eligible hunter beginning at noon on Thursday, Nov. 1, for the early season and noon on Wednesday, Nov. 21, for the late hunting and trapping season.

    Minnesota assumed state management of the gray wolf after the species was removed Jan. 27 from federal protection in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Minnesota’s wolf population is estimated to be about 3,000 wolves. The target harvest of 400 wolves for this inaugural wolf season is a conservative approach that does not pose a threat to the conservation of the population.