News & Stories

Loppet Kids and Coaches Enjoy August Trip to Cuyuna State Park

In late August, Loppet coaches took 15 campers from the Anwatin Middle School and Nellie Stone Johnson mountain biking teams on an overnight trip to Cuyuna State Park Recreation Area Campground. We invited the kids based on their participation in summer practices and races.

The group, which included coaches Allie Rykken, Jon Miller, Mary Luoma, and Will Swanson, along with parent Ben Sonquist, left early Friday morning, drove up to the Crow Wing County Airport (near Brainerd), and then packed their belongings into backpacks and panier bags and jumped on their bikes. They trekked through side roads for about 15 miles until they reached Cuyuna.

Hot sun, high spirits

The hot sun and heavy packs did not dampen their high spirits. They arrived, put up tents, made lunch, and headed for a refreshing swim. With lakes all around and a campground site just 400 meters shy of the beach, the campers spent most of their downtime swimming and trying to catch trout, though only the panfish seemed to be biting.

Overall the trails were outstanding: wildflowers and aspen trees lined the trails, iron in the ground made for a gorgeous rusty color on the trails that made its way everywhere, and wafts of pine tree scents and scenic overlooks of the lakes were spectacular. The terrain made for great rides as there were plenty of rolling sections, ups and downs that garnered exhilarating speed and made them work. The area has roughly 25 miles of single-track trails for riders of varying skill levels. So there were more than enough trails for beginners with plenty of technical features for the more advanced kids.

Building up an appetite

On Saturday we hit the trails for a few hours in the morning then took a lunch and swim break in the early afternoon. Given the heat in the afternoon, we played on some trails as a group and then rode to Ironton, an adorable nearby small town with a convenient Dairy Queen. Yes, dessert came before dinner. But given all of the riding, the kids still had room for some campfire-cooked spaghetti. The group then sat around the campfire until bedtime, looking at the stars and telling the occasional ghost story. Sunday morning some early risers hit the trails one last time before the ride back to the vans and trailer.

With the exception of the occasional superficial wound and a bee sting, everyone stayed safe and enjoyed the trails. The kids all got along pretty well and became a more unified team. It was particularly sentimental for coach Allie Rykken, as it was the last trip or practice she’ll have with a number of the rising high schoolers.

“Renewed Love of Mountain Biking”

We hope the trip motivated the kids who will be participating in the High School Mountain Bike League and provided a last-hurrah of summer for all the kids. But most of all we hope the kids found enjoyment and freedom in their exposure to nature and quality trails and in the opportunity to challenge themselves and accomplish new things. We know it did some of that for Jezeir Bradley who exclaimed, “These trails have renewed my love of mountain biking!”