By Jim Palmer
About 5 or 6 years ago, I started a little tradition with my boys called “Adventure Day.” Once or twice year I would reserve a day for just me and the boys, and we would go on a one or two day adventure.
The rules of Adventure Day are simple. I pick out the activities and plan the day(s). I don’t tell the boys where we are going until we arrive at the destinations. In the days leading up to the day, and in the car ride during the day, the boys try to guess what we were going to do. Sometimes they can’t figure it out until we pull up to the destination. The other rule of Adventure Day is that it can’t be something we have already done before (including restaurants). It is a good way for us to try new things and break the norms. Over the years our adventures have included things like tubing down a river, paintballing and exploring caves.
Our latest Adventure Day took place in early August, and the highlight of the day was for sure the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails, located near Crosby, Ironton, Cuyuna and Rivertown. This is one of the hidden gems in this state that has started to get more and more attention. It has gained a reputation as one of the best mountain bike trail systems in the country. It caught my attention a few years ago so I had penciled it in as a possible Adventure Day destination. I was just waiting for our youngest son, Easton, to get a little older and stronger so he would be able to handle the trails. He turned 10 in July, I thought it was time.
When we arrived at Cuyuna, we rented some real mountain bikes at a local shop and pedaled over to the trails. My boys are all good bikers, but they have never done anything like this before.
Several loops of trails were carved into the rocky terrain, which circle old mining pits Many of those pits have now turned to lakes, so the views were spectacular throughout our ride.
The trails at Cuyuna are built for both beginners and the very advanced. There were people from about age 5 to about 75 when we were there. We tried a few practice training courses and quickly learned that we were no where near the expert level. They had huge jumps and large obstacles all over the place. I was also reminded once again that I am not as young as I used to be. I seem to get this reminder just about every time I do something with my boys these days.
I used to bike a lot as a kid, but this was my first time mountain biking. And if you have never done it before, let me try to paint a picture... We were basically biking on a one-way single track about two feet wide. We drove over and around large rocks, loose rocks, trees, tree roots and just about anything else that was there when they made the trail. There are a lot of rolling hills, so sometimes we were pedalling hard and sometimes we could coast for a while. Although strength and endurance were key in biking through Cuyuna, focus was also very important. If we lost our focus for a second we would be in trouble. I ran into a couple small trees one time, fell off my bike once and slid off the trail a few times. My fingers were never too far from the brakes.
One of the things that make Cuyuna unique is the red dirt. It is pretty much everywhere. The bike tires quickly became covered in a dark orange dust. And when we went home, we brought some red dirt home on our shoes. After two washings, the bottoms of my shoes are still orange. I guess I will just call it a souvenir from Cuyuna.
After nearly four hours of biking with just a 20 minute break in the middle, I was exhausted. And Easton was, too. The other two seemed to still be going pretty strong. We brought water and Gatorade with us and we had run out about two-thirds of the way. We were thirsty. It was time to be done. I was shot.
The boys loved Cuyuna, and were talking about going back as soon as we got in the car. It was a successful Adventure Day.
On the way home, in a nod to my mom, I used one of her favorite sayings, “We are all going to sleep good tonight.” And it was true. I slept great that night. And for the next week, I was sore.
Photos for Cookbook
We are still accepting photos and recipes for our upcoming cookbook, which will be distributed in October. We are looking for food-related photos that have people in them (preparing, cooking/baking or eating). Photos of just food will likely not be used in the book.