Cabin, December 2005 - January 2006

We were at the Cabin December 27 to January 1 this year. Initially Amelia and Jon drove up from western Michigan and Vittoria and I drove up from eastern Michigan. Bill came up on December 29.

December 27

Once again the weather was atrocious. Fortunately it had been cold and snowy for some of November and December. Unfortunately it decided to get warm and rained the week or two before we were heading up. The fact that it was warm and dry meant we made decent time driving up. Well, except for the few stops, including for socks in West Branch (I was with Vittoria after all).

Vittoria and I left Detroit around 9:30 AM after a couple of delays. We arrived at the trail head an hour after Jon and Amelia had. While driving up Vittoria and I had a lengthy debate on who, Jon or Amelia, was going to be left at the cabin and who was going to return with the snowmobile to pick us up. After considering many, many scenarios and subjecting our thoughts to careful scrutiny we weren't even close to the actuality. There were problems with the snowmobile Jon had rented so they hadn't even started the first trip in!

In total we took 3 trips to haul in all the people and most of the gear. Some was left for later retrieval since other trips were going to be necessary anyway. The weather was warm which made loading the sled and riding on the snowmobile easier. There was a decent base of snow that had survived the warm weather though the trails were suffering from the lack of fresh snow. In fact, they had opened up part of McCloud Grade as a main snowmobile trail which was somewhat unfortunate for us. Besides being more rutty it meant we heard more snowmobiles than usual and it made one of our main skiing/snowshoeing trails less desirable.

Bunk room. Bunk room (with cubbies). Main room. Main room. Main room. Kitchen.

I arrived in the cabin on the last trip. By this time pretty much everything was done. The woodstove was going (it was a bit smokey, as can be seen in the pictures) and the cabin was warm. In fact, I'm not sure that we ever failed the "Matt test" while I was in the cabin (and I was the last to leave)! Regardless, this was the first time I had seen the cabin after the great cleaning on Labor Day. It looked great. The bunk room was unbelievable. It was clean and actually usable! Having the mattresses gone was a huge plus. The cubbies were put to good use by everyone as was demanded by the cubbie cop (Vittoria).

Jon going through 'the can'. Jon with goodies from 'the can'. More goodies from 'the can'. 'The can'. Hot chocolate from the can (it went back in). Jon repacking the can. Jon playing with a toy from the can.

Jon went through 'the can' that has now become a fixture. It was amazing some of the things we found still in it. Things seemed in good enough order that most were returned to the can for future use. We did pull out some chocolate (and ate it). In the end we didn't use (and certainly didn't need) much that was in the can. Jon did try out one of the emergency lights. It kept glowing (dimly) for almost 2 days.

Vittoria, Amelia, and Jon preparing for dinner. Cheese and crackers before dinner. Vittoria and Amelia preparing dinner. Amelia preparing dinner (me pretending to, but I didn't touch the food!) Vittoria, Amelia, and Jon with dinner being served.

Dinner was the usual exquisite fare. We began with wine (of course), cheese, and crackers. We followed with more wine (of course) and an excellent and somewhat spicy, meal (chosen precisely because it was spicy). In the end we consumed two very good bottles of wine and were stuffed. The wine selection included the Monster Pinot which set off countless renditions of the Monster Pinot rap. Often just the first two lines and often with words changed. It was an endless source of amusement throughout the rest of the trip. It was good to have brought the wine back to the scene of the crime, as it were.

I always find it ironic that I eat the best food in a cabin, in the middle of now where, with no running water nor electricity. Perhaps it is related to the fact that I don't do any of the cooking and Amelia and Vittoria do.

Jon relaxing after dinner. Amelia and Vittoria 'dancing'. Jon enjoying Amelia and Vittoria 'dancing'.

After dinner Jon was tired (shocking I know). One of the good things of being at the cabin is one can actually do something about being tired, that is, rest! The evening proceeded mostly as usual. Games were played, in particular speed and dominoes. Having an ipod with speakers turned out to be more than some people could handle (Amelia and Vittoria) particularly while the 80's mix was playing.

December 28

Amelia, Vittoria, and Jon having mimosas (without orange juice) for breakfast. Jon in an 'island' sort of mood.

We started with a very leisurely morning (a trend that would continue throughout our days at the cabin). I ended up restarting the fire around 7:30 AM. For breakfast we had kielbasa, eggs, and mimosas without orange juice (that means Champagne, a nice Rosé, in case it wasn't clear). All to lovely strains of polka musics from the ipod. I don't know if it was the beverage or the music that lead to the frivolity (more will be seen later). The weather was still quite warm, there was no new snow, and there really wasn't reason to rush out for the day (another trend that would continue).

The cabin. The creek near the cabin. Vittoria and Amelia snow shoeing out from the cabin.

We did eventually go out snowshoeing. Though it hadn't snowed in awhile, there was still snow and it was easier walking with snowshoes than without. We crossed McCloud Grade and explored the region there. It was dense in many places which, coupled with the warm weather, lead to lots of water dripping off the trees onto us; not a problem we have typically encountered in the winter. We did eventually find a trail and followed that for awhile before looping back to McCloud Grade. It was at this time that we learned that the snowmobile trail only followed McCloud grade to the fork, that is, it didn't go down past the Lucky Buck.

Amelia, Vittoria, and Jon with another exceptional dinner. Jon prepared for any 'rogue' snowmobilers who may come by. Jon prepared for any 'rogue' snowmobilers who may come by.

We had another excellent meal, this time pasta. It was washed down by three excellent bottles of wine. Interspersed with this we played various games including Pitt and dominoes. This is also when the joys of Krupnik were discovered, which lead to the christening of Old Krupnik stadium, the Krupnik games, .... Yes, there will be more on this later too. One is left wondering the role Krupnik played in Jon's "preparations" for any rogue snowmobilers that may turn off the path and venture into camp. Fortunately (for us I would say) that never came to pass.

Also this evening is when the mice decided to show up. I presume that with the warm weather they were more active than usual and decided to venture into the cabin. I contend that the mice were incredibly stupid. They seemed lethargic and fearless, sometimes blithely wandering around until we made some move that finally seemed threatening to them. I also discovered that they have no respect for their dead; they are willing to eat the food from the trap that did in a fallen compatriot while it was still, um, fallen. Regardless, four of them were taken care of that evening. Jon, prophetically as it turns out, said they always come in fives.

As it was a rather warm day it was also a rather warm night. Vittoria was quick to point out the extreme warmth of the cabin. This was certainly true, it was uncomfortably warm in the cabin, particularly for sleeping. This was only exacerbated by the need to load up the wood stove prior to sleeping to insure that there would be warmth throughout the night. As Vittoria vigorously pointed out this only made things much hotter when were trying to go to sleep. Despite these many protestations she also chose the absolute hottest part of the cabin to sleep in. The known presence of mice, which is a fine encouragement to remain as covered as possible, only made things more unbearable.

As noted, Jon's prophetic comment was born out. He (and others) saw one climbing through the rafters at some point when they were falling asleep. Around 4AM I woke up to a nearly dead fire in the wood stove, still an extremely warm cabin, and the relentless squeaking of a mouse. It just wouldn't shut up. It was running around by the wine bottles near the moose head. It seemed to have found something to eat and was happily telling the world about it. After shining a flashlight at it for awhile, and that having no effect, I took care of the fire (much to Vittoria's dismay). When I returned my attention to our noisy cabinmate I discovered it had moved to one of the cross beams in the middle of the cabin. It proceeded to sit there, chewing on something, oblivious to its precarious position. As I continued to stare at it with my more brutal thoughts slowly subsiding, Jon got out of bed, retrieved the metal garbage can from the kitchen and held it behind the mouse as I knocked it off the beam into the can. At this point it finally realized that something was amiss. Even so, it remained in the can and I was able to carry it outside and dump it out. (To me it would have been quite appropriate for an owl to swoop down at this point and snatch up the mouse, alas, such did not come to pass.) Though I will continue to contend it was a rather stupid mouse, its trip back out of the cabin was more pleasant and not obviously permanent, which is more than its compatriots can say.

December 29

River behind the cabin. River behind the cabin. Scenery behind the cabin. Tree behind the cabin. Scenery behind the cabin. Vittoria and Amelia snowshoeing by a river behind the cabin. River behind the cabin (taken from on top of a beaver dam).

After the night's adventures we slept in (again) finally getting up around 10AM. After a leisurely breakfast Jon prepared to head into town to gas up the snowmobile, bring in the gear we had left out, and get ready for Bill's arrival with his gear. The rest of us went snowshoeing again, this time behind the cabin (to the north). It was a cooler day, but still no new snow. Despite the lack of new snow the scenery was as gorgeous as always. We did the standard loop. A new and rather large beaver dam had been built that made crossing the river easy. We had to return along McCloud grade which wasn't much fun given the snowmobile activity and the lack of fresh snow. While going along the road we saw some funny tracks. Speculation ran rampant but Vittoria ended up with the correct interpretation, it was in fact cross country ski tracks from Bill. He, impressively, had arrived early and skied in. Even more impressively Szoci had run in along side! Jon arrived a bit later with the new wood stove and some other gear.

Jon and Bill putting together a new wood stove for the bunk room. Szoci with the Tofurky box. Amelia preparing the Tofurky. Amelia preparing the Tofurky. Jon, Bill, and Szoci relaxing before dinner. Amelia, Jon, Bill, and Vittoria ready for the Tofurky dinner. Amelia, Jon, Bill, and Vittoria ready for the Tofurky dinner.

Jon finally got to play with his new toy, the wood stove, and put it together. This is a small one destined for the bunk room. Given some uncertainty on where to safely position it and still have room for all the bunks coupled with the warm weather it was decided that the stove wasn't really needed so it wasn't used. That remains for another trip.

Tonight was the night of the Tofurky dinner. As usual it was an exquisite dinner with lots of good wine. Though such meals do not become commonplace, my descriptions of them do so I will spare you.

Amelia and Jon. Amelia and Jon having fun in the shadow of Old Krupnik. Bill, Amelia, Jon, and Vittoria relaxing.

The night continued much as usual. Games were played, including speed and dominoes, culminating in Euchre finally!! All this was done with due homage to Old Krupnik. This trip was my first introduction to Krupnik and it was a very pleasant one. Krupnik is a Polish honey beverage, often called a honey vodka, made with honey and spices. It was smooth and quite enjoyable to drink. We were quite distraught to watch the level of the golden liquid continue to fall in the bottle. In the end we shared the final drops of ambrosia. Though claims may be made and scape goats fingered, everyone consumed their fair share and lamented the loss of Old Krupnik. In fact, it inspired a number of haikus written to mark the loss. This loss precipitated a number of short lived sponsors, for example, on this evening Old Krupnik Stadium became Emmets' Field, but it wasn't the same, and Krupnik never left our thoughts.

December 30

The Sucker river. The Sucker river. Signs of beaver activity near the Sucker river.

Yet another lazy morning and still no new snow. We again went out snowshoeing and again went around the small loop. This time we took a side trip up to the Sucker river and looked around there. This involved a fair bit of crawling through the woods. We came across many signs of recent beaver activity such as that shown above. We finished the loop along McCloud grade. On all the trips the proximity of a busy snowmobile trail meant we heard the too frequent drone of passing sleds.

Bill, Amelia, Jon, and Vittoria ready for dinner. Me, Bill, Amelia, and Jon ready for dinner.

Dinner consisted of amazing fare. It began with an incredible barley, mushroom soup and followed that with mushroom pizza. Naturally wine was consumed. The rest of the night followed as usual. We played various games including starting a long game of dominoes. Quite amazingly it finally started to snow! Snow had been predicted but given that we hadn't seen any it was beginning to look doubtful.

December 31

Jon outside. Scenery around the cabin after the snowfall. Bill and Scozi with the scenery around the cabin after the snowfall. Bill and Scozi with the scenery around the cabin after the snowfall. Scenery around the cabin after the snowfall. The cabin after the snowfall. Bill, Amelia, Vittoria, and Jon crosscountry skiing near the Lucky Buck. Me crosscountry skiing.

In the morning we woke up to some decent snow. Perhaps 6-8 inches of it. It would have been better getting that every day, but at least it snowed once. We took the opportunity to go out skiing. It was nice having new snow on a solid base. Of course none of this started quickly. We continued our trend of lazy mornings, even finishing a game of dominoes we had started the night before.

We went skiing along McCloud grade. Fortunately the snowmobile trail took the fork to the right near the sandpile so we had an unridden path to ski along. We skied up to the Lucky Buck then took the trail to the north just past the camp. Some claims of this being part of a large loop were made but I both was and still am skeptical of this. Regardless, we explored for awhile, including going down one dead end. Vittoria and Bill went back to the cabin while Jon, Amelia, and I continued on for a bit longer. The trails goes through some lovely pines, now laden with snow, before hitting a large, open, barren area. It is at this point in the past (I think) that we have explored a little, then turned around. We did so this time also, turning around in time to make it back while it was still light. Some snowmobilers had come by and ruined our nice path, but even so, it was a fairly quick trip back.

Jon and Amelia frying donut. Jon frying donut. Jon, Bill, Vittoria, and Amelia eating donuts. Jon, Bill, me, and Amelia eating donuts.

Jon and Amelia had brought up a deep fryer. Jon brought it in from the trail head and fired it up. Naturally we tried to fry everything we could think of. We started with some left over potatoes which worked out well. We then tried some dough balls filled with mozzarella (that didn't work as well as the potatoes). Finally we made some donuts (the real reason the fryer was brought up). We made some with powdered sugar and others with cinnamon sugar. Both varieties were excellent. All of these were pre-dinner "snacks".

Jon, Bill, Vittoria, and Amelia eating black beans and rice. Jon, Vittoria, Amelia, and I eating black beans and rice.

Dinner was another cabin staple, black beans and rice (and wine, of course). As usual it was tremendous and we had no problem eating large portions of it despite the recent donut appetizers. The rest of the evening followed with various games. We barely made it to midnight to acknowledge the new year.

January 1

Amelia and Vittoria preparing to ski back to the trailhead from the cabin. Amelia skiing back to the trailhead from the cabin. Vittoria, with Scozi in the backpack, skiing back to the trailhead from the cabin. Jon preparing to take the last load of gear back from the cabin.

The end of the trip came way too quickly. There was still plenty of food and wood left. It seemed a shame to leave (I am confident we would have figured someway to compensate for our lack wine if we had stayed). Regardless, we had to pack up, though not too quickly, there was no rush. We didn't start packing until about 9:30 AM. Jon and Bill took the first load of gear out. Amelia and Vittoria helped clean and pack up a bit before skiing out (with Szoci). I stayed behind to do the final cleaning and packing. Jon got back sooner than I had expected so we had to finish a few things up together.

We had to wait a little while before Amelia, Vittoria, and Szoci made it to the trail head, but made it they did. At this point it had started to rain a little. We went into town and had "lunch" at the Dunes Saloon. During the meal the rain turned to snow. We finally got on the road around 4 PM. The snow didn't extend too far beyond Grand Marais. Most of the drive home was on dry pavement. Not hauling a snowmobile and having clear roads made the driving uneventful.

So ends the tenth anniversary snowmobile camp at the cabin. Though the weather wasn't the best, it was still a wonderful, relaxing time. I'm looking forward to ten more years of trips ....

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