Better late than never? Well sure – any snowmobile ride is a great day spent outside, even if it happens a solid month after I had originally hoped to be riding.
. On New Year’s Day, instead of sitting at our respective homes watching football , digesting food and grumbling about the mild weather close to Minneapolis, Associate Editor Tom Kaiser and I loaded up sleds, jumped in the truck and pointed it toward Michigan’s U.P. with two brand-spanking-new snowmobiles in the trailer. We experienced some of the worst winter driving conditions I’ve experienced in several years (including one extended stretch of white-out, near zero visibility, where we could feel rumble strips beneath the tires, but couldn’t tell if we were in the center or at either edge of the road). By the time we got to the homey cabin we rented on the western shores of Lake Gogebic, we were each both wired and tired at the same time. Overnight, the wind continued to whip and snow continued to fall – I don’t know if the poorly insulated cabin ever got above 55 degrees.
. Monday morning we were greeted by still powerful winds and what most folks would consider miserable weather. There was a lot of fresh snow, however, so there was no holding back.
. We pulled our 2012 Polaris 600 Rush and Yamaha RS Vector out of the trailer and hit the trails, dropping south on weaving Trail 1, then transitioning on East 100 before catching one of my favorite trails on earth – No. 13 on the east side of Gogebic, and working our way north.
. This was true “riding in a postcard” conditions. The trails were neon white with all of the fresh snow (maybe 8 new inches?) and every single branch and every tree held some of the powder as well. It seemed like life couldn’t get any better by the time we worked our way up to the north side of the lake for a late breakfast in Bergland with about 45 miles under our drive belts.
. Soon we were proven wrong, however. Kaiser had never been to the Lake Of The Clouds lookout in the Porcupines, so I said, “Follow me, I know the way.” We quickly cleared the greater Bergland area and hooked up with Trail 102 for some of the best Upper Midwestern trail riding I’d done in awhile. The tracks indicated that just two sleds had beaten us to the fresh powder on this trail, which I’d say easily topped 10 inches. With attacked it with spirit, but rarely needed to use the brake. You see, the riders before us appeared to cut to the inside of every corner (which is scary – I’m glad we didn’t meet them!), but it left a lot of powder still on the trail on the outside of left turns. Letting the sled drift out there, snow literally came over the hood in many turns and notably slowed the sleds – it was a blast.
. The groomer beat us to the high-speed, super-wide Trail 11, and we made fast time north. Snow started getting more thin as we got close to Lake Superior, however.
. When the famed lake the Native Americans called Kitchi-Gummi came into focus, it was thrilling. Huge white-capped waves rose, fell and crashed on the shoreline while near hurricane-force winds tugged at our jackets. We took it in for a few minutes, then took the climb up to the always-spectacular Lake Of The Clouds overlook. With snow falling and low clouds, we couldn’t see as far as usual, but the big rocky cliffs were still beautiful, as were the lake and river far below.
. After fueling up in White Pine, we headed back toward Gogebic. Back at the truck by mid afternoon, it was time to load up and head for home. In all, we burned 133 miles on each of the sleds, about 600 miles on the
tow vehicle and made it home 28 hours after we left. To non-enthusiasts, that may seem like a lot of hours in the truck for one day of riding, but it was worth every mile.
. If you haven’t gotten out riding yet this year, take a serious look at a map and find the nearest snow – you’ll be happy you did.