Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Keeping Your Cool in the Cold

'Tis the season for fat-bikes, snowshoes, and skis, but before you slide into the Winter Wilderness, remember, "There is now such thing as bad weather, just poor clothing choices."


It only takes a few minutes for exposed skin to become frostbitten if the temperature is below 20 F and the wind is blowing at 20 mph or more.

What is Frostbite?

When outside in the cold, your body is focused on maintaining its core temperature. To do that, it shifts blood away from the extremities and toward the central organs of the heart and lungs. This increases the risk of local cold injury such as frostbite to your extremities, particularly the feet and hands, and if uncovered, the nose, cheeks and ears on the head. We have even treated a case of frostbite of the corneas of the eyes at one x-c ski race.

Body tissues actually freeze when they are frostbitten. Ice crystals form in the cell, causing physical damage and permanent changes in cell chemistry. When the ice thaws, additional changes occur and may result in cell death.

If just the skin surface is affected, it's known as superficial frostbite; deep frostbite affects underlying tissues.

Preventing Frostbite

Anyone who is not dressed properly, is outside for too long, or gets wet in cold weather can get frostbite. It is easier to prevent frostbite than to treat it.

*  Dress for the weather, not against it. Wear light, layered clothing that provides ventilation as well as insulation. Wear a water-repellent, breathable shell on top.

*  Protect your head, hands and feet. COVER ALL EXPOSED SKIN! A number of new face masks specifically designed for winter athletes have come on the market in recent years. If you prefer to have your mouth and nostrils uncovered, consider putting moleskin or Vaseline on susceptible areas. Much of your body's heat loss occurs through your head and extremities. Helmets specifically designed for winter sports can protect your ears as well as your noggin, and also help retain body warmth. Goggles protect the eyes, and are less prone to fog up than sunglasses. Mittens are warmer than gloves. Wear wool or micro fleece socks and boots to keep your feet warm. Don't drink or smoke before going out into the cold. If you plan on being out in the cold for a prolonged period, don't drink alcohol or smoke. Alcohol and nicotine cause constriction of blood vessels and leave the skin more prone to thermal injury.

*  If you get wet, go inside. Keep your skin dry. Remove wet clothing as quickly as possible. Check yourself every half-hour or so for signs of frostbite. If your toes, fingers, ears or other body parts feel numb, get inside.

*  Hydrate! Drink plenty of fluids since hydration increases the blood's volume, which helps prevent frostbite. Adequate hydration helps sustain circulation


*  Numbness

*  Skin feels frozen

*  Skin appears waxy, white, or grayish.

Frostbite is very serious. If you suspect you have frostbite, seek medical care immediately.



Hypothermia occurs when the body looses it’s ability to keep itself warm. There are varying severities of hypothermia, the cooler the core body temperature the more severe the hypothermia. Prolonged exposure to cool, wet, windy environmental conditions increases the likelihood of hypothermia.

Surprisingly, hypothermia can occur even in moderately cool weather (up to 60ยบ F) . When spending time outdoors in colder weather, the body generates heat to maintain core body temperature in two ways: through exercise and by shivering, which is the primary mechanism the body uses to generate heat. Shivering intensity is determined by the severity and duration of cold exposure and generally occurs in the large muscles of the trunk first.

How do you recognize the onset of hypothermia? Look for signs of the "umbles":

  • Grumbling (personality change);
  • Mumbling (having a hard time articulating words);
  • Stumbling (reduced coordination in the arms and legs); and
  • Fumbling (decreased dexterity).

To prevent hypothermia, you should:

  • Wear a hat (Winter helmet). The most significant loss of body heat is from the head and the body has no way to minimize heat loss in this region of the body.
  • Layer clothing.  Wear warm but breathable layers of clothing to stay warm
  • Pay attention to shivering.  Shivering is a good thing because it produces body heat, but if it reaches severe levels, stop exercising and head indoors.
  • Keep up the pace.  Keep your exercise intensity in the cold at moderate to high intensity to help maintain core body temperature. In order to maintain this intensity, take numerous breaks if needed
  • Bring extra clothing.  If you are exercising in a relatively remote area (such as on a long cross-country skiing excursion) bring an extra set of dry clothes with you.

Pay attention to the other riders! If you notice any of these warning signs of frostbite or hypothermia in another racer or even yourself, let one of the bike patrollers know as quickly as possible, either by flagging down a course medic or at the nearest aid station.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

More Emphasis on Trails, Less on Events in 2021

As I have recounted here on previous occasions, the Backcountry Trail Patrol Association was formed in 1999 as a program of the old North-Central Mountain Bike Patrol (NCMBP) and was incorporated as a separate organization in 2003. The reason that the patrol program was established was due to NCMBP’s increasing emphasis on special event medical coverage, and search and rescue, with a decreased emphasis on its or original purpose of patrolling trails. When Backcountry became a separate organization, it's stated purpose was to develop, maintain, and patrol mountain bike trails on the three National Forests in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Over the ensuing decade and a half our primary emphasis has tried to remain trail patrol on the Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association trails in Northwest Wisconsin, and the surrounding Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

In recent years, the other National Mountain Bike Patrols in the region have gone inactive, while the Backcountry Trail Patrol (and the Wisconsin Mountain Bike Patrol in the Milwaukee area) has stayed active, and the emphasis once again shifted to providing medical support at events. In and of itself, event support is a good thing and that’s why we advocated for the establishment of what is now the Twin Cities Mountain Bike Patrol, but it is not the reason that the Backcountry Patrol was formed. Our name says it all, "Backcountry Trail Patrol." Where events intersect with the trails we serve, such as the Chequamegon Mountain Bike Festival, the Borah Epic, the Fat Bike Birkie and the Tour de Chequamegon, we’re here and of course, we will help. (Of course, after the COVID-19 pandemic has eased and we are allowed to have events again.)

However, in September of 2020, something happened on the CAMBA trails that should cause us to refocus our emphasis on trail patrol. There was a crash on Flow Mama Trail, and the rider sustained fatal injuries. I’m not saying that the presence of a patrol would have changed those circumstances, but it does draw attention to the need for what we were organized to do.

Trail patrol is simple. Once you are trained, wear your red jersey, carry your patrol pack, and get out and ride. Record and report your hours. You can ride anywhere on the CAMBA system and Isanti County Parks. Educate, Assist, Inform, Observe, and Report. In 2003 we made a commitment as an organization to, “protect trail users and forest resources through service and backcountry education.” It’s what we do, what we are needed to do, and what we are supposed to do.

As the region heals from the pandemic, a record number of people have been seeking outdoor recreation as an escape from the frustrations of lockdowns and quarantines. Mountain biking is a great way to experience the outdoors, but as in any endeavor, some of the participants are not prepared or properly equipped. That’s where the education component of what we do comes in.

We’re going to make a concerted effort to increase our patrol presence on the CAMBA trails in 2021. We hope to recruit and train new members, expand educational programs, including possibly sponsoring a MTB first aid class by Backcountry Lifeline, and provide information to help riders enjoy the trails in a safe manner and assist CAMBA in developing an effective Emergency Medical Services contact and evacuation system, similar to that found on the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area Mountain bike trails in Minnesota. We hope you’ll come along for the ride.

If you are not a member and are interested in the Backcountry Trail Patrol, please email “”

Friday, April 3, 2020

Back to the Chippewa

As I recounted in my first post on this blog/website, the Backcountry Trail Patrol came into existence as a program of the old North-Central Mountain Bike Patrol on the Chippewa National Forest in north-central Minnesota, incorporating is a separate organization in 2003. This summer, with the Twin Cities Mountain Bike Patrol now set up to cover the majority of the events that Backcountry has worked for the last few years, and after the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are hopefully relaxed, we will be returning to the Chippewa. There are a number of resource management, and cultural and historical activities taking place in the eastern part of the Deer River Ranger District (Marcell area) which I would like to take part in. This is not saying that we will abandon the activities on Chequamegon such as the Borah Epic (if it takes place) and CAMBA events, but for routine patrol, trail maintenance, helping with interpretive programs and the preservation of the historic Joyce Estate in the backcountry of the Trout Lake Primitive Area, I, and anyone else who would like to take part, will be volunteering on the Chippewa National Forest and the Edge of the Wilderness Discovery Center. More details will be posted here as they develop.

It has been twenty years since we first started volunteering for the U.S. Forest Service on the Chippewa. To commemorate that service, we will be hosting a group ride on the Simpson Creek Trail System north of “Big Winnie” near Inger, Minnesota on a Saturday to be determined when the pandemic restrictions are lifted. Currently, I am considering the latter part of July for this event, starting with the “Best Gosh Dam Fish Fry in Minnesota” on Friday, at the Gosh Dam Place Restaurant and Motel, just down Highway 46 from the Simpson Creek trailhead. Watch for details here in the near future.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

CAMBA and the Backcountry Trail Patrol

We’ve been there almost from the start, and CAMBA has been part of the patrol, almost from the start, too. In fact, it was a photocopy (remember them?) of an article from “Ski Patrol” magazine sent by regular mail, in an envelope no less, from Ron Bergin (then as now, Executive Director of the Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association, CAMBA) back in 1996 that really kicked us three park rangers in the backside to get this patrol program off the ground. The article told about the establishment of the National Mountain Bike Patrol (NMBP) in Moab, Utah, with the assistance of the National Off-Road Bicycle Association (NORBA) and National Ski Patrol. As I posted previously, our ranger chief had told us that we couldn’t be running all over the place in our County Park Ranger uniforms, as altruistic as it may have been, helping out at events. Particularly, considering that we were doing emergency medical care while in those uniforms. The establishment of NMBP sounded like a great possibility for us. I called the NORBA office in Colorado, and spoke to the coordinator of the program; telling her that we were trained law enforcement cyclists and either first responders or EMTs, and we would like to be part of the new program. She almost came through the phone line (yes, a hard-line telephone) to welcome us on board. The North-Central Mountain Bike Patrol became the sixth member of the National Mountain Bike Patrol.

I came up and took part in a CAMBA summer event that year, and then offered our assistance to Gary Crandall at the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival. He turned me over to the EMS Coordinator (or Chief) Gary Victorson, who accepted the offer with no small amount of trepidation. Brian, Andy, and I came up to Cable in our yellow shirts, and they put us on the sixteen-mile Short and Fat racecourse. We had an eventful day. Most memorably, we bandaged up a young lady with a pretty good laceration to her chin and assisted in the evacuation of a spectator who got out on the course, fell, and was run over by several racers. Ultimately, she was evacuated by helicopter to Duluth. After the race, Gary Victorson came up to us and told us, “Even if we forget to call you, be here next year.” We have been part of the Fat Tire Festival ever since. 2020 will be our 25th year as part of the CFTF, or Chequamegon Mountain Bike Festival as it is now called, emergency medical team.

As the patrol grew, initially having members from as far away as the Chicago area, as well as Madison, Milwaukee, and the Twin Cities, CAMBA continued to grow as well, and we continue to assist in the various events that the organization sponsored, including the Cable Off-Road Classic spring MTB race, the post-Chequamegon Poker Ride, the Taste of the Trails, Festival of Trails, and more recently, the Borah Epic, and the Seeley Big Fat Race. We also assist at the Fat Bike Birkie each year in March. Some of our members have cabins in the Cable area and for major events CAMBA and the Fat Tire Festival have always been generous in providing us with places to stay.

In 2003, the Backcountry Trail Patrol Association was incorporated, after NCMBP became part of Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists (MORC), with the specific purpose of providing education, information, and assistance on trails on the Chippewa and Chequamegon National Forests. Gary Crandall graciously allowed us use of the CFTF office in Cable for training and meetings, which will continue under Peter Spencer’s management. (Thank you, both!) We now refer to it as the "Northern District Office" of the patrol. Approximately every other year we hold a training session there for potential new members, which, in addition to the NMBP requirements, covers Forest Service Risk Management training issues specific to U.S. Forest Service land management, communications and safety issues. Due to the nature and location of the trails we patrol on the CAMBA system, all Backcountry Patrol members are required to have a minimum of 16 hours of Wilderness First Aid, with Wilderness First/Emergency Medical Responder training as the preferred level, in addition to CPR/AED for the Professional Rescuer.

Two major developments have had a pronounced effect on the patrol's participation on the CAMBA trail system. First, is the development of the extensive network of singletrack mountain bike trails, initially in the Rock Lake/Wilson Lake/Patsy Lake areas, and then north and south of County Road “OO” above Seeley. These trails are very popular with the mountain biking community, and the patrol has worked with Sawyer County Ambulance, Round Lake and Namakagon Fire and Rescue to improve safety and accessibility on those trails, in the event of an emergency. We continue to ride the Delta and Drummond area trails as well.
The other major development was the rapid growth of winter fat-bike riding. Backcountry was one of the first patrol organizations to take up this new activity, starting with the City of Lakes Loppet in 2006, and continuing to today, as mentioned above in the CAMBA area.

In 2018, the National Mountain Bike Patrol left the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) and merged into the National Ski Patrol, essentially losing its emphasis on trails and working with land managers. For this reason, the Backcountry Trail Patrol elected to stay an independent volunteer trails and service organization and strengthen our ties with CAMBA. Our newest cycling jerseys, provided by Borah Epic sponsor, Borah Designs, proudly display the CAMBA insignia on the right sleeve. We continue to support CAMBA events and patrol CAMBA trails, and assist at the Chequamegon Mountain Bike Festival, the Borah Epic, the Tour de Chequamegon, and the American Birkebeiner Fat Bike Birkie. As we head into this new decade, we are looking to attract new members in the Hayward – Cable area to help us continue our support of the best Mountain Biking trails and events in the Midwest.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Patrol Winter Update

We are looking for patrollers to work the following events in February and March:

Saturday, February 1: Seeley Big Fat Race in (You guessed it) Seeley, WI
Saturday, February 8: 45Nrth Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout, Crosby-Ironton, MN
Sunday, February 9: Mora Vasaloppet Fat Vasa, Mora, MN
Saturday, March 8: American Birkebeiner Fat Bike Birkie, Cable, WI

Details can be found on the patrol Facebook page under “Events” (

Also, there are skiing/snowshoeing volunteer opportunities at the Edge of the Wilderness Discovery Center in Marcell, MN, on the Chippewa National Forest. Contact me if you are interested.

Also, we are trying to put together a 20 hour Wilderness First Aid/ Professional Rescuer CPR (16-hour WFA and 4-hour CPR/AED) class in late March or early April (Mud and slush season.) If you are interested, let me know as soon as possible. Shad will be helping me teach the class so that he can get certified to teach the four-hour class to TCMBP members.

Enjoy the snow while you can. It looks like melting temperatures from Wednesday into next week.

Stay safe, and warm,

Hans Erdman, WEMC
Patrol Chief
Backcountry Trail Patrol MN/WI
Isanti, MN

Sunday, November 10, 2019

About Us: U.S. Forest Service Volunteer Partners since 1999

In 1994, simultaneous with the beginnings of the Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association (CAMBA) in northwestern Wisconsin, avid mountain bikers Cindy Storm, Cindy Bijold, Ann Breckenridge, and Kelly Owen published a book called, “The North Country Guide Mountain Biking, Minnesota – Wisconsin.” This little book highlighted mountain biking opportunities away from the Twin Cities area including trails in the Chequamegon National Forest in Wisconsin, and the Chippewa National Forest in north central Minnesota. Similarly, another book, “Mountain Biking Minnesota” by Steve Jenkins was published by Falcon Press in 2002, and highlighted many of the same riding opportunities on the Chippewa National Forest. The North-Central Mountain Bike Patrol (NCMBP), the National Mountain Bike Patrol affiliate in Minnesota and Wisconsin at the time, had already started activity on the Chequamegon Forest, and seizing upon the descriptions of the underutilized Simpson Creek, Suomi Hills, and Trout Lake trails on the Chippewa Forest, the NCMBP approach the US Forest Service about volunteering to help develop and patrol those trails. The “Backcountry Trail Patrol Project” adopted the Simpson Creek Trail system as their first project, and regularly patrolled trails on bike and on snowshoes, did trail maintenance, built and cleaned backcountry campsites, and even helped take out beaver dams from 1999 until after the US Forest Service Centennial in 2005.
Late in 2002, the board of the NCMBP turned over operations of the patrol to Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists (MORC), an organization that was, at the time, concentrating on the Twin Cities area. The Backcountry Patrol program was spun off into a separate organization, and in January 2003 was incorporated as the Backcountry Trail Patrol Association. It was during this time that the patrol shifted its emphasis away from Simpson Creek and the Cutfoot Sioux area of the forest to the Trout Lake trails and the historic Joyce Estate Great Camp, a registered National Historic Site within the Trout Lake Non-Motorized Area. Our involvement in this area continues to this day, with occasional “casual” volunteer patrols in that system.

Beginning in 2003, the Backcountry Patrol's emphasis shifted from the Chippewa trails to Sand Dunes State Forest near Zimmerman, Minnesota, where the Patrol Director was employed at the time. Several backcountry skiers had joined the team at that point, and the patrol assisted with trail grooming, annual candlelight ski events, and held their wilderness medical training classes at Sand Dunes for several years. In addition, we started to become more involved with the Chequamegon area and the CAMBA trail system, the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival and other events in the Cable, Wisconsin, area, which continues to this day.

In 2007 the patrol began assisting the Isanti County Parks Department with trail patrol, maintenance, and the development of a mountain bike trail system at Springvale County Park which also continues today with nearly 3 miles of singletrack mountain bike trail constructed at Springvale, and another small section developed at Dalbo Memorial Forest County Park.

The MORC Mountain Bike Patrol waned after several years and the Backcountry patrol stepped up to continue to provide emergency medical support for the various events that the MORC patrol had covered, including the Twin Cities Marathon, the Team Ortho series races, and related events. Members of the patrol were instrumental in saving two lives at the Twin Cities Marathon in 2012 and again in 2014 using their medical training and AEDs provided through a grant from the Team Ortho Foundation. Early in 2019 we turned over coverage of these events to the new Twin Cities Mountain Bike Patrol, with whom we share both members and responsibilities.
Going forward, we continue our mission to be a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting trail users and forest resources through service and backcountry safety education, closely affiliated with the Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association and volunteer partners with the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and Isanti County Parks.

Copyright © 2002 - 2019 Backcountry Trail Patrol Association, Inc.
Last modified: Nov. 10, 2019