Background History

Membership Form | Forest County Snowmobile Map | History
User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 6331
Joined: Sat Jul 29, 2006 9:48 am
Location: Armstrong Creek, WI

Background History

Post by Jim »

from the Dirk VanDuzee Letter:
October 19, 2003

Mr. Ken Rouse
Wabeno, WI 54566

Re: 100-Mile Snow Safari

Dear Ken:

Please excuse me for being tardy with your request for background of the Safari. There have been many in the past that have taken credit for things they should not have, as they were not involved. As with most things I have been involved in this area I have let those things go unchallenged and will continue to do so. However, I will attempt to present things to you in the proper chronological order.

The idea for the 100-Mile Snow Safari started with the local Forest Service Ranger, Lowell "Pat" Patterson. Pat was an early exception in the Forest Service recognizing that federal forests should have other uses than just growing trees. Gifford Pinchot would have proud of Pat, as this was Gifford's approach in the founding of the federal forest system. As Pat had purchased a snowmobile for his own use he found out that there were few places to ride other than unplowed forest roads. Pat designed the Safari patch as well as the name. When one view the patch you will see "A Nicole 100 Mile Snow Safari" giving credit to the Nicolet National Forest by showing the "5 cent piece" and the Indian head.

Pat contacted several local business people with his idea and a meeting of business people in eastern Forest County was called. This meeting was held at the Melody Bar in Wabeno. You will also note that the early patched said "Laona-Wabeno" on the patches and not the present "Forest County." The latter change was made in 1974 along with a trail going to Crandon, which area is outside the Nicole Forest boundaries. At the first meeting officers were elected. President Joe Cheney, Vice-President Bud Wilcox and Secretary-Treasurer Pat Rasmussen. Pat also gave Joe Cheney a large plat book on which a trail was to be shown making a loop through the eastern portion of Forest County. This plat book soon found a home on top of the cigarette machine at Cheney's Bar and collected dust for one full year.

Pat Patterson had inquired through the year what was taking place with the trail? At the end of the year another meeting was called. At this meeting Bud Wilcox, owner of the Hilltop Supper Club, was elected President. Stan Jancy of Armstrong Creek, Vice-president and Pat Rasmussen re-elected Secretary-Treasurer. Shortly after the election Bud Wilcox died from a massive heart attack so once again the Club was left without leadership. Stan Jancy called a meeting at his place of business in Armstrong Creek. Stan made it clear to all present that he wanted nothing to do with being President of the 100 Mile Snow Safari Club. After much discussion Dirk VanDuzee was elected President of the Club in 1969 with Stan Jancy and Pat Resmussen remaining in their positions.

Pat Patterson and VanDuzee met on many occasions and laid out a trail for the Safari. This trail used some forest roads, ditch line along Highway 8 North of Laona, lake crossings and more. Membership dues in the Club at this time were $25 for the year. The trail, such as it was opened in December 1970. Needless to say marking of the trail was poor, as the signing system had not been developed at this time in history. However, the first weekend we saw maybe 25 to 50 snowmobiles on the trail. Some of local business people wanted nothing to do with the trail. However, one incident remains in my mind, little Joe from the Subway Tavern in Cavour had never seen so much business go by his door. Joe chased VanDuzee around the county with his $25 dues and wanted a piece of the action. From that time on Joe was one of the greatest backers of the 100-Mile Snow Safari Club.

Two things stood out from the opening of the trail. One, we had to incorporate the Club to protect the interests of all concerned and secondly, we needed some method to maintain the trail. The incorporation was the easy part. The trail maintenance problem took time to work out as we had no idea of what was needed, nor did anyone else, to maintain a trail in rideable condition in all conditions. At first we tried bedsprings, then VanDuzee made up 20 drags from pipe and manure chain. Finally the Club purchased a small Oliver cat and pulled a drag made from oak beams and angle iron cross members. This latter approached work great however, it was so damn slow there was no way we could keep up with the traffic as small as it was at this time.

At a meeting in late 1971 at the Red Nose Tap in Carter we had a presentation on a trail groomer made by the Bombardier Company of Canada. The 25 members or so present made the big decision at this time to purchase a SV200 groomer with drag for the then large cost of $11,300! Yes, this was a large cost for at this time there wasn't such a thing as trail funding from the State of Wisconsin. How, were we going to pay for this item? It was a decision of the group to sell patches, a chevron for each time one made the Safari trip, increase the dues to $50 and to have a class "B" membership at $10 per member. With today's costs the approach to paying for the groomer seems small, but at that time it did allow the Club to make the payments to the Laona and Wabeno Banks who financed the groomer at no interest to the Club!

The SV200 did the trick. Carl Ashbeck drove the groomer almost around the clock as we had 100 miles of trails to groom and we didn't realize at this time a groomer could only handle 35 to 50 miles of trail at best. In 1971 we started out with big ideas on how to groom the trail in segments. John Aschenbrenner Sr.and Dirk VanDuzee started out on trip one from Wabeno going to Armstrong Creek. There are two points to make now regarding the groomer. One the tank was too small and it was going to be necessary to carry gasoline with us and two, the muffler for the SV200 was underneath the frame of the groomer. We had strapped standard five-gallon gas cans to the sides of the groomer for me trip. We used standard cans, as we could not afford five-gallon Jerry cans with the safety lid as used by the military.

We were going across the very rough mill yard in Wabeno when one of the cans broke loose, tipped over and the gasoline poured on top of the hot muffler. The rest is history we had succeeded in burning up the SV200 on the first trip of 1971. Again, the Club was back at square one, no way to maintain the trail, which had been advertised all across the State of Wisconsin during the summer months. We had taken insurance out on the groomer and drag. Hell the drag didn't burn the groomer did right down to nothing but the frame. The Bombardier Company recognizing their engineering error in placing the muffler under the frame did agreed to sell us a used tractor for the amount of insurance we had carried on the tractor. In January 1972 we were back in business with an expensive lesson learned by our Club and the Bombardier Company. Now you know why all exhaust stacks are over the cab top and larger gasoline and diesel tanks available on all grooming equipment? Remember the 100 Snow Safari was the first Club to purchase a professional piece of trail grooming equipment. Only Douglas County had purchased a similar piece of equipment before the Club.

In 1972 several things were happening State wide. These being the development of trail marking signs and the discussion of funding trails in the State of Wisconsin located on public lands. On the issue the 100-Mile Snow Safari worked with the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs to develop standard trail markers for blazers, arrows, stop signs and more. The AWSC at this time under VanDuzee's directions made signs from used printing plates, which were non-reflective. However, these signs were welcomed by progressive clubs as a step in the right direction for uniform trail marking. At the same time the Club purchase exterior plywood and 3M reflective signing material and made the first directional signs seen in Wisconsin.

The Club attended a snowmobile show in the summer of 1972 at the Brown County arena. At this show we had made out a petition to have the State of Wisconsin fund all trails and to do so with verbal agreements with property owners, not written, as the State had indicated they wanted to put in place. At this show the Club collected over 9000 signatures to present to the State of Wisconsin. This effort on the part of the Club gave the push to have both the DNR and AWSC to put together legislation to find a large trail system in Wisconsin. VanDuzee worked with both the late Senator Tiny Krueger and the late Rep. Lawrence Day to write acceptable legislation for the funding of snowmobile trails. This legislation has been amended from time to time, but the present law used today is that effort made over thirty years ago. At the same time VanDuzee worked with the US Forest Service to establish trails on federal lands. We now enjoy these efforts made over thirty years ago. The dreams of Ranger Lowell "Pat" Patterson are alive and well today across the Nation on federally owned lands.

The 100-Mile Snow Safari was named the one of the top Wisconsin Clubs in 1973. VanDuzee received the Snow Buddy award as outstanding Wisconsin Snowmobile Club President in 1973. Also, in 1973 the Club purchased its second SV200 groomer and drag. This was followed in 1975 by the purchase of a third SV200 tractor and drag. Both the 2nd and 3rd trail groomers were first's for Wisconsin. During this period the Club was recognized as the most active and progressive Club in Wisconsin. If a mistake was made during this period and even today it was not opening the Club membership to all interested
snowmobilers. I am certain that the Club would have been one of the largest membership Clubs in Wisconsin.

I believe Ken this will bring you up to the period time when Fred Gast become President of the Club and you became active in Club activities. My earlier date maybe one-year off that is 1970 should be 1971. I have included other magazines with this letter along with several news articles that you might find interesting and helpful in your search for history.

Again, I am sorry for taking so long to answer your request. However, I have tried to be honest and above board in what took place in the early years of the 100-Mile Snow Safari. As with many things including the AWSC many have taken credit for what a few accomplished in the early years and difficulties in the snowmobiling community.

With kindest/regards, I remain,

Dirk VanDuzee
from the Lowell Patterson Letter:

Ken and Adelle Rouse
Wabeno, WI 54566

Dear Ken,

Thank you ever so much for the 100-Mile Snow Safari trail information packet. It brought back a great many fond memories of the fine people that I had the pleasure to personally know and work with on the project.

I want to also thank you for the complimentary remarks. However, nothing would have happened were it not for the dedication and perseverance of the local residents. They deserve the credit for making the trail what it has become.

Dirk's letter of October 19, 2003 is accurate as to details and chronology. About the only thing I would add is the importance of his involvement. His love of the area, tireless support and eventual leadership made the trail as it is today.

One of my most gratifying memories of the early days was seeing approximately 100 brightly colored snowmobiles and riders parked side by side on the ice of Roberts Lake. This was my first realization that the snowmobile had a great potential for attracting winter tourism to the winter wonderland of the Nicolet National Forest and Forest County.

The late Joe Cheney and his wife Gordie were my sounding board in the very early days for working out the initial details of the proposal to be presented to the local businesses. We drafted the first tentative route for the trail on a map at Cheney's bowling alley with felt-tip markers. As I remember the map publisher was watching over our shoulders, waiting to take first map to make the first trail brochure for the proposal.

Once the idea was presented to the local businesses, it was like a snowball rolling downhill. It was small and moving slow at first, but then things began to happen. Each succeeding group of Club Officers continued to promote and improve the trail.

There were many individuals and business owners who stepped forward to show their support. Local snowmobile clubs were invaluable in their knowledge of the best trail locations.

Yes, there were some who understandably took a "wait and see" attitude only to become staunch supporters in later years.

After becoming president, Dirk exhibited his ability to quickly gather and direct the troops and make things happen in a hurry. He was running faster than we could keep up. Sometimes if you want things done in a logical manner and in a limited time, you just have to push the right buttons.

Dirk wrote the book on "button pushin’” for recreational snowmobiling in Wisconsin, Forest County and in the Nicolet National Forest. He left fresh tracks all the way from the Rat River railroad trestle to the State Legislature and back. Bridge engineering and building was one of his unknown abilities.

His strong leadership skills went far beyond Forest County. Much of the legislation for the present Wisconsin snowmobile regulations reflects his persistence and political involvement. There were several legal concerns, such as, what constitutes the driving surface on snowplowed roads? Can snowmobiles run on State or County road rights-of-ways? If so, where? Land Owner Liabilities, etc.

Safety for the snowmobile riders was a major concern. Some riders collected the orange reflectorized trail markers for souvenirs faster than we could replace them. The need for a well-marked trail was paramount if the trail was to be success.

Businesses were encouraged to send out Safety Patrol riders to provide a positive contact with the guests riding the trail. I spent many weekend days patrolling the sections of the trail in and around Laona. I think the tourists appreciated knowing that we were there if needed. While I lived there, I knew of few snowmobile accidents on the actual trail.

I did learn that it was not a good idea to increase the idle speed setting of my Safety Patrol snowmobile so that I didn't have to keep my right hand continuously on the throttle. Even at about 7 or 8 mph (patrol speed), it was hard to catch a run-away snowmobile when I fell off, ha.

I have avoided listing all the individuals who worked unceasingly to make the trail a success for fear that I might leave someone out. Dirk's letter to you presents a very comprehensive historical record of the trail conception, development and operation.

There was one incident where a group of snowmobile riders from Madison, Wisconsin would not visit the area unless we had the shoulder patches available for them when they finished riding the 100 Mile Snow Safari Trail. You never know what will turn out to be important.

Russ Steele was the Editor of the Forest Republican newspaper during the late 1960s and early 1970s. There were several informative news stories about the trail, which he might be able to find for you. I remember one in particular which described a tour held to introduce the trail to business owners and officials from the local towns, county, state and Federal agencies. These newspaper articles would also provide you with a recorded timeline for the events.

The recorded minutes of the various snowmobile clubs meetings should also provide dates and activities.

I have the original sketch of the trail shoulder patch, a snowflea card and a Hilltoppers Snowmobile Club vinyl sticker in a scrapbook. If you need any or all of these, I would be happy to send them to you.

Please advise if I can be of any other assistance. I wish you continuing success with your history project and with the trail.

Respectfully yours,

Lowell W. Patterson

Last bumped by Jim on Fri Sep 23, 2022 10:29 am.