Scott Rall: Where are the biscuits and gravy?
SCOTT RALL Daily Globe outdoors columnist I have taken the opportunity to travel the upper Midwest a time or two per year for the past two decades with the goal of enjoying the outdoors on an ATV. Most of those early trips were on a four-wheeler ...
Daily Globe outdoors columnist
I have taken the opportunity to travel the upper Midwest a time or two per year for the past two decades with the goal of enjoying the outdoors on an ATV. Most of those early trips were on a four-wheeler because they went faster and had more power. Back then you could cross country in some national forests, so a path or trail was not necessary.
Now as an old guy, I still participate, but I do so behind the wheel of a side-by-side. These are off-road vehicles more like a four-wheel drive golf cart.
Today I look for more relaxation and less adrenalin rush in my current pursuits. We have a group of about 4-6 couples that enjoy the same kind of riding.
Each year I pick out a spot and, with the help a few members, pick a date. As you know, there is almost no chance of getting everyone's schedule to line up exactly on one date, so the group changes a little each year. Most of the trips I have had are either in southeast Minnesota or the Black Hills in South Dakota. This year we ventured in a different direction.
I have been fishing for a weekend every year near Hayward, Wis. There are lots of ATV trails there, but I have never been on any of them.
I called a friend who has a place near there and he put us on a location called Clam Lake Junction. It is a super small little spot about 30 miles east of Hayward that has a small six-room motel attached to a gas station and convenience store. There were three restaurant/bars within walking distance, so that was a plus.
We needed at least three double rooms, so we took the only long weekend they had this summer with that amount of availability. The group was four couples from Worthington and a friend from Madison, Wis.
There were enough trails and forest service roads to ride about 60-70 miles each day. We would leave around 8:30 a.m. and return by 5 p.m.
There were a few things that I learned after a trip to this area. One is that we drove past about 100 lakes and none of them could be seen from the trails. This seemed odd to me. We were also going to drive through a National Forest campground and quickly came to the understanding that you could not have a wheels-down ATV in these camp grounds. If you were camping there you had to trailer your rig outside the campground boundaries and then unload them to go for a ride. When you returned you had to reload them on the trailer and then precede to your campground spot.
What a hassle this would be if you were staying there.
The other thing that was very different is that there were some roads you could drive your rig on and others you couldn't. If you got caught driving a restricted road the fine was $180.
In some cases, to get home and use designated roads only it required the long way around and this added more than 10 miles.
Some of the group took the chance and I drove around the long way with my questionable luck. The trails here were almost completely canopied over. That was nice and shady. There were no hilltop vistas or open areas to stop at and stretch your legs and take pictures.
Also, with the amount of traffic these areas got, they were really quite rough. The sand and gravel had eroded away and only the big rocks remained.
This was very different than other places I have visited. All in all, it was a great trip and about two hours closer to Worthington than the Hills.
I was very impressed by the fact that the gas and groceries prices were the same as in town. Normally when you get to even the slightest remote area they jack the prices way up, and this was certainly not the case. One of the most interesting things I learned in the planning process of this trip was how little importance was placed where we are actually going.
The very first question I was asked by every couple what was invited was if Jane Krohn was going. I learned she is quite famous in some circles. I guess her biscuits and gravy in the mornings for breakfast had a much higher group priority over where we were actually intending to ride. I would have to agree with them on this issue, they are awesome.
If you have never taken a trip like this you should consider it. The costs were very reasonable and you can rent a machine for an affordable price. My total cost came in at $400 for three days of riding.
I do believe anyone could have went where we went and drove where we dove. All you have to do is be able to read a map. Clam Lake is a great spot and worth your time to check it out.