MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Just as Mother Nature slowly steals our daylight, she gifts us with the crispness of fall and a colorful treetop palate.
Many would argue that the natural beauty that surrounds the Cuyuna Trail System, voted Best of Minnesota, is unsurpassed by any in the state.
“Fall in Cuyuna is special,” Aaron Hautala, president of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew, said. “The colors and the trees pop. And we have some brilliant yellows, some brilliant golds and reds. And when you compare that against the mine water and the mine lakes, which has this Caribbean blue, we just have a contrast and a color palate that’s pretty hard to find in Minnesota outside of here.”
That makes it hard to believe that in the not-too-distant past, man’s quest for the rich ore deposits to feed our country’s industrial appetite caused what appeared to be almost irreparable damage.
“Cuyuna has a former mining history which we’re pretty proud of. And now it’s become an outdoor recreation adventure zone,” Hautala said.
A bike ride through the area reveals an almost mountainous terrain and turquoise colored lakes, unintentionally formed by miners.
“The over-burden piles are what makes our hills. We have rocks that were blown out of the ground with dynamite. We have these jagged boulders that would not normally be in central Minnesota that are here,” Hautala said. “And we’re able to ride our bikes through these hills, through the contour and be able to enjoy the natural resources that we have that actually came from man.”
Yet in time, in her own subtle way, nature took what man discarded and made it her own again.
“We like to look at our trails as kind of an interactive museum where you can ride from point A to B, but along the way you can see mining history,” Hautala said. “Whether it’s a foundation, or rather it’s an old cable that’s on the ground that used to pull an elevator up and down in a shaft. Or even some tires from the old dump trucks that brought the dirt out of the pits and put them in the overburden piles. They’re out there too.”
From discarded tires to fat tires, the meeting of man and nature has created a unique landscape that just years ago was virtually unusable.
Now, people travel hundreds of miles to walk, run, hike and bike Cuyuna.
“Any given weekend you come out and you’ll see people anywhere from across the country, Canada. It’s kind of a little hidden hub in Minnesota here,” mountain bike patrol member Josh Boudreaux said.
So whether you take in the beauty on two feet, or two tires, the Cuyuna is an example of how beauty is created when our past collides with our present.
There are two big races this weekend on the Cuyuna trails, so they will be dedicated to the racers — but spectators are welcome.
If you want to bike the trails, they will be wide open next weekend and beyond.
And the colors will be peaking there in the next two weeks.