Last winter I had so much fun snowmobiling in Northern Wisconsin that I couldn’t wait to do it again so this year the plan was to go earlier almost guaranteeing enough cold and snow to fly across the wintery landscape. As luck would have it the upper Midwest has been relatively warm with precipitation falling as rain instead of snow once again bringing questions of trail quality and snow cover. As the planned day arrived a fresh coat of snow fell bringing many of the trails into great condition for snowmobiling. Let the fun begin!
After a brief check of the snowmobile it was time to hit the trails for a day of adventure through the forests of the North. Thankfully it was a warm winter day under a bright blue sky dulled only by a few wispy, white clouds making for perfect weather to fly on top of the snow covered Earth. As the day progressed miles kept flying by bringing different beautiful landscapes around the next corner. Portions of the trail glide through dense forests while others are wide open fields with the occasional lake added in to keep the picture ahead changing.
As sunset approached the mileage was reading almost 150 miles clocked during the daylight hours. It was definitely fun amassing those miles through every turn and hill set before us including one that was a little sharper than expected causing a sled to cruise through the corner almost flipping over and running over a few small trees before stopping to allow damage assessment. Fortunately there was none except maybe to a little tree or two which had to be removed before the snowmobile would move under its own power once again.
With the sun now down below the horizon it was off towards our final destination of the day ending at a hotel for a few hours of rest before returning the snowmobiles for the weekend. As the trees flew by the sky continued to amaze with beautiful colors changing from yellows and oranges to reds and pinks distracting from the trail in front. Fighting through that distraction came yet another one with a full moon rising above the horizon bringing with it a reminder that there was suppose to be a partial lunar eclipse but probably not visible at this Northern Wisconsin location. As daylight turned to darkness this partial eclipse shown across the face of the moon continuing the challenge of focusing on the trail ahead.
A quick stop to refuel and off again into the darkness of trees reaching over snow covered trails meandering up and down and side to side until my snowmobile continually slowed down even though the throttle was pushed until it stopped and a small pop came from under the hood. Now what do we do here with nothing but trees as far as we could see. After a half hour of trying to get it restarted without success we decided our current adventure was complete and unknowingly a new one was about to begin.
Thankfully our second snowmobile was a two person sled so we moved the dead snowmobile off of the trail and headed for the nearest town to hopefully secure a place to stay and figure out what to do with the broken one. As the night progressed we learned how to disable the drive on snowmobiles and how to tow them all thanks to Youtuber’s. Grabbing a tow rope we headed back to the disabled snowmobile, disengaged it’s drive belt and towed it back to the rental place over several hours in complete darkness with only the flashlight of our phones to see what we were doing as the moon was now covered by a layer of clouds. Once completed we fell, exhausted into our beds for the night ending this Northern Wisconsin adventure.
In early January there was a discussion on getting out on snowmobiles this winter with my cousin and brother for a guys weekend in Northern Wisconsin. Well, that was unless my wife decided she wanted to join us. The first weekend in March was the date set but as warm as winter was we weren’t completely sure there would be enough snow on the trails to go. A couple of weeks before the chosen date we were a little more comfortable so we reserved a couple of sleds, since my brother was unable to go, with the option of canceling if the snow melted before the first weekend in March which was entirely possible as forecasts called for 50’s or warmer the weekend before with possible rain to follow and no snow in the forecast to replenish what melted.
As the day approached my cousin and I kept a close eye on the trail reports wondering if the trails would remain open for us. Two nights before we decided to reserve our hotel room as well because the trails were most likely going to be open and our day in the snow at 70 miles per hour would be on. We were expecting icy trails especially on the turns making the snowmobiling experience a little less exciting but a day on the trails is still better than a day working. Soon after getting the sleds and hitting the trails we found the trails to be in great shape with no ice and a good base of most of them. To make it even better, fresh snow fell while we were out tearing across the trails. In the photo above you typically would see some of the Apostle Islands, home of the famous ice caves, behind us but the snow was falling heavily enough it blocked the view of them.
For me, it was an amazing adventure as it has been a few years since I was last on a snowmobile. Way too long! I had forgotten how much fun it is to weave through the forests of Northern Wisconsin near Lake Superior with nothing but the roar of the engine and the wind smashing against your helmet. There’s an excitement when your moving at 60 miles an hour flying by trees and feeling the sled wobble beneath you giving you the feeling that a slight wrong move could cause you to lose control. It sounds dangerous and it can be. There are only specific situations to get going that fast and hope that a deer doesn’t bounce in front of you. At those times it is a very freeing calmness and heightened awareness of what’s in front of you.
The rest of the time you are traveling around 30 miles per hour maneuvering around turns and climbing up and down the hills enjoying the sights passing you by. It was a challenge for me not to stop every couple of hundred feet and take pictures of the amazing landscape covered in a fresh blanket of falling snow. The choice was to explore more trails or stop more frequently to photograph the sights currently around us. Most of the time I opted for exploring more trails.
For a short time I attached the GoPro to the snowmobile for a different perspective. In the photograph above you can see white streaks in front of the sled. These are snowflakes capturing the headlights on the snowmobile. It kind of looks like preparing for warp speed through space. Using the camera on the sled was a little challenging because the constant vibrations would shake it loose and I didn’t bring the appropriate attachments to secure it better.
In one area there was a bridge which spanned the Brule River. I did have to stop and turn around to photograph this scene. It just looked like the perfect scene of winter. When I imagine a winter landscape it either has mountains in it or a river flowing through a forest covered in snow. Pretty much what you see in the picture above and below. This was a great adventure that I hope to repeat next winter!
The holidays are past, football is over, and there is still plenty of winter to go. What to do during these cold days? It’s been awhile since I’ve been on a snowmobile so this seemed like a good way to spend a day in Northern Wisconsin. Downhill skiing would have been another option and may still be one of these weekends coming up. It was a cold day but that doesn’t matter with current snowmobiles as long as you’re dressed for it. Many of these machines now come with effective foot warmers and hand warmers making the adventure much more comfortable. Two areas that quickly become cold providing a less enjoyable experience.
Northern Wisconsin is beautiful during the summer and a popular place to visit. However during the winter you can travel through areas that just aren’t accessible during the summer due to frozen ground. There is a serenity during the winter as so many living things are resting causing those that are enjoying these surroundings to relax as well.
While traveling into one of the many small towns on the thousands of miles of trails we came upon Barstool races in Drummond. We needed to fuel the sleds as well as ourselves so some time enjoying this competitive event seemed like a good idea. At first it was unclear what was going on. Our only clues where cars parked along the roadsides and a lot of snowmobiles in the area both moving and parked. Eventually it was figured out that this was the day of what appears to be a popular event known as the barstool races. Some of these barstools attached to skis get pretty elaborate. There is definitely some time put into building such a unique sled if you can call it that.
These seemingly endless miles of trails go through some amazingly scenic terrain. It was always a challenge to decide how fast to go. Flying through the snow at 50 miles an hour with nothing between you and the surroundings gets the adrenaline pumping. Slowing down to take in the landscapes you are passing is a must. The trick is to balance out enjoying the views and the wind blowing by as you travel quickly on top of this white powder.
I’m ready to go again anytime soon!