Snowmobiling 2010!

My friend Aaron Benson and I just got back from a 4-day snowmobiling adventure in Michigan’s upper peninsula. The conditions were very good, despite a big thaw and lots of rain about a week before our trip. Thankfully, temperatures plunged back to the teens and plenty of snow had fallen by the time we arrived.  It was cold, but not too cold.  Because we were sledding Sunday night through Wednesday, we missed the rush of all the weekend warriors and the trails were fairly empty and in relatively good condition.

Snowmobiling Temps

Snowmobiling Temps

We stayed at the Big Buck Cabin, right next door to and run by the same people as B&L’s 38 Lodge, where we stayed last time. The cabin is very nice and the location is great, right at the intersection of major trails 12 and 13.

A few photos of the trip are on Flickr here.

I’ve put our GPS tracks below, courtesy of my Garmin GPSmap 60CSx.  Click on each image for the full-sized version.

All told, we covered 505 miles across 195 square miles of Michigan over the 3 full days and one evening of sledding.

This is the combined map with the tracks from all four days.  Day 1 (really just an evening jaunt for dinner) is in red, day 2 is green, Day 3 is blue, and day 4 is in magenta.

Snowmobiling All Days

Evening 1 – 36 miles – elapsed time 2h 54m

Carl from SRS rental decided to drop off our sleds (Arctic Cat F570s) the evening we got there, instead of the following morning, which was a nice surprise.  We suited up and headed to the Parkview Grill for dinner.  This was a quick jaunt up trails 12 and 3 from Greenland to Twin Lakes.

Snowmobiling Day 1

Day 2 – 129 miles – elapsed time 10h 30m

We headed west on our second day, stopping in Ontonagon for breakfast at the Harbortown Family Restaurant.  I’m pretty sure we ate at this same place a couple years ago, and the food was great.  We were amused that they offer a choice of wheat toast, or homemade wheat toast.  We had to ask whether anyone ever chooses the non-homemade variety, but the waitress claimed it was pretty common.  I found this review of the place particularly accurate, as I noticed the locals staring at us the entire time.  After breakfast, we headed through White Pine and Silver City along the Lake Superior shoreline to the Lake of the Clouds overlook (upper left of the map), stopping at the Foothills Restaurant for a break.  We then trekked down to Lake Gogebic and stopped at George & Carolyn’s Hoop ‘N’ Holler Tavern right on the lake shore.  This tiny place was jam-packed with snowmobilers.  Dinner was in Rockland, at Henry’s Never Inn, a quaint little place with good food and a major Marilyn Monroe motif in the Men’s room.

Snowmobiling Day 2

Day 3 – 233 miles (!) – elapsed time 12h 55m

We definitely did not start out this day planning to go all the way to the tip of the Keweenaw peninsula.  We started by taking trail 13, a very curvy route through the forest, to Twin Lakes for brunch at the Parkview.  We hadn’t been on the trail for 5 minutes when Aaron buried his sled in a ditch by taking a turn a bit too wide.  Unfortunately I was riding ahead of him at the time, so I missed the moment.  He was fine, but it took both of us plus some passers-by to free his sled.  Within another 5 minutes after we got going again, I did my part by tipping my sled over in a turn.  It was almost like it happened in slow motion – just a little too much momentum in the wrong direction.  Unfortunately (again) for me, I was still riding in front, so Aaron got to witness my misfortune and laugh at me.  At least it didn’t take 3 people to get me back in action, though!  After the Parkview, we took another loop on trails 120/121 (also very curvy through the forest) up toward Houghton/Hancock.  We were running on fumes by the time we pulled into a gas station there – my sled had been warning me it was on empty for the last 4 miles.  Our next stop was the Coppermine Bar in Hubbell, MI.  There was a sign for this place on trail 3, pointing down a very steep and narrow side trail.  This place was huge, and we were the only ones there.  The owner had a show about the worst celebrity divorces on TV, which was fairly amusing.  She asked us if we were heading all the way to Copper Harbor (near the tip of the peninsula), and we said “Oh, hell no!”  It was already after 3pm, and we were quite a ways from the cabin.  For some reason, though, we ended up continuing Northeast, and eventually we figured we were so close that we might as well go all the way.  We pulled into Copper Harbor after passing over the Brockway Mountain pass, which was way up there.  We gassed up and took a break at the Mariner North restaurant, contemplating the 100-plus mile ride back to the cabin that we were starting out on at about 7pm!  We took a different route back where possible, which started on a very dark and deserted trail out of Copper Harbor.  Eventually we joined up with trail 3, which is fairly straight and fast in most places.  After gassing up in Hancock, we made a final stop back at the Parkview for a break and a beverage after the long ride.  From there it was only about 18 miles back to the cabin, and we got back there at about 11:30pm.

Snowmobiling Day 3

Day 4 – 107 miles – elapsed time 10h 45m

After the epic 3rd day, we were both looking to go fairly easy on the final day.  We started off by having breakfast at Grandma Myrt’s in nearby Mass City.  We then headed back to Lake Gogebic and Bergland, stopping at Becker’s Bergland Bay Bar (interesting web site).  I don’t think I’ve ever come across a shrine to sock monkeys before.  A bit further down the trail we made another stop at The Root Cellar, down the East shore of Lake Gogebic.  This was a pretty cool place, and we enjoyed some jalapeno poppers (always a favorite).  After that, it was a very straight, fast, and boring ride down trail 8 (the long straight line toward the bottom of the map) to the burgeoning metropolis that is Ewen, MI.  A little known fact about Ewen is that the woods around Ewen in Ontonagon County (pop. 7,818) supplied the world’s largest load of logs—50 logs or 36,000 board feet of timber—pulled by a single team of horses, for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. They are justifiably still very proud of that fact.  Finally, we headed back up to Rockland to Henry’s, dreaming of more jalapeno poppers.  Unfortunately, it was build your own pizza night at Henry’s, and the rest of the menu was unavailable.  The place was also jam-packed with sledders, including a group of at least 20.  We squeezed in and found a table crammed in the corner.  The pizza was fine, but it was definitely no Lou Malnati’s.  A short ride back to the cabin, and we parked our sleds for the last time.

Snowmobiling Day 4

Another great snowmobiling trip – I was really glad we signed up for only 3 days, because I think our bodies had just about hit their limit after 3 1/2 days of sledding.  We must be getting old.


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