Cabin, December 2006 - January 2007

We were at the Cabin December 28 to January 2 this year. There were many preparations for this trip and very poor weather. The snowmobile rental place in Grand Marais had closed so Jon got our snowmobile fixed. To transport it and help protect it (which we hadn't been doing in the past and which is why it was in such bad shape) Jon also bought a 7 foot by 14 foot utility trailer. Jon and I got the trailer on 26 Dec and took it to Kalamazoo. There we loaded it up with the snowmobile and gear.

The weather was truly horrible. It had snowed at the beginning of December dumping a good 2-3 feet of snow on the area. Ever since then it had been warm with no snow for 2 or 3 weeks and no prospect for snow. The current administration can keep their heads in the sand (sadly too literally) and suppress research on global warming but the facts remain that in the past 10 years the winters have been getting less and less predictable at least in Grand Marais. The extreme weather is maddening. This year was unbelievably bad for our trip and much worse for the economic well being of the region. Even with the poor weather prospects we decided to take up the snowmobile just in case we did get snow and needed it because you never know when the weather will change. A lot of snow can be dumped on the region in a short amount of time even without the unpredictability of global warming.

December 28

Jon and I left Kalamazoo at 6:00 AM to go to Waterford to meet up with Vittoria, Bill, and Abby (an extremely well behaved dog). After loading up some more gear (and waiting for them) we hit the road at 10:30 AM. Weather was not a problem at all. There was some rain in the norther lower peninsula but no snow. In fact, there was almost no snow on the ground anywhere. Once we got near Grand Marais there were still remnants of the large snow fall from early December, but this didn't affect the roads, not even the dirt roads in the woods.

Trailer with snowmobile inside at the cabin. Bill working on hooking up the propane tank. Bill and Jon using a blowtorch to clear water from the
		  gas line. Bill and Jon using a blowtorch to clear water from the
		  gas line. Jon toasting with Krupnik in front of our collection of
		  beverages for the trip. The beverages for the trip. Bill showing off the cleaned out burners (and how well
		  they now work). Vittoria cleaning the table for dinner. Vittoria, Bill, and Jon toasting before dinner. Vittoria and Jon watching Bill find out some important
		  information on the phone (I expect "Brazilian"
		  is relevant, we will leave it at that).

We arrived at the cabin around 5:30 PM. Yes, at the cabin! We were able to drive all the way to the cabin with the trailer. Firstly there was no snow on the roads and secondly they are logging along McCloud Grade so they turned the once narrow dirt road into a very wide, plowed dirt road. It was sad to see but made things easier for us. In fact Vittoria would not have been able to go if we hadn't been able to drive out since she had gotten bronchitis just before the trip.

Opening up the cabin went smoothly. The only problem was the propane hookup which hadn't been covered after the last trip. Fortunately Bill had a propane torch so he was able to quickly get the ice and water out of the lines. The whole time up there we had little wood and mostly empty propane tanks. We had two small (gas grill sized) tanks that we had brought up that we needed before the trip ended. We were able to hook them up to the same regulator as the large tanks.

The cabin was quite clean. There were very few critter signs, the main one being some wine bottles that had been knocked down. The bunk room looked great, particularly now that the bunks are usable for sleeping. In fact, not having the mattresses on the bunks both made the room usable and provided fewer places for mice to nest.

Vittoria had made a chicken pot pie which she heated up for dinner. Given the large amount of alcohol we brought up we tried to make a dent in it. We failed miserably. Starting with a shot of Krupnik, then a shot of whiskey, then beer and wine was dangerous enough. It would have been fine but then we decided to turn the Pitt card game into a drinking game. This couple with finding 3/4 a bottle of the "Little Lady", aka Cafe Lolita, was not good. In the end we finished off at least half the bottle of Krupnik, almost half the bottle of whiskey, and all of the little seductress, Cafe Lolita. Needless to say this wasn't too smart. We were not ok, we did not pace ourselves! Bill handled it reasonably well, Jon managed ok with some help, and I, well, I would say something but I really don't remember much. The brief version is that we left a good bit of our dinner in the woods. The smart one in all of this was, of course, Vittoria. She was smart enough to not get caught up in the excessive drinking and angelic in her care at least of me (I wonder if Vittoria actually reads these accounts). Since I don't remember much else of what happened I can say it is good to have trusted friends who can take care of each other even when stupid things are done. Particularly those strong enough to make sure everyone ends up inside the cabin and those considerate enough to "hold your hair" in a time of need. A bad situation ended far better than it could have.

December 29

We woke up the next feeling much better than we should have. In fact, the one who felt the worse was Vittoria, due to the bronchitis she had come up with. The rest of us must have gotten all the "bad stuff" out of our systems the previous night. Vittoria stayed in bed for the morning while we got out of her way and left her in peace.

Bill and Abby behind the cabin. Beaver pond behind the cabin. Beaver pond behind the cabin. Abby and Jon behind the cabin. Beaver pond behind the cabin. Large beaver dam (which we use as a bridge). Large beaver dam (which we use as a bridge). Beaver pond behind the cabin. Jon and Bill on our hike. Sucker river. Jon sitting on a fallen tree over the Sucker river. Jon sitting on a fallen tree over the Sucker river. Bill walking over another beaver dam near the cabin. Beaver pond close to the cabin. Signs of beaver activity near the cabin.

Jon, Bill, Abby, and I went for a hike behind the cabin. We started on the trail that was cleared on Labor day. When we hit the end of it we cut through the woods to find the beaver dams/water behind the cabin. We have taken routes similar to this in the past. It was odd being able to hike it without skis or snowshoes in the winter. After finding the water and completing part of the "short loop" over the large beaver dam we headed north to the Sucker river. As usual it was beautiful. The river is a dark reddish color and the water was somewhat high.

On the way back we again cut through the woods and came upon a smaller beaver dam just behind the cabin that had a lot of fresh wood on it. There were many signs of beaver activity with large regions near the water's edge cleared of small trees.

When we got back Vittoria was feeling better. We had lunch then went into town to pick up a few things we needed, in particular mantles for the lights. I must have changed 10 mantles in the time we were at the cabin. We learned in town that the weather forecast was not favorable, flurries were expected for the day, then it was going to warm up and rain. There was no real snow expected anytime in the upcoming week.

Bill and Jon installing the new wood stove. Bill installing the new wood stove. Bill and Jon installing the new wood stove. Bill and Jon installing the new wood stove. Bill and Jon installing the new wood stove. Bill and Jon after phase I of the wood stove

The main project for the afternoon was installing the new wood stove in the bunk room. Jon had brought the stove up last year. For many years the goal was to get the bunk room into a state that it would be usable, that is, that people would actually sleep in it, even in the winter. There were lengthy debates of where the stove should go relative to the beds and cubbies. Crazy ideas such as getting rid of the cubbies were quickly shot down (vehemently by Vittoria). After emptying the cubbies, moving them to a new location under the window, not liking that, putting them back where they started from and refilling them it was finally decided that the stove would be put between two of the beds in front of one of the windows. If only Jon had suggested this years before and had repeated it a few dozen times it would have saved a lot of work (which means he did suggest it and every one else tried to find other places to put it).

With the location decided Jon and Bill did the inside work on the stove. They set up the base pad and protection for the wall. Finally they put part of the chimney together. The final venting would have to wait for the following day.

That night we took it much easier. We restricted ourselves to three bottles of wine and played a game of Risk (Jon won).

December 30

Truck and trailer after a light snow. Cabin after a light snow. Abby by the cabin after a light snow. River near the cabin after a light snow.

The next morning we woke up around 9:00 AM to the result of the flurries from the previous day/night. It would seem flurries means about 1 inch of snow (you have to love a place that finds an inch of snow not even noteworthy). It put a little coating of snow over things and made it feel a little like winter as short lived as it may have been. It also helped cover up some of the signs of our "adventures" from the first night.

Jon installing the chimney for the new stove. Jon installing the chimney for the new stove. Jon and I installing the chimney for the new stove. Jon "christening" the chimney for the new
		  stove. Jon and I installing the chimney for the new stove. Jon, Bill, and I installing the chimney for the new
		  stove. Jon after successfully installing the new chimney. Jon and I putting on the final touches for the new
		  chimney. Jon putting the rain guard on the new chimney.

The main activity for the morning was getting the chimney installed for the new stove. Jon, Bill, and I worked on this (though Bill also took time out to put up some cedar shingles outside the kitchen). We removed some shingles, cut a hole in the roof, put the insulated part of the chimney up, and resealed everything. The Krupnik was brought out for the first christening of the new stove. We didn't light it since we were planning on heading into town and didn't want to leave it burning untended. It took until about 2:30 PM to get everything done.

After this we went into town to meet Amelia, Katie, and John at the Dune Saloon. Amelia had picked up Katie and John at Detroit Metro airport at 5:30 AM. After waiting for an hour and a half to get their luggage (which came on a later flight) they had driven up to Grand Marais. We had a small (but slow) lunch before returning to the cabin. It seemed like everyone in town was in the Dune Saloon at the same time. It was the first time Katie and John had come to the cabin. It made it easier being able to drive out to the cabin but it wasn't a true winter experience for them. There is something about having to snowmobile in when it is freezing out to make you appreciate the cabin that much more!

Bill, Jon, and Vittoria toasting the new stove. Bill, Jon, and Vittoria kissing the new stove. Bill, Jon, and I toasting the new stove. Vittoria, John, Bill, Jon, Katie, and Amelia toasting the
		  new stove. Jon lighting the new stove for the first time. The chimney in use for the first time (no, you really
		  can't tell but there is smoke coming out).

After showing Katie and Jon the cabin we pulled out the Krupnik (again) to rechristen the new stove. After many rounds of toasts Jon had the honor of lighting the stove. It lit quickly and once its door was closed it drafted extremely well, much better than the large, old stove in the main room which is full of cracks and holes. It took a little while to burn off some of the paint. It quickly became a favorite place to hang out. The stove was a tremendous success, everyone now agrees that it should have been installed years ago!

Vittoria, Bill, Jon, Amelia, Abby, Katie, and John
	     playing Risk. Jon, Amelia, Abby, Katie, Jon, Vittoria, and Bill playing

The night was rather tame, it consisted of dinner, wine, and a game of Risk. (You can either say that I won or that Amelia had a George W. Bush victory, that is, continue to deny reality and hope that everyone gets tired of trying to explain the obvious to you and just gives in.) Since it was a long day for many people we went to bed at 10:00 PM!

December 31

Jon driving to Pictured Rocks wearing his devil hat. Jon, John, and Katie looking at Grand Sable Falls. Katie, John, Amelia, Vittoria, Bill, and John hiking near
		  Grand Sable Falls. John and Vittoria crossing the river from the falls, near
		  Lake Superior. Climbing the dunes. Climbing the dunes. Climbing the dunes. Ghost forest. Ghost forest.

The next morning we got up late and made a slow start on the day. We got up around 10:00 AM and lounged around until finally deciding to go to Pictured Rocks to hike. We arrived at Grand Sable Falls at about 1:00 PM. We hiked along the falls and the lake before trying to climb the dunes. It was a tough climb particularly since it started to rain and continued to rain for much of the rest of the day. We also hiked along the dunes eventually coming across the ghost forest. At one point we bravely followed Vittoria into the woods and quickly lost the trail. We got split up. Some people went on and found there way back, the rest of us turned around and went back the way we came.

In the end we all made it back, somewhat wet after hiking for a couple of hours. Once we drove back to the cabin we had a huge dinner which included mushroom barley soup, winter squash, and tofurky. We tried to play a little dominoes but that didn't last long. In the end we just waited around for the new year to arrive.

Katie, John, Jon, Amelia, Bill, and (a surprised?)
		  Vittoria toasting before dinner. John ready for the New Year's celebration. Bill, Katie, John, me, Jon, and Amelia ready for the New
		  Year's celebration. Jon and Amelia ready for the New Year's celebration. Jon and Amelia ready for the New Year's celebration. Jon and Amelia ready for the New Year's celebration. Jon and Amelia celebrating a little early. Vittoria and Bill also "celebrating" early. Vittoria and Bill being "mysterious". Vittoria and Bill doing, um, something. Vittoria and Abby ready for the New Year's celebration. Vittoria, Katie, John, Jon, and Amelia waiting for the
		  new year. Bill, Vittoria, and Amelia waiting for the new year. John, Bill, Vittoria, Katie, Amelia, and Jon celebrating
		  the new year. Vittoria and Jon celebrating the new year. Vittoria trying to make Amelia celebrate the new year.

Everyone made it until midnight (yes, even Vittoria despite wanting to go to sleep early). We made good use of the party accoutrements Rosie sent up. Despite how it may appear in the photos the celebration was rather tame. Some of us did stay up until about 1:00 AM talking.

January 1

Jon and Bill cutting up a fallen tree. Jon cutting up a fallen tree. Bill cutting up a fallen tree. Jon and Bill cutting down the rest of the fallen tree.

We again got a late start on the day not getting moving until about 10:30 AM. Since the wood stove had been installed that project no longer distracted Jon so we moved on to cutting up a fallen pine tree. We had brought up a small chain saw that helped a lot but wasn't sufficient for too much cutting. It did allow us to cut up the tree and stack the logs for seasoning. The tank of gas in the chain saw was used up before cutting down the remaining part of the tree so Jon and Bill did it the old fashioned way. They used an old two-man saw to finish cutting it down. Even though the chain saw had cut about half way through the trunk it still required a lot of work for them to finish cutting it down.

Amelia making waffles with the "new" waffle

For breakfast we had waffles. The newest addition to the cabin is an old waffle maker. This gets a section of its own since the waffles were excellent. They were topped with a blueberry sauce and some homemade maple syrup from Virginia. I expect waffles to become a more common breakfast at the cabin.

Jon, Amelia, and Katie in the swamp. River. Katie, Jon, and John near the river. Tree and sky. River. Vittoria and Bill approaching the beaver dam. Vittoria and Bill crossing on the beaver dam. Amelia, Bill, Katie, and Jon approaching the beaver dam. Vittoria, Bill, Amelia, John, Katie, and Jon near the
		  beaver dam. McCloud Grade after the logging.

After breakfast Jon, Amelia, Katie, John, and I went for a hike. The plan was to try to complete the "big loop". Contrary to Jon's notion we had never done this before. I had printed out some satellite photos of the area as a rough guide. There are a couple of paths that could be tried but all of them involve some amount of off trail travels through the woods and across the river to try to connect with another trail. This time we tried the "southerly" route. We followed the trail that leads to the short loop and then turned east. When we hit the end of the two track we cut through the woods by a river. It quickly turned into a swamp. After trying to skirt the swamp for a little while we decided it wasn't worth the effort and turned back. On the way back we met Vittoria, Bill, and Abby. We retraced our steps and finished up the short loop.

The short loop ends up on McCloud Grade so I finally got a chance to take a picture of it. It is hard to explain just how strange it now appears. Through the years of going up there the road has slowly become more and more passable. In the past it was tunnel-like with the under brush closing in on the sides and branches blocking the sky overhead. This was particularly true in the winter when the snow laden branches perched ominously close. As the road has been turned into a numbered snowmobile path it has become more open but the logging has turned it into a major road (well, as major as you are going to find in the middle of no where in the UP). We all wonder what is going to happen in the upcoming years. Will it be allowed to grow back again or is it destined to remain a wide open road. At least the drive way up the cabin still remains somewhat hidden from the road.

Bill, Amelia, John, Katie, and Jon at dinner of black
		  beans and rice. Jon, Katie, John, Amelia, Bill, and Vittoria playing
		  Pitt. Jon, Katie, John, Amelia, Bill, and Vittoria toasting
		  with Krupnik. Jon, Katie, John, Amelia, Bill, and Vittoria toasting
		  with Krupnik.

Dinner consisted of a cabin stable, black beans and rice. This was followed by more Pitt and some final toasts of Krupnik. Everyone was tired from the hike and we were planning on getting an "early" start the next day so we could head back at a reasonable time. It was quite warm so not much effort was put into keeping the fires going. In fact, the large wood stove went out at some point and was never relit!

January 2

Our left over beverages.  We got through most of it! Vittoria and Katie cleaning in the main room. John
		  cleaning in the kitchen. Amelia cleaning in the bunk room. John cleaning in the kitchen. Amelia writing in the log book. The trailer packed up to go. The trailer and Tahoe packed up to go. The cabin just before leaving. All of us outside the cabin just before leaving. All of us outside the cabin just before leaving.

We didn't rush the next morning but were up by 9:00 AM and started packing up. With the large group of people we were able to clean up quickly. The trailer made it very easy to load up all of our gear and even bring back stuff that had been left there for years. It had gotten cold overnight so the road was firm and we had no problems driving out with the trailer.

The bay in town. The bay in town. The Dune Saloon in town. Main street in town. The cars in town. The gas station in town (with no snowmobilers). Abby ready to head home!

Our first stop was in town. It was a beautiful sunny day and town looked great. Unfortunately it was also empty. Normally at this time of year there would be a lot of snow on the ground and a long line of snowmobiles at the gas station waiting to fill up. The Dune Saloon would be serving a lot of food and the rest of town would be doing plenty of business. Instead it was entirely empty and there remained no prospect of snow in the near future.

The drive home was slow and rather uneventful. We stopped many times, first on a quest for pasties and then for food and gas. We arrived in Waterford around 8:00 PM, unloaded what needed to be unloaded, and headed our separate ways.

All in all it was of course a good trip. It wasn't a snowmobile camp and it is hard to even call it a winter trip, it felt more like spring. Even so we got to do a lot of things without having to worry about bugs, got a lot of little jobs done (most notably the new wood stove), and relaxed. The most important thing was getting away for awhile and taking it easy. Even Jon relaxed while he was up there! Hopefully next year there will a lot of snow to make up for the string of poor winters we have had.

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