A weekend snowmobile adventure

It’s almost difficult to comprehend, given the lack of snow in the Grand Forks area that has brought snowmobiling and other winter recreation to a screeching halt, but some very good snow conditions remain just a couple of hours to the northeast.

A friend and I found that out for ourselves over the weekend when we logged upwards of 80 miles on grant-in-aid snowmobile trails in the Roseau, Minn., area. Despite temperatures that soared into the high 30s Saturday, we found an abundance of snow throughout our ride.

A fairly isolated snowstorm had dumped 5 to 6 inches of snow on the region early last week, and the snow in the woods was knee deep in many places.

Here are some photos from our ride:

Deero on the trail

A deer is faintly visible Saturday in the center of a groomed grant-in-aid trail along the Manitoba-Minnesota border northwest of Roseau, Minn. (Brad Dokken photo)

Jason on the trail

Trail conditions were favorable Saturday throughout the course of a ride on a groomed snowmobile trail system north of Roseau, Minn. (Brad Dokken photo)

Snow on the skis

Heavy snow covers the skis of a snowmobile. (Brad Dokken photo)

Trail bridge

A bridge constructed across a swampy stream on a groomed snowmobile trail north of Roseau, Minn., eased crossing, alleviating any risk of encountering unsafe ice. (Brad Dokken)

Given the conditions, I was surprised by the lack of traffic we encountered on the trails. We met only five other snowmobiles in two days of riding, and one of the groups, I found out later, was a high school friend, his son and a friend of theirs, all from Roseau. When we met them on the trail along state Highway 310 north of Roseau, they were on the homestretch of a 172-mile ride that took them from Roseau to Springsteel north of Warroad, Minn., on Lake of the Woods and then north across the big lake to a land trail near Stony Point and onward to Fort St. Charles on the Northwest Angle.

They’d left Roseau about 10 a.m. and had nearly finished their ride when we met them some 6 hours later.

I register my snowmobile in Minnesota, so a trail permit is included in the price of a three-year registration, which costs $78.50, but my snowmobiling partner from Grand Forks registers his snowmobile in North Dakota and had to purchase a permit to ride the grant-in-aid trails.

The permit, which costs $36 annually, is available at Minnesota motor vehicle offices or through Department of Natural Resources electronic licensing outlets.

MN snow conditions

Here’s a look at snow conditions across Minnesota as of last Thursday. (Minnesota DNR map)

The trails were in great shape, groomed in places and well marked throughout, so the price of the annual permit was money well spent. Our ride took us through tamarack and cedar swamps and along and across swampy creeks that remained open, in places. Bridges built along parts of the trail system as part of the grant funding the local snowmobile club receives alleviated the risk of crossing potentially unsafe ice.

We also saw several deer, which found the well-packed trails to their liking. All signs point to a winter that should help deer numbers recover across the region.

Saturday’s high flirted with 40 degrees in the border country, and the snow was pretty sticky. That wasn’t an issue on the groomed trails, but the machines definitely had to work harder to get through the soft snow in the places we had to drive off trail to reach the trail system.

By Sunday, the temperature had dropped 20 degrees and the snow conditions had firmed up nicely. The brown landscape that greeted us as we returned to Grand Forks late Sunday afternoon was a striking contrast to the conditions we’d enjoyed barely 2 hours away.

Looking at the extended weather forecast, the temperature in the areas we rode isn’t supposed to get above freezing this week, so riding opportunities should remain at least through the weekend. It’s still seeming like an early spring, though, so anyone with a snowmobile collecting dust would be well-advised to head north and enjoy the conditions while they last.

You’ll find more information about snow and trail conditions in Minnesota here.

 

DNR schedules meeting to summarize elk plan comments

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced this afternoon that it is holding a public meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 3 in Lancaster, Minn., to discuss and summarize the comments it has received on the new management plan for northwest Minnesota’s elk herds.

Two bull elk walk in deep snow in 2006 during the Department of Natural Resources' winter aerial survey near Grygla, Minn.  has released a draft of its new five-year elk management plan and has scheduled public comment meetings next month in New Brighton, Lancaster and Grygla, Minn. (Minnesota DNR photo)

Two bull elk walk in deep snow in 2006 during the Department of Natural Resources’ winter aerial survey near Grygla, Minn. The DNR has scheduled a public meeting for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 3 in Lancaster, Minn., to discuss the draft of its new five-year elk management plan and comments it has received so far. The comment period on the draft plan is open through Jan. 22. (Minnesota DNR photo)

The meeting will be held in the Lancaster School, 401 Central Ave.. The comment period ends Jan. 22, and the new plan will guide elk management through 2020.

The DNR also will discuss landowner participation in the upcoming elk collaring effort in
mid-February. The collaring effort is part of the Movement and Seasonal Habitat Use of Minnesota Elk research project, designed to improve the DNR’s understanding of elk biology in Minnesota, the news release indicated. It is the first of its kind in the state.

Also, if the weather cooperates, the DNR hopes to conduct its annual winter aerial survey of northwest Minnesota elk next week.

John Williams, regional wildlife manager for the DNR in Bemidji, said the Feb. 3  meeting will include a presentation summarizing the comments received by area residents and other Minnesotans on the draft elk management plan. There also will be opportunities for public discussion of the comments and the plan itself.

“This will allow citizens to hear a summary of the elk management plan comments received by the DNR,” Williams said in a news release.

The DNR also will discuss the upcoming  elk research project with landowners in the elk range and seek permission to capture elk on private land. Beginning in February, the DNR plans to capture 20 adult cow elk and fit them with GPS collars to track movement and seasonal habitat use.

Elk are managed to maintain a free-ranging, wild population in Minnesota. Three herds totaling an estimated 130 animals roam portions of far northwestern Minnesota and comprise the state’s entire elk population, according to the DNR’s most recent population survey.

Comments on the draft plan may be submitted online at www.mndnr.gov/elk after going to the elk management page, reviewing the plan and clicking on “take survey.” Comments also can be emailed to  elkplan.dnr@state.mn.us or by postal mail to Elk Comments, DNR Wildlife, 2115 Birchmont Beach Rd NE, Bemidji, MN, 56601.

For more on elk management in Minnesota, visit www.mndnr.gov/elk.

DNR extends comment period on elk management plan

If you want to comment on the proposed new plan for managing Minnesota’s elk herd, you’ve got a few more weeks to do so.

Two bull elk walk in deep snow in 2006 during the Department of Natural Resources' winter aerial survey near Grygla, Minn. has released a draft of its new five-year elk management plan and has scheduled public comment meetings next month in New Brighton, Lancaster and Grygla, Minn. (Minnesota DNR photo)

Two bull elk walk in deep snow in 2006 during the Department of Natural Resources’ winter aerial survey near Grygla, Minn.  (Minnesota DNR photo)

The Department of Natural Resources announced today it’s extending the deadline to comment on the plan until Jan. 22. The original deadline was this coming Sunday.

The proposal, which replaces a five-year plan that expires Dec. 31, will govern elk management from 2016 through 2020.

The draft management plan addresses elk population goals, elk-landowner conflicts and opportunities to hunt and view elk in northwest Minnesota where three herds totaling an estimated 130 animals roam.

After reviewing the draft plan, comments may be submitted online at here or via electronic or postal mail.

Email comments, including name and address, to elkplan.dnr@state.mn.us. Send comments via postal mail to: Elk Comments, DNR Wildlife, 2115 Birchmont Beach Road NE, Bemidji, MN, 56601.

For more on elk management in Minnesota, click here.