Scavenger hunt shows off Minnesota in winter

  • Article by: KERRI WESTENBERG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 21, 2013 - 11:04 PM

Participate in a scavenger hunt called “Checkpoint MN,” featuring 10 locations marked by signs around the state, and you could receive prizes from snow bikes to getaway packages.

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Peter Lenz hits the checkpoint at Sandstone Ice Park at Robinson Park, near Sandstone, Minn.

In wintertime, Minnesota’s iconic spots take on a shimmering beauty, from the ski slopes at Lutsen in the northeast to the prairie­lands of Pipestone National Monument in the southwest. There is rarely reason to head out to the snow-covered sights beyond a desire to ski, ice fish or simply relish the white wonders. There is now. Participate in a scavenger hunt called “Checkpoint MN,” featuring 10 locations marked by signs around the state, and you could receive prizes from snow bikes to getaway packages. The event runs through Feb. 7.

To earn points that you can use to claim a prize, just take a picture of yourself at one of the checkpoint signs and upload it at the designated website, www.checkpointmn.com. You can also shop for prizes there based on the number of points you’ve earned.

Grand prize packages that include a fat bike, a down-filled jacket and sleeping bag, and gift cards for sports gear were enticement enough for Susan Todzy of Rochester and Dana Colestock of St. Paul. The friends carpooled to become the first to photograph themselves at the 10 checkpoints in 27 hours. The duo logged 1,100 miles, skipped sleep and drove through the night in Todzy’s four-wheel-drive car in their quest.

Todzy and Colestock hit a roadblock, so to speak, in the early hours of the morning in Roseville, where the checkpoint sign at the Guidant John Rose Oval was behind a locked gate. Police officers, whom they summoned from a station conveniently located across the street, discouraged them from climbing over the fence for their photo op. The two agreed, and headed to Pipestone, deciding to make the Roseville ice rink their last stop.

Todzy, the mastermind behind the women’s mad dash, learned about the scavenger hunt at the Midwest Mountaineering’s Outdoor Adventure Expo in November; Explore Minnesota Tourism launched the event and its website on Dec. 10.

“We never intended this to be a race,” said Alyssa Ebel, spokesman for Explore Minnesota Tourism, which is running the event in conjunction with Minneapolis-based Monopoint Media. “We want to encourage people to explore some of these iconic destinations. A lot of folks in the state don’t even know where some of these winter adventures are.”

That was the case with Colestock, an adventure lover. “My favorite location was in Sandstone, where they had these ice climbing areas,” she said of the Sandstone Ice Park, within Robison Park, near Sandstone. “It was beautiful, and I had no idea it was there. Grand Portage, too. I’d never been. It was great getting up that far north and seeing its extra beauty. We both walked away thinking there are places we want to visit again.”

Todzy said the two had a great time in their pursuit of the grand prize. “We got to see all sorts of wildlife: red fox, white-tailed deer and bunnies,” she said. “Most important, we got to see some awesome locations I otherwise had not been to and we got to meet some great Minnesotans along the way.”

By now, four grand prize packages have been claimed by the first four people to visit all 10 sights. A fifth grand prize remains; its winner will be chosen at random from all participants, not just those who have put the miles on their cars to visit all checkpoints. Participants get entered in the drawing when they visit a checkpoint; the more checkpoints, the more times a name is entered to win. A water-repellent down jacket, a fat bike and a GPS tracker are the goodies that make up that final grand prize — just the gear to enhance winter adventures.

To learn more about the hunt, including the 10 locations, to register to participate and to see photos of those who have already made it to the signs, go to checkpointmn.com.

Here is a quick snapshot of the checkpoints — roughly listed from north to south — which were chosen to represent a range of locations and wintertime recreation in the state.

Grand Portage

At Grand Portage National Monument, on the northern tip of the Arrowhead, a restored fur trading fort and an Ojibwe village depict the area’s history (www.nps.gov/grpo).

Lutsen Mountains Ski Area

From the four mountain peaks at Lutsen, along the North Shore, skiers get panoramic views of wintry Lake Superior. The area has 95 runs (www.lutsen.com).

Paul Bunyan Statue

Paul Bunyan and his sidekick, Babe the Blue Ox, welcome visitors to Bemidji and have been a Minnesota photo op since the statues were constructed in 1937 (www.visitbemidji.com).

Lake Mille Lacs

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Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

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