161_HipAfter a summer with very limited road riding and no trail riding, I’m finally going to get some trail riding in. My wife and I and a group of friends are headed up to Gilbert for the weekend. I love Gilbert’s off-road vehicle park. This will be the first time trail riding for my wife and another friend of ours. I’m anxious to see how she likes it. It’s good for us to share interests and I’m hoping this will be one we share for a long time.

If you have never been to Gilbert’s OHV park you need to check it out. It’s official name is the Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle State Recreation Area. It’s located in St. Louis County just east of the city of Gilbert on highway 135. There are 36 miles of trails that include multi-use as well as ATV, OHM and ORV only. They range from easy to more difficult to most difficult. To ride in the park you need to pass the noise level test and have a current state trail sticker. The park is open 8:00 am to 5:30 pm and they do the noise level test when you check in. The noise level sticker is good for one year.

The whole thing is laid out on retired mining property so you’re basically riding in old ore dumps. This creates an environment of drastic elevation changes and fantastic views. It is multi-use but it has plenty of motorcycle only areas. To me it feels like a playground. It reminds me of when I was a kid and we would ride in a place we called “The Pit”. It was a chunk of land behind a K-Mart store in White Bear Lake that we tore up with our dirt bikes and mini bikes. It wasn’t legal riding but we always managed 3 or 4 hours of fun before the cops would ask us to leave.

I’ve conquered some fears in Gilbert. Things like steep hill climbs, jumps, sand, deep mud and deep water crossings. I also rode the motocross track which was a first for me. You can tackle all of these things in just a few hours. It is big enough to keep you from getting bored but small enough for quick trips back to the truck to make repairs or refill your water bottle. It’s also close enough to town for a lunch or pie break. There is even a trail that leads to Gilbert’s main drag.

My family as well as my wife’s family are both from the Iron Range and I have very fond childhood memories of the area. I spent a lot of summers at Lake Vermilion and at my grandmother’s house in Virginia. Some of the most fun I had as a kid was snowmobiling and dirt biking in this part of northern Minnesota. There were plenty of gravel roads and ore dump trails to keep you busy.

Things have changed a lot since I was a kid. There are more rules and restrictions, which I understand are in place to protect our environment and make life better for everybody. It’s too bad we have become such a litigious society. Private land owners can’t afford the liability of people using their property for recreational purposes even if they were willing to. I miss the days when accidents happened and they were just considered accidents. Now if we make a mistake and hurt ourselves, we’re supposed to blame somebody and sue them.

Based on my past experiences in Gilbert, I’m pretty confident I’ll get a little bruised and battered and probably break something on my bike. I will not be filing any lawsuits. I will be spending quite a bit of time at the vehicle wash in the park as well as in my driveway with a bucket and hose. You see, when you ride Gilbert, you and your bike get covered in rust colored ore dust that’s tough to wash off. My riding boots have been orange for a couple of years. I kind of like ‘em that way.


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