Friday, December 17, 2021

A Look Back: Snowshoeing and the Importance of the "10 Essentials"

(Note: I originally wrote this article for "Snowshoe Magazine" in 2015. The "MASV" (car) has changed, several times, actually, I have new snowshoes, and I am now over 65. But the importance of being prepared is still the same.)

I woke up to the unexpected sound of a snowplow going by the motel room, got up and looked out the window to find about four inches of new powder on my van. (By agreement with my wife, now that I am over 50, when I am solo I either stay in a motel, hostel or campground.)

I switched on the TV, although the only station I would find was a translator for the Twin Cities CBS affiliate, 200 miles away. The morning weather guy went on and on about some fundraiser he and the traffic gal were involved in, but when he finally got to the state-wide radar, I could see that the bulk of the storm was past the area I was in. I got dressed and headed across the parking lot to the Gosh Dam Place (a restaurant, bar and motel/hostel on the road to the dam on Lake Winnebigoshish) for a hearty breakfast.

After breakfast, I cleared the snow off my Multi-Activity Support Vehicle (an AWD Dodge mini-van.) and headed six miles up the road to the Simpson Creek Primitive Area for the second day of a two day visit. I have only been up to Simpson once other time in the winter, the previous year for a Candlelight Ski Event, and was anxious to experience more of it. During the summer, I have been a trail patrol volunteer at Simpson Creek for over five years.

Our volunteer group, the Backcountry Trail Patrol, was initially formed to help the U.S. Forest Service maintain the mountain bike trails in the Cutfoot Sioux Lake area, where the Simpson trails are located, and we expanded to do ski and snowshoe patrols in other venues over the past couple years. The trails at Simpson are not groomed, and are open to both cross-country/backcountry skiing and snowshoeing, as well as winter hiking. The day before I had been in the Primitive Area for a couple of hours, and found that the trails were icy, crusty and definitely not very good skiing. Unfortunately, conditions were so crusty that they even made for poor snowshoeing, and caused my wood framed shoes to slip without crampons bolted on. The night’s snow would make travel a lot more enjoyable.

Back in the early 1900s, Sam Simpson had the logging contract for the Cutfoot Sioux area. His main camp was located near what we now call “Simpson Creek”. Today, the US Forest Service manages the same area as one accessible by human-powered transportation only. No ATVs, snowmobiles, dirt bikes or even horses are allowed in the Primitive Area. Hikers, mountain bikers, skiers and snowshoers are all welcome on the 13 miles (20 Km) of trails at Simpson Creek. The trails wind though tall pines, white birch and old oak trees, often overlooking Cutfoot Sioux Lake. In addition to the Simpson trails, winter visitors can also enjoy the 18-mile long Cutfoot Sioux National Recreational Trail, which is primarily an equestrian trail during the summer, but seems to have seen little or no use over the course of the winter. The Cutfoot trail passes through the center of the Simpson Creek trail system, then makes a loop around the Cutfoot Sioux Experimental Forest, starting and ending at the visitor center on MN Hwy. 46. You can also access the Simpson Creek trails from the either end of the visitor center parking lot, but my favorite access point is the “A” trailhead and parking area, just west of Simpson Creek on Eagles Nest Road.

I think 2005 has been a very good year for snow in the Chippewa National Forest, and I found many areas with two feet or more of snow on them. As I had surmised, the trails were now perfect for snowshoeing, with three to four inches of new snow on top of six inches to almost three feet of old, corn snow with a crust. With temperatures hanging just below freezing, and the sun peaking through the clouds, I strapped on my snowshoes, put my pack on my back, Stetson on my head and was off for a nice solo hike.

The last time I was snowshoeing, it was with my wife in the Superior National Forest, between the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) Wilderness and Lake Superior’s north shore, about 200 miles east of where I was now. We were carrying two pair of snowshoes and three pair of skis, and had initially planned to ski the loop around Flathorn Lake. The snow in that part of Minnesota was even deeper than that which I was traversing today, and my wife was having trouble controlling my Trak Bushwacker skis, along with balancing her camera and tripod, so I suggested that she change to snowshoes. However, since the bindings on her old pair were broken, she would have to use mine. We swapped, and were on our way. All of a sudden, Ellen discovered that she could stop to set up and take pictures without having to worry about her feet sliding out from under her. Hills were no longer daunting, and when she wasn’t taking photos, she could pretty much keep up with the pace I set on my skis. For me, the switch was also ideal; since this was a trail system almost designed for the Bushwackers, and I had a blast. When we were done, she looked across the van at me and said, “I think I like snowshoeing a lot more than skiing.” I figured, okay…we’ll upgrade your gear.

But that was last month, and my wife was 200 miles to the south, in our Twin Cities home. Cell phones barely worked out here, if at all. The visitor center was closed. Any pictures of me had to be taken with a timer, because I was on my own. Understand, that is not a problem to me. I was carrying the entire “10 Essentials” in my pack, was very familiar with the trails, and have been snowshoeing for 35 years or more. I was just reveling in the day. Then I tripped.

Probably the only thing worse than falling with your snowshoes and feet folded up behind you would be being stuck in that position and getting a “Charlie horse” in your thigh. Of course that was exactly what happened. Here I am in three feet of snow, my legs folded behind me and intense pain growing in my left thigh. I sat there for a sec, and thought “Well, isn’t this a fine predicament?”

Photo of me taken that day,
The only time I could remember being in a similar spot, was years back when we lived in the east. I was training a new search and rescue dog with a friend of mine in Vermont, and I got stuck in the snow well under a spruce tree. The big difference that time was that I had my legs to propel me up onto the snow, and here my legs were folded and cramping. But the concept was a good one. I figured if I could get my body horizontal, I could get my legs in a position to push out on the snowshoes, roll onto my back, and then get up. It worked, but message to self…next time take off the daypack first! Once I got my leg straightened out, the cramp eased, and I was able to get back on my feet. I proceeded on. (I love that line! It’s from the journals of Lewis and Clark.)

Was I ever in any real danger? Given my level of experience and the conditions, probably not, but I also am (hopefully) smart enough to realize it could have been different. Thankfully, I enjoyed the rest of my hike, made it back to the MASV where I had left my lunch, and headed back home, none the worse for wear.

Moral of the story: Always carry the 10 Essentials when you hike, ski or snowshoe. You never know when your life may depend on them. They are: 1) Navigation (map and compass) 2) Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen) 3) Insulation (extra clothing) 4) Illumination (headlamp, flashlight, bulb and batteries) 5) First-aid kit (with warming packs) 6) Fire (fire starters and matches/lighter) 7) Repair kit and tools (including knife or multi-tool) 8) Nutrition (extra food) 9) Hydration (extra water) and 10) Emergency shelter.

Monday, December 06, 2021

After the Tournament

(Note: I meant to post this early in November, but life has a way of getting in the way of things you intend to do. Here it is, to be followed shortly by my review of equipment, and my habitat report.)

Yes, I did take part in the Trails to Trout Tournament in Sparta, Wisconsin, in the Wisconsin Driftless Region, the second weekend of October. No, I did not win, place, or show. In fact, (as usual) I didn’t even catch any trout. But that does not mean that the experience wasn’t beneficial. Since I had never participated in a fishing tournament of any kind before October 9th, I really had no idea what to expect. I had exchanged some emails with the organizers at the Sparta Chamber of Commerce, and had not fully explored the Fish Donkey app through which the tourney was organized, so part of my diminished expectations have to be on me. I would, however, like to share some of the things I learned.

First of all, Fish Donkey is a great way to run an event like this. Virtual fishing tournaments are becoming more and more popular, and although this was my first experience with one, I can see where it makes organizing and putting on an event like this much easier. Essentially, you signed into and create an account, scroll through the list of tournaments, or enter a keyword such as “trout," select the tournament you want to enter from the list, fill out your information, pay whatever fee is required, and on the given date, go fishing. You do need to purchase a measuring board, either from Fish Donkey’s online store, or from another source, such as Cabela’s or Bass Pro Shops. Then, when you catch a fish, you take a picture of it on the measuring board and a picture of you holding it, then release the fish back into the water it came from. The advantage of this for organizers is that they do not have to have someone at a measuring station for the duration of the event (this tournament was nine days long) as it is all compiled virtually. The disadvantage, at least to my point of view, is there is nobody available to answer questions should you need clarification. Although everything you need is contained in the app, such as maps, rules, and contacts, it takes some digging around and web savvy to find them. Also, the contact information in this particular instance was a very busy Chamber executive who was hard to get a hold of.

I want to put in a plug here for my friends at Trout Routes. ( (Full Disclosure: I am an Ambassador for them.) I use the TroutRoutes app almost every time I go fishing.  Having not fully figured out the Fish Donkey app the first morning I was there, Trout Routes saved the day with detailed maps and information, and even more so later, as the maps I did ultimately find did not have the stream information I needed. I have my Cogburn fat-bike set up so the phone with Trout Routes is right next to my Garmin GPS, for quick navigation. 

Incidentally, the winners of this very first Bikefishing tournament I’d ever heard of, were locals from within 30 miles or so of Sparta, and were able to fish most if not all of the nine days. I believe there were something like 40 entrants, although I only saw two or possibly three of them the weekend that I was able to be there, and only had a chance to speak with one of them.

Hopefully, we will be able to put on a similar tournament in Northwestern Wisconsin late next spring. I have wanted to have an event like this for several years, but the Covid pandemic has kept it from happening. Tentatively, the event would be centered on Drummond, Wisconsin, and include some really great trout fisheries. If the nonprofit that I want to support approves the plan, I will be looking for sponsors, swipe, and collaborators. Stay tuned, because there will be more information to come.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Be Part Of the Midwest's First Bikefishing Tournament!

I entered! I will be there the second weekend. (I'm working the first few days of the tourney.) 

Trails to Trout Fishing Tournament

October 2-10, 2021 | Sparta, WI
$20 Entry Fee | FishDonkey App
Make plans to visit Sparta, WI to fish October 2-10, 2021 for a chance to win a Wyatt Maverick Bicycle retrofitted specifically for those who wish to explore bike fishing (value $3,000), this an all-terrain fat bike was designed and manufactured in Bangor, WI providing an unrivaled ride, comfort and handling via its unique frame design, oversized tires, hydraulic brakes, and front inverted suspension.
A prize winner will be randomly drawn out of the top 5 positions in the stringer category.
All fish entered in the tournament will be photographed, measured, and recorded with the FishDonkey app.
Have fun and FISH ON!

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

TroutRoutes and Trout Unlimited Partner for Conservation

I use Trout Routes on pretty much every trip fishing our public lands and waters. I am also a Trout Unlimited member.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota— TroutRoutes, the leading mapping platform for trout fishing, is proud to announce their partnership with Trout Unlimited in hopes to help further coldwater conservation and restoration in the United States. TroutRoutes will donate 1% of revenue each year directly to Trout Unlimited to help fund their efforts. 

Trout Unlimited, founded in Michigan in 1959, is a national non-profit organization with 300,000 members and supporters dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds. Their staff and volunteers work from coast to coast to protect, reconnect, restore and sustain trout and salmon habitat on behalf of today’s anglers and coming generations of sportsmen and women who value the connection between healthy, intact habitat and angling opportunity.

The mission of Trout Unlimited perfectly complements the goal of TroutRoutes—to leverage technology and data to create an enhanced and more informed angling experience, opening up new fishing opportunities to anglers across the country and instilling a love of fishing and coldwater conservation for generations to come. 

TroutRoutes has currently mapped out over 18,000 trout streams across 16 different states, allowing users to discover more water and gain valuable insight with current stream conditions, public land and easements, elevation charts, and more. With the ability to add detailed stream objects, favorite streams, and notes and images, anglers are able to keep track of their trip and have the information readily available next time they set out to cast. TroutRoutes also offers offline maps allowing anglers to find their way even in areas of limited to no cell service. The app is available on both iOS and Android smartphones as well as Desktop computers. 

Zachary Pope, CEO and Founder of TroutRoutes stated, “We chose to partner with Trout Unlimited because we believe in what they’re trying to accomplish.” He goes on to say, “We know they are the most capable and effective group to tackle the increasingly challenging coldwater conservation issues facing the US. This is the first step of many to further align our company’s mission and products with what we believe is best for the industry. In the future, we intend to further align our TroutRoutes platform with conservation through new features that promote education, proper etiquette, temperature awareness and more.” In addition to managing TroutRoutes, Zachary is also involved in volunteering and board leadership of local Trout Unlimited chapter, Twin Cities Trout Unlimited. 

To learn more about Trout Unlimited and their conservation efforts, visit

For more information on TroutRoutes, visit 

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Pedal as an Alternative to Electric?


I am posting this to both @fatbikeanglers and @fatbikehunter on Facebook, as well as on my blog, to promote friendly discussion, not get in arguments, because there really isn’t any right or wrong answer.
E-bikes versus human-powered fat-bikes: I’m 67 years old, have a bum left knee, ankle, and foot from various incidents since 7th grade forwards. Around 1993, I discovered mountain bikes and my outdoor world changed. I could go places faster, farther, deeper into the backcountry than my already damaged leg would previously allow. Then came the fat-bike. I’ve never been into motorized, just the way I came up in the wilds. The fat-bike was my ATV. I had a Pugsley, then QBP introduced the Cogburn, and it was love at first ride. Sadly, it was a short ride. Driven by whatever marketing factors do so, the Cogburn vanished from Q’s lineup after only three years.
Comes the e-bike, and I admit that I’m intrigued, but I’m a backcountry angler, and most of the backcountry I fish is the National Forests of MN and WI, and the US Forest Service still doesn’t allow e-bikes off established roadways. The Cogburn can go where its electric cousins can’t. It weighs half as much, doesn’t require charging the battery, and a decent one can be purchased for about $1000. But, and here’s my point: The majority of bikes of both kinds are made in China and are facing shortages due to the pandemic. Pedal-powered bikes are, however, more available than e-bikes. I’m seeing backorders of popular e-bikes models of up to a year, where most local bike shops have fat bikes in stock. Would you consider a non-electric bike as an alternative to an e-bike? Why or why not?

Tuesday, May 04, 2021


Saturday, January 30, 2021

Curious Visit to a Curious Creek

 What do Rep Your Water, the Trout Routes App, and the COVID-19 pandemic have in common? You might not think much, but you also might be surprised, as I was today.

My nature is such that I embraced Rep Your Water's "Fish, Explore, Conserve" campaign the first time I saw it; a simple leather patch that I don't believe was ever marketed, at least so far. Similarly, I started using the Trout Routes App as soon it was available for Android, Although the most advanced version is an iPhone product. Accordingly, it was the first app I bought when I got my new iPhone SE last fall. It has enabled me to "fish and explore" a variety of new and secluded locations during this year that the pandemic has required us to "fish local." I've written previously about my exploits at trying to figure out how County Ditch #3 in the neighboring county ever got designated as a trout stream. I still haven't found any there.

Dawdling my time away this Saturday morning, I happened upon an easement that I had never noticed before. I don't know if it was new, or I just hadn't looked in that direction, although I do most of my pan fishing on the lake's west of where I live. In any event, there is this stream. According to Trout Routes, it is located on an easement. It is fairly close, within easy cycling distance, of my house. I went out and looked at it today. There are improvements, a spot that looks like a parking pull off, although it's full of snow right now, and there is a stream. I'm not going to tell you exactly where it is, but it is local, it is on the app, and I am going to explore it. I don't even know if there are fish there yet. Time will tell.

And I might even give County Ditch #3 another try too.