Area snowmobile trails are mystical
By Kristin Berg Town & Country
The Mystic Riders Snowmobile Club in Princeton is gearing up for another winter season. They hope this year will be snowier than the last, but even without snow, the club members — about 100 families — still have plenty of fun.
The Mystic Riders also give back to the communities who support them.
Last year, charitable gambling allowed the club to donate over $28,000 to 25 local organizations including schools, food shelves, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and many more.
Without plenty of members though, the club’s work — both on and off the trails — would not be possible.
“Our members now wouldn’t fit in the one-room building we started with (in 1968),” longtime member, Doug Remer said.
Karla Morinville, the current club president and Remer’s daughter, said they are always looking for new members.
“The more the merrier,” she said. “We’re always welcoming anybody, even if it’s just for one weekend.”
On Oct. 6, 16 club members took to the trails with tractors, skid loaders and chain saws to begin grooming for the season.
“Trail work is a lot of fun,” said Jill Keeler, the club’s charitable gambling manager. “I find myself picking up sticks I don’t even need to.”
Morinville said kids get involved with the trail work, too.
“The younger generation is the one that has to take over in the future,” Remer said.
Their approximately 150 miles of trails are open to the public, but about 90 percent of the land is private, Remer said.
“Without the local (landowners), we wouldn’t have our trails,” Remer said. He said there are still many people who think that all of the snowmobile trails are run only by the Department of Natural Resources.
In farming communities and suburban areas, snowmobile clubs like the Mystic Riders have to get permission from private land owners to make trails. Though the club uses ATVs while they groom the trails, non-trail-work-related ATVs are not allowed because so much of their system is on farmland.
Today, the club owns two groomers and two tractors along with other equipment, but this was not always the case. When the club first began, members brought their own equipment to work the trails. They still have their first trail groomer to remind club members how far they have come.
Remer said his father, Bill, one of club’s original members, built their first drag for grooming. Bill, now in his 70s, still snowmobiles and attends a Mystic Riders meeting once in awhile, Doug Remer said.
As part of the DNR’s Grant-in-Aid program, the Mystic Riders get funding to maintain and improve their trail system, too.
“We’re paid so much per mile,” Joel Thompson, a former club president and current member, said.
Minnesota is home to over 22,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails and according to the Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association, 97 percent of these trails are the responsibility of snowmobile clubs like the Mystic Riders and MnUSA volunteers.
They also received a grant from the DNR in 2009 to build a trail shelter in the Rum River State Forest. Unlike some of their other shelters, which are three-sided with a spot for a campfire, this shelter is a cabin with solar power, a wood stove and an outhouse.
“(The outhouse) is important to the girls,” Thompson said.
The club keeps it open to the public, a former club secretary and current member Heather Horazuk said. They keep a guest book in the cabin for snowmobilers to sign, too.
Club members recall their annual Weenie Ride in 2009 when they convened at their new shelter cabin to eat hot dogs and drink cocoa. Though it was only about 3 degrees out, club members said that year was one of their best turn-outs.
“When your beverage is froze in your hand, you know it’s cold,” Remer said.
At the cabin, club members rotated in and out to stay warm.
Besides their annual Weenie Ride, the club holds and participates in an ambitious number of events throughout the year.
Their club’s annual snowmobile trip in February began about 20 years ago, Remer said. Back then, he said they booked a dozen rooms wherever they would stay for the night. Now they have to book around 50.
“We try to move our club trip to different areas,” Horazuk said.
Even after the club’s Trail Close-Down and Clubhouse Clean-Up Day in May, members still have a chance for fun in June or July at the annual fishing launch and camp out on Mille Lacs Lake. Or, late in August, club members can be a part of the long-running Outlaw Grass Drags. The Rum River Trail Association hosts the event and as part of the association, the Mystic Riders and other area snowmobile clubs take on various jobs.
“Our club kind of handles the race program,” Dave Horazuk, former club president said.
When they are not hitting the trails, club members like Jill Keeler manage the six charitable gambling sites where they offer pull tabs, meat raffles and bingo.
“In 2011 we gave just over $28,000,” Heather Horazuk said. Last year the club gave to 25 different organizations, six of those being food shelves in the four counties their trails go through.
“We like to get to them before Christmas, so they can have that Christmas ham,” Morinville said.
They also give hams to the private landowners who allow the club use of their land.
The businesses with the club’s charitable gambling in Princeton include: Finish Line Café, Long Siding Bar, Hiway Inn and Mystic Inn. The Rum River Inn in St. Francis and Roy’s Place in Bock also have charitable gambling through the Mystic Riders.
The rest of the money they make from their charitable gambling sites goes back into maintaining the trails, Remer said.
To maintain safety on their trails, the club conducts snowmobile training during the first two Saturdays in December. The first Saturday’s training is at Thomas Sno Sports east of Milaca on Highway 23 and the second is at the Mystic Riders’ clubhouse.
“I took my snowmobile training here when I was a kid,” Remer said.
Each weekend they train 75 to 100 kids, usually between the ages of 12 and 16 though some are older, Remer said.
“For some of the kids, it’s the first time ever being on a snowmobile,” Morinville said.
Thompson recalled helping one girl during her driving training who started crying because she had never been on a snowmobile before.
The kids and teens learn about driving a snowmobile, but they also get training on hand signals, using the buddy system and staying warm. The cost per child is $10, Thompson said.
It is not only children that the club hopes to keep safe, either.
The Mystic Riders were one of the first snowmobile clubs in the area to set up their trail system with 911 locators, Remer said. That was about 12 years ago. If snowmobilers are in an accident, they can call 911 and tell the responder the GPS coordinates on the locator. Providing there is at least 6 inches of snow on their trails on Dec. 1, chances are some Mystic Riders members will be hitting the trails on opening day. Even snowmobilers from the metro area come up to ride the trail system, Remer said.
“It’s fun to get outdoors with people you enjoy being with,” Morinville said.
The club encourages anyone, even non-snowmobilers, to check out one of their meetings on even Tuesdays of the month.
For more information on the Mystic Riders Snowmobile Club, visit their website, http://mysticriders.org.