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Finding Minnesota: Off-Roading In The Iron Range

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(credit: CBS) Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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GILBERT, Minn. (WCCO) – Minnesotans love their four-wheel drive SUV’s and pickup trucks.

We often need them with all the snow we get each winter.

The vast majority of owners rarely take them off the freeways and paved streets.

But did you know there’s a state park in northern Minnesota set aside just for off-road vehicles to rip around and test the limits?

It’s located in an old iron ore mine near the city of Gilbert, Minn.

If you’re looking to let off a little steam, it helps to let out a little air!

Where you’re about to travel, you’re going need the extra traction!

“It lets out the highway pressure and stops at 10 to 12 pounds. Which gives me more flex in the tire and more grip,” Lynn McCall, an off-road Jeep owner, said.

Just outside Gilbert is a former iron ore mine. Allen Larsen is park supervisor.

“We’ve got a lot of hills. Lot of rocks. lLot of red mud, for a unique experience, not like your typical riding,” Larsen said.

“This is an older jeep, a 1981 Scrambler, a CJ 8,” Mark Filanowich, an off-roader, said.

The Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle State Recreation Area in Gilbert is a state recreation area where people like Mark Filanowich come to play.

“A lot of people who have a four-wheel drive vehicle say they want it so they’ve got that sense of security, they can drive in the snow. I think it’s equally important to understand what that four-wheel drive vehicle is capable of,” Filanowich said.

It’s 30 miles of rugged trails, challenge the most die-hard four wheeler.

It’s 1,200 acres of rocky, wooded terrain where getting stuck is a sign of courage.

“If you don’t get stuck occasionally, you won’t have an opportunity to practice extracting safely,” Filanowich said.

Out here, tow straps and winches are vital tools, but teamwork gets you out.

One trail is what’s known as the Gorge Rock Crawl. It’s called that for obvious reasons – it’s covered in rocks. On the Gorge Rock Crawl, you go slow or go home, broke.

Busting an axel or ripping open an oil pan can leave you stranded.

So, Filanowich teaches how to read the rocks and pick a path.

“When we successfully climb a hill, go through a mud hole or climb over a rock obstacle, the looks on people’s faces – it’s priceless,” Filanowich said.

Keeping the fun – in four wheeling!

 – -

Send us your Finding Minnesota ideas here.

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