The morning before leaving for our snowmobile excursion of 2005
I broke the small mirror I use to assist with shaving in the shower.
It's not a true mirror; merely that plastic type of reflective material.
So technically I broke reflective plastic. What does this have to
do with our trip? Well, it may have accounted for our 3 near-disasters
that occurred during the 600 mile expedition.
Plans were slightly different this year. Instead of doing our typical
sightseeing and 150 - 200 mile weekend, we decided to travel a fair
distance this time. We still stayed at the beautiful lake home of
Jason's parents for the first and fourth evening (Thanks David and
Sharon!), but this time we took the rentals and immediately began
a 200-plus mile drive from Minocqua, Wisconsin to Hancock, Michigan
that took about 10 hours. Ok, so maybe the plans were more than
slightly different. About a third the way into the drive we stopped
for our lunch break. We found ourselves in Land O' Lakes, Wisconsin,
right at the border as you enter Michigan. The Rusty Nail provided
R -n- R (rations and and refreshments).
Trails were very nice up until this point and we were making good
time. The sleds we rented this year no doubt helped for the upcoming
rough stretches. They had a superior suspension on them that allowed
for high speed travel over rough terrain. Additionally, the snow
machines sported the newly designed 135hp 4-stroke power plant meaning
we never had to smell the burning oil of a 2-stroke engine - that
is until we ran across others sledders not as cool as us and still
running model year 2004 and older snowmobiles. Alas, no migraine
headache and no clothes smelling of burned oil fuel. However, once
into Michigan the trails became slightly rough, already showing
wear from the weekend traffic. Without paying much attention to
it, our luggage for the extra-long weekend began to slip to the
side. If you look closely you can see the first disaster begin to
These new 4-stroke engines also had a dual rear exhaust system
ensuring that neither driver or passenger had to smell the exhaust
what so ever. However, it also meant our luggage sack was laying
directly upon one of the exhaust pipes. About 20 miles shy of our
destination, unknown to Kim or I, our luggage ignited. At speeds
probably averaging 60 - 70mph at this time, we didn't notice or
smell anything out of the ordinary. After a great deal of travel
between stops the urge to drain my bladder overtook me and I stopped,
unbeknownst to my fellow riders as I was presently the last sled
in the convoy. It was then while I was mid-stream that my wife began
screaming. I figured she was letting me know more riders were approaching
but since I was a good way off the trail and it was the evening
hours I wasn't too concerned about them seeing me in my present
position. However, upon finishing up and turning around my brain
had a hard time processing what my eyes were recording. There was
my wife beating our flames-engulfed suitcase into submission. Little
progress was being achieved by her present tactics and I quickly
realized I needed to intervene. After relieving the suitcase of
the multitude of bungi cords and straps used to inadequately hold
it in place, we both began to stomp on it. In between stomps Kim
tried to remove articles one-by-one. More or less, everything was
pretty much lost which included two or three days worth of clothing
for both Kim and I and our toiletries. Somehow my camera case was
spared even though it did begin to burn slightly on one corner.
Due to the stress of the situation and the lack of friends offering
assistance, no photos were taken of the event. We were unable to
completely extinguish the flames no matter what we tried so I decided
to bury the clothes about 3 feet deep in snow. Eventually we made
it into Houghton, Michigan, an adorable little town. The twin cities
of Houghton and Hancock looked like the small villages one may create
on a model train set. Here is a photo of Hancock, taken from Houghton.
Within two hours of waking Saturday morning we found ourselves
in the infamous Keweenaw County of the Upper Peninsula. Not having
any clothes to change into or out of undoubtedly saved us some time
(hey, trying to think positive in the face of disaster). The Keweenaw
is all we've read about and more. As always seems to be the case
I didn't take nearly as many photos as I would have liked. Things
like the 10 feet tall tunnels leading to and from the homes, something
most of us would relate to as driveways and sidewalks, were simply
mind blowing for this Illinoisan. I guess if you've been to Colorado
or Utah maybe this wouldn't impress you but this was undoubtedly
the most amount of snow I have ever seen. I'm still impressed that
the city actually operates fluently with that much snow.
Check out this video I took while riding as a passenger as Kim
was driving us through the Keweenaw.
It rarely stopped snowing on Saturday, which didn't help the cause
for photos. The true destination of the trip was Copper Harbor,
a small town consisting of a population of 61 year-round residents.
To get here, however, also meant we would climb to the top of Brockway
Mountain. Ironically enough just as we reached one of the scenic
vistas the snow parted and the sun was shining. I was quick to grab
a couple quick photos.
Within minutes another snow front was coming in from Lake Superior.
It was pretty neat to watch the wall of snow move towards us.
A little further down the trail gave us our first view of Lake
Superior. A magnificent view offered large waves crashing against
the volcanic-rock shoreline of Copper Harbor, which in turn froze
and created wild ice sculptures. We quickly moved off of this peak
and back into the woods because the winds blowing across the peak
from Lake Superior were brutal.
Jason had the opportunity to account for near-disaster # 2. In
an attempt to turn his snow machine around he went off the trail
and promptly lost control of the sled, headed into a thicket of
bushes, and buried the snowmobile. Kim asked me, "What is Jason
doing?" I replied, "Learning a very valuable lesson."
For those unaware, 4 or 5 feet of powder snow does not make for
a happy snowmobile unless the captain at the helm knows what they
are doing. Jason apparently didn't fit that description on Saturday.
Here is a video of Jason
and Clint assessing the predicament ~ Pardon Jason's language
and hand gesture please :)
Unfortunately I was slightly wrong in my previous statement to
Kim. In the end, Jason's mistake was a lesson to us all, as we all
had to pitch in and dig the sled out. We lost maybe an hour's worth
of time and we were lucky Jason was unskilled enough to crash and
burn early before getting really far off the trail.
Here they are starting
the digging process.
The ride home was mostly uneventful. We made great time as the
trails were all freshly groomed. For the first time I made it through
Presque Isle, which is a wonderful little community. We stopped
and grabbed lunch at the SkyView Lodge, a place I will surely visit
again. Kim was rather fond of the log fireplace. Ironically, our
waitress spent the better part of her life growing up in the Champaign
area and was childhood friends with most of our close friends from
the Champaign area. Small world it is.
The final near-disaster actually happened once we had returned
to Minocqua. We left the snowmobiles in the parking lot of the closed
rental facility and grabbed our vehicle to ride quickly back to
the lake home. After showering we returned to town for dinner and
discovered along the way that our rental sleds were missing. Left
with no other choice we phoned our snowmobiles in as stolen to the
local police. As it turned out the owners of the rental facility
returned from a snowmobile ride themselves to discover our rental
sleds sitting there and they figured we were finished with them
and thus they locked them up inside their store. Wow, what a relief
that was. The owners drove back into town and returned the sleds
to our possession.
One last video - a panoramic
of Brockway Mountain.
To see the remainder of the photos from the
expedition of 2005 click here.
To see the story and photos from other years in Minocqua please
2001 ~ 2004
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