Minocqua, Wisconsin 2009

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My Aquarium

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 adjustment.

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 this link.

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

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