Herald JournalHerald Journal, March 28, 2005

Local men take 10-day snowmobile trip around Lake Superior

By Mark Custer
Howard Lake

One evening, while socializing, Art Jordan, Keith Brose, and I came up with a crazy idea to ride our snowmobiles around Lake Superior.

First, we had to convince our wives that this was a good idea. What's in it for YOU?

Our plans got a boost at the snowmobile show hosted at the Minneapolis Convention Center, when we talked with people from the Ontario Snowmobile Club there.

They made it sound easy – giving us maps and phone numbers – and even told us how to get from the United States into Canada.

We could go through International Falls, but that would mean at least one extra day and many more miles.

Instead, we chose a border crossing at Gunflint Lake where trail number 110m starts, on the north side of the lake.

This requires a remote border-crossing permit. I searched the Internet for more information, and after many phone calls our plan was coming together.

Thankfully, we received sponsorships from DESS, Dream Home Builders, Mr. Tire, Pettit Painting, Coldwell Banker Burnett Realty-Dave Perry, Burkstrand Agency, Brose Farms, Mumford Sanitation, Herald Journal Publishing, and Gerry’s SuperValu.

Our journey began Feb. 13.

We loaded our snowmobiles, and set off for Duluth.

I have a 2004 Arctic Cat 600-efi Pantera with a two-up seat, which can be removed for a very large luggage rack.

So, I carried six gallons of oil and two duffel bags.

Art and Keith each have 2004 Polaris 700 XC sleds with saddlebags.

Keith has a small luggage rack that was able to carry two gallons of oil, plus we had oil stored under the hoods and every space large enough to fit a quart.

The trails were in good shape and had about six inches of new snow, which made for good riding. We experienced very little traffic except for a dog sled team that we met.

We stopped for lunch at the Trestle Inn, which is built from an old railroad trestle. This is a rustic place with a homey charm.

This day ended at the Devil Track Lodge, north of Grand Marais.

Next day, we left at 7 a.m. and headed out on the Gunflint Trail, which was smooth and had deep snow.

Once we reached trail 110m, things took a turn for the worse.

Trail 110m was marked, but not groomed and had trees growing in it.

We had to break trail, and cross rivers where bridges were missing. We were stuck many times and the snow was chest deep.

I honestly thought I was going to have a heart attack.

After about 40 miles of breaking trail, we came to where a landowner pushed trees and dirt over the trail so that it could not be crossed.

Understandably upset, and tired, we turned the sleds around.

After about five miles, we found an opening in the trees just large enough for our sleds to get to Whitefish Lake.

Once on Whitefish Lake, we found another landowner who blocked the trail. We went through his yard, followed his driveway to the road, and eventually found the trail again.

Art did not soon forget this property owner’s lack of courtesy, and reminded us often throughout our trip.

He got no argument from Keith or me.

At Gravel Lake Resort, we showed our remote border crossing permits.

From Gravel Lake, the trails were very smooth to Kakabeca Falls, where we had to trailer to Nipigon because there is no trail from Thunder Bay to Nipigon.

We were on the trail again, Wednesday Feb. 16 at 7 a.m. It is only 140 miles to Terrace Bay, however it is very rugged, with steep hills, and part of it was groomed with a Caterpillar.

We saw many moose tracks on the trail, but we did not actually see any moose.

Some hills were so steep, I actually thought at times my snowmobile would come over backwards.

In many places, my skis were off the snow for 30 to 40 yards. Many of the steeper hills were several hundred yards of a climb.

And of course, what goes up must come down.

That night, having a cocktail at the motel lounge, we were told that from Terrace Bay to Marathon was the steepest and largest of the hills.

I personally have never seen more beautiful landscape, and it was hard to watch the trail with all of the beauty around us. It was still dark when we left Terrace Bay Thursday.

About five miles down the trail, Art lost a water hose.

Keith went back to town for antifreeze and within an hour, we were back on the trail.

Art and I were about frozen stiff by then.

It was 30 degrees below zero that morning and it reached 15 degrees below zero for a high.

It was not bad riding, but standing on the trail, waiting for Keith to get back with the antifreeze was brutal.

After 140 miles, we could no longer take the cold, so we got a room at the Continental Motel in White River.

Thank God they had a hot tub!

Friday, the temperature was 37 degrees below zero, and the snowmobiles had to be walked and pushed before they would go on their own without burning the belts.

Once on the trail, we worked hard to stay warm, in fact our gloves were getting wet from sweat.

We stopped at Hammer Lake for breakfast, and to top off our tanks.

Gasoline was quite costly in Canada and had been running about $1.09 per liter.

When we reached WaWa, it was only 2 p.m., so we decided to go on to Jeep Lake and the Half Way Haven. Gasoline was $1.56 per liter there.

Once inside, it was cozy and warm. We each had a bowl of chili and a can of pop for $38! For obvious reasons, we went on our merry way to Searchmont.

Where is Searchmont?

“Well it’s aboot onehunert klicks nort of the sue, eh,” or in English it’s 62 miles north of Sault Ste Marie.

We stayed at the Double Diamond Resort, where Wayne was our host. He is a most colorful man in his 60s, who knew everything about the area.

This day had been the longest day of our trip, 297 miles.

Wayne cooked eggs and bacon for us, and we were on our way.

Once in Sault Ste Marie, we met Ollie for a ride across the border back into the United States.

We rode on the roughest trails that I have ever seen, all the way to Paradise, Mich.

We were unable to find any rooms for the night there.

We found a local snowmobile club member who gave us and our sleds a ride to Ishpeming Mich, where we stayed the weekend.

Sunday was the Daytona 500, so no riding on a national holiday.

Art says he still hates that guy on Whitefish Lake.

On Monday, we traveled from Ishpeming to Baraga through and around Big Bay; a trip the three of us have made before.

We could have taken a shorter route, but it was so smooth, with good snow.

Next, we rode to Hurley, Wisc.

Got into town early enough to go to the Iron Horse Saloon for $1 happy hour. I was happy.

We had an entertaining evening and left for Superior, WI, next day.

What could have been an easy ride following Highway 2, turned into a long ride south around the Bad River Indian Reservation, where snowmobiles are not welcome on the west side of the reservation.

We made it to Superior, Wisc. about 2 p.m. After a quick call to Josiah Hageman, who gave Keith a ride across town to his truck and trailer, we loaded and were headed home by 3 p.m.

What a great ride. More than 1,400 miles in 10 days. I was stiff and sore for over a week, but I am ready to go again!

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