Cabin, December 1998

I spent December 26 to January 3 at The Cabin or on route to and from it. Jon, Matt, and I blazed the trail there. Later in the week Amelia and Frank came up. For some reason Vittoria decided not to attend (she will never live this down).

In past years we did many stupid things and made many stupid mistakes. We corrected most (all?) of them on this trip and only had a couple of minor problems. One problem we had in the past was the old snowmobiles we have being hard to start. Before this trip we tried to get the old snowmobiles fixed and found out it would cost quite a bit to get them running. Since it was about a month before the trip and we didn't have time to fix them ourselves I finally saw the light that Jon had been shining in my face for a long time. We bought our own brand new snowmobile. I had resisted until the bitter end but it turned out to be more than worth it on just this trip alone. We got a nice Yamaha 2 seater with electric ignition, hand warmers, and reverse. There are plenty of pictures of it below. It helped make this my best trip up to the cabin yet.

The Trip Up

Based on our previous experiences of insanely trying to drive up and get to the cabin in one day we finally wised up and stopped in St. Ignace for the night. This left a 2 hour drive to Grand Marais. Quite manageable. Even with just Jon, Matt, and I it was a good idea to stop so we could make the trip into the cabin while it was still light out.

To the Cabin (Dec 27)

Jon snowshoeing
	  the trail in We arrived at Airport road (end of the plowed road) before noon on the 27th. There was a good 2 feet of snow on the ground that the snowmobile trail wasn't beaten up yet. Jon and I took the first trip in along with the sleigh full of gear. Nobody had been down McCloud Grade on a snow mobile recently. Jon and I snowshoed the trail into the cabin to beat down some of the powder to make driving the snowmobile in easier. We had no problems getting the snowmobile in along with the sled after this. I dropped off Jon and sled.

Matt and Jon clearing
	  the chimney I then went out to pick up Matt. He drove into town to park and we cruised back from there. We got back so early that Jon had just finished shoveling out paths. The next task was to clear out the chimney for the fireplace (you'd think we'd just cap the thing and be done with it). Matt dumped many buckets of water down the chimney before it finally cleared up. We had no problems with smoke during our whole stay.

Jon, Matt,
	  and I with snowmobile Jon and Matt
	  with snowmobile parked The trip in went so smoothly that we were able to pose for a few pictures while it was still light out!! At left we are all posing with the snowmobile and the bottle Margaux (are you dying yet Vitt?) At right Jon and Matt pose with the snowmobile already put away for the day. In fact, later that evening Jon and I went out for a short snowshoe hike.

Matt's Birthday Since it was Matt's birthday while we were there I made some brownies. We had gotten in so early and it was so easy (have I stressed that enough?) we actually celebrated on the day we arrived right after dinner.

The Next Day (Dec 28)

Jon falling while
	  skiing Jon skiing The next day (and most days). We went out cross country skiing in the morning and then again after lunch. On the first day we mainly stuck to trails that snowmobiles had gone down some time in the past. This had the advantage of providing a good base for skiing but allowed enough powder so that we didn't slide side to side very much. Here is a picture of Jon in one of his finer moments (don't worry, there are more).

Snowshoeing (Dec 29)

Jon on the
	  snowmobile Matt
	  snowshoeing The next day Jon went into town to find out what Amelia's plans were. Since the snowmobile was so reliable Jon went in alone while Matt and I did some snowshoeing. We went out into the marsh behind the cabin; someplace that is pretty hard to go in the summer and fall. We were getting a good amount of lake effect snow this day (and on every other day it turns out). At times it came down somewhat heavily. This produced fresh powder to trek through on the ground and made the scenery even more beautiful.

Marsh behind the cabin I gained a new appreciation for snowshoes. Besides being more agile, we did a lot of breaking through dense forest, climbing over things, crossing streams, etc., they make traveling through the deep powder much easier. The scenery was stunning, particularly the snow on all the trees.

More Skiing (Dec 30)

Jon straddling a
	  pine tree As more snow fell skiing became much more of a workout. Even on skies the snow was almost up to our knees in spots and about a foot deep in most others. Matt and I took it pretty easy this day (or at least that was the idea) since we had a big trip planned for the next day. We only went out once but still spent about 3 hours out skiing. Our short little trip turned into a long expedition. It included Jon straddling (and eventually crushing) a poor small pine tree (I told you there were more).

Jon and Matt next to
	  a huge pine tree Beautiful river in the
	  snow But the scenery was once again stunning. We ended up going through lots of deep powder and climbing through lots of overgrown areas (so much for an easy trip). But in the end it was worth it. We came out underneath a huge pine tree (which Jon and Matt are standing next to). It was standing next to a river that looked incredible with the coat of freshly falling snow.

Jon and Matt eating in
	  front of the fire Naturally after all this work we wanted to settle in for some food. Here Jon and Matt are sitting in front of the fire for dinner. Notice the wine in the picture. This is a recurring theme.

The Big Trip, the Margaux, and the Arrival (Dec 31)

Sign to turnoff for
	  Lake Nawakwa The day for the big trip had arrived. Jon went into town to meet Amelia and Frank and bring them out to the cabin. Matt and I decided to cross country ski to Lake Nawakwa. It is a long trip (about 4 miles as the crow flies) and of course we decided to take logging roads there (or as close as we could get). We ended up coming out on Old Seney road about 1 mile north of the turnoff so we had to ski on the equivalent of a snowmobile freeway for far too long. However we did eventually make it to the turnoff and started on our way. For some reason I remembered it being a much shorter road than it turned out to be.

A cabin across a
	  lake A short side trip from the path to Lake Nawakwa led us to a private lake. The owner has built a beautiful cabin on the lake. The sun came out between snow squalls while we took a break here. I expect Matt to buy a similar cabin for us in the next few years.... We never did make it to Lake Nawakwa. We undoubtedly were just one more curve away but we had to turn back since we didn't want to be skiing after it got dark (which happens pretty early). Some fools had snowmobiled over part of our path which made the trip back more difficult. We had skied through fresh powder on the way out so it is amazing that they made it through without getting stuck. This slowed us down a bit because we had to pay attention at the various cross roads (instead of just following our tracks back which no longer existed). Also skiing in a snowmobile track is not that much fun.

Dinner with the 1990
	  Margaux When we arrived back Amelia and Frank had made it in without any problems either. Matt and I were ready for dinner. We broke out the 1990 Margaux (Pavillon Rouge) that Matt had graciously brought up. It was, of course, exquisite. We had been anticipating this event for the past few days and it surpassed our expectations.

Last Full Day (Jan 1)

Matt, Amelia, and Jon
	  skiing On our last full day at the cabin Matt and I decided to take it easy again. After crosscountry skiing for 6 hours the previous day and actually staying up until midnight the night before we did not need another big adventure. Matt, Amelia, Jon, and I went out skiing again around the cabin. We ended up passing through the marsh behind the cabin again. Later in the day Jon and Amelia took a snowmobile ride out to Lake Nawakwa. They actually made it all the way and it took much less time that my trip with Matt.

Over the week stay we burned a lot of wood, more than a face cord, and we were running low. Even worse we went through a tank and a half of propane. On our last night the propane ran out. We spent most of the night in the dark with only the fireplace for light. We managed to squeeze about an hour of propane out of one of the tanks. This was enough to make dinner and pack up most of our gear. This was the first "catastrophe" that occurred on the whole trip.

The Return Home (Jan 2-3)

We had heard the night before on the radio that a storm was coming in from the south, precisely the direction we were heading. Coming out was about as easy as going in. Jon and Matt went into town and dug out the trucks. I then took Frank and a sleigh full of gear out to the truck. I returned to pick up Amelia and the rest of the gear. After dropping off the sleigh I finally returned to close up the cabin and pick up Jon. Round trips were only taking about 20-30 min with the new snowmobile. It was once again painless.

We headed out of town around noon. The roads in the UP were fine all the way to the bridge. Once we crossed the bridge, though, the snow started. It remained pretty heavy as we drove down 75. Traveling was pretty slow and nerve racking since we had a hard time seeing Jon in front of us with the trailer. Fortunately the voices of reason (Matt and Amelia) won out and we stopped early (around 4pm) for the night in Gaylord. It turns out the Detroit area got about 1 foot of snow so we would have had a hard time getting in even if we would have made it that far. The next day was much better though we still saw a number of cars spin out in front of us and quite a few on the side of the road stuck. Interestingly most of the people stuck were in 4 wheel drive vehicles. Perhaps they will know better next time.

Wrap Up

All in all it was a tremendous trip. By far the best one we have had up to the cabin in the winter. Having one solid snowmobile was a distinct advantage. I'm glad Jon convinced me that we needed it because now I know it was a great idea. It also helped that we got there early in the day and well rested. Plus there were only three of us going in at first for the one big snowmobile (as opposed to 7 for two small snowmobiles). It made getting in quick and painless. The weather was great. There was a decent amount of snow (I would have preferred more). Plus we got to spend a lot of time there. Now you know why Vitt will never live this one down. I'm already looking forward to the next trip.

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