Cabin, December 2000

I spent December 19 to December 23 at The Cabin or on route to and from it. Jon and I were the lone voyagers who dared to make the trip (actually we were the only ones with the time).

The Trip Up (Dec 19)

Based on our experience from last year Jon and I decided to be crazy and drive up and head out to the cabin in 1 day. Since we survived last years trip we figured we could do it again. Jon had the snowmobile tuned up and ready to go. He got two new tires for the trailer (so we wouldn't have any more problems). This time we planned to be smarter and leave earlier. Alas, fate is not so kind. To start with, the truck got a flat tire the night before and wasn't going to be worked on until 8am the next morning. Vitt insanely agreed to get up really early, drive out to Waterford (most of the way) and let us use her truck (I insanely let her take mine). Unfortunately, as Jon had predicted, her wiring does not agree with the trailers, so after loading up her truck and Jon working on the wiring for awhile (and only making a bit of progress) it was about time to pick up his truck. So we did this, unloaded Vitt's truck, loaded up Jon's, redid the wiring on the trailer again (so that it mostly worked) and hit the road. It was about 11 am (so a bit earlier than last year).

The drive up was pretty uneventful. The weather was great until we hit the UP where it was snowing a bit. It got harder the closer we got to Grand Marais. In spite of this we made very good time. We were at the trail head by about 6:30 pm. We did what we did last year. We unloaded everything, loaded up the sleigh, and left it at the trail head. Jon took the truck and trailer into town and I went in to pick him up. The people at Alverson's nicely let up park in their lot (it is pretty empty before Christmas). We then began the trek out to the Cabin.

One of the great things about being up before Christmas is that there are very few other snowmobilers out there. One of the problems of being up before Christmas is that there are very few other snowmobilers out there. So we started out along airport road, hit the end where it was plowed, and found a beautiful trail covered with about 2 feet of snow of which a good 18 inches was powder. Although this is in general a good thing, when you are cutting a new trail on a snowmobile with two people on it pulling a loaded sleigh it can be nerve racking. Instead of flying over the snow you end up plowing quite a bit of it. Whenever I got the snowmobile up above about 15 mph the powder would fly up over the windshield, cover up the light, and effectively blind me. Whenever I went much below 15 mph the snowmobile would sink in a lot and moan and groan as I tried to force it along. Jon had the great (and cold) idea of standing up in the back holding a flashlight so I could maintain a decent speed. Still I had to drive one handed with my other hand on top of the windshield so I could block some of the snow flying up and make a small gap so I could see. It was a very difficult mile or two until we hit Old Seney (aka Grand Marais Trail) which fortunately had been ridden so was nicely packed for us. It wasn't until we hit McCloud Grade that we had to cut our own path again. Using the same technique as above we made it out to the cabin without too much trouble (though the snowmobile wasn't too happy about the trip).

Once again we stopped at the turnoff for the cabin and snowshoed the path a couple of times. The snow was incredible, by far the most we've had that I can remember. Jon took the snowmobile in (sans sleigh) and got it stuck, the snow was that soft. There were a couple of spots where it almost tipped over because one side of the snow gave out more than the other. I took the sleigh in and almost tipped it once. Finally we made it in and still had a lot of work ahead of us. The work is always the same, dig out some paths (which was a lot of work with all the snow), get a fire going in the wood stove, hook up the gas, clear off the chimneys, etc. We decided to be lazy and just build a fire in the fireplace instead of clearing the snow from the inside of the chimney. This made the cabin very smoky and, as it turns out, probably wasn't necessary. Regardless, we were in with most things done by 11 pm and comfortable by about midnight. We briefly passed the Matt test sometime around then (but had to open the doors to get some of the smoke out). Jon went to bed around 1 am (for a short nap) and I went to bed around 2 am. All in all it wasn't a bad trip in. It would have been better with another person or so (all the same work has to be done no matter how many people are there). We must be getting better at it.

Due to the wonders of modern electronics (me owning a digital camera) there are a ton of pictures. Sit back and relax, it is going to take awhile to download them all!

The Results of our work (Dec 20)

Outhouse Sheds Cabin from the back Sheds with wood and snowmobile Shooting stand Trail leading out from cabin The Cabin The Cabin from the trail in The Cabin from near the creek

After our hard night of work we promptly awoke at the crack of noon for lunch. Before heading out on an expedition I surveyed the work we had done the night before. The first picture (from the left) shows one of the most important trails we dug; to the outhouse. You can get some idea of the amount of snow from the depth of the path we dug. Next are the sheds with the wide path so we could pull the propane tank out. Next is the view from the shed looking back at the cabin and the propane tank. Here you can get a good idea of how much snow there was. Next is another shot of the sheds showing the wood (nicely stacked) and the snowmobile covered up. Next is a shot of the area out in front of the cabin. In particular you see the shooting stand with all the snow on it. Remember this for future reference. Next is the trail leading into and out of the cabin (back to McCloud Grade). The snowmobile tracks are somewhat visible. The last three pictures are of the cabin from a number of angles. You can see the smoke coming out of the chimneys and somewhat see the path on the roof that I walked when I was clearing the snow off the top of the chimneys. Also notice how much snow is around the smaller chimney.

The Swimming Expedition (Dec 20)

The creek The creek The creek We began our expedition by snowshoeing across the creek and back into the marsh. The creek, near the cabin, is pretty small. Here (left) we can see it well choked with snow. I have never seen it this covered before. Jon (foolishly as he learned) followed me out (right). He seemed to like sitting in snow and did so frequently. We both successfully crossed the creek without incident.

Me sitting near the creek Me sitting near the creek (close up) The creek We walked near the creek for a ways until I found an open spot, went down to check it out, and promptly fell down (left). Fortunately I was far enough from the edge that I didn't fall in. It was quite a struggle but I did manage to get back up again.

Jon near a pine tree We continued to wonder around. The scenery was a stunning as usual. Here is Jon standing amidst some snow laden pine trees. Unfortunately, as we wondered along we hit the part of the marsh where it was a bit slushy. The water seemed well frozen to me so I went blazed ahead. Jon foolishly followed. We hit one part where I thought it would be better for Jon to try a different track that would take him on more solid ground. He followed my advice and promptly broke through to into the river up to his waist. It didn't take him too long to get himself out (less than a minute but it seemed much longer) and he quickly started back to the cabin. Fortunately he "only" went in up to his waist, he didn't get caught on anything, and we weren't too far from the cabin. The trip back must have taken about 15-20 minutes (though it certainly seemed longer to Jon). He made it back without further problems. In my defense, I didn't even think to take a picture while he was stuck in the water.

Jon having dinner After this we worked on getting Jon's clothes and boots dry and otherwise taking it easy. We had a nice pasta dinner (this will be a trend). Otherwise we didn't do too much for the rest of the night.

In search of the river (Dec 21)

A river Jon in the snow The next morning we got up at a much more reasonable time (roughly 9am) and eventually made it out for some cross country skiing. Jon was still willing to follow me. This time we headed out down McCloud Grade past the Lucky Buck in search of the river we had found a couple of years ago. Throughout the whole trip Jon kept telling me he didn't want to fall in the water again.

The river The river bank with snow Finding the river wasn't too hard. This time we went directly to it, unlike last time. The snow on the banks extended pretty far out so we had to be careful not to fall in. We were pretty far from the cabin and it would have been no fun if we got wet.

Jon after falling in the snow Jon heading back on McCloud grade Jon reacquainting
	  himself with a small pine tree We went in search of the big tree we had found along the river before. We started heading upstream through some rather thick areas. We even crossed a very small creek that fed the river (I didn't tell Jon we were doing this until it was too late). Jon spent more time sitting in the snow (aftermath on the left). Eventually we decided to turn back and get some lunch. On the way back Jon got reacquainted with the small tree he had crushed before. It seems to have survived that adventure and is doing well. Eventually we made it out of the woods and away from the water to the relative safety of McCloud grade. It was much easier (for me at least) coming back than going out since I didn't have to push a foot or so of powder out of my way with each stride.

More snowshoeing (Dec 21)

Me standing in the snow Me standing in the snow with snowshoes on Sometimes people wonder about the use of strapping on snowshoes in the winter. Typically when you see pictures of people on snowshoes they are standing on a hard packed trail so that snowshoes are superfluous. Hopefully this will clear things up. Here is me standing in the snow (left). Here is me standing in the same spot with snowshoes on (right). Any questions?

Water bubbling up in a stream Jon by the stream Marsh behind the cabin Marsh behind the cabin Snow covered pine tree

We headed out behind the cabin again (actually started out behind the outhouse) but this time stayed close to the ridge and ended up climbing up it. After a relatively short amount of time in the woods we ended up on the road leading around the loop. We ended up taking this back to the marsh which is where the pictures above come from. In fact, you can see that I even got Jon near water again! We had to cross over the stream but it is a relatively safe and easy crossing at this point.

Sweltering in the Heat (Dec 21)

Coals in the wood stove Jon ready for bed Jon having dinner In past years we had to rely on the "Matt test" (whether you could see your breath or not) to decide whether the cabin was warm enough or not. This time up we did too good of a job keeping the cabin warm. The wood stove was pumping out a lot of heat even without having to burn very much wood. We used the fireplace for awhile but eventually decided that it wasn't putting out that much heat anyway and we didn't want any more heat. During dinner we even had to open the door and windows to try to cool the place off (right). At night it was hard to sleep because he it was so warm. I feel sorry for Jon since he was sleeping closest to the wood stove. Even by the time we got up in the morning we still passed the Matt test with ease. This continued for the rest of the time we were at the cabin.

The Cabin at night (Dec 21)

Cabin at night with flash Cabin at the same time without the flash Cabin a bit later Cabin a bit later Cabin a bit later Cabin a bit later

To escape some of the heat and to exploit some of the capabilities of my digital camera I took a few pictures of the cabin at night. The first picture (from left) shows the cabin in the snow using the flash. The next picture was taken at the same time without the flash. The subsequent pictures were taken about 15-20 minutes apart as it got darker and darker. You can see how the glow from the lights inside become more prominent. In the last few pictures you can see the light reflecting off the snow on the roof. Finally when it was very dark you can see almost nothing but the windows (and the icicles in front of it).

More skiing (Dec 22)

View out the window View out the window We awoke the next morning at about 9 am again. Without Matt there to get us up early we decided to take it easy. We had gotten more snow the night before as can be seen from the pictures. In fact, periodically you could see patches of blue in the sky. We decided to go out skiing again this morning.

Creek from McCloud Grade Scenery with blue sky Scenery Jon in trees Snow covered pine tree Jon in the woods Me coming under a snow covered tree Closeup of me Jon amidst small trees Jon crossing a river View of the river Our path back

We started out going along the loop. In the first picture (left) is the creek next to the cabin as seen from McCloud Grade. The new snow and the blue sky lead to even better scenery than we normally see. Hence the large number of photos taken on this excursion. We veered off the main path to get a close look at the river (it is amazing I kept getting Jon to go near water). In fact we ended up crossing the river twice. The snow on the trees was incredible. Framed against the blue sky it was even more amazing. There were even times when the sun came out and it was snowing! For the most part we stayed pretty far from the river. The one shot of the river it taken from pretty high up. When crossing the river we did it at very, very safe places. Even then, Jon was worried. We eventually hooked back up with the main path and completed the loop around the cabin.

Cabin during the day Cabin during the day
	  with different settings Scene around the cabin with Jon Scene around the cabin Icicles on bunk room Looking out from behind icicles View from against the cabin Closeup of snow on table

The signs of our stay were pretty clear. As we can see on the cabin the heat from the fire in the wood stove has melted most of the snow around the small chimney. Even with all the new snow my footprints on the roof are still clearly visible. The icicles, particularly on the bunk room which we do not directly heat, show how much heat the wood stove was putting out. After surveying the scene we went in for lunch.

One more trip (Dec 22)

Hardwood forest Me skiing downhill... ...closer... ...closer Me on top of a snow covered dirt mound Closeup of me Me skiing down the mound

We took one more skiing trip. This time we went out behind the Lucky Buck. It was getting late and the snow had moved in again so we didn't stay out too long. We looped around and found a decent hill in the woods which I had to take the opportunity to ski down it a couple of times. Given the amount of powder it was a pretty slow trip. Still it was fun. On the way back we passed by the large dirt mound left over from logging. Once again I felt the need to climb up it and ski down. Because of all the snow the climb up was easy and the trip down was slow even though it is fairly steep. Thus I made it down without killing myself.

Me making up exam problems Alas the trip wasn't all play. I did spend some time thinking of my students. I'm sure they'll be happy to hear that (though I suppose we'll have to see after the exam).

Heading home (Dec 23)

Trees outside the cabin Unfortunately it came time to head home. We actually got up a little earlier than usual (about 8:30 am). We packed up our gear, restocked our food cache (and actually made an inventory this time), unhooked the propane tank, and let the wood stove start to burn out. We then fired up the snowmobile (it did take turning the key about 7 or 8 times, tough work) and headed into town to get the truck. No one else had come down McCloud grade in the time we had been there. However going out without the sleigh, during the day, and the fact that we had been down it once before to create some sort of a solid base made the trip back to Old Seney pretty easy. Other people had been down Airport road so we made it into town without a problem. We got the truck fired it up and brought it to the trail head. We then headed back to the cabin. Jon let me drive back. I had the snowmobile up to about 80 by the airport. The throttle probably needs to be adjusted, it could have gone faster (another benefit of being there before everyone else, the trail was nice and smooth).

Jon on snowmobile with sleigh Truck with trailer loaded up When we got back to the cabin we loaded up the sleigh, finished cleaning up the cabin, hooked up the sleigh, and headed out. Well, almost. Even with us having beaten down the path for the snowmobile it was hard to get it going with the extra weight of the sleigh. After some work we finally got the snowmobile on solid enough snow to get it moving. Once we had it moving it was fine. We made it back to the trail head, loaded up the truck, got the snowmobile on the trailer, and were ready to head out.

Bayshore Market Most of downtown Grand Marais Alverson's Motel The bay The bay

After loading up we stopped in town to prepare for the trip back. From the weather reports we had heard it sounded like it would be an easy trip. This turned out to be wrong. It snowed most of the way through the UP and even for most of the rest of the way. This made the trip slower than expected. The truck acted up a bit but after filling it up with good gas it seemed happier. Other than that it wasn't too bad of a trip back.

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