Tag: <span>Lebanon Hills</span>

Aaron Hautala, Reed Smidt, Todd Orjala, John SchaubachCLMTB Crew president Aaron Hautala and Cuyuna legend John Schaubach drove down to the Twin Cities from Crosby yesterday to attend last night’s MORC board meeting.

John and Aaron had never ridden anywhere besides the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails so they decided to check out Lebanon Hills before the meeting. I joined them, along with MORC VP Reed Smidt and fellow Northfielder Todd Orjala.

We spent 3.5 hours riding every trail at Leb. I was glad worried when they crashed a few times but I still think they enjoyed themselves and maybe even learned a thing or two.

I also walked them through the soon-to-be-opened skills park at Leb and then took them over to see the Lexington Pump and Jump park in Eagan, as they’re scheming to add similar features to Cuyuna.

Organizations People

Half of the Lebanon Hills trail crew, April 24, 2012Last Tuesday I joined a MORC / Lebanon Hills trail crew working on the XX rock gardens and was amazed at what was accomplished in two hours.

I only took one photo that night (right), and that was just half of the 20+ people who showed up to work from 6-8 pm. So this week I went back for round 2 to chronicle the follow-up work with photos.

A MORC mountain bike trail work crew is typically organized by the Dirt Bosses for the trail. One of them announces the date and time in the MORC forum for that trail, inviting others to sign up.  When I saw this April 23 invitation by John Lundell, one of the Lebanon Hills Dirt Bosses, I just had to go since I love Leb’s rock gardens:

We will continue our efforts in the XX rock gardens this week. Meet in the parking lot (assume trail will be open) – everyone is welcome! Post up if you can make it. Crew leaves the lot promptly at 6pm so if you are coming late let us know.

First lesson I learned: you don’t ride your bike to the work location on the trail.  The Dirt Bosses bring all the tools for the job but you’re expected to help carry them.  So everyone walks in. They recommend long pants, gloves, boots, and eye protection.  Newbies are given a short safety chat on handling the sharp tools.

The task for the crew on this project was to add some difficulty and options to a couple of Leb’s double X rock garden areas. One of the hallmarks of good mountain bike park is that it’s constantly changing, drawing riders at all levels back for new challenges.  Leb excels at this and last year’s addition of a huge advanced beginner’s loop is but one example.

Worker bees like me on last week’s crew spent much of our time digging out boulders from the wooded areas around the XX portion of the trail and rolling them downhill (bowling?) for the ‘architects’ to place.  While the Bosses have a general idea of what they’re trying to accomplish, everyone’s input is considered because the terrain and available rocks require creativity. “We’re making this up as we go” is the modus operandi.

New lines for a double X section at Lebanon Hills New lines for a double X section at Lebanon Hills Double X section work crew at Lebanon Hills, May 1, 2012
The photo on the left shows what was accomplished after this week’s session with one section of the trail. The green arrow indicates where the only option was originally.  The red arrows indicate four new options, with varying levels of difficulty.

In the center photo, the green arrow shows the original more difficult line down the rock.  The red arrows show two new challenging lines down the rock steps.  Previously, that line was quite easy.

For a closer look at the process, see the large slideshow of 40+ photos (recommended) or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:

Photo album Trail work

People Trails

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In my Progress on the skinnies blog post from last November, I reported that I’d been able to clean the sloped narrow log (left photo from last year) that’s about a third of the way on the intermediate loop at Lebanon Hills.

But I hadn’t been able to get up the larger log that’s towards the end of the intermediate trail (center and right photos) just after the pond. It’s higher, steeper, and curved in a couple of places. When I got to this log yesterday, Dave Tait, one of the MORC dirt bosses, was working on another log (the log is in the background, right photo) with his chainsaw, as he’s got a plan for connecting the two.

Dave had already shaved the a few feet of the lower portion of the log (I didn’t take a photo) since the log is round and small at that point, making it hard to stay on it.  Even  with that modification, I wasn’t able to get very far. After watching several of my failed attempts, Dave put on his coaching hat.

He suggested 1) that I select a taller gear than my lowest granny gear, as a little more speed can help; and 2) that I pick three different points to focus my eyes as I progressed up the log, as the tendency is do it just once at the start and then revert to looking right in front of one’s front wheel. Voila! My next attempt I got past the tree at the 3/4 point.  And a couple of attempts later, I cleaned it. Thank you, coach Tate!

Photo by Ryan LieskeI’ve been reluctant to attempt the high man-made skinny at Murphy-Hanrehan. While I’m confident riding skinnies at the widths it uses, I know that a momentary lapse is possible and I could easily crash. Since it’s about 4 -feet high at its peak and surrounded by small trees, I couldn’t picture how to crash in a way that would minimize injury.

I found a 2010 message thread in the MORC forums titled How to ride a skinny raised platform/bridge in which someone named guest_s wrote:

If a skinny is any higher than 1 foot or so off the ground, don’t try it if you can’t bunny hop or wheelie drop. Learn those two things first so when you do feel you will slip or fall off the side, just bunnyhop or wheelie drop and ride away. If you can’t do this, you will endo (go over the bars) if your front wheel comes off…..and endoing is about the most unsafe thing to do.

I’ve got homework to do.

Learning to ride

IMG_20120328_175443John Lundell  announced in the MORC forum on Wed. morning that Lebanon Hills was open for mountain biking. I got there around 5:30 and the parking lot was full.

The intermediate and expert trails were in spectacular shape. No ruts at all that I saw. And here’s John’s explanation for why it worked so well:

For those that got out and rode today, hopefully you noticed that the trail was opened well before it was bone dry. As we hiked around yesterday and this evening you can see a lot of dampness in the trail… it could maybe have stayed closed a while longer, but early in the year we like to open it up a little early to get a nice pack-down before the rains hit.

I say this as I know some think we enjoy closing or keeping the trails closed.. not sure why people have that impression as we love to ride too and will always keep you out there enjoying the trails as much as possible.

The entire Leb trail crew thanks everyone for being patient during what was a crappy winter for riding, an extended closing, but an early season opening. Damage was kept to a minimum and that keeps us focusing on other trail repairs, new trail features etc. rather than rut fixing.

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All the trails had been cleared of downed branches, as well some big trees (left and center photos above). I cleared small sticks and branches as I went along. I snipped a few buckthorn trees and branches in the rock garden just after Tedman’s Curve (right photo).  There’s a tougher option to ride high on the left. I can sneak through to the left of the tree (red arrow) but I’m nowhere close yet to getting over the rock (yellow arrow) as the approach is very steep and there’s no room to get a run at it.

As I wrote in the forum, I can’t believe how lucky I am to have a place like this to ride that’s only 30 minutes from my house.

Trails

Parks and Trails Council of MinnesotaMinnesota Trails magazineMy wife and I became members of the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota earlier this year when we decided to make bicycling a regular recreational activity… and were thrilled at the number and quality of paved bike trails around the state.

As members, we get a free subscription to the terrific quarterly print magazine, Minnesota Trails. It’s not available online, although the publishers do have a companion website, also called Minnesota Trails.

The Winter 2011 issue of Minnesota Trails has a profile of mountain biker and trail builder Tim Wegner. I’ve never met Tim but I’ve fallen in love with the sport mainly because of the spectacular mountain biking at two parks where he’s had a major influence: Lebanon Hills and the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trail System (DNR link).

I typed up the text of the article (below) so that more of my fellow Minnesota mountain bikers might A) know what Tim Wegner has done for our sport and thank him for it; and B) become members of the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota, both in appreciation for what they did to help the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trail System become a reality (details in the article) as well as to support the organization and their work.

Trail Builder

Tim Wegner: Mountain biking as a way of life

by Linda Picone

Minnesota Trails magazine, Winter 2011 - Tim Wegner: Mountain biking as a way of lifeTim WegnerFor Tim Wegner, a hobby turned into a business. But mountain biking not only changed his life, it helped create a new outdoor resource in Minnesota, the Cuyuna Mountain Bike Trail System, a world-class 25-mile bike trail network with areas for riders at all levels.

Wegner, the former southern Minnesota representative of the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), is credited by many as being the single most effective mover of the the mountain bike trails at the Cuyuna Lakes Recreation Area, which opened for use in June.

In the early 1980s, while Wegner lived Bismarck, ND, he did a lot of road biking and was a regular a local bike shop. “I walked in there one day and there was this funky looking bike,” he says. “The guys said, ‘You’ve got to ride it; it’s the best ride you’ll ever have.'”

They were right, and all of a sudden he was a mountain biker. When he moved to Minnesota about 10 years later, he assumed he was coming to a mountain bike mecca, but was disappointed with the number and quality of trails available. Appointed to a users’ group to represent cross-country skiers for Lebanon Hills Park in Dakota County, he ended up becoming friendly with the man representing mountain bikers and was encouraged to become the local representative of IMBA, becoming an advocate and activist for the sport.

Lebanon Hills turned out to be a good training ground for Wegner. “We learned that it really took a lot of time to build a trail by hand,” he says. Although there were machines that could make it go faster, they cost $25,000 to $40,000–more than Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists, which was doing the work, could afford. “That put the kibosh on plans to expand the trail at Lebanon Hills. You burn your volunteers out pretty fast when they work all weekend to finish 50 feet of trail.”

That frustration led to Wegner’s next move on the mountain bike trail: He and his buddy from the Lebanon Hills user group became partners in a new business venture, Trail Source. They bought one of those expensive machines and went into the business of building sustainable, natural surface trails in Minnesota and Wisconsin (he still has a day job, as a pharmaceutical representative).

A new trail opportunity

About five years ago, Wegner was in search of areas outside the Metro where mountain bike trails could be established. He met with Courtland Nelson, DNR state parks director, to see what might be accomplished. “I said, ‘Minnesota doesn’t have any true mountain bike trails in its state parks; I think you’re missing the mark,” he old Nelson. “He said, ‘You’re right, we don’t.'”

Nelson urged him to look at Cuyuna. “I thought, ‘Who wants to look at an old iron ore mine?'”

That was before he saw it. Wegner took a trip north to explore the Cuyuna Lakes area. “I looked at it and thought it was incredible. The potential was so awesome and the place was so beautiful.” Steve Weber, manager of the Cuyuna Lakes Recreation Area, was with Wegner as he visualized the possibility of 25 to 40 miles of trails through the area, but he didn’t see the same possibilities.

Wegner not only saw what could be built at Cuyuna Lakes, he set out to do what was needed to create it, from convincing then Congressman James Oberstar to get federal funding to getting a bill written at the Minnesota Legislature for matching funds.

“It was incredible the way it came together,” Wegner says. “It could have stumbled at any step.”

The Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota was a key player at several points, Wegner said. When he needed someone to carry–and write–a bill to get matching state funds for the trail, the Parks and Trails legislative liaison Judy Erickson showed him into an office at the State Capitol, got a bill written, found a legislative sponsor and pushed her contacts for approval (it was approved, but then vetoed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, but it passed the next year). “Parks and Trails gave continuous support for us,” Wegner says. “I could always go to Brett (Feldman, now executive director) when I got beat up by someone.” At one point, the Parks & Trails Council provided a $50,000 loan in order to help get matching funds.

The finished trail

Construction of the trails had its challenges, Wegner says. “There were a lot of bidders on it, but not many truly qualified mountain bike trail builders.” That meant he, representing IMBA, was closely involved in advising the contractor. “We bumped heads a few times, but he was always willing to understand our point of view.”

Mountain bike enthusiasts see the finished trails as the best trails for accomplished riders in the Midwest. But Wegner is also pleased that there are trails for all levels of bikers, so it’s a place for families as well as for “aggressive” riders who want a serious challenge. “We put stuff up in Cuyuna Lakes that there’s no way I would ever ride,” he says.

He sees an economic boon for the local community–something he wasn’t even thinking about when he first envisioned a trail. “I was only looking for a place to ride mountain bikes, but I looked at the town and saw a lot of empty storefronts,” he says. “I thought maybe we could have an economic impact on this town.” During the grand opening of the trails in June, both restaurants in town ran out of food, he says. “That says to me, yeah, mountain bikers can make a difference.”

The next challenges

Wegner is still hoping to make progress on a trail system in Camden State Park and there are trail possibilities at Pillsbury State Forest and Cut Lake Trail in Foothills State Forest. But, other than his business, he’s taking a quieter role. “I think at certain times you need to step away a little bit and let others come in.”

He looks back at his activities as IMBA representative and at the push for the Cuyuna Mountain Bike Trail System and he’s satisfied: “I think we’ve improved the status of mountain bikers in Minnesota and I don’t think you could ask for more out of your life than to make it better for a sport you have a passion for.”

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