A last second decision
to head north was greatly rewarded with two of the finest days of
snowmobile riding I have done. The late decision to go resulted with
Jason and I as this year's lone participants. Views like the one below
were virtually endless.
(Images are click able
for a better 1024 x 768 pixel ratio. A photo album with the total
99 images follows at the end. All photos are in the 1024 x 768 resolution.)
This year we rented the Ski Doo
MXZ 500 to experience the rider forward position. Unfortunately they
were 2-stroke machines so they burned a fair quantity of the expensive
oil, about $50 for each sled. But with the new synthetic oils the
fumes were not nearly as bad. Still, I much prefer the 4-stroke engines.
I have no kind words to speak of the outfit we rented from, but also
do not wish to offer negative publicity, so I won't give mention to
the facility. The sleds ran perfectly; the owners just need an attitude
They also had a few old vintage
sleds that are worthy of notice. This is one old sled.
We rented the sleds in the late
evening, and decided to make a single pit stop before retiring to
the cabin for the evening. Naturally we rode into Sayner, the birthplace
of the snowmobile, to visit the Sayner Pub and our badger friend plus
get our first taste of the Wisconsin Cheese Curds.
Thursday morning we left Minocqua
early for the long ride to Michigan's Porcupine Mountains and The
Lake of the Clouds State Park. Trail conditions were excellent. We
really couldn't have asked for better conditions. Being mid week we
were virtually alone on the trails, trails were in near perfect condition,
and a new layer of fresh snow was falling throughout the day.
After a short yet charming jaunt
up the path .
You were dutifully warned of
the approaching danger
Cresting the path your first
view almost immediately warrants the exclamation "Oh shit!"
Those were my first words, and the first words of nearly a dozen other
snowmobilers as I stood there and new crowds arrived. As they always
say, pictures just do not do it justice.
To give you an idea of the depth
of snow at this location consider the photo below. What Jason is standing
on, during the summer months, would be chest height for him.Below
him is the face of the cliff.
If you have ever heard of the
place, or seen photos before, you've probably seen the near exact
image as I have below. This is the Lake in the Clouds, appropriately
named as it would seem.
The entire valley was beautiful,
and many images exist in the album linked at the end. In addition,
here is a brief
Quick-Time video of the valley.
We took a different way out of
the State Park than what had brought us into the area. This took us
past some additional nice scenery. The Porcupine Ski area, for one.
Eventually the path reached a
crossroads as I wasn't about to ride on Lake Superior, although it
was probably entirely possible. In the background is the frozen tundra
of Lake Superior.
The path down the mountain provided
perhaps my best snowmobiling experience to date. It was roughly a
25 or 30 mile long 2 lane road used for cars in the summer time but
closed to cars in the winter and is unplowed. This provided a wide,
flat, deep snow surface. It winded down the mountain without stop
signs or stop lights. We didn't come across a single sled on this
path. Unfortunately no photos were taken because we were lost in the
moment. Street signs for cars indicating slow turns of 25mph on corners
meant nothing to us in these conditions and the sleds remained glued
to the trail at speeds approaching 90mpg in the corners. I'm positive
a more experienced rider on faster machines could have taken those
corners at appreciably more speed. Eventually the path ended and dumped
us out near the Indianhead Ski Area.
We covered roughly 260 miles
that day. I think that is the most in a single day Jason and I have
ridden. The following day we took off for the Willow Flowage area.
We had been here before, but only briefly, and always wanted to return.
Snow conditions made this a great year for that return. This was Friday,
and the trails were still mostly empty. Another fabulously glorious
day on the trails. The snow let up and the sun came out yet temperatures
stayed around 8 degrees. Conditions like this are hard to beat.
Along the ride I came across
what I thought was a piece of a tree log in the middle of the trail.
I stopped to kick it off the trail and and realized it was in fact
a deer skin from a young deer.
As I kicked it off the trail
I soon spotted another portion of the deer.
After some research I've determined
the most likely culprit was a Cougar if the animal was killed and
dragged here as bears are usually in hibernation for winter. If the
animal starved to death or was injured by a hunter or snowmobiler
then any number of animals could have finished it off including badgers,
wolverines, lynx, bobcats, wolves, coyotes, in addition to several
birds. It serves as a reminder that we are not necessarily at the
top of the food chain when miles from civilization in the Northwoods.
Running out of gas at 3am is one situation where things can become
tricky. Thankfully we ran across a Trail Groomer working his magic
and received directions home.
Here is the groomer they tow.
And after the Groomer works his
magic, this is how the trails appear.
Two passes are made, one in each
direction. Needless to say, this is cherry riding. The trail is ultra
smooth and the guides of the sled feel as if they ride on rails through
the ice. We might have been lost and got home 4 hours later than planned,
but tearing hymens on trails like that, one often doesn't care about
arrival time provided fuel and oil reserves remain.
On Saturday we knew the trails
wouldn't be like the previous two days. Traffic becomes heavier and
trails become worn. We decided to again leave the Minocqua area and
this time ride into some towns we hadn't ridden to ever before. As
we left Lake Minocqua I snapped a picture of a small portion of the
ice fisherman. I do not understand these people, but I'll save that
rant for my blog.
First stop was Sugar Camp and
along the way we were awarded with some spectacular views.
This fungus actually looked a
lot like portobella mushrooms and I could have easily been tempted
to cut one down and fry it up with some butter and garlic.
During the early morning hours
when we were lost on Friday night (Saturday morning actually) a haze
of frozen mist worked it's way into the area. Besides making it difficult
to see as our helmets iced over, it left a wonderful thin snow white
coating on the trees. Here I am standing on Sugar Camp Lake looking
down the trail (the orange markers) as it disappears into the newly
frosted tree line.
We ate a wonderful lunch in Sugar
Camp but overall the place gave me bad vibes. Don't know why; I can't
place it. It just did. Perhaps it was the overly complicated trail
marking system, or the trails that simply did loops around each other.
Regardless, I was happy to finally leave the area. As soon as we were
outside city limits I immediately began to feel better. Very weird.
I guess you can say Sugar Camp left a sour taste in my mouth. I don't
see myself returning there anytime soon. Next stop was Eagle River.
The following photo should explain all you need to know about the
place in case you have never heard of it before.
Our final destination of the
trip was a small place called Conover. Not much was happening there,
but we did drop in on Bauer Dam Lodge. Another Northwoods bar gets
marked off the list.
Upon returning the sleds to the
rental facility we finished with 636 miles. Most of that mileage was
exceptionally enjoyable and won't ever be forgotten.
To see the entire album for this
trip, please follow
To view some of the images that
Jason captured, please
view this link.
Jason managed to capture this
one particular image that I want to bring attention to. It is the
logo on our rental sleds. He managed to capture the image of both
of us in the logo purely by accident.
Thanks for viwing my Mincoqua
2009 story. Until next time...
To see the story and photos from
other years in Minocqua please view ~
2001 ~ 2004
~ 2005 ~ 2006