Snowmobiling 2008

The weather did not look promising on the morning that we were to head up to the Michigan Upper Peninsula. Rain and 40 degree temperatures had us nervous but when we got on the road at about noon, there were flurries flying and the situation was improving. 

After a plateful of Chicken wings and a couple of Blue Moon's from Boomer's, we got on 75 and it became apparent that this was going to be a slow ride northward. Conditions were getting worse for driving, but better and better for snowmobiling. We eventually made it to the Mackinac bridge at about 7:00pm. It was Chris's first time going across the big bridge, but it was pretty dark so we did not see much. By the time we made it to Shingleton, it was about 9:30. I made sure to send maps and directions to everybody so that they would have no trouble finding the cottage, but I forgot to print out a copy for ourselves! We wasted about 20 minutes until I pulled out my Zumo and found the cottage on the map and we were back in business. 

At the cottage, the fireplace was going and everybody was enjoying a well deserved cocktail! It was a really cozy place, and was just perfect for the 9 of us. The loft was a little smaller than it looked in the picture, but Paul, Joe, and Jake graciously accepted it as their accomodations. They left the primo room (next to the bathroom) for me, which I greatly appreciated! Once we settled in, the beers tasted really good and we made a plan for where to go in the morning. Everybody turned in shortly after midnight. 

The next morning, it was quite cold. I think it was about 14 degrees outside. We suited up, and drove down to Shingleton and had breakfast at the restaurant there. The service was soooooo slow, and we figured it must have been a fluke due to a staff shortage or something. The food was excellent when it finally arrived, and we got on the trails just after 11:00 and headed for Grand Marais. 

The first day on the trails we always take it kinda easy, and since this was the first time Chris and Jake had ridden on snowmobiles we took it slow. Conditions were perfect, with the snow base being plenty thick enough and with a crunchy layer on top. Both of the newbies got the hang of riding very quickly and without any incidents. In fact, the only incident was Gord rear-ending Paul, but thankfully nobody got hurt. We stopped at Grand Sable Lake and took in the view there, and posed for a group photo. This lake is very nice because it has no development on it. 

We made it to Grand Marais and gassed up, then decided to head over to Christmas so that we could go to the Ski-Doo dealer there and get Pauls tail-light replaced. We made it to Christmas and sadly, we noticed that the Pair-a-dice Inn had closed up. We had a great time when we stayed there last year, so it was sad to see it gone. It seemed to have so much potential as the ultimate snowmobile getaway! Most of our group went to Foggy's and had a beer while we waited for Gord and Rich to come back from the dealer. I was really surprised when they returned with the sled fixed up like new! What are the chances that this dealer would have the part in stock? We headed back towards the cabin and since it was getting late we stopped at the "Bear Trap Inn" right next to the cottage for dinner. After a hot meal and a couple of MGD's, we headed back to the cottage and had a few more beers and reminisced about the days ride. I was very glad to hear that Chris had enjoyed it, since riding a snowmobile is not the relaxing kind of joy-ride that many people picture it. I think he was surprised by the level of activity that riding a snowmbile involves, but it is very fun because of that! 

I got up really early on Friday morning so that I could troubleshoot a problem on my snowmobile with the wiring. My GPS would not keep a charge, and I remembered that I was one wire short when I worked on it earlier and figured that must have been the problem. It took me a couple hours, but found the wire that was not connected and I was able to get things put back together despite the -7 degree temperatures that morning. My snowmobile (Yamaha Apex) is a pain in the ass to take apart. I had to remove the dash, top panel, side panels and airbox just to get to the battery. It's a good thing that I have never needed to take it apart on trail. 

We headed over to the Bear Trap Inn for breakfast that morning, since the cook was so slow at the other place. Funny thing about this place is that your only choice for breakfast is whether to have it or not. All of us were hungry, so we ordered 9 breakfasts. It consisted of 3 eggs over easy, bacon, american fries and white toast. A good breakfast, but I've never been anywhere before where you could not at least specify what type of toast or eggs. 

We hit the trail towards Marquette, which is one of my favorite trails of anywhere. Much of the trail is an old railroad that twists through the woods and it always reminds me of pictures I've seen of trains winding there way through the rocky mountains. The trail is elevated (because of the train tracks) and the views are excellent. A large black wolf crossed the trail about 150ft in front of me, but I did not get a great look because when I got to where it entered the woods there was no sign of it. It looked to be about the size of a Newfoundland but with longer legs. After a while, I went to the lead so that I could open up the throttle and let the Apex stretch it's legs. I like to do that occasionally when the conditions are safe, which they were at that time. I got it up to 115mph on my speedo, but I don't think that is very accurate. My GPS showed that my max speed for the run was 95mph. For some reason my sled really slowed down a lot when I studded the track. I understand that the extra weight adds a lot to the rotational mass of the track and causes that. It doesn't bother me though, because I don't feel that I need to go any faster. 

We stopped at Lakenenland along the trail and enjoyed the sculptures. This is always a fun place to stop and see what has changed over the year. This guys generosity is truly inspiring. No charge to view the works, and he even set up a cupboard full of free snacks and stocks the place with wood! I am very surprised and dissapointed to hear about the troubles that he is having from the township. 

We got to Mt. Marquette, and stopped to take a few pictures and take in the view. The U.P. really seems to change from about Marquette west, and this high vantage point really shows that off. We continued West until we got to Ishpeming where we all filled up with gasoline. We decided to push back to the cottage and skip lunch since it was about 3:30 and there was some concern that we could be getting back late. For some reason, it seems that the return trip always goes much quicker. Maybe it's because we didn't have to stop and discuss routing options and we did not stop at Lakenenland on the return. We ended up back at the cottage pretty early and got cleaned up for dinner at Foggys. 

Jake and I were the only two brave enough to cook our own steaks. I love to cook, and Foggys has the ultimate in low tech/high performance barbecues. We all got a salad at the salad bar and once that was done Jake and I headed over to the barbecue pit. Jake picked out a "bourbon steak", which the cook described as a sirloin that is soaked in Canadian whiskey. I took a filet and dressed it up just the way I like it...covered in Montreal Seasoning. We had a beer while we flipped the steaks on the charcoal and made some garlic toast and baked potatoes. I must have been too anxious, and I headed back to the table with my steak rarer than I usually like it, and everybody else was done eating! I guess they got the steaks that the cook was just finishing up when Jake and I got up to cook. Next time I'll remember to toss the steaks on the grill before getting my salad! Another trip up for an ice cream from the soft serve machine put the finishing touches on an awesome dinner. We headed back to the cottage for a couple nightcaps before turning in for the night. 

Saturday morning brought the first snowfall we had seen since getting to the U.P.. Temperatures were definitely higher and our snowmobiles were fairly wet. We rode back to the restaurant in Shingleton for breakfast. After an absurdly long wait for our food, we got on the trail towards Seney. Todays riding plan was to go south to Seney, then North to Grand Marais, then back home. If we got back too early, we would take a small trail near the cabin that shoots straight up to Lake Superior. We arrived in Seney in no time, and thought we might grab a quick beer in the local bar, but it was way too packed so we figured we would head north to Grand Marais and take our chances at the Brew pub there. The trails were quite a bit thinner down there. Not bad, but not excellent like we had seen the last couple days. As we headed North, they improved noticably. I find it pretty hard to keep my shield from foggin up when it is wet like that, and after a while the temperature seemed to drop and we began to have frost problems in our helmets instead. We got to Grand Marais and had a couple beers (I had an awesome pale ale that reminided me a lot of Sierra Nevada IPA) and a bowl of chili to warm up with. Strange that I felt the coldest on the warmest day, but I guess that is just the effect of the dampness. That night we stopped at the Bear Trap Inn for a quick dinner then we rode back to the cottage and loaded up the trailers so that we would not have to worry about them in the morning. 

We got an early start heading home, but the weather was so bad that we could hardly see the road ahead of us and the driving was slow going. We needed an escort to cross the bridge, since the winds were so high. That was about the scariest crossing of that bridge that I've ever had, as the wind was so strong that it was pushing the truck and trailer sideways! We made it across without incident, but we heard on the radio that they closed the bridge shortly after we had crossed it. 
The drive continued to be bad until around West Branch, where it seemed like they began to use salt. I ended up home at around 5, which was great! 

In all, this was one of my favorite snowmobile trips ever. 

© 2014 Dean Abraham