Somebody who’s a lot smarter than me once said something like this: “The best things in life don’t come easy.” Maybe they were talking about marriage or advancing in one’s profession, but they could have been talking about snowmobiling in a crappy winter like this — ormy trip chasing snow last week in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The distance we had to trail didn’t make it easy, but the two days we spent riding in that area last week truly were great.
With a trailer full of sleds behind the F150, we left the Minneapolis area shortly after 5 p.m. last Wednesday, March 8, and arrived at our destination at the base of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula shortly after 1 a.m. We made bar time, however, and capped the night with a celebratory beer at the Parkview in Toivola before crossing the street to Krupp’s Resort and entering our spacious cabin in the dark. We didn’t see anything that looked like rideable snow until we were within a half hour of the resort, but all of the snow we found in the parking lot told use we were in the right place. We were up early the next eager to ride, and found out almost immediately that this adventure was definitely worth the windshield time in the tow vehicle.
Thursday’s adventure covered 226 miles of trails. We left Krupps and first headed straight north to the bridge at Houghton/Hancock, riding hard-packed but smooth trails. The snow got thin and frankly disappeared for a little bit as we scraped through town north of the famous blue bridge, but a mile later we were back on the white highway headed north on a cold and amazingly windy day. Our first mission was Copper Harbor for lunch, and that meant blasting up the smooth super-highway that is Trail 3 — a wide and mostly straight rail trail. Due to windshield and handlebar height, the rider on the Ski-Doo MX Z X 850 we had with us was generally comfortable; the rider on the Arctic Cat ZR 8000 137 was cold and the rider on the Polaris 800 Switchback Adventure 144 was downright frozen! We switched drivers and sleds often to share the brutality of the cold.
To get off of the rail trail and warm up by moving back-and-forth across the seat and getting the blood flowing, we left Trail 3 for awhile and took the more twisting Trail 130 that runs mostly parallel to Trail 3 while taking riders close to Eagle River and Eagle Harbor. It was a delightful side venture that not enough people take when riding in the area. Once back on 3, we continued north, ventured up over Brockway Mountain where pictured are a must, and then twisted down into Copper Harbor at the top of the Keweenaw 90 miles into our day. We fueled the sleds in town, and then fueled ourselves at the Mariner North, where I can tell you first hand that something they call the Monkey Fist sandwich is outstanding.
In the afternoon, we were determined to avoid the rail trail as much as we could, and that meant using pretty much every other trail in the Keweenaw. First we ventured out to the stunning Rock Point for pictures — the strong winds kicked up ocean-sized waves on Lake Superior that crashed into the rocky shoreline, yet in the bay we saw a couple of otters playing in the sheltered water. Then it was a combination of trails 134, 132, 133 and 124 took us on a circuitous route along the southeast side of the peninsula. The trails were choppy at times, with a mix of frozen in stutter bumps, but overall the riding was fantastic — it was truly snowmobile trail riding at its finest as we snaked our way on the well-marked trail between hardwoods, aspens and coniferous trees, past scenic Lac La Belle and then down toward Gay for more outstanding views of Lake Superior.
Eventually trail 124 took up back up to the main rail trail, which we ran back in the dark toward our starting point in Toivola/Twin Lakes. Our second would be spent at the recently reopened Parkview Motel, where we caught a hearty dinner and then shared a few cocktails with some newfound friends who were there as a part of a snowmobile club trip from southern Wisconsin. We would wake up the next morning with fun memories — and light headaches and cotton mouth.
Let’s Do It Again
Determined not to travel the same route for day 2, we made an alternative plan to go ride a patch of snow that we had heard about east of Baraga. We loaded the sleds in the trailer and towed over that direction — and quickly found out we had made a tactical error. The snow that we anticipated based on federal mapping data wasn’t really there! So, we did an about face and trailored back up to the Keweenaw, this time running the tow vehicle across the Houghton/Hancock bridge and trailering up to the city of Calumet.
Once unloaded there, we reversed our course from the day before and ran the twisting trails 124, 133, 132 and 134 back up to the Lac La Belle area, where we checked out the Bear Belly Lodge for a late lunch/early dinner. What a fabulous place we found — it’s no wonder it was nominated for the Snow Goer 101 Top Pitstops program last fall! After that we ran every twisting trail we could find before finally settling back onto the rail trail for the run back to the truck. The wind was so strong that you could feel it trying to tug your snowmobile around on the rail trail. Again there were stutter bumps, but the groomers were doing everything they could to keep the trails as smooth as possible. In fact, we groomers six times during our two days of riding.
After a stop at the famous Mosquito Inn back in Toivola, it was time for more windshield time as we ventured back to Minneapolis. Yes, it was admittedly a lot of trailering time for this ride, but it was truly worth every second in the truck! With all of the snow that’s still on the ground there, plus cool and potentially snowy weather in the forecast, we can pretty much guarantee that we’ll be back yet this winter, wrapping up testing of our 2017 demo models. Will we see you there?