Winter is beautiful thanks to local snowmobile clubs
As a lover of snow and outdoor activities I appreciate the fact that many volunteers make it possible for my friends, family and I to travel around the surrounding counties and enjoy friendships, family, nature and restaurants on snowmobiles after filling up at local gas stations.
The friends and family I ride with call themselves Alcohooligans. It has nothing to do with the consumption of alcohol. The name Alcohooligans seems to lend itself to drinking alcohol, but it has more meaning. All "members" understand that being a kid at heart and taking journeys with others is what life is all about. Being drunk on life. Period. "Members" include men, women and my kids. Spending time with others is alcohol enough. Nothing more important in life than sharing journeys with others. I love the feeling we get traveling on our snow machines through the vast trail system in the area.
We ride every Wednesday night starting at 6 p.m. and one day a weekend if weather permits. We have two to 14 sleds on each ride. Men, women and even teenagers with their snowmobile license spend time hitting the trails each winter. In the warmers months we enjoy the same rides on our motorcycle and vehicles. The only requirement is to enjoy time with friends and be respectful of the property and surroundings.
When I moved to Wadena in 1994, I became a member of the Wadena County Trail Breakers Snowmobile Club. The dedication it takes to maintain the trails I found out first hand as a board member and volunteer. Time that I ultimately couldn’t afford anymore, but my love of the club and support for their efforts hasn’t wavered. Trails don’t just appear when snow flies. Landowners need to sign a release agreement to allow trails through their private property. Gates and fences sometimes have to be constructed. Brush and tree limbs need to be kept at bay during the fall months and signage needs to be installed to state specifications. All of this work is done by snowmobile club volunteers! That goes for each county club in the state of Minnesota.
Once the trails open on Dec. 1 of each year - snow permitting - the trail groomers move into action. The vast amount of trail miles in ditches, fields and forests challenge the people that groom them. Making a perfect trail is not easy. I ran the groomer for four seasons in the mid-90’s while a member of the club and it takes concentration, understanding of the terrain and attention to the drag being pulled and controlled by hydraulics that control the amount of snow that is being cut from the trail and packed back onto itself. The drag the groomers pull smooths the trails and packs them. Running the groomers at night is done for many reasons. Less snowmobile traffic to worry about accidents with the groomer and also the trails have a chance to set up before they are driven on by a snowmobile. A huge thanks goes out to all of the groomer operators who often times donate their time to drive and maintain the trails and equipment. The restaurants, gas stations and lodging in the area as well as many others benefit directly from all the snowmobile club and volunteer efforts.
The 2013 – 2014 season gave us some early snow and the Trail Breakers and Otter Tail County Snowmobile Club have been dedicated in their trail grooming. Our group has enjoyed many rides (more than 1,900 miles so far) and have not had a disappointing trail.
Our destination always has one goal. Food. Some areas are much more accessible via snowmobile and we have met so many great people in those areas. All have been very supportive of the snowmobile traffic and the efforts of the local snowmobile clubs. Our group rides have taken us from Wadena to Sebeka, Menahga, Nimrod, Wahoo Valley, Verndale, Staples, Aldrich, Hewitt, Bertha, Henning, Park Rapids, Deer Creek and many others. Seeing the area from the view of a snowmobile in the middle of a snowmobile trail is pure beauty.
One of our favorite sections of trail is from Wadena to Henning. Near Henning, there is a section of trail dedicated to the memory of Travis Loser (pronounced Lowser). Although I have never met the family we make sure to pay attention to how someone’s loss is now a memorial trail for us to pass. Even though the section of trail is only a few miles it winds up and down through large growth oak and pine trees. Absolutely breathtaking.
Taking pictures of our adventures is one of the ways we remember all the trips and “members” that accompanied us on each trip. Group photos are also taken in a pink boat that we found over 4 years ago. Every time our group approaches the pink boat, I stop the pack and we take a group photo to commemorate another successful trip. The small things in life are what make it so worth the time we spend together on the trails.
Hearing so many people complain about winter makes me think about all of the great times I have had with my parents who put me on my first snowmobile at the age of 4. That passion has taken me to racing snowmobiles on ice ovals that included a circuit championship in 1986, a trip to Yellowstone National Park, yearly trips to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and all of the miles around Minnesota on our local trails. So many great memories with friends and family that I wish more people would take advantage of by enjoying all the hard work and dedication locals put into the snowmobile trails through our local clubs. The next time you see a trail crossing the road or a snowmobile on a trail, think about all the effort that people put into them and the great benefit it is to local economies and the state of Minnesota.
A quote from a friend of mine - “It is not about taking time, it is about making time” - rings in my head daily. Enjoying each Minnesota season is crucial. Our group of Alcohooligans does just that. We share time enjoying the seasons, family and friendships all responsibly and with recognition of the volunteers and people that we depend on to make it possible. A huge thank you to the Trail Breakers as well as the Otter Tail County Snowmobile Club that make it all possible during the winter months.
As long as the mild weather doesn’t melt all the snow, the nearly 200 miles of groomed snowmobile trails throughout Wadena County will stay open until April 1.
“It’s been awesome, with all of the snow it’s been a great season,” said Paul Kreuth, vice president of the Wadena County Trail Breakers Snowmobile Club. “A little bit cold, but it’s probably been one of the best seasons ever.”
The 35-to-40 member club prints snowmobile trail maps and distributes them at restaurants, bars and convenience stores.
Seven club volunteers maintain the trails with two groomers. This year, the Trail Breakers traded in a 2002 groomer for a 2011 model.
“We try to groom every week unless it’s really warm,” said Bob Haman, a club board member who grooms trails and maintains the equipment. “It’s been a good year. Everything’s been going real well. We have good machinery.”