At the last minute Bill decided to go so I drove to Detroit the evening of January 10. I somehow convinced him to drive up through the night instead of leaving early in the morning. It was mostly under the condition that he would get to sleep all the way up; which he pretty much did!
It had been cold (often in the single digits) and snowy for many weeks before the trip. Of course when we decided to go the two days of the trip up (Wednesday and Thursday) it was going to be warm (above freezing) and likely rain. The warm weather is not too bad for getting in, it can be quite difficult in the bitter cold, even so, I was planning on skiing in and the warm weather can make that unpleasant. My goal was to arrive at first light (around 8 AM) to try to beat the warm weather/rain and, of course, the snowmobilers.
Due to the warm weather, it was foggy almost the whole drive up. This made for slower and more difficult driving. I did question the sensibility of doing this, but I was already committed. Even with the tough conditions, I drove all the way to Seney, arriving at the rest area around 5 AM where I got a short nap and prepared for the skiing. Once again Mike from the hardware store let us park in a lot off airport road. Once again without this the trip would have been far more difficult!
Bill did not ski in so he dropped me off where the plowing ends which cut off about a mile from the trip. This turned out to be quite beneficial. I got started around 8 AM with the bare necessities on my back (boots, sleeping bag, change of clothes, some water, and a little food). One pack of snowmobilers came by just as I started. Fortunately they were the only group I saw on the trip in. It was warm but not too bad at the start and the conditions were fine. I was actually able to ski (not just walk through slush). The conditions did deteriorate as it got later, but I made it to the Cabin by about 10:30 AM.
Panorama of the Cabin on my arrival.
I arrived to the Cabin still standing in good shape as we had last left it. The flag pole was still standing! (It had been put up the previous gentleman's weekend.) Also, the wood we ordered had been delivered and stacked. It turned out to be a good hardwood but a little wet so it did not burn at hot as it could have. A bit of seasoning will help it.
Fortunately the ball of snow on the chimney for the woodstove fell off by itself (see panorama above) so I did not need to climb on the roof. My procedure for opening the Cabin was first to get out a shovel, (slightly) dig out the door for the gas and get it turned on. Next I dug out the kitchen door and got in the Cabin. The temperature inside the Cabin was slightly below freezing: colder than it was outside. All the snow does provide good insulation. I got the fire started and had my customary "opening the Cabin" shot of Krupnik.
After this it was pretty easy. I removed all the plastic, set up the couches and table, and I even turned on the refrigerator. I dug out the door to the bunk room and walked the path a few times on snowshoes to make driving in the snowmobiles easier. The temperature continued to rise so the snow packed well; it probably was not necessary to walk the path.
Bill met Jon, Ed, Jim, and Mike from Kalamazoo around 11:45 AM (they had left early in the morning) and loaded up for the trip in. As usual, Ed began running in so the rest of the guys and all the gear made it in one trip, though this time in the rain. Bill went back to pick up Ed on the trail. Everyone was in the Cabin by 1 PM.
The rest of the day was spent drinking, playing cards, eating, and drinking. Ed and Bill were in bed by 6 PM! The rest of us made it until the late hour of 8 PM. It had been a long day for everyone and we all benefited from the sleep.
As a final note, when the rest of the guys arrived it was discovered that the tank on top of the woodstove had developed a leak: a small hole had finally rusted through. This was problematic since the water in this tank, once heated, keeps the Cabin nice and warm for quite awhile. Further, we were planning on using this water for (the minimal amount of) dishes since the pump is not working. Contrary to every one elses expectations, Jon was able to put in a screw which not only did not create a larger hole, but actually sealed the existing one. It allowed us to use the tank as desired for the entire trip. I expect this is not a long term solution (particularly since we forgot to drain the tank when we left).
In the evening of the previous day and over night the temperature dropped and the rain turned to snow. The temperature returned to "normal" which was about 10°F, so it dropped about 30 degrees! As usual Jon made a huge breakfast and we slowly recovered from the previous day. The conditions had changed a lot in less than 24 hours. There was now a fairly solid base of snow with fresh powder on top. This would be the case for the rest of the trip.
The big trip of the day was a snowshoeing expedition along the Sucker river. The previous gentleman's weekend (for which there is sadly no story here) we did a similar hike and found some fish in pools along the river. We mostly followed the same path, now on snowshoes. We did not see any fish, but it was still a good trip with beautiful scenery; including the sun coming out a few times. A few of us took the long way back by following the loop before getting back to the Cabin for some warm soup.
The rest of the day was again spent in drinking, playing cards, eating, and drinking (though not quite as much drinking as the previous day). At night Jon, Bill, Ed, and I skied the loop in the dark (only red lights on). Though there was no moon, it was bright enough to follow our snowshoe tracks. We stayed up later, with some of us almost making it to midnight!
Panorama of the Cabin after we had been there a couple of days.
The next day started like all the others. We had the intention every day to get up and ski the loop before breakfast. On none of the days did this happen! Jon continued to make huge breakfasts and we again slowly got ready for the day.
Today our big trip was a cross country ski trip to the Barfield lakes. This is an almost 8 mile round trip (if you go up to the ridge). Unfortunately part of the trip is on the snowmobile trail and it was the weekend so there were many snowmobilers out. Although generally courteous, it is still frustrating to have to ski in their tracks and constantly be wary of their approach. I had hoped that once we turned off McCloud grade we would have a pristine path, unfortunately this was (mostly) not the case.
After a slight detour and off path adventure (mostly by Bill and Ed) we made it to the big tree at the edge of the Barfield lakes. Part of this path had not (recently) been ridden by snowmobilers so was nice. Mike turned around at this point. The rest of us went on to the ridge. Unfortunately snowmobilers struck again. Two of them, for some unexplainable reason, must have come along and followed our tracks, thus destroying the pristine path we had. They did not even stop to enjoy the scenery, just ruined the path and went on their way.
At the end of the ridge is a marshy area around a small river connecting the two lakes. I have always wanted to hike around the lake but have never tried to cross the river. Bill decided now was the time to try. Foolishly, Ed and I followed. Jon and Jim smartly turned around and followed the sensible path out. Crossing the river was not hard, but it did lead to the bottom of our skis getting wet and icing up. Icy skis are no fun, they are heavy and do not glide. It was not too hard to knock the ice off and we continued around the lake. This led to another crossing over a wet region. This one was larger and even less solid. I made it across with a lot of ice on my skies, Ed made it across with the heels of his boots hitting water (!) and thus a lot more ice on his skis. Though it did not turn into another swimming expedition, it could have. It took a long time to clear all this ice to allow us to get back to actually being able to ski. Jon and Jim definitely made the right choice. Despite this, the trip around was nice and I'm glad I was finally able to do it.
The rest of the trip back was not too bad until we again got on McCloud grade and had to contend with the many snowmobilers. It would be nice if they redirected the main trail back to Old Seney, though I expect there still will be many people riding these trails for years to come.
We woke to the coldest morning yet with the outside temperature at -1°F. Eventually it would "warm up" to the usual 10°F, but it did mean we were heading out with much colder temperatures than we had for our arrival. We did not rush, again having a large breakfast, but did just pack up and get on the trail. Everyone was going out on snowmobiles so it took two trips. Most of the gear went out on the first trip with Ed and I staying behind to close up the Cabin. By the time Bill and Mike returned, we had almost everything done. The final trip out went smoothly as did load the snowmobiles on the trailer and heading out. We were on the road by 1 PM. There was some snow in the UP but otherwise it was an easy trip back.
As always it was a great trip. As always it would be even better if we could spend more time at the Cabin! Despite the difficulties of the drive up, Bill was happy to have done it and we would definitely do it again. Hopefully this trip will become an annual expedition.