Stepping Outdoors With Craig Blog Stepping Outdoors With Craig

  • APP-Dictive!

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    I've know about a certain website for a few years now, but I haven't bothered to spend much time on it. But now they have an App, and I'll admit I'm addicted! They post an item with a time limit and number of the items remaining and with a click you can make a purchase. Here's a screen shot of a recent "steal":


    Steep and Cheap

    Steep and Cheap sells outdoor related goods, everything from the above latern to name brand clothing. And there prices are usually pretty good. So now that they have an app, I'm checking in several times a day just to see what the latest "steal" is. I'll haven't bought anything....yet. But it's probably only a matter of time. Check it out, but warning it could be habit forming!

  • Where is our Winter?

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    Sure many of you are enjoying what is passing for winter this year, but there are a few of us that definitely are not! Winter is the time of year I look forward to all year. Yep even in the middle of summer I can be found day dreaming about a freshly groomed cross country ski trail. Here's a photo comparison: First last year skiing at Sugarbush:

    Skiing Sugarbush

    Now here is what we are skiing on this year, and this is after our "BIG" snow this week:

    Carey Lake Ski Trails

    Things have gotten so bad shoveling parties are being organized starting today at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis for this weekends big City of the Lakes Loppet ski race! Sorry winter haters, but we need more snow!

  • Fishing Opener

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    Well Double J and I were at the Governor's Fishing Opener in Grand Rapids, and early Saturday morning found ourselves out on Pokegama Lake. Now if it had not been for the knowledge of our fishing host, Rob Hamling, we would certainly not have caught as many fish as we did. As we found out at the shore lunch most of the fish in Pokegama were not cooperating on the cold at times wet morning. In fact walleyes were very hard to find with only about 4 being caught, and again thanks to our host, I was able to catch one of them.

    Craigs Walleye

    Northerns were a bit easier to come by, but they were not jumping in the boat by any means either. Justin reeled in one of the northern, and we rounded out our fish catching with a few perch.

    Justin's Northern

    A big thanks to Grand Rapids and all the volunteers that put on a very fun and successful event. From the golf outing at Pokegama Golf Course, to the Community Picnic, to the celebration dinner; it was one very well run event.

  • Skiing with the Birds

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    Cross country skiing is a mostly solitary sport, which is one of the reasons it appeals to so many of us. But every once in a while you meet someone out on the trail that has an interesting story to tell. The other day I was skiing the Cowhorn Lake trail near Grand Rapids when my friend and I began to notice little piles of bird seed along the trail. Eventually we caught up with the Birdman of Cowhorn Lake who was feeding the birds, and he told us there was a spot coming up you could feed them out of your hand. Curious we agreed to ski ahead and meet up with him at the spot he mentioned. We arrived first and all was quiet, then he skied up and whistled a couple of times and there were at least 15 chickadees and nuthatches on the scene. In less than a minute I had birds using my hand like a bird feeder! Now that’s a great day out on the ski trails!

  • We Need SNOW

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    Okay, so I realize that headline is not going to get a lot of support. However, I do have a case to plead. Now I'm not looking for the amount of snow the Twin Cities got over the past couple of days. 19 inches is just a bit of overkill, but a good 4 to 6 sure would be nice. My point is, we still have a lot of winter left to enjoy, so lets do it with snow. That is the only good thing about winter; it's not the cold! This Snow eagle was part of a winter celebration at Scenic State Park over the weekend. 

    Snow Eagle at Scenic State Park

    Last week's meltdown was not good for the area trails! Snowmobile trails are looking thinner, and I can say first hand the ski trails have been come rock hard and icy. So really it wouldn't be such a big deal if we got a few more inches? Come on, who's with me....anyone...anyone...hello??

  • Boxcars and State Parks

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    Spent some time on the North Shore recently, and of course this time of year that means skiing! Explored both Split Rock and Gooseberry State parks on skis. While I have skied at Gooseberry before this time we hit the trails down closer to the lake. Often snow conditions do not allow for close skiing to Lake Superior, but this year there is plenty of snow down along the water. Split Rock allowed the better views of the lake, since much of their cross country ski trails run right along the rugged shoreline of Lake Superior.

    Split Rock Ski Trail

    Split Rock also had plenty of deer along the trail, and while they wouldn't pose for any photos they were abundant. Rounding out the weekend was a great fun place to stay. Northern Rails just north of Two Harbors is a hotel made out of ten railroad train cars. Now once you are inside, you would never know you are in a train car, but in the hall and from the outside it is a pretty cool place.

    Northern Rails B&B

    More proof you don't have to venture too far from home to find some great things to see and do in a Northern Minnesota Winter. Here is one more view of Lake Superior, while standing on the Split Rock ski trails.

    Lake Superior from Ski trail


  • Right Place Right time

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    It is all about being in the right place at the right time. And ever since I have started Cross Country skiing, I have wanted to view a Moose while on my skis.

    Well, it still hasn't happened! I just recently skied the Stoney Ridge Trail north of Nashwauk, but I didn't see anything except a few birds. Now I did see plenty of tracks and there were a few I suspected were made by a Moose. But it was skier Bob Conzemius, that got these shots from the trail.

    So if you ski the Stoney Ridge Trail, or any trail for that matter, keep your eyes open you just never know what you'll see!

  • Wow, what a ski season

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    "Get out there!" That would be the best way to sum up this cross country ski season. The conditions are fantastic all across the area, and in most areas of the state. I recently talked to a guy at an area ski trail that has not been out skiing in over 30 years. He was thrilled to be back out and enjoying such great scenery. If you have never tried skiing, now is the year to give it a shot. Skis are available for rent through Hibbing Parks and Recreation as well as other places. With the amount of snow we have received this year, great ski conditions should continue into early March. And all tha snow has created one of the most scenic years to ski in a long time. Here is shot from McCarthy Beach State Park on the Red Top Trail.

    McCarthy Beach Ski Trail

    Notice the nice snow depth and also the nicely groomed trail. There are numerous trails from Virginia to Grand Rapids to get out and explore, and if you want to travel farther you can find many places to ski. Below is from a trail I skied last month in Bemidji, Three Island Park, where the trail follows stretches of the Turtle River.

    Three Island Park Ski Trail

    A lot of trails, and a lot of snow. Go skiing today and send me some of your ski pictures and trail recomendations.

  • Start of the Ski Season

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    The cross country ski season is underway for the season, with one of the earlier starts we have had in many years. It has always been my thought, if you can ski by Thanksgiving you will have a great snow year. However it has been a long time in which there has been skiable snow by then, like we have had this year.

    Bronze Trail at Giants Ridge

    Grooming efforts are just getting underway in the Northland, and the places with the earliest groomed conditions have attracted the skiers. I spent this past Saturday up at Giants Ridge, which had over 40 kilometers groomed and ready to go. While some of the trails were still in early season condition, with some brush and weeds poking through, a lot of the trail system was in mid-winter shape. With some of the best groomed trails around this early, they drew skiers from all over the Northland and the Twin Cities. While the cross country trails were maybe a bit busier than normal, I still went many kilometers without ever seeing anyone, which for many of is one of the big draws of the sport.

    If you have been waiting for a chance to get out and try cross country skiing, make this the year. Conditions are improving daily, and it is an activity that you can do at your own pace. We are fortunate to live in an area that has many quality trails to choose from, and most all trail systems have a loop or two suitable for beginners. Many places also rent equipment, including Hibbing Parks and Recreation.

    Giants Ridge- Summit Trail

  • Roller Skiing

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    It maybe November, but there is no real snow in sight. So over the weekend when the temperatures soared into the mid 50’s I decided it was time to get some skiing in. I had been biking the other day in the nice weather, but for a change of pace I thought I would try my hand at roller skiing. Now while I have done a lot of skiing in my time, I’m a real novice at roller skiing. In fact I have only tried it a couple of times around the driveway. A friend of mine found these roller skis at a garage sale last fall and picked them up for me.

    Roller Skis Made in Finland

    Most “modern” roller skis are for the skate technique, but these are classic roller skis. (Perhaps in more way than one!) My mission for the first time out was to not fall, and I can say mission accomplished, and I was able to ski around the park for over a half hour. They work in the classic stride technique since the back wheels will only roll forward and not back. So when you kick it is like have the best kick wax known to man.  Other than being a bit heavy and a little noisy it was not a bad ski experience. So I guess until the white stuff hits the ground, I’ll be back out on my 8 dollar specials!

  • Bear Head Lake State Park

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    It is like a whole different world in October in Minnesota State Parks. If you camp, no doubt at some point you have spent time in a State Park. There are plenty to choose from, one is close by, and they do have some of the most scenic places to visit. Of course due to all those reasons they also tend to be very popular, therefore you will be camping with plenty of people. However that is not always the case, for example we wrapped up our camping season this past weekend, with a very quiet time at Bear Head Lake State Park.

    Recently voted America’s favorite park, this park is located between Tower and Ely and boasts miles of hiking trails and some undeveloped lakes.  Sunday morning I took a walk through the campground and here is what I came across: 1 red fox, 1 muskrat,  2 grouse, 3 deer, 1 chipmunk, and 2 people.  If the weather stays mild the next few weeks, make time to get in one more camping trip…the quiet you find will be well worth the effort.

  • Caching in State Parks

    Posted by Craig Holgate

    Geocaching had become a big thing in Minnesota State Parks. Interestingly enough, just a few years ago State Parks banned the outdoor hobby. But now they have done a North to a South (a 180) and embraced the activity. The geocaches placed in state parks get a lot of activity since the parks serve as a way for people to get introduced to the sport. In fact several parks are designated demo parks, and campers can check out GPS units to use if they don't have one. Jay Cooke is one such park and we had the chance to get out and hike some trails, solve some puzzles, and find their cache recently. Below is a picture of the St. Louis River from near the cache location.

    St. Louis River at Jay Cooke State Park 

    Each park has its own critter card, which is like a baseball trading card with a picture of a different animal on it. The card idea is great because it appeals to both kids and adults, and has some fun facts about Minnesota critters.

    If you have never tried Geocaching, a Minnesota State Park is a great place to start!