Cabin culture meets recreation in Cuyuna Country (Story and 2 videos)

Categories: Recreation

New 'basecamp' embraces rec area's popularity and our collective cabin love. 

True North Basecamp cabins are steel-and-wood structures styled after old mine sheds that speak to the region’s history

CROSBY, MINN. – When it comes to winter recreation, Minnesotans are a weathered bunch. The frozen eyelashes, iced-up beards and wind-burned cheeks that come with getting out and staying active even in the coldest months are badges of honor. Snow-packed trails and the other winter obstacles only enhance the experience.

So when a new way to get out and enjoy winter presents itself, enthusiasm follows. Take fat biking. Minnesotans have embraced the beefy bikes more readily than anywhere in the country. Now, combine that fervor with our proclivity for cabin culture, and the result is a sort of northland harmony to experience.

Enter the new True North Basecamp, positioned as a home base and gateway to the wonder of the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. The newly built, 275-square-foot cabins that sit on the park’s edge in central Minnesota are marked by sturdy corrugated steel siding and a mono-pitched roof with exposed wood beams. True North co-founder Dan Jurek described the style as “North Woods Industrial.” Modeled after the mining shacks that once dotted the landscape, and situated along the 27-acre Armour Mine Lake #2, they are a nod to the area’s past.

Since mining companies abandoned Cuyuna Country in the 1980s, nature has reclaimed the nearly 5,000 acres. Trees have sprouted, mining pits now are crystalline lakes, and wildlife has returned. Twenty-five miles of shoreline, 20 miles of groomed winter fat biking trails, and 25 miles of single-track mountain biking trails in the summer are quickly making this area a hot spot for active outdoor ­enthusiasts.

“I love when people go to Cuyuna for the first time. They are always surprised by how diverse the landscape is and the endless things to do there,” said Jurek. “Everyone has the same reaction to this amazing place — kids don’t even think about handheld electronics or video games — everyone is enamored by it.”

Jurek and his business partner Jeff Bajek, both Twin Cities residents, came up with the idea to buy land in Crosby after a camping and mountain biking trip with their young sons in the fall of 2013. A soggy, rain-soaked tent made for a dreary retreat after a day spent riding the trails of Cuyuna. A lack of lodging options around the burgeoning trail system was obvious. The two dads decided to take on the task.

The True North cabins are a nod to history, but they have their modern amenities, from WiFi to air conditioning.

The True North cabins are a nod to history, but they have their modern amenities, from WiFi to air conditioning.
Open since December, the outdoors-centric facility (Jurek declined to discuss the cost) sits on 40 acres and to date includes six cabins available year-round and 33 campsites beginning in April. Also, there is a “shower house” with a heated floor, high-pressure showers, toilets and changing areas.

Weekend excursion

My husband, Jason, and I departed Minneapolis early on a Saturday morning in late January to spend a weekend at True North and explore the region by multiple means. We packed the car with equipment for cross-country skiing, fat biking, and snowshoeing, and schlepped camp kitchen essentials, sleeping bags, and an extra pair of boots each.

We decided to hit up the Larson Lake trails for an hour of skiing on our way into town. Located near Deerwood, Minn., these undulating trails are groomed for skate- and classic-style skiing. While

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