Welcome to the premier system of mountain bike trails in the Midwest, located in and around the beautiful Chequamegon National Forest region of Northwest Wisconsin.
The Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association off-road bike trail system consists of over 300 miles of marked and mapped routes through a near-wilderness area of striking beauty and peaceful solitude. The CAMBA system is quickly becoming the Singletrack Mecca of the Midwest, with more singletrack trail being constructed every year. CAMBA's ultimate vision is a linked system of singletrack trails connecting Hayward, Seeley, Cable and Namakagon.
A Most Successful Season
Mother Nature abruptly slammed the door on the 2014 mountain biking season only 10 days into November. And while we could have anticipated another several weeks of riding, the regular season has officially come to a close. It’s time to look to other activities including fat biking on local roads and a couple of groomed trails, and of course, to reflect.
The 2014 season was notable in many ways. Past newsletters have chronicled in detail our trail accomplishments and we are quite satisfied to say that we came close to completing just about everything we set out to do. It was an ambitious and challenging trail construction season that was complicated from the start by losing our excavator operator just before we were to begin work. A lot of resourceful networking managed to salvage that situation in grand fashion and we were off and running.
This was the first season that we attempted to field three summer crews: a three-person maintenance crew dedicated to routine maintenance across the entire system, a five-person hand building crew digging new trail and performing rehab work, and a four-person finish crew working behind the excavator. We also ended up working with three different excavator operators on many different projects. It was an extremely challenging and at times stressful undertaking to oversee all of these crews, operators, and projects. A summary of trail projects follows this report.
With an extremely ambitious slate of project and maintenance work, and having to address the excavator operator situation, we also spent considerably more than we planned on the trails this season. Fund raising to support these needs was helpful, but we did need to tap our reserves to see it all through.
A strategic planning effort got underway early last season that strove to address a number of basic and more long range issues and initiatives. As a result, several new committees were formed and tasked with furthering CAMBA’s many-pronged mission.
Particularly gratifying this year were two significant accomplishments: major media coverage and IMBA Ride Center designation. The media coverage came as the result of a media tour facilitated by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, which hired Geiger PR to set everything up. Locally, the chambers of commerce with considerable input from CAMBA, made things happen on the ground. The media represented all kinds of publications, including two mountain bike-specific magazines, Mountain Bike Flyer and Mountain Bike Action. Both produced fantastic features on the trails. There were numerous other mentions and small features about the trails in many of the other more “main stream” media participating in the tour.
But the crowning feather in CAMBA’s cap was finally being designated an IMBA Ride Center. As a bronze level ride center we are now among only 27 such designated centers in the world, including just 20 in the U.S., and four in the Midwest.
We are truly proud of our accomplishments over the past 22 years – and to receive this kind of national recognition in both the media and from IMBA, not only validates what we’ve known all along – that we have one of the best trail systems anywhere – but it puts the Chequamegon Area on the map like never before.
CAMBA Annual Meeting
The CAMBA annual meeting was held on October 10 at the Sawmill Saloon. The well-attended meeting included the usual business of electing new directors as well as a series of reports on the season’s initiatives.
CAMBA President Steve Morales lead off with a recap of our strategic planning implementation, the strengthening of communication among trail stewards/project leaders and the board, revised bylaws, creation and implementation of a new committee structure, the development of a five-year trail plan that was subsequently approved by Sawyer County, manuals for employees, foremen and supervisors; a new volunteer recognition program, and a collaborative trail layout procedure. Steve noted that regarding trails, we have begun to shift our focus to maintenance and upgrading the existing system over new construction. Future concerns that were identified included the need for additional volunteers or raising additional funds to ensure that CAMBA can continue to function at its traditional level of production.
Executive Director Ron Bergin presented the Financial Report and Executive Director’s Report. Revenues increased over 2013, but expenses, mainly trail expenditures, significantly outpaced additional revenues due to having to employ additional equipment operators and extending the building season. The shortfall was covered by funds on hand. The full financial report was distributed at meeting.
Ron recapped difficulties of the summer building season: loss of planned excavator operator, wet weather, and multiple crews working throughout the system, but noted that it was one of CAMBA’s most successful building seasons in spite of the challenges. IMBA Ride Center designation and lots of national media exposure this year validated the success of the organization. Partnering with generous major sponsors and cycling events including Lifetime Fitness/Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival, Mt. Borah Epic, and the Chequamegon 100 contributed significantly to CAMBA’s financial strength.
Trail Committee: Steve Morales presented for absent committee Chair Darren Winchester and recapped trail work projects and successes. (See below)
Fund Raising/Marketing Committee: presented by Chair Steve Morales reviewed the creation of the new committee and key projects including sponsorship materials, donor campaign, and assisting with map ad sales.
Volunteer and Personnel Committee: Chair Charlie Evenson gave a brief overview of the creation and implementation of a successful volunteer recognition program with rewards for hours worked, and the development of an employee manual and methods of work manuals for crew members, foremen and project supervisors.
Events and Programming Committee: Ron presented on behalf of Chair Alison Slavick. This committee succeeded the retired Festival of the Trails Committee. The committee was tasked with developing and executing several smaller more manageable events that were not as labor- or volunteer-intense. Events and programs included a tour for women coincident with the Mt. Borah Epic, coordinated a “Golden Spike” trail completion event, staged the first Moonlight Tour event, and began planning events for the next riding season that will include a Member & Club Rally, a gala fund raising event, and a youth cycling event.
The meeting concluded with a general membership discussion that centered on winter biking and CAMBA’s plans to assist active individuals from the fat bike community to identify and groom trails this winter.
Board and Officers
The results from the board of directors were announced, which saw incumbent Charlie Evenson re-elected and new director Rick Carpenter elected to the board. At the November Board of Directors meeting, the following were elected as CAMBA’s 2015 officers: Steve Morales, President; John Leighton, Vice-President; Rick Carpenter, Secretary; and Stan Walczack, Treasurer.
Trail Projects 2014
THANKS - to the many wonderful volunteers, donors, sponsors, and other supporters that have helped make this season the success that it was. This outstanding group of individuals and businesses will be acknowledged in greater detail in future editions of this newsletter.
As a rule the CAMBA trails are rideable within 12 hours or less of almost any major rain event and sooner after lesser storms. As always, please use good judgement when deciding to ride during wet weather. If you leave much more than the dimple of a tire tread, you should wait for the trails to dry out. Trails will only need to be closed due to extreme events.
TRAIL CLOSURES AND SPECIAL NOTICES
PATSY LAKE TRAIL - A timber sale along the Patsy Lake Trail has gone active. The area affected includes the segment of trail between N19 and N20. This piece of trail is CLOSED. Please use the single track to bypass this area. The singletrack is in the harvest boundaries, so use caution while riding here.
HATCHERY CREEK TRAIL - CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE - A timber salvage needs to be conducted in this area. The county forestry department will apprise us of when the trail can be reopened.
OJIBWE TRAIL - The detour around the logging area will be coming down shortly. Work needs to be done yet to clean things up and get some signs back up.
DANKY DANK - while open for riding, is under construction and not a completed trail. As such, there is no exit from the far end of the trail. You must ride out & back. It is a varied ride with many interesting terrain features, but it takes you to a very remote area. There is minimal signage at this time.
CAMBA TRAILS RECEIVE IMBA
RIDE CENTER DESIGNATION
The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) based in Boulder, Colorado, has announced its 2014 class of Model Trails designees. Among IMBA’s Model Trails program is a category of Ride Centers. The Ride Center designation represents IMBA’s Model Trail recognition for large-scale mountain bike facilities that offer something for every rider and are destination-worthy areas that include everything from backcountry adventures to shuttle-served gravity trails and range from expert-only to family-friendly.
As part of this year’s class, the CAMBA trails have been designated a Bronze Level Ride Center. There are only 27 Ride Centers around the world and the Chequamegon Area Ride Center is the only one in the state of Wisconsin among just four in the Upper Midwest/Great Lakes states.
“This is a significant recognition of the great trails we have developed across our area,” reflects CAMBA Executive Director Ron Bergin. “We believe that the trails of the Chequamegon Area are among the best in the country; to receive this prestigious designation is validation of that belief.”
A local or regional trail system must be invited to apply to receive Ride Center designation. CAMBA submitted a proposal to request to be invited this past winter and was subsequently invited to submit an application. The application was submitted in May and has since been reviewed by IMBA staff and the regional director. “Before deciding to apply for Ride Center designation,” Bergin explained, “we assembled a team of local riders that were familiar with the trails and the infrastructure of our trail system and did a self-assessment to be sure we had a solid chance. Our work quickly showed that we would score at least on the Bronze Level and even perhaps at the Silver Level. This encouraged us to move ahead with the process.”
Ride Center applications are scored on an objective point system that includes everything from the quality and type of trails, degree of difficulty, climbing, descending, technicality, special features, amenities, services, and community support. “Our specialty is cross country riding,” notes Bergin. “We have far more interconnected cross country mountain bike trails than any place in the Midwest and rival other parts of the country. Obviously we don’t have the terrain for extensive downhill or freeride experiences, so we didn’t score as well in those categories.”
Bergin noted, however, that as enhancements and improvements continue to be made throughout the CAMBA system, it would be possible to be elevated to a Silver Level Ride Center.
“Perhaps one of the most significant benefits of being named an IMBA Ride Center,” Bergin adds, “is that we are now, deservedly, thrust on to the national stage of mountain bike destinations.” Riders look to the list of IMBA Ride Centers and plan their travels to experience popular mountain bike trail systems across the country. It can be anticipated that more riders will flock to the region to experience the CAMBA Ride Center in conjunction with the three other Upper Midwest Ride Centers, all within a few hours drive of each other. “As surprising as it may sound,” Bergin notes, “we’ve actually struggled to get the word out about what we have here. The Ride Center designation will go a long way to improve both the awareness and perception of the CAMBA trails.”
“We are extremely grateful to the local communities and agencies that offered their support for our Ride Center proposal. I am confident this unabashed support for our efforts played a role in our designation,” Bergin concludes.
To learn more about the IMBA Models Trails and Ride Center programs visit www.imba.com/model-trails. Visit the CAMBA website at www.cambatrails.org to learn more about mountain biking in the Chequamegon Area.
It’s been a busy summer across the CAMBA system as we’ve ticked off project after project on our 2014 trail maintenance and construction “To Do” List. The building season is winding down, though in reality we’ve gone into extra innings as we’ve typically concluded after the second week of August. This year due to setbacks with our equipment operator situation early in the summer we’ve extended the season a couple of weeks. We expect to conclude in another week to 10 days, depending on crew availability and may still have to rely on volunteers to fully wrap things up, so stay tuned for announcements about special work nights and weekend workdays.
We are very satisfied with the work we’ve accomplished this year and pleased to have been able to address some long standing maintenance issues, finish up some lingering projects, and also punch out a couple of new things. Unlike many years our work this summer did not focus on one single or major project. To that end we can’t say, “We built ‘X’ miles of trails this summer,” as we typically have been able to summarize our season’s production. Instead, the work has been spread around as we’ve extended, completed, enhanced, or improved no less than seven different trails across the CAMBA trail network.
As we enter one of the best times of the year to put the rubber to the dirt we’d like to invite you to get out there and “Ride ‘em” and check out the fruits of our labors. We’re confident that you’re going to like what you see.
To help you better understand just what has been accomplished and to also choose where to ride, here’s a summary of the summer of 2014 trail development and maintenance. Let us know what you think.
The first project of the season was the construction of a .7-mile reroute into and out of Martel’s Pothole. It’s a flowy fun descent and very manageable climb back up. This piece of trail has received overwhelmingly positive reviews. The original line is now a one-way up hill route. The new trail is two-way, though apparently the signage is a bit confusing and will be corrected.
CAMBA’s newest cluster quietly advanced up the slopes of Mt. Ashwabay with ¾ mile of newly finished trail on top of last year’s significant growth. Work included machine digging early in the season with regular volunteer nights to do the necessary finish work. It is hoped that more digging will yet be done this fall to continue to advance this exciting project. Some of the latest trail is an absolute blast to ride – challenging, a bit edgy and a wonderful addition to the CAMBA system. With five-plus miles of trails, the word is getting out too, as riders and other visitors to the Bayfield peninsula are beginning to discover what the Mt. Ashwabay trails have to offer.
Reroutes and remediation have been the words of the summer at Hatchery Creek. Two major efforts have seen the trail tread elevated through a low lying and formerly rocky area, several shorter reroutes constructed, and a new series of turns to improve the climb next to Bitch Hill. More of this work is planned in the future as we strive to return Hatchery Creek to its original intended degree of difficulty and encourage people to return to riding there.
Also quietly advancing through the forest is the connection from the Rock Lake Trail near Emerson Lake through the National Forest to the west to meet up with Danky Dank. This hand built singletrack has seen 333 hours of work with 4,200 feet of trail completed just this year. All totaled there’s about a mile and a half of trail done, with about two miles to go. It is a very realistic expectation that this trail will be completed next summer, and thus the east-west connection from Namakagon to Cable.
Major accomplishments on the Danky Dank include the completion of a half-mile segment in the middle of the trail that previously required a ride-around on the ATV and snowmobile trail. It is now possible to ride, uninterrupted, from the Esker Trail through to the portion of trail that was built last summer. This newest work is creative, most definitely edgy, and has technical challenge.
On the other end of the trail, the tread has been completely dug by the mini-excavator from the National Forest boundary back to the section built last year, but not all of the finish work has been completed. There’s a good week or so of hand finishing yet to be done. It is possible some of this will yet be addressed this fall by volunteers, but it most definitely will be completed early next season. This latter segment of trail maintains the fast flowy character of the trail preceding it.
As previously reported, a considerable amount of work is being done on the Ojibwe to bring it more in line with some of our other trails with regard to sustainability, technicality, and rideability, with the additional underlying goals of getting more people to ride it and thus infuse more accessible riding to the immediate Cable area.
Work on the Ojibwe has included tread improvements on about six miles, numerous reroutes to address sustainability issues, and several longer reroutes near the North End. Among these was a half-mile reroute that removes the bike trail from an old road/now ski trail and utilizes better, more bike suitable terrain. It will double as a snowshoe trail. Other work completed at the North End includes: a 1,000 foot reroute east and south of the trailhead that also removes bikes from the ski trail and will double as a snowshoe trail; a 40-yard bypass of a rock garden on top of the ridge above the cabin – the rock garden will remain as an optional line; and a new in/out trail from the trailhead of almost 1,000 feet. There has been very positive feedback about the new Ojibwe Trail. It is still a challenging ride, with lots of climbing and tight and narrow sections with sidehill exposure. Now with access directly from the North End Trailhead, ridership has already increased. Do check it out.
Camp 38 Road Trailhead Connector
Last but not least, work is still ongoing on a new connection from the Camp 38 Rd. Trailhead to connect with the Seeley Pass (a.k.a. FlowMama) Trail that runs from Ojibwe south to the “ballfield.” This connecting trail will permit direct singletrack access to the north-south corridor without requiring riding on the ATV trail or other roads. It is about .8 mile long with a series of climbing turns near the trailhead, a lot of sidehill contour trail, and utilizes a fast, open and flowing style. Plus, there’s a cool new gravity feature. There’s a lot of work yet to be done on this one, but come check it out and see its progress over the next couple of weeks.
That’s all folks! Pretty impressive list of new places to ride, if we do say so ourselves. We’ve built ‘em, now get out there and ride ‘em.