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Memories endure through trail shelter

Work began last summer on the memorial shelter on the Yukon Trail. It was celebrated this past winter.

The Voyageur Snowmobile Club is celebrating the opening of its Memorial Shelter this year and is inviting the public to hear more about the club at the "Spring Fling Fundraiser" 5-8 p.m. Saturday at the Two Harbors Moose Club.

The Voyageurs had quite a good run the past few years. The high point was the Jan. 30 dedication of the "Voyageur Snowmobile Club Memorial Shelter," that honored three cherished members of the community.

The concept of building a shelter had been discussed for many years, but after the loss of friend and club member Steve Cavallin in an accident in April 2005, the decision was made to dedicate the shelter in his memory. Steve was a family man and businessman active in the church and the whole community.

He enjoyed the challenges and rewards of working in the woods building and maintaining trails, having joined the club in 1986, the same year work began on the Yukon Trail. He also served the club as a board member for many years and put in many hours operating the club's grooming equipment. One of the challenges Steve enjoyed reminiscing about was putting in the bridge over the Cloquet River at the same site the shelter dedicated to him now stands. All who knew him were affected by the tragic loss.

The club began working on a plan for what type of facility to build and getting permission from the U.S. Forest Service to build a facility complete with and outhouse where the Yukon Trail crosses the Cloquet River, just north of Forest Highway 11.

While we continued to work out details and approvals, we were again hit with a loss. Voyageur President and Lake County Commissioner Larry (Looper) Larson died unexpectedly May 2006. His loss was a blow to the whole community, and we decided that we needed to dedicate the shelter to all club members who we lost. Looper also was a family with a strong commitment to the community. He was highly involved with Benna Ford, owned and ran Loopers Tax Service, and donated his time and talents to many organizations. His smile and humor were infectious, and he was a strong leader for both the community and the club.

The third blow came with the death of Dave Johnson after a long and courageous battle with cancer. As seems to be a trend, Dave was a family man and businessman, who was a charter member of the local snowmobile club. He donated time, equipment and funds to the club, especially on the Yukon Trail. An avid snowmobiler, Dave once rode 500 miles in one day, going all the way to International Falls and back home with a group of hardy (or crazy) friends.

Johnson was instrumental in setting up the time trials held for many years at Kane Lake and enjoyed racing the fastest of snowmobiles, many of which he built and maintained himself. On the slower side, Dave spent many hours inside the clubs first grooming tractors, which were prone to breakdowns under the worst of conditions. He also was a fisherman and active member of the Isle Royale Boaters Association. Dave has been sorely missed by his family and friends, many of whom are quick to tell of a favorite adventure they shared with him.

This past summer, plans were finalized and the club purchased the vault for the outhouse and began the process of constructing the shelter. Haugan's Excavating donated its services to install the vault as well as work on the trail and site.

Ron Cavallin and Paul Goff also volunteered their skid steer tractors to aid in the site prep and some of the heavy hauling.

Many others volunteered their time, skill, and tools. A few of stand-outs were Don Omtvedt and Skipp Brandt, who went above and beyond by doing the bulk of the staining as well as helping with many other areas of the construction. Jack Lax (whose dad, Brian, was also helping) kept the fire burning while cleaning up the wood scraps and shavings and making sure we had some warmth on the drizzly days. Edda Mealy was also working hard in addition to seeing that volunteers had some homemade baked goods for fuel.

After our general membership meeting Jan. 30, club members and volunteers met at the shelter for the dedication. It was a beautiful day, and the turnout was amazing with easily more than 75 people, including family members of all three of the men memorialized. James Larson (son of Looper), Rick Mickelson, and Daniel Pierce all spoke while everyone enjoyed hot chocolate, hot dogs, brats and more of Edda's baked goodies.

If you would like to hear more about the club, come to the Moose Saturday.