When Snowmobiling A Map Goes A Long Way
By Scott A.Sumner
My first major snowmobile ride of the season in the Thunder Bay area happened last Saturday. My friend orginally wanted to try out the TBAT OFSC trails to Shabaqua from Kakabeka but it turned out the route today would be on the Grand Portage Trails in MN. Our group would include 12 riders ranging in age from 13 to 65 and sleds from 1978 to 2005. Incidently I was in the minority with the only Arctic Cat amongst the sleds. There were many Yamahas which made my friend happy.
The group is ready to ride!
After meeting at the farm at 9am and some juggling of the trailers there were 4 trucks on the way down for the less than a hour drive to the Grand Portage Casino. After a small wait at the border while one of our riders a Dutch resident working in Canada filled out his form, we were on our way to unload the sleds. The day started well with a decision to try to see some of the trails southward to Grand Marais. We thought we could ride for awhile and then stop for lunch and some gas. The riding was good with everyone adjusting well to the fairly hard snow conditions. Remember the day before temperatures had reached 9c in Thunder Bay and the snow was melting fast. The cooler overnight temperatures had made conditions harder.
It was fun riding with Ed from Thunder Bay! He is 6 feet 9 inches and weighes 170 pounds!!
The trails include many old logging roads and you could tell had a lot of riders using the scenic trails. We were looking for a route to travel and with out a map it seemed a little confusing. The goal was to get on the Gunflint Trail and reach say the Hungry Jack for gas and food, but it wasn't happening on our schedule. After many stops and a lot of discussion a group came up with some Minneapolis area riders who had a home in the area. They agreed to lead us to the Trail Centre. Some 20 miles later and 80 miles from our start we reached a place to get gas and some food. The problem was the gas pump wasn't working well and took 10 minutes to fill up each sled with about a tank of gas. As the time was about 5 pm Thunder Bay time I knew darkness was coming on and we'd be back late provided we had a good idea of the route to take. We had some great food, a little time to regroup and study the maps we were given to choose the best way home. Four of our riders found another place to get gas some 1mile down the lake which helped out a lot timewise. We were then on our way in some light conditions back to the trucks and trailers. After quite a few stops along the way we were able to make it back by about 8pm, load up and head back home to Thunder Bay.
What's the best way home!
Incidentally on our night ride back we probably met 150 sleds on the trail. The trails get a lot of use in MN was obvious to see. Some 145 miles made for a great ride even if it was longer than expected. My muscles told me it was my first long snowmobile trip of the year. The main point I learned from this trip. GET A GOOD MAP BEFORE YOU START OUT IN AN AREA IN WHICH YOU ARE NOT REALLY FAMILIAR.