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).
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!
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.
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
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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
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
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.| firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2001 Craig J Copi. The photos on this page cannot be used without the express consent of Craig J Copi.
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