Stepping Outdoors With Craig Blog Stepping Outdoors With Craig

  • Update on the Mesabi Trail

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    In my rides the last few days both in the Keewatin and Hibbing areas, I have found the trail to be in great shape. Appears to have been swept in most areas as I have found very little debris on the trail. And a friend of mine sent me this picture yesterday of the progress being made on the reroute in between Hibbing and Chisholm.

    Mesabi Trail Reroute

    So it looks like things are progressing quite nicely. Speaking of biking if you haven't check out my post for the National Bike Challenge, do so. An update today from them is that it is now truly a national challenge with riders signed up in all 50 states!

  • National Bike Challenge coming. Sign Up Now!

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    Starting on May 1st there is going to be a National bike Challenge getting underway, and now is a great time to sign up for it. Last year a test challenge was held in Wisconsin, and it went well so this year it is expanding nation wide. And it's FREE! Over 1700 riders have already signed up, including myself. And I'm in the process of putting together my team as well.

    Sign up is easy right here. Then get some friends, coworkers, relatives and start keeping track of your biking miles. We are in the warm up phase right now with the challenge running May 1 to August 31 with the goal of uniting 50,000 people to bike
    10 million miles. Let's do this!

  • Is your Bike out yet?

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    Well since winter left us way too soon this year, it's time to get the bike out and do some pedaling. While we have the Mesabi Trail here, that is not the only trail to ride in Minnesota. This weekend I ventured down to do an 11 mile stretch of the Soo Line Trail.

    Soo Line Bike Trail

    Most of the 100 miles of the Soo Line Trail is just gravel, however the section between Isle and Onamia is paved. Now the gravel ATV trail still runs beside the trail, but ATV riders are advised to slow down when meeting or passing bicycle riders and we found in nearly every case they did. Now why drive a few hours by car, just to bike 11 miles? Geocaches. If you cache, then you know what the term Power Trail is, and the Soo Line Trail is just that. (Click here to see a list of the more than 60 geocaches along the trail) We left Isle and found every OTHER cache on the trail. Stopped in downtown Onamia and had lunch, then biked back getting the other caches along the way. By the way it was a great day to be in the outdoors, for wildlife too. In my travels, both on and off the trail, I saw deer, wild turkeys, hawks, mallards, a pheasant, and swans. And we heard drumming grouse along the trail as well. I'm looking forward to exploring other Minnesota bike trails, and I'll keep you posted, and feel free to e-mail me your favorite biking places too. Closed circuit to Double J, that thing on my head is called a helmet!

  • Nesting Urban Falcon's Live

    Posted by Craig Holgate


    The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Nongame Program is broadcasting a Web streaming video of peregrine falcons nesting on the top of the Bremer Bank Building in downtown St. Paul.  With the help of the Town Square merchants as well as the Midwest Peregrine Society, The Nongame Program is able to provide this unique opportunity to watch peregrines raise their young in an urban setting.


    Peregrine falcon chicks nesting in downtown St. Paul.In 1987, a nesting box was placed on the east side of the building and was first used by a pair of falcons in 1988.  Several pairs of falcons have chosen this site as their home, producing 61 chicks through 2011.  If they return, this will be the 9th year that the pair "Jill" and "Sota" have occupied the box.  Sota hatched in 1994 and has been nesting since 1998.  Despite missing two toes on each foot (probably due to frostbite), and being 17 years old, Sota has been able to provide enough food for himself, all of his offspring and his mate during incubation and early brooding of chicks.


    Learn more this peregrine falcon project and watch a video of last year's brood at Bremer being banded.


  • Moose Hunting to be Limited.

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    DNR to offer limited moose hunt this fall.

    Minnesota Moose

    Consistent with the state's moose management plan, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced today that it will offer a limited bulls-only hunting season this fall.
    Although hunting mortality of bulls is not a significant factor in the moose population decline, the state's moose plan, which addresses habitat, climate change, disease and other moose population factors, identifies specific thresholds when moose hunting should cease. The DNR is following that plan by closing two hunting zones in northeastern Minnesota, but continuing to allow limited hunting in other zones.
    "Our approach is based on the scientific and social considerations brought forth by experts on the legislatively created Minnesota Moose Advisory Committee," said Erik Thorson, acting DNR big game program leader. "Committee members envisioned a time when hunting would become an issue. That time has come. We're implementing a reasoned and responsible plan."
    Minnesota's moose population is estimated at 4,230. This compares to last year's estimate of 4,900 and is down significantly from the 2006 estimate of 8,840. The DNR estimates about 50 bulls will be taken by state hunters this fall.
    Thorson said the DNR's limited hunting season will have no significant impact on the moose population. That's because the bull-cow ratio is sufficient to ensure that all cows can be bred, thereby creating the next generation of moose. The state's moose management plan recommends using bull-cow ratios as a measure to determine whether a bulls-only hunt should continue. DNR biologists base the harvest level on 5 percent of the estimated bull population.
    "While it's true that the state's moose population is declining it's also true that bulls-only hunting is not a significant factor in that decline," said Thorson. "A decade of research has shown that most mortality is from unknown causes unrelated to hunting, perhaps linked to parasites or disease."
    In 2008, the Minnesota Legislature directed the DNR to create a Moose Advisory Committee to make recommendations to the agency. The DNR convened a group of individuals from agencies, universities, tribes, and organizations representing a broad cross-section of moose expertise and interests. The Moose Advisory Committee filed a report that the DNR used to formulate its moose management and research plan. That plan states hunting should cease if:
    The bull to cow ratio drops below 67 bulls per 100 cows for three consecutive years.
    Overall hunter success drops below 30 percent for three consecutive years.
    The harvest success rate for any individual hunting zone averages less than 20 percent for three consecutive years.
    "The bull to cow ratio is well above the identified threshold and at the highest level since 2006," said Thorson. "Overall hunter success was 58 percent last year, well above the 30 percent threshold. And hunting success rates for individual zones have not dipped below 20 percent for three consecutive years except zones 23 and 34, which we have closed to hunting this year."
    Rolf Peterson, chair of the Moose Advisory Committee, said while many people will focus their concern on moose hunting, the real news – that the moose population is still declining – continues to be disturbing.
    "Even though hunting is not causing the decline, it makes sense to reduce hunting pressure in an orderly manner if the population continues to decline," Peterson said.
    Today's announcement means Minnesotans who want to hunt bull moose this fall can apply for 87 available licenses starting Monday, April 2. The state's moose hunting season is open to residents age 10 or older. Application deadline is Friday, May 4.
    Eleven of the of the 87 available permits will be offered first to hunters who were selected in last year's lottery but opted not to hunt because of hunting access issues caused by the widespread Pagami Creek Fire. If any of the 11 choose not to hunt, their permits will be available to this year's applicants. The state's moose hunting quotas also take into consideration the expected tribal moose harvest by the Bois Forte, Fond du Lac and Grand Portage bands, which also conduct moose hunting seasons.
    The moose season will open Saturday, Sept. 29, and conclude Sunday, Oct. 14. Hunters may apply at any DNR license agent or at the DNR License Center, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul. Moose hunters must apply in parties from two to four individuals. An application fee of $3 per individual must be included with the application.
    Permits are issued through a random drawing, except that applicants who have been unsuccessful at least 10 times since 1985 will be placed in a separate drawing for up to 20 percent of the available licenses. A person who is still unsuccessful in this separate selection also will be included in the regular drawing.
    Because the moose hunt became a once-in-a-lifetime hunt in 1991, hunters who received permits for moose hunts for the 1991 hunt and later are not eligible to apply for the 2012 drawing. The license fee is $310 per party. There will be mandatory orientation sessions required for all hunters chosen for moose licenses.
    In 2011, 92 state-licensed hunters harvested 53 bull moose.

  • Mesabi Trail Open! Well not everywhere...

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    So last week the Mesabi Trail took advantage of the early spring weather and opened the trail gates, and wheel passes and maps will at the various vendors shortly. If you are one of the early riders you will find that the trail is not swept in some areas, and other spots are wet from the recently melting snow. However, the trail is also closed in between Hibbing and Chisholm, due the to trail relocation for the Magnetation Plant.

    Mesabi Trail Closed near Chisholm

    The closure comes in the area of the swing if you are familar with the trail. According to the Mesabi Trail office they will begin construction on the reroute soon, however no firm date was given.

  • Here's How to make your State Park Reservations

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    The DNR is rolling out the State Park Reservation system over an 8 day period starting Thursday. Here you go! (lets hope we don't crash it again!)

    After the online system was overloaded and crashed March 1, the DNR is taking a conservative approach so the system does not have to handle the entire inventory of campsites and cabins at once. It also ensures all customers have an equal opportunity to make reservations.

    Reservations can be made online, or by calling 866-857-2757 (TTY 952-936-4008).

    Phone and online reservations will be accepted according to the following schedule:

    Thursday, March 22 – reservations for arrival dates through April 21, 2012.


    Friday, March 23, through Sunday, March 25 – reservations for arrival dates through May 12, 2012.

    Monday, March 26 – reservations for arrival dates through June 2, 2012.

    Tuesday, March 27 – reservations for arrival dates through June 30, 2012.

    Wednesday, March 28 – reservations for arrival dates through July 21, 2012.

    Thursday, March 29 – reservations for arrival dates through Aug. 11, 2012.

    Friday, March 30, through Sunday, April 1 – reservations for arrival dates through
    Sept. 2, 2012.

    Monday, April 2 – reservations for arrival dates up to a year in advance.

    Customer service hours have been extended at the Minnesota-based reservation call center. Starting Thursday, operators will assist callers from 10 a.m. to midnight. From Friday, March 23 to April 2, call center hours are 8 a.m. to midnight.
    From April 3 to Oct. 31, calls will be taken 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily (except holidays).

  • State Park Reservations?

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    Minnesota state parks reservation service to
    resume Thursday for limited set of arrival dates at a time.

    The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will resume taking reservations on Thursday, March 22 for camping and lodging at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. Reservations will be accepted for a limited set of arrival dates at a time.  A newly-upgraded reservation service launched March 1 but crashed shortly after it went live because of higher than anticipated traffic.


    For now the DNR has created a report for each park that shows the total number of units available from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.
    The report does not list each individual campsite, but we hope that it helps you see the number of campsites and cabins available at your favorite park. Also, note that non-reservable sites available on a first-come, first-served basis (up to 30 % of the total sites in each park) are not included.
    Check the summer availability report.

  • Burning Restrictions Coming...

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    Burning restrictions take effect March 26 for much of central and northern Minnesota

    Camp Fire
    Fire danger in most of Minnesota is expected to increase rapidly in the coming week, as the snow continues to melt and winds dry the dead standing grass and brush in open areas. Because of this danger, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will place burning restrictions over much of the state starting March 26, with more areas included later.

    Spring fire restrictions limit open burning until summer green-up occurs. Traditionally, most wildfires in Minnesota occur during April and May. More than 95 percent of these fires are caused by human error.

    The restrictions normally last from four to six weeks until sufficient green vegetative growth occurs.

    The burning restrictions mean the state will not give out burning permits for burning brush or yard waste.

    The following counties will be included in the initial burning restrictions this spring: Aitkin, Anoka, Becker, southern Beltrami (that portion south of Hwy. 1), Benton, Carlton, Cass, Chisago, Clearwater, Crow Wing, Dakota, Douglas, Hennepin, Hubbard, Isanti, Itasca, Kanabec, Kittson, Manhomen, Marshall, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Otter Tail, Pennington, Pine, Polk (that portion south and east of County Road 6 from the Manhomen County line to MN Hwy 92 east to the Clearwater County line) Pope, Ramsey, Roseau (that portion west of Hwy. 89), Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, Wadena, Washington, and Wright. More counties will be added as spring weather conditions warrant.

    Campfires are still allowed. Campers should watch their fire continuously and make sure it is out and cold to the touch before leaving the area.

    Fire conditions may change quickly over the next few weeks. For more information and maps, and to check fire conditions, visit

  • New Plan for your favorite area lake?

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is preparing individual fisheries management plans for 21 lakes and one trout stream in Itasca County and west-central St. Louis County, and is inviting the public to comment on those plans until March 26.

    Crane Lake

    So is your favorite lake on the list of those that are being looked at for new management plans? Here's the list:

    Lakes: Balsam, Lower Balsam, Lost Moose, Sand (Near Max), Thistledew, Hartley, Smith, Willow, Trestle, Lake of Isles, Dunbar, Helen, Rice (near Cohasset), Lucky, Stone, Beatrice, O’Reilly, Island, Shamrock, Little Moose and Little Bear.

    Stream: Smith Creek.

    Copies of the draft plans are available on the Grand Rapids Area Fisheries website

    If you want to make a comment you can do so here.

  • Is where you want to go in the BWCA open?

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    There are going to be a few areas in the Boundary Water's that are closed early this season. However, the Superior National Forest will be working to open up more of the campsites and portages and plan to update their maps accordingly.

    A few of the campsites will need extensive work that may require keeping them closed all season. The closures include 13 of the 46 campsites on popular Lake Insula, while only two of 11 campsites are due to be open on Lake Isabella. The Forest Service also has lowered the number of permits it's issuing for six entry points into the BWCA, including the popular Lake One entry.

    Keep up to date on the progress by checking the maps at this link.

  • Are your Hunting and Fishing Licenses going up?

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    The cost of hunting and fishing in Minnesota is being debated starting in a Senate Subcomitte this afternoon.

    Largemouth Bass

    Hard to believe but it has already been 12 years since the last major increase in hunting and fishing licenses. You can look at what the DNR is asking to do here. Check it out and then make you opinion known to your state lawmakers.